big reading

In our resilience program, we teach the importance of taking breaks - and there's no better way to enjoy some much needed down time over the summer than to pick up a good book. The summer reading list is one of our team's favourite traditions, and we hope you'll enjoy at least one or two of these titles as much as we have. 

If you have a book that you think should be on our list, please send us a note - we'd love to hear about it.


No book this year bothered my wife more than Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson, as I repeatedly interrupted her cherished quiet reading time before bed with “honey, you have to hear this …” This tour de force of a book takes us to the horizons of human performance – visiting the track, the lab, the velodrome, the bottom of the ocean, and anywhere else we can find insight into what drives and limits human capacity. Hutchinson, one of Canada’s great scientific authors, methodically breaks down the components of our mental and physical limits into chapters dedicated to pain, muscle, oxygen, heat, thirst and fuel – surveying a vast amount of research in the most engaging way imaginable. While there is no simple answer to what limits us, you’ll emerge with a vastly more nuanced understanding of your limits – and how to break through them.


One of the most fascinating books I read this year was Educated by Tara Westover. It is about a young woman who escaped the context of a survivalist family compound and an extremist father who did not believe in government, the medical establishment or formal education, to eventually earn a PhD at Cambridge University. What she had to endure and overcome to eventually break free and get an education is truly remarkable. I had to keep reminding myself that it was a memoir, not a novel. Her resilience and ability to learn and achieve despite obstacles many of us will never have to face was inspiring and helped me put my own challenges into perspective.


My pick this year is 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

This is a terrific book to read to prepare yourself for the future! Harari provides a kind of instruction manual for the present day and helps us understand what the really important questions are. Each chapter is on a separate topic such as international terrorism, migration, stress, jobs of the future, artificial intelligence, etc.

It may sound a bit heavy but it never is. Harari’s writing style is very easy to read and comprehend and he has a sense of humour.


What I will be reading this summer is my favourite children’s book Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. Our first grandchild – Aiden – has just arrived and we couldn’t be more excited.

Now if you don’t have small children my recommendation for you is The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman & Kaley Warner Klemp. It explores what it takes to move from below the line – meaning being closed, defensive or committed to being right, to being above the line – meaning open, curious and committed to learning. And most importantly in those moments when we find we are operating below the line, how to shift.

It presents 15 commitments. The first 2 are about taking responsibility and learning through curiosity. Once you have reviewed those 2 you work the other commitments in the order that is most relevant to you. Each chapter has different examples, exercises and questions that you can use to build awareness and promote learning. The book will challenge you to not judge yourself but become aware of those moments that aren’t serving you well and then give you some tools to help you make the shift needed. 


On my summer reading list is The Algebra of Happiness: Notes on the Pursuit of Success, Love and Meaning by Scott Galloway. The author, who is an NYU Professor as well as the co-host of the Pivot podcast with feared Silicon Valley journalist Kara Swisher, brings a wide range of perspectives to bear on how to increase the overall level of happiness in your life. While the lessons are useful, what makes the book worth reading is the raw and vulnerable way that the author shares his insights and his mistakes.


In Amy Cuddy’s engaging book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, she tells the reader about her and others’ research on how our bodies can influence our minds. Specifically, she provides convincing evidence that expanding your body language (through your posture, how you move, and how you speak) can help you feel and think differently. As Cuddy says, “[It] makes you feel more confident and powerful, less anxious and self-absorbed, and generally more positive.” Who doesn’t want more of those things?

Then she goes a step further and gives the reader very simple and practical ways to implement this amazing research in everyday life.

All of this helps you show up in challenging situations in a way that reflects your actual skills and knowledge. You’re not strutting around trying to be someone you’re not, you’re accessing more of your authentic, boldest self – when you need it most.


I am not entirely sure when this newsletter will hit your desk but it will likely be just after Father’s day. So my choice of books is A Life in the Bush: Lessons from my Father by Roy MacGregor.

One of the lessons in the book is one I learned from my dad. Teach your kids how to do the things you enjoy – that way you will have a good chance of being able to hang out with your kids forever.

