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February Reading List Email

Hi, 

Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Newsletter! Each month I will share a few thoughts on 3-5 books I’m reading and why I think you should pick them up. So, if you enjoy this email, please forward it to friends and family and help us continue to grow! Also, make sure you sign-up for our The Sunday Email where each week we will share a quote/passage from a book and a short insight.

Thank you to everyone who's purchased My Green Notebook: "Know Thyself" Before Changing Jobs! Reply to this email if you would like to buy discounted copies of the book in a custom FTGN box for your team. We're running out fast! Also, watch this video of author Steven Pressfield sharing his thoughts on our book

Aligning our Values

By Joe Byerly with Cassie Crosby

We all take time for granted until we realize it’s about to run out. The death of a friend or family member, an impending business trip or short-notice deployment, a terminal illness, a child’s high school graduation- despite the fact that most of us live life like we have all the time in the world, any one of these events serves as a stark reminder that time is a non-renewable resource. They cause us to think about the value we place on people, relationships, and interests.  

Recently, a work requirement caused me to reflect on my values and I want to share and insight the experience gave me. 

Without getting into specifics, I had limited time to say goodbye to my family and get myself ready to leave home on short notice. As if a template for prioritizing my life was handed to me, I immediately deconflicted lower priority activities and surged my time and attention toward my family, my friends, From the Green Notebook continuity, and my individual readiness. This fast-paced (and somewhat stressful) exercise made it very clear to me what I valued most. 

Most of us think we have a good grasp on our values, but it’s easy for our intentions to get lost in the daily hustle of life. 

In hindsight, I realize one of the leading indicators of this misalignment is how we spend our time. Our schedules may tell a different story about what we value, especially if we are so caught up in the daily grind, we lose sight of what’s most important in our lives. 

As I quickly prepared to head out, the myriad of other things I was doing quickly fell by the wayside. I learned firsthand how easy it is to fill our time with the unimportant while convincing ourselves we’re focused on what’s most important.        

I also learned we can realign our actions with our values without waiting for some life-altering event or major milestone to come along. We have agency and can do it on our own.

We have to pay attention to where we pay attention by becoming third-party observers to our own lives. By reviewing our outlook calendars or adopting a daily habit of journaling at the end of the day, we can see where we’re investing our time and efforts and validate whether our actions are aligned with our values. 

When life gets in the way or our responsibilities overwhelm our interests, we have to be kind to ourselves and accept that we can no longer do it all. In these instances, we have to prioritize our actions, get creative, and make time for those things we value most. We have to say no, even when we want to contribute because it would be fun or interesting, but we lack the time. 

There are inevitable aspects of our lives for which we have no control. In the areas we do, like how we spend our free time, we can sit back and allow life to drive our values or we can make an intentional effort to ensure what we value drives our lives.  

The Reading List 

The Burnout Epidemic: The Rise of Chronic Stress and How We Can Fix It by Jennifer Moss. In this book, Moss argues that organizations need to rethink employee burnout and start taking ownership of their role in this growing epidemic. Through her in-depth research, she found the following six root causes of burnout:

  1. Workload

  2. Perceived lack of control

  3. Lack of reward or recognition

  4. Poor relationships

  5. Lack of fairness

  6. Values mismatch

Moss examines each root cause and offers solutions for leaders to mitigate the potential negative effects of each of them. This book also helped me recognize the symptoms of burnout and understand what I can do to better take care of myself. If you are interested in learning more about the topic and her book, check out the interview I did with Jennifer back in January

True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements by Eric Hoffer. Originally published in 1951, this is a fascinating treatise about how mass movements start and how they end. Hoffer was self-educated but lived in a world that saw two world wars wreak havoc on society, so he stood as a critical observer to the rise of demagogues and the people who supported them.

In reading True Believer, I gained insights on many of the movements we’ve seen in the last decade. One of his main points is that people who join movements latch onto hope, which allows them to, “...draw strength from the most ridiculous sources of power –a slogan, a word, a button.” 

He also includes some great commentary about the phenomenon that many organizations face, the struggle with dealing with top performers and troublemakers. He writes:

For the character and destiny of a group are often determined by its inferior elements. The inert mass of a nation, for instance, is in its middle section. The decent, average people who do the nation’s work in cities and on the land are worked upon and shaped by the minorities at both ends –the best and the worst. 

This book is a short 168-page read, but it’s full of insightful commentary about movements that have the ability to upend society.   

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. I’ve always been extremely interested in learning more about the Hero’s Journey, so I finally decided to tackle this book. The Hero’s Journey is Campbell’s theory about the common path taken by the heroes of religion and myth. He believes this structure is an inborn operating system that guides us on our own unique journeys in life. It’s why stories and movies like the Iliad and the Odyssey and Star Wars, the Matrix, and the Lion King appeal to us today. Here’s what Campbell says about it:

We have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with the world. 

If you are unfamiliar with the Hero’s Journey, here are the basic steps (the are a few variations depending on the story):

  1. The hero receives a call to adventure

  2. He or she refuses the call at first

  3. Acceptance of the call

  4. Crossing the threshold into a special world 

  5. Navigates a series of challenges/temptations with the aid of allies

  6. Receives an important revelation/gift 

  7. Returns to the normal world with gift 

This book is comparative mythology, so it might be tough for readers who are coming into this type of literature without much background. I struggled with this one. It is over 300 pages and references several myths and cultures that I’ve never heard before. It would have taken me months to get through under normal conditions. Instead of risking book burnout, I ordered the audio version and listened to it while walking or driving. Whenever I heard a passage that sparked my interest, I found it in my physical copy and highlighted and made margin notes. If I would not have found a creative way to consume the content, I might have missed some powerful ideas.

If you haven't been to the website in a while, check out the following posts:

 Podcasts  One more thing: Thanks for opening my monthly reading list email, if you have any book recommendations or questions, please feel free to reply. I read every response and if I have the time, respond. 

All the best,

Joe

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