Coach Tony's Top 7 Books of 2017

(Originally Posted January 2018) Here are my favorite books I’ve read in 2017. Reading has become a huge part of my daily routine. I read on my Amazon Kindle every night for 10-30 minutes before falling asleep.

I know some people will say reading stimulates them too much before bed, and I often read books that give me a ton of ideas for my business and life, but I’ve found that concentrated stimulation into one book is a lot better than my mind running in 20 different directions before bed. I fall asleep faster after 20 minutes of reading then if I just told my mind to go immediately to sleep.

In total, I read 35 books this year. (Not including my own book, “Master The Double Under: A Foolproof Jump Rope Progression Plan”)

My Kindle has also been a game changer this year for me. Three Christmases ago my brother and sister-in-law got me a Kindle and I wasn’t sure what this new technology was. I found it hard to give up my physical paper books and used it here and there that first year I got it. Then I realized the power of the “Kindle Highlights” capabilities.

Once I realized that I could highlight from the Kindle books and it would all go to a nice collection for me online, I used it every night, then often reviewed my highlights the next morning. I go back to my highlights almost every day to refresh my memory of all the good things I’ve read.

I’m going to list my favorite books below based on how much I’ve found these books useful in my life and how much I find myself going back to the highlights to reread them.

One physical book I read every morning this year was “The Daily Stoic”. This book showed me the value in reading a little something positive to start your day. As I’ve entered 2018, I’m rereading this book every day and writing in “The Daily Stoic Journal”, which came out a few months ago.

I strongly believe, or have come to believe, that every day you see with the lenses you put on in the morning. If you put on positive and inspired lenses, you will make better choices through the day and radiate that positivity to everything around you. What you look for determines what you see. What you see is what you believe. What you believe is who you become.

In dramatic fashion here are my top 7 books I’ve read this year. Scroll down as I’ve listed ALL the books I’ve read this year, 35 books in total. If you have some questions or comments on your favorite books feel free to send a message over to

7. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight & “Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet” by Jesse Itzler

It’s a tie between two very entertaining and surprisingly inspiring books that I really didn’t think I would enjoy all that much. (I know that makes it a Top 8 List…). Anyways... about these books.

First, “Shoe Dog”. Phil Knight’s journey to create the most recognized fitness brand in the world, Nike, is truly amazing. It was so inspiring to learn about how hard it was for him to push through all the obstacles along the way. I also read “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday and thought it was a great book but this book jumps ahead because it was so real and personal. Most people in Phil’s shoes would not have pushed through like he did. To see where Nike is today and know the backstory of it was just mind-blowing.

Second, “Living with a SEAL”. If you’ve never heard of Jesse Itzler or David Goggins, do yourself a favor and Google them. Also, listen to any podcasts they have been guests on. This book, written by Jesse, brings their two life stories together as they spend the month side-by-side. In short, Jesse is a former rapper who made songs for the New York Knicks and eventually became part owner in the Atlanta Hawks after starting Marquis Jets and Zico Coconut Water. Along the way he married Sarah Blakely, the founder of Spanx, and she makes appearances throughout the book since SEAL is living with their family. David Goggins is SEAL, one of the toughest guys on this planet. While I was inspired by each of their personal stories, SEAL’s approach to training through their 31 days is some of the most inspiring and blunt stuff I’ve ever read. I never laughed at a book so hard, while also wanting to leave my warm bed for a 5-mile run outside.

6. “Essentialism” by Greg McKweon
I wasn’t going to do another tie, but I will mention I also read “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and liked this book more. I liked how this book broke down what an “essentialist” does and what a “non-essentialist” does. After identifying the two, I often caught myself falling into the “non-essentialist” trap. Now that I have a wife and two kids and my gym, everything I do has to fall under that of the “essentialist”. It’s taught me how to pursue less with intention, and to only say yes to the things that really matter.

Greg describes it perfectly in his book, “The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”

5. “Chasing Excellence” by Ben Bergeron
We began our 2017 at CrossFit Palm Beach hosting the CompTrain camp put on by one of the most respected coaches in the CrossFit world, Ben Bergeron. Katrin Davidsdottir, the 2016 Fittest Woman on Earth, was also there teaching us priceless insights. We were also surrounded by Ben’s great team of coaches, and amazing Games athletes from all over the world like Brooke Wells and Ron Ortiz. It was a life-changing experience that went well beyond the walls of the CrossFit gym.

I came out of that experience thinking about how lucky I was to go through it, and wishing for others to be able to do it. Ben’s book, “Chasing Excellence” was a great way to open up those doors to anyone in the world. I recommended it to all my athletes at CrossFit Palm Beach and bought a copy for all of our coaches. It’s a great read for anyone who does CrossFit or considers themselves an athlete or coach. It’s heavy on the mindset stuff, which is not only the most important aspect of competing but also for living.

4. “Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” by Barry M. Prizant
I don’t know if this is the best book on Autism, or where it ranks, but I do know this book made me a much better parent. It taught me that it’s not my job to control my kids, it’s my job to understand them. I really would recommend it to ALL parents with young children, ASD or not. And would recommend it to ALL teachers.

My son is entering a new pre-K program as I write this for children who are possibly on the Autism Spectrum. He just turned 4, and these past 4 years have been the absolute best of my life. While challenging at times, I wouldn’t trade a past, present or future moment with him for anything.

