I'm a book junkie.
As most of you may know by now, I love to expand my horizons and learn about topics outside of the fitness realm. Psychology, business, and self-development books were the primary bulk of literature for me in 2015. As a self-proclaimed bookworm, I must admit that I have read more this past year than any other year previously. I've read numerous books (some better than others) that have helped mold my mindset from previous beliefs, resulting in great impacts in my life. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek, and Mindset by Carol Dweck were the three best books I read in 2015, and works that I recommend to anyone that asks.
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
This book was initially recommended to me through a post Miguel Aragoncillo published on Eric Cressey's website. The cover of the book was intriguing (I'm attracted to books with simple white/cream covers... I'm weird), and it made me curious as to what Holiday's work was all about. It turns out that it's my favorite book to date and nothing has come close to topping it.
Perception, Action, and Will are three separate sections of this book that come together to help us handle situations in a different light. The obstacle in our way is handled based on the way we perceive, react, and continue to face it going forward. This attributes to all issues that we may face in our everyday lives, both large and small.
For myself personally, Holiday's section on Perception has permanently changed my life for the better. It's not the situation we're in that defines us, it's the way we handle this situation that does. This has taught me how to step back from situations, alter my perception, which admittedly can be skewed at times, and then figure out how to react the task at hand. This process has helped me through faltering relationships, stressful work environments, and deadlines on what seemed to be never ending schoolwork.
The anecdotes depicted in this book are descriptive, clear, and allow you to put yourself in the character's shoes. Tommy John, Steve Jobs, and John D. Rockefeller are just a few of the individuals discussed in detail that turned their struggles into triumph. The Obstacle is the Way is a handbook to facing everyday problems face to face, and coming out on top every single time. If you could only pick one out of the three books I talk about, this is the one I highly recommend you read.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Like Holiday, Sinek's work focuses heavily on anecdotes of individuals that have either flourished and failed based on their actions. The difference, however, is Leaders Eat Last focuses primarily on establishing what good leadership is and how to cultivate these habits amongst others. Here's another book title that's a dead giveaway, but with plenty of takeaways to benefit your day-to-day life.
The United States Marine Corps, greedy CEO's of failing companies, and prosperous brands like Costco are all interesting examples that are described in full detail throughout the course of the book. Sinek also explains how chemicals within our body, like serotonin, oxytocin, and cortisol, alter the way we think and how this effects those that surround us. The nerd in me obviously found this fascinating, as these chemicals play key roles before, during, and after our workouts.
While I found this book entertaining, and resourceful, I must admit it didn't have the same impact on me as The Obstacle is the Way. This isn't a knock on the book whatsoever, as there's tons of great information between the covers that will produce a few "aha" moments for you. However, I personally feel the practical application of Holiday's work is unmatched.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Barnes and Noble is my favorite store on the planet, without debate. While wandering around the aisles one day, as I typically do once a month or so, I came across Mindset by Carol Dweck.
As you could probably guess from the title alone, the book talks about the psychology behind mindsets, and how they interact within business, sports, relationships, and schoolwork. The two mindsets Dweck consistently refers too in her work are fixed-mindsets versus growth-mindsets. Both are completely different from one another, and it's interesting how each one works.
With a fixed-mindset, individuals believe that everything in life is predetermined. You either have it or you don't. This applies to everything, whether it be a "natural talent" on a sport's field, or an effortless relationship with your loved one. The general idea behind the fixed-mindset is if it isn't there from the start, it will never be there. I firmly believe this is the type of thinking we have to stray far away from.
The complete opposite end of the spectrum is the growth-mindset, where patience and practice determine your current capabilities and actual potential. I'm an advocate for this camp, as I believe that there's always room for improvement regardless of what the task at hand might be. For example, I like to think I'm a relatively good writer. If I wasn't, people wouldn't read what I have to say (I have access to my website's analytics, and unless my mom just chooses to refresh the page countless times per day, I like to think those numbers show that readers enjoy what I write).
With that being said, I know there's tons of ways I can improve my writing. This is the growth-mindset at work. Good enough isn't good enough, it's an uphill battle that should never be deemed complete. Perfection isn't the end goal, improvement is. This is what makes the growth-mindset the optimal mindset in my opinion.
All three of these books depict three separate ways to develop yourself as an individual in our society. Each one consists of anecdotal material as well as science from a psychological standpoint. There's major takeaways from the pieces I summarized, each having one or two key points that can help alter your everyday behavior immediately. Give them a shot, I'd love to hear back from you.