2020 has been a challenging year for everyone. This is especially true for leaders. It has been a time of learning for us all. We are firm believers that everyone should be lifelong learners, improving their ability to innovate, educate, and nurture the people around us. With this in mind, we have curated a list of some suggested reading for the next year.
I typically read two or three books a week. Admittedly, not all of them are beneficial for personal or professional growth. This list represents the best books for growth that I have read in the last year.
Helpful Hint: if you read one book about every two weeks, you can get through this entire list in 2021.
by Simon Sinek
Think about the potential of a game that never ends. Games like football, chess, or Monopoly have players and rules clearly defined and have a fixed endpoint. The winners and losers are easily identified. Infinite games, games with no finish line, like business or politics, or life itself, have players who come and go. The rules and players of an infinite game are changeable, while infinite games have no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers—only ahead and behind.
In this fantastic book, Simon Sinek offers a framework for leading with an infinite mindset based on purpose. While none of us can resist the fleeting thrills of a promotion earned or a tournament won, we need to realize these rewards fade quickly. In pursuit of a Just Cause, we will commit to a vision of a future world so appealing that we will build it week after week, month after month, year after year. It becomes our personal mission. Although we do not know the exact form this world will take, working toward it gives our work and life meaning. Leaders who embrace an infinite mindset build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organizations. Ultimately, they are the ones who lead us into the future.
By Aaron Dignan
Brave New Work translates theory into plain language and practices, looking to transform how you think about work. This is true for any leader, teacher, or consultant looking to up their game in terms of a methodology for implementing practical, tangible, self-sustaining change. It’s a good read based on research and results without jargon or intellectual arrogance and provides tactics without being overly simplistic. Dignan offers excellent stories of corporate transformation. For you leaders and founders out there, it’s a must-read if you want your organization to thrive.
Dignan masterfully breaks down the historical reasons for our hierarchical, constrained organizations lacking purpose and meaning, and even better, he describes a way out.
It is possible to drive change through bureaucratic corporations. Through his consulting work, Dignan tells stories of organizations willing to venture into this brave new world of work, which takes courage, patience, and a steadfast focus on continuous learning. In these “evolutionary organizations,” people are trusted with autonomy, not controlled by rules. And he shows us that the result is not only happier people but higher profits as well. How can we not do this work?
By Mo Gawdat
In this “powerful personal story woven with a rich analysis of what we all seek” (Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google), Mo Gawdat, Chief Business Officer at Google’s [X], applies his superior logic and problem-solving skills to understand how the brain processes joy and sadness—and then he solves for happy.
In 2001 Mo Gawdat realized that despite his incredible success, he was miserable. Being a lifelong learner, he approached the problem as an engineer would: examining all facts and applying logic. His time and efforts proved successful, and he discovered the equation for lasting happiness.
Thirteen years later, Mo’s algorithm would be put to the ultimate test. After the sudden death of his son, Ali, Mo and his family turned to his equation—and it worked. Mo was able to transform his loss into the ultimate goal—he would share his equation to help as many people as possible.
In Solve for Happy, Mo questions fundamental aspects of our existence, shares his discoveries for why we suffer, and lays out a step-by-step process for obtaining lifelong contentment. He shows the reader how to view life through a new lens, teaching how to overcome the disillusions that cloud our thinking, move beyond the brain’s blind spots, and embrace five ultimate truths.
No matter what obstacles we face, what burdens we bear, what trials we’ve experienced, we can all be content with our present situation and optimistic about the future.
By Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia
Beginning in 1997, Bob Chapman and Barry-Wehmiller have led the way to a drastically different approach to leadership creating chart-topping morale, loyalty, creativity, and business performance. They reject the idea that employees are simply positions to be filled, to be moved, managed, or discarded at will. Rather, Barry-Wehmiller insists that organizations should view employees like family–everyone matters. This has become the foundation of the company’s success.
When times get hard, families come together to survive the storm, whether that be short or long term. Barry-Wehmiller handled the Great Recession with grace and a sustainably different approach. Instead of mass layoffs, they found resourceful and caring ways to cut costs. As a result, Barry-Wehmiller emerged from the downturn with higher employee morale than ever before.
