7 Must-Reads for Personal Development

By Skyler Zarndt MS, ATC, RSCC




Goal Setting Crushing.

Becoming a Better Person.

The following are 7 of my favorite books that help get my mind right.  Hopefully they can help you, too.

1. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

extreme-ownershipThis #1 New York Times bestseller blends some pretty fantastic first hand accounts of intense, war time situations with a template of how to truly lead.  Willink and Babin are now in charge of a company called Echelon Front where they teach those in the corporate setting how to employ the same strategies that they learned and used as SEAL leaders.  Topics include Cover and Move, Decentralized Command, and Leading Up the Chain.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is as follows:

…when it comes to performance standards, It’s not what you preach, it’s what you tolerate.  You have to drive your CTO to exercise Extreme Ownership – to acknowledge mistakes, stop blaming others, and lead his team to success.  If you allow the status quo to persist, you can’t expect to improve performance, and you can’t expect to win.

2. The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

Slight Edge.jpgPerhaps my favorite from the group, Jeff Olson does an unbelievable job explaining the power of small changes over a long period of time.  The idea that if you add just 1 percent of anything – skill, knowledge, effort – per day, in a year it will have more than tripled.  But you have to start with that small 1 percent.  In addition acting as a guide to how to increase productivity, performance, and results, The Slight Edge also acts as a blueprint to finding happiness and self-fulfillment.  Some essential takeaways from this book:

  • The wisest investment you can make is to invest in your own continuous learning and development.
  • You ALREADY know how to do everything it would take to make you an outrageous success.  All you have to do is keep doing the things that have gotten you this far.
  • Your philosophy creates your attitudes, which create your actions, which create your results, which create your life.
  • The Slight Edge is relentless and cuts both ways: simple daily disciplines or simple errors in judgement, repeated consistently over time, make you or break you.

3. The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon

the-energy-busJon Gordon is an author and speaker who has penned more than ten phenomenal books regarding leadership, mindset, and teamwork.  The Energy Bus is a quick and easy read, but that doesn’t take away from its effectiveness.  It shares “10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life.”  These include:

  • You’re the driver of your bus.
  • Fuel the ride with positive energy.
  • Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  • Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride.
  • Drive with purpose.

Simple steps with fantastic results.  Enjoy the ride!


4. Legacy by James Kerr

legacyThe All Blacks rugby team of New Zealand just might be the most successful team in the world.  Not just in rugby, but in all of sports.  So how do they do it?  Kerr shares insights about the All Blacks remain on top.  And it all starts with leadership.  He gives us 15 different rules to guide our philosophy and help shape a winning environment.  And if you’ve ever heard the term “Sweep the Sheds,” you can thank Legacy – never be too big to do the small things that need to be done!

A winning organization is an environment of personal and professional development, in which each individual takes responsibility and shares ownership.


5. The Art of Positive Leadership by John E. Michel

The Art of Positive Leadership.jpgOthers-centered leadership.  According to John E. Michel, that is the goal to successful leadership.  Like Extreme Ownership, these leadership ideas were born and tested on the battlefield.  In essence, our leadership and human relationships should enable us to:

  • “Equip others to experience less frustration and more consideration.”
  • “Encourage others to promote less separation and more unification.”
  • “Empower others to strive for less dissatisfaction and more appreciation.”
  • “Inspire others to fear less, love more, and do their part to leave their part of the world better than they first found it.”


6. Burn Your Goals by Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert

burn-your-goals“Burning your goals” is counter-intuitive to what we have always been taught about goal setting.  But in this book, the authors tell us not that we shouldn’t have goals, but that we should start thinking about how we achieve those goals differently.  As opposed to being “goal oriented” with our eyes on a fixed end point, we should instead pursue the path of becoming “process oriented.”  By falling in love with the process of becoming better (at whatever you are working on), we consequently get closer to reaching those goals simultaneously. Remember to put first things first and focus on the controllable factors.  Remember that everyone and everything matters.  And remember to stop comparing and focus on competing.


7. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

Man's Search for Meaning.jpgIf you haven’t read this book, stop what you are doing, follow the link above, buy it, promptly read it, and then ask yourself why it took you so long.  This is a book that was originally published over 50 years ago, but the message and meaning is applicable to anybody at anytime in their life.  Part recollection of events in multiple concentration camps during WWII, and part psychology text, Frankl discusses the development of logotherapy which is the pursuit of meaning of one’s own life.  As you can imagine, Frankl’s experiences are far more extreme than the vast majority of the population.  Despite his trials, he was able to find meaning.  Talk about perspective.  So stop complaining because life is good.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”


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