My Personal Library and Highlights from 2017

Thoughts on Excellence Free E-Newsletter Series
Volume 16, Issue No. 9a
January 1, 2018

By Dan Coughlin

My Personal Library

I operate on the belief that leaders are readers. In order to influence other people effectively, I think it’s very important that we feed our minds on an on-going basis. Read articles to keep up with current events, and read books to expand your current thinking.

This was the year of really loooong books for me. Whatever happened to the days when 300 pages was considered a long book? Here are the books I read cover to cover this year:

  • Loyalty to Your Soul by Ron and Mary Hulnick (201 pages)
  • The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines (183 pages)
  • The Essential Muir by John Muir (126 pages)
  • Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success by John Wooden (157 pages)
  • Truman by David McCullough (992 pages)
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight (353 pages)
  • Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (234)
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (228 pages)
  • Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (940 pages)
  • Life with My Guardian Angel by Richard Bach (111 pages)
  • Lincoln’s Sword by Douglas Wilson (293 pages)
  • Make Your Bed by William McRaven (125 pages)
  • Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (731 pages)

I also read the first 200 pages of Eisenhower by Stephen Ambrose and the first 200 pages of Hitler: A Biography, Volume 1 by Volker Ullrich.

I read about Hitler to try to understand how such evil could have ever happened in the world, but 200 pages was all I could handle. Hitler simply saw no value in human beings. His life was a series of actions to increase his power. He knew he would likely die doing what he did, but he didn’t care. He went as far as he could in destroying people in order to have more power for himself. Make no mistake. His actions were not for Germany. They were for the sole purpose of his own power. He would have killed anyone if it would help his personal situation. When a man in a hotel in Las Vegas shot at thousands of people in an outdoor concert my first thought was of Hitler. This is what life is like when we don’t value human beings.

With Eisenhower I saw the power of a concept. What drove him more than anything else was the belief that democracy is a more powerful and sustainable concept than tyranny and dictatorship. He had prepared all of his adult life to lead the efforts to sustain democracy in the world. He valued humans and their right to have freedom in their lives.

That’s over 5000 pages of ideas poured into my little brain in 2017. I think reading is the lowest cost and highest return investment a person can make in his or her development.

Highlights from 2017

1. Coaching Individuals and Groups

This year I served as an Executive Coach, which I call a Thinking Partner, for 32 people in an individual coaching relationship. They worked in 10 different companies in four countries on three different continents. It was an absolute honor every day to wake up and have in-depth conversations about meaningful topics as these folks worked to improve results in a sustainable way.

This year for the first time I also created a six-month Group Coaching Program. I worked with 8 people from 8 different companies spread across the U.S. I learned so much from watching the interactions with these people. It was an honor to be with that group.

2. Three Trips

My family and I went on three very memorable trips this year: a week in New York City, a week at Carolina Beach, and a week-long Mission Trip in Denver. I saw the incredible glamour of NYC, the incredible peacefulness of North Carolina, and the incredible impact that a group of high school students can make in a week in the inner city of a major metropolitan area.

On the Mission Trip we had 70 people sleeping on the ground of a church. We were all literally right next to five other people every night. We were supposed to meet for breakfast at 7:30 AM on the first day. I asked my buddy, Gregg, what time he was going to get up. He said 5:30. I asked why. He said he wanted to get up and exercise. That little moment changed my life. I got up with him and went for a walk. And I did it the next day. And the next day. Between July 17th and December 1st I walked over 425 miles. I didn’t realize how simple it was to do that. Just set your alarm early, wake up, put on your shoes, and start walking. I hope to walk 800 miles in 2018.

3. Washington University Olin Business School: Cornerstones of Leadership

 In March I was invited to do my own one-day Executive Leadership Seminar at the Washington University Olin School of Business. It was called Cornerstones of Leadership. That was a great experience. There were 30 executives in the room from a wide range of great companies including Anheuser-Busch InBev, Express Scripts, and Edward Jones. It was so neat to watch the interactions and discuss questions on personal effectiveness and communications and leadership and teamwork. I can’t wait to do it again in May 2018.

4. Speaking to U.S. Military Groups

Perhaps the greatest honor of 2017 was when I gave three pro bono presentations to U.S. Military leadership groups at Fort Leonard Wood, Fort Carson, and U.S. Northern Command. For 60-90 minutes we dug into the topics that mean so much to me: personal effectiveness, understanding your Self, leadership, and teamwork.

At the end of each presentation I said, “It is hard for people like me to find ways to say thank you to people like you. But the main reason I came here was to say thank you for all that you do. And I’ll make a deal with you. As long as you promise to keep preserving freedom and protecting democracy, I promise to always speak for free to any U.S. military group.”

Republishing Articles

My newsletters, Thoughts on Excellence, have been republished in approximately 40 trade magazines, on-line publications, and internal publications for businesses, universities, and not-for-profit organizations over the past 20+ years. If you would like to republish all or part of my monthly articles, please send me an e-mail at with the name of the article you want in the subject heading. I will send you the article in a word document.

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