While this is perhaps hard to believe, Barry-Wehmiller cultivated what can be viewed as an exceptional workplace where the goal is for everyone to feel trusted and cared for. There is an expectation that they will justify that trust by caring for each other and putting the common good first.
Chapman and coauthor Raj Sisodia illustrate how any organization can reject the traumatic consequences of mass layoffs, demeaning rules, and overly competitive cultures. Once you stop treating people like functions, disengaged workers begin to share their gifts and talents toward a shared future and uninspired workers stop feeling that their jobs have no meaning and everyone can stop staring at the clock praying for the end of the workday.
This book takes you along Chapman’s journey to incorporate caring, empathy, and inspiration into his company and provides clear steps to transform your own workplace, whether you lead two people or two hundred thousand. While the Barry-Wehmiller way isn’t easy, it is simple and effective.
By Kimberly Nix Berens PhD
In the United States, a majority of students graduate below proficiency in all academic subjects. Parents of struggling students feel overwhelmed and confused about how to help their children simply survive school, let alone succeed. Various school reform efforts have been tried and all have failed. But all hope is not lost. A science exists that allows children to learn as individuals even though at school they are educated in groups. One that avoids senseless labels that sentence children to lifetimes of failure and mediocrity.
Dr. Kimberly Berens and her team of scientists have spent over 20 years designing a powerful system of instruction based on the learning, behavioral, and cognitive sciences called Fit Learning. This style of teaching has been proven to drastically improve how students understand and achieve, even for those with learning disabilities.
Blindspots exposes the history of our broken education system and shows that by embracing this teaching system in the classroom, we can open the vast potential within every child.
By Daniel Kahneman
In this bestseller, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman, world-famous psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, takes you on a tour of the mind and explains the two systems that drive the way we think. System 1 is fast, intuitive, and emotional; System 2 is slower, more deliberative, and more logical.
By understanding how the two systems shape our judgments and decisions, you are shown how things like overconfidence, difficulties, and cognitive biases can impact us. Kahneman goes on to reveal where we can and cannot trust our intuition, and teaches us how to tap into slow thinking.
The book is full of practical and enlightening insights in a lively and engaging manner. If you’re looking for practical techniques to protect yourself from mental glitches, this is a book for you.
By Adam Grant
For generations, our society focuses on the characteristics of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But in the world today, success is increasingly dependent on how we communicate and how we interact with others.
In Give and Take, Adam Grant, award-winning researcher and Wharton’s highest-rated professor, examines the surprising forces that shape why some people rise to the top of the success ladder while others can’t ever seem to stay afloat.
By Phil Knight
Bill Gates named Shoe Dog one of his five favorite books of 2016 and called it “an amazing tale, a refreshingly honest reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It’s a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice. Phil Knight opens up in ways few CEOs are willing to do.”
After graduating business school, Phil Knight borrowed fifty dollars from his father and launched a company with one simple mission: import high-quality, low-cost running shoes from Japan. He began by humbly selling the shoes from the trunk of his car in 1963 and grossed eight thousand dollars that first year. Today, Nike’s annual sales top $30 billion. We live in the age of start-ups, and Knight’s Nike is the gold standard, as Nike’s swoosh is one of the few icons recognized all over the world.
But Knight, the man behind the global brand, has always been a bit of a mystery. In Shoe Dog, he finally shares his story. Knight tells of the risks, the competitors, the financial struggles, and the triumphs along the way. This is a story of success and how one brand became a company and a culture of success.
By Alberto Savoia
The Law of Market Failure: The bleak reality is that most new products will fail, even if executed competently.
Savoia harnesses his experience at Google, his outstanding success as an entrepreneur and consultant, and insights from his lectures at Stanford University and Google, to offer an unparalleled approach to overcoming the beast that is market failure.
While millions work hard to bring to life new ideas, some of these ideas will turn out to be revolutionary successes and others will be smaller, more personal but nonetheless successes. Meanwhile, another group of people are working equally hard to develop new ideas that will inevitably fail.
