Five Non-Running Books All Runners Should Read

One of the simplest and best ways to engage more with training is to read. And there are an "infinite-minus-one" number of running books out there to read. Thankfully, Alan and Liz are reviewing them all! (Their reviews of Make the Leap are here.)

Someday, I may highlight my favorite running books. But today, I want to do something a little different. I want to highlight five non-running books that will make you a better runner.


How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams

Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, but he's also a trained hypnotist, a student of persuasion, a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and daily vlogger. This book reframes many aspects of life into practical, applicable frameworks. Perhaps the two biggest and most important frameworks he provides are the Talent Stack and Systems vs Goals.

The Talent Stack is the idea that having many complementary talents can be more powerful than being an expert in one. I prefer my mental model of a Skills Network and Multiplier Skills over his, but the main idea is the same: unique combinations of skills can create more opportunities for success than being an expert in one area.

Systems vs Goals is his way of framing how we should behave on a daily basis to get results. Systems are simple activities we can do that are positive and set us up for success. He recommends we focus more on systems than goals. This framework influenced my thinking as I wrote chapters 8 and 9, which cover purposeful practice vs systems.

He also has a small section on Simplifiers vs Optimizers, which I found useful. He uses it to describe different approaches to life, but I think it's particularly useful to use both approaches strategically to solve different problems. I wrote about this in my newsletter.


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo is a bit kooky, very extreme, and probably a difficult person to live with. She's also a genius and managed to take an everyday problem like clutter and boil it down to its essence: decision-making.

Her methods for folding clothes and organizing your room, and her rules for where you put things will all provide some order to your life. But the real value is in the power of making small, priority-based decisions. Many of us are not able to make tough decisions about what matters to us, precisely because we don't have enough practice doing it.

Kondo's approach forces you to do this for literally the smallest items in your life, and the result is you get to make a hundred, a thousand, maybe ten thousand decisions about what matters. Once you've done it enough, you will find yourself doing it in bigger areas of your life. And then everything changes. Including your training.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

This is my favorite business book and it is the book I'm most utilizing as I attempt to slowly grow awareness and impact with Make the Leap. I had the opportunity to interview Geoff Woods, who runs the training/consulting company based on the book, and it is easily one of the most referenced and best reviewed episodes I've done.

There are a ton of breakthrough ideas in this book but the two that stand out to me are the dominos metaphor and the forcing question. The book challenges us to align our lives like a bunch of dominos, so that when we knock over the first one, it knocks over the next, and then the next, and so on. And thinking this way forces us to figure out: what is the best first domino?

The forcing question is very simple: what is the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary? Obviously, if you can figure this one thing out in your school, or your work, or your family, life gets easier. The same goes for your training.


The Art of Thinking Cleary by Rolf Dobelli

This book has a simple premise: to catalog all of the most common cognitive biases that affect how we think. Dobelli writes 99 short chapters for each of the biases or errors we are prone to making.

The key takeaway for me was that so much of how we view the world is both hard-wired and ineffective. We can't completely change how we think, but by being aware of the major biases that affect us, we can at least be better than the next person at identifying when they are influencing us.

A couple of the ideas I first encountered here that have stuck with me are hindsight bias--our overconfidence at predicting the future because we feel we understand the past--and decision fatigue--the more emotionally drained we are the more likely we are to make rash and poor decisions. 

Obviously there are 97 more, and a great many of them directly apply to how we think about training. One way to get an edge is to think better about what you are doing.


How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon

Clayton Christensen is arguably the premier "business thinker" of the past few decades. He coined or explained the theories of disruption, jobs-to-be-done, and consulted with countless companies. And as a teacher, he was equally renowned.

This book is based on a class he taught at Harvard Business School and it covers tons of business concepts. But here's the thing: he applies them to our personal lives. And the result is a set of frameworks that will not only improve how you think about your life, but your training as well.

His chapter on two-factor motivation will make you think differently about what motivates you (and what doesn't) and his chapter on Full Costs vs Marginal Costs will hopefully make you think differently about those small decisions we all make day in and day out. 

(I've previously written articles about two-factor motivation and full vs marginal costs for Go Be More.)


Make the Leap was influenced by many of the core ideas in these books, and adapts and applies a number of them to a running context. Order your copy using the button below! 


Disclaimer: this article includes affiliate links to Amazon. I will receive a small commission for any purchase you make. I do not recommend any product I have not personally used nor will you ever pay more for a product as a result of using these links.