Five Books Everyone Should Read

Ask any practitioner in the fighting arts and they'll tell you intellectual development played as much a part in their growth as the physical strain of training.  This rings true for most sporting and fitness pursuits.  Fighting has a way of exposing our greatest flaws.  Getting hit tests your fortitude for pain.  Losing a match tests your humility and willingness to learn.  Training with a wide variety of personalities tests your ability to be flexible to the eclectic nature of humanity.  You're always the student, forced to accept what you have yet to learn.  The forever white belt, in a way.

For that reason, we love to talk about knowledge and wisdom outside the immediate domain of the martial arts.  The only book on this list written by someone known for their fighting ability is the Book of Five Rings.  As for the other four, they impart basic and foundational principles for how to think, how to act and how to adapt.


Five Books Everyone Should Read


Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Atomic Habits by James Clear

Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz


Think and Grow Rich
Written by Napoleon Hill

This book is a timeless classic.  It is basic to understand and is a great primer to using mindset as the foundation for purposeful action.  I was given an audiotape (When those were a thing) of this book in high school.  I'd pop it in my '90 Celica and listen to and from school and work.  

I would say one thing that struck me about this book was how it challenged basic but underlying beliefs I had about myself and the world around me.  It pulled me outside of my believed reality, becoming aware of how much mindset plays a roll in the environment we materialize around ourselves.  Think and Grow Rich is a book about success.  But it's also a book about intentional thinking.  Here are some basic principles from the book:


Hill argues that the most successful people also have an unshakable belief in themselves.  That confidence does play a roll in success after all.  My takeaway from this is that doubt is also a great precursor to hesitation.  And hesitation has a way of turning into inaction; and inaction eventually becomes a missed opportunity.

Autosuggestion is a way of reaffirming to yourself that your goals are not only possible, but that they already exist.  If you actually convince yourself the goal has already been attained, you'll move with far less hesitation.  Your words, actions and intentions will move in the direction of someone who already believes it is theirs.

Mastermind Group

Did you know hill actually invented the idea of a Mastermind group?  Crazy.  In his lifelong research, he saw that the most successful individuals did not go it alone.  

Quoting Hill, “The coordination of knowledge and effort of two or more people, who work toward a definite purpose, in the spirit of harmony.”

You've likely heard that you are the result of the five people you spend the most time around.  I think a simpler way of putting it is this:  Look around you.  Look at who you keep company with.  Those people are your future.  You may not notice it today, but overtime, the circle you keep will influence how you think, how you act and how you plan.

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How to Win Friends and Influence People
Written by Dale Carnegie

The title of this book seems really manipulative.   Written one year before Think and Grow Rich, is has become a classic, selling over 15 million copies in its 80 years of print.

This book is actually not about manipulation.  Carnegie explains that by changing ourselves, we can influence how others interact with and perceive us.

Here are some basic rules from the book

1. You can make a great first impression just by smiling
2. To be interesting to someone, talk about their favorite topic: Themselves.
3. If you want to convince people of something, get them to say yes a lot to small questions.

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Atomic Habits
Written by James Clear

I can not say enough good things about this book.  Since its publication in 2018, it's sold over 3 million copies.  James is incredibly skilled at taking complex problems and boiling them down to simple solutions.

In Atomic Habits, he explains the psychology of a habit - Cue, craving, response, reward.  Using that framework, we attain new desirable habits by making them obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.

In addition to understanding the structure of a habit, he talks about Habit Stacking.  When we stack habits, we combine an existing habit we already have, such as brushing our teeth, or making our coffee in the morning, with a habit we want to develop, such as making our bed or exercising.  Do yourself a favor and get this book!

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Book of Five Rings
Written by Miyamoto Musashi


Written around 1643, the Book of Five Rings is considered one of Musashi's greatest works.  Although written for martial arts and kenjutsu (Japanese Swordsmanship) it has become a landmark text for philosophical and intellectual development.  Divided into five elements - earth, water, fire, wind and void, the book shares Musashi's thoughts and principles on many aspects of life.

The book of earth ends with nine basic principles:

  1. "Do not think dishonestly."
  2. "The Way is in training."
  3. "Become acquainted with every art."
  4. "Know the Ways of all professions"
  5. "Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters."
  6. "Develop an intuitive judgement and understanding for everything."
  7. "Perceive those things which cannot be seen."
  8. "Pay attention even to trifles."
  9. "Do nothing which is of no use."

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The Four Agreements
Written by Don Miguel Ruiz

This book is a marvel in simplicity and essentialism.  Upon first glance, these four principles, or agreements, seem almost too simple.  But they strike to the root of where most discontent, strife and friction comes from.  Although Ruiz takes this wisdom from his heritage among the Toltecs of modern-day Mexico, these lessons are applicable to everyone, regardless of culture or religious background.

  1. Be impeccable with your word.
  2. Don’t take anything personally.
  3. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Always do your best.

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1 comment

Thanks Josh, for these great recommendations!

I’ve read 3 of them over the years, and look forward to reading and meditating on the others. I have gotten so much out of “The Four Agreements”…. one of my very favorites. Simple, yet profound truths. I’ve read it three times, and no doubt will again. And the others I look forward to re-reading, and enjoying the other two for the first time.

Again, thanks for pointing these out, and for realizing that mental and spiritual development is at least as vital as the physical skills we develop.

All the best to you,
Russ Evans

Russell Evans May 11, 2021

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