Lead with the best version of yourself.

What Reading Taught Me About Living in 2022

By Joe Byerly

Lesson #1: The finish line is never fixed

Several authors warned about the dangers of hitching our happiness to goal achievement. Too many of us spend years doing things we don’t enjoy while sacrificing the things that bring us fulfillment, all in the name of achieving success in the future. Some of us even think we’re managing success, but in actuality, success is managing us. That’s because the finish line of ambition is never fixed. It moves on us each time we cross it. 

In his book, From Strength to Strength, Arthur Brooks points out that it’s too easy to find ourselves running life on the Hedonic Treadmill. The dopamine high that achievement brings quickly dissipates after we get our hands around it. We’re left wanting to feel it again, so we chase after more. We expect to feel contentment on the other side of our goals, only to find the desire to chase our next success. He writes, “No matter how fast we run, we never arrive.” In The Earned Life, Marshall Goldsmith also commented on the dangers of living solely for ambition, writing that it gives us a rinse and repeat rhythm to life which doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness or fulfillment. 

Seven Books Every Company Commander Should Read


by Dan Vigeant

Leaders worth following are readers. This is not an original, or even new thought. Countless General Officers, business professionals, and thriving entrepreneurs laud the benefits of reading for personal and professional growth. From the Green Notebook even publishes a monthly reading list for the sole purpose of developing aspiring leaders (if you’re not already a subscriber, I highly recommend you click here). However, with the number of books dedicated to leader development and the Profession of Arms, knowing what to read can sometimes feel daunting.

To be clear, I am no expert on the subject. I am, however, a student of the Profession of Arms and sincerely believe commanders owe the Americans they serve the best version of themselves. As such, and in preparation for receiving the guidon, I embarked upon an eclectic reading journey focused on one central theme: leadership. The following is a short list of some of those books that prepared me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually for company-level command. My hope is that this list will assist in your preparations for what will be the most rewarding, albeit challenging, experience of your career.  

Read Voraciously: General Miller’s  Reading Recommendations

Read Voraciously: General Miller’s  Reading Recommendations

By Joe Byerly

During my recent interview with General Scott Miller, he said, “If you are a serious practitioner in the military, you have to be a voracious reader. If you’re not well-read, it becomes readily apparent.”

He went on to say that intentionally devoting time to reading helps him understand the potential consequences of his actions beforehand. General Miller mentioned a number of books, both fiction and non-fiction, that are worth reading.

MG JP McGee Recommends Five Books All Leaders Should Read

MG JP McGee Recommends Five Books All Leaders Should Read

Major General J.P. McGee, Army Talent Management Task Force Director, briefs candidates of Cohort 1 of the Colonel Command Assessment Program on what the expectations are of both the candidates and cadre at Fort Knox, Kentucky, September 10, 2020. The Army is using programs like CCAP to take a multidimensional view of its top performing offices to complement the Centralized Selection List board and add new, relevant information. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Schroeder, Army Talent Management Task Force)

In the third episode of our second season, From the Green Notebook sits down with the Director of the Army Talent Management Task Force, Major General JP McGee, to discuss the purpose, construct and future of the Commander Assessment Program, as well as the results of the Army’s most recent Battalion Commander’s Assessment Program released January 21, 2021. Most importantly, MG McGee shares his leadership perspective and provides some great advice for leaders.

During the podcast, we asked Major General McGee to recommend some books for leaders he finds useful for self-development. Below, you will find a few of the titles he believes are important to develop your leadership skills and understand the nuances of leadership at the more senior levels.

General Votel Recommends Leaders Read these 5 Books

General Votel Recommends Leaders Read these 5 Books


From the Green Notebook sat down with former CENTCOM Commander, General Joseph Votel (U.S. Army, Retired), recently to discuss his leadership perspective, as well as his experience leading a combatant command in the first episode of our podcast’s second season

General Votel provides a candid discussion on the challenges of strategic decision-making and risk management. He also emphasizes the importance of role modelling in leadership, highlighting some of the role models who shaped his career. 

During the podcast, we asked General Votel to share some of the books he recommends to leaders for self-development. Below, you will find a few of the books he believes are important in the current environment to develop your understanding of the world and leave a lasting impact on those you lead.

Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2020

Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2020


In 2020, a small team of volunteers worked behind the scenes at From the Green Notebook to produce over 100 published articles read by almost half a million people. This team is a great example of how a few people with a purpose can have an outsized impact.

The submissions we received this year represent a diverse set of perspectives, coming from all ranks and branches of our military, our civilian workforce, and our civilian partners who study and write about leadership. 

Thank you to all of you who contributed your thoughts to the blog and the profession this year! 

