I kid, I kid. I read a couple of books this week that really hit me between the eyes and made me realize how complacent I seem to have become. The first is A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink and the second is Linchpin: Are You Indispensible? by Seth Godin. I highly recommend them both to anyone in business, but especially to technology people in business.
A Whole New Mind is a look at the end of the Information Age characterized by knowledge workers and MBA types, and the rise of what the author calls the Conceptual Age which will be dominated by more creative types that can synthesize date, make relationships and add value through design. Mr. Pink has a very easy writing style and offered some great ideas on how to develop your right brain and thereby be able to add even more value in whatever you do.
Linchpin really blew my mind. I like Seth Godin’s style a lot, and I was looking forward to reading it even before it showed up on my doorstep. A linchpin is someone who leans into “the resistance”, the part of all of us that wants to play it safe, and just gets things done. As Seth says over and over, they ship. It doesn’t matter if your IQ makes Einstein look like Paris Hilton if you don’t ship. The book was inspiring to me and made me want to
live up to exceed what I expect from myself.
I really felt both of these books as a one-two punch of much needed motivation and self-discovery. They have shifted my perceptions and I am newly energized by the challenges that I encounter daily. I’m not really dissatisfied with my life, I’m just no longer willing to settle.
So usually I recommend my favorite free software packages on Fridays. Today I want to talk about another borderline obsession of mine that makes me all giddy inside when I think about it. Books. I read a LOT. The summer before I went to live in Brazil for two years, I read over 200 books to “tank up” before the long drought. I LOVE books. Dickens and Heinlein and Nietzsche and Shakespeare and Aurelius and Twain and Dumas… Ok, calm down. Anyway, I’ve had a number of conversations lately about books that have been important to me over the course of my career.
I won’t bore you with the dark corners of my literary addiction. Rather I’d like to recommend some titles that I think everyone should read. Whether you’re in IT or sales, whether you work at a big company or you started your own, I think everyone can benefit from these works.
In No Particular Order:
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – This is one of the very first books about "soft skills” that I ever read. This book was written in 1936 and I think has been in print ever since. The language has been updated and some of the sections were removed since I first read it (who needs to know about writing a business letter these days), but it stands as the book that started it all for me. There is a lot of common sense advice that everyone can benefit from.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey – This isn’t one I go back and re-read a whole bunch, but there are some principles that Covey explains in such a way that really resonates with me. I was first exposed to the concept of “Begin with the End in Mind” in this book and I use it daily. In software development, troubleshooting, customer service, and life in general, it is absolutely critical to know where you’re going before you start. The other idea that I took away from this was “Sharpen the Saw”. Continually exposing yourself to new ideas and new ways of doing things will keep you excited and relevant. (I’m talking to you IT folks.)
- The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber – This one was recommended to me a year or so after I started my first business. I think the lessons that can be taken away from this one are not limited to entrepreneurs though. The idea that good businesses are made up of systems and should have well defined responsibilities is a valuable lens to look at and evaluate any company. One of the questions I ask the most as I consult is “What is your process for handling that?” If I get a well articulated (or heaven forbid a documented) answer to that question, it will speed up the process by an astounding amount.
So that’s my starter list, for those of you who have asked me. Let me know what you think, and I’ll post the next list in a couple of months.
Today is my anniversary and I wanted to take a minute to tell my amazing, smart and beautiful wife how much I love and appreciate her. You have made the last 11 years a non-stop roller coaster of fun, self-discovery and excitement for me. I am very fortunate to have you by my side as we try to figure out this whole “life” thing together.