My Reading List – Winter 2015

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I started off 2015 with some really good reads. I have listed them below with a rating and a brief summary of what I learned from the book, as well as how I think it might add value to your life. (Here are the links to my summer and fall 2014 reading lists.)

My Rating Scale

5 – Simply Amazing: Loved the style and the content; added significant value to me, and will be one I re-read.
4 – Very Good: Engaged with the majority of the content and found some fantastic nuggets all throughout. (Check out Jon Acuff’s blog post where he talks about engaging with a book.)
3 – Good: Had a great chapter or two; overall was average.
2 – Ok: Had one or two things that I resonated with or found helpful; as a whole was just so-so.
1 – Pass: My time was better spent elsewhere.

5-Star Reads

Essentialism by Gary McKeown
Over the last few years I’ve watched and loosely participated in the debate about being able to “have it all”, particularly when it comes to women in leadership. Many people in this debate are of the mindset that they can have it all or do it all. McKeown masterfully shows how it’s impossible to truly have/do it all and tells us that there is always a trade-off. He persuades us to think about these trade-offs strategically and thoughtfully, and to ask ourselves, “What can I go big on?” instead of “How can I do it all?”. There is immense wisdom throughout the entire book; an absolute must read! You can also watch an interview of McKeown with Michael Hyatt and Michele Cushatt.

4-Star Reads

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk
We all have something we’re trying to spread the word about, right? It might be an actual product or it might be a service. Vaynerchuk does an exceptional job of showing us how to best use the main social media platforms to market the specific thing we’re selling. His case studies are fantastic, giving great visuals about best practices and how to fail miserably. He says we need to be “personable, charming, generous, and above all, real.” For those of us who are still figuring out social media (which is 99% of us) this book is incredibly helpful.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
My favorite sentence in Goins’ new book is “Discovering your calling is not an epiphany but a series of intentional decisions.” I’ve read a dozen or more books over the last decade about how to discover meaningful work, and while they’ve all had some good nuggets of wisdom, by in large they’ve been too mystical, too ethereal, or too philosophical for them to actually be useful. Goins eliminates the mysteriousness of finding our purpose and provides us with the nuts and bolts that can actually help us get somewhere and live a life of significance.

Daring Greatly by Brene’ Brown
Authentic leadership is something that I strongly believe in. Brown helps to lay a foundation for us to be authentic in the workplace by reminding us that it begins with living with courage, and facing down shame by being vulnerable and loving ourselves as we are, and modeling this behavior to those around us. She reminds us that even in corporations, relationships should be of primary importance, “Connection is why we’re here; it is what gives purpose and meaning to our lives.” Leaders who embody this mentality are going to create organizations that are filled with healthier and more satisfied people (which studies show leads to a better bottom line).

Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud
We all get in our own way from time to time, hindering ourselves from growing or moving forward. Naturally we’re grace-filled people, which is usually good, but sometimes we’re not doing anyone any favors by not making the hard decisions and moving on. Cloud talks specifically about all aspects of life, and how there are often times when a product, a company, a friendship, a behavior has run its course and it’s time to bring it to a close, “proper endings lead to the end of pain, greater growth, personal and business goals reached, and better lives. Endings bring hope.”

The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin
For perfectionists and traditionalists like me, Godin’s book is challenging. He urges us to reconsider how we view our work, or even what we do for work. Indicating that maybe we’re playing it too safe or that we’ve gotten comfortable, too comfortable. He says, “We settled for a safety zone that wasn’t bold enough.” I’ve met them, just like you have, people who have been doing the same job for 17 years and are good at it but were clearly meant for something different. This book isn’t going to let those of us in that boat just keep on that path; his words create a discomfort that requires change.

3-Star Reads

Wrecked by Jeff Goins
Finding that thing that tugs so strongly at our heartstrings that we are compelled to do something about it is exactly what Goins urges us to focus on in this book. He says that each of us have something that we are deeply passionate about, but can easily ignore it because of the busyness of life. He challenges us to not “mortgage our passion”, to not “make up for it with performance”, and to not “try to overcompensate with activity”, but to dive in and give of the gifts we were given and “live intentionally and audaciously” even if it causes our hearts to break and our lives to be “wrecked”.

Tell to Win by Peter Guber
Using stories from his own career, Guber shows how to influence someone to your point of view. He highlights specifics situations where he neglected to tell a story and his proposition failed miserably, as well as situations where he succeeded in winning someone over because he brought them into the story that he was trying to create. For those of us who have sat through countless board meetings where the numbers are recited like a 5 year-old singing the ABCs, we know how important it is to show why the numbers are important, what their bigger meaning and contribution is. Guber says, “Stories make facts and figures memorable, resonant, and actionable”, and he does a great job of showing us how to create these stories.

My Next Review Will Include

Below are some of the books that I am reading or re-reading over these Spring/early Summer months. I will post a blog in early July that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
Chess Not Checkers by Mark Miller
Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis
Time Traps by Todd Duncan
Values, Inc. by Dina Dwyer-Owens
The Code by Shaun Tomson
Do Over by Jon Acuff

What was one of your 5-star books this Winter?
What is on your reading list this Spring?

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