The best personal growth books by authors with insane backstories

Why am I passionate about this?

As someone who is passionate about personal growth, I find that books by authors with compelling backstories offer unique and inspiring perspectives on overcoming challenges and achieving success. These authors have often faced extreme adversity, whether it be in the military, athletics, business, war, or other areas of life, and their stories provide valuable insights into the power of resilience and mental toughness. I admire their ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and I find their lessons applicable to my own life. I'm reminded that anything is possible with the right mindset and approach.


I wrote...

The Responsibility Ethic: 12 Strategies Exceptional People Use to Do the Work and Make Success Happen

By Adam Kreek,

Book cover of The Responsibility Ethic: 12 Strategies Exceptional People Use to Do the Work and Make Success Happen

What is my book about?

I am thrilled to share with you my latest book, The Responsibility Ethic. As someone who has experienced the challenges and triumphs of intensive Olympic training, near-death ocean expeditions, and executive business coaching, self-leadership has always fascinated me. As a rowing team member who won 60 international medals and Olympic gold after enduring Olympic failure, I have learned firsthand the importance of discipline, focus, and leadership. My journey also includes surviving a harrowing capsize in the Bermuda Triangle, an experience that inspired a Dateline NBC documentary.

In The Responsibility Ethic, you'll find 12 essential self-leadership principles through captivating stories, practical case studies, and take-home points. This book is for anyone who wants to master these principles and take control of their own leadership journey.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Man’s Search for Meaning

Adam Kreek Why did I love this book?

Viktor Frankl's life story is truly incredible, and his book, Man's Search for Meaning, is definitely worth the read.

Frankl was a Holocaust survivor, and his experiences during this time profoundly shaped his philosophy on life and the human condition. His book is a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and provides valuable insights into how we can find meaning and purpose in even the most difficult circumstances.

As someone who has struggled with my own personal challenges, Frankl's message has resonated deeply with me and has helped me to develop a greater sense of perspective and purpose in my life. His writing is both compelling and inspiring.

By Viktor Frankl,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked Man’s Search for Meaning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the outstanding classics to emerge from the Holocaust, Man's Search for Meaning is Viktor Frankl's story of his struggle for survival in Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps. Today, this remarkable tribute to hope offers us an avenue to finding greater meaning and purpose in our own lives.


Book cover of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Adam Kreek Why did I love this book?

Covey was a highly successful businessman, scholar, and educator. As a father of nine and grandfather of fifty-five children, his commitment to family was also inspiring.

This book has had a tremendous impact on my personal and professional life, and I believe it can do the same for anyone who reads it. Covey's writing is clear, insightful, and practical, and he provides numerous examples and exercises that make the concepts easy to understand and apply.

The seven habits he outlines are simple yet profound, and have helped me to become a more effective communicator, leader, and problem-solver.

By Stephen R. Covey,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times bestseller - over 25 million copies sold
The No. 1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century

"[Thirty] years after it first appeared, the wisdom of The 7 Habits is more relevant than ever. On an individual level people are burning out, and on a collective level we are burning up the planet. So Dr. Covey's emphasis on self-renewal and his understanding that leadership and creativity require us to tap into our own physical, mental, and spiritual resources are exactly what we need now." Arianna Huffington

One of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written,…


Book cover of Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike

Adam Kreek Why did I love this book?

Phil’s book offers valuable business and personal growth lessons: Shoe Dog is not just a story about shoes; it's about the importance of taking risks, building relationships, and staying true to your values.

Knight's insights and experiences apply to anyone wanting to succeed in business or life. Knight's journey to build Nike into one of the world's most successful companies is a testament to the power of determination and hard work.

He faced numerous setbacks and challenges along the way, but he never gave up on his dream.

By Phil Knight,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Shoe Dog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'A refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like ... It's an amazing tale' Bill Gates

'The best book I read last year was Shoe Dog, by Nike's Phil Knight. Phil is a very wise, intelligent and competitive fellow who is also a gifted storyteller' Warren Buffett

In 1962, fresh out of business school, Phil Knight borrowed $50 from his father and created a company with a simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost athletic shoes from Japan. Selling the shoes from the boot of his Plymouth, Knight grossed $8000 in his first year. Today, Nike's annual…


Book cover of Can't Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds

Adam Kreek Why did I love this book?