The FTGN Top 10 Most-Read Articles of 2020

What I Learned from Books in 2020- A Reading List

This post was originally shared in the FTGN Monthly Reading List Email

By Joe Byerly

I like to read a lot. I have a strong love of learning and I’ve found the easiest way for me to expand my repertoire is to open a book when I first wake up or listen to an audiobook during a morning commute. Since 2013, I’ve published a year-end reading list as an effort to promote a practice that I’ve found so valuable over the last decade. A few years ago, I morphed this list into an annual reflection of reading. It’s honestly my favorite post to write every year.

So, as I reflect on 2020, I’ve identified five lessons from books that stood out to me this past year. I hope that in sharing these with you, you might decide to take a few moments to reflect on your own lessons or maybe even purchase one of these great books.

4 Books to Read Before Ranger School

4 Books to Read Before Ranger School


by 2LT Oren Abusch and 1LT Jack Hadley

It’s 0200. Our platoon Charlie 1 is struggling to establish a patrol base. We have just completed a seven kilometer night ruck march, over half of which involved carrying multiple (simulated) casualties. It’s early April in Dahlonega, GA, and the temperature dips into the low 40s. We’re very tired. The Ranger Instructors (RIs) keep making us redo parts of the patrol base process. Finally, at 0400, the RIs tell us to eat dinner. At 0415 we go to sleep, with a wakeup scheduled for 0500. 

At 0430, we wake up to one of the RIs firing off an unmanned machine gun, yelling. 

“Is this how we maintain security, Rangers? Is this a joke? Security keeps your soldiers alive! Do you not care if your soldiers are killed in combat?” He lets his words sit there for a second, as our minds race to shake off the grogginess and understand what’s going on. He then accused us of purposely sabotaging security because we didn’t care. We were then told to stand up, with our gear ready, and wait for sunrise. 

And so we stood there, as the sun slowly rose over the Appalachian mountains.

How do you prepare for such a moment? For the most part, you can’t. Many of the experiences of Ranger School must be lived to understand them. Yet during Ranger School the two of us found ourselves returning over and over to several books we had read before reporting. These books, four of which we discuss here, helped us understand the nature of the trainee-trainer relationship, remember that others before us had overcome the same (and worse) challenges, and – perhaps most importantly – some helped us find meaning on the hardest days.

The Sergeant Major of the Army Shares His Reading List

The Sergeant Major of the Army Shares His Reading List


By Joe Byerly

Recently, I spoke with the Sergeant Major of the Army about COVID-19 and the challenges and opportunities we are facing right now as an Army and a Nation. He highlighted that now is the time to reassess our goals and set new ones.

One of your goals might be to read a book or two during this time. Goals are important and they are even more important now, as we all deal with the necessary restrictions to stop the spread.

We spoke again this week and he shared his reading list with me. He found that reading has helped him grow professionally and as a person. SMA Grinston also shared that reading helps him take a mental break from the day-to-day stressors of life. He even says that if he wasn’t a reader, he wouldn’t be the Sergeant Major of the Army.

You will notice that most of the books on this list aren’t about military battles or written by people in the Army for people in the Army. For the SMA, he likes to read about things outside the military to get new and fresh ideas. We both hope you find something on here that interests you.

The Reading List – in the SMA’s words   

3 Lessons Books Taught Me in 2019

3 Lessons Books Taught Me in 2019


Since starting this website in 2013, I’ve included a year-end reading list every December. But last year I did something different. I took the time to reflect on the books I read and distilled 5 major life lessons from them.

In doing so, I found that I was better able to remember and internalize what I read –more so than by only listing out a bunch of titles.

This year has been crazy. I published essays in two books: Winning Westeros: How Game of Thrones Explains Modern Military Conflict and Why We Write: Craft Essays on Writing War. We hosted one of the most popular panels at AUSA 2019 and From the Green Notebook was even featured in a post on Forbes. I also deployed to Afghanistan, so reading has been challenging.

But, I still managed to keep at it. And no matter how crazy your year has been, I hope you kept up with the practice too. Below are a few of the major lessons that I will take with me into 2020.

If you don’t decide what’s important to you others will

In Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, he argues that if we don’t prioritize our lives, someone else will. And this lack of prioritization pulls us away from doing the things we really want to do.  Also, it holds us back from doing anything well.  I’ve seen this play out in areas of my own life where I either tried to take on too much or allowed myself to be swept down a path of doing things that weren’t important to me, but important to someone else.  I’ve also seen military organizations get run into the ground because commanders had too many top priorities.

So, to paraphrase Mark Manson from one of my favorite reads this year, we need to figure out what we truly give a f*ck about.

Before You Commission, Read These 5 Books

Before You Commission, Read These 5 Books


By Oren Abusch-Magder

Former Defense Secretary Mattis famously once wrote, “Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.”

In order to light my path, I have often turned to books. Of the books I have read, five have been particularly instrumental in my development as a leader. They are from a wide array of genres, including both fiction and non-fiction, history, psychology, and organizational leadership. The lessons found in these books helped me navigate the experiences of being a cadet and have helped me to think ahead about what I need to successfully lead soldiers. If I could charge every cadet in the country with doing one thing before commissioning, it would be to read these books.