All posts by Laurel Emory

My Reading List – Summer 2017


This quarter’s list has some really outstanding books. Option B and Tools of Titans are must reads for everyone – their content is applicable to adults of all ages. If you didn’t see my list from last Fall/Winter, please take a quick look – there are several amazing 5-star books that I’ve already re-read since then, and highly recommend.

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 most of the content and found some fantastic nuggets throughout.
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
Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Simply an incredible book with wisdom for anyone who has ever faced loss of any kind: death of a loved one, divorce, loss of a job, unfulfilled dreams. I enjoyed the On Being podcast interview where Sheryl and Adam talk with Krista Tippett about their learnings. I’m already re-reading the book again, it is rich and deep.

4-Star Reads
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
A monster of a book that took me a couple of months to digest, but was well worth the time. I love how he broke it down by the proverbial “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” I mostly resonated with the wise section, but there were fantastic learnings all throughout. There is something in this book for everyone.
Do Over by Jon Acuff
Gone are the days of working the same job for 35 years. Every single one of us will, at some point, face a change in our career. It could be something that we choose for ourselves or something that is thrust upon us. Either way, no one should attempt to navigate the change without Jon’s wisdom.
On the Clock by Tim Enochs
An inspirational novel that spurs thoughts about our assumptions. If you want a good uplifting book that you can read in one afternoon, this fits the bill.

3-Star Reads
Mastering Leadership by Robert Anderson and Williams Adams
One of the most important disciplines of leadership is taking time to stop and assess your beliefs. This book helps us to do so at a deeper level by looking at and understanding our personal operating system, what is at the core of each of us, and how it impacts how we live and lead.
Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst
We’ve all felt left out. Lysa shares her own hurts in hopes of helping us to recognize that we’re not alone, and that because we all have similar feelings and experiences that we should draw together in greater community.
Practicing God’s Presence by Brother Lawrence, Robert Elmer
A short book of writings from a 17th century monk who sought to experience God’s goodness and joy through the regular chores and tasks of the day, like washing dishes. It is a perspective-changing read.
The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex by Sheila Wray Gregoire
While not as helpful as I had hoped it would be, there are millions of women who would find Sheila’s style and wisdom helpful.

My Next Review
Below are the books on my current reading list; my January review will include as many of them as possible, and maybe a few others.

Learning to Lead by Fred Smith
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
Business Boutique by Christy Wright
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman
Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
Finish by Jon Acuff
To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss

What was one of your 5-star books over the past few months?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Spring 2017


I got excited about so many books in the spring months, that I ended up starting way too many, causing me to only finish a few. I’ve shared the rating and summary for the ones that I finished, but I look forward to sharing a much longer summer list in early October. You can also look back at my Fall/Winter list that had some of the best books that I’ve read in over a year.

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 most of the content and found some fantastic nuggets throughout.
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.

4-Star Reads
And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick
One of the most honest books I’ve ever read on grief is by Sonali Deraniyagala who lost her husband, two sons, and mother and father, while vacationing on the coast of Sri Lanka when the 2004 tsunami hit. Kate shares her own story of suffering, with the 3-year journey through childhood cancer and subsequent loss of her daughter. What I love about Kate’s book is that she didn’t shy away from showing her moments of despair, just as Sonali did, but Kate brought it back to finding hope and turning her suffering into joy. Kate’s book is a must-read for anyone who has ever experienced grief and loss.

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp
The profoundness of Ann’s book is found in a challenge to change our perspective about our “thorn in the flesh”. She shows us the benefits of embracing it, rather than looking at it as a curse, “we can be brokers of healing exactly where we have known the most brokenness.” This book needs to be read slowly, and in small bites, because her words hit deep. It is intense and beautiful. Her previous book, One Thousand Gifts, is definitely one of my top 10 favorite books.

2-Star Reads
The Harvey Girls by Lesley Poling-Kempes
This is an interesting historical read about the life of the women who worked at the restaurants and hotels along the first railroad lines in the western U.S. If you’ve ever been to Gallup or Raton, New Mexico, and wondered how or why in the world a town wound up there, this book will provide you with the answer. The testimonials were great, but the historical aspects were pretty dry. When it comes to looking at different women in history who have influenced how we work and live, The Girls of Atomic City, is one of my favorites.

