Personal Growth Books

“Personal development is the belief that you are worth the effort, time and energy needed to develop yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

Poor Charlie's Almanack - 10/10

Man's Search for Meaning - 9.5/10

Meditations - 9/10

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World - 9/10

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success - 9/10

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead - 9/10

Guns, Germs, and Steel - 9/10

The Lessons of History - 9/10

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics - 9/10

White Fragility - 9/10

The Gifts of Imperfections - 9/10

The Obstacle is the Way - 8.5/10

Tools of Titans - 8.5/10

Tribe of Mentors - 8.5/10

Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to His Son - 8/10

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life - 8/10

E.Q. 2.0 - 8/10

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to You Biggest Challenges - 8/10

Mastery - 8/10

Talent Code - 7.5/10


by Charlie Munger

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"You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience - both vicarious and direct - on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You've got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head."

"Double check, disbelieve, or replace much of what you're told, to the degree that seems appropriate after objective though."

"It is not the intrinsic difficulty of new ideas that prevents their acceptance. Instead, the new ideas are not accepted because they are inconsistent with old ideas in place."

"The acquisition of wisdom is a moral duty."

"I feel that I'm not entitled to an opinion unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who are in opposition."

Why this book?

If you only ever read one book, this should be it. No book contains more wisdom or practical advice. Charlie Munger is among the handful of people that I would want at my dream dinner table. Poor Charlie's Almanack is a culmination of Munger's most influential speeches. It closes with an essay recounting the mental models and psychological tendencies Munger finds most impactful in daily life. Munger is a true lifelong learner and he uses this book to impart as much of his wisdom as he can. He reflects on his successes, his failings, and the mentors who have influenced him. The margins contain insights from influential thinkers, business leaders, and historical events. You could re-read this book every year and glean new insights. I cannot think of a single person who would not benefit from reading this book.


Man's Search for Meaning

by Viktor Frankle

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"He who has a why to live for can bear almost anyhow."

"The greatest task for anyone is to find meaning in his or her life."

"You cannot control what happens in your life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you."

"The way in which a man takes up his cross gives him ample opportunity to add a deeper meaning to his life."

"What you have experienced, no power on earth can take from you."

Why this book?

Few books have impacted my life as much as this one. It has been especially applicable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Vicktor describes his life in a concentration camp and how his mental fortitude allowed him to not only survive, but take his experience to positively impact millions of people. Whenever I face a challenging circumstance, I reflect on this book and the power of the mind and perspective.


by Marcus Aurelius

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"By focusing on those things that are whin his power and detaching himself from things that are not, he attains the inner peace."

"There is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

"Read carefully and do not be satisfied with a superficial understanding of a book."

"If it Is difficult to accomplish something by yourself, do not think it is impossible for man; but if anything is possible for man and comfortable to his nature, think that this can be attained by you too."

"If any man is able to convince me and show me that I do not act or think right, I will gladly change; for I seek the truth by which no man was ever injured. But he is injured who abides in his error and ignorance."

Why this book?

Don’t let its size fool you. While it may not contain many pages, it is a dense book that will cause you to frequently pause and reflect. I nearly burned through an entire highlighter marking this book. Stoicism is a valuable mindset, and Marcus Aurelius was one of the master stoics. I immediately read this after completing Man's Search for Meaning. Reading both allows you to see an ancient and modern application of stoicism. This book applies to nearly every life situation and can help when faces the stresses of a career.


Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

by David Epstein

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"Eventual elites typically devote less time early on to deliberate practice in the activity in which they will eventually become experts. Instead, they undergo what researchers call a 'sampling period.'"

"Highly credentialed experts can become so narrow-minded that they actually get worse with experience, even while becoming more confident - a dangerous combination."

"Rather than obsessively focusing on a narrow topic, creative achievers tend to have broad interests. This breadth often supports insights that cannot be attributed to domain-specific expertise alone."

"Don't commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward."

"There is no tool that cannot be dropped, reimagined, or repurposed to navigate an unfamiliar challenge."

Why this book?

