Chris Cooper’s Best Books of 2021 for Gym Owners

Chris Cooper

Mike (00:02):

It’s book week on Two-Brain Radio. In this episode, bookworm and best-selling author Chris Cooper checks in with his book recommendations for gym owners in 2021. You might be surprised which books made his list and which books you can skip.

Chris (00:15):

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Chris (00:54):

What are the top five lessons that you’ve learned from books that have actually helped your business? I’m Chris Cooper and my current Audible library hit 150 books and I’m on my third account.

Chris (01:07):

Now my bookshelves at home and work are overflowing and I try to give books away after I’ve read them. I listen to at least an hour of podcasts every day. I read blogs, I take courses and I doubt I’m alone out there. So what in those thousands of hours of acquiring knowledge has actually made a measurable difference in my business? As I was preparing this list for 2021, I struggled with that question. I don’t just want to give you a list of popular books or well-written books or books that come from authors I like. I want to give you a list of books that actually created more money or time for me. So here we go. My best books of the last 12 months for gym owners, with the specific lesson and the value included in each one. In no particular order, starting with “$100M Offers: How to Make Offers So Good People Feel Stupid Saying No” by Alex Hormozi.

Chris (01:58):

If you’re thinking about selling a high ticket item, or you just need to understand why some gyms can charge 10 times what you’re charging, then this is a great book and it’s a really easy read. The second and third sections of this book are particularly helpful because they force you to see your business through the eyes of your client and rearrange your services accordingly. Your value is determined by your client, not by your price and building a client centric business requires you to step into the client’s shoes. Here’s the best exercise in the book. Think about the problems that your clients will encounter when they’re trying to lose weight, for example. Then brainstorm all the ways you could solve these problems, including even like moving into their house and making every meal for them. Then identify the strategy from your list that will get the client the desired result, but take up the least amount of your time.

Chris (02:49):

And this client centric approach is a real dose of reality for professionals who just want to coach group classes all day, like me. It’s probably what your clients actually need to their problems that is going to drive your business and just running classes all day is not going to solve all their problems. The second book is “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” by Greg McKeown. Now we all over-deliver, but are we really best to give our clients everything? Or would we be better off giving them only the exact thing that they need when they need it? So this book serves as a great audit to the book that I just went through the, hundred million dollar offers, because instead of just thinking about like, what else can I pile on to what I’m giving the client? You need to think like, what is actually going to have an effect here and more and more coaches get paid for producing results, not for offering their service.

Chris (03:42):

So I’m actually super guilty of this. Our Two-Brain Growth ToolKit has over 400 courses on it because I want to give gym owners everything they could possibly need, curated by proof and arranged in order of impact, but nobody needs all 400 things. And if you give gym owners a list of 400 things that they could do, they’re going to try and do them all. So that’s why we have mentors to guide gym owners to the thing that they actually need to do out of all 400 possibilities. And after reading Greeg McKeown’s book, my fears were confirmed. I need to give people only the most important things to do, not a list of everything that they could do. So in your gym, this means removing options instead of adding them. It means telling clients exactly what they need with full transparency, instead of just suggesting what you think they can afford or giving them like an unlimited option.

Chris (04:33):

And they can just make up their own mind. It means constantly auditing your time and using measuring sticks like effective hourly rate to keep you focused. Value doesn’t always mean more in our current age of overwhelm, value usually means just enough. My third book is “Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for all the Performances in Your Life” by Michael Port. How will a book on public speaking make you a better coach? I mean, you can already yell really, really loud, right? I mean, I used to practice singing in my truck on the way to work to get my vocal cords warmed up so that I could yell super loud thinking that would get a better result for my clients. But it will help you just to think about your one hour class or your 30-minute session as a performance.

Chris (05:23):

And that performance has an introduction period, a slow build of excitement that leads to like a climax and then a finale that leaves everybody happy. Planning your sessions this way means your clients will be more excited about your service. And Michael Port does a great job of breaking that down step-by-step in the book. It will also help you keep your clients coming back. And for me it meant no more boring conversations in client sessions. You know what I’m talking about, right? You have five personal training clients in a row and you start the same conversation with each one over and over, and then you get bored and then you get tired and Port’s book changed all that for me. When you lead a class or a session, you step on stage. Most of the time you’re with a client, you are on stage and they rarely ever see backstage and they shouldn’t. They won’t remember how much you know, but how engaging, how interested and how entertaining you were. Bored clients quit.

Chris (06:18):

And it doesn’t mean you need to wear tap shoes, but it does mean you should think about how you present yourself. The next book is “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day” by Jay Shetty. Now, if I were arranging and presenting these books in order of importance or relevance to me, I would probably put Shetty’s book at the top. I’m in the tinker phase of entrepreneurship. And that means I have to spend, I get to spend a lot of time in my own head and think like a monk was the first book I’ve ever actually finished and then replayed right away. I even went through it three times before I moved on to the next book. It’s that good. Shetty takes all the mysticism out of meditation, mindfulness, and inner peace. He gives you great stories from his time as a monk, but then he provides specific exercises to calm yourself, to refocus and to de-stress.

