Two inspiring books for the new year

New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays.  Not just because of the festivities; in fact, I prefer to take it easy on New Year’s Eve because I really hate the idea of starting a brand new year hungover.  For me, New Year’s is a time to get inspired, dream big, and make plans for the next year.  I do make resolutions, but they usually aren’t the cold-turkey quitting or starting resolutions.  I don’t really see why we need to wait for New Year’s to make changes like that.  Rather, I like to use the New Year as a time to take stock of what I accomplished last year and figure out what I can do even better in the next.

Since this week is all about that type of planning for me, I figured I’d recommend two books that I love for inspiration.  I usually use affiliate links so that I get commissions when people buy things I mention, but I have chosen not to do that here so as to avoid having you think these are anything but honest recommendations.

Talent is Overrated

[talent is overrated cover]The first book is called Talent is Overrated. Its main thesis is essentially this: What separates people who are truly great at what they do from the rest is not inborn talent; it’s the amount of hours they have spent practicing their craft.  The temptation is to chalk the astounding achievements of Mozart or Tiger Woods (bad timing, but a good example) up to innate ability, but the science in this book suggests otherwise.

One study I recall looked at a large group of professional musicians and compared them across many variables.  What distinguished those who had achieved great success from those who were just average had nothing to do with achievement at a young age; it had everything to do with total hours of practice time.  It’s estimated that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice time (i.e., not just running through the motions) is required to master most things.

Anyway, it’s a cool book.  The message is one that I always come back to when I doubt my natural ability to do something, even running (remember, my first marathon took me almost five hours).  Knowing that what I achieve depends only on how much I’m willing to put into it is very liberating.  It’s technically a business book, so the middle gets a little white-collar for me, but it’s a great read otherwise.  Please don’t leave comments arguing with me about Mozart or Tiger being prodigies; get the book from the library and read the evidence the author presents.

Awaken the Giant Within  

[awaken the giant within cover]The other book I want to recommend, one that I’m rereading this week, is Anthony Robbins’s Awaken the Giant Within.  I think Tony’s infomercials earned him a reputation for corniness, but I make no secret of my fan-dom.  It was one of his seminars last year that pushed me over the edge to become vegetarian, really commit to qualifying for Boston, and starting this blog.

Awaken the Giant Within is my favorite of his books.  It’s not just a lot of stuff to get you pumped up about what you’re capable of, it also provides very effective strategies for making change.  Warning: you have to actually do stuff.  There are exercises at the end of each chapter, and though the information is great, you won’t get nearly as much out of it if you don’t put it to immediate use with the exercises.

If you’re new to Tony Robbins and/or skeptical, you can get a very condensed audio version here.  It doesn’t have nearly the amount of content that the book does, but Tony’s real power is in his speaking ability and this is a great introduction to what he teaches.  It was the first (of many) of his products that I bought.

For what it’s worth, those are my recommendations.  Get them from the library if you can; otherwise you can find them at Barnes and Noble.  Hope they help you make 2010 your best year yet.

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  1. Thank you for the great recs! I agree, I’m not much for getting slammed on New Years…can’t start the year off on the wrong foot 🙂 Hope you two have a great one
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Italian Baked Acorn Squash, Buffalo Sloppy Joes, Multi Seed Bread & Chocolate Cupcakes =-.

  2. After lots of suggesting by my loving wife (Lori), I decided to take the plunge and make my first post after months of rogue reading NMA!

    Great note about the 10,000 hours, I’ve been hooked on that concept since reading “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. He mentions Mozart too, though the Beatles are another good example. Most people think they came across the water to find major success, but the truth is that they had spent countless nights playing 8 hour sessions in Hamburg honing their skills.

    All the best to you in 2010. I plan to do the same on Jan 1, map out some goals for the year. After years of nagging in the back of my mind, something is telling me 2010 is the time for a marathon attempt.

    • Thanks for your first comment, Daniel. Always nice to hear from rogue readers! Now that you mention it, I remember hearing about Outliers and how similar the ideas are. I’ve never read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books for some reason.

      Hope you ended up setting that marathon goal…any idea which one?

      • Just registered for the Flying Pig in Cincinnati! It will be an adventure!

        Good luck on all of your 2010 races!

  3. Those books sound great, thanks for letting us know about them! I’ll write down the titles and tell my mum about them- she’s all over inspirational books like that and I bet she’d get a real kick out of them.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..January’s Nutrition Challenge: Raw Food Diet =-.

  4. Cool! Those look like 2 great books to put a much needed fire under my butt! LOL!
    .-= Marisa (Loser for Life)´s last blog ..No More Wishing =-.

  5. Thanks for the recommendations. As a fellow runner and applied math graduate student, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Do you have any other suggestions for books that have inspired you over the past several years?

    • Hey Naveen, good to meet other math people who are into running and fitness… it seems not a lot are. Other good books about this stuff: Born to Run, Thrive, Run Less Run Faster, Core Performance Endurance. Unrelated to fitness but fantastic if you like math is Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Thanks for reading!

  6. Both books sound very interesting. I’ll have to check the library to see if I can get one of em.

    I’ve seem a lot of book reviews from you recently on your blog and on true/slant, is this something you’ll keep up? I hope so! I’m sure liking it. It’s fun to hear about what books inspire others.

    • Heather, I read a lot of books, and I always think they’re pretty good blog topics, whether the books are good or not. So yes, whenever I read a book that relates, I’ll talk about it!

  7. Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll have to check both of these out. During these cold, dark months some extra inspiration is certainly appreciated!
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Creative Outlet aka Keeping Sane =-.

  8. You are killing my checkbook, Matt! 😉 LOL! I’m a book-aholic as it is and you keep showing great books that I want to buy. I bought Born to Run on audio and Slow Burn after your post on meeting him! You keep taunting me with all these fab books to buy (not to mention cool toys: I totally want the Vibram Five Fingers now and an NMA running shirt!) I need to get my blog to make money just so I can come spend it on yours! Ha ha!

    Luckily I already OWN the Tony Robbins book, so I’ll save some dough there! 😉

    Hopefully you know I’m saying this all in jest — absolutely adore your site!
    .-= Shari B.´s last blog ..Fun with Zucchini =-.

  9. Off to amazon for talent is overrated.

    how had I missed that book?!
    .-= MizFit´s last blog ..A MizFit mini-course & Jackie Warner’s tips for the New Year. =-.

  10. On your recommendation I recently read a Tony Robbins book and I really liked it. I would love to attend a seminar!

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