If you are currently working to develop a new product or idea, whether individually or with a team, consider what group you might be in? The law of market failure indicates that up to 90% of most new products, services, businesses, and initiatives will fail soon after they are launched.
Filled with detailed case studies, a lesson on creating your own hard data, a strategy for market engagement, and an introduction to the concept of a pretotype (not a prototype), The Right It is a groundbreaking, entertaining, and highly practical book delivers a proven formula for turning ideas, products, services, and businesses into successful endeavors.
As Alberto writes, “make sure you are building The Right It before you build It right”.
Never Be Closing: How to Sell Better Without Screwing Your Clients, Your Colleagues, or Yourself
By Tim Hurson and Tim Dunne
Speaker and consultant Tim Hurson presents 12 techniques that benefit both the seller and the client. Never Be Closing expands on the principles of Tim Hurson’s first book, Think Better, to teach salespeople how to improve their strategy and sell anything to anyone using a simple, repeatable framework.
This isn’t a book full of mundane tactics for cold-calling or techniques for closing a deal. This is a problem-solving approach that is more beneficial for both the seller and the client. Selling better isn’t just a one time thing; it’s a way to become a more valuable long-term partner.
With their “Productive Selling Model,” Hurson and Dunne offer business people a set of 15 tools to pull apart their current techniques, analyze them, and re-assemble them in a dynamic way. The authors include practical advice mixed with helpful anecdotes to build mutually productive relationships between seller and client, including:
- The Rashomon Effect, which teaches readers how to bridge the gap between different perspectives.
- The Hitchcock Method, which offers readers strategies on developing a script about themselves, their company, and their products.
- The Sales Conversation, a three step structure to explore the client’s needs, establish credibility, and deliver value.
Tim Hurson is the founding partner of Manifest Communications, one of North America’s leading social marketing agencies. He launched ThinkX Intellectual Capital in 2004 and is the author of Think Better: An Innovator’s Guide to Productive Thinking. Tim Dunne is a consulting partner with ThinkX, KnowInnovation, and New & Improved, firms that offer leadership, innovation, and sales training to companies worldwide.
Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When the Create Widespread Empathy
By Dev Patnaik
In this essential and illuminating book, top business strategist Dev Patnaik tells the story of how organizations of all kinds prosper when they tap into a power each of us already has: empathy, the ability to reach outside of ourselves and connect with other people. When people inside a company develop a shared sense of what’s going on in the world, they see new opportunities faster than their competitors. They have the courage to take a risk on something new. And they have the gut-level certitude to stick with an idea that doesn’t take off right away. People are “Wired to Care,” and many of the world’s best organizations are, too.
In pursuit of this idea, Patnaik takes readers inside big companies like IBM, Target, and Intel to see widespread empathy in action. But he also goes to farmers’ markets and a conference on world religions. He dives deep into the catacombs of the human brain to find the biological sources of empathy. And he spends time on both sides of the political aisle, with James Carville, the Ragin’ Cajun, and John McCain, a national hero, to show how empathy can give you the acuity to cut through a morass of contradictory information.
Wired to Care is a compelling tale of the power that people have to see the world through each other’s eyes, told with passion for the possibilities that lie ahead if leaders learn to stop worrying about their own problems and start caring about the world around them. As Patnaik notes, in addition to its considerable economic benefits, increasing empathy for the people you serve can have a personal impact, as well: It just might help you to have a better day at work.
Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRS
By John Doerr
In the fall of 1999, John Doerr met with the founders of a start-up whom he’d just given $12.5 million, the biggest investment of his career. Larry Page and Sergey Brin had amazing technology, entrepreneurial energy, and sky-high ambitions, but no real business plan. For Google to change the world (or even to survive), Page and Brin had to learn how to make tough choices on priorities while keeping their team on track. They’d have to know when to pull the plug on losing propositions, to fail fast. And they needed timely, relevant data to track their progress—to measure what mattered.
Doerr taught them about a proven approach to operating excellence: Objectives and Key Results. He had first discovered OKRs in the 1970s as an engineer at Intel, where the legendary Andy Grove (“the greatest manager of his or any era”) drove the best-run company Doerr had ever seen. Later, as a venture capitalist, Doerr shared Grove’s brainchild with more than fifty companies. Wherever the process was faithfully practiced, it worked.
