As someone who likes to think for themselves, it’s hard to find resources that you can trust to give you new ideas, while allowing you to keep your feet on the ground. Here are 10 of my current favorites that I think achieve that. I’d love to know what yours are!
Good Life Project Podcasts – Jonathan Fields
Jonathan Fields is on a mission to inspire and enable others to develop businesses that align with their core and has for the past years produced some amazing interviews with people, many of whom are already in the public eye. He has a wonderful knack of getting his guests to tell the story behind the story in ways that allow a glimpse of the unique journeys people have been on in creating these standout businesses, perfomances and works of art that we can so often take for granted. Check out in particular his conversations with ultra athlete Rich Roll; master marketer Seth Godin; and vulnerability goddess Brené Brown.
The Icarus Deception – Seth Godin
We all know the story of Icarus, whose father made him wings, but then warned him not to fly too close to the sun, lest the wax holding the feathers together melt, plunging Icarus to a certain death. In this excellent book, Godin points out for us the prevalence of the messages of that story archetype in our society: don’t try too hard; don’t be too clever; don’t be too cocky. And how many of us disguise anything that’s unique about us for fear that we may be judged as being different from the norm. He argues that, in today’s society, if we truly want to serve, and be who we are, we need to wake up to the less well known moral of the Icarus story: that flying too low may cause another kind of failure.
In talking to the creator in all of us, Godin reframaes what it means to be an “artist”. So, it’s as much a manifesto for edgy business owners and maverick corporate types as it is for writers, actors and other “makers”. Besides anything else, Godin inspires us to quit fearing success and dare to get on with standing out in our own unique way.
Fierce Conversations – Susan Scott
According to Scott, life and business revolve around our conversations. The ones we have with ourselves as much as the ones we have with others. One of her key arguments is that, if we want to be ourselves, if we want to manifest who we are and what we’re trying to do, then what we say to others matters. We have the choice to compromise for the sake of keeping the status quo and avoiding upset, or to speak our truth whatever that happens to be. The more our words align with what we’re feeling, the clearer we can steer our path in life.
How to Fascinate – Sally Hogshead
Even if you’re clear about who you are or what you offer the world, it can sometimes be a challenge to describe it in language that doesn’t have people’s eyes glazing over. If you’re looking for inspiration in this department, check out Sally Hogshead and the fabulous work she has done, looking at how people instinctively see us, and how we can language that in ways that are clear and vibrant way and remain true of us. Do the online questionnaire, and you’ll find your fascination style described as one of forty-nine archetypes, each one a marriage of your two fascination advantages. While no personality system is ever one hundred percent, I’ve found this one provoked useful insight for several of my clients during 2014.
Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath
One of the toughest aspects of creating a business your way is getting yourself and it out there. Particularly if you’re shifting to something new and away from something you’ve been known for in the past. Based on their own research into businesses that have some lasting buzz around them, Chip and Dan Heath look at six features that contribute to making things standout, engage people and stick. Where many marketing books offer a painting by numbers formula, the Heaths avoid this by using entertaining examples to whet your appetite in a way that offers food for thought around how to have folks swarming around you.
Resonate – Nancy Duarte
There can be nothing more boring in business than having to sit and listen to a presenter wade her way through a hundred plus fact-based, bullet point slides. So how not to be that person? Especially if it’s important to you – and the world – that you get your message across? In Resonate, Nancy Duarte has done a superb job of spelling out the importance of engaging audiences, and then in bringing the art of story to creating presentations and written pitches in a way that brings people with you. I particularly like how she maps Hero’s Journey story architecture (the story architecture that’s used to underpin most blockbuster films these days) onto how you can piece together your message. If you check her out online, you’ll also find some fabulous pre-formatted PowerPoint slides for you to dive into.
Quiet- Susan Cain
Much of the business world values extroversion and all it implies: working in teams; being seen as outwardly impactful and dynamic; acting first, thinking later. Many of the extroverted cultures I’ve worked around expect their introverted talent to adapt themselves in order to “fit in”. As if introversion was a handicap. In her superb book Cain however makes the case for introverts. She allows all of us, irrespective of our extroversion/introversion preference, to understand that in devaluing introversion, we lose vital richness of depth, insight and consideration – qualities missing not just from business but from much of life in general.
Stillpower – Garrett Kramer
Business is about performance. With no performance, there is no business. And yet some of us find it easier than others to achieve the kind of results for which we aim. Garrett Kramer’s book, written for athletes and their coaches, but just as relevant to life and work, talks about this phenomenon. Often, if we find ourselves falling short of something, the way we know to overcome it is through use of willpower and determination, perhaps with a sprinkling of tools and techniques we can adopt from time to time to get ourselves over a hump. But, instead of piling on the effort, Kramer suggests we do the exact opposite and think less. He looks at the mental state we all know as The Zone, and at the psychological principles that underpin it. And he offers us a new understanding of how we can achieve that for ourselves more and more.
Clarity – Jamie Smart
Talking of misunderstanding, Jamie Smart looks at some of the taken-for-granted paradigms in psychology and offers a radically different way to see and experience things. Drawing on the work of Syd Banks, and informed by new observations across a variety of disciplines, including quantum physics, Jamie enables us to understand the extent to which the world we so take for granted as being “out there” is first of all created in our mind. This extraordinary realization challenges us to consider all kinds of things, including the sources of stress and overwhelm. In a world engulfed with advice on how to cope with things in our environment, that reframe allows us immense choice over our entire experience of life.
Creating Affluence – Deepak Chopra
There’s much talk in the news these days about the distribution of wealth in our society. Look around you, compare yourself to others and it’s so easy to think that you’re not doing so well or that you are somehow less than. But what does wealth really mean? In this beautiful little book, Chopra argues that, far from being a hard-to-win state, affluence is our natural condition. He considers the related nature of everything, and offers inspiring words that enable us to shape-shift any sense of scarcity or lack we might be feeling, replace it with the knowledge that we’re already rich, and then encourage us to watch what happens when we engage with our worlds from this place.
So, what’s your current top book and/or resource, and why? I’d love to hear!
Photo attribution: Steven Durbin Photography