It’s September 2019 – Time to Go Back to School

“Read an hour every day in your chosen field. This works out to about one book per week, fifty books per year, and will guarantee your success.”  Brian Tracy, personal development guru

It’s September again. I’ll bet it’s been a long time since you went to college, where the school year started each fall. But for those of us who understand that in order to get to, and then stay at the top of our profession, the “School of Success” NEVER ends.

My learning goal each year is to read at least 40 business-related non-fiction books. (Fiction books are for people who can’t face reality …) So here is a compilation of books I’ve read in the past year from September, 2018 through August, 2019. I’ve divided them into categories to make it easy to pick out ones that might appeal to you.

Sales/Relationship Building 

The Art and Skill of Sales Psychology Why Buyers and Sellers Do What They Do  “Selling is a Broadway Play Performed by a Psychiatrist.” — David Sandler, founder of Sandler Training. If you’re in sales, you need to understand what this means. Here’s the book will help you do that.  

Building a Story Brand Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen If you use the 7 elements of great storytelling you’ll grow your brand. (Hint: The customer is the hero, not you.) 

The Million-Dollar Financial Advisor Powerful Lessons and Proven Strategies from Top Producers Need to find the way to build a million-dollar practice as an Financial Advisor? Here’s your roadmap.

The Challenger Sale Taking Control of the Customer Conversation In complex sales you’ve got to provide your prospects business insights that help them make or save money if you want to close the deal.

The Auctioneer’s ApprenticeA Parable For Living An Abundant Life Sage advice on success, told in the Bob Burg Go-Giver style. Includes many personal development references, especially ones from Think and Grow Rich.

Friend of a Friend Understanding the Hidden Networks That Can Transform Your Life and Your Career  If your network isn’t working you need to expand the diversity of your contacts.

The Power of the OtherThe startling effect other people have on you, from the boardroom to the bedroom and beyond-and what to do about it  Leadership expert, psychologist and author Henry Cloud believes we all need someone we can lean on to be successful. His “Corner 4 Relationships” will help you thrive. (Thanks JMF!)

Business Success

Tim Cook The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level Naysayers said it would never survive the death of founder Steve Jobs in 2011. Goes to show how wrong some experts can be — Tim Cook has helped Apple become the world’s first trillion dollar company, while making it a kinder, gentler, greener, more diverse and more secure place to work along the way. (Full disclosure: My wife Paula had a Mac when we met — I’ve never looked back.)

Trillion Dollar Coach The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell We could all learn something from the late, great Bill Campbell, who coached the likes of Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg and the Google Guys.

Alibaba The House That Jack Ma Built If you want to find out about how China has become such an economic powerhouse in the past 20 years, look no further than Jack Ma. He just about singlehandedly dragged his native land kicking and screaming into the modern eCommerce age via Alibaba, the Amazon of mainland China.

Out of the Dog House Closer to home is the rags to riches story of Dick Portillo. In the 1960’s he sold hot dogs out of a 6′ by 12′ trailer, relentlessly grew it into the Portillo’s fast casual dining empire that made him a billionaire. 

Cousins Maine Lobster How One Food Truck Became a Multimillion-Dollar Business Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac got their break on Shark Tank, and have become swimmingly successful (pun intended) by bringing lobster rolls from their home state of Maine to L.A. and beyond. Their secret? Hard work combined with passion to preserve their past.

I Love Capitalism! An American Story Son of a plumber and cafeteria worker on Long Island, Ken Langone became a billionaire by doing what all successful people do: He saw opportunities, took risks & responsibility, worked his ass off and in the end, took home a boatload of money. He’s now highly philantrophic — one great quote: “My net worth is what good I do with what I have.”  

Little Black Stretchy Pants In his own words, Chip Wilson describes how he rode the yoga wave to massive commercial success by founding lululemon in 1998.

The Financial Advisor’s Ultimate Stress Mastery Guide 77 Proven Prescriptions to Build Your Resilience Is your advisory business stressing you out? Let Dr. Jack Singer provide the cure in the pages of this positive psychology tour de force.

The Third DoorThe Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers What drives a young guy to drop out of a USC degree program to follow his dream of interviewing the likes of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Tim Ferris and Lady Gaga? You’ll find out in Alex Banayan’s rollicking saga of chutzpah, blind faith, and most of all, persistence.

