5 Books That Changed How I Think

Over the last 2 years, I’ve read a lot. As a professional basketball player, you can’t train all day so you have a lot of downtime. At first, I started doing what most of my teammates would do: Watch Netflix, go on Facebook, watch NBA highlights, etc. But after a little while, I began to feel unfulfilled. I felt like I was wasting this opportunity to better myself. So I started reading. And I re-discovered how much I loved it. 

I enjoyed reading when I was younger (mostly fantasy novels) but stopped reading for pleasure during high school and college. The last thing I wanted to do once I finished studying was to read. But now, with extra time and mental energy to spare, reading has filled the void. 

And I’m so glad that it has. I think reading is immensely powerful but hugely undervalued. Here’s why:

Imagine that the most brilliant people on the planet could somehow share their genius with you. Imagine their lives. They worked tirelessly toward understanding and mastering their craft. And imagine that these people condensed those ideas from a lifetime of effort and experience into a simpler form that you could understand. And then imagine that for $12.99 and a few hours of your time, you could learn the ideas that those geniuses spent their entire lives figuring out. That’s the power of books and that’s why I think they’re so valuable. 


Rather than give a boring summary of each book that you can read on Amazon, I’ll give a quick blurb on how the book changed my perspective and a favorite quote. If you like the topic of book recommendations, let me know, I have plenty more in the tank.


The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

Rather than think of obstacles as annoying or limiting, this book taught me to actually value the obstacle that I face. Without obstacles, we wouldn’t be forced to be creative, persistent, or opportunistic. Moreover, this book clarified my foundational belief in the principle: control what you can control. There really is nothing else to waste time worrying about.

Favorite quote: "The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” -Marcus Aurelius


The Road to Character by David Brooks

There is a constant battle inside of us between being success driven and being morally driven. Society today over-inflates the value of the first at the expense of the second. It’s up to us as individuals to develop our own character (it’s not innate) through small, consistent acts of morality.

We are all deeply gifted and deeply flawed and our never ending task and meaning in life comes from striving to confront our flaws and be a person of high character. 

Favorite quote: "Character development, like historic progress, best happens imperceptibly, through daily effort."


Win Forever: Live, Work, and Play Like a Champion by Pete Carroll

Having a clearly defined and written down philosophy is crucial for 2 reasons. First, it can serve as a guide when you have to make tough decisions. Second, it can keep you aligned with your true values when it’s easy to lose touch with them in the day to day shuffle of life. Carroll challenges the reader to express their personal philosophy in 25 words or less. 

When it comes to coaching, the goal is to help your players to reach their potential. To reach their potential they have to play without fear and without doubt. Preparation and planning is necessary for this because in order to play with confidence you need to know deep down that you're ready.

Favorite quote: “'Pete, which is better: winning or competing?' My response was instantaneous: 'Competing…because it lasts longer.'”


The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey

This book radically shifted how I view the mental side of athletic performance and how we relate to ourselves. The idea of relaxed concentration was foreign to me because I was always striving and struggling to focus as hard as possible rather than letting my performance flow naturally from my preparation.

The key to reaching your peak performance is to be able to analyze your performance non-judgmentally. This way you can learn from mistakes and continue to grow without harassing yourself with criticism.

Don’t identify with your mistakes. Just because you make a miss a shot or turn the ball over does not mean anything about you as a person. I fell prey to this pattern often. I’d miss a shot and my internal dialogue immediately turned toward to how bad a shooter I was. 

Favorite quote: "There would be no problem with competition if one’s self-image were not at stake."


The Art of Learning: A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence by Josh Watizkin

This is the most advanced book I’ve ever read on how the very best in the world see things differently. The layers of nuance and detail are incredible.

Being elite in anything is about mastering the gray areas, the in-between zones. In basketball, it’s the players who can win the transitions between actions, between movements, between plays that gain an advantage and leverage that advantage into consistent victory.  

The player who can see more frames per second can achieve things that seem impossible to outside observers. This slowing down of time is the result of both deep focus (being in the zone) and exhaustive preparation. 

You can take certain skills and once you’ve learned the true essence of them, you can condense them into a feeling or a sensation. You don’t need to hear or see anything to know it’s effect. This is why the best shooters know if a shot is going in immediately after they release it (or why Steph Curry can shoot a 3 and turn around before it goes in). They’ve taken the skill of shooting to it’s core and their body can tell whether it’s acting correctly based on an internal sense of harmony.

Mastering something means you have learned it so completely to it’s core and essence that you can forget it. For example, great point guards who have mastered ball handling can completely ignore the ball, it’s simply an extension of themselves. As a result, they can focus the full weight of their attention on reading the defense, which allows them to see details that others miss.

Favorite quote: "Mastery involves discovering the most resonant information and integrating it so deeply and fully it disappears and allows us to fly free."