Top 10 Books for Coaches

After hearing about B.J. Novak’s latest start up project called “The List App” I decided to put together a list of some of my favorite books for coaches.  I’m always looking for new reading material to dive into during the holidays, so if you have any suggestions to add to this feel free to share! As with all things, this list will probably change in time as I expand my education and personal opinions.

In no particular order:

1.) “The Only Way to Win” Jim Loehr
How building character drives higher achievement and greater fulfillment in business in life. Raises important questions such as, “How do we value character? How do we create character? And how does character affect business, sport and parenting?”

2.) “The Talent Code” Daniel Coyle
Coyle argues talent is born in the brain through deep practice, ignition, and masterful coaching. Well written with many practical applications for everyday life.

3.) “The Power of Full Engagement” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz
I describe this as the best of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” plus in depth discussion around understanding and managing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy.

4.) “Lights Out” T.S. Wiley
Sleep, sugar and survival. The back cover describes it best: “The scientific evidence that obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and depression are caused by sleep loss – and that your salvation is as easy as the flick of a switch.”

5.) “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” Robert Sapolsky
Explains how prolonged stress can lead to a host of physical and mental problems (depression, ulcers, colitis, heart disease, etc). Touches on topics such as sleep disorders, addictions, gender differences, anxiety, weight gain, post-traumatic stress disorder, and stress management. The author has a good sense of humor and writing style to help navigate through some of the biological and neurochemical explanations. There are lots of pictures which are a nice touch.

6.) “The Sports Gene” David Epstein
Rethink the nature of athleticism. Are the top athletes in the world born or made? What are our biological limits? Dispels misconceptions about why top athletes excel. Identifies skills we assume are innate.

7.) “Drive” Daniel Pink
What motivates us: autonomy, mastery and purpose. One of my favorites on motivation.

8.) “The One Thing” Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
Ideas on how to be more productive, find more satisfaction from life, and create more time for yourself, family, and friends. Simply put: identify your one thing.

9.) “Mindset” Carol Dweck
Written by a Stanford University psychologist. I’ve seen Dweck’s work referenced in many other books I’ve read so I knew I had to read it at some point. Quick and fast read. Explains the power of our mindset with a simple approach. Addresses the question: “How can you create a love of learning and resilience by understanding how you view the world?”

10.) “Quiet” Susan Cain
One of my favorite books I read in 2014. If you’re getting into the business of coaching, introverts will make up at least one-third of the people you work with. Cain argues we undervalue introverts and the impact they have on our culture. Well researched and includes many stories of real people to help substantiate her claims.

A book topic that I feel is missing in this list is leadership. Not that some of these books don’t touch on leadership, but I have yet to find anything particularly noteworthy that delves into the topic apart from a management book such as “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker. One book that highlights stories of prominent leaders and probably could have been number 11 on the list is “Mastery” by Robert Greene. Additionally, I own but have not yet read “Leaders Eat Last” by Simon Sinek who also wrote “Start With Why” (another book I highly recommend). Other nominations on leadership in the future would be “Resilience” by Eric Greitans which I’ve listened to part of as an audiobook, as well as “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.

Whether or not you are a coach, teacher, parent, or lover of learning, I hope this list serves you well.


Letter to My Younger Self

“Take time to appreciate your major wins and share them with your family and friends. Take advantage of your youth and enjoy it. The journey truly is the reward.” Pete Sampras

I came across an article written by Pete Sampras titled, “Letter to My Younger Self.” Whether or not you are a Pete Sampras fan like me, the life lessons he shares are insightful, and written with honesty. I highly recommend giving it a read.

Obviously, I can’t speak on what it feels like to live through fame, receive excessive praise and criticism, or feel the pressure of the world watching your every move. But a lot of what Sampras writes I believe everyone can relate to. Maybe this strikes a chord with me because I’ve always admired Pete Sampras. My dad was a fan and my family  grew up playing and watching tennis. My parents used to take my siblings and I over to my grandma and grandpa’s house where they built a court in their backyard. My grandparents loved watching the kids play. We would play for fun most of the time and sometimes competitively. Eventually my brother, my cousins, and I became good enough to play for teams outside of my grandparents’ backyard. I never took formal lessons, but I enjoyed the challenge of the sport enough to stick with it through middle school and early high school. I still remember competing with a small group of girls for the #1 ranked spot throughout middle school, and by 8th grade I was awarded the prestigious position of first singles. While my ego got a temporary boost, I was quickly humbled when I started getting my butt kicked by more talented and experienced athletes. Eventually, I decided to forego tennis to focus on softball which I was more successful in and enjoyed playing more. I still look back on that time and wonder if I gave up because I lost interest or because I couldn’t stand losing anymore. It was probably a mix of both. Like I said before, I can’t speak on what it feels like to accomplish all of the accolades Sampras did throughout his career. I quit tennis when I started to lose as the competition got stiffer (life lesson #1), but I did get a small glimpse of the physical and mental challenges of the sport.