In this goal-setting system, objectives define what we seek to achieve; key results are how those top-priority goals will be attained with specific, measurable actions within a set time frame. Everyone’s goals, from entry level to CEO, are transparent to the entire organization.
The benefits are profound. OKRs surface an organization’s most important work. They focus effort and foster coordination. They keep employees on track. They link objectives across silos to unify and strengthen the entire company. Along the way, OKRs enhance workplace satisfaction and boost retention.
In Measure What Matters, Doerr shares a broad range of first-person, behind-the-scenes case studies, with narrators including Bono and Bill Gates, to demonstrate the focus, agility, and explosive growth that OKRs have spurred at so many great organizations. This book will help a new generation of leaders capture the same magic.
The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change
By Adam Braun
Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling he met a young boy begging on the streets of India, who after being asked what he wanted most in the world, simply answered, “A pencil.” This small request led to a staggering series of events that took Braun backpacking through dozens of countries before eventually leaving a prestigious job to found Pencils of Promise, the organization he started with just $25 that has since built more than 250 schools around the world.
The Promise of a Pencil chronicles Braun’s journey to find his calling, as each chapter explains one clear step that every person can take to turn their biggest ambitions into reality. If you feel restless and ready for transition, if you are seeking direction and purpose, this critically acclaimed bestseller is for you. Driven by inspiring stories and shareable insights, this is the book that will give you the tools to make your own life a story worth telling.
Contagious: Why Things Catch On
By Jonah Berger
What makes things popular? If you said advertising, think again. People don’t listen to advertisements, they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?
Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent the last decade answering these questions. He’s studied why New York Times articles make the paper’s own Most Emailed list, why products get word of mouth, and how social influence shapes everything from the cars we buy to the clothes we wear to the names we give our children.
In Contagious, Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Discover how six basic principles drive all sorts of things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos. Learn how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through the lowly cheesesteak, why anti-drug commercials might have actually increased drug use, and why more than 200 million consumers shared a video about one of the most boring products there is: a blender.
Contagious provides specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and content that people will share. Whether you’re a manager at a big company, a small business owner trying to boost awareness, a politician running for office, or a health official trying to get the word out, Contagious will show you how to make your product or idea catch on.
The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t
By Robert I. Sutton PhD
“What an asshole!”
How many times have you said that about someone at work? You’re not alone! In this groundbreaking book, Stanford University professor Robert I. Sutton builds on his acclaimed Harvard Business Review article to show you the best ways to deal with assholes…and why they can be so destructive to your company. Practical, compassionate, and in places downright funny, this guide offers:
- Strategies on how to pinpoint and eliminate negative influences for good
- Illuminating case histories from major organizations
- A self-diagnostic test and a program to identify and keep your own “inner jerk” from coming out
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
By Charles Duhigg
In The Power of Habit, award-winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to the sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.
Why: What Makes Us Curious
By Mario Livio
Astrophysicist and author Mario Livio investigates perhaps the most human of all our characteristics—curiosity—in this “lively, expert, and definitely not dumbed-down account” (Kirkus Reviews) as he explores our innate desire to know why.
Experiments demonstrate that people are more distracted when they overhear a phone conversation—where they can know only one side of the dialogue—than when they overhear two people talking and know both sides. Why does half a conversation make us more curious than a whole conversation?
“Have you ever wondered why we wonder why? Mario Livio has, and he takes you on a fascinating quest to understand the origin and mechanisms of our curiosity. I thoroughly recommend it.” (Adam Riess, Nobel Prize Winner in Physics, 2011). Curiosity is not only at the heart of mystery and suspense novels, it is also essential to other creative endeavors, from painting to sculpture to music. It is the principal driver of basic scientific research. Even so, there is still no definitive scientific consensus about why we humans are so curious, or about the mechanisms in our brain that are responsible for curiosity.
