How I Met Carol Dweck

Have you ever heard of Carol Dweck?  She is the author of “Mindset”, a book about the importance of a person’s mental approach to life.  I read the book a couple years ago, and we used it this year as our  football team’s Leadership Council’s book study.  It is a really great book and I highly recommend it.  How I got to meet Dr. Dweck and have the opportunity to have  my picture taken with her will be explained later.

I have always been a “reader”.  From the time I first learned to read, I have surrounded myself with books.  It is probably not a surprise to anyone that many of the books I read have a football theme.   When I was in the 6th or 7th grade, I picked  up a book in our library called, “Instant Replay”, by Jerry Kramer.  It was the story about the Green Bay Packers, written by one of their offensive guards, Jerry Kramer.  I was completely amazed at the stories of Vince Lombardi, the coach of the Packers.  I would say that reading that book was one of the reasons I decided to become a football  coach.

At the library in Will Rogers Elementary(Go Eagles!), they had an assortment of little blue biographies that I loved to read.  I read about Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, George Washington, and many others.  I learned at a very early that a book could teach me anything about anything and take me anywhere in the world without leaving my room.  How great is that?  Being a reader means that you never stop learning.  You have the opportunity to continue your education for as long as you live.

One of the questions I always ask prospective coaches is, “What book are you presently reading?”  It gives me good insight to what kind of  person they are.  Are they hungry?  Are they satisfied?  Are they someone that will continually search to find a better way to do things?  I am a long way from being smart, but where would I be today if my knowledge was at its peak the day I graduated from college?  I don’t know about your career, but in the coaching  business, there are basically three ways you can improve:  1.  Watch hours and hours of film with intention  2.  listen to or observe great coaches  or  3.  Read great books.

What is a great book?  I’ll put a list on the bottom  of the page of some of my favorites, but the quick answer is that a great book is a book that makes me a better man, coach, father, leader,  teacher, or person  on this earth.  I don’t read a lot  of fiction, not because I don’t like it, but because I have limited time to read and I want to be get better and not just be entertained.  I have a wide variety of books that I enjoy.

  1.  Books written by great coaches    This one is the most  obvious for the most obvious reasons.  I want to learn the philosophies and thought processes of the great coaches.  It doesn’t matter what sport.  I have read and highly recommend  books by(or about) Bobby Knight, Rick Patino, John Wooden, Mike Leach, Bill Parcells, Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, Sean Peyton, Jim Tressel, Gary Barnett, Bill McCartney, Bill  Walsh, Vince Lombardi and many, many others.  If you want to become a great coach or a great anything for that matter, read about great coaches.
  2. Books written about great people or great leaders     The little blue biographies of my elementary school,  were some of the best books I have ever read.  I love to read about great people.  I  love to see how they think, how they respond to criticism,  and how they persevere during crisis.  I have read and recommend books about Warren Buffet, Robert E. Lee,  George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark,  George Patton, and many others
  3. Books by motivational gurus   I know that gurus sometimes have a bad reputation, but If you read a Zig Ziglar book and you aren’t motivated, you might not be able to become motivated.  I like books by Andy Andrews, John C. Maxwell, Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Simon Sinek, and many others.
  4. Books that make me think   When you are simple minded like I am, it is easy to find books that make you think.  These authors are guys like Malcomb Gladwell, Steven Levitt, James Altucher, Tim Elmore, Max Lucado, and others.

I always tell new head coaches that they must  remember that they are ultimately 100% responsible for everything that happens to their team.  Only the head coach has access to the “brake” and to the “accelerator”.   The head coach must watch and get to know his or her team to learn how much is too much and how little is too little.  Some of the biggest mistakes I have made as a coach is not using the brake and the accelerator properly.  Reading great books in a variety of different fields helps us to understand better the role we play as leaders in our organization.

I usually use a highlighter as I read a book to make sure I point out areas of the book that really hits home.  After I finish the book, I’ll make notes and save it to my computer.

