My Top 5 Favorite Self-Development Books

Reading has always been a great tool for me but I found myself less motivated to read during school because I was always learning about so many other things. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I really got back into reading a lot. The way I did this was by discovering the right genre for me. This genre was self-development books. In this article I will give you a rundown on my 5 favorite self-development books and the lessons I learned from each of them.

Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and the only member of the U.S. Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, U.S. Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He is considered one of the best ultra-endurance athletes having completed over 60 endurance races, placing 3rd at the Badwater 135 Death Valley, and a regular in the top 5 at other ultramarathons. He also held the Guinness World Record for the most pull-ups done in 24 hours completing 4,030 in 17 hours. In short, he knows a little bit about building mental toughness and pushing past your perceived limits. I first read David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me when I was in high school. Not only was it extremely motivating, it made me want to push myself harder. It made me realize that I was capable of so much more as long as I calloused my mind.

In his book, Goggins outlines his tragic childhood and how he was on the path to live a very sad, unfulfilling life. One day, he decided to make a change. Through discipline, hard work, and mental toughness, he turned his life around and became the inspiring figure that he is today. One of the man takeaways that I got from the book was the concept of the 40% rule. Goggins states that most people only push to about 40% of their potential before they give up. I have found this to be very eye-opening in my own life as I try to push myself past what I thought was possible. More often then not, I find myself surprised at how much more I can accomplish with a little perseverance. Of course, this is easier said than done. However, when you hear Goggins’ story, you realize that if he can overcome the adversity that he faced in his life, so can you.

Pound the Stone

Joshua Medcalf is a best-selling author, speaker, and founder of T2BC, a boutique consulting firm whose focus is leadership, life-skills and mental training. I was recommended Medcalf’s book Pound the Stone by a friend of mine last summer. He told me that if I reached out to Medcalf on Twitter he would send me the book for free. I did exactly that. Pound the stone is a story about a troubled kid, Jason, who gets kicked off his basketball team. His coach makes a deal with him that he can join the team if he completes a summer sales program where he must go door-to-door selling books. Pound the Stone follows Jason as he learns lessons in developing grit on the path to mastery. This book is packed with lessons on character development and keeps the reader interested with the storyline of the kid.

Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win

Jocko Willink is a decorated retired Navy SEAL officer, author, podcaster, and co-founder of Echelon Front(with Leif Babin), where he is a leadership instructor, speaker, and executive coach. I first discovered Jocko Willink through social media. He was introduced to me as “the guy who posts a picture of his watch every morning”. This may seem dull to the average person, but the idea of consistently posting a picture of your watch every morning(at 4:34, 4:27, 4:15) demonstrates an extreme level of discipline that is an apt introduction into who Jocko is as a person. Throughout reading his books, listening to his podcasts, and following him online, I have learned so many important lessons. The two most important ones that come to mind involve discipline and leadership.

First, Willink says that discipline equals freedom. After listening to him describe the concept, I have never heard anything more accurate. If you have the discipline to do what you know is necessary, you will gain the freedom of living the life you want. Willink goes further into detail on this in his books. The next biggest lesson I learned from Jocko is about how to be a leader. Leadership involves taking complete ownership of a situation. It is not easy at all to be a leader. Throughout the book, Jocko gives examples of different lessons he taught people about leadership. They mostly involved people in leadership roles at fortune 500 companies that weren’t wanting to take ownership. Each lesson focuses on a different aspect of Ownership. I took many things from this book.

Chop Wood Carry Water

Chop Wood Carry Water is Medcalf’s best selling book and for good reason. The book gives numerous lessons on how to stick to the process of bettering yourself. It is a great reminder of how hard work pays off. The book follows the story of a young boy who wants to become a master samurai archer. He is passionate but very impatient at first. His samurai master teaches him several lessons over the course of the book. The main lesson is that in order to master your craft you must simply put in the work day in and day out. It is not always fun or easy but it is necessary.

Another lesson that I really liked from the book was illustrated through the story of a carpenter. This carpenter’s name was Kota and he was famous for building houses. Eventually, Kota planned to retire but his boss said he had one more house for him to build. Kota had planned on traveling with his family and didn’t want to build the last house but accepted the job reluctantly. Seeing the job as an obligation instead of an opportunity, Kota didn’t put effort into the house. He cut corners and built it very cheap. Upon finishing the house, Kota’s boss handed him the keys as a gift for his amazing work over the years. “Immediately, his heart sank.” writes Joshua Medcalf. “Unbeknownst to Kota, the whole time he had been building his own house.” The lesson is that whatever you are doing, you are building your own house. This reminds me of the saying “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” There are many other lessons like this throughout the book that are great for anyone looking to master their craft.


Ben Greenfield is an Ironman triathlete/Spartan racer, ex-bodybuilder, personal trainer, coach, speaker and New York Times Bestselling author. In 2008, Ben was voted as NSCA’s Personal Trainer of the year and in 2013 was named by Greatist as one of the top 100 Most Influential People In Health And Fitness. Ben blogs and podcasts Ben Greenfield Fitness and resides in Spokane, WA with his wife and twin boys.

The first self-help book I read was called Own the Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus. It was a fantastic book about how to optimize every aspect of your day. I highly recommend this book to anyone. In many ways, Boundless is similar to Own the Day but much more in depth. It is essential a cookbook for mastering all things in life. You can flip to any chapter that particularly interests you and learn something. It is very in depth, and takes some time to digest and apply the information. However, I have already learned so much from what I have read and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to optimize all aspects of their health.

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