Do we need to specialize to succeed? This book throws cold water on the specialization movement we are witnessing in the sports world. This does not mean deliberate practice and homing specific skills is unnecessary or a waste of time, they are necessary to excel in a given arena. But there is great value in processing a range of skills. Additionally, when starting out, whether it is a child ready to begin organized sports or a new graduate seeking their first "real world" job, we benefit from a "sampling period." This book uses research to show the benefits of developing a range of skills and experiences to excel in your career endeavors.


by Carol Dweck

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Fixed Mindset

  • Your qualities are carved in stone and characteristics are fixed.

  • Is afraid of failure and avoid risks

  • Looks for excuses

  • Values success above all and looks down on people

  • "I can't do it"

Growth Mindset

  • Basic qualities can be cultivated through effort.

  • Encourages learning and effort

  • Looks for answers and solutions

  • Recognizes it takes time to develop

  • "I can't do it yet"

"You are not a failure until you start to blame"

Why this book?

This was one of two books the Emory University DPT program gave its graduates. It very succinctly provides two paths you can take in your career and personal life. You can view life from a growth mindset, one that sees opportunity in everything, or a fixed mindset, one that believes the cards are dealt and we cannot change as people. It was a great book to read prior to the start of the rigors of residency

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Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

by Brené Brown

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"What we know matters, but who we are matters more."

"There is no equation where taking risks, braving uncertainty, and opening ourselves up to emotional exposure equal weakness."

"Experiencing vulnerability isn't a choice - the only choice we have is how we're going to respond when we are confronted with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure."

"The way we talk to ourselves determines how we feel and how vulnerable we can be."

  • Guilt is "I did something bad"

  • Shame is "I am bad"

"We experience belonging when we feel part of something bigger than ourselves. True belonging only happens when we present our real selves. Our sense of belonging can only be equal to our self-acceptance."

Why this book?

Brené Brown burst onto the scene with her TedTalk on vulnerability. The success of her talk leads to this book, which provides in-depth insight into why we experience shame and vulnerability. Vulnerability is inescapable and learning how to manage it helps us grow and develop relationships. Shame, which is often used as a strategy to manipulate people, only breaks down relationships. It should never be a tactic in debate or education. This book is full of emotion and provides immediate applicable mindsets and strategies.


Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

by Jared Diamond

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“What use one makes of a historical explanation is a question separate from the explanation itself. Understanding is more often used to try to alter an outcome than to repeat or perpetuate it.”


Why This Book?

This was a fascinating, beast of a book. Taking on 13,000 years of human history in a 400-page book is a bold endeavor, but Jared Diamond manages to capture big picture lessons while using specific details to support his arguments. In the beginning, he provides a one-sentence summary of the book: “History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among people's environments, not because of biological differences among peoples themselves.”


The book sought to determine why some regions of the world (e.g. Eurasia) developed faster than others (e.g. North America). He boils down the reasons to four primary themes:


  1. Food production (availability of domestic animals and plant species)

  2. Migration rates (east-west continental orientation is superior to north-south)

  3. Isolation of continents (ability to collaborate and build off neighboring technological advances)

  4. Continental and area population size (rapidity of farming and governmental growth and invention capacity.


“All other things being equal, technology develops fastest in large productive regions with large human populations, many potential inventors, and many competing societies.”


At the end of the book, Diamond acknowledges human history cannot be explained with only four broad themes. Yet, the larger the time scale you observe, the easier it is to notice and understand trends. This information can be useful in understanding human behavior and potential future actions. By no means is history a perfect blueprint of the future, but the lessons learned from history are valuable, nonetheless. I highly recommend this book.


“We tend to seek easy, single-factor explanations of success. For most important things, though, success actually requires avoiding many separate possible causes of failure.”

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by Will and Ariel Durant

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"The imitative majority follows the innovating minority, and this follows the originative individual, in adapting new responses to the demands of environment or survival."

"Intellect is a vital force in history, but it can also be a dissolvent and destructive power."

"No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs of institutions of society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history."

"It is good that new ideas should be heard, for the sake of the few that can be used but it Is also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition, and contumely; this is the trial heat which innovators mist survive before being allowed to enter the human race."

"Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns, nor merely the necessary preparation of the individual to earn his keep in the world, but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible, for the enlargement of man's understanding, control, embellishment, and enjoyment of life."

Why this book?

The title says it all. We have so much to learn from history. As the saying goes, "history repeats itself." Will and Ariel Durant succinctly summarize common themes in history across a variety of topics. Regardless of your profession, the lessons gathered from past events are applicable to our lives. When viewing events over centuries, themes of cause and effect are more observable. You don't need to be a history buff to garner valuable lessons from this book.

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

by Daniel James Brown

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“It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.”

“It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can't waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I've just gotta take care of it myself' Joe Rantz”

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”

“The ability to yield, to bend, to give way, to accommodate, he said, was sometimes a source of strength in men as well as in wood, so long as it was helmed by inner resolve and by principle.”

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”

Why this book?

This book tells the story of an incredible rowing team and recounts the 1936 Olympics and events leading up to it. We often read stories of great sports teams and marvel at their athletic prowess. Occasionally we learn of remarkable backstories that add to the intrigue. The rigors the rowers endured and the current events (the great depression and rise of Nazi Germany) adds to the remarkable feat of achieving gold at the Olympics in Berlin. This book is both entertaining and enlightening. It showcases the ability of an individual and team to endure many challenges and persevere.


White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

by Robin Diangelo

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“While implicit bias is always at play because all humans have bias, inequity can occur simply through homogeneity; if I am not aware of the barriers you face, then I won't see them, much less be motivated to remove them. Not will I be motivated to remove the barriers if they provide an advantage to which I feel entitled."

"Discrimination is action based on prejudice. These actions include ignoring, exclusion, threats, ridicule, slander, and violence.

“The simplistic idea that racism is limited to individual intentional acts committed by unkind people is at the root of virtually all-white defensiveness on this topic.”

"It is white people’s responsibility to be less fragile; people of color don’t need to twist themselves into knots trying to navigate us as painlessly as possible.”

"Interrupting racism takes courage and intentionality; the interruption is by definition not passive or compliant."

Why this book?

This book was eye-opening for me. I have never considered myself a racist, yet this book challenges how my thoughts and actions contribute to a systemic issue. When Diangelo refers to systemic racism, she is not saying all whites hold a conscious dislike of people of race, but instead, that we are complicit to a system. "When a racial group's collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors." White fragility explains why whites often throw up barriers, become defensive, and separate themselves from racism. This book is only the start, but it is a good one. It is our responsibility to self-educate and embrace challenging conversations. We have a lot of work to do.


The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

by Brené Brown

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“How much we know and understand ourselves is critically important, but there is something that is even more essential to living a wholehearted life: loving ourselves."

"Unless we're willing to learn honest conversation about what gets in the way of putting love, courage, and compassion into daily practice, we will never change."

"When we want to get the decision making over with, it's a good idea to ask ourselves whether we simply can't stand the vulnerability of living still long enough to think it through and make a mindful decision."

"The more entrenched and reactive we are about an issue, the more we need to investigate our responses."

"If we want to live a wholehearted life, we have to become intentional about cultivating sleep and play, and about letting go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth."

Why this book?

This is the third Brené Brown book I have read (Daring Greatly and Dare to Lead). This one is the most compact of the three but no less valuable. I had something underlined on every other page. We often define success by the wealth and possessions we obtain, the progression of our careers, and the overall business of our lives. Wholehearted living challenges this position. The traditional view of success is full of the following traits: perfection, numbing, certainty, exhaustion, self-sufficiency, being cool, fitting in, judgment, and scarcity. Conversely, Wholehearted living focused on worthiness, rest, play, trust, faith, intuition, hope, authenticity, love, belonging, joy, gratitude, and creativity. Brown provides stories and research to substantiate recommendations and steps to living a Wholehearted life. This book is full of gut punches and challenging moments. It makes you question where your priorities lie, but in a good way.

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The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

by Ryan Holiday

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

“Focus on the moment, not the monsters that may or may not be up ahead.”

“Just because your mind tells you that something is awful or evil or unplanned or otherwise negative doesn’t mean you have to agree. Just because other people say that something is hopeless or crazy or broken to pieces doesn’t mean it is. We decide what story to tell ourselves.”

“Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.”

“You know what’s better than building things up in your imagination? Building things up in real life.”

Why this book?

If you haven't read any of the stoics, this is a great introduction to Stoicism and emotional regulation. Holiday is a true lifelong learner, having read hundreds of books and publishing multiple before the age of 30. In this book, Holiday discusses the power of Stoicism and finding benefits from challenges. He takes lessons from many leaders who have employed Stoicism - Roosevelt, Lincoln, Shakespear - and succinctly applies them to modern-day life. 

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Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers

by Tim Ferris

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"You don't succeed because you have no weaknesses; you succeed because you find your unique strengths and focus on developing habits around them."

Let go of what's not working and really assess what is working and 'what can I be excited about?"

"There is a big difference between understanding something and simply knowing its name or labeling it."

"If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. - Lao Tzu"

"Achieving the extraordinary is not a linear process."

Why this book?

Tool of Titans is a book comprising of curated segments from the Tim Ferris Show. The book is full of advice and anecdotes from experts in health, finance, and leadership. The book is divided into the sections 'healthy,' 'wealthy', and 'wisdom.' The pace of the book varies greatly. Some sections cause me to pause and reflect while others I skim through or skip altogether. It is a book that can be tailored to the season of life you are in. This, along with Tribe of Mentors, could be reread multiple times and teach new lessons on each occasion.

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Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World

by Tim Ferris

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"Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask."

"If you want uncommonly clear results, ask uncommonly clear questions."

"The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything."

"The more you run from your fears, the bigger they get, but the more you fo into them, the more they tend to vanish like a mirage."

"Busy is a decision."

Why this book?

Like Tools of TitansTribe of Mentors is a compilation of advice from some of the world's leaders in business, finance, art, athletics, and technology. Tim Ferris sent out 11 questions to every leader in the world he had a desire to learn from. The book is a curation of the responses he received. Many of the responses were from leaders in industries not related to healthcare, but the advice provided was still valuable. It is a thick book, and some of the advice becomes redundant as you near the end, but it is well worth the read.


Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to His Son

by John Graham

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“Consider carefully before you say a hard word to a man, but never let a change to say a good one go by.”

“When you are in the right, you can afford to keep your temper, and when you’re in the wrong you can’t afford to lose it.”

“A man who does big things is too busy to talk about them. When the jaws really need exercise, chew gum.”


“A boss with a case of big-head will leave an office full of sore heads.”

“Don’t accept notes for happiness because you’ll find that when they’re due they’re never pain, but just renewed for another thirty days.”

Why this book?

Most books that provide advice write to a wide audience. Authors want their message spread and publishers want to sell lots of copies. What if a book was intended for a single reader? Letters from a Self-Made Merchant to his Son is just that.  In this book, the owner and leading man of a meatpacking company in the early 20th century writes 20 letters to his son. The letters largely focus on career advice, with some school and family life advice mixed in. The author draws on his experiences and includes short stories about past acquaintances in each letter. While you don’t get the responses, you receive a little snippet about the event that lead to the development of the letter. The book is full of valuable advice that cuts to the point. No ‘5 step processes’ or ‘see this website for a useful quiz,’ rather, personal and authentic advice from a successful businessman to his son. Sure, the advice is largely anecdotal, but it pairs well will current research on human psychology and business practices. It is a quick and insightful read.


Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

by Nir Eyal

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“Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.”


“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”


“Dissatisfaction and discomfort dominate our brain’s default state, but we can use them to motivate us instead of defeat us.”


“Only by understanding our pain can we begin to control it and find better ways to deal with negative urges.”


“Empowering children with the autonomy to control their own time is a tremendous gift. Even if they fail from time to time, failure is part of the learning process.”

Why this book?

Distraction is ever-present in today's society. Open design office spaces, apps with push notifications, email, text, group chats, social media, and Netflix all vie for our attention. How do we manage distractions? How do we become Indistractable?


