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I worked in higher education for two decades, and I’ve also been a columnist for elitefts.com for nearly a decade. During this time, I’ve presented and spoke about standards and culture and how we do what we do. I believe most universities enjoy these meetings because they make people feel good about how they are investing their time at work. This isn’t an insult to higher education. It’s the truth of human nature.
A few years ago, I came up with my personal philosophy while sitting in one of these meetings. My philosophy fits into this saying: “To improve the student through and of the human body.” This was my standard, and today as general manager of Union Fitness (UF), the only thing that has changed is that instead of students, I’m trying to improve all who enter our doors.
How do you set your standard?
At times, I find myself frustrated when someone does something differently than how I wanted it done. At that moment, I take a step back and remember that it’s my fault. As the leader of UF, I’m in charge, and if we fail the employees or members, I’ve failed each of you. I must lead and make it clear to each and every person what we are trying to accomplish. Decide what your standards are and then communicate them.
In my first month on the job, we came up with the standards that we expect here. This was the seven tenants that we should follow. I posted them and shared these widely. After they were shared, I failed in making sure that we lived these each and every day. Cody Miller reminded me of this a few weeks ago when he asked if I could repeat all seven and I couldn’t. This made me realize that I failed my own standard.
During this unprecedented time, we all are at home. I ask you to set your standard and ask yourself what you can do to not only make yourself better but make our world a better place to be. With this in mind, let me shift gears and give you a few books that I recommend. I hope you take this time to learn and grow.
Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior by Ori and Brafman: This book taught me about investing my time. Too often, we do something and it fails. Then we do it again without making the necessary changes. This book shows real life examples of how we must change our behavior in order to grow.
The Jungle by Upton Sinclair: I strongly believe that reading fiction and non-fiction alike will help us understand culture and humanity. While this book is famous for changing how we look at the meat packing industry, it really is more about humanity.
Under the Bar by Dave Tate: If you’re reading this, I assume you train. Follow what Dave has learned through his long lifting and coaching career.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink: I have a funny story about this book. Someone sent me this book and there was no return address. I put the book in my computer bag and planned to read it soon. I forgot about it until someone broke into my car and stole my computer bag. A few days later I was walking down the road and saw that my elderly neighbor had a bag that was in her yard (down a wall). I jumped down to grab her bag. When I grabbed it, I noticed that it was my bag and the books were still in it. This is the lesson of the book. Own your responsibilities. The person who broke into my car should probably read this book.
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: Michael is one of the best authors of our time. He has written on a wide range of topics and always has an amazing way of tying his topic into how it affects society.
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond: Actually, just read anything that Jared Diamond has ever written. Much like Michal Pollan, Diamond’s books run the gamut of topics, and he ties everything into how it affects humanity.
Into the Wild and Into Thin Air by John Krakauer: I’ve read every book that John Krakauer has written and I highly recommend that you find any of his books and enjoy his easy writing style and amazing stories of human survival.
To the Last Breath by Francis Slakey: This book has haunted me for years. Francis Slakey has an amazing story about climbing the highest peak on each of the seven continents while also surfing every ocean. During his trips, he learns about humanity as well as his connection to the greater world.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet and listen to many of these authors speak. I was on NPR with Michael Pollan and have shared emails with many of these other authors. I would to see what books you recommend, so please comment on our Instagram page with your thoughts.