Reading about Autism has taught me to be way more patient than I ever thought I could be. Combining this with the readings about “growth mindset”, has me optimistic that any kind of autism diagnosis is never a life sentence. I witness every day how much he learns and grows. There aren’t many autistic specific tactics in here, which is great because this book made me take a look at myself instead. Rather than get caught up in my child’s actions and trying to “fix” them.

3. “How Champions Think” by Bob Rotella
I loved this book. Author Bob Rotella has worked with professional athletes, movie stars, and high level executives to get them in the right mindset to perform their best. Coach Bergeron takes a lot of his teachings from what he learned from this book (it’s only fair I give it a higher rating). This book is chock full of great stories of the people Dr. Rotella has coached.

Even though I read a lot of books from coaches and athletes, it always comes back to LIFE. Here’s an excerpt from the book which I think explains that perfectly. “If you want to transform your life, if you want to grow, you have to change the way you see yourself and the way you respond to the world around you—just as surely as you would if God appeared to you and told you everything was set. The truth is that you don’t need to wait for divine intervention to have that sort of confidence. The miracle has already happened, in the creation of the human brain. You need to take responsibility for using it and give confidence to yourself.”

2. “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday
Since I’ve read from this book every single day, I have to give it one of the top spots. I love the layout of this book. Read one page every day. As I mentioned above, in 2018, I’ve added the writing in the journal to this daily routine.

A lot of people have preconceptions about Stoic philosophy. I use to think Stoicism was a philosophy deeply rooted in principles that was somewhat emotionless and not up for interpretation. When in actuality, it is very much a philosophy built on emotions, feelings and self control. It’s ironic that I had my own perception of stoicism that was completely changed by stoicism teaching me about perception (either that was really deep or made no sense).

Holiday explains stoicism into three critical disciplines: “The Discipline of Perception (how we see and perceive the world around us), The Discipline of Action (the decisions and actions we take-and to what end), The Discipline of Will (how we deal with the things we cannot change, attain clear and convincing judgment, and come to a true understanding of our place in the world).” By practicing these three disciplines we can “deal with anything the world puts before us.” Holiday’s other two books regarding stoicism, “Ego is the Enemy” and “The Obstacle is the Way”, are amazing books! I highly highly recommend them. They didn’t make the top 7 but are not far behind.

1. “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
This book has had such a huge impact on me that it’s hard to believe it’s only been in my life for a year. Over the past 5 years of owning our gym, I’ve gone through a process of personal growth from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. From a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality (graduating college right into one of the worst economic crisis in history will do that to you). This book put all the things I was learning, mostly by making mistakes, into words that perfectly described the transformation I was feeling.

Here’s a quote that sums up my favorite part of the “growth” message. Writes Dweck, “In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”

After reading “Mindset”, I get encouraged by surrounding myself with people who are fitter than I or more successful. I get inspired by obstacles and things I can’t currently do. I get motivated to help others no matter where they currently are. Most importantly, it’s given me the right approach to help my son Dylan grow, who may not have been born with all the tools to communicate, rationalize, and socialize as most of us have.

If you have a favorite book recommendation from this past year please pass it along.

Here’s my full list from 2017: 32 Books on Kindle, 3 Hardcover books
“Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight
“Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work that Lasts” by Ryan Holiday
“The Power of Moments” by Chip and Dan Heath
“Surge: Time the Marketplace, Ride the Wave of Consumer Demand, and Become Your Industry’s Big Kahuna” by Mike Michalowicz
“The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field” by Mike Michalowicz
“Growth Hacker Marketing: A Primer on the Future of PR, Marketing, and Advertising” by Ryan Holiday
“All Marketers are Liars: The Underground Classic That Explains How Marketing Really Works-- and Why Authenticity is the Best Marketing of All” by Seth Godin
“Payoff: The Hidden Logic that Shapes Our Motivations” by Dan Ariely
“Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us” By Daniel H. Pink
“The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley Ph.D.
“6 Months to 6 Figures” by Peter Voogd
“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

“Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown
“The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
“Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism” by Barry M. Prizant
“The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs: Elevate Yourself to Elevate Your Business” By Hal Elrod, Cameron Herold, Honoree Corder, and Lewis Howes
“Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” by Jocko Willink

“How Champions Think: In Sports and in Life” by Bob Rotella and Bob Cullen
“Chasing Excellence: A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes” by Ben Bergeron
“Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol S. Dweck
“Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet” by Jesse Itzler
“The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday
“Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court” by John Wooden
“Conscious Coaching: The Art and Science of Building Buy-in” by Brett Bartholomew
“Ego is the Enemy” by Ryan Holiday
“The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever” by Michael Bungay Stanier
“The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” by Jim Afremow
“The Mindful Athlete: Secrets to Pure Performance” by George Mumford and Phil Jackson
“The Invictus Mindset: An Athlete’s Guide to Mental Toughness” by CJ Martin, Calvin Sun, Heidi Fearon, Nicole DeHart, Aja Barto, Sage Burgener, Justin Nahama, and Jaimie Bougie
“Warrior Mindset: Mental Toughness Skill for a Nation’s Peacekeepers” By Michael J. Asken, Dave Grossman, Loren W. Christensen, and Brad Thor

“The Bulletproof Diet: Lose up to a Pound a Day, Reclaim Energy and Focus, Upgrade Your Life” By Dave Asprey and J.J. Virgin
“Head Strong: The Bulletproff Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster-in Just Two Weeks” by Dave Asprey

Paperback/Hardcover books
“The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday
“Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris
“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coehlo