It Takes What It Takes: Book Summary

It Takes What It Takes: Book Summary

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclosure policy and privacy policy.

I recently read It Takes What It Takes: How to Think Neutrally and Gain Control of Your Life by Trevor Moawad. One of my development plans is to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Moawad has been the mental coach for elite athletes such as Russel Wilson and championship teams like the University of Alabama Football Team.

If you are looking for a book to help you cultivate mental toughness, then I highly recommend this one.  You can purchase it here

Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading… 


Chapters 1-6

    • Neutral thinking is a high-performance strategy that emphasizes judgment-free thinking, especially in crises and pressure situations…Neutral thinking shuns all attempts at illusion or outright self-delusion, which are often the foundation of other motivational systems. Neutral thinking strips away the bull and the biases, both external and internal. (Page 24 · Location 327)
    • Staying in the moment, giving each moment its own history, and reacting to events as they unfold. It takes away emotion and replaces it with behaviors. Instead of asking, “How do I feel?” you should be asking yourself, “What do I do?” (Page 42 · Location 538)
    • People aren’t defined by the past unless they choose to live there. (Page 60 · Location 726)
    • Confidence is the belief that you can do what is demanded. (Page 63 · Location 767)
    • Our choices ultimately determine our behaviors and those behaviors ultimately determine our outcomes. (Page 74 · Location 884)
    • Reflect on your successes as much as on your failures. (Page 83 · Location 986)
    • The human mind absorbs negativity seven times more easily than it absorbs positivity. We also know that language is the most powerful carrier of negativity. (Page 88 · Location 1036)
    • Negativity affects you negatively 100 percent of the time. (Page 93 · Location 1094)
    • Negativity, in any form that we choose to bring into our lives, is poison. (Page 114 · Location 1318)
    • Words are tools, and they both predict and perpetuate performance. (Page 117 · Location 1351)


Chapters 7-12

    • Conscious competence is knowing how to do what you need to do when you need to do it and why you are doing it. (Page 175 · Location 1957)
    • As tennis great Billie Jean King said, “pressure is a privilege.” (Page 180 · Location 2001)
    • Average people become average by doing average shit. (Page 181 · Location 2014)
    • You can’t confront people who don’t know they don’t know. (Page 200 · Location 2211)
    • A role model is a heat seeker, not a heat deflector. (Page 228 · Location 2499)
    • The late comedian Gracie Allen said to never place a period where God has placed a comma. The idea of living neutral is putting a comma at the end of an event—good or bad—and knowing that the next words will determine how the sentence continues. (Page 233 · Location 2559)


Game Plan

  1. I encourage you to pick up this book. You can purchase it here. (Affiliate Link)
  2. Select one of the quotes above and ask yourself, “How can I practically apply this to my life?”


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Ego Is the Enemy: Book Summary

Ego Is the Enemy: Book Summary

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclosure policy and privacy policy.

I recently read Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. One of my development plans is to focus on mindset and mental toughness. Holiday does a great job of diagnosing some of the common mental obstacles and challenges that high-achievers face and gives practical, time-tested principles to manage our ego and ultimately get us out of the way of our own self. 

If you are looking for a book to help you manage success and/or cope with failure, I highly recommend this book. You can purchase it here

Below are some of my highlights, taken directly from the book during my reading (any emphases are my own)… 


    • Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, your worst enemy already lives inside you: your ego. 
    • For people with ambitions, talents, drives, and potential to fulfill, ego comes with the territory. Precisely what makes us so promising as thinkers, doers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, what drives us to the top of those fields, makes us vulnerable to this darker side of the psyche. 
    • The aim of that structure is simple: to help you suppress ego early before bad habits take hold, to replace the temptations of ego with humility and discipline when we experience success, and to cultivate strength and fortitude so that when fate turns against you, you’re not wrecked by failure. In short, it will help us be:
      • Humble in our aspirations
      • Gracious in our success
      • Resilient in our failures 
    • So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.
    • The power of being a student is not just that it is an extended period of instruction, it also places the ego and ambition in someone else’s hands.
    • Greatness comes from humble beginnings; it comes from grunt work. It means you’re the least important person in the room—until you change that with results. 
    • “The first product of self-knowledge is humility,” Flannery O’Connor once said. This is how we fight the ego, by really knowing ourselves. The question to ask, when you feel pride, then, is this: What am I missing right now that a more humble person might see? 
    • Ego is a wicked sister of success. 
    • Sobriety, open-mindedness, organization, and purpose—these are the great stabilizers. They balance out the ego and pride that comes with achievement and recognition. 
    • A smart man or woman must regularly remind themselves of the limits of their power and reach. 
    • Ego needs honors in order to be validated. Confidence, on the other hand, is able to wait and focus on the task at hand regardless of external recognition. 
    • Creativity is a matter of receptiveness and recognition. This cannot happen if you’re convinced the world revolves around you. 
    • Ego loves this notion, the idea that something is “fair” or not. Psychologists call it narcissistic injury when we take personally totally indifferent and objective events. 
    • As Goethe once observed, the great failing is “to see yourself as more than you are and to value yourself at less than your true worth.” 
    • Do your work. Do it well. Then “let go and let God.“ That’s all there needs to be. Recognition and rewards—those are just extra. Rejection, that’s on them, not on us. 
    • Ego kills what we love. 
    • He who will do anything to avoid failure will almost certainly do something worthy of a failure. The only real failure is abandoning your principles…If your reputation can’t absorb a few blows, it wasn’t worth anything in the first place. 
    • From the book: I want to conclude this book with the idea that has underpinned all of what you’ve just read. That it’s admirable to want to be better businessmen or businesswomen, better athletes, better conquerors. We should want to be better informed, better off financially . . . We should want, as I’ve said a few times in this book, to do great things. I know that I do. But no less impressive an accomplishment: being better people, being happier people, being balanced people, being content people, being humble and selfless people. Or better yet, all of these traits together. And what is most obvious but most ignored is that perfecting the personal regularly leads to success as a professional, but rarely the other way around. 