My Next Review
Below are the books on my current reading list; my October review will include as many of them as possible, and maybe a few others:
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
Learning to Lead by Fred Smith
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
Business Boutique by Christy Wright
On the Clock by Tim Enochs
Mastering Leadership by Robert Anderson and Williams Adams
The Accidental Creative by Todd Henry
Do Over by Jon Acuff
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

What was one of your 5-star books over the past few months?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Fall 2016 & Winter 2017


After more than six months of not having any 5-star reads, I have several amazing reads to share with you. Below are my ratings for the books I read between October 2016 and March 2017, as well as a brief summary of how each could add value to your life.

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 most of the content and found some fantastic nuggets throughout.
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

Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson
I tend to not be a risk-taker. I like to play it safe, and feel like I have everything under control. Mark helped me to realize that by living from this posture, I am keeping myself from maximizing my God-given potential. This book left me motivated, in ways that no other book has done before, and excited about taking risks.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson
Because of my tendency to be risk averse, my motto over the last 4-5 years has been “live with courage”. When I have done so, my life has been richer, more meaningful, and simply more amazing. “But something invaluable and irreplaceable is lost when we cave in to conformity. We lose our personality. We lose our originality…Instead of becoming the one-of-a-kind original we were destined to be, we settle for a carbon copy of someone else.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to settle. I want to be courageous.

Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen
I’ve already read this book three times this year, and will probably read it again in the summer months. It is rich, and Jennie’s wisdom fills my soul. She reminded me over and over again to release my grip on life and stop trying to control everything. She reminded me to own my failures and apologize graciously. She reminded me to engage in pain and suffering, and let myself be touched by them rather than trying to run from them or be numb to them. So rich!

Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
Shauna’s words hit me hard, and were exactly what I needed to get me to face the fact that I had too much going on and needed to cut some things out of my life, and do more practicing of what I preach with my clients of, saying no to the good so you can say yes to the great.

4-Star Reads

Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray
I have difficulty slowing down. Resting is not something I am good at. I realized that part of the reason why was that I didn’t know what rest actually looked like. Bonnie helped me define rest, as well as recognize that rest is different for each of us. She walked me through a process that left me with pages of notes of what rest means to me and how I am most replenished in body, mind, spirit, and soul.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines
I don’t really like Joanna’s decorating style (no offense to you, shiplap lovers), but I love watching she and Chip help people achieve their dream of having not just a house, but a home. Their memoir is a deeper glimpse into who they are and what brought them to where they are today, including some good lessons about money management and marital communication.

Becoming a Coaching Leader by Daniel Harkavy
Every business person needs to read this book. Whether you only manage yourself, or you manage a team of people, Daniel presents tangible and practical disciplines that everyone can benefit from. This is the main book that we, at Building Champions, use with our clients, and there is quantitative data that proves that, when applied, success happens.

Six Thinking Hats by Edward de Bono
We’ve all been in a meeting where a product or service is being evaluated and one person is talking about how they feel about it, another person is talking about how to prove the benefits of it, another person is talking about how horrible everything is with it, and another person is talking about how it can lead to a future product or service. Edward helps us organize, clarify, and specify each of these different perspectives and reduce confusion in communication in a creative way.

3-Star Reads

Chase the Lion by Mark Batterson
I was super amped to read Mark’s latest book, after having loved Wild Goose Chase and In the Pit. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as good, and had a lot of the same stories as the other two. But, the principles are still relevant, and his wisdom is just as sound.

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
Very helpful insights into how the creator of the comic, Dilbert, got to where he is today. He presents some practical advice of how to set yourself up for success based on his own failures and successes. His suggestion of creating systems is a useful method for creating accountability for yourself.

Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday
Ryan didn’t necessarily invent fake news, but he certainly took the concept to a whole new level. This book is a fascinating look at this current hot topic, as Ryan exposes his own methods and clues the rest of us non-media folks, into how the media world works.

Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
I’m not Ryan’s intended audience with this book, but I wanted to learn more about growth hacking since it’s clearly something that, as a consumer, affects my life. He did a good job of defining it and using some examples, from his career, of how he’s done it.

