Reading List of 2023

In the last Coaching Digest, I started a new feature called Favorite of the Week, highlighting a favorite podcast, book, or article. As I was considering what to focus on this week, I realized that it’s a good time to share a reading list. I love reading other people’s lists. That’s how I find many of the books I’ve found helpful. This week, I’ll start with a short reading list, and then I have a podcast to share as the Favorite of the Week. If you have been following the chatter about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), you’ll want to listen to Marc Andreessen give his behind the scenes point of view.

First, the reading list…

An Immense World, How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us

Umwelt was a word I had never heard until reading this book. It’s defined as the world as it is experienced by a particular organism.

As humans, we have our own umwelt and every animal on the planet has their own. Author Ed Yong takes us on a journey through the umwelt of dozens of animals, from spiders to starfish to dogs and many, many more. The book gave me a whole new perspective on perspective. Here’s a favorite quote:

Our Umwelt is still limited; it just doesn’t feel that way. To us, it feels all-encompassing. It is all that we know, and so we easily mistake it for all there is to know. This is an illusion, and one that every animal shares.”

Never Split the Difference

I stumbled upon this book while searching for the Jim Collins podcast I recommended last week. When author Chris Voss began coming through the speakers on my car, I started to turn it off. Then I saw the title, called “The Art of Letting Other People Have Your Way.” The podcast conversation was enough to make me buy and read the whole book. (And I have a confession, I don’t always read the WHOLE book.)

Chris Voss was an FBI hostage negotiator, working in highly charged, life or death situations. Rather than use the typical tactics of force, fear and intimidation, he and his team discovered a better way: listening. If you have read Dancing the Tightrope or any of my blogs where I’ve been experimenting with the idea of “give up control to get control” and wondered how it works when the stakes are exceptionally high, this book has a ton of examples. It’s one I will read more than once. Here’s a favorite quote:

“The goal is to identify what your counterparts actually need (monetarily, emotionally, or otherwise) and get them feeling safe enough to talk and talk and talk some more about what they want.”


Practice and repetition used to spell BORING to me. I first read this book about 20 years ago, just as I was beginning to paint in watercolor. This book came at a time when my shell of perfection was beginning to show a few tiny cracks. Instead of believing I needed to make every painting a masterpiece, I was discovering the joy of seeing my efforts as simply paint on paper. Reading this book led me to paint the same scene several times, not to seek perfection, but instead to treat it as a practice.

This summer, the book showed up again on my radar screen and I read it again. I’m so glad I did; twenty years later I saw things with a very different perspective. This book is for anybody who is impatient with their progress. Author George Leonard normalizes the plateau, showing us that it’s a normal part of growth. Here’s my favorite quote:

“It’s simple. To be a learner, you’ve got to be willing to be a fool.”

The Creative Act, A Way of Being

I first heard of author Rick Rubin on the Tim Ferriss podcast years ago. He’s a music producer who is known for bringing a special spark out of his clients, whatever the genre of music. He has a way of pointing a musician back to their unique creative spirit, even as they are seeking to please their audience. It’s the kind of balancing act that gets my attention. He’s incredibly attuned to the moments that transcend the humdrum of life, and in this book, he shows us many of his secrets, especially those that are invisible yet meaningful. Here's a favorite quote from the book.

“The ability to look deeply is the root of creativity. To see past the ordinary and mundane and get to what might otherwise be invisible.”

Turning the Flywheel, A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great

The Favorite of the Week from the last Coaching Digest was a conversation with Jim Collins, author of the book Good to Great, Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t. The podcast conversation reminded me of a powerful tool that Collins introduced in that book, called the “Flywheel Effect.” I liked it so much I adapted the idea in my book Dancing the Tightrope, in my case applying it to the choice point we have in reacting or responding to mistakes. (You can read more about this on pages 161-164 in Dancing the Tightrope). But the idea far transcends just one application. The fundamental truth in the flywheel is the power of persistence in the face of many, many seductions that tend to take us off track. It’s a short and worthy read. Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“One of the biggest, and most common, strategic mistakes lies in failing to aggressively and persistently make the most of the victories.”

I hope you enjoy some or all of these reads…I know I did. And if you do read any of them, please let me know what useful tidbits you take away. I love seeing things from a different point of view!Know someone who would love this article? Share it with them.