Sampras’ letter to his younger self is not just for sports fans or tennis buffs. While I am a big supporter of the benefits of competing in sport, the messages he sends to his younger self can be applied to everyone. We all compete with our colleagues, spouses, family members, and ourselves every day. We face judgement, social pressure, and distractions often. Nobody is exempt from learning through successes and failures. Even at the ripe age of 28 years old I know there is some good advice I would offer my younger self today. It would be less about avoiding mistakes, and more about spending the time to process them, learn from them, and encourage myself to not give up at the first setback. I would be even more intrigued to see how a letter I would write today will compare to a letter I write ten years from now. Interestingly, it wouldn’t be the first letter I have written to my future self. A few years ago I took the CrossFit Goal Setting Course with Greg Amundson in Denver, Colorado. The last exercise he made us do before we left for the weekend was to write a letter to ourselves that would be mailed a year from that date. When I received the letter it took me three months to open it because of the fear that I had not lived up to my own expectations. That realization in itself was very formidable, and helped me acknowledge and embrace some self-imposed road blocks keeping me from growth. To this day I still have that letter and a picture of it which I carry with me as a reminder to never settle for less than what I’m capable of.

In closing, the biggest takeaway I gained from Sampras’ letter wasn’t how he tried to warn his younger self about all of his regrets and mistakes. It was about the perspective he had in light of the obstacles he faced. He expresses gratitude for experiencing failure and loss, appreciation for those who helped him along the way, and value for living in the present. At the end he says, “the journey truly is the reward.” Anybody who knows me understands how much I believe in the truth of that statement. While I believe ruminating over regrets from the past can be more destructive then helpful, deep reflection with an honest non-judgemental perspective is one of the healthiest exercises someone can do for themselves. So, thank you Pete Sampras for sharing your letter. If you wrote a letter to your younger self, would would it say?




 “Life is fleeting, impermanent, and uncertain. Therefore, we must make use of every moment and nurture it with affection, tenderness, beauty, creativity, and laughter.” Deepak Chopra

There is a lot of media coverage today. It is the 12th anniversary of 9/11, a day that deeply resonates in the hearts and minds of all people around the world, especially Americans. While it feels like the recounts of the day are hard to escape from, it’s hard not to  find myself reminiscing back to where I was on September 11th. I can vividly remember seeing our high school librarian crying hysterically in the hallway and wondering what happened. Our teacher turned on the TV in our classroom, and there was a picture of the twin towers on fire. The image, the shock, and the feeling of fear and helplessness will forever be imprinted in my memory. My mom once said she will always remember where she was the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. September 11th became the  pivotal news event of my lifetime.

It is amazing to think about how much the events that took place on September 11, 2001 changed the world. My perspective of feeling safe in an airport and other public places will never be the same. My respect for the individuals who devote their lives to protect and serve our country will never be the same. My gratitude to be a citizen of this country where freedom and opportunity is a privilege will never be the same.

My parents adopted me from South Korea when I was three months old. America is my country and my home. Sometimes I do think about what life would be like if I grew up in Korea or another country. I’m sure it would be very different. What I do know is I am proud to call myself an American.

Thank you to all of those who devote their lives to serve and protect our freedom.

Happiness of Pursuit

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit. Dennis Waitley

Happiness is a state of mind, obtainable at any time, in any moment of your choosing. It can be fleeting. One moment we believe we have acquired something that makes us happy, but in a blink of an eye it can be taken away from us. Like a child who drops his ice cream cone, one moment he is experiencing utter joy, and the next complete sadness and disappointment. Happiness can be temporary.

Our beliefs about what makes us happy are often influenced by other people. The media, our friends and family are all large players in what we believe should create happiness.  We live in a society where it is almost impossible to escape the influence of social media that continually entices us to become curious about what others are doing in their lives. The constant barrage of influence from others makes it easy to get stuck in this perpetual cycle of feeling like there is always something missing. Maybe it’s a new toy, getting the big promotion, or taking a vacation to just “get away” from it all.  But even after we acquire these things, what happens when that new toy becomes an old toy, the promotion includes more work of less of the things you love to do, and the vacation ends? Do these things stand the test of time? Do they bring you true happiness?

Maybe it’s not the pursuit of happiness we should concern ourselves with, but rather the pursuit of purpose, significance, and fulfillment. If we look to create meaning and a deep sense of purpose and value in our lives, then achieving happiness no longer becomes fleeting or temporary. It will have lasting permanency and realness.