Love Lives Here by Maria Goff
Maria takes experiences, both common and difficult, and finds beauty and meaning in them. Her book is a good reminder to take note of situations and circumstances, and look for the deeper learnings in them.

My Next Review

Below are some of the books that are on my current reading list. I will post a blog in July that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

And Still She Laughs by Kate Merrick
Do Over by Jon Acuff
The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West by Lesley Poling-Kempes
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
Learning to Lead by Fred Smith
The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier
Business Boutique by Christy Wright
On the Clock by Tim Enochs

What was one of your 5-star books in the Fall and Winter months?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Summer 2016

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Lots of business travel over the summer meant that I didn’t read as much as I wanted to, but there are a few that I’m really excited to share about. Below are my ratings for them, as well as a brief summary of how each might add value to your life.

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.
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

None

4-Star Reads

Under New Management by David Burkus
Dr. Burkus presents some fantastic ideas that disrupt the status quo, and prompt us to think about business systems and processes that are basically broken but that we’ve allowed to outstay their welcome. His ideas are backed by case studies of companies that are trying new methods and are seeing some great results. This is a must read for anyone in executive leadership and HR.

H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick
Want to be a better leader? Start with the 20 habits that Brad outlines in this book. None of the habits will surprise you, but they are all ones that, when intentionally implemented, are game changers. Don’t let their simplicity fool you, they will take courage and intentionality.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
I’ve never seen an episode of any of the hit shows that Shonda is the writer for, and I didn’t know anything about her before I started her book, but she won me over with her authenticity. She’s hilarious, and surprisingly down to earth and relatable for someone who is famous and a multi-millionaire. I don’t agree with some of her personal beliefs, but the first 2/3 of the book is a must-read for every working mom.

3-Star Reads

Giddy Up, Eunice by Sophie Hudson
Our culture teaches us that success is only for a lucky few. This perspective causes unnecessary competition, comparison, envy, and jealousy. Sophie’s book is a beautiful reminder for women that we need to come alongside and support one another instead of tearing each other down and telling each other how we should live. She tells us that our “callings complement one another” and that we need to “bless each other.” Amen.

2-Star Reads

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
I am a very organized person and thought I would love this book, but honestly, I found her methodology to be bizarre and bordering on OCD. The one thing that I really did like, and will use personally, and with my clients, is that when the time comes to do some purging of material items, that we go through the process of asking ourselves if each particular item brings us joy, and if we recognize that it doesn’t then take that as the cue that it’s time to let go of that item.

My Next Review

Below are some of the books that are on my current reading list. I will post a blog in January that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

Do Over by Jon Acuff
The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened The West by Lesley Poling-Kempes
Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

What was one of your 5-star books this Summer?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Spring 2016

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Reading List – Spring 2016

I didn’t have any 5-star reads over the spring months (my bar is pretty high to be rated a 5), but there were a couple of really great books that I would highly recommend.

Below are my ratings for them, as well as a brief summary of how each might add value to your life.

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.
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.

4-Star Reads

The Power of the Other by Henry Cloud
In many senses, Dr. Cloud tells us what we already know, relationships have the power to help us be healthier and more successful. Where he goes beyond this common knowledge is by breaking it down as far as how power is created through specific kinds of connection. I particularly like his perspective on competition and peak performance. He included a great quote from Larry Page that my clients will hear me quote regularly, “Always work hard on something uncomfortably exciting.” This is a must-read for business owners and executives, and is one that most everyone can learn something from.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
I am a firm believer that we are our own worst enemy, and that we often do not reach our potential because we are holding ourselves back in some way for some reason. Holiday believes that outcomes such as these are the result of our ego getting the better of us. In his new book he teaches us how to not let this happen, but instead be “humble in our aspirations”, “gracious in our success”, and “resilient in our failures”. There is something in this book for everyone. You can also read my review of his book The Obstacle is the Way here.

Becoming an Agile Leader by Victoria Swisher
Great book that I will recommend to all of my clients who are managing/leading people. Swisher covers topics that are applicable to every leader: self-awareness, mental agility, people agility, change agility, and results agility. She provides a fantastic overview of what each of those mean, and then provides very tactical ideas of how to sharpen our skills in each of those areas and how to apply them in our business and personal lives.

