In 2015 I read over 50 books but my main takeaway then was just one thing: to read fewer books, and spend more time meditating and applying the material I learned. This year I followed through on that, but I still finished almost 60 books.
How did that happen?
What I found out is that I can read fewer pages, but end up with much greater input! There are countless other ways to increase book consumption, e.g. audiobooks. For example, entrepreneur Peter Voogd listens to audiobooks whenever he’s travelling between Monday and Thursday. With no exceptions. He isn’t able to read physical books due to a busy lifestyle, but this fits Peter’s schedule and allows him to be consistent.
That’s how I ended 2016 with almost 60 books read. All of them meditated upon and most applying to business, training and coaching of others. Besides reading 1-2 hours daily, I spent all of my endurance training (5-7 hours of training each week) listening to audiobooks. Now, it’s no secret that movement and exercise can improve concentration, memory and recall. Thus merging activity with learning and listening to ideas was a no-brainer.
The gist of it, is that I found other ways to get more raw ideas. The best bit still is that more input always results in more output. It’s what author James Altucher calls the idea sex – mixing up random, relevant ideas from your mental bank of inputs until you come up with an idea that is worth executing. A golden ticket. So don’t restrict your reading of books just to apply the knowledge in depth – find other more effective ways to learn.
Now going into actual meaty stuff, you might be interested to hear which books were the highlights of this reading year. Note that most of them were awful. Perhaps others would find them useful, but I didn’t. You can find full set my notes and other metrics on this reading list spreadsheet.
In the end I decided to list only the 9s and 10s I loved:
The Explorers Guild V1: A Passage to Shambhala by Kevin Costner, Jonathan Baird
Half comic book, half Kipling-style written masterpiece. Originally intended to be a TV series, the script is transformed into an epic mystery tale of world exploration, leadership, love and everything in between.
The Low Carb Athlete by Ben Greenfield
The lifestyle of high dietary fat and restricted carbohydrates has transformed the way I train and–more importantly–perform. Not just at sports events, but also day to day. This book is a short guide for the athletes who want to optimise their fat burning and fatty acid utilization for endurance efforts. Greenfield provides the context, recipes and everything else you’d need to start a low-carb diet.
Vagabonding by Rolf Potts
Recommended by many nomads and entrepreneurs, this book is perfect for anyone with a travel mindset. Includes specific examples of certain travel etiquette, culture clashes, managing expectations and most importantly how to travel and live a dynamic life.
Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
I now consider Derek Sivers one of my mentors. Anything You Want is a short book of his life lessons with specific examples (stories) and solid advice. There’s plenty of gems for entrepreneurs, for example: don’t start a business if no one is asking for it.
Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
We don’t get fat because of overeating, but we overeat because we are fat. Make sense? Gary Taubes dives into the details of human metabolism and what causes us to store fat, which leads to metabolic diseases. Most importantly he gives advice on how to avoid these: restrict your carbohydrates, increase dietary fat and avoid the low-fat BS.
The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
Formal education has its place to get you started in life, however more often than not is simply worthless. This book is a backup giving solid background of everything business-related: value creation, marketing and sales, behavioral psychology etc. It’s one you can easily refer to when you have a specific organizational problem too. (That’s how I use it.)
Fight Club 2 by Chuck Palahniuk
This graphic novel won’t create a cult, as its prequel did. However, it’s an upgrade over the fetishising of anarchy that we saw in the original Fight Club. The sequel delves into Tyler Durden’s world of twisted and morbid treatment of society. It got me to pause many times to reflect on what I might be taking for granted, and why.
Today We Die a Little: The Rise and Fall of Emil Zátopek by Richard Askwith
For those new to endurance sport Emil Zatopec was a superman Olympian athlete, who trained under some of the toughest conditions (running in army boots, running with a rucksack etc.). However, the book doesn’t just cover Emil’s athletic wins. Very few Westerners know that he was also a big opponent of the Communist regime, and was exiled from his country as a result. This is a story of true passion for sport, empathy for every living being and of one man facing incredible injustices.
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
This is probably the best fiction book about leadership… written as a children’s book. I actually applied many lessons from this one as a manager, for example understanding the social dynamics and importance of the first follower. It’s a twisted story that ends with a BIG bang.
48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Sure this book has been labelled a sociopath’s playbook. It can be that, especially if you’re keen to apply every principle right to the letter as it was presented in the book ( through stories of the past). Or you can use it to learn some key principles on leadership, social dynamics etc. For example, law #1: Don’t outshine your master. Which can mean to never be too ambitious or better than your boss. On the other hand it can also mean that you have to trust in your leader. Trusting their decisions and learning from them. It’s all about the long game. When the time is right you will excel (though always at a cost).
The 10s, the cream of the crop
These are the books I’ll come back to with specific issue in mind and re-read to help me find a solution.
The One Thing by Gary Keller, Jay Papasan – My review and takeways
This is a powerful approach to achieving results by focussing on doing just one thing. The basic premise is: you set a long term goal, split it into more achievable chunks, then order them yearly, monthly, weekly, daily in the order you need to achieve them to reach your longer term goal. So every day you do one (little) thing that gets you closer to the big goal.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel – My review and takeaways
Go big or go home. Choose to start something big, something new, something without competition. Just as the next Google will not be a search engine, or the next Facebook is not going to be a social network – the next big hitters will redefine their own industries, products and user experiences. This book is a tool to help you grow from a competitive mentality (red oceans) into a maverick reforming an industry (blue oceans).
This Book Will Teach You How to Write Better by Neville Medhora
If you’re still reading this… I can attribute it to this tiny ebook. Good writing is an underrated skill. However, those who improve their copywriting skills know that improving writing also improves how you think and talk. For example, one of the best ways to ensure your writing is good, is to edit and cut most of it out – keeping it concise, clear and to the point. Just the way you should speak so people don’t zone out.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink, Leif Babin
The audiobook version was so good I listened to it twice, then bought the paperback too. “Discipline is freedom.” “You have nothing to prove, but everything to prove.” This is not a book about the war in Iraq, rather it’s how two Navy SEALS use their combat experiences to help business thrive. And maybe you dear reader?
A Technique to Producing Ideas by James Webb Young
Ideas have been labelled as the currency of the future. Yet it can be tough to think of good ideas, especially when you’re put on the spot to come up with them. The technique in this book provides the exact steps to coming up with ideas that are worth something. We all know that to have big output one first needs to get big input. This means, reading more, researching technicalities etc. – forming the basics. Next step is to brainstorm the solutions, then bin them all and allow for buffer time so that the Aha! moment can catch up. This is of course an oversimplified explanation of the technique, so pick up the book to transform the way you approach idea creation.
Badass Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra
It’s destructive to think that you know too much on any given subject. I thought I knew too much about UX before picking up this book. Turns out, I hadn’t thought much at all about post-UX UX, aka what makes users recommend a product to their friends. It’s what makes an everyday product a badass, popular product. Why? Because badass products makes their users feel badass. This book is a very quick guide that feels like a keynote (full of pictures), but it gets across the recipe to badass user experiences. A must read for any professional working on a product.
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
This big fat book is my highlight of the year. It’s 700+ pages dedicated to titans – the high performers, successful in their chosen field be it business or sports. As Tim calls it, this book is a buffet of knowledge.
Some of the outstanding personas and their tools shared in the book:
– Derek Sivers (Key takeaway on making decisions: “If it’s not hell yeah! it’s a NO”.)
– Reid Hoffman (Key takeaway on knowing if you have an A-player team: When you give them a strategy or project they won’t take it for granted and will always question it.)
– Scott Adams (Key takeaway: All you need to be more successful than average is to be pretty good at multiple things. For example, if you are a pretty good developer and develop public speaking skills to a pretty good level – you will excel over every other developer.)
– Dom D’Agostino (Key takeaway: for best performance and longevity go against the grain with a ketogenic, carb-restricted diet and fasting)
All 9s and 10s are superb books that I recommend to everyone regardless of their background or interests. (Just scroll up a few rows to that Scott Adams’ principle again about being good at a few things.)
As I learned this year… you don’t have to read in order to learn: listen, skim, read photo captions, fly through pages if needed! Just increase the level of raw ideas and input you’re receiving. The output will take care of itself.
Books can be your mentors if you choose them wisely. I read over 50 useful books last year and I aim to do the same this year, except I’ll be sharing all of the best insights right here on the High Achiever Diet. Want to stay up to date on the best books to lead you to success?
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