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Almost All the Books I Read in 2020

If you’ve been around CFG long enough, you know that we have a team of pretty avid readers. If you listen to the podcast or catch me at the gym, chances are high that I’ve made a personal recommendation to you. I’m also slowly becoming ‘that guy’ who will gift books when the circumstances call for it. I remember that I hated receiving books growing up, yet now they are amongst my most cherished gifts I get.

Anyhow, I thought it fitting for me to recap the list of books I read this year, along with a short tidbit of each. You will notice that I titled this post ‘Almost All the Books I Read in 2020′ – that is because I am saving my top three for the next post. Except for those three, the ones that follow below are in no particular order or category. I’ve also linked to them on Amazon where I do not receive an affiliate money for doing so, HA! Without further ado:

  • Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – this was given to me by Jim Godin, Head PT at EXOS. This book tells the tale that most parents don’t really want to hear: that Little Johnny or Little Susie don’t need to specialize and log 60 hours of training per week to “make it.” At six years old. Or even at sixteen years old. This is true for nearly all fields, not just in sports. But leading with that headline seemed most provocative to me…
  • The Way of the Superior Man – I admittedly didn’t know this was designed more as a daily reading vs a ‘sit down and knock out 25 pages at a clip’ type book. And although the author doesn’t say it, I do think it should be read one ‘lesson’ at a time. Anyhow, its a decent guidebook of how to live life as a man and deal with things in a very pragmatic sense. I honestly expected much more, and although there were a couple of really great lessons I took from it, overall I came away a bit underwhelmed. Then again, it did follow close after one of the best books I read all year, Deep Survival.
  • Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why – a gift from one of the mentors on my staff at Two-Brain Coaching, Brad Overstreet. He sent it to me after a conversation the two of us had about the sharply declining role that suffering-type training had in our lives and gym-businesses these days. It is a remarkable story about “how to take control of stress, learn to assess risk, and make better decisions under pressure.”
  • What to Say When You Talk to Yourself – this was a recommendation from my Grandma Vicki out in Kansas City. We were sitting around the fire last year when they were down for Christmas, talking about kids, when she brought this book up. The content was a bit repetitive, but the message is clear: the story you tell yourself about yourself matters. Might as well make it positive and healthy. Same goes for your kids hearing what you say about them to your peers. That is arguably more impactful than what you say to their face.
  • Perspective – this was a fantastic gift from Jeff Aubin, of 7pm class fame. He and I share an affinity for the Christian faith and when he heard I was looking for a new devotional, he searched this one out. He shared with me that it was a book that his father had given to him when he was younger! What I love most about this book, beyond the faith-based nature, is that it was written in 1957 and the principles still hold true to this day!
  • Spiritual Leadership – this was a gift from my Pastor, Beau DiFrenna. He invited Mandy and I to be part of a leadership group in the new campus for Bayside Community Church that we were helping to plant and this book formed the backbone of our study group. The depth of questions we had to ask of ourselves and share with others was life changing and something I won’t soon forget.
  • What the Dog Saw – an oldie but goodie from one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell. It was an early book of his that I had never read, but upon seeing it at a small bookstore in Asheville this summer I knew I couldn’t pass it up. It’s actually a collection of short stories and essays that he’s written over the years, so they are all super enjoyable and digestible one sitting at a time.
  • Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know – Gladwell’s newest book, I actually bought it at the tail end of 2019 but didn’t read it until early 2020. Considering all the civil unrest that transpired over this past year, this is perhaps one of the best books I could have read for my own self-reflection and improvement leading into the summer. I’ll share my #1 book in my next post, but if you are someone who realizes that in order to change the world (like so many claim to want to do) you need to start with the person in the mirror, I’d recommend this book.
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  • The Practice: Shipping Creative Work – a gift from my mentor Chris Cooper, this is by Seth Godin, one of my favorite authors and our keynote speaker from our Two-Brain Business Summit this past year. Seth is famous for his brevity, and this book does not disappoint as he riffs on all things concerning the practice of doing meaningful, contributing work.
  • Daily Strength for Men: a 365-Day Devotional – this was a gift from Rob and Vicky Rivera, and is part of my morning devotional routine. Its hard to find a good devotional, so I was thrilled when they gifted me this for my birthday. It’s split up real nicely – every ‘left’ page has a verse of scripture that is then applied to every day life. Then, each accompanying ‘right’ page expands the verse further and poses some reflection questions. I’ve never seen one organized this way but I absolutely love it!
