My Reading List for 2021

My Reading List for 2021

Like many of you, I create a reading list for the upcoming year. 

What many people might not know is that my reading list is divided into themes. The reason for this is (1) I want variety in the books I read; (2) I want to focus my reading around a few key topics and/or skills; and (3) I always want to incorporate fiction in my reading.

Before sharing my themes and the books within those themes, I do want to make one note. Don’t get too caught up into the amount of books on my list. My goal is to read 38 books this year. (If I accomplish this, it’s the most I will have read in a year.) Now, I know successful people who read less than me and others who read more. The key when it comes to reading, like most other things, is quality over quantity. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Little learning and much pride comes from hasty reading.” 

Read to gain knowledge and insight. Read to learn a new skill or refine an existing strength. Read for pleasure and inspiration. Just make sure that whatever you read, you allow those books to benefit both your personal development and also add value to the lives of the people around you. 

Here is my reading list for 2021 categorized by their themes (all links are affiliate links):


Mental Toughness

  1. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
  2. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
  3. Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday
  4. Toughness Training for Life by James E. Loehr
  5. It Takes What It Takes by Trevor Moawad
  6. The Power of Other by Dr. Henry Cloud
  7. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
  8. Discipline=Freedom by Jocko Willink


Strengths/Personal Development

  1. Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton
  2. Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Rath
  3. Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
  4. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson



  1. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  2. The Starbucks Experience by Joseph Michelli


Fiction: C.S. Lewis

  1. The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis
  2. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
  4. Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis
  5. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis
  6. The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis
  7. The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
  8. Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
  9. Perelandra by C.S. Lewis
  10. That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis


Nonfiction: C.S. Lewis

  1. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  2. The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis
  3. The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
  4. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
  5. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  6. The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis


Autobiography/Biography: C.S. Lewis

  1. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life by C.S. Lewis
  2. C.S. Lewis–A Life: Eccentric, Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath
  3. C.S. Lewis: A Biography by A.N. Wilson



  1. The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller
  2. Cherish by Gary Thomas



  1. The Question of God by Dr. Armand Nicholi, Jr.
  2. The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence
  3. Aesop’s Fables


Game Plan

What’s on your reading list for 2021?

I’d love to hear about it. Write a comment below or connect with me on social media. Tell me which books you’re looking forward to reading this year (or maybe the books you’ve already read!).


Tweetable Lesson

My Word for 2021

My Word for 2021

Many of you have probably heard of the One Word Challenge. The premise is that you choose one word that serves as your theme or overarching goal for the year. I didn’t come up with this challenge. It was developed by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page in their book, One Word That Will Change Your Life. 

I’ve been participating in the One Word Challenge over the last few years. For me, this word is not a replacement for my goals but rather a complement to them. And this word aids me in accomplishing those goals.



Game Plan

What’s your word for 2021? Come up with your “one word” for this year.

I have two free resources to help you out:

    1. Personal Vision Discovery Guide (grab this by subscribing on our home page – we’ll send you the free downloadable via email)

After you come up with your One Word, I want you to: 

    1. Write it down and put it in a place where you will see it everyday.
    2. Share your “one word” with someone else. (Bonus points for sharing it on our social media post this week!)


Tweetable Lesson



My Word for 2020

My Word for 2019

Top 10 Posts From 2020

Top 10 Posts From 2020

I know all of us are ready to leave 2020 behind and focus on 2021. But like many of you, I spent some time reflecting on the last year, and there were certainly lessons I learned. Here are my top 10 posts from 2020, a sample of lessons I learned and shared over the last year.


  1. The First Ingredient of All Great Leaders (Part 2)

There is no “one size fits all” leader or leadership style. But there are characteristics or qualities that all great leaders have in common. In the first session of an ongoing series entitled “The Ingredients That All Great Leaders Have,” I share the characteristic that is foundational to effective leadership.

  1. The Art of Goal-Making: How I Read 25 Books in a Year (Part 2)

In this series, I share some tips that have helped me become more consistent in accomplishing my goals. In fact, these techniques helped me go from reading 13 books in 2018 to nearly doubling it to 25 books in 2019. Part 2 is focused on what most people forget when it comes to creating their goals.

