Leadership & Management Reviews

Book Review: First Man In by Ant Middleton

First Man In is both an insightful autobiography and a field guide for successful leadership.

The Fortune Book Club Book Review: First Man In


Title: First Man In
Author: Ant Middleton
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 7 Mar. 2019
Pages: 320
ISBN-10: 0008245738
Rating: 5/5


Ant Middleton shares the core leadership lessons he’s learnt through the ups and downs of his 13 years of military service and highlights how people aren’t born leaders, but moulded into them. This collection of inspiring and thought-provoking lessons is easily actionable and told in an understandable and relatable way through the story of his life so far.


Before reading First Man In, I didn’t know much about Ant Middleton apart from he co-lead a TV series called SAS Who Dares Wins. This was my sole judgement of his character – a disciplined loud mouthed guy from the telly. As such, I didn’t hold high hopes for his first book and was rather confused why it was on the Audible best sellers list. However, having finished the book I realised my first impressions were a massive misjudgement.

A lesson is a lesson. No matter how it comes to you, even if it’s in an apparently negative package, take that lesson as a positive.

Firstly, the book quickly grips the reader with engaging story telling. While it’s not award-winning (and it’s not trying to be), the language is accessible and flows well. The colloquial style fits nicely with the author’s character and helps to convey the thoughts and feelings running through his mind – a key part in understanding the mind over muscle mentality.

Moreover, the structure of the book is well suited to its aim of promoting the idea that nobody is a natural born leader. Each chapter is a different story from Middleton’s past and each highlights three or four core leadership lessons that he learnt from the experience. A key part of the author’s mindset is that there is at least one lesson to be taken from each day and he showcases this by summarising them well at the end of each chapter.

Furthermore even though I’m not currently in a leadership position, the lessons being taught in the book can be applied to numerous situations and as such are suitable for a wide range of audiences. For example, a lot of the lessons are to do with overcoming self-doubt, tackling negative mentality and improving communication. As a result, these ideas are relevant for anyone striving to become their best self.

We all have reasons to make excuses for failure. Most people use them. Be the exceptional person – find the route around.

Also it’s hard not to be pumped up and rearing to tackle any challenge you’re facing head on after reading. The use of inspirational stories and emotive motivational language imparts a need for immediate action in the reader and sparks a contagious can-do attitude. Think of it this way, if Ant Middleton can do Brazilian jiu jitsu for three hours with a broken toe, what you’re facing pales in comparison – so get it done.

Finally, you have to commend Middleton on the level of honesty he put into the book. The fact that he shared his turbulent past (he was jailed for assaulting a police officer) just goes to show how open he wants to be with his readers, especially given his now celebrity status. After all if you can’t take his word as truth, why would you ever want to take action and start implementing his lessons?

Overall First Man In is a brutally honest and inspiring read that highlights how even a man lost in the world and fighting his own demons, can turn his life around through hard work, dedication and a will to succeed. Not only is Ant Middleton’s debut book a collection of priceless leadership lessons, it’s also a collection of entertaining real life stories – 5/5.

Take Action

Start putting the leadership lessons from First Man In into action by implementing some or all of these key points:

  • Always have a plan and make sure that ‘give up’ is never an option.
  • Keep your plan dynamic when new information presents itself.
  • A lesson is a lesson. Even if it may appear negative, take that lesson as a positive.
  • There is always something new to learn, reflect each day to find out what the lesson was.
  • We all have excuses for failure. Find a way around them.
  • Be open to inspiration and identify the exceptional people around you.
  • Stand apart from the crowd. You’re a leader not a follower.
  • Don’t be afraid to look for help in unlikely places.
  • You don’t need to be a leader to lead.
  • Don’t be too quick to judge, some people need time to show their true capabilities.
  • Never allow a mistake to win. You’re not defined by your mistakes. Just accept that they happen and move on.
  • Don’t be intimidated by all the people you have to beat to get to the top. You’re not fighting a battle with them, but with your own mentality.
  • The war is always in your head. Don’t trust your body, it gives out earlier than the mind.
  • If it feels like ‘temptation’, it’s a bad decision.
  • Keep your doubts to yourself. As a leader you need to show certainty.
  • Until you identify and make peace with your flaws, you can’t hope to overcome them.

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By Jake Doran

Masters in Advanced Computer Science student at Keele University, interested in all things tech and business, with aspirations to undertake an MBA in the future.

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