President Harry Truman once said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Reading connotes learning. Learning is the basis for transformational growth. Reading gives us access to an unprecedented bevy of knowledge otherwise lost to history. So if you aren’t currently reading, I have six books to share that will enrich your athletic pursuits.
Whenever I search books for athletes, there is a slew of mindest and mental toughness bravado. Although they provide value, I’ll challenge you to consume some more unconventional material. Books that require further thinking beyond the title page. They will contribute to athletic success but, more importantly, add significant depth to your character. If you can extract even one concept from each book, you’ll have six themes to reflect on going into the fall.
#1 Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday
Ryan does an exceptional job presenting the ancient teachings of Stoic philosophy. He showcases his work through the lens of historical triumphs and failures. In Ego is the Enemy, Ryan shows us that the world doesn’t revolve around us. This belief may hold us back from true greatness.
Be An Eternal Student –
Open your mind to the possibilities of change. Ego is bent on closing your mind off from the wisdom to help you grow. Don’t be complicit. When you think less about yourself, your purpose crystallizes.
Delegate To Build Trust –
Delegation requires a team-first mentality. Count on your teammates for support and responsibility. Set your expectations as a leader and delegate tasks accordingly. Find them a position to succeed and trust them to perform.
Be Honest About Performance (Good or Bad) –
Admit your mistakes and acknowledge your weaknesses. Be vulnerable. Show your teammates how to manage emotions in the face of adversity. Then reflect on the results to modify your actions for the next performance.
#2 The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
In this classic hero’s journey, young hobbit Bilbo Baggins leaves a comfortable life of complacency for the sinister territories of Middle-Earth. It’s an epic tale of adventure and defiance against profuse odds.
Take The Risk –
The Hobbit is a microcosm of modern life. Success and fulfillment don’t usually materialize in convenience and comforts. They exist on the other side of obstacles blanketed in peril. Weigh risks effectively against costs to ensure you take the appropriate action.
Happiness Comes From Within –
You are the limiting factor in your own story. Self-worth comes from the depths of your being from which only you have access.
Conquer Your Fears With Courage –
Muster the courage to approach every challenge the same. Failure is inevitable. Thinking about it will drag you down. Instead, focus on completing the task, regardless of the outcome. Failures will humble you and illuminate a new path to victory.
#3 The Sports Gene – David Epstein
Take an inside look at sports science and how genes affect our athletic abilities. David Epstein is a master storyteller; his blend of research and anecdote opens the curtain to the nuances of sports performance.
Body Type Will Dictate Which Sports Are Best For You –
Athletes are genetically predisposed to specific sports. Swimmers have long limbs. Olympic weightlifters are short and stocky. Sprinters maintain large quadriceps muscles. That and geographic factors will play a significant role in your athletic pursuits.
Endurance and Trainability Are Gene Related –
Genes can also determine your desire to train and sense of achievement. Brain chemistry can influence your pleasure sensors and overall motivation to exercise. Further, genetics can explain your pain threshold, exercise tolerance, and risk for injury.
Location And Regional Factors Influence Exercise Adaptations –
One example of this phenomenon is the success of long-distance runners from Ethiopia and Kenya. Regional factors such as climate and relative position to the equator amplified physical adaptations in African runners.
#4 Shoe Dog – Phil Knight
The previously untold story of the rise of Nike, from founder Phil Knight. Need I say more?
Burn The Boats –
Contrary to popular thought, don’t leave yourself a second option. Operate as if the first plan is the only plan. It’s sink or swim. Be prepared to exhaust all prospects in pursuit of your dream.
Find A Mentor –
Attach yourself to someone you admire. That might be a coach, teammate, or other authority. Consider it a part of your development. It will provide opportunities to learn (see eternal student), share ideas, and promote alternative viewpoints.
Give Space –
Show your teammates what to do and then sit back. Everyone has a unique way of accomplishing a given task. It’s not your job to present the how but the what and watch them surprise you with ingenuity! A great team is a sum of its parts. Once you set expectations, allow breathing room for each to flourish.
#5 Flow – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
This book is about happiness. In it, Mihaly seeks to explain why we seek it in the wrong things and what we can do to create a life of meaning and fulfillment.
Find Your Enjoyment –
Mihaly argues that enjoyment comes from concentration and consciously focusing. That will give you ultimate control over your attention. Complete attention might look like a hitter during live batting practice or a quarterback running through his progressions. On the contrary, there is a distractive nature to pleasure, which is the instant gratification that comes from sensory experiences. You’ll do well to focus on the former, as the latter seeks to steal your attention away from the moments that matter.
Match Challenge With Skills –
Your pursuits should involve activities that bring you inherent value. It shouldn’t carry any external incentive. Flow occurs when your skills juxtapose between difficulty and boredom. Flow should make you feel immersed entirely without any concept of time or place.
Create An Overarching Theme –
Set a big, lofty goal for your life. It could be related to athletics or not. Make it unique to you and align your actions to keep you on that path. Let this goal evolve. It should adequately challenge you and facilitate your growth. It’s that simple.
#6 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey
Perhaps the title gave it away. Nonetheless, this book is a treasure trove of practical conventions applicable to any objective.
Funeral Test –
Death is the only unavoidable thing in life, unfortunately. Stephen Covey asks you to think about your funeral as a way to measure your impact. To clarify your decision-making, answer these three questions:
- What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?
- What kind of person do I want to be remembered as?
- What do I want to be remembered for?
By focusing on the end, you can refine what you’re doing in the now.
Say No (Often) –
To live according to your principles, you’ll need to say no a lot. That’s because you know the steps it takes to get to your goal. If an opportunity detracts from your goal, then don’t consider it. Focus on the priorities that are urgent and say no to the rest.
Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood –
That requires active listening. By listening more than you speak, you’ll ask better questions. Better questions lead to robust communication and dialogue that will enhance your relationships.
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