Now my Dad had a funny way of teaching things. He was impatient and had a short fuse. He didn’t have any great fatherhood role models to lean on as he spent way too much time in an English boarding school perfecting the “stiff upper lip” approach to everything. So when it came to being a Dad he basically made it up as he went along. However, when it came to passing along his love for sports and the outdoors he was a passionate teacher and without him I doubt I would have learned to throw a ball, ride a bike (at age 3), play so many sports and enjoy fishing and the outdoors without his influence – and I certainly know where my ability to curse so effortlessly came from. It sure wasn’t my mother.

Reading this book reminded me of many elements of my Dad. It takes place in a different time and a different location but there are many lessons and themes in here I can relate to. While this is truly an ode to Roy’s dad, there are lots of scenarios and situations that will ring true for you.


This book is about selling. But it’s unlike any book about sales I have read before. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel H. Pink takes a fresh look at the art and science of selling and draws upon a rich collection of research to explain ideas and concepts. Pink provides a perspective on the profession and practice of selling but you will enjoy this book even if not directly in a sales role. If you think you don’t sell for a living, consider how much of your day is spent trying to convince others of your point of view and ideas. I walked away from this read with the reinforcement that selling successfully is something that leaves people better off as a result. Professional salespeople and ‘non-sales’ sellers will enjoy this well researched intriguing point of view on how our work world is transforming and our skills, including sales skills, must now stretch across all boundaries.


After enjoying Bounce by the same author I decided to read the next offering, and once again Mr. Syed does not disappoint. Black Box Thinking: Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance by Matthew Syed talks about the extraordinary measures taken once failure has occurred. What have we learned from our mistakes and how do we safeguard against them happening again? How can success and improvement be achieved through error and learning to recognize ways of enhancement? Syed uses compelling examples of human errors which force us to change behaviours and systems to create "Black Box Thinking."


Within the first few minutes of reading Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown it became one of my most treasured reads and I’ve lost track of the number of people I’ve recommended it to – so it only makes sense to suggest it as a great summer read.

Tackling the need for leaders to be vulnerable is no easy task, especially in a world where we have been taught to equate vulnerability with weakness, and yet Brené doesn’t just accept the challenge, she smashes the challenge with a book that is intelligent, challenges paradigms, provides tangible insights and solutions and frankly is many times laugh out loud funny.

In a world where commitment levels are waning and it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain employee engagement so many leaders that I speak with are asking tough questions about what they need to do to build a culture of deep relationships and solid trust. What does that have to do with vulnerability? Brené sets the tone from the opening by sharing that “Trust is the stacking and layering of small moments and reciprocal vulnerability over time. Trust and vulnerability grow together, and to betray one is to destroy both.” She even provides access to a trust assessment tool for teams and an instrument that allows leaders to measure their trustworthiness based on seven key behaviours she has identified. Pick up this book to fill your summer reading time with stories, case studies, and tools that will challenge you to learn and grow – all with a sense of humour.


This year I learned a lot about myself by reading The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People's Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin. In this book, Rubin offers a framework for self reflection based on how you respond to expectations. If you have trouble getting to the gym by yourself but make it there just fine when you're working out with a partner, you might be an "obliger" who meets external expectations but rejects internal ones. If you're like me and you have trouble doing what others ask of you but meet your expectations of yourself just fine, Rubin would call you a "questioner." This is a light read that will add a layer to your own self-awareness and might help you tap into the right tendencies to get more out of yourself and the people around you.


Recently I read a book called All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr. The story could be real even though it has elements of fantasy in it. The time is Second World War; France & Germany. The plot revolves around the life of a young blind French girl and German soldier. The tragedy of war affected millions, and this is just one personal story that shows various types of characters, a story about endurance, hope and reality.



My recommendation is The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson, which is a guide to handling adversity and becoming a stronger and happier person. This book is funny, smart and entertaining.

Many of the concepts in this book I had come across before, but it was refreshing to hear it from Manson’s brutally honest and potty-mouthed perspective. In a way, the overarching theme is “don’t sweat the small stuff” which is, of course, easier said than done. But it’s presented in a way that seems actionable and inspiring. Something that stood out to me was the chapter on clear and honest communication and how critical it is to get comfortable with saying and hearing the word no. Setting boundaries is a way for us to build trust with the people around us.

June 21,2019 By The Performance Coaching Team

Category: Healthy High Performance