Game Plan

Take some time to assess your ego. Which aspect of your life is your ego creeping into: aspirations, success, or failure? (Or if you are like me, you see your ego in each one of them.)

What is your ego telling you and how can you begin to combat it?


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The Obstacle is the Way: Book Summary

The Obstacle is the Way: Book Summary

One trait that separates the “successful” (however you define it) from those who lack consistency with their results, is the way they view obstacles. Those who accomplish a lot see obstacles not as setbacks but as opportunities.

I just recently read Ryan Holiday’s book The Obstacle is the Way and I really enjoyed it. Holiday is a self-proclaimed Stoic and he takes this ancient philosophy and applies it to modern times.

In this book, Holiday gives a blueprint on how we can respond better to adversity through reshaping our perception, acting on the opportunity presented to us, and persevering regardless of the results.

I don’t agree with every premise in this book, but I do think Holiday does a really good job of sharing time-tested philosophy and showing the practical application.

If you are interested in this topic, I think you’ll enjoy this summary of the book through some of my highlights. 



    • “The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” 



    • What is Perception? It’s how we see and understand what occurs around us — and what we decide those events will mean.
    • Real strength lies in the control or, as Nassim Taleb put it, “the domestication of one’s emotions, not in pretending they don’t exist.”
    • Focusing exclusively on what is in our power magnifies and enhances our power.
    • Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.



    • Action is commonplace, right action is not. As a discipline, it’s not any kind of action that will do, but directed action.
    • In a world where we increasingly work for ourselves, are responsible for ourselves, it makes sense to view ourselves like a start-up — a start-up of one. And that means changing the relationship with failure. It means iterating, failing, and improving.
    • To be physically and mentally loose takes no talent. That’s just recklessness…to be physically and mentally tight? That’s called anxiety…physical looseness combined with mental restraint? That is powerful.
    • As Duke Ellington once said, “Problems are a chance for us to do our best.”



    • What is Will? Will is our internal power, which can never be affected by the outside world.
    • This is the avenue for the final discipline: the Will. If Perception and Action were the disciplines of the mind and the body, then Will is the discipline of the heart and the soul. The Will is the one thing we control completely, always.
    • It doesn’t always feel that way but constraints in life are a good thing. Especially if we can accept them and let them direct us. They push us to places and to develop skills that we’d otherwise never have pursued. 
    • To do great things, we need to be able to endure tragedy and setbacks. We’ve got to love what we do and all that it entails, good and bad. We have to learn to find joy in every single thing that happens.


Final Thoughts: The Obstacles Become the Way

    • See things for what they are. Do what we can. Endure and bear what we must. What blocked the path now is a path. What once impeded action advances action. The Obstacle is the Way.


Game Plan

First, I highly recommend reading this book. Second, what is one obstacle that is currently standing in the way of you accomplishing a goal? Ask yourself these questions:

    1. Am I seeing this situation in the right perspective or am I creating a story? Maybe you need to reframe your perception.
    2. What’s the next step I can take? See the opportunity in this obstacle.
    3. What can I learn about myself through this situation? Use this as a learning moment.


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The Starbucks Experience: Book Summary

The Starbucks Experience: Book Summary

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links and I receive a commission if you visit a link and buy something on my recommendation. Purchasing via an affiliate link doesn’t cost you any extra, and I only recommend products and services I trust. All opinions are my own. For more details see my disclosure policy and privacy policy.