In the ever-fascinating Why? Livio interviewed scientists in several fields to explore the nature of curiosity. He examined the lives of two of history’s most curious geniuses, Leonardo da Vinci and Richard Feynman. He also talked to people with boundless curiosity: a superstar rock guitarist who is also an astrophysicist; an astronaut with degrees in computer science, biology, literature, and medicine. What drives these people to be curious about so many subjects?
An astrophysicist who has written about mathematics, biology, and now psychology and neuroscience, Livio has firsthand knowledge of his subject which he explores in a lucid, entertaining way that will captivate anyone who is curious about curiosity.
The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration and Discover Joy in Everyday
By Rob Walker
Welcome to the era of white noise. Our lives are in constant tether to phones, to email, and to social media. In this age of distraction, the ability to experience and be present is often lost: to think and to see and to listen.
Enter Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing. This gorgeously illustrated volume will spark your creativity–and most importantly, help you see the world anew. Through a series of simple and playful exercises–131 of them–Walker maps ways for you to become a clearer thinker, a better listener, a more creative workplace colleague and finally, to rediscover your sense of passion and to notice what really matters to you.
Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
By Dave Logan
Every organization is composed of tribes; naturally occurring groups of between 20 and 150 people. Until now, only a few leaders could identify and develop their tribes, and those rare individuals were rewarded with loyalty, productivity, and industry-changing innovation. Tribal Leadership shows leaders how to assess, identify, and upgrade their tribes’ cultures, one stage at a time. The result is an organization that can thrive in any economy.
The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever
By Michael Bungay Stanier
In Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit, coaching becomes a regular, informal part of your day so managers and their teams can work less hard and have more impact.
Drawing on years of experience training more than 10,000 busy managers from around the globe in practical, everyday coaching skills, Bungay Stanier reveals how to unlock your peoples’ potential. He unpacks seven essential coaching questions to demonstrate how–by saying less and asking more–you can develop coaching methods that produce great results.
- Get straight to the point in any conversation with The Kickstart Question
- Stay on track during any interaction with The Awe Question
- Save hours of time for yourself with The Lazy Question, and hours of time for others with The Strategic Question
- Get to the heart of any interpersonal or external challenge with The Focus Question and The Foundation Question
- Finally ensure others find your coaching as beneficial as you do with The Learning Question
A fresh innovative take on the traditional how-to manual, the book combines insider information with research based in neuroscience and behavioural economics, together with interactive training tools to turn practical advice into practiced habits. Witty and conversational, The Coaching Habit takes your work–and your workplace–from good to great.
Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness
By Ingrid Fetell Lee
Next Big Idea Club selection — chosen by Malcolm Gladwell, Susan Cain, Dan Pink, and Adam Grant as one of the “two most groundbreaking new nonfiction reads of the season!”
“This book has the power to change everything! Writing with depth, wit, and insight, Ingrid Fetell Lee shares all you need to know in order to create external environments that give rise to inner joy.” — Susan Cain, author of Quiet and founder of Quiet Revolution
Have you ever wondered why we stop to watch the orange glow that arrives before sunset, or why we flock to see cherry blossoms bloom in spring? Is there a reason that people — regardless of gender, age, culture, or ethnicity — are mesmerized by baby animals, and can’t help but smile when they see a burst of confetti or a cluster of colorful balloons.
We are often made to feel that the physical world has little or no impact on our inner joy. Increasingly, experts urge us to find balance and calm by looking inward — through mindfulness or meditation — and muting the outside world. But what if the natural vibrancy of our surroundings is actually our most renewable and easily accessible source of joy?
In Joyful, designer Ingrid Fetell Lee explores how the seemingly mundane spaces and objects we interact with every day have surprising and powerful effects on our mood. Drawing on insights from neuroscience and psychology, she explains why one setting makes us feel anxious or competitive, while another fosters acceptance and delight — and, most importantly, she reveals how we can harness the power of our surroundings to live fuller, healthier, and truly joyful lives.
A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
By Warren Berger
In this groundbreaking book, journalist and innovation expert Warren Berger shows that one of the most powerful forces for igniting change in business and in our daily lives is a simple, under-appreciated tool–one that has been available to us since childhood. Questioning–deeply, imaginatively, “beautifully”–can help us identify and solve problems, come up with game-changing ideas, and pursue fresh opportunities. So why are we often reluctant to ask “Why?”