3-Star Reads

Teach Me to Pray by Andrew Murray
I’ve actually been reading this book for nearly a year and finally finished it. Murray’s words are rich and can only be taken a bite at a time. I started it with the desire to be a more prayerful person and he helped me on that journey, beginning with the beautiful admonition to dwell alone with God, “Let the place of secret prayer become to me the most beloved place on earth.”

Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez
Personal finances are an area that I lack the depth of knowledge and understanding that I desire for myself, so I am constantly trying to learn from those who have seemingly mastered it, rather than allowing it master to them. My favorite section in the book provides ten ways to save, beginning with these: 1) Stop trying to impress people. 2) Don’t go shopping. 3) Live within your means. Overall, I would say that this book has several very helpful areas, but may be a bit too cumbersome for the average person (though worthwhile if you are disciplined to work through the recommended steps).

2-Star Reads

Follow Me by David Platt
I’ve been wanting to read something by Platt for a few years, and I think I either picked the wrong book to start with, or maybe I just don’t resonate with overall his style and philosophy. There were a few ideas and insights that I really appreciated, like his perspective about financial giving and his reminders about God’s desire to be in relationship with us, and I do love this quote, “Our souls long for the presence of God.” I should note that his Amazon rating is a 4.7 with nearly 450 reviews, so I am in the minority on not loving this book.

My Next Review

Below are some of the books that I am currently reading. I will post a blog in October that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

Under New Management by David Burkus
Do Over by Jon Acuff
H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick

What was one of your 5-star books this Spring?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Winter 2016

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Reading is my happy place, and the books I read during the first few months of this year packed a punch; some of my all-time favorite reads.

Below are my ratings for them, as well as a brief summary of how each might add value to your life.

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.
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

One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Ann’s poetic way of writing, which is the complete opposite of what I usually read, had me hooked from page one. I am awed and inspired by the way she views life. I actually read this book twice, back to back, and am currently re-reading it again. You cannot read this book without being deeply compelled to become a more grateful person.

Living Forward by Daniel Harkavy and Michael Hyatt
You may be tempted to think that I only listed this as a 5-star read because it is written by the owner of the company I work for, but in all reality, I chose to join Building Champions because I am in complete agreement with Daniel’s philosophy: our lives are more full and rich when we live intentionally. Daniel and Michael’s book walks us through how to proactively live life on purpose so that every area of our lives is as meaningful as we desire it to be. Learn a little more through this interview with Forbes magazine, or through this podcast with Dale Partridge.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Wow! Talk about teamwork and perseverance. This is an incredible story that will not only get your adrenaline pumping, but will remind you that teams that work together are able to truly move mountains, and that victories are sweeter when someone else is victorious with you.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Louis Zamperini’s story is truly the epitome of resilience. My own personal courage was bolstered every time Louis encountered a new, and often more horrifying, situation. When you’re tempted to think that you can’t overcome a certain challenge or obstacle, look to Louis’s example to give you confidence to carry on.

4-Star Reads

Scary Close by Donald Miller
This life is a waste if we’re not going to live it as the person who we were created us to be. Donald’s book talks about his journey of becoming real, of pulling off the mask. His story is an encouragement to all of us to become more self-aware, and to not let fear, shame, guilt, or any other feelings keep us from living life as we were intended to.

Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand
Of all of the characters in this epic story, it is the life of Tom Smith that intrigues me most. Tom’s ability to help Seabiscuit actualize the potential that only Tom saw in him is a thing of beauty; nothing less than art in motion. It is a reminder that each of us have a gift that we are meant to share.

3-Star Reads

Deep Change by Robert Quinn
Not an easy read, but some good wisdom for those of us who have areas in our lives that we are working on and expecting transformational change. He also has a field guide with introspective exercises that are intended to help facilitate the desired change.

2-Star Reads

The Principle of the Path by Andy Stanley
“Choosing the wrong path in life will cost you precious years.” Andy’s book identifies why it is important to follow Daniel Harkavy’s outlined method in Living Forward for how to live a life of intention and purpose.

My Next Review

Below are some of the books that I am currently reading. I will post a blog in July that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

The Power of the Other by Henry Cloud
Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Do Over by Jon Acuff
H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick
Under New Management by David Burkus
Becoming an Agile Leader by Victoria Swisher

What was one of your 5-star books this Winter?
What are you currently reading?