Creative Construction The DNA of Sustained Innovation If you want your business to thrive you need to innovate as part of your strategy, systems and culture.


Revolutionary George Washington at War Hard to image how we could have survived without “The Father of Our County” leading the Continental Army to victory over the British without the massive slaughter of other revolutions.

The Challenge CultureWhy the Most Successful Organizations Run on Pushback Nigel Travis, Chairman of Dunkin’ Brands, shares the wisdom of encouraging questioning from people at all levels during his decades-long journey as a key player in several world famous franchise companies.

Game Changers What Leaders, Innovators, and Mavericks Do to Win at Life  Wouldn’t you love to get the distilled wisdom of over 450 successful people about how to become smarter, faster and happier? Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof Radio, has done that for you in this book.

Work is Love Made Visible A Collection of Essays About the Power of Finding Your Purpose From the World’s Greatest Thought Leaders  The title hints at the message from a variety of leaders: Love what you do, share the love with others.

Wisdom at Work The Making of a Modern Elder You’re not getting older, you’re getting wiser. So why not benefit others with your career insights?

Becoming Lincoln A scholarly in-depth look at the roller coaster career of Abraham Lincoln. He was a master of persistence, determination, and especially learning from his mistakes to fulfill his leadership destiny.

Personal Development

Think and Grow RichI re-read this personal achievement classic every December before I set my goals for the coming year. It always reminds me of many fundamental principles for success, even if one needs to take the words from author Napoleon Hill (who had many professional and personal failings) with a grain of salt. 

The Science of Motivation Strategies & Techniques for Turning Dreams into Destiny  If you’re a Brian Tracy fan like I am you’ll love this interview-format book he did with my friend Dan Strutzel, former Vice President of Publishing for Nightingale-Conant Corporation. 

The Hope Circuit A Psychologist’s Journey from Helplessness to Optimism This is an enlightening autobiography about the evolution of positive psychology from its founding father Martin Seligman. Kudos to him for dragging the field of psychology kicking and screaming away from the “disease model” toward the principles of how to live a good life.

Meditation for Fidgety SkepticsA 10% Happier How-to Book Have you wanted to get a regular meditation practice going but keep procrastinating on it? Let Nightline’s Dan Harris poke holes in all of your excuses.

Can You Learn to Be Lucky? Why Some People Seem to Win More Often Than Others Need more things to go your way? Karla Starr shares some well-researched ideas on how you can stack the deck of life in your favor.

Atomic Habits An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones According to James Clear, the way to build good habits is to first change your identity so the desired habits follow.

How We Work Live Your Purpose, Reclaim Your Sanity, and Embrace the Daily Grind If you’re feeling burned out and have a hard time facing your job each day, this one can help you find your bearings.

Charm The Elusive Enchantment This gives an account people who have (and those who don’t have) the charming combination of wit, grace, restraint and class. (I’m sure I need to go to charm school and brush up.)

Elastic Flexible Thinking in a Time of Change Want more creativity in solving your life problems? Learn to stretch your brain.

Financial Freedom 101How To Get Out Of Debt, Stay Out Of Debt, And Increase Your Net Worth Here’s some straightforward financial advice from my former client Mitch Melan. Wish I had this book when I was just starting my career — it would have save me from making a number of all-too-common mistakes.


My Life on the Road Through the twist and turns of her 5 decade “road trip,” living-legend Gloria Steinem reveals she isn’t just for women’s liberation, she’s for everyone’s liberation. You’ll learn how far we’ve come on that, and also how far we still need to go.

The Soul of America The Battle for Our Better Angels Think the United States is going through its worst ever epidemic of extremism, racism and political strife? Nope. It’s happened over and over again since our little experiment in freedom started almost 250 years ago. You’ll be reassured to know that each time leaders arose to save us from ourselves.

Man’s Search for Meaning A classic book by Dr. Viktor Frankl, who unflinchingly described the horrors of a concentration camp and how he managed to survive it. If he was able to keep himself optimistic in that situation, what’s your problem?

Can’t Hurt Me Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds Need somebody to challenge you? Check out David Goggins, who came from nothing to become a Navy Seal, ultra-athlete and motivational speaker. (Oh, yeah — he’s also done over 4,000 pull ups in 17 hours … YOW!!!)