  1. A Type of Learning That Transforms

We are inundated with information. And when it comes to learning, the opportunities are endless. However, for all this intake of information, is it producing growth and development? Here’s why this is an important question. Information, in and of itself, doesn’t produce transformation. Transformation is in the application. Simply knowing a fact or point of view cognitively doesn’t help us develop. So, how do we create a type of learning that actually transforms instead of one that simply informs?

  1. The Top 5 Temptations That Will Derail All Leaders

We have all heard stories of highly talented leaders (and celebrities) who never reached their potential because poor choices ended up derailing their career. Our leadership journey is a marathon, not a sprint. And if you are going to be a leader that finishes well you must stay away from these common temptations.

  1. Leading in Uncertainty 

Leadership, (or the lack thereof), is revealed through adversity and uncertainty. The measure of leadership is not found in how one leads in security and success; it’s how one leads in uncertainty and chaos. Here are five tools to help you lead both yourself and your team effectively through uncertainty.

  1. How to Lead With Significance: Vision

Significance is more important (and impactful) than success. If leaders want to lead with significance, there are 10 qualities or skills they must develop. In this video session, I share the first skill of leading with significance (vision), why it’s vital to leadership, and how to develop vision.

  1. How Not to Stand Out

In this Sixty(ish) Seconds with Shawn video, I share two traits that will guarantee that you don’t stand out and will eventually cripple your leadership. 

  1. A Leadership Lesson From a Janitor

The President and a janitor walk into NASA…that sounds like the start of a joke. But it’s actually a powerful story about the importance of vision, how to increase employee engagement, and how to be self-motivated at work. In this Sixty(ish) Seconds with Shawn video, I share a great leadership lesson that I learned from a janitor.

  1. How to Stand Out

Most of us want to stand out, whether at a job interview, at our current place of work, or even among our family and friends. But let’s be honest: few of us do. In this Sixty(ish) Seconds with Shawn video, I share the eight traits that will guarantee you stand out and make you a more effective leader.

  1. My Top 10 Leadership Books of All Time (1-2)

Many of us understand the importance of reading, but due to busy schedules or an overabundance of options, we struggle with consistency (or perhaps we even struggle to get started). In this video session, I share my top two leadership books of all time.


The Disciplines of a Champion — #4

The Disciplines of a Champion — #4

Today we’re finishing up our series on The Disciplines of a Champion. If you missed any of the first three disciplines, you can catch up here: Discipline #1 of a Champion, Discipline #2 of a Champion, and Discipline #3 of a Champion.


Discipline #4: The Secret of a Champion 

A few years ago, I got the opportunity to be on the founding team of a startup. One of the sales employees we hired was a guy just out of college who I’ll call Sam. I really liked Sam because he was one of those “what you see is what you get” types.

At the end of our first year as a company, we were conducting a yearly review of all the departments. The meeting with our sales team was particularly tough because overall they had not hit their goals. When we got to the slide that showed how much the team had missed their goal, I noticed that Sam got an “oh crap” look on his face. Then he raised his hand and told us, “I think I made a mistake.” Our CEO responded back, “What do you mean?” Sam reluctantly said, “I hit my goal about a month ago and just stopped selling.” Needless to say, we were all shocked. 

Now, this could also be an illustration for the importance of management since his manager should’ve known that he had stopped selling, but that is a different story for a different day.

The secret that champions know is that success is more dangerous than failure. 

As Jim Collins says:

“Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

In order to not be taken captive by the enemy of good, we must stay hungry and humble.

We stay hungry by recognizing that our personal vision is never complete. We celebrate wins but then get back to work because there is more to accomplish. 

We stay humble by being self-aware. We need to constantly refine our strengths, compensate for our weaknesses, and minimize our blind spots. (I write more about the importance of self-awareness and how to become more self-aware here.


Game Plan

In what areas of your life have you settled for good or mediocre?

One of the best ways to figure this out is by evaluating your “life accounts.” A life account is a key area of your life, an area where you want to measure how things are going from time to time. 

On a scale from 1 to 5 (where “1” is the lowest, meaning you’ve settled for good or worse, and “5” is the highest, meaning you’ve been able to work toward being great), rate the following areas:

    1. Spiritual Life
    2. Marriage (if applicable)
    3. Health and Fitness:
    4. Personal Development
    5. Family
    6. Social Life (friends, neighbors, community)
    7. Professional Life
    8. Financial Health
    9. Fun and Recreation (hobbies)

Focus on the areas that are a “3” or below and create a plan to refine them. What actions can you take to move that area from good to great?


