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bookshelf spectrum, revisited
Creative Commons License photo credit: chotda

Auth Note: To celebrate the November 5th launch of Train To Live, I am giving away some of the key books that changed my personal game.

As an entrepreneur in the online community space, I spend a lot of time doing things that don’t make traditional business sense. I’d like to claim some amount of personal responsibility for our modest success, but I think a lot of things have just fallen into place. Hard work is key, but timing is everything.

I am often asked what lead to the sea-change in how I approach starting and running companies. I have done a lot of self-evaluation; I have compared start-up mode to launch mode; I have even gone as far as to dig up my old notes from 2007 to read what was going through my head.

While I have certainly bounced all over the place, there is one constant through it all…one simple activity I did a few times a week that influenced my work, my focus, and my strategy. What was this critical thing? Reading.

Not just glancing at articles online or zipping through links in Twitter, but really reading a book. Sitting down with an author and letting them give you several hours / several hundred pages of their ideas–in totality–is a rare thing in our 24/7 digitally driven world. I was fortunate to come across several key books, each of which affected me in a unique way. Together they have guided me more than any one adviser, and have influenced almost every strategy meeting or decision.

As I continue to work towards the launch of my new book, Train to Live, Live to Train: An Insider’s Guide to the Ultimate Fitness Lifestyle, I am reminded of the power of the written word to truly change the way we interact with the world. If my book can help just a small handful of people re-think their approach to being an endurance athlete, it will have been a success. I know not everyone will accept my proposal that organizing the other 80% of your life outside of your athletic endeavors will transform their ability to train and reach their potential, but having the chance to

To celebrate the November 5th 24hour launch of Train To Live, I am giving away some of the key books that changed my personal game. To be sure this list isn’t exhaustive (I read a lot) but they represent some of the core books. They were also in my house, meaning I could actually give them away. A sign, to be sure!

To “earn” your copy, please respond in the comments below with a quick description of something unconventional you did that changed your training — or life — for the better. Be sure to mention the book you’d like to get and the hardcore judges panel (Me + My cat Daisy) will announce the winners at the end of the week (by October 15th).

Note: I have several early release copies of Train To Live available for review. I know that some of you have requested versions, please use the contact form on my blog and I’ll reply accordingly. Thanks!

ReWork by the posse at 37Signals — They guys make creative work fun by helping you focus on what really matters. A short book of essays designed to help you really challenge your personal and professional status quo.

Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by the inimitable Seth Godin — I am only halfway through this book right now, but it’s already made my short list because Seth has capture just how dramatically the world has changed in the last 10 years…and gives you a road map to find (or create) your own success.

Work The System: The Simple Mechanics of Working Less by Sam Carpenter — A book dedicated to finding and mastering the underlying systems of the world around us; part manifesto and part guidebook, this treatise in the right hands can unlock the power of a systems mindset and enable you to apply it for great leveage. I personally don’t think approaching everything as a system is the best way to go, but using the concepts in this book have enabled me to streamline basic areas of my life to enable maximum creativity in other spaces.

Smart Start-Ups: How Entrepreneurs and Corporations Can Profit by Starting Online Communiites by David Silver — A bit more educational than the other books on this list, in that I could see it being used in a college course on entrepreneurship, this text represents some early thinking in the online space around communities. It doesn’t have all the answers for where we are now (it changes so fast these days!) but it absolutely gives insight to the power of communities and groups connecting online.

The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb — A random book for the list, as it’s largely a philosophical examination of the world around us and how it works. While his focus starts in economic terms, it quickly gains scope to include the world around us. His singular premise on how unique unexpected events change life as we know it is one of the strongest calls for pushing the envelope as a business leader that I have ever heard.

Remember, you have until Friday 10/15/2010 to reply in the comments below with the unconventional thing you did that changed your training/life/overall game. I will announce the winners on this blog and provide instructions on how to get your book copies at that time. Thanks for playing!

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