So how do we create a fulfilling life? That is something each of us has to figure out for ourselves. One of the books I read this summer titled Man’s Search for Meaning by psychiatrist and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl gives a very powerful glimpse into human behavior and  searching for a life of meaning in the most horrific circumstances. Through his experiences Frankl emphasizes virtues worth pursuing include deep relationships, connection to community, a sense of well-being, contribution to others, and continual challenge, growth, learning and progress. It becomes less about reaching the end goal, and more about the journey itself and everything you learn through the process towards achievement. If more of us spent more time thinking about the ways we can create fulfillment in our lives, perhaps the elusiveness of the pursuit of happiness wouldn’t be so elusive after all.

Happiness is receiving and sharing, reaping and bestowing.
Happiness is found in taking the time to enjoy what you’re accomplished: enjoying the plateau, giving yourself credit when credit is due, patting yourself on the back for a job well done.
Happiness is the here and now.
Happiness isn’t the end result.
Happiness is part of the journey.
Jim Rohn



Imagine yourself doing what you love and loving what you do,

Being happy from the inside out,

Experiencing your dreams wide awake,

Being creative,

Being unique,

Being you –

Changing things to the way you know they can be –

Living the life you always imagined

The Beauty of Challenge


From time to time, usually in my quieter moments I still find myself reflecting on my regionals journey a few months ago. I think about the entire evolution of thoughts and emotions that took place within those six months. There were plenty of really amazing days and a lot more really hard days. The stress of training and all of the sacrifices that came with it took its toll both physically and mentally. On more then one occasion I found myself bursting into tears in the middle of workouts. This was unknown territory, and it was difficult to struggle through the process. I felt my body break down in ways I never experienced before and there were many moments towards the end where I honestly questioned whether or not  I could keep going. But in the darkest moments I kept coming back to a promise I made to myself to never give up.  While I had already achieved my goal of qualifying I still wanted to do my best, and I knew it would be way more painful to look back with regret if I knew in my heart I didn’t give it my best shot. Eventually I began to embrace the beauty inside of struggle. Instead of feeling upset, I started to feel thankful for the barriers standing in my way. When I started to see the challenges as opportunities to learn lessons about resiliency, mental fortitude and will, everything changed.

One of the reasons I enjoy coaching and competing in the sport of fitness is because it’s a great environment to witness individuals facing challenge on a daily basis.  True athletes thrive on competition. Competition brings out full effort. If you want to win more badly then you want to breathe, that is full effort. Competition brings out confidence. When you accomplish things you never thought you could do, you walk a little taller. Competition teaches you lessons you cannot simulate until you are there in the thick of it where there is only one way out and the choice is either to endure or not.

But in everyday life many of us gravitate towards escaping challenges. We want to stay in that comfort zone because it’s easier for the same reasons we avoid the struggle because it’s hard. But how do we find our true potential without facing challenges? You can’t. One of my newest mentors and  life coach recently shared her personal mantra with me:  “The only way out is through.” When we embrace the struggle we can let go of the resistance that limits us from reaching  true potential.  The ability to change our mindset and see facing challenge as a stepping stone rather than a road block is paramount to realizing the  benefits that emerge from getting through.

As humans, we all have tough days that challenge us. Our behaviors naturally  gravitate towards rejecting negative situations because it’s uncomfortable and sometimes painful. The truth is we will never be able to escape challenge and struggle because it is just another reality we face in the perpetual cycle of life. But how we choose to deal with the bad moments is what will ultimately define our ability to grow as individuals. If you can embrace the beauty in challenge and struggle, what will you learn about yourself? What will you learn about others? How will you approach difficult situations? You will only know by experiencing it for yourself, and the only way out is through.

Everything is a choice


“Everything is a choice. This is life’s greatest truth and its hardest lesson. It is a great truth because it reminds us of our power. Not power over others, but the often untapped power to be ourselves and to live the life we have imagined.” – Matthew Kelly

What will you see when you look at your life ten years from now? What will you choose?  That is a bit of a scary thought. It makes me think about the choices I have made throughout my life so far and how they have shaped who I am today. It is also liberating because I can appreciate the power of my ability to make choices that will shape my own future.

Life is filled with choices. You choose where you live, who your friends are, what you eat, and how you spend your time. You choose the thoughts you think. You choose to wake up in the morning excited, angry, or indifferent. Life is a choice. Fear is a choice. Courage is a choice.

This can be such a hard lesson because we forget that we have the freedom to make choices. Sometimes we are haunted by bad choices we made in our past that turn into feelings of resentment towards ourselves. Maybe we went down the wrong path at one point and have become discontent with where we are in our lives because of our lack of ability to make good choices. But inside the negative there is always a silver lining. The consequences of making bad choices can be the best life lesson you can learn. That is, if we choose to learn. We all have the same 24 hours in the day. It is up to us how we choose to use them.

It is our freedom to choose how we feel about ourselves. It is our decision to make excuses or take action. The power to choose is the power to change. It is up to us to choose to live the life we have imagined.