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One of the best pieces of advice I ever implemented was from Jim Rohn’s DVD “The Weekend Seminar”:            “BUILD A LIBRARY!”

Books have played and continue to play a vital role in my life. Often, they are the distillation of 30-40 years of the author’s life experiences. 

This list will grow with time, so feel free to check in occasionally.


The following three books, in combination, have recently deepened my understanding of how to better use my brain and mind to set and achieve stretch goals, specifically when playing. They are also proving invaluable for students.

Most surprising and rewarding for me: using and applying the information from all three helped me overcome a nine year streak of (sometimes) crippling amaygdala highjacks where my mind/body shut down into freeze.

Thoughts create chemical reactions that either enable and empower us – or put us into fight, flight or FREEZE!

Joe Dispenza shares a powerful personal story of how he took control over his mind and how you can too.

He also explains how the brain evolves – by learning new skills, developing the ability to concentrate in the midst of chaos, and even healing the body and the psyche.

Joe offers invaluable tips for creating your own custom learning road map.


Transform your attitude, change the type of questions you ask yourself, take action, and get results!

Everything we think and do when practicing and performing is influenced by the questions we ask ourselves –  “How will this go today?” to “What if (something negative) … ?”

Asking instead:” How can I make this easy and effortless”, or “How can I enable and empower myself to … ?” changes how our brains go to work and the results they produce.

Our self-esteem, relationships, and careers are all profoundly affected by these questions.

This book was a major resouce for me in overcoming the amygdala hijacks that plagued and haunted me for nine years.

Ask the right questions and start changing your life today!

Do you have a hard time convincing yourself that you can overcome old and new challenges? Do dismiss your ideas before even thinking about them?

Do you want to know how to influence yourself, and achieve results beyond your wildest dreams?

Want to find out how to get yourself motivated, make decisions that serve your goals and best interests, how to be more persuasive with yourself?

Learn about persuasion psychology, spark your interest and enthusiasm and get what you want.


Do you want to change the way you think about your life and work? Do you want to achieve different results? This book will inspire you to achieve more in everything you do. Great performance is reserved for those who do the necessary thinking coupled with persistent, determined and deliberate hard work.



This book is a must read for musicians. It does away with the myth of talent. It confirmed my experience that “talent” is a RESULT! – of hard, consistent, deliberate and determined work.

Daniel shows how all of us can achieve our full potential if we set about training our brains in the right way.



I discovered this book on a visit to Darwin. My biggest discovery was the concept of FREEZE!

Suddenly I had a name, a concept, for something horrible that I had been experiencing at work in the orchestra.

Thus began a ten year search for a solution to the amygdala highjacks I was experiencing.

The combined information from the first three books on this list helped me finally overcome them late in 2019.

The book also contains valuable information about how to develop and successfully apply skill – in our case with playing an instrument.


Black Box Thinking is an exciting approach to high performance.  It has powerful implications for musicians of all types – amateurs, students and professionals.

Using a diverse array of case studies and real-world examples, together with cutting-edge research on marginal gains, creativity and grit, Matthew Syed tells the inside story of how success really happens.

The short story is that we cannot grow unless we are prepared (to make) and to learn from our mistakes.



Mel Robbins’ book is also available as an audio book from Audible. Since I listened to her book, she has helped me countless times to get going on things that I didn’t feel like doing. The repetition in the book might annoy some people, but it helps to convert her message and simple technique into a powerful and empowering habit. Highly recommended.


The Principles of Effortless Power is the quintessential work of of the deepest principles in martial arts, in particular the more intelligent and graceful martial arts. The principles apply to brass playing in general and horn playing in particular as well. The invention of effortless power by Peter Ralston is central to the Art of Effortless Power but it is not the only thing. Many other principles and elements are aligned with a non-resistant and effortless approach to interactive skill development. This book offers a lot to think about and apply. See my list of questions in the horn playing section.


Verbal Judo is about the martial art of the mind and mouth and can show you how to better engage with yourself via your self-talk. Listen to and speak more effectively with yourself.

When you are practising and performing, “when you react, the event controls you. When you respond, you’re in control.”

I read and reread this book several times as well as listening to the audio version several times. It proved to be a great investment.


