Transformative Books Read in 2015
Why do I call these “transformative” books? Because transformative learning theory is the process of “perspective transformation.” It has three dimensions: psychological (changes in understanding of the self), convictional (revision of belief systems), and behavioral (changes in lifestyle). I intentionally choose books that fall in one of these three dimensions.
My reading last year was very purposeful. It included a book on how to improve relationships, multiple leadership books, books by marketing thought leaders, a book on transformative health, a book on tidying, a book on the growth mindset, one on the diversity advantage and multiple books about living your best life.
Here are the top twelve books I read in 2015:
1. Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson
If you let it, this book will improve your relationships. By changing yourself in relation to your partner, you can dramatically improve the relationship. Dr. Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy views the love relationship as an attachment bond. By getting to the emotional underpinnings of your relationship, you recognize that you are emotionally attached to and dependent on your partner in much of the same way that a child is on a parent for protection, nurturing, and soothing. By being open, attuned, and responsive to each other, couples can reestablish emotional connection. Dr. Johnson focuses on key moments in a relationship – from recognizing the demon dialogues, to forgiving injuries – and uses them as touch points for seven healing conversations (and walks you through exactly how to have these important conversations). These conversations provide insight into the defining moments in your relationship and can guide you in reshaping these moments to create a secure and lasting bond, ensuring a lifetime of love.
2. Too Many Bosses, Too Few Leaders by Rajeev Peshawaria
This book examines how extraordinary leaders – from Alan Mullaly at Ford, Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Maura Costin Scalise the Harvard Swim Coach – galvanize their talents and energy, as well as the talents and energy of those who work for them, to achieve superior performance no matter what challenges they face. Being a leader is hard, and Peshawaria advises aspiring leaders to first find your personal source of energy and how to sustain it when the going gets tough (which it will). First reflect – define your purpose and values. Next, enlist co-leaders. “Don’t ask yourself what you can do to motivate them; try to find out how they are already motivated.” Harness the energy and talents of those at all levels of an organization, igniting their motivation by addressing their core needs concerning their Role, their work Environment, and their career Development. Remember that the move from midmanagement to enterprise leader is the hardest career transition. First you learn to stop “doing” and start “facilitating.” Then you shift from “I” to “we”. The highest leverage activities to spend your time on are setting the direction, designing the organization, and creating a culture of excellence. At the end of the day, leadership is about channeling energy.
3. The CMO Manifesto by John Ellett
Before I took the Head of Marketing role at Apptentive, my aunt Karla Friede (a very successful entrepreneur and CEO on NVoicePay) told me, “make your first 100 days count.” This book is a 100-Day Action Plan for Marketing Change Agents. While it is more geared for Fortune 1,000 CMOs, the 12 practical steps outlined provide a clear, actionable roadmap of activities essential to the success of any marketing executive. The 12 steps involve clarifying expectations, setting your agenda, forging relationships, discovering insights, determining your strategy, structuring your team, leading people, defining processes, preparing your plan, measuring progress, setting up systems for success, and executing for impact. Each chapter provides an action plan checklist that is both tactical and strategic. The first 100 days fly by so “decide to accomplish extraordinary things” and you will.
4. Playing Big by Tara Mohr
Every woman aspires to something – this book offers tools to help every woman play bigger. Mohr, a leadership coach, noticed that too many tremendously talented women with big aspirations often didn’t see their own brilliance and sat on their big ideas rather than taking action. This interactive book provides practical tools to help quiet self-doubt, identify callings, “unhook” from praise and criticism, unlearn counterproductive habits, and begin taking bold action. Journaling questions help you create a plan based on your unique strengths and resources. I found it incredibly inspiring that Dr Mohr lead by example by playing big writing this book while pregnant. In her words, “when women play big, we make things happen.”
5. The Wahls Protocol by Terry Wahls, MD
When traditional medicine failed, her body was ravaged by progressive multiple sclerosis, and she was confined to a recline wheelchair, Dr. Wahls looked to a new way to heal herself. After extensive research she used intensive directed nutrition and neuromuscular electrical stimulation interventions to rejuvenate her health. Within a year, she completed an 18-mile bike ride. Dr. Wahls teaches how our food and lifestyle choices create health or disease depending on our choices. Once you understand why you need to eat for health, she delivers a detailed road map that guides you step by step. She has multiple levels of the diet (depending on your health) that involve eating a ton of fruit and vegetables, going gluten-free/dairy-free, and eating organic, grass-fed and wild-caught. After a deep dive into the foods to eat, she also explores going food by reducing toxins, exercise, and stress management. Dr. Wahls is first hand validation that diet truly represents the most powerful medicine.
