Talking To GOATs (book review)

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I’m a student of leadership, so I love to learn about what makes leaders “tick,” how they overcome obstacles and deal with adversity, and watch how they prepare themselves to be the best they can be. Broadcaster Jim Gray has had a front-row seat (literally!) to some of the most outstanding athletes in recent history, and he unpacks his stories about these leaders in his book Talking To GOATs. 

For those of you wondering, GOAT stands for “greatest of all time.” We’re talking about people who stand out from their peers over a long period of time, those who set the standard for everyone else, those who have so excelled that their sport has had to change things up to try to accommodate them! Superstars like Muhammad Ali, Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Mike Tyson, Hank Aaron, and Michael Phelps. 

Jim Gray’s book is a behind-the-scenes look at not only the hard work he put in to produce and present interviews with these GOATs, but also insights rarely seen of the intense work these athletes put in to become the GOATs of their particular sport. Jim shows us how both he and these athletes deal with setbacks, criticism, the challenges that come with success, and their own internal drive to keep being the best. 

This book isn’t all about athletes, but it’s a bit of a memoir of Jim’s life too. I really enjoyed learning about the role that Jim’s parents, and especially his dad, played in helping Jim get into these “front row seats” to cover these amazing athletes. Jim is also very candid about how he has processed the inevitable criticism that comes from interviewing a certain athlete in a way that not every fan appreciated. It was a very enjoyable read. 

The sports fans in your life will almost certainly know who Jim Gray is, and they will love hearing what went into some of the more memorable moments in sports broadcasting. My son gave me this book as a gift and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I know that the sports fans that you love will also give you kudos if you send Talking To GOATs their way.

Miracles Out Of Somewhere (book review)

Fans of the band Kansas will recognize that the title of Kerry Livgren’s book is just a slight variation from one of the band’s well-known songs. Miracles Out Of Somewhere recognizes both the miracles and the Source of those miraculous encounters. 

For my listening enjoyment, I am always quick to pull up anything written by Kerry Livgren—his solo work, Kansas, AD, or Proto-Kaw are musical masterpieces and lyrically enriching. One of Kerry’s songs was entitled “Miracles out of nowhere,” in which we are surprised by the serendipitous occurrences that cross our paths. But in this book, Kerry makes it clear that he sees God at work in his life. 

Miracles Out Of Somewhere is a memoir spanning all of Kerry’s life. He takes us back to his boyhood home, to the pre-Kansas days, to the heyday of Kansas, and to his life since leaving the popular rock band. The book is not written in chronological order, but almost as if Kerry were sitting on the front porch and reminiscing with you. 

I have always found Kerry (and all his Kansas bandmates) to be very down-to-earth guys. They enjoyed their success without letting it go to their head. This book has that same accessible, guy-next-door feel to it, which makes it extremely engaging and enjoyable. Kerry simply shares his stories and lets the reader come to their own conclusion of what sort of miracle may (or may not) have happened. 

If you enjoy the music of Kerry Livgren, I think you will appreciate the messages in his songs even more after taking this behind-the-scenes tour with him. 

ADDED BONUS REVIEW: The band Kansas has a rockumentary about the band’s beginnings and its “miracles” that put them on top of Billboard’s greatest hits. This Miracles Out Of Nowhere DVD is very enjoyable and well worth the time of any Kansas fan. 

Book Reviews From 2020

War As I Knew It (book review)

Throughout my life, I’ve had the privilege of meeting World War II soldiers who fought in the Third Army in Europe. I’ve said to them, “Oh, so you were Patton’s man.” And the response is always the same, “Yes sir!” they proudly respond with a smile. General George Patton was a unique military leader, and his memoirs called War As I Knew It capture his uniqueness. 

George Patton lived as if he were always in pursuit of something big. He always pushed himself, those under his command, and even those in leadership over him, to keep moving forward. His memoirs cover the final 2+ years of World War II, from the time he landed his troops in Africa until Germany surrendered. 

Patton’s Third Army was an unstoppable force! They covered more ground, took more territory, captured or killed more enemy combatants, liberated more cities, and destroyed more enemy material than any other army in US history! This was because of Patton’s drive, and because of his strenuous personal preparation before the war even started. 

These memoirs record Patton’s successes, but he also is transparent enough to list where he miscalculated and where he was simply a beneficiary of good fortune. 

For students of leadership, US history, or military history, War As I Knew It is a very insightful book. 

Book Reviews From 2019

The Autobiography Of Charles Spurgeon (book review)

For a man who preached up to 10 times per week for nearly 40 years, you would think that people knew all about Charles Spurgeon’s personal life. Although he frequently used some small personal examples in his sermons, he still kept much of his personal life personal. In reading Spurgeon’s Autobiography, I expected to get an inside look, but that was not what I found. 

Like his sermons, Spurgeon’s Autobiography was fascinating. Like his sermons, his recollections of his past are thoroughly steeped in Scripture. I love this! This shows us that this Prince of Preachers didn’t just put on a performance when he stepped into his pulpit, nor did he simply teach Christian principles for others to apply only to their lives; instead, we see a man who truly patterned his life after the Bible. 

I also love the honesty in Spurgeon’s stories. He tells of his struggles before and after his conversion. He talks openly of his disagreements with some “church” people that didn’t behave very Christ-like. He discusses his battles with depression, and with those who were outright critics of his ministry. In other words, Spurgeon reveals himself without putting himself on some sort of pedestal. 

Charles Spurgeon’s sermons are always a delight to read, but I think you will find in his Autobiography a living sermon that we can all emulate. 