As for Carol Dweck………I was given an award by a group in California called the Positive Coaching Alliance.  I got to go to California , meet a lot of really neat people, and be apart of a roundtable made up of three other coaches from all over the country.   The roundtable was a part of a banquet/fundraiser in which Billy Jean King was the keynote speaker.  At the beginning of the banquet, they introduced the dignitaries in attendance and one of those was Carol Dweck.  Throughout the entire banquet, I couldn’t concentrate because I was trying to figure out the best way to introduce myself to Dr. Dweck.  I carefully planned out my attack/approach.  Luckily, she had only one escape route, through the front door of the banquet hall.  My plan was to walk quickly to the middle of the room as soon as the banquet was over and cut her off at the pass.

I am afraid I scared the poor woman to death.  Dr. Dweck was very nice and very polite considering the fact that I almost stalking her.   She even agreed to take a picture with me which I will cherish for a long time.  I told her, “Dr. Dweck, I bet that when you wrote the book, you never dreamed that a bunch of high school football players,  in Arkansas, would sit in a circle every Sunday afternoon for 12 straight weeks and discuss your book.”  She smiled politely and said, “No, I didn’t.”

That is one of the great things about books.  You can connect with people all over the world from many different backgrounds and learn literally anything you want to learn.

I realize that a list of  30 books could be overwhelming, so I have put an * by the ones I consider most important.

I would also mention, that my 3rd grade Sunday school teacher back in Duncan, Oklahoma,  Cleo Singleton, would not be happy with me unless I mentioned the Bible.   You can make your own  mind up about how you feel about the Bible, but  to me, it is loaded with  stories of victory and defeat, great and horrible examples of leadership, and awesome lessons about how to serve and lead people.

Rick’s Reading List:

  1. The One Minute Manager*–Kenneth Blanchard
  2. Anything by Malcomb Gladwell
  3. Anything by Steven Levitts
  4. Generation iY*–Tim Elmore
  5. Instant Replay–Jerry Kramer
  6. Above the Line–Urban Meyer
  7. Inside Out Coaching*–Joe Ehrmann
  8. The Energy Bus–Jon Gordon
  9. Undaunted Courage–Stephen Ambrose
  10. Win Forever–Pete Carroll
  11. Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success–John Wooden and Jay Carty
  12. Talent is Overrated–Geoff Colvin
  13. Patriot Reign–Michael Holly
  14. It Starts With Why–Simon Sinek
  15. The Edge–Howard Ferguson
  16. Every Week a Season–Brian Curtis
  17. The Art of War–Sun Tzu
  18. How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies*–Dale Carnegie
  19. Finding the Winning Edge–Bill Walsh
  20. The Winner’s Manual*–Jim Tressel
  21. When Pride Still Mattered–David Maraniss
  22. The Education of a Coach–David Halberstam
  23. A Season of Life*–Jeffrey Marx
  24. Coaching by the Book and Coaching Character–Randy Allen
  25. Ted Talk about GRIT*–Angela Duckworth****I know its not a book, well, it actually now is a book
  26. The Sports Gene–David Epstein
  27. Spy the Lie–Philip Houston
  28. Coaching the 21st Century Athlete–Dr. Jeffrey Duke
  29. Steve Jobs–Walter Isaacson
  30. Mindset*–Carol Dweck

My self-imposed rule is that I must finish a book to buy a book, so these  are the books I have bought or planning to buy as soon as I finish the one I’m reading.  Of  course, the great thing about self-imposed rules is that I can self-unimpose them as well.


On deck:  Grit–Angela Duckworth;  Legacy–James Kerr:  Smarter, Faster, Better–Charles Duhigg;  The Talent Code–Daniel Coyle; The Pep Talk–Elko and Shook; The Champion’s Mind–Jim Afremow; Mans’ Search for Meaning–Viktor Frankl




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