BOOK REVIEW: First Man In by Ant Middleton

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Welcome to the first Small Courage book review...

This week I finished Ant Middletons book, “First Man In” to which you will see why I really enjoyed it. It was given to me from a friend as a wedding gift. I had moments where I breezed through a couple chapters at a time and other times where only a paragraph got read over several weeks – It’s just the way it turned out. In spite of the kids hanging off my legs and arms during many of the spare moments I had with Mr. Middleton’s creation, I could continue on where I left off and not have a problem remembering what had happened. A merit to it’s readability for anybody who has pondered this purchase before. 

I had previously listened to his book on Audible called “The Fear Bubble” which briefed me that even badasses in the SAS still encounter plenty of bubbles of fear to pop along the way on the job or even at home situations. “Fear bubbles” represent moments that need breaking through, to achieve a sort of next level in self confidence and boldness of action. Middleton encourages the reader to not become a prisoner to fear but weaponize fear to advance always towards your objective. More on that book another time. “First Man In”, the book I am overviewing today, scratched the itch for adventure, inspiration and the deep need to entertain myself on the more brawny-er masculine side of life – often imagining myself as being him, the one with an action man like skill-set for survivability and well… action.  


Except this is not your typical brawns before brains, super jock book of alpha male-ness.
Tis quite the contrary… 

As Ant opens up about a good many raw things about his life and experiences in the armed forces, he shows it’s ok to work on your flaws and plain and simple, fail along the way. He is probably one of the best people you could read up on as an example-leading advocate for being brutally honest with your weaknesses, yet harnessing the negativity for its rich energy source. He has seemed to have thrived through acknowledging his own weaknesses but then turning the tables on himself to checkmate nearly every situation, good or bad. This case of an “always on”, red button switch towards positivity is backed up by the title of his upcoming book “Zero Negativity” which is set to release September 3, 2020 – of which I will probably purchase.  

Make no bones about it, this is a man’s, man’s book to all the alpha males out there. Most women may struggle to find the book appealing unless they have a particular interest for the life of Ant Middleton himself. As somebody with no personal armed forces background I find that my mind starts to wane whenever I incline my ear to the various blogs and podcasts that I listen to, centered around the military. I’m either really off it or on it. The book kept me level headed during militaristic segments but looking forward to the grounding “Leadership Lessons” at the conclusion of each chapter. There’s no get awesome quick snake oil schemes detected. Instead It’s a lunch-box pack style of simple key points, reminding you of the real world that you must exist in to GROW not PERFECT leadership. (I would encourage you to read the book to understand the context of what he has to say under the following headings)

5 “Leadership Lesson” Examples 

  1. You Don’t Need to Be a Leader to Lead
  2. Never Be Too Quick to Write Anyone Off
  3. If it Feels Like ‘Temptation’, it’s a Bad Decision
  4. Waiting is a Weapon
  5. Wins are Rarely Clean



Further Opinions 

I did things in the reverse by listening to his second book “The Fear Bubble” on Audible before reading the pages of “First Man In”. This was not deliberate but I am glad for doing both. I already knew what his voice sounded like as well as his relative short temperament from binge watching Who Dares Wins a few years back. The show is brilliant from what season 1 showed me anyway. It gave me a compass for why he might have acted the way he did or spoke the things he spake. Without this I would likely have had a different experience grasping some of the concepts and stories. 

One thing that made this book so good for me was for somebody of his background and expertise, he didn’t lose you during the story by using confusing complex militant language. He rose to top ranks so he ought to in some respect but plain speak is sort of this man’s native language. Good for him. If there was anything it was kept to a minimum or explained – I think other authors would do well to tame their need to impress people with their acronym knowledge base, opting instead to be more like this book where certain things probably need to be kept simple for us normies living on the outside. 



 “First Man In” will bring you along for it’s unique accounts of dangerous real life experiences and make it easy for you to imagine yourself in Anthony’s shoes. Ant definitely impressed upon me as if I was right beside him leading a team of elite troops, on a voyage from Tonga to Timor, or navigating equally tricky seas of home life. His highly trained combat skills, his witty intelligence and intuition for James Bond hostage negotiating, felt uploaded to my brain as if only by merit I was reading along, only to then hear my 2 year old cry from a distance from spilling a drink over, needing my attention. But as fast as the dad hat went on, the (imagined) soldier’s helmet went back on and bounced me back in the story. That’s a good time. That’s what a good book should do. 

9 Reasons You May Like This Book:

  1. Immersive stories
  2. Descriptive words are plentiful, made reading along easy
  3. Valuable lessons from good, bad, even ugly situations
  4. Inspiring displays of courage
  5. “Leadership Lessons” at the end of each chapter
  6. Mr. Middleton is an alpha-male but a down to earth lad with his heart on his sleeve
  7. If you love the military stuff you’ll obviously really enjoy yourself
  8. Teaches you to always seek the positivity in all situations
  9. Teaches you to harness negativity as an energy source