Chris (07:09):

This book is like an operating system for the modern brain. You don’t need to learn to meditate, although Shetty talks you through it, but you can use his quick exercises every single day. In my office, I keep a few boxes full of books just to give them away. And I keep a dozen copies of how to win friends and influence people. Rich dad, poor dad. My super me that I give to kids and I give them a way to any entrepreneur who just walks into the cafe. Shetty’s book is the fourth that I’ve purchased in bulk for that exact purpose. The next book is “The Dichotomy of Leadership: Balancing the Challenges of Extreme Ownership to Lead and Win” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. I read this one because Jocko headlined our summit in 2021. And the book was a huge surprise. I really liked this book more than extreme ownership, which I really liked because while extreme ownership can be summed up on the back of a napkin, this book, the dichotomy of leadership was a real revelation.

Chris (08:06):

Great leadership is really about clarity in the moment, but balance in the long term. It’s easy for me as a business mentor to answer every question with it depends, but this book is an amazing illustration of the dichotomies many leaders face, how opposing answers can be right at different times and how to maintain a balanced perspective for a long time. Great leaders have playbooks, but they know which plays to call out of those playbooks and when to call them. What the dichotomy of leadership really did for me was show me in a really demonstrative way that as you get more and more successful, there are fewer and fewer black and white answers. Usually what you’re trying to do is maintain balance instead of just trying to make things like, you know, follow this script or maintain this perfect black and white template.

Chris (08:58):

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Chris (09:31):

And when you’re in the earlier phases, founder phase, I mean, you can follow a script. Farmer phase. You can follow a template and you can tweak it a little bit, but you can follow the data and just do what the best gyms do. When you’re in the tinker phase. You don’t have that much data. You don’t have those scripts.

Chris (09:48):

And so for a lot of times, what you have to do is understand, like there’s a certain balance that has to be achieved between for example, like discipline and creativity. And the dichotomy of leadership is a great book to illustrate that. The next book on my list is “Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life” by Jordan Peterson. I was a fan of Peterson’s last book, but this one actually made me a fan of Jordan Peterson. In this book, Peterson actually argues in support of a perspective that’s opposite the position in his first book. And that takes a really flexible mind to do so. For example, Peterson says, and I’m paraphrasing here. It’s OK if you don’t want to go to church, it’s OK if you’re not a Christian. But what system of values are you replacing Christianity with? Now any answer according to Peterson is fine, but if you don’t have a system of values that you can follow and you can explain to others or teach your kids, then you don’t really have a system of values.

Chris (10:44):

And that means that you’re acting on whims all the time. And you’re unpredictable to the people around you who are counting on you to be predictable. Now, Peterson isn’t arguing for Christianity or for religion or against Christianity or against religion. He’s advocating for systems. Many people attend church because they like the routines, the processes, the atmosphere, or something else. They’re comforted by the predictability of church. They know the people, they know the hymns. They know what time it starts. They know when to kneel and when to sit and when to stand. And these are all systems and we can learn from them. Clearer systems are better. Repetition is better. Consistency is better. Familiarity, predictability. These are better. And of course these systems can be taken to the extreme and, you know, Peterson shares those examples too. But putting rules in place in your gym doesn’t make you OCD.

Chris (11:38):

They make you trustworthy and predictable. And that’s the great message to take away from this. The next book is a Dan Sullivan book and I’ll warn you like every Dan Sullivan book is an entry point into the Dan Sullivan rabbit hole. So this wasn’t the only Dan Sullivan book that I read this year by a long shot. I probably read about 12, but “Who Not How” is a fantastic, simple premise that any gym owner can follow for choosing the right people, empowering those people properly, mentoring them to the result that you want, and then moving on and elevating yourself as an entrepreneur. So, Sullivan is really big on systems. So this isn’t just another, just get the right people on the bus book. Instead Sullivan suggests finding doers and then mentoring them to success. So for example, Sullivan gets pitched on a dozen new ideas every week.

Chris (12:33):

And most of them sound like Dan, you should do this, but occasionally somebody will say, Hey, Dan, I can do this thing for you if you give me permission. And that’s an extremely different premise. So in those cases, Dan gives the person permission or time or money or whatever they need. And they build something that he didn’t have time to build on his own. And this book is actually a great example of that. The top lesson in the book is that you can’t just hire people and expect them to move your business forward. Instead, you have to wait for the right people who can tell you exactly what they’ll do, and then remove barriers for them. I’ll give an example. A gym owner in Two-Brain had this new client come on board, and this new person was a great connector. And she had this background, this new client had this background in marketing and sales.

Chris (13:21):

And so the gym owner says, oh, I feel like I got a great opportunity here. You know, I should put this person in charge of my marketing or my sales, or, you know, I should pay them to introduce me to other clients or how should I incentivize them? And the right answer is you don’t. Or you ask that person, how will you market my business? Or how will you sell my business? Or how will you get me more clients? And if they don’t know the answer to that, then all that’s really happening is you, the gym owner are going to be hiring this person and frustrated when they can’t produce results. And you’re going to wind up trying to teach them everything that, you know, instead of just doing it yourself. And the worst thing that happens is that this person takes a seat that could be taken by somebody who would do the marketing and sales for you.