Tweetable Lesson

The Disciplines of a Champion — #3

The Disciplines of a Champion — #3

Our current series is discussing The Disciplines of a Champion. We’re halfway through, so if you missed the first two disciplines, you can find them here: Discipline #1 of a Champion and Discipline #2 of a Champion.


Discipline #3: The Commitment of a Champion 

When I graduated from college in 2005, one of my goals was to start a blog. I knew I had a passion for leadership development and wanted my blog to be an outlet for that passion and to help other aspiring leaders. The problem is that it took me nearly three years to actually create my first blog site. 

Why did it take that long? 

Because I hadn’t fully committed to that goal. Blogging was a desire but not a priority. I was a spectator, not a participant.

There are two commitments that champions make.

First, they make a commitment to themselves. They commit to their goals and carve out time to accomplish them.

It wasn’t until I created a plan and committed to that plan that my dream of blogging became a reality.

However, my problems didn’t end with creating my blog site. The next challenge I faced was consistency. I would write regularly on my site for a few months and then other “priorities” or activities would get in the way. Then I would recommit to blogging, write some regular posts for a few months, and then stop. This cycle continued for about 4 years.

Then, in 2012, I wrote one blog post every week for an entire year. 52 posts. So what changed? 


In 2012, I asked a friend if she would proofread my posts. And that simple act of knowing someone was expecting one post each week gave me enough motivation to accomplish my goal.

The second commitment champions make is to someone else. They share their goals with others.

There is no such thing as a solo champion. In sports, athletes always have a team. They might be an individual athlete in the arena but they always have a coach, trainer, etc. holding them accountable. 

If you want to perform like a champion then you must practice relentless discipline by committing to yourself and also to someone else.


Game Plan

Think about the goals that you are currently not making progress in. Why are you struggling in those areas? My guess would be that you either (1) haven’t carved out time to make that goal a priority and/or (2) you don’t have someone holding you accountable to that goal.

What changes do you need to make to start making progress towards those goals?


Tweetable Lesson



The Disciplines of a Champion — #2

The Disciplines of a Champion — #2

We are currently in a series on The Disciplines of a Champion. Last week we discussed Discipline #1: The Motivation of a Champion.

Today we are going to discuss the second Discipline of a Champion…


Discipline #2: The Activities of a Champion

When a construction company is working on a project, they don’t choose just any tool or equipment. They choose specific tools for specific jobs. They select the tool that will be the most effective and productive.

We have to recognize that not all activities are created the same. Too many times we mistake activity for productivity. Busy for being effective. That’s like a builder using a hammer when framing your house. He or she will stay busy but a nail gun may be more effective.

Basically, I’m talking about high impact activities. Champions focus on the most productive or impactful activities to maximize their time and results.

What activities will give you the greatest chance of reaching your goals? 

Too many times we settle for activities that are comfortable and “easy” but not the most impactful. If you want to be a champion, you must be ok with pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. 

You have to learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. 

For example, Tony Robbins, the motivational and life coach, jumps into a cold plunge pool every morning. The pool is about 57 degrees Fahrenheit. Why does he do it? He is forcing his body to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. After jumping into really cold water, nothing else that he will have to face that day seems that unbearable. 

For me, one of my high impact activities is simple. I wake up when I set my alarm. (At least, that’s the goal.) It’s way more comfortable to hit the snooze button for 30 minutes but it’s not effective or productive. I’ve found that 30 minutes of extra sleep is not good sleep and you could use that extra time in more impactful ways.

What are your high impact activities? 

It’s time to put down the hammer and find your nail gun.


Game Plan

Create a “stop and start doing” list. Here’s how:

  • Evaluate your schedule and look at the key activities and appointments on it.
  • Out of the activities that you can control, which are not helping you make significant progress towards your goals? Those are the activities you need to stop doing.
  • What other activities do you need to add in their place? This is where you experiment. Try out those activities for a month. If they are high impact activities, keep them. If not, stop doing them and look for other options to start.


Tweetable Lesson