I recently read The Starbucks Experience by Joseph A. Michelli and I have to say I was extremely impressed with the culture that Starbucks is cultivating internally with their employees which leads to exceptional customer service. 

If you are looking for ways to improve your team’s culture and/or increase your customer experience, then I highly recommend this book. You can purchase it here.

Below are some of my highlights from reading this book…



    • The employee turnover rate at Starbucks, according to some reports, is 120% less than the industry average. Maryann Hammers states in Workforce Management, “Starbucks employees have an 82% job-satisfaction rate, according to a Hewitt Associates Starbucks Partner View Survey. This compares to a 50% satisfaction rate for all employers and 74% for Hewitt’s ’Best Place to Work’ employers.” 
    • The Starbucks Experience reflects tenets that are simple, yet not simplistic. They are results-oriented and can be deceptively powerful when applied:
        1. Make it your own
        2. Everything matters
        3. Surprise and delight
        4. Embrace resistance
        5. Leave your mark

PRINCIPLE 1: Make It Your Own

    • The “Five Ways of Being”
        • Be welcoming
        • Be genuine
        • Be considerate
        • Be knowledgeable
        • Be involved
    • At Starbucks, that discretion comes in the form of giving priority to being welcoming, demonstrating generally what being welcoming looks like, refreshing that image, and then letting people make that concept their own as they bring it into the lives of those they serve. 
    • The concept of what it takes to be genuine is fairly straightforward, but profound. At Starbucks, being genuine means to “connect, discover, and respond.” 
    • When Starbucks leaders ask partners to “be knowledgeable,” they are encouraging employees to “love what they do and share it with others.” 
    • Leaders encourage employees to go beyond just doing their day-to-day job, and instead invest with attentive, creative, and passionate energy. 


PRINCIPLE 2: Everything Matters

    • Howard Schultz is fond of saying that “retail is detail.” 
    • Managers have to constantly put themselves in the shoes of their customers, seeing everything from the other side of the counter.
    • Every company’s brand is nothing more than the sum total of the individual actions its people take. 
    • Not only does everything matter; everyone matters as well.


PRINCIPLE 3: Surprise and Delight

    • Consumers want predictable and consistent, with an occasional positive twist or added value thrown in. 
    • Rather than encouraging trite customer service sayings like “Have a nice day” or other scripted communications, successful leaders help staff look for genuine opportunities to do the positively unexpected. 
    • When businesses partner with customers in these personal ways, they create a loyalty that is far greater than what a company could obtain by simply serving a high-quality product. Business leaders give their people the opportunity and permission to make a real connection with their customers. 
    • Predictability produces customer delight…And even when something goes wrong, an employee or manager can still delight the customer by going the extra mile to make things right. Delight is the result of an unwavering commitment to creating a comfortable and trusted customer relationship.


PRINCIPLE 4: Embrace Resistance

    • Embrace Resistance…This principle requires leaders to distinguish between customers who want their concerns to be resolved and those individuals who will never stop complaining or be satisfied. 
    • Successful leaders do not hide from difficult challenges. They approach complex and controversial issues with a willingness to benefit from the concerns raised by commentators and adversaries.
    • District manager Renny Freet: “Embracing resistance is a lot about respecting other people’s perspectives.” 


PRINCIPLE 5: Leave Your Mark

    • Employee morale is three times higher in firms that are actively involved in the community than in their less-involved counterparts. When employees’ work environments match their personal values, they are more productive. 
    • Starbucks challenges its staff members to make their individual mark right where they live. In support of this, Starbucks makes a $10 per hour contribution, up to $1,000 per project, to the qualifying organization where the partner volunteers. 
    • To the benefit of Starbucks, volunteerism strengthens team identity and enhances leadership abilities. 


A Final Word

    • Your guiding tenets need to offer a flexible structure so that you can implement those values while fostering the special gifts and passions of young people.
    • Starbucks is an excellent model of how a company can become a learning institution. Starbucks leaders understand the importance of taking feedback, both positive and negative, and disseminating it throughout the company for collective education and adaptation.


Game Plan

Consider doing a personal inventory of how you stack up against the Starbucks Experience principles. Consider the following questions:

    • How consistently welcoming am I?
    • What details do I tend to overlook?
    • Where can I offer more surprise or delight in my workplace?
    • In what situations do I embrace resistance, and when do I run from it?
    • What mark am I leaving at work, at home, and in my community? 


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Strengths Based Leadership: Book Summary

Strengths Based Leadership: Book Summary

As many of you know, I am trying to become more of an avid reader. Each year I have tried to increase the amount of books I read. This year my goal is 38 books.
Throughout the year, I am going to post a summary of a few of those books. My hope is that this summary will help you decide if this particular book is worth adding to your reading list and also provide some insight on some of the key points and nuggets of wisdom.
My first book summary of this year is Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath.



