I came across this book when I heard Clyde Brolin interviewed (on Chris Evans’ Radio 2 show). It was when Vasos Alexander, Evans’ sports reporter, described it as the book he’d wished he’d written that I ordered it. Human psychology fascinates me, but particularly the facet of how people improve. Of course I was going to buy it.

It isn’t a self-help book (thank goodness) but a wonderful narrative of years of Brolin’s work and interviews with some sporting greats. Brolin has an easy, engaging, uncluttered way of writing. This suits the subject matter, somehow (more of that later). That said, I was in two minds whether to continue after the first 50 pages or so, because of the huge bias to motorsport narratives. Motorsport is not my thing, and the detail in their narratives didn’t excite me. I am hugely glad that I read to the end, through the conclusion to the acknowledgments. Part of the joy of In The Zone is reflecting upon its content, and fitting it to my own experience.

So, as a book, I wish that elements of the conclusion were in the set up. In The Zone isn’t just a story of champions, it is a story of all of us. The book in itself is Brolin’s ‘think and win big,’ because of what he was driven to understand, research, and share. It took him seven years, six without a publisher, and this deeply impresses me… and inspires me.

Maybe it is because I am about to embark on my own ‘chance’ (or make my own chance) by embarking on an MA in Writing. I am tuned into making the most of the opportunities. Couple that with a passion for self-improvement, then yes, in some ways I wish I’d written it too.

Back to the book. I think the book grows in confidence, with a move to the wider message of the elements of what makes those champions think and win big, but how that applies to all of us… ‘to be the best we can be’. That is a phrase that speaks to me, inspires me.

That there is repetition in the book helps build towards Brolin’s crescendo of a conclusion. It is a collection of voices with the same themes, but different experiences. That Brolin has boiled them down into chapters is a reflection of all the ‘data’ he has collected in his interviews, and the book needs it. Without a structure it would have been a rather rambling narrative. Is this a blueprint for ‘thinking and winning big’? I’m not sure (which is why it isn’t a self-help book). All the stories point, potentially, to another conclusion, which isn’t directly picked up, that each of the ‘champions’ have a deep self-knowledge. Self-acceptance in order to make the improvements necessary.

One lasting thought that I have is that the chapter titles are rather ‘left brain’. Conceive. Believe. Achieve. I can see the flowchart that goes with it. But this is at odds with the language of the champions who speak of ‘passion’, ‘drive’ ‘energy’, ‘improve’ and of something bigger. This seems far more right brain, and more intangible. I wonder, the construct of the publisher? But perhaps the chapter headings actually don’t really matter at all, given that the magic comes from the narratives, Brolin’s included.

A gift of a book, that grows and grows. Thank you Clyde Brolin.