The book “Indistractable” provides research-backed strategies and stories to help anyone overcome distractions. Some fixes require complete overhauls of a work environment and mindset while others are minor adjustments to a smartphone or desktop. I have started implementing many of the recommendations and have found improvements in my productivity, reductions in my work-related anxiety, and greater overall peace of mind. I highly recommend this book to everyone. It even has a valuable section about helping children manage device usage.

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Emotional Intelligence 2.0

by Jean Greaves and Travis Bradberry

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“The biggest obstacle to increasing your self-awareness is the tendency to avoid the discomfort that comes from seeing yourself as you really are.”

“Remember, feedback is meant to address the problem, not the person.”

“You do control the thoughts that follow an emotion, and you have a great deal of say in how you react to an emotion—as long as you are aware of it.”

“Good decisions require far more than factual knowledge. They are made using self-knowledge and emotional mastery when they’re needed most.”

“Your brain has a difficult time distinguishing between what you see with your eyes and what you visualize in your mind.”

Why this book?

This book provides foundational knowledge of emotional intelligence. More research has been conducted since the publishing of this book, but many of the primary concepts remain valuable. We cannot simply rely on intelligence for achieving success. There will be the occasional Sheldon Coopers of the world, but the amount of success will still be limited without emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a skill to be developed and refined.


Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges

by Amy Cuddy

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“Presence emerges when we feel personally powerful, which allows us to be acutely attuned to our most sincere selves.”

“preparation is obviously important, but at some point, you must stop preparing content and start preparing mind-set. You have to shift from what you’ll say to how you’ll say it.”

“focus less on the impression you’re making on others and more on the impression you’re making on yourself.”

“Powerful people initiate speech more often, talk more overall, and make more eye contact while they’re speaking than powerless people do. When we feel powerful, we speak more slowly and take more time. We don’t rush. We’re not afraid to pause. We feel entitled to the time we’re using.”

“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.”

Why this book?

Talk Like Ted provided me detailed, actionable strategies to implement and practice to improve my delivery of a message, especially in a formal setting; Presence is the foundation those strategies are built upon. Like Brené Brown, Amy Cuddy provided a TedTalk on her research that went viral. Cuddy currently sits at #2 on the all-time watched list with 58 million views (Brown is #4). This book expands on her ideas of presence. Presence influences our confidence, both internalization and external perception. It is one of four books all our residents read and I encourage any student or new graduate to grab a copy. Watch the TedTalk at the very least (same with Brown and Simon Sinek, who sites at #3 all-time)



by Robert Greene

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"In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it."


"The greatest impediment to creativity is impatience"

"A great mentor instills an overall love of learning, and teaches a protege how to think and reason in any kind of situation - the greatest skill of all"


"It is the choice of where to direct creative energy that makes the master"

"You cannot find anything new if you are unwilling to leave the shore"

Why this book?

Who doesn't want to master their craft? Most new graduates who pursue a residency or an aggressive mentorship/continuing education combination aim to be expert clinicians. This takes time. The apprenticeship model (7 years) has been used for centuries to develop masters. It necessitates formal mentorship - real mentorship, not simply side-by-side treating - deliberate practice, and willingness to be creative. This book provides examples in a variety of fields to highlight various common themes among masters throughout history. It is an interesting contrast to the book Range. They can co-exist, but it depends on your career goals and the skills you are trying to master. Becoming a master physical therapist is more than perfecting manual therapy.

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The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How.

by Daniel Coyle

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"Making progress is a matter of small failures and intense focus."

"Struggle is a biological requirement of deep practice and subsequent learning."

"Master coaches offer small, targeted, highly specific adjustments. They have extraordinary sensitivity to the person they are teaching, customizing each massage to each individual's personality."

"Coaching is a long, intimate conversation, a series of signals and responses that move toward a shared goal."

"Help people to become an independent thinker, a problem solver"

Why this book?

The Talent Code explores the biology of improving skills. Coyle visits talent "hot spots" to interview and learn from some of the most successful coaches and the techniques they use. He pairs this with the biological basis for forming and enhancing neural connections for the activities we perform. The book contains some of the key concepts of deliberate practice, flow, coaching psychology, and habit formation. The final chapter loses credibility with the failure of JaMarcus Russell's career, but overall the book provides some good take-aways that can be immediately applied.

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