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Hi, 

Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Email for July! Each month I 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 explore ideas in a short email to help you become a better leader.

Are you interested in starting the habit of journaling and reflection? Try our 30-day guided reflection in My Green Notebook: "Know Thyself" Before Changing Jobs. It's one of the top books military leaders give their people when they complete key developmental assignments! 

How I Found My Mentors on the Bookshelf  

I originally published this on Fable. They offer a platform for people interested in reading alongside others in virtual book clubs with friends or clubs moderated by experts, CEOs, and authors.

When you and I were growing up, we read stories and watched movies that gave us a sense of comfort that we wouldn’t have to do life alone. The hero or heroine always had someone in their corner helping them along their journey. 

Luke Skywalker had Yoda and some robots to assist him in becoming a Jedi. Cinderella had the fairy godmother and a few mice to help her discover her true self. And Simba had Rafiki, Timon, and Pumba to help him navigate his destiny.  

Now that we’re adults, many of us wish we had these same guides to help us navigate our roles as leaders. How awesome would it be to have a small cricket with a top hat on our shoulders, offering sage advice whenever we have to have a difficult conversation? 

But that’s just fantasy….or is it?  

I used to believe that guides or mentors had to be physically present in my life, available for a call, an email, or a text at a moment’s notice to gain clarity around an idea or decision. 

Over time, I realized that everyone is busy. The mentors and confidants in my life also had lives, they were on their own journeys, and were sometimes just too busy for me. Instead of letting frustration and loneliness overtake me, I looked elsewhere for help. 

I wasn’t the first person to figure out that books could provide us with stand-in companions to help us along our way. The Roman philosopher Seneca pointed out (with a hint of snark) that we would be hypocritical to get upset with mentors who can’t make time for us, when we barely make time for ourselves. 

Instead, he recommended we find them in the bookshelves of libraries because they are available “to all mortals by night or by day.”  

Over the last few years, I found an endless supply of mentors who sat with me at 4 a.m. over a cup of coffee, spoke to me on my drive to work, or imparted some knowledge minutes before I fell asleep – all within the pages of a book. 

For instance, Ryder Carroll taught me the importance of making journaling a habit in his book, The Bullet Journal Method; Kim Scott gave me a blueprint for creating a culture that values professional feedback in Radical Candor; in, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield warned me that if I defined success only in my peak moments, I would never be in content in life; and Victoria Wellman gave me valuable tips for becoming a better public speaker in her new book, Before You Say Anything

These leaders, athletes, authors, and philosophers have now become a part of who I am. I share their wisdom on our podcast and in the weekly The Sunday Email newsletter. 

As philosopher Alain de Botton so eloquently wrote in The School of Life

Key figures from your imaginary tribe are with you: their perspective, their habits, their ways of looking at things are in your mind, just as if they were really by your side whispering in your ear. And so we can confront the difficult stretches of existence not simply on the basis of our own small resources but accompanied by the accumulated wisdom of the kindest, most intelligent voices of all ages.

So, while I can’t have an enlightening conversation with Yoda or lift my spirits with a sing-along with a warthog and a meerkat, I don’t have to lead alone. I’ve got over 5,000 years of guides and companions to choose from, and all are literally only a page away. 

The Reading List

HBR’s 10 Must Reads On Managing Yourself by the Harvard Business Review. Last year I purchased the HBR’s 10 Must Reads six-book box set after seeing them in every airport shop as I traveled. This turned out to be a great purchase! This particular book contains some of the best articles on personal management that have been published by Harvard Business Review.  

Here are five quick lessons I picked up from this book (I hyperlinked to the individual articles on the website, which you can read for FREE – you’re welcome :)

  1. Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker – Write down decisions that you make so you can go back and assess the quality of your decision-making abilities. 

  2. Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time by Schwartz and McCarthy – We need to take breaks throughout the day and go on walks. As the authors point out, “When he walks he’s not actively thinking, which allows the dominant left hemisphere of his brain to give way to the right hemisphere with its greater capacity to see the big picture and make imaginative leaps.”

  3. Reclaim Your Job by Ghoshal and Bruch – I loved this line: “It can seem easier to fight fires than to set priorities and stick to them. The truth is that managers who carefully set priorities and boundaries achieve far more than busy ones do.”

  4. What to Ask The Person in the Mirror by Robert S. Kaplan – Loved this truth about giving other people performance feedback: “While people do like to hear positive feedback, ultimately, they desperately want to know the truth, and I have rarely seen someone quit over hearing the truth or being challenged to do better – unless it’s too late.”

  5. Primal Leadership by Goleman, Boyatzis, and McKee. When we are in leadership positions, emotions matter. In this article, the authors found, “An emotionally intelligent leader can monitor his or her moods through self-awareness, change them for the better through self-management, understand their impact through empathy, and act in ways that boost others’ moods through relationship management.”

Overall this book has lots of great, practical advice for leaders, and more importantly, served as a vehicle to make me reflect on the leader I want to be in my organization.

From Strength to Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. If you find yourself doing the following things, you should probably pick up this book:

  1. Do you fail to reserve part of your energy for your loved ones after work and stop working only when you are a desiccated husk of a human being? 
  2. Do you sneak around to work? For example, when your spouse leaves the house on Sunday, do you immediately turn to work and then put it away before she or he returns so that it is not apparent what you were doing? 
  3. Does it make you anxious and unhappy when someone – such as your spouse – suggests you take time away from work for activities with loved ones, even when nothing in your work is unusually pressing?
The goal of Arthur’s book is to help achievement-oriented people find happiness – an ideal that many of us continually chase, yet remains out of reach. We think the next promotion, performance evaluation, or assignment will be the mountain top – only to find there’s another mountain top that’s even further away. Here’s what he writes about it:

Humans simply aren’t wired to enjoy an achievement long past. It is as if we were on a moving treadmill; satisfaction from success lasts but an instant. We can’t