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Fall 2015

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Below are the books I read in Q4, with my rating and a brief summary of what I learned, as well as how I think it might add value to your life.

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.
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

I didn’t have any 5-star reads in my Fall reading, but the best book of 2015 for me was Essentialism by Gary McKeown. Every single one of us would like to have more time in our lives, and Gary does an exceptional job of walking through how to make that happen.

4-Star Reads

For The Love by Jen Hatmaker
Life is difficult, and Jen gets real with her readers making sure that we know it’s ok to let our real lives show, and to not get caught in the trap of trying to make our lives appear perfect and easy. She is hilariously funny and her message will resonate with everyone who has ever tried to make their life look like it’s straight off of Pinterest.

The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
Akin to Greg McKeown’s book, Lysa’s overall goal and intent is to help us determine where our time is best spent and how to say no without disappointing people. She presents us with practical filters to use for our decision-making. I found much wisdom in her easy-to follow, and implement, approach.

People over Profit by Dale Partridge
Our economic, and general societal, well-being is still recovering from the effects of people in the finance world sacrificing their convictions for greed. Dale does a great job of showing us what leads to poor decision-making in organizations, and provides us with seven core beliefs that, when acted upon, will bring health, vitality, and sustainability. One of my favorite quotes is, “Fire others the way you would want to be fired.”

3-Star Reads

QBQ! The Question Behind The Question by John G. Miller
Through some simple questions and disciplines, John teaches us how to take personal accountability. He reminds us, “We can’t change other people. We often can’t control circumstances and events. The only things we have any real control over are our own thoughts and actions.”

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero
“There will never be anyone exactly like you. You were given special gifts and talents to share with the world, and even though everybody has special gifts and talents, nobody will use theirs quite the same way you do.” If you need some inspiration and reminders that you are strong and capable, this book will definitely provide you with that pick-me-up.

The Prince of the Marshes by Rory Stewart
A fascinating look at life in Iraq during the years following the ousting of Saddam Hussein. Rory, a British diplomat, shares his story about the time he spends in Iraq trying to help the country unite and re-build with its own government and culture. I preferred Rory’s book, The Places In Between, about his year in Afghanistan over this one.

2-Star Reads

Money by Tony Robbins
I had high hopes that a multi-multi-millionaire would bring some great insights in regard to personal finances, but I was pretty let down. The book is nearly 700 pages, but was extremely repetitive; it could have been 200 and retained the few valuable elements. The section about 401k investments was helpful, but overall I’ve learned far better financial wisdom from Dave Ramsey and my uncle.

1-Star Reads

Disarming the Narcissist by Wendy Behary
This is the only book I read in 2015 that I would say is not worth reading. From my research on this topic, there are more helpful articles on the internet. Bummer!

My Next Review Will Include

Below are some of the books that I am reading or re-reading over the next few months. I will post a blog in April that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

Do Over by Jon Acuff
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Living Forward by Daniel Harkavy and Michael Hyatt
H3 Leadership by Brad Lomenick
Deep Change by Robert Quinn
Scary Close by Donald Miller
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

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

(Here are the links to my other 2015 reading lists: winter 2015 and spring & summer 2015.)

PS: Rather than doing affiliate links to Amazon and putting cash in my personal pocket if you purchase a book from my reading lists, my Amazon links provide a portion of the sale to be donated to one of my favorite non-profit organizations, The Cupcake Girls. I appreciate you making the purchase through my link to support the incredible work they are doing.

My Reading List – Spring & Summer 2015

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I needed a break from business books, so most of what I read over the last six months was light reading. Below are the ones I read in Q2 and Q3, with my rating and a brief summary of what I learned, as well as how I think it might add value to your life.

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.
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

Love Does by Bob Goff
I had the opportunity to hear Bob speak last month and he is as loving, funny, inspiring, and authentic as I expected him to be. After hearing him speak, I knew I needed to read his book again; it’s that good. I love this quote; “There is only one invitation it would kill me to refuse, yet I’m tempted to turn it down all the time. I get the invitation every morning when I wake up to actually live a life of complete engagement, a life of whimsy, a life where love does.”