Goggins' life story is truly remarkable - he went from being a depressed, overweight exterminator to becoming one of the world's fittest athletes and a decorated U.S. Navy SEAL.

His book is not just a memoir, but also a guide to developing mental toughness and resilience. Goggins' writing is raw and honest, and he shares the brutal realities of his struggles with racism, poverty, and physical injury.

His book has personally helped me to push through my own mental barriers and to adopt a more disciplined and purpose-driven approach to life.

By David Goggins,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Can't Hurt Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

New York Times Best Seller

Over 4 million copies sold

For David Goggins, childhood was a nightmare -- poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse colored his days and haunted his nights. But through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work, Goggins transformed himself from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world's top endurance athletes. The only man in history to complete elite training as a Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller, he went on to set records in numerous endurance events, inspiring Outside magazine to name…


Book cover of Open: An Autobiography

Adam Kreek Why did I love this book?

Agassi's story is one of perseverance and self-discovery, as he struggled with personal demons throughout his career, including depression, addiction, and tumultuous family life.

Despite these challenges, Agassi went on to become one of the most successful tennis players of all time, winning numerous Grand Slam titles and Olympic medals. In his book, he offers candid reflections on his life and career and provides insights into the mental and emotional challenges of being a top athlete.

Reading Open has personally inspired me to pursue my own athletic and business goals with greater determination and resilience, and I believe it is a must-read for anyone seeking motivation and guidance on their own path to success.

By Andre Agassi,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Open as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

He is one of the most beloved athletes in history and one of the most gifted men ever to step onto a tennis court - but from early childhood Andre Agassi hated the game.

Coaxed to swing a racket while still in the crib, forced to hit hundreds of balls a day while still in grade school, Agassi resented the constant pressure even as he drove himself to become a prodigy, an inner conflict that would define him. Now, in his beautiful, haunting autobiography, Agassi tells the story of a life framed by such conflicts.

Agassi makes us feel his…


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Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

Book cover of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

Rebecca Wellington Author Of Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I am adopted. For most of my life, I didn’t identify as adopted. I shoved that away because of the shame I felt about being adopted and not truly fitting into my family. But then two things happened: I had my own biological children, the only two people I know to date to whom I am biologically related, and then shortly after my second daughter was born, my older sister, also an adoptee, died of a drug overdose. These sequential births and death put my life on a new trajectory, and I started writing, out of grief, the history of adoption and motherhood in America. 

Rebecca's book list on straight up, real memoirs on motherhood and adoption

What is my book about?

I grew up thinking that being adopted didn’t matter. I was wrong. This book is my journey uncovering the significance and true history of adoption practices in America. Now, in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women’s reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, I am uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption.

The history of adoption, reframed through the voices of adoptees like me, and mothers who have been forced to relinquish their babies, blows apart old narratives about adoption, exposing the fallacy that adoption is always good.

In this story, I reckon with the pain and unanswered questions of my own experience and explore broader issues surrounding adoption in the United States, including changing legal policies, sterilization, and compulsory relinquishment programs, forced assimilation of babies of color and Indigenous babies adopted into white families, and other liabilities affecting women, mothers, and children. Now is the moment we must all hear these stories.

Who Is a Worthy Mother?: An Intimate History of Adoption

By Rebecca Wellington,

What is this book about?

Nearly every person in the United States is affected by adoption. Adoption practices are woven into the fabric of American society and reflect how our nation values human beings, particularly mothers. In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, the renewed debate over women's reproductive rights places an even greater emphasis on adoption. As a mother, historian, and adoptee, Rebecca C. Wellington is uniquely qualified to uncover the policies and practices of adoption. Wellington's timely-and deeply researched-account amplifies previously marginalized voices and exposes the social and racial biases embedded in the United States' adoption industry.…


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