Berger’s surprising findings reveal that even though children start out asking hundreds of questions a day, questioning “falls off a cliff” as kids enter school. In an education and business culture devised to reward rote answers over challenging inquiry, questioning isn’t encouraged–and, in fact, is sometimes barely tolerated.
And yet, as Berger shows, the most creative, successful people tend to be expert questioners. They’ve mastered the art of inquiry, raising questions no one else is asking–and finding powerful answers. The author takes us inside red-hot businesses like Google, Netflix, IDEO, and Airbnb to show how questioning is baked into their organizational DNA. He also shares inspiring stories of artists, teachers, entrepreneurs, basement tinkerers, and social activists who changed their lives and the world around them–by starting with a “beautiful question.”
By Safi Bahcall
Why do good teams kill great ideas?
Loonshots reveals a surprising new way of thinking about the mysteries of group behavior that challenges everything we thought we knew about nurturing radical breakthroughs.
Safi Bahcall, a physicist and entrepreneur, shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing new ideas to rejecting them, just as flowing water will suddenly change into brittle ice. Mountains of print have been written about culture. Loonshots identifies the small shifts in structure that control this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice.
Using examples that range from the spread of fires in forests to the hunt for terrorists online, and stories of thieves and geniuses and kings, Bahcall shows how a new kind of science can help us become the initiators, rather than the victims, of innovative surprise.
Over the past decade, researchers have been applying the tools and techniques of this new science―the science of phase transitions―to understand how birds flock, fish swim, brains work, people vote, diseases erupt, and ecosystems collapse. Loonshots is the first to apply this science to the spread of breakthrough ideas. Bahcall distills these insights into practical lessons creatives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries can use to change our world.
Along the way, readers will learn how chickens saved millions of lives, what James Bond and Lipitor have in common, what the movie The Imitation Game got wrong about World War II, and what really killed Pan Am, Polaroid, and the Qing Dynasty.
The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph
By Ryan Holiday
Its many fans include a former governor and movie star (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a hip hop icon (LL Cool J), an Irish tennis pro (James McGee), an NBC sportscaster (Michele Tafoya), and the coaches and players of winning teams like the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Cubs, and University of Texas men’s basketball team.
The book draws its inspiration from stoicism, the ancient Greek philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics focus on the things they can control, let go of everything else, and turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher. As Marcus Aurelius put it nearly 2000 years ago: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Ryan Holiday shows us how some of the most successful people in history—from John D. Rockefeller to Amelia Earhart to Ulysses S. Grant to Steve Jobs—have applied stoicism to overcome difficult or even impossible situations. Their embrace of these principles ultimately mattered more than their natural intelligence, talents, or luck.
If you’re feeling frustrated, demoralized, or stuck in a rut, this book can help you turn your problems into your biggest advantages. And along the way it will inspire you with dozens of true stories of the greats from every age and era.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
By Malcolm Gladwell
In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within.
Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant in the blink of an eye-that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?
In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of “blink”: the election of Warren Harding; “New Coke”; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police.
Blink reveals that great decision makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing”-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.
Make Your Bed: Little Things That can Change Your Life…And Maybe the World
By Admiral William H. McRaven
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
On May 17, 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven addressed the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day. Taking inspiration from the university’s slogan, “What starts here changes the world,” he shared the ten principles he learned during Navy Seal training that helped him overcome challenges not only in his training and long Naval career, but also throughout his life; and he explained how anyone can use these basic lessons to change themselves-and the world-for the better.
Admiral McRaven’s original speech went viral with over 10 million views. Building on the core tenets laid out in his speech, McRaven now recounts tales from his own life and from those of people he encountered during his military service who dealt with hardship and made tough decisions with determination, compassion, honor, and courage. Told with great humility and optimism, this timeless book provides simple wisdom, practical advice, and words of encouragement that will inspire readers to achieve more, even in life’s darkest moments.
These are the best books I read in 2020 about leadership, business, creativity, and building a better organizational culture. Take the time to read a few of them–and thrive.