6. Different – Escaping the Competitive Herd by Youngme Moon
What if working like crazy to beat the competition did exactly the opposite – made you mediocre and more like the competition? Harvard Business School professor Youngme Moom will inspire you to be counterintuitive – to rethink your business strategy, to stop conforming and start deviating, to stop emulating and start innovating. By focusing on strengths, organizations can further extend the distance between you and your competitors, instead of improving ourselves all the way to mediocrity. “Differentiation is a commitment to engage with people – not in a manner to which they are merely unaccustomed, but in a manner that they will value, respect, and yes, perhaps even celebrate.” Exceptional brands will offer something that is hard to come by, they will reflect a commitment to a big idea, and they will be intensely human. “In business, I believe that there will always be positive deviants, brands that are exceptional, not because they are able to run harder or faster than the rest, but because at some fundamental level they have made a commitment to not taking the status quo for granted.” Different shows how to succeed in a world where conformity reigns…but exceptions rule.
7. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes decluttering to a whole new level. The book revolves around a simple question, “Does this item spark joy?” By identifying what we really want and need to keep, we can discard the rest all at once, intensely and completely. The goal of Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method is to help you properly simplify and organize your home once, so that you’ll never have to do it again. She turns traditional little-by-little methods on their head because she believes that “to truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose.” Kondo provides step-by-step instructions that start with getting in the right mindset. She believes that through the magic of tidying more people will be able to experience the joy and contentment of living surrounded by the things they love. Buy a box of heavy-duty garbage bags when you buy this book – it will motivate you to take action.
8. Die Empty – Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry
If you’re in a rut or want to grow exponentially, read this book. Die Empty is a tool for people who aren’t willing to put off their most important work for another day. Henry explains the forces that lead to stagnation and introduces practices that will keep you on a true and steady course. We have a limited number of days on earth, so make them count by focusing on the unique contribution that only you can make. “A person who intentionally structures work and life around what matters most to them will find a greater degree of gratification and will ultimately produce better results than those who don’t.” This is a blueprint for how to shun mediocrity and instead live and work by design. To build a remarkable life, you must commit to doing the right thing even when it’s uncomfortable and to emptying yourself every day rather than deferring action. This is a tool for people who are unwilling to put off their most important work for another day. This book inspired me to take action and create the Inspira newsletter. Choose to die empty.
9. Mindset – The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
Stanford University psychology Carol Dweck explains that it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success – it’s whether we approach our goals with a fixed or growth mindset. The fixed mindset leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, get defensive or give up, see effort as fruitless, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. In contrast, the growth mindset leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. Praising our children or teammates’ intelligence and ability does not foster self-esteem and instead jeopardizes success. By cultivating the growth mindset we can foster a love of learning and resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area. The good news is the growth mindset can be learned and Dweck demonstrates how change is possible throughout life.
10. Love is the Killer App by Tim Sanders
Nice guys and gals can finish first if they effectively and enthusiastically use their intangibles: Knowledge, Network, and Compassion. By doing this, you become a rich source of information, you are seen as a person with valuable insight, you double your business intelligence in a year, you triple your network of personal relationships in two years and you quadruple the number of colleagues in your life who love you like family. Sanders is a book-aholic who provides excellent insights into how to study a book in order to retain and share it. He also explains that every person we meet is a potential node in our network – successful people seek beneficial connections for the people within their network just for the sake of helping as opposed to personal gain. Compassion can and should be extended to business relationships. Encouraging others, listening and demonstrating you care for those you come in contact with is an end in itself, and you’ll soon find the encouragement and caring coming back to you. In short, by becoming a “Love Cat”, you become one of those amazing people to whom everyone turns, who lead rather than follows, who never runs out of ideas, contacts, or friendship.
11. Managing Oneself by Peter Drucker
This Harvard Business Review Classic is a quick read that packs a punch. Drucker helps you unlock your full potential by discovering your strengths, acknowledging how you learn, clarifying your values, recognizing how you best work with others, and identifying the work environments that are right for you. Not only must we take responsibility for managing our careers and ourselves, it is our responsibility to identify how our bosses and coworkers work so we can set ourselves up for success when working with them. The book also dives into the importance of contribution – it is vitally important to have an area where we can contribute, make a difference, and be somebody. Through a series of questions, Drucker sets us up to take responsibility for our careers and our lives.
12. The Diversity Advantage by Ruchika Tulshyan
Close friend and journalist, Ruchika Tulshyan explores how diversity in the workplace isn’t just the “right” thing to do—it’s a financially savvy strategy in today’s hyper-competitive digital marketplace. She walks through steps employers can take to identify unconscious bias, how to change the workforce (sourcing, interviewing, culture), and why engaging women in the workforce should be a priority for every organization. Specific practices she recommends are offering work hour flexibility, manager training, paid maternity leave, lactation rooms, and returnships. In order to propel senior women she advocates for moving beyond mentorship to sponsorship. This is a refreshing read for women who are job seekers as well as any employer. To attract, retain and promote women, the best companies worldwide have made inclusion part of their entire culture, not just their hiring processes. Doing so gives organizations a competitive advantage.
Thank you to those of you who recommended one of these twelve books! What books made a big impact on you last year and what is on your reading list for 2016?