This post is actually meant to be a (hopefully) continuously updated page where I track the various books I have completed since the start of my sabbatical.
The key word in the title of this post is COMPLETED. I have a nasty habit of not finishing books that I start – especially when it comes to business or developmental books. Oftentimes I feel like I “get the gist” and move on to something else. So not allowing myself to include a book to this list until it has been completed should serve as sufficient motivation to “finish what I start” and focus not only on starting books, but completing them as well.
At any given time, I should have 3 books that I am currently focused on and these books are separated into 3 categories.
- Developmental – These are the books meant for self improvement or education. In reference to “The Slight Edge”, these are the books I want to develop the habit of reading at least 10 pages from every day.
- Audio Books – If you’ve read my earlier post, “A Little Boost from Fate”, you’ll recall that I recently discovered Audible.com and the thrill of realizing that you could listen to audio books at an accelerated speed. I plan to incorporate listening to audio books into my daily routine during workouts, doing work around the house, etc. I figure it’s more transformative than listening to music or my usual go-to: Sports Talk Radio.
- Fiction / Fun Non-Fiction – This category is where I’ll list the books I read for entertainment. While for most people, this is typically reserved for novels and other forms of fiction, I also have some guilty pleasure non-fiction material I enjoy. Specifically over time you’ll probably see books about ancient mysteries, crypto-zoology (think Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, etc.), and other tidbits about the UNEXPLAINED. Weird, I know. But like I said, that’s my guilty pleasure. And if I’m going to make a “Completed Book List”, I might as well get it all out there at the beginning.
With all of the other reading that is supposed to be going on in my day, you may be wondering who would have time for fiction and reading purely for entertainment. For me, I like to read something from this category in bed before going to sleep. I know I fall asleep more easily and sleep better after reading. HOWEVER, I’ve also noticed that when I try to read developmental material before trying to go to sleep, it tends to wind me up. Typically the developmental material tends to be motivating and sends my mind racing, so I’ll do my Category 1 reading earlier in the day and save the Category 3 for the end of my day.
So without further delay, here is my COMPLETED book list as of December 1, 2015.
- Title: The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness
Author: Jeff Olson
My Thoughts: Given that this book has inspired me to start my own blog and base that blog on my own experiences as it relates to the Slight Edge philosophy as outlined in the book, it can come as no surprise that I am emphatically recommending The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson! When you read The Slight Edge, you’ll find yourself nodding along in agreement. There’s nothing in this book that goes against common sense and what we ALL KNOW to be true. Your life, your success, and your happiness are not a result of one or two big moments or “overnight success stories”. What you achieve in life is a compilation of the little decisions and actions you make EVERY SINGLE DAY. The slight edge either works for your or against you in a compounding affect on your life over time. For example, eating 1 cheeseburger won’t make you gain weight. But making cheeseburgers a mainstay in your diet over time will have a compounding negative impact on your weight. As the author points out, positive daily actions are easy to do…but they are also easy NOT to do. And it is this fact that it is so easy NOT to do the little things every day that have a positive, long-term impact on your life that the majority of people WON’T do them. So as a result, the handful of people who understand and apply this concept to their daily lives over time give themselves a better chance at success and happiness than those who do not.
While I have completed this book, I am by no means “done” with it. I’ll be reviewing and revisiting the highlights I have taken and plan to reference The Slight Edge constantly throughout my life’s journey.
- Title: Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance
Author: Jason Selk
My Thoughts: I wonder if my opinion about this book would be different if I had not just completed The Slight Edge. My guess is “probably”. This book by Jason Selk spends a great deal of time on goal setting and focusing on your “process goals” – those daily processes that ultimately lead to achieving your ultimate (“product”) goals. This is very similar to the emphasis that The Slight Edge puts on daily habits and remaining on the “Success Curve”. So since these two books focused on such similar objectives, I found myself leaning towards a preference for how this is addressed in The Slight Edge. Additionally, I didn’t find anything particularly “EXECUTIVE” about this book. From a personal development perspective, I was hoping for a little more insight into growing as a business leader and corporate executive. I think a more appropriate title for the book would be “Mental Toughness” or even “Mental Discipline”. And don’t get me wrong, from the standpoint of developing discipline and mental toughness, I think this book is GREAT. It lays out very specific habits and exercises to be performed to help develop mental toughness and from that perspective, I think this book is extremely effective. So my “maybe” recommendation is really based on the goals of the person looking for a recommendation. If you’re looking for ways to develop your mental toughness, then this books is definitely recommended. If you’re expecting a greater focus and specifics as it relates to being a corporate executive, I would probably steer you in another direction.