The Comeback Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France Think you could win the world’s biggest cycling event, get 60 pieces of buckshot in your hide the following spring, take two full years to recover, then win it again, twice? Greg Lemond did, PED-free. (Yes – AMAZING.)

Frederick Douglass America’s Prophet Former slave turned abolitionist & preacher, Frederick Douglass was fighting for civil rights over a century before Martin Luther King. 

Buddha An enlightening (pun intended) biography of Gautama Buddha, who founded Buddhism, the world’s fourth largest religion, in the 5th century BCE.

Thanks A Thousand A Gratitude Journe If you’ve never thought about how many people are actually involved in providing your morning cup of coffee, A.J. Jacobs details the over 1,000 people he thanked for their efforts to get him his. You’ll be grateful he did. 

Everything Happens for a Reason And Other Lies I’ve Loved  How would you like to have Stage 4 Colon Cancer hit you smack dab in the middle of a successful life? Kate Bowler lets you know how she’s handling it.

Wisdom to Heal the Earth If you’d like a philosophy of life wisdom mixed with a combination of Talmud, Tao and Zen, this one’s for you. (Thanks LS!)


The Legendary Harry Caray Baseball’s Greatest Salesman If you’re a Cub fan, a Sox fan, a Cardinal fan — heck, a baseball fan — this is a MUST read. Holy Cow!

Let’s Play Two The Legend of Mr. Cub, the Life of Ernie Banks The perfect summer baseball book for those of you who drink the Cubbie Kool Aid. Hey Hey!!!

Mantle The Best There Ever Was Here’s another “boys of summer” book about one of my other baseball heroes, Mickey Mantle. In the 1950’s he was as big an icon as Elvis, Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.

The Grateful Dead’s 100 Essential Songs The Music Never Stops If you’re just starting to learn about Grateful Dead music, this book will help you get on the bus. If you’re a veteran Deadhead, you’ll inhale it. (Ahem …)

Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling OutGoose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business Was the “Big Beer” takeover of high-quality small local breweries a good thing or a bad thing? Decide for yourself while enjoying a cold one this summer.

Funny Man Mel Brooks A detailed biography about the man born Melvin Kaminsky, who brought his madcap shtick to the screen. His movie Blazing Saddles remains one of the best comedies of all time, lampooning all sacred cows: Jews, blacks, gays, rednecks, native Americans, classic Westerns, scheming politicians, even farting!

I Can’t Make This Up Life Lessons I didn’t have a clue about Kevin Hart when I grabbed this book. But I found it to be entertaining, enlightening and outrageous. Bottom line: Despite his numerous missteps, it has been his unrelenting hustle that has gotten him to the top as a comedian, actor and producer.

Joyful The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness C’mon, admit it — you could use more joy in your life. 

The Existentialist’s Survival Guide How to Live Authentically in an Inauthentic Age If you need a dose of existentialism from the likes of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Sartre, this one’s for you.

The Big Chair The Smooth Hops and Bad Bounces from the Inside World of the Acclaimed Los Angeles Dodgers General Manager Chicago guy Ned Colletti shares all kinds of stories from 30+ years of front-office baseball experience with the Cubs, the Giants and the Dodgers. A perfect read for September if you’re a baseball fan.

Every Man a King A Short, Colorful History of American Populists If you think demagoguery is a new American phenomena, think again.

My hope is that some of these titles will inspire your own reading habit. I’m not a super-speedy reader but I willingly plowed through these books because absorbing their ideas is a critical part of my coaching job. The good news is you don’t even have to spend a dime if you have a library card. There’s no shelf room left for more books at my place so each one listed here was borrowed from my local library. And having a two-week due date makes it likely that I’ll finish them on time – I HATE paying overdue fines! 

Why wait?  If it seems daunting to begin your own reading habit, know that the journey of a thousand books starts with the first page. A good place to begin is to read one book a month, which you can accomplish by getting through just ten pages a day – that wouldn’t be too hard, would it?  Whatever reading goal you choose, go back to school TODAY so you can get to the top of your field. 

PS – Please let me know what books have helped you learn and grow in the past year.

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