What Are They Reading Now?

Suggestions for Continuing Education Through Books and Resources

From Phil Kaplan


I'm committed to being a lifetime learner, and whenever I hear somebody say, "I've learned everything I can learn from ____," I clearly recognize the act of that very same somebody putting up some self-imposed walls. I learn every day, from my staff, my clients, my customers, and even my little girl. Much of that learning is random, much of the information I acquire is reinforcing of that I already knew or believed, and much of it is clearly developmental, but every bit of it proves extremely valuable. In addition to capturing the lessons life holds for me, I am always proactively cruising through a book, sometimes fiction, but more often than not a book that teaches me something related to influence, success, leadership, or growth.

I used to attempt to teach my staff by taking what's already in my brain and delivering it through the spoken word, but I've grown smarter over the years. I now share my "Best Reads" with my staff, and we make it a point, as a team, to read and discuss those books I bring to the table knowing they hold practical lessons of extreme value. Of course the staff members are free to suggest books they find life-altering as well.

Fitness professionals continually ask me to recommend resources, so to provide that information for greater numbers of people, I've decided to keep individuals who seek greater knowledge posted on what my staff is reading per my recommendation. I'll update this page frequently, but limit the suggestions to books I personally have found benefit in reading, and that have also rolled over to create growth within the organization. Some of the books will just make you think . . . and we know how valuable that can be. Others will provide an immediate A-ha. Still others will remind you of ideas, methodologies and strategies you've already heard but haven't fully integrated.

A question I get faced with frequently is, "how in the world do you find time to read." I have several answers. One, I schedule it. I workout first thing in the morning and then I devote 20 minutes to my post-workout meal and at least a few pages of the book I'm reading. I find it allows me to clear my head of the pressing tasks and obligations that can become burdensome, and I also find it inspires me to make the day as productive as possible. In addition, I find myself on lots and lots of airplanes. Airports and airplane seats have become my private libraries and I take advantage of travel time by writing, reading, or listening to audio CD's. Time management is always an issue so I also use your driving time. Most of the great books are available on audio CD's and that has allowed me to absorb twice as much information as I would if I limited my intentional learning to flipping through pages.

Buy the Book at BAMM.COMI've found Books-A-Million to be a great ally. It's worth the $10 fee for an annual Millionaire Club membership. Mine has paid for itself hundreds of time over already. They also have some advantages for business owners (their B2B program), and since I often order a dozen books at once (for my staff), I never pay shipping charges. I'll include links so if you opt to invest in any of the books or audios I suggest, your copy is just a click away.

The book my staff is reading now is . . .

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big

Small Giants, written by Inc. magazine editor Bo Burlingham, takes what I find to be a wonderful perspective on business success. It shares the success stories of companies that grew, not through conventional expansion such as those addressed in Good to Great, but through unique abilities and a desire to remain extremely connected to their customer base(s). With the major health club chains aside, this perspective on business success is refreshing and of immense value since health clubs, fitness studios, and personal trainers have an innate ability to connect with a local audience and create local evangelists. One of the unifying properties the Small Giants all had is a type of charisma, a passion that became contagious. I've introduced my staff to a word I invented, CONTAGIASM. Small Giants manages to isolate companies that found benefit in playing off of that electric spirit. One of the most striking stories for me involved Gary Erickson, the founder of Clif Bar. He developed the bar living very modestly and it evolved out of his passion for mountain climbing and biking as a grab-and-eat nutritious snack. In 2000 he walked away from an offer to sell the company for $120 million because he wanted to preserve the integrity of the product. I love that! I think most personal trainers would relate to that story as we love to prosper by bettering the lives of others, but lose comfort when the quest for money grows beyond the passion for helping folks. I think Small Giants is a great read.

Before that we read . . .

FISH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results by Stephen Lundin and Harry Paul and John Christensen

This book expresses that attitude is a choice, and shares the story of the Pike Street Fish Market in Seattle. The simple lesson is, if the people who work in that renowned fish market, a tourist attraction, a place where people go for fun, can make tossing smelly dead fish around exciting, if those people thoroughly enjoy what they do for a living. . . imagine what you're missing out on if you ever allow your "job" to become mundane. The lessons are simple, powerful, and easily translatable to any fitness organization. It's a very easy read and is a little book that even the "we hate reading" members of your staff will complete. Four Stars for Fish! I would like every single new hire to read this book before the first day of work.

No time to read? Get FISH! on audio CD

Before that we read . . .

Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham

Now, Discover Your Strengths is an incredible eye opener, especially when utilized by a multi-member team to discern how each team member best plays into the overall success of the organization. After my staff read the book and took Strengths Finder quiz online, we shared our results and we continue to base involvements in various projects and planned contributions to the teams' success in part upon the individual strengths we discovered. This was the first book my PEAK Roundtable group read and it will continue to be a resource for me in understanding people's talents and connecting them with the parts of their jobs they can best connect with for optimal productivity.

No time to read? Get Now, Discover Your Strengths on audio CD!

Working backward, before Now, Discover Your Strengths, I attempted to get my management staff to immerse themselves in . . .

Blue Ocean Strategy, one of the best strategy, positioning, and business perspective books I've ever read. The subtitle, How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant, sums it up. If you're into innovating, if you want to seperate yourself from others in the field, and if you're willing to put your brain to work, all I can say is . . . WOW! This is far and away the most insightful view of business strategy I have ever come across. Before you get your copy, I should note, several of my staff members hated this one. They found it was too much like a textbook. Most of the other books I have my staff read are easy reads with clear lessons. With that said, once we opened up the discussions they were intrigued by the material. In other words, they loved "what the book is about," they just didn't enjoy reading it. I felt differently, as did the higher level partners, managers, and owners I shared this with. This is a book that entrepreneurs will keep going back to, trying to figure out how to create their own Blue Oceans. If you're looking for a light fun read, this isn't for you. If you're looking to pump new life into your business, and potentially capture a massive market share, you're at a major disadvantage if your competitors read this before you.

Before we found the Blue Ocean, applause abounded for . . .

How Full is Your Bucket. All of my staff members loved this one. It's another very simple read, but the lessons are clear, proven, and powerful. It's only 128 pages and it can help to shape a company culture, as well as radically improve human interaction at any level. The concepts aren't pulled out of left field. They're backed by 50 years of scientific research, but the beauty of the delivery lies in the simple analogy of a dipper and a bucket serving as an awareness model for the impact you have upon other people.

Now time to read? Get How Full is Your Bucket on audio CD

And whether you love or hate the idea of "selling," if you're in business you'll gain a new perspective on sales by getting:

The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer

Other "must read" books I personally found life-changing that should serve as the foundation of any success library:

First Things First by Stephen Covey

Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (No time to read? Get Think & Grow Rich on audio CD)

And don't forget . . .


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