***I just launched a year long book club for professionals. Check out the details at the end of this post.*** When you spend 8 hours a day sitting at a computer for work, and then another who-knows-how-many hours looking at your phone, there's something to be said for reading a book. Sitting down, holding the book in your hand, reading, and flipping the page with the other hand. It creates a focus and attention that is rare in our times. Immersing yourself into a subject and just reading allows your mind to process a subject in a way it never can while reading stupid "top 5" style listicle articles online.
It's what allows you to develop an insight. That is your unique understanding or point of view based on your understanding, experiences, and relationships. Books provide the fuel. They are an author's lifetime worth of insights packaged into a neat little $10 collection of words and pages.
Reflecting back on the books I've read, I find myself constantly coming back to a handful that had a profound impact on me. They are books that have changed the way I think, changed the way I process things that happen to me, changed the way I interact with people around me, and even changed the way I work or act on a daily basis.
That's the real definition of life-changing. It's an idea. It's a mindset. It's something that sparks a small change, even if seemingly insignificant. Instagram makes us think that you can only change your life if you climb a mountain or run a marathon. It's actually much simpler than that.
This list is by no means exhaustive, it's simply 5 books that have given me some sense of personal growth simply by reading and trying to apply the material.
1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
This book taught me that a healthy team fights. They passionately debate the merits of an idea to generate the buy-in for the best solution. This is contrary to the default strategy of building consensus that weak leaders often try to do.
I wrote about this book from the perspective of the Muslim community on MuslimMatters: The Five Dysfunctions of Islamic Organizations. I compiled a 'Deep Dive Study Guide' for this book curating additional material to better understand the book that was featured by LinkedIn Pulse and has over 30k views.
2. The 21 Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell
This was the primer that helped me to start understanding what intangibles and soft skills truly are. Leadership is something that has become a cliche subject because everyone thinks it's easy and they are great at it.
Maxwell lays out the foundational principles that let us understand what influence actually is, and the characteristics that must be cultivated to lead successfully.
3. Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath
It feels like every business magazine or podcast always mentions how decision making is such a critical skill. They talk about how CEO's would have closets full of the exact same jeans and black shirt - enabling them to minimize frivolous decisions and conserve their energy for important ones. We're taught that the higher up you go in an organization, the more you are forced to delegate nearly everything except making major decisions.
A decision could be what budget cuts to make, what school to send your kids to, what play to call at the end of a game, or even something as drastic as taking military action.
Decisive provides a tangible framework to help guide you to making better decisions. It puts context around the reasons why we make bad ones, how to minimize those biases, and the step by step method to get better at the skill of decision making.
I compiled a study guide on this book as well as some short explanatory videos about the framework covered in the book - Deep Dive Study Guide on Decision Making.
4. Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
Ego is bad. The title is self-explanatory. We all get it.
The paradox of success is that to succeed, you have to think of yourself less. This is unbelievably difficult in execution. We all have people around us who walk around with an undue sense of self-importance. The trick is making sure we ourselves are not that person.
5. Deep Work by Cal Newport
This is a productivity book that's not a productivity book. It sheds light on why most of us can't work throughout the day. It's not as simplistic as being distracted, or the illusion of multi-tasking. That's definitely part of it, but it's not all of it.
Deep Work offers up one of the single most valuable skills anyone can develop - the ability to think deeply about a subject for hours at a time. In an age where everyone has access to the same information, the rare and valuable skill is the ability to interpret and develop insights that others cannot see.
Newport presents a number of strategies to help do this. Suffice to say, a lot of it involves less screen time and more quiet time.
If you've enjoyed these book recommendations and the additional resources linked to, I'd like to invite you to check out a new book club for professionals by clicking here. It will cover 12 books - one each month for the duration of 2018, and that's it. You can get all the details by clicking here, but act fast as registration will close soon.