The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday
Ryan’s writing is masterful, and his beliefs about our ability to choose how we respond to trials and adversity are spot on. His words buoyed me more than a few times while I was training for a race and had moments of wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into. These words of his hit me like a ton of bricks, “We spend a lot of time thinking about how things are supposed to be, or what the rules say we should do. Trying to get it all perfect. We tell ourselves that we’ll get started once the conditions are right, or once we’re sure we can trust this or that. When, really, it’d be better to focus on making due with what we’ve got. On focusing on results instead of pretty methods.” Ouch! You can watch an interview of Ryan talking about the book and his philosophy with one of the founders of Quest Nutrition here.

4-Star Reads

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas
“There is great freedom in how we can meet with and enjoy God. This is by His design and according to His good pleasure.” I’ve wrestled for years with not encountering God in seemingly normal ways. Gary’s Nine Pathways To God showed me that I was created to commune with God in a unique way, as are each of us. Truly very freeing.

Not Fade Away by Rebecca Alexander and Sascha Alper
This beautiful memoir was one that I simply could not put down. Rebecca’s story is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. We could all learn from her resilience and positive attitude.

Big Burn by Timothy Egan
Timothy weaves together two fascinating true stories to create a history lesson that feels like an old western tale. His awe-inspiring research brought facts to light that had been hidden for over 100 years, and caused me to be even more grateful for our national parks.

Chess Not Checkers by Mark Miller
Mark outlines a simple, straightforward methodology for being a strategic thinker in the workplace. He articulates how business really is a sport where winning results from good decision-making, “High performance is not a matter of circumstances, luck, or DNA. High performance is about choices.”

Values, Inc. by Dina Dwyer-Owens
It’s pretty evident that our culture is no longer going to put up with companies that aren’t living by values and ethics. In fact, Dina asserts that lasting success comes from having values that are shared by the entire company, meaning that every employee is not only aware of them but is measured against them in performance reviews.

3-Star Reads

Siren’s Fury by Mary Weber
This is the second is Mary’s trilogy. Candidly, these books are meant for teenagers, but since I enjoy a good fantasy book every now and then, I’ve enjoyed escaping to her made-up world with its fanciful characters and elaborate landscapes.

2-Star Reads

The Code by Shaun Tomson
A good book of principles to live by; it’s a must read for every teenage boy.

My Next Review Will Include

It was an enjoyable season of light reading, but I’m ready for some good meaty books this Fall. Below are some of the books that I am reading or re-reading over the next few months. I will post a blog in early January that provides my ratings and reviews for everything that I read between now and then.

People over Profit by Dale Partridge
Do Over by Jon Acuff
For The Love by Jen Hatmaker
Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis
Time Traps by Todd Duncan

What was one of your 5-star books this Summer?
What is on your reading list this Fall?

(Here are the links to my summer 2014, fall 2014, and winter 2015 reading lists.)

Always Be Growing

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I just turned 40.

One of my sisters asked me what one key learning from these past four decades I could pass on. Being that I’m not very quick on my feet and needed time to ponder and reflect, I told her that I’d have to think about it.

At first some of the things that I teach my clients came to mind: taking time to reflect, being intentional about where you’re headed, making decisions on purpose, etc.

Those are all very valuable, and when implemented are certain to make a positive and lasting difference in our lives.

But one mindset trumps all else: Always be growing.

When I look at the people who I admire most and the people who I most desire to be like, I see humble people who set out each day to be better than they were the day before.

I see people who not only recognize their strengths and weaknesses, but who do something every day to strengthen a strength or diminish a weakness.

I see people who face their fears.

I see people who admit that they don’t have all of the answers, and place themselves in a posture of learning.

I see people who take time to rest and recharge, but who don’t allow laziness or complacency to overtake them.

I see people who explore and try new things, and don’t let failure keep them down.

I see people who not only apologize when they say or do something wrong, but who learn from the experience so they don’t make the same error again.

I see people who seek wisdom, understanding, and discernment.

What I love about this is that everyone can grow. We all have the ability to be better today, in some way, than we were yesterday. Maybe it’s in a behavior, maybe it’s about a belief, or maybe it’s acquiring new knowledge or information. Whatever it is, we have control over whether or not we grow.

Today, at 40 years old, I commit to growing every day.

What does growing look like for you today?

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?