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Every year, I select 10 books that, IMHO, provided the most value to their readers. Some of these may already be on your radar, but others you might have missed. Enjoy!
1. How to Be a Power Connector
Author: Judy Robinett
Subtitle: The 5 50 100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network Into Profits
Why I like it: As somebody who is often overwhelmed by people who want to “connect” with me, Robinett’s system of differentiating between levels of contact was truly a revelation. It’s one of those books I wish I’d been able to read two decades ago.
Best quote: “For you to become a master of strategic relationship, you need to do more than just connect, care, and add value (although those elements are the most basic requirements of any relationship). You need to 1) pinpoint the relationships you will pursue and nurture; 2) reach beyond just friends, family, and profession and build a wide network of connections; 3) use a system for adding value to those contacts regularly; and 3) become the connector between connections–the person who can help people reach a resource they would never know about and could never reach if it weren’t for you.”
2. The Ambitious Woman
Author: Esther Spina
Subtitle: What It Takes and Why You Want to Be One
Why I like it: Unlike last year’s Lean In, this book is written from the viewpoint of a successful woman who didn’t ride the fast track to high-tech riches. Spina is a self-made woman who succeeded at commissioned sales, which is probably the world’s most difficult job.
Best quote: “If you want to be successful, then you must choose to do what ambitious people do. How about the stay-at-home mom who knows how to handle her kids and keeps her home running smoothly–she’s successful. What about the woman who can balance her career and family–she’s successful. The woman who is determined to earn her degree, the woman who is a visionary and is making her dream a reality, the woman who is consistent in character and the way she lives life–they are all successful. Why? Because they are Ambitious Women.”
3. Money: Master the Game
Author: Anthony Robbins
Subtitle: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom
Why I like it: I’ve been a fan of Robbin’s for many years, since it was during one of his seminars that I decided to quit my corporate job and become a full-time writer. I’ve had the opportunity to meet him personally and discovered that, unlike his slightly scary stage persona, in person he’s actually low key and easy to talk to. In any case, it’s been a while since Robbins has written a new book, and this one is particularly relevant for people struggling through today’s difficult economic times.
Best quote: “The secret to wealth is simple: Find a way to do more for others than anyone else does. Become more valuable. Do more. Give more. Be more. Serve more. And you will have the opportunity to earn more–whether you own the best food truck in Austin, Texas, or you’re the top salesperson at your company or even the founder of Instagram.”
4. The Gen Z Effect
Authors: Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen
Subtitle: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business
Why I like it: This book’s thesis is that technology, rather than separating the generations, actually brings them closer and that this is part of a larger shift in how people think about business and life. It’s an easy read but has depth, so that you learn a great deal and, more important, start seeing things in a different way.
Best quote: “The generational divides have stood in our way for so long, undermining our ability to innovate in what is quickly becoming a post-generational world. Post-generational thinking requires that we not only change our individual perceptions of the boundaries between generations, but also build organizations that can do the same.”
Author: Jeff Sutherland
Subtitle: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Why I like it: I get really tired of people insisting that to get more done you have to spend more hours doing it. That’s simply not true. You want to work smarter rather than harder, and this book gives you some real-world techniques for making this happen.
Best quote: “Traditionally, management wants two things on any project: control and predictability. This leads to vast numbers of documents and graphs and charts … Months of effort go into planning every detail, so there will be no mistakes, no cost overruns, and things will be delivered on schedule. The problem is that the rosy scenario never actually unfolds … Every project involves discovery of problems and bursts of inspiration. Trying to restrict any human endeavor of any scope to color-coded charts and graphs is foolish and doomed to failure. It’s not how people work, and it’s not how projects progress. It’s not how ideas reach fruition or how great things are made.”
6. The Soft Edge
Author: Rich Karlgaard
Subtitle: Where Great Companies Find Lasting Success
Why I like it: In my view, companies spend far too much time worrying about the “hard” stuff, like finances and technology, and not enough about the “soft” stuff, like how people feel about what they’re doing and where they’re working. This book shows how that “soft edge” is not only as important as the “hard” edges but arguably more important.