- Title: Mans Search For Meaning
Author: Viktor E. Frankl
My Thoughts: Exceptionally meaningful and profound book. Taking from his own experiences in Nazi concentration camps, Frankl developed the school of Logotherapy which is founded upon the belief that it is the striving to find a meaning in one’s life that is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans. The ability for man to find meaning even within the greatest of human suffering and even when faced with the likelihood of certain death shows our ability to transcend our physical being into something more profound.A few nuggets that really struck me were:
- The notion that it is a lack of overarching meaning or purpose in ones life can manifest itself in the form of boredom or depression and that when there is a void with the “will to meaning” this can lead to a desire to satisfy the “will to pleasure” – often in the form of food, drugs, sex, etc. Take this a step further and you can make the argument that many of the issues we face in today’s society can be linked back to a lack of meaning in our collective lives.
- The idea that we should not be asking the question, “What is the meaning of life?” but should be focused on “What is the meaning of MY life?” Or to be even more specific, what is it that LIFE is asking of me to accomplish and fulfill.
- Title: Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World
Author: Peter H. Diamandis & Steven Kotler
My Thoughts: Bold is an extremely interesting and compelling read (or in my case, “listen”). This will truly have you thinking BIG and on a global scale as well as give you the belief that you too have the potential to impact the world. That having been said, if you do not have any plans or aspirations to be an exponential entrepreneur or have interest in being a part of that world, then this may not be the book for you. What is both good and bad about this book is the level of detail that it goes into around leveraging today’s hyper-connected crowd or how to design and use various types of incentive based competitions (think XPRIZE). One of my long-standing complaints about business books in general is that most are just theory backed by a handful of examples that loosely support the theories championed by the book and lack truly specific step-by-step instructions for accomplishing the theories that are being discussed. So from that perspective, Bold delivers very strong “how to” instructions for those wishing to pursue their own entrepreneurial ideas using the methods outlined in the book. However, if you do not find yourself wishing to put together your own Ansari XPRIZE, you may find these sections to be a bit tedious. But to be honest, this is just me nitpicking. Overall, Bold is an exciting and interesting read and I definitely would recommend it for anyone looking to make an impact on the world..
- Title: Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Author: Chip Heath & Dan Heath
My Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed Switch. In fact, I listened to it TWICE! I found it to be one of the most insightful and entertaining business reads I’ve encountered. We’ve all been there (I know I have). Meetings where countless statistics, charts and graphs have all been used to create what the presenter (including, I hate to admit, me) believes show a convincing argument for change. And yet, for all of the convincing analysis and even if those in the meeting are nodding along in agreement, change rarely, if ever, occurs. What the Heath brothers reveal to the reader is that no matter how convincing the analytical side, without connecting with the emotional side, change is extremely difficult. They make the comparison of an Elephant with his Rider. The Rider is the analytical side and the Elephant is emotion. The Rider (analytics) appears to be in control, pointing the Elephant in whatever direction the Rider chooses. But in reality, if the Elephant chooses to go in another direction, there is little the Rider can really do about it. The book provides a great playbook and countless supporting examples of how to not only “Direct the Rider”, but also “Motivate the Elephant”. Lastly, a section to help you “Shape the Path” gives you a complete guide for creating change in all facets of life. Good stuff!
- Title: Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty
Author: Patrick Lencioni
My Thoughts: From what I gather by the titles of his other books, Patrick Lencioni likes to use the business fable as a means to get his point across and Getting Naked is no exception. This book illustrates Patrick’s theory of “Naked Consulting” which he has used to great success in his own management consulting firm. The concept is pretty straightforward but difficult to implement. The idea of “getting naked” is to willing to be vulnerable in front of your customers and can be applied to consulting, customer service, sales, and almost any business role that interacts with customers. Most of us would rather appear infallible to our customers and are afraid to show that we’re human. But rather than eroding the confidence of our customers in our abilities, being willing to be vulnerable in front of them actually creates more trust and loyalty from our customers. This concept is very effectively illustrated in Patrick’s book and I would definitely recommend to anyone in a customer-facing role.
