Drink Deeply from Good Books

When legendary college basketball coach John Wooden graduated from grammar school, his father gave him a graduation gift.  That gift was a $2-dollar bill and a card with a poem on one side and 7-rules to live by on the other.  One of those rules was to drink deeply from good books.

Below are 23 of my favorite books on performance and human potential:

 Do The Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way

Written by Steven Pressfield.  This is one of my favorite books.  It is a quick read with a simple and powerful message:  Motivation is for amateurs.  Do the work.  Pressfield does an excellent job of not only describing the problem of resistance.  He also gives us a process for dealing with it.  You can read my full book summary here.

Principles: Life and Work

I’ve long been a fan of author Ray Dalio.  I was reluctant to read this book because I thought it would heavy on his investment principles.  It turns out it’s much more about his principles in life.  I suggest this book for its pragmatism.  It will help you create foundational principles in your own life.

Emerson’s Essay on Compensation

There is an absolute balance in nature.  Everything has a benefit and a cost.  There is a price for everything.  And, every price we pay will return something of value in return.  That’s the Law of Compensation.  Ignore this law, and you’ll find yourself struggling.  Follow this law, and you’ll experience harmony in all you do.  Written by Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Read my full book summary here.

Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think

Pioneer Peter Diamandis wants to change the world.  And, he believes we can do that by being counter-cultural and raising the standard of living in under-developed countries.  But, even if you don’t want to solve world hunger, I encourage you to read this book.  It will make you think bigger about what is possible for you.

Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives

This is my number one must-read for everyone engaged in the coach industry. It’s about discovering and achieving potential.  Dozens of professional development programs utilize the principles in this book.  It will transform your coaching, leadership and communication skills. Written by Karen and Henry Kimsey-House.

Co-Active Leadership: Five Ways to Lead

Another book by Karen and Henry-Kimsey House.  Just as their book Co-Active Coaching created a new way of thinking about the coaching industry, this book has the potential to revolutionize leadership.  The premise is that we are all leaders, and at any given time we make a choice to lead or not. Co-Active Leadership will soon replace top-down leadership in many organizations.

You2: A High Velocity for Multiplying Your Personal Effectiveness in Quantum Leaps

Written by Price Pritchett.  This short book challenges you to eliminate incremental thinking and embrace exponential thinking.  Develop goals that will help provide a quantum leap in achievement.  What if you challenged yourself to make a Quantum Leap.

The 80% Approach

Written by Dan Sullivan, a pioneer in the business coaching industry, this book will help you take all of the resources you currently have and use them more productively.  Once you’re focused on your unique ability, you’ll be better equipped to help your team focus on theirs.

The Breakthrough Principle of 16x: Real Simple Innovation for 16 Times Better Results

Take The 80% Approach, combine it with You2 and eliminate anything that isn’t critical and you get The Breakthrough Principle of 16x.  Written by Richard Koch, this short book is a handbook on how to tap into the 80/20 Principle to increase effectiveness and achievement.

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich

The title of this book is misleading.  It is not about working less; it is about designing the life you want to live. Author Tim Ferris encourages you to identify what is important in your life and build a business or career that allows you to spend your time, energy and resources on the things that really matter to you.

Smartcuts: The Breakthrough Power of Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is the process of using what’s known to create new ideas and solutions. This is not a book about finding shortcuts, it’s a book about thinking creatively to work smarter and faster.  Author, Shane Snow describes Smartcuts not as limiting hard work, but thinking differently to achieve more.

One Word that will Change Your Life

Written by Jon Gordon and Dan Britton.  This book is about focus and self-exploration.  A great guide to helping people (and yourself) find purpose.  I re-read this book every year on my birthday, to create a focus word for my year.

Building a Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Your Customers Will Listen

Whether you own the business or provide the service, your brand is important.  Donald Miller shows you how to use the power of story to identify what your customers really want, and to build your brand focused on that.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

If you have the desire to change things, the willingness to lead, and the ability to connect you can build a tribe that changes the world.  As in most books written by Seth Godin, the author encourages you not to follow the crowd, but to be true to yourself and your desires.  And, when you do, you’ll find that you have opportunities to mobilize an audience.  It won’t be easy, but it may be easier than you think.