Best quote: “Innovation in companies is very much like a healthy immune response in living organisms. People who enjoy long-term health don’t have episodic bursts of health. They are healthy nearly all the time. Their immune systems routinely fight off most threats. Can the same be true of companies? The analogy fits. In great companies, innovation is a natural response to threats.”
7. The Carpenter
Author: Jon Gordon
Subtitle: A Story About the Greatest Success Strategies of All
Why I like it: Unless you’ve had your head stuck in the sand, you’ve probably run across the numerous best-selling books by Gordon. I like all of his work, and his new book, The Carpenter, is truly a must-read. It is an engaging parable of a high-powered entrepreneur who recaptures his sense of purpose through working with (and learning from) a blue-collar artisan.
- I vow to stay positive in the face of negativity;
- When I am surrounded by pessimism, I will choose optimism;
- When I feel fear, I will choose faith;
- When I want to hate, I will choose love;
- When I want to be bitter, I will choose to get better;
- When I experience a challenge, I will look for an opportunity to learn and grow;
- When I experience a setback, I will be resilient;
- When I meet failure, I will fail forward, toward future success;
- With vision, hope, and faith, I will never give up and will always move forward toward my destiny;
- I believe my best days are ahead of me, not behind me;
- I believe I’m here for a reason and my purpose is greater than my challenges;
- I believe that being positive not only makes me better, it make everyone around me better;
- So today and every day I will be positive and strive to make a positive impact on the world.
8. Scaling Up Excellence
Authors: Robert Sutton and Huggy Rao
Subtitle: Getting to More Without Settling for Less
Why I like it: Entrepreneurs naturally want their company to grow and be more successful. However, many of them discover that once they’re successful as a startup, it’s very difficult to “level up” into a larger company. This book explains the specific challenges that entrepreneurs face, and therefore should be required reading.
Best quote: “Savvy leaders know that just bombarding employees with a quick PowerPoint presentation, a few days of training, or an inspirational speech won’t cut it if they want to spread some goodness from the few to the many. Certainly, there are junctures in every scaling effort when it is wise to choose the easier path or secure a quick victory. Yet as we dug into case after case, and study after study, we saw that every allegedly easy and speedy scaling success turned out to be one we just hadn’t understood very well. Scaling requires grinding it out, and pressing each person, team, group, division, or organization to make one small change after another in what they believe, feel, or do.”
9. Creativity, Inc.
Authors: Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
Subtitle: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Why I like it: By examining Pixar and its relationship to Steve Jobs and the team of people he recruited, this book makes clear that creativity must be built into the corporate culture and is not an attribute of its leadership alone.
Best quote: “The best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know–not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur. I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear. Moreover, successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete. Only when we admit what we don’t know can we ever hope to learn it.”
10. Business Without the Bullsh*t
Author: Me (plus the readers of this blog)
Subtitle: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know
Why I like it: Readers kept telling me they needed a “survival guide” to the corporate world, so I wrote this book. Many of the readers of my blog contributed to the writing by reviewing early chapters. Since I’m obviously biased, here’s what some others have said about this book.
- “The most timely book of 2014.” –Guy Kawasaki
- “The perfect gift.” –Forbes.com
- “All killer, no filler.” –New Hampshire Union Leader
- “The most useful, snappy career book I have seen in maybe five years.” –Penelope Trunk
Best quote: “Conventional wisdom is that business is complicated and its principles difficult to master. However, while every industry and every profession requires specific expertise, the business of business tends to be rather simple. However, the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of management consultants, industry analysts, and corporate trainers depends on keeping things complex–because, after all, once you realize the business is simple, why would you hire them? Beyond your own area of expertise, all you need to be truly successful in the business world is a handful of secrets and shortcuts. And that’s what Business Without the Bullsh*t is all about.”
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