Fiction / Fun Non-Fiction
- Title: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams: Stories
Author: Stephen King
My Thoughts: I should start out by saying I really enjoy Stephen King as an author. Even though I am not a fan of the horror genre in general (this is true of both movies and books), I happen to love his writing style and periodically find myself returning to King whenever I’m looking for some entertaining, engaging writing. This particular book is a collection of short stories. All of the stories deal with death in some form or another and for the most part I found them all interesting, enjoyable and in some cases very thought provoking. However, I didn’t find any of them to be SCARY (which was fine by me). So the “maybe” under whether or not I would recommend this book really stems from what the person is expecting when they hear the name Stephen King. If they are looking for horror, this may not be the book for them. However, if they happen to enjoy King’s writing style and macabre sense of humor, then this may be something they would enjoy.
- Title: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter: A Five-Year Journey in Search of the Unknown
Author: Nick Redfern
My Thoughts: I was first introduced to Nick Redfern when I read his book Three Men Seeking Monsters a few years ago. Ever since, my Kindle has included books by Redfern as a steady portion of my “Recommended for You” section. One of the more prolific writers in the Unknown/UFO/Cryptozology space, Nick has penned works on a wide variety of topics. I have checked out some of his other books but none have been as interesting or entertaining as the original Three Men Seeking Monsters. This most recent read for me was the closest to capture what first drew me to his writing. I think I am more interested in his retelling of personal experiences over his other works which tend to be more research focused and less personal. Overall, Nick just seems like a cool guy with a great sense of humor – someone you’d like to hang out with and this really comes through in his personal narratives like Three Men Seeking Monsters and Memoirs of a Monster Hunter. That having been said, this book did not live up to the original “Three Men” for me. I would not recommend this particular book but I would recommend Three Men Seeking Monsters if someone was interested.
- Title: SPIN
Author: Robert Charles Wilson
My Thoughts: I discovered SPIN on a list of the top 25 Science Fiction books of all time. Originally published in 2005, I was drawn to this book because it was the ONLY book on the list that was first published this century. It is truly a unique work with a grand scale. And with two sequels published in the SPIN trilogy (Axis & Vortex), SPIN sets the stage for a much larger story ahead. The story is too complex for me to get into detail in this post, but if you’re interested you can read about it here.
So why wouldn’t I recommend this award-winning novel? Simply put, I felt that it dragged on too long and ultimately I didn’t really care about the main characters. In fact, I had given up on this book and stopped reading it after completing over 80% of the book! I had not intention of going back to it until I read The Slight Edge. It is only my resolution to “finish what you start” as part of my Slight Edge Experience that had me picking this book back up in order to finish it. Unfortunately, even in finishing the book, it does not provide a satisfactory resolution to the story. As stated above, the journey serves to only set up the next set of novels and there was no real closure or answers to questions. So, unless an individual is committed to the entire trilogy, I would not recommend this novel on it’s own. It’s possible that the payoff would be there if you read the entire trilogy, but at this point I have no plans to do so and therefore cannot recommend SPIN at this time.
- Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
My Thoughts: With the success of Matt Damon’s film version of this book, I think it’s safe to say that most people are familiar with the plot of this book. It is essentially a traditional castaway story except the castaway is on Mars. Quick Disclaimer: I have not yet seen the movie and I’m glad I read the book first. I have to say that I THOROUGHLY enjoyed this book. It’s smart and funny and is a great story. I also like the combination of using journal entries combined with sections of traditional narrative to keep the story moving. This allows you to get inside the head of Mark Watney (the castaway) but doesn’t limit the story solely to Mark’s experiences by switching to traditional narration when dealing with the teams of people working on rescuing Mark. Extremely well done. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie, but I doubt it will be able to live up to the book.