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Gear Not Stuff: Five Books That Changed My Thinking

Books I've read and re-read and will keep reading forever.

Gear Not Stuff: Five Books That Changed My Thinking

Summary of Today’s Post

  • We’re featuring five amazing books and what I’ve learned from them. These books changed my thinking on:
    • Navigating the modern food system and what to eat.
    • Staying healthy in this strange modern world.
    • Expressing myself on the page through writing.
    • Communicating big ideas and telling a better story.
    • Living well in a world full of distractions.
  • Before we get to the books, I explain my thinking on books—when they become gear, and when they become stuff.


  • Full access to this post is for Members of 2%. Become a Member below to get the full post and its full video and podcast version. You’ll save more time and money than the monthly cost.
  • Thanks to our sponsors, who make the best products in their categories.
    • Momentous Nutrition: The company that made me feel good about supplements again. The US Military and most pro sports teams trust it.
    • GORUCK: Maker of the best rucking gear (not stuff).
    • Maui Nui Venison: Provider of the world’s healthiest meat (the research, linked here, is insane).
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Podcast preview—the full version for Members is at this post’s bottom

Let’s roll …

Today is the second Friday of the month. Which means it’s time for Gear Not Stuff.

The concept for Gear Not Stuff is simple.

We live in a world of mass consumerism and have more stuff than ever. As I explained in Scarcity Brain, the average home contains 10,000 to 50,000 items.

If we want a new thing, we no longer have the pause of traveling to a store to buy it—we can buy it right from our computer, phone, TV, or even yell to Alexa.

Our shift to material abundance has changed our relationship with our possessions—and curious forces are now leading us to acquire more stuff than we need.

For example, online retailers stole tactics from casinos that lead us to buy more faster. (These tactics have probably worked on you if you’ve ever bought some crap and immediately regretted buying said crap. More on that here.)

When we get overwhelmed by how much we own, we often seek minimalism.

But minimalism, you’ll know if you read Scarcity Brain, has failed us. Luckily, I found a smarter way we can get more from less.

In thinking about how we can make smarter purchasing decisions, I’ve begun delineating between gear and stuff.

Stuff is a possession for the sake of it. Stuff adds to a collection of (too many) items. We often buy stuff impulsively to fix boredom or stress or to solve a problem we could figure out creatively with something we already have.

Gear, on the other hand, has a clear purpose of helping us achieve a higher purpose. Gear is a tool we can use to have better experiences that make us healthier and give our lives meaning.

This month’s Gear Not Stuff: Five Incredible Books

We’re within striking distance of summer. I can feel it.

And summer is book season. We take vacations—and we take books along with us.

Whenever I post a photo or appear on a podcast from my office, I get the same question: What are some of those books on your bookshelf?

Today, we’re walking through five incredible books on the shelf.

  • I also want to hear from you: Go to the comments and tell us a great book you’ve read in the last year.

But first, a thought on books and gear—and whether books are gear

Perhaps this is just me and what the algorithms feed me.

But we seem to be in an era where books have become a vessel for bragging rights. You know the type …

  • Posts on social media that he reads 50 books a year.
  • Uploads image of an overstuffed bookshelf and says this is only a fraction of the books he owns.
  • Hell, I recently spoke with a home interior designer who told me more clients are buying used books in bulk to fill giant bookshelves. Just for the flex. There’s even a company that specializes in furnishing bookshelves with old books—just for decoration.

If that’s you, cool. But it’s not me.

If a book doesn’t move me deeply and early, I stop reading it. I finish perhaps 15 percent of the books I start.

And I usually get rid of books I don’t finish. Those books are stuff—stuff that’s taking up space.

I have no interest in living among thousands of books. It sounds like a panic attack of clutter and far too many heavy boxes if I ever move.

Instead, I keep only great books. My great books are gear.

I re-examine and refer to those books often. They’re the ones that changed my thinking or incited action and sparked something in me at some place and time in my life, changing me for the better.

I used to feel guilt over the fact that I rarely finish books and get rid of books often. But I now believe the following:

  • It’s OK to not read (insert some impressive number of) books a year.
  • It’s OK to not have overstuffed bookshelves.
  • It’s OK to toss out books that didn’t grab you.

TL;DR: Find that are gear. Fill their pages with notes. Keep them. Cherish them. Refer to them often.

The Five Books

Below, I’ve listed five incredible books and explained what each is about and why I enjoyed it.

I’ve also published a video where I go into greater depth on each book.