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

This is a book about Agile project management, but it’s so much more.  Jeff Sutherland is the creator of Scrum, an adaptation of the agile method that many Silicon Valley startups use to design, create and deliver their projects.  In this book, he and his son J.J. Sutherland lay out a simple, step-by-step process you can use to adapt this system to increase and improve your productivity in just about every area of your business and your life.

Sacred Hoops: Spirtual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior

This is a book about basketball, except that it isn’t.  It’s a book about coaching, except that it isn’t.    This is a memoir of one of the top NBA coaches of all time, Phil Jackson.  In it, you’ll learn how to direct people to act with a clear mind, to act without over-thinking, to be aggressive without anger.  You’ll learn to respect competition and adversity, to live in the moment, calmly focused in the midst of chaos and to put the “me” in service of the “we.”  It is a book I’ve read many times and will read many more.

The 12-Week Year: Get More Done in 12-Weeks Than Most do in 12-Months 

This is a book about productivity.  Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington take the athletic training principle of periodization and apply it to achievement in all areas of life. I’ve worked personally with Brian Moran, and have seen first hand how the principles in this book accelerate the pace of achievement.  This is another of the books I read at least once a year.

The 7-Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

This is a timeless classic written by Stephen Covey.  Like Ray Dalio’s Principles, listed above, this book suggests identifying the values and principles in your life and using those as guideposts for how you live and work.  I suggest reading one habit a month and spending the month working on each habit.

Smart Talk for Achieving Your Potential: 5 Steps to Get You from Here to There

Written by Lou Tice.  This is a hard-to-find book.  And, you’re not likely to find many reviews.  That said, it is one of the best books I’ve read on the power of human potential and how to tap into it.  This book encourages you to be authentic, progressive and effective.

The Emigrant Edge: How to Make it Big in America

Written by Brian Buffini, an Irish Immigrant who came to the United States with $92 in his pocket and became a rags-to-riches story before founding the largest business coaching and training company in North America.  This book explores seven common traits of the most successful immigrants — and how anyone can apply them to their goals and dreams. 

Note: I’ve worked for Brian Buffini since 2006.  I would recommend this book, even if I didn’t work for him.

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization

John Wooden was a reader, and John Wooden was a leader. When one of the greatest coaches of all time writes a book, it pays to read it.  In this book, you’ll find Wooden’s 12-lessons on leadership and his Pyramid for Success.  Steve Jamison co-authored this book.

Success is a Choice: Ten Steps to Overachieving in Business and in Life

Written by Rick Pitino.  This book starts with the premise we can all achieve things we never thought possible, and that most of us sell ourselves short.  Pitino shares tips on how to spur people on to achieve far more than is expected of them.  He systematically overturns this negative conditioning and replaces it with ten concrete steps to building a winning life.

Note: Over the past few years Rick Pitino has found himself embroiled in some controversies inconsistent with what he teaches in this book.  That doesn’t make this book any less valuable for anyone who coaches people.  I think it proves that success is a choice, and he may have made the wrong ones.

The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs that Energizes Great Performance

Nearly 75 percent of employees around the world feel disengaged at work every day. The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working offers a groundbreaking approach to reenergizing our lives, so we’re both more satisfied and more productive.  Author Tony Schwartz suggests that we focus on our whole person: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, and he offers a systematic and scientific approach to high performance.


I’ve added the following books to the list in 2019:

Because I like to keep this list at 23-books, I removed the following books:

I still consider those books to be worth a read.

Book Summaries

I summarize many of the books I read.  If you would like to get my book summaries emailed directly to you, absolutely free.  Subscribe here.

Please Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you use them, I’ll get a small commission – there is no extra cost to you. I recommend these books because I have read them and gotten value from them.

Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc. or its affiliates. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission on qualifying purchases.

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