The most effective leaders:

    1. Are always investing in strengths 
    2. Surround themselves with the right people and then maximize their team
    3. Understand their followers’ needs


Part 1: Investing In Your Strengths

  • If you spend your life trying to be good at everything, you will never be great at anything.
  • When Clifton was asked, just a few months before his death in 2003, what his greatest discovery was from three decades of leadership research, this was his response: “A leader needs to know his strengths as a carpenter knows his tools, or as a physician knows the instruments at her disposal. What great leaders have in common is that each truly knows his or her strengths—and can call on the right strength at the right time. This explains why there is no definitive list of characteristics that describes all leaders.” 


Part 2: Maximizing Your Team

  • The Four Domains of Leadership Strength
      1. Leaders with dominant strength in the Executing domain know how to make things happen
      2. Those who lead by Influencing help their team reach a much broader audience 
      3. Those who lead through Relationship Building are the essential glue that holds a team together
      4. Leaders with great Strategic Thinking strengths are the ones who keep us all focused on what could be
  • Mervyn Davies, Chairman, Standard Chartered Bank: “If you focus on people’s weaknesses, they lose confidence.”
  • What high-performing teams have in common: 
      1. Conflict doesn’t destroy strong teams because strong teams focus on results 
      2. Strong teams prioritize what’s best for the organization and then move forward
      3. Members of strong teams are as committed to their personal lives as they are to their work
      4. Strong teams embrace diversity 
      5. Strong teams are magnets for talent


Part 3: Understanding Why People Follow

  • Warren Buffett: “A leader is someone who can get things done through other people.”
  • The most influential leaders display these four qualities:
      1. Trust
      2. Compassion
      3. Stability
      4. Hope
  • When Gallup studied the impact that leaders can have throughout an organization, the single most powerful question they asked employees was whether their company’s leadership made them feel “enthusiastic about the future.” Sixty-nine percent of employees who strongly agreed with this statement were engaged in their jobs, compared to a mere one percent of employees who disagreed or strongly disagreed. Based on this data, it appears that this may be the one area in which higher level leaders can have the most influence in their organization.


Conclusion: Leadership That Lasts Beyond a Lifetime

Leaders stay true to who they are—and then make sure they have the right people around them. Those who surround themselves with similar personalities will always be at a disadvantage in the long run to those who are secure enough in themselves to enlist partners with complementary strengths.


Game Plan

  • Read the full book here (using our affiliate link)
  • Which of the four Leadership Strength Domains are you strongest in? (Executing, Influencing, Relationship Building, Strategic Thinking)
  • Out of the four key qualities of influential leaders (trust, compassion, stability, and hope), which one are you strongest in? Which one are you weakest in?


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

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

I frequently get asked by aspiring leaders what leadership books I recommend; or what my five most favorite leadership books are.

So I’ve decided to compile a list of my top leadership books of all time. Today, I share my top 2. 


2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

This book is one of those leadership classics. I recently re-read it and was again amazed at the depth and relevancy of its content. Covey adopts an inside-out approach to leadership, meaning leadership begins within the leader first with what he calls “private victories”. We must have private victories before we move to leading others to “public victories”.

This is a book that you can read every year and get something new out of it each time. Here are a few of my favorite quotes: 

  • “Private victories precede public victory.”
  • “The power to make and keep commitments to ourselves is the essence of developing the basic habits of effectiveness.”
  • “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
  • “Time management is really a misnomer—the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”
  • “Trust is the highest form of human motivation.”
  • “You can’t be successful with other people if you haven’t paid the price of success with yourself.”


1. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

If I had to recommend only one book, it would be this one. In my opinion, it is one of the most comprehensive books I have found on leadership. It is specifically directed at faith-based leaders, but can be applied to all contexts of leadership.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

  • “We can lead others only as far along the road as we ourselves have travelled. Merely pointing the way is not enough.”
  • “Leaders who want to show sensitivity should listen often and long, and talk short and seldom.”
  • “The true leader is concerned primarily with the welfare of others, not his own comfort or prestige.”
  • “True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True service is never without cost. Often it comes with a bitter cup of challenges and a painful baptism of suffering.”
  • “The final estimate of men shows that history cares not an iota for the rank or title a man has borne, or the office he has held, but only the quality of his deeds and the character of his mind and heart.”


Game Plan

  1. Choose one book that will help you along your leadership journey (it doesn’t have to be on this list). Any book on leadership will do.
  2. Make a goal to finish it this next month. It might sound hard now, but it’s very doable. For example, if you select a 200-page book and read only 7 pages per day, you will complete it in less than a month. If you kept that up, you could read 12 books in a year.


Below are more posts from my top leadership books of all time series:


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