Book Reviews From 2018

The Strenuous Life (book review)

I just finished reading Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography, so it was quite fascinating to read some of the speeches he was giving during the same periods he covered in his memoirs. TR practiced what he preached, and one of his consistent messages is that anything worthwhile is worth the strenuous effort it takes to get it. This collection of speeches is called The Strenuous Life. 

TR himself described the strenuous life like this: 

“The doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife: to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph. … A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual.” 

In The Strenuous Life, you will read the consistent message TR delivered to a wide variety of people—from the rough-and-tumble outdoorsmen and women, to the diplomats attending a World’s Fair, to business people—nothing of lasting value ever came to those who sat around and waited for it to come to them. The strenuous life is one of initiative, of hard work, of sacrifice, of perseverance, and ultimately a life rewarded by self-satisfaction in a job well done. 

This book is inspiring as a stand-alone read, but I highly recommend you read it in conjunction with TR’s Autobiography, as it adds an extra level of insight to both works. 

9 Quotes From Theodore Roosevelt’s Autobiography

Theodore Roosevelt never pulled his punches! And you could never misunderstand exactly what he was saying. Check out my review of his autobiography by clicking here, and then enjoy some of these straight-shooter quotes from TR. 

“With soul of flame and temper of steel we must act as our coolest judgment bids us. We must exercise the largest charity towards the wrong-doer that is compatible with relentless war against the wrong-doing. We must be just to others, generous to others, and yet we must realize that it is a shameful and a wicked thing not to withstand oppression with high heart and ready hand. With gentleness and tenderness there must go dauntless bravery and grim acceptance of labor and hardship and peril.” 

“The necessity of character as the chief factor in any man’s success—a teaching in which I now believe as sincerely as ever, for all the laws that the wit of man can devise will never make a man a worthy citizen unless he has within himself the right stuff, unless he has self-reliance, energy, courage, the power of insisting on his own rights and the sympathy that makes him regardful of the rights of others.” 

“I never won anything without hard labor and the exercise of my best judgment and careful planning and working long in advance.” 

“For I then held, and now hold, the belief that a man’s first duty is to pull his own weight and to take care of those dependent upon him; and I then believed, and now believe, that the greatest privilege and greatest duty for any man is to be happily married, and that no other form of success or service, for either man or woman, can be wisely accepted as a substitute or alternative.” 

“I did not then believe, and I do not now believe, that any man should ever attempt to make politics his only career. It is a dreadful misfortune for a man to grow to feel that his whole livelihood and whole happiness depend upon his staying in office. Such a feeling prevents him from being of real service to the people while in office, and always puts him under the heaviest strain of pressure to barter his convictions for the sake of holding office.” 

“No man can lead a public career really worth leading, no man can act with rugged independence in serious crises, nor strike at great abuses, nor afford to make powerful and unscrupulous foes, if he is himself vulnerable in his private character. … He must be clean of life, so that he can laugh when his public or his private record is searched; and yet being clean of life will not avail him if he is either foolish or timid. He must walk warily and fearlessly, and while he should never brawl if he can avoid it, he must be ready to hit hard if the need arises. Let him remember, by the way, that the unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly.” 

“I am glad to see wrong-doers punished. The punishment is an absolute necessity from the standpoint of society; and I put the reformation of the criminal second to the welfare of society. But I do desire to see the man or woman who has paid the penalty and who wishes to reform given a helping hand—surely every one of us who knows his own heart must know that he too may stumble, and should be anxious to help his brother or sister who has stumbled. When the criminal has been punished, if he then shows a sincere desire to lead a decent and upright life, he should be given the chance, he should be helped and not hindered; and if he makes good, he should receive that respect from others which so often aids in creating self-respect—the most invaluable of all possessions.” 

“My duty was to stand with every one while he was right, and to stand against him when he went wrong.” 

“We must ever judge each individual on his own conduct and merits, and not on his membership in any class, whether that class be based on theological, social, or industrial considerations.” 

More quotes coming soon! You can subscribe to this blog to be notified when more quotes are published, and you can also check out the quotes I publish daily on Tumblr. 

Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography (book review)

Without a doubt, Theodore Roosevelt is one of my all-time favorite US Presidents. Not only for the policies he enacted, but for the large life he led—frontiersman, commissioner of police, governor, Vice President, President, explorer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate. This man did it all, and wrote about it in a very straightforward style in Theodore Roosevelt: An Autobiography. 

In telling his life’s story, Theodore Roosevelt (TR) compiles each chapter around a “role” in his life. For instance, a chapter on his childhood, one on his time in the American frontier, one on his work as police commissioner in New York City, and so forth. Not only does he tell what he did, but he explains why he did it and the lessons he learned along the way. 

Other people played important roles in his life, and TR was quick to recognize competent and loyal people, make them his friends for life, and then put them in positions where they could do the most good for the most people. I have a hunch that this was started by the way his father raised him. Very early in the book, TR writes about his father—

“My father, Theodore Roosevelt, was the best man I ever knew. He combined strength and courage with gentleness, tenderness, and great unselfishness. He would not tolerate in us children selfishness or cruelty, idleness, cowardice, or untruthfulness. As we grew older he made us understand that the same standard of clean living was demanded for the boys as for the girls; that what was wrong in a woman could not be right in a man. … I never knew anyone who got greater joy out of living than did my father, or anyone who more whole-heartedly performed every duty.” 

TR truly lived an oversized life and left an indelible stamp on the American landscape that can still be seen and felt today. This is truly an enjoyable book to read! 

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