Chris (14:06):

So it’s a great book because it explains not just like how to find the right people, but also how to find the people who will do the work on their own and then how to mentor them to optimize the results that you get. And this is, Who Not How is a clearer version of Sullivan’s simplifier, multiplier collaboration, but I also recommend his books “Always Be the Buyer” and “Who Do You Want to Be a Hero to?” The next book that I recommend in 2021 is “Get Different” by Mike Michalowicz. So Michalowicz does a lot with Two-Brain. He celebrated his book launch in our tinker group a few weeks ago. He came on and presented, and we had a super fun brainstorming session with him. In this book, instead of Mike’s usual tactical approach to business, though, he went broad. He taught some foundational lessons for entrepreneurs and in this book get different Michalowicz shares a few lessons that are both important and timeless.

Chris (15:01):

So for example, his dad framework for marketing is really simple, but a lot of gym owners actually fail at marketing because they don’t provide an affirmative answer to one of these three questions. So the dad principle is this, does it differentiate? Does it attract? And does it direct? So all of your marketing, all of your advertising should differentiate. You attract the right people and then direct those people on exactly what to do. For example, can clients who are thinking about joining the gym, tell the difference between your gym and the one down the street without setting foot inside. Are they attracted by the pictures and media they see, or are you pushing people away? And do you tell them exactly what steps to take next? Or are you just putting up cool pictures on Instagram. These duh I should’ve thought of that revelations. At least that’s how I feel when I read these books, these are what makes Michalowicz’s books worth reading. Genius makes the complex simple and Michalowicz does a great job of simplifying marketing in this book, just like he simplified, profit first in profit first, just like he simplified seed client interviews.

Chris (16:10):

And what’s really important in the pumpkin plan. Now there’s a couple of books you can skip in 2022. And I said that this year I read well over a hundred books. My average is over a hundred. Sometimes I get up to 150 books in a year. There are a couple of books that I think you should skip because I was really excited for these books. I told people I was excited about them and then people went out and bought them. But I think, you know, as gym owners, you really have to police your time really well. And so this list was curated to highlight the best books that you should read, but there are also a couple that were disappointments this year that I think you can skip. So first is B E 2.0, which is short for beyond entrepreneurship.

Chris (16:52):

2.0, turning your business into an enduring great company by Jim Collins, man, I feel like I’m stabbing myself here, but I’m a huge Jim Collins fan, right? I once got this voicemail from Jim Collins praising me for the work that we were doing in Two-Brain Business. And I saved it on my phone like for three years, he’s kind of a hero to data-driven entrepreneurs like me, but what makes Collins’s books such epics is that he uses real data to tell a story. And this book beyond entrepreneurship 2.0 was written to update what he originally wrote, but it’s not like a dramatic upgrade. If you’ve read the original beyond entrepreneurship, you can kind of skip this one. And if you are looking for a place to start with Colin’s books, start with good to great, instead of or great by choice. Even instead of this one. Another one you can skip is “Leading From Anywhere: The Essential Guide to Managing Remote Teams” by David Burkus.

Chris (17:47):

I was super excited to get this one because I have a huge remote team. There are well over 50 people who work for Two-Brain and we’re all across the globe. Leadership in person is hard. Keeping people excited and engaged over zoom is like unknown territory. Nobody has the answer to this. So I was super excited to read some proven best practices. Unfortunately, this book is full of ideas that are totally or mostly unproven and some really obvious strategies, right? Like don’t have your slack and your text and your email open while you’re on a zoom call, give people your full attention. So to sum up, I want to talk about the difference between having knowledge and knowing the answer. I love books and courses and seminars, but there’s a big difference between acquiring as much knowledge as you can. And knowing the answer for you right now, we all like to feel smart.

Chris (18:40):

We all like to show off our reading lists, but success really comes down to the application of knowledge. You know, do you know which tactics to use right now? Do you execute on that tactic? And then do you measure the outcome? That’s a mentor’s job to help you do. And the reason that I curate these lists is to help you save time, avoid overwhelm, and actually act on this stuff. So the question that I asked at the start of this podcast was which books have actually made a measurable change in your business this year. Of course, to be able to tell me the answer you have to measure the change that they’ve made. You have to take action and you have to be clear first. So I’d love to hear from you,, what books have actually had a measurable impact on your gym this year?

Mike (19:24):

Send Chris a message now with your top books. He’s at Chris Two-Brain Business airs twice a week and features all the info you need to run a profitable gym. Subscribe so you don’t miss a show. Now Coop’s back with an invitation.

Chris (19:37):

Thanks for listening to Two-Brain Radio. If you aren’t in the Gym Owners United group on Facebook, this is my personal invitation to join. It’s the only public Facebook group that I participate in. And I’m there all the time with tips, tactics, and free resources. I’d love to network with you and help you grow your business. Join Gym Owners United on Facebook.


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