There are some wonderful Viktor Frankl lectures to be found on YouTube.
He was a prominent Viennese psychiatrist before World War II.  Viktor Frankl was uniquely able to observe the way that both he and others in Auschwitz coped (or didn’t) with the experience.
He noticed that it was the men who comforted others and who gave away their last piece of bread who survived the longest – and who offered proof that everything can be taken away from us except the ability to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances.
The sort of person the concentration camp prisoner became was the result of an inner decision and not of camp influences alone. Frankl came to believe man’s deepest desire is to search for meaning and purpose.
This outstanding work offers us all a way to transcend suffering and find significance in the art of living.


James Allen’s book, like Viktor Frankl’s is short but powerful. Also one I’ve read many times. Thoughts that enabled and empowered me to make wiser choices. My favorite quote is: “Circumstances don’t make a person, they merely reveal them to themselves”.

This helps me to catch myself when I get triggered and react, pause and then make a conscious CHOICE about how I want to respond.

“Change your Language … you have to think it, believe it, speak it and live it then you become it until It is no longer what you do, it’s who you are.”

Playing the horn professsionally can be tough at times for all sorts of different reasons.

This book gave me a huge boost during a challenging period.

“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of CHOICE! It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”    ~ William Jennings Bryant

I am enough.

Three simple yet very powerful words that have had a deep and powerful impact on my road to recovering my self-esteem.

I’ve written them all over my practice area (on the walls and mirror etc.) and inside all of the exercise books I regularly use.

This book is all about the value of cultivating a “Growth Mindset”!

Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.

Carol has created a chart that hangs on a wall in my studio as a constant reminder of the benefits of choosing and using a “Growth Mindset”.

Playing a musical instrument professionally involves continuous, lifetime self-learning.

This book is a wonderful balance of personal stories from Nater and insights about teaching and learning that demonstrate the hard work, preparation, courage, and commitment to continuous learning that defines quality teaching … and quality professional development.

Success is an equal opportunity player. Anyone can create it in his or her career, family and beyond. The secret to success lies in doing enough intelligent and persistent hard work.

Based on John Wooden’s own method to victory, his Pyramid of Success reveals that success is built block by block, where each block is a crucial principle contributing to life-long achievement in every area of life.

Each of these 32 daily readings takes an in-depth look at a single block of the pyramid, which when combined with the other blocks forms the structure of the pyramid of success.

Managing energy, not time, is the key to enduring high performance as well as to health, happiness, and life balance. The Power of Full Engagement is a highly practical, scientifically based approach to managing your energy more skillfully both on and off the job by laying out the key training principles and provides a powerful, step-by-step program that will help you to:

* Mobilize four key sources of energy
* Balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal
* Expand capacity in the same systematic way that elite athletes do
* Create highly specific, positive energy management rituals to make lasting changes

Above all, this book provides a life-changing road map to becoming more fully engaged on and off the job, meaning physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused, and spiritually aligned.

When I first began reading this book, I was sitting in a restaurant in Geneva. I distinctly remember my jaw dropping as I realized HOW I was talking to myself. And it was immediately clear that that was going to change.

Each of us is programmed from birth on, and as much as 75% or more of our programming may be negative or working against us.

Shad Helmstetter shows the reader how to erase and replace past mental programs with healthy, new programs that can be positively life-changing.

Self-talk needs to be done well as early as possible in your life.

This an immediately helpful, life-changing handbook of how to deal with negative self-talk –– for yourself, or anyone in your life.


Why do we develop habits? And how can we change them?

This book has had a profoundly positive effect on my playing, career, and most importantly my family life.

One of the habits I introduced into my family life was baking pizza together with my boys on Monday nights.

We can always change. Charles Duhigg translates cutting-edge behavioural science into practical self-improvement action, distilling advanced neuroscience into fascinating narratives of transformation.

Why can some people change overnight, and some stay stuck in their old ruts?

The Power of Habit makes an exhilarating case: the key to almost any door in life is instilling the right habit. From exercise to weight loss, childrearing to productivity, mastering an instrument or having it master you, and above all success, the right habits can change everything.

Habits aren’t destiny. They’re science, one which can transform our relationships, our our playing, and our lives.

Installing healthy, productive habits saves a lot of energy and time and greatly enhances productivity.


Drawing on the very latest findings in neuroscience, psychology and behavioural economics, Duhigg demonstrates the eight simple principles that govern productivity. He demonstrates how the most dynamic and effective people – from CEOs to film-makers to software entrepreneurs – deploy them. And he shows how you can, too.

‘Charles has some wonderful advice for increasing productivity . . . the tips he highlights have most definitely played a huge part in helping me to build the Virgin brand.’ Richard Branson