I won’t call this my “Top Ten” books list, but these are ten of my favorites, especially in the realms of mindset and peak performance. All of these are phenomenal reads and beneficial for anyone desiring to better themselves and those around them. Stay tuned for more in this section…
My take: Get out of your own head. Stop judging yourself. Competition is an opportunity and our competitors are actually our allies that help us achieve our goals and grow as individuals. One of the absolute best books out on how to set our minds to learning new skills and performing at our highest level. This is not just for tennis players; any teacher, coach, parent, or competitor will benefit from reading.
Quotes: “The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad.“
“There would be no problem with competition if one’s self-image were not at stake.”
“‘Abandon’ is a good word to describe what happens to a tennis player who feels he has nothing to lose. He stops caring about the outcome and plays all out. It is a letting go of the concerns of Self 1 and letting in of the natural concerns of a deeper and truer self. It is caring, yet not caring; it is effort, but effortless at the same time.”
My take: Game changer for me. Growth Mindset (focus is on learning and getting better) > Fixed Mindset (focus is on the outcome and appearance). This goes against what our education system, sports culture, and society instills in us. Having a growth mindset does not mean there are no winners or loser, but it’s where one places their focus and where they get their motivation from. Don’t fall into the limiting belief that you are either born with “it” or not. Anyone is capable if they have the drive, persistence, and focus.
Quotes: “In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.”
“Becoming is better than being. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be.”
My take: Practical, applicable, and life changing ideas and ways to eliminate bad habits and adopt good ones. In a culture that highlights the end results, we must focus on changing the small, daily routines – and this is what eventually leads to more success and fulfillment.
Quotes: “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.”
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
“Every Olympian wants to win a gold medal. Every candidate wants to get the job. And if successful and unsuccessful people share the same goals, then the goal cannot be what differentiates the winners from the losers.”
My take: Talent is a myth. We make excuses for not becoming our best by deifying those that are at the top by thinking they have a mystical ability they were just born with. The reality is that the best are the best (in any field: athletics, music, art, science, etc.) because of days, years, and decades of consistent, boring, and deliberate practice.
Quotes: “No matter who they were, or what explanation of their performance was being advanced it always took them many years to become excellent, and if a person achieves elite status only after many years of toil, assigning the principal role in that success to innate gifts becomes problematic, to say the least.”
“One factor, and only one factor, predicted how musically accomplished the students were, and that was how much they practiced.”
My Take: Fantastic book that differentiates what’s really important from what society tells us is important. Goals such as money, fame, power don’t provide purpose or the fulfillment society tells us they do. Instead, learn how to embrace the process and focus on developing moral character strengths along the way; this actually helps us to achieve more, and more importantly, it leads to a more fulfilling and impactful life. Great read for anyone who wants to better lead themselves or others.
Quote: “What matters is the person you are becoming as a consequence of the pursuit, and character must be at the heart of everything you do and are.”
“’The moment of victory is much too short to live for that and nothing else,’ said Martina Navratilova.”
“Praise energy invested over outcome every time…when you praise a child for investing his or her best energy (focused, positive, fully committed, etc.), it is more genuinely rewarding. Why? Because the child has control over it.”
My Take: The most entertaining and interesting book I’ve read. Outrageous stories from his childhood and throughout his professional tennis career. His recollection of single points in past matches, and specifically his mental processing, is incredible. This provides an insightful and deep look into the mindset of a world class performer.
Quotes: “This is when I begin to say things to myself, crazy things, over and over, until I believe them.”
“Don’t hope he double-faults, don’t hope he misses. You control what you can control. Return this serve with all your strength, and if you return it hard but miss, you can live with that. You can survive that. One return, no regrets.”
“I beat the kid, at last, but only because he’s slightly more afraid of losing than I am.”
“Freed from thoughts of winning, I instantly play better. I stop thinking, start feeling.”
My Take: Every one talks to themselves, and unfortunately, the message we often repeat over and over holds us back from our potential. Our thoughts and words literally hardwire our approach to relationships, performance, business, and life in general. This book does a fantastic job of communicating why self-talk is so crucial to living a fulfilling and productive life, and more importantly, how we can use self-talk to become better people.
Quotes: “Leading behavioral researchers have told us that as much as seventy-seven percent of everything we think is negative, counterproductive, and works against us.”
“How successful you will be at anything is inexorably tied to the words and beliefs about yourself that you have stored in your subconscious mind. And what is stored there, for most of us, was decided for us by someone else.”
“Children are closer to the original potential we were born with. Until we become programmed to believe what we cannot do, as children we are still willing to believe in what we can.”
My Take: One of the most entertaining and inspiring books I’ve read. Extremely well written memoir by Phil Knight (founder of Nike) chronicling the inception of the brand in 1962 through it’s IPO in 1980. This read is filled with gems on competition, overcoming obstacles, and entrepreneurship. I’ve included a few below.
Quotes: “Every runner understands this. Front runners always work the hardest, and risk the most.”
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few.”
“The act itself becomes the destination. It’s not just that there’s no finish line; it’s that you define the finish line.”
“We were trying to create a brand, I said, but also a culture…More than a product, we were trying to sell an idea—a spirit.”
“Fear of failure, I thought, will never be our downfall as a company.”
“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
My Take: Looks at The Enneagram (ancient personality typing system) through a Biblical lens. This book does a phenomenal job of unpacking what The Enneagram is, its eight personality types, and why understanding oneself is such a powerful thing. Unlike Myers-Briggs or DISC personality assessments, which I find to be limiting, The Enneagram is a liberating tool that provides us with the insights to be our healthiest selves and also have more empathy to those around us.
Quotes: “The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.”
“To know oneself is, above all, to know what one lacks. It is to measure oneself against Truth, and not the other way around. The first product of self-knowledge is humility.”
“There is one quality that trumps all, evident in virtually every great entrepreneur, manager, and leader. That quality is self-awareness. The best thing leaders can do to improve their effectiveness is to become more aware of what motivates them and their decision-making.”
My take: A fable that is a quick and easy read with a clear message throughout — greatness requires forgetting the results and fully embracing oneself in the process. Great book for leaders, coaches, and teams.
Quotes: “Everyone wants to be great, until it’s time to do what greatness requires. Dream BIG. Start small. Be ridiculously faithful. Focus on what you can control. Your greatest challenge during your time here will be faithfully keeping your focus on the process, while surrendering the outcome.”
“Goals actually allow you to shirk responsibility. But a mission? Only the person in the mirror can stop you from living that out.”