elitefts™ Sunday Edition

I want to say something about the books we read.

Very often, on this site, social media, and elsewhere, fitness industry people are asked for their reading lists—or they solicit their fans and colleagues looking for new material to read. Whenever you see this type of solicitation, a pattern begins to develop: Almost every single time, their recommendations are limited to self-help and “how to” books.

Now, there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with this. If you want to be good at something and learn new things, you HAVE to read. You really don’t have a choice. If you’re not a voracious reader, you’re starting out behind people who are in terms of learning. You can obviously make up for this by being mentored by smart people and soaking up their information, but if you don’t read a lot, you’re at major disadvantage.

The second thing I would say here is that I’m not throwing stones, because I read these same kinds of books. I’ve read everything from How to Win Friends and Influence People to Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and everything in between. If I see one of these types of books recommended by people, chances are I’ve already read it, because I go through phases where I’ll read three of these at a time. I’d be a hypocrite if I told people not to read these types of books.

What kind of disturbs me, however, is that these books are all I ever see anyone recommend—and I find this very sad because there’s so much more out there to learn.

There’s a Will Smith interview clip that a lot of people link to from time to time about “reading and running,” where Smith says it’s important to read because every single problem known to mankind has already been effectively covered in books. I’ve found that to be very, very true, but I’m not talking about self-help or “how to” books here. Instead, I’m referring to actual literature: novels, biographies, autobiographies, and literary non-fiction books.

For example, you’ll learn more about the Lombardi Sweep by reading When Pride Still Mattered than you will be reading some paperback with a bunch of diagrams. You’ll learn more about traveling by reading On the Road or Of Mice and Men than you will by looking at a Fodor’s guide. You’ll learn more about food by reading Kitchen Confidential or Heat than you will in a cookbook. You’ll learn infinitely more about money and finance by reading Liar’s Poker or The Big Short than you will by reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. And if you’re looking to get revenge on someone, you’ll find a lot more on the subject in The Count of Monte Christo and The Prince than you will anywhere else.

You’ll also learn infinitely more about writing by reading a few Ernest Hemingway novels than you ever will from that copy of Strunk and White someone told you to pick up.

These days, we’re all “shifting paradigms,” adopting “7 Habits” and doing all the other stuff all the popular self-help guys have been telling us for years. My point here is that everyone’s read these books. We know all there is to know about e-Myths and time management. Take a lesson from the fact that everyone else in the business has read all of these books and try branching out to something a little different.

Angry Coach