Quiet Professional: On Professional Reading

By Rob Shaul

I suggest four distinct professional reading categories:

1) Wisdom Literature

This is the philosophical, foundational ideas and thinking quiet professionals need to keep us grounded and reset efforts when our foundation gets “squishy” or when we feel spiritual unease. Ideally, we read snippets of this daily – and often from a narrow 1-3 texts or books where each page carries an important grounding lesson or message.

My go-to wisdom literature is stoicism. Others commonly use religious texts like the Bible and Koran, or famous personal leadership works like Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Successful People.

In my experience, all wisdom shares these attributes: specific guidance for day-to-day living, lessons on humility, and no escape from personal responsibility.

My personal wisdom literature reading bounces between these:

– Art of Living: The Classical Manual on Virtue, Happiness, and Effectiveness by Epictetus and Sharon Lebel

– The Emperor’s Handbook by Marcus Aurelius

– Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

– Do the Work by Steven Pressfield

– Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield


2) Job/Career-Specific Technical Literature and Publications

This type of professional reading includes both classic textbooks and volumes, as well as the more recent books on new theories procedures and current technical publications, magazines, blogs, websites, etc.

This is the reading professionals do to ensure they understand the agreed-upon foundational principles of their job/career, as well as the latest thinking and theories.

In my world as a Strength & Condition Coach, my go-to textbook is Science and Practice of Strength Training by Zatisiorski and Kraemer.

Books with theories and approaches that I’ve deployed with success include: 

The Strength Coach’s Playbook by Joe Kenn

Athletic Development by Vern Gambetta

– Advances in Functional Training by Mike Boyle

Bigger Faster Stronger by Greg Shepard

Practical Programming by Rippetoe and Baker

Newhall: A Tactical Analysis by Mike Wood

Left of Bang by Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley

Blogs, websites and current publications are also important sources of technical literature and reading which help quiet professionals keep up with the latest thinking in their occupations. Monthly I review the scholarly and other publications produced by the National Strength & Conditioning Association, as well as other similar organizations. I also read Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Outside Magazine, Powder, Climbing and other media which can sometimes include ideas and techniques we can deploy with our athletes and in our programming.

While everything you read in your Wisdom Literature list is valuable, the same is not true for the Job/Career-specific Technical Reading. At least in my world, a lot of what is produced is regurgitated or flawed somehow. Over time I’ve developed a ruthless “bullshit” filter and am able to quickly identify ideas and new approaches that have merit.

The Arete post we produce each week as part of our newsletter, Beta, links to several blogs and websites in the mountain and tactical worlds which are technical sources for our athlete population. These include policy, current event, tactical and gear information.


3) Career-Specific Leadership, Case Study, Biographies, Histories

Little of this type of professional reading is produced in the strength and conditioning world, but there are volumes of valuable resources here in the tactical and mountain professional worlds. This reading is in the form of books and can include biographies, histories, and case/study/event books.

On the tactical side, examples include:

Dereliction of Duty: Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff by HR McMaster

The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today by Thomas Ricks

Black Hawk Down and Hue 1968 by Mark Bowden

Young Men and Fire by Norman McClean

On Killing and On Combat by Dave Grossman

On the Mountain Side, examples include:

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Touching the Void by Joe Simpson

Accidents in North American Climbing, 2017 by American Alpine Club

Last year we asked the MTI Community for professional reading recommendations under this category. Click HERE for the suggestions. Athlete types include Military, LE, Fire/Rescue (urban), Fire/Rescue (Wildand), Alpinism, and Backcountry Skiing.


4) Expansion Literature – Non-Fiction

This is the non-fiction reading quiet professionals do outside their career field to help keep abreast of this fast-changing world we live in, as well as foundational works and latest thinking in other areas. I call this “Expansion” literature as its goal is to help break out of our own career fields and diversify our experience and thinking.

Note this is non-fiction reading. While reading great fiction can also “expand” our personal lives, I consider fiction reading entertainment, not personal leadership or development. You may disagree!

Last year I posted 11 Must-Reads which highlighted specific “Expansion” literature I recommended for others. This list included a biography of Elon Musk, book on the growing power of networks, book on mental fitness, and Sapiens – a Brief History of Humankind.


Questions? Email coach@mtntactical.com

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