  • Business Secrets From The Bible – a recommendation from a gym owner and friend in Indiana (Blake), this is exactly what I needed to read as we close out 2020. A struggle that I’ve long had is in finding clarity between using the gifts I’ve been blessed with and creating and managing a business that is doing God’s work for His Kingdom. This book does a wonderful job using scripture to help me bridge that gap.
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance – this was the first book that Brad Overstreet (mentioned earlier above) gifted me. I think this book stemmed from a conversation about adrenaline and other hormones and how they play a unique role in maintaining client relationships. Having said that, this book is not short on adrenaline-junkie filled stories, which is right up my alley!
  • The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy – if you know me well enough, you know that politics are among the last things I’d ever be interested in reading about. However, a combination of reading a few random pages from this book when I saw it in a bookstore (yes, again in Asheville) and my affinity for Michael Lewis (of ‘Moneyball’) meant that I’d give this a shot. Let’s just say that I think anybody who has a modicum of interest in how our country works should check this out. Put aside your biases (and those in the book) and you may just come away with a new appreciation for this great nation that we call home. It really is a modern miracle that things are still functioning!
  • Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success – Jordan and the Bulls. Kobe and the Lakers. The only disappointing thing about this book is the fact that it took me so long to pick it up and read it! I’d had it in my nightstand for about six months, but after being glued to the TV during ‘The Last Dance’, I couldn’t get through this one fast enough. And it didn’t let me down one bit. If you’re a sports fan, you gotta read it. If you’re a Jordan or Kobe fan, you gotta read it. If you’re a fan of the process of how super successful people get there, you gotta read it.
  • Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning – I actually bought this just to have around as a great reference, but soon after it arrived I found myself starting from the beginning and going all the way through it. The original intention of it being a reference holds true though, as I thumb through it weekly.
  • Primal Branding: Create Belief Systems that Attract Communities – I grabbed this early in 2020, before all heck broke loose, and it has honestly been a great guidebook to help the way we streamline CFG and ensure that everything we do is in alignment with our mission and vision and, ultimately, why we do what we do. As a quick side note, the book cover that Amazon shows is not the one that appears on it now. It is far more terrifying. Google it and tell me if you find it as equally disturbing as I did when I first opened it up.
  • Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst – Sapolsky also wrote ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers’, one of the most influential books of my career and one that I’ve shared many lessons from with all of you. This one takes things a few layers deeper as he dives into the why, how, and what that goes into our behaviors. And he does so in a unique way, by looking at the moment before, the minute before, the hour before, the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before…well, you get the drift. Like ‘Zebras’, it is extremely dense, but the principles of biology hold true and help define so much of what we do at CFG.
  • Never Spit the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It – Chris Voss was once the lead hostage negotiator for the FBI. If that fact doesn’t make you want to pick this up and read it just for the stories you’ll read, then perhaps the recognition that everything in life is a negotiation will. This book will help you have more meaningful and fulfilling conversations. Do that and I guarantee your relationships will improve. And don’t tell Mandy, but I’ve been using some of the techniques from the book on her and they work!
  • All Marketers Are Liars – another great one by Seth Godin, he helps the reader understand how important story-telling is in connecting with people. I listened to this one on Audible, which I’m not a huge fan of, and I wish I had gotten the physical copy.
  • Profit First for Microgyms: A Simple System for Healthy Cashflow – before I even opened CFG, I was always very clear that we would run it like a professional business, not a hobby. It’s not the easiest thing to do, which is why I’m continually investing in my education in becoming a better business owner. This book by a friend of mine, John Briggs, is a great practical guide to using the ‘Profit First’ system of cashflow. It is investments like this that have allowed us to stay open and operational through COVID.
  • The Bible – like I mentioned in my intro, these books are in no particular order, so don’t take umbrage to THE most important book being down here at the bottom. After all, they say to ‘save the best for last’, right? Anyhow, the Bible continues to be a daily reading for me. In fact, I finished my second cover-to-cover reading of it in early November. Probably the coolest part of my recent trip through the Bible is when my kids catch me reading a story that they recognize and we take time to dive into it a bit deeper.

In my next post, I’ll recap the top three books I read in 2020. Chances are, if you listen to our podcast, you’ve heard me talk about them. But I intend to devote a few more words to explain why they had such a profound impact on me. While you wait for that post, I’d love to hear from you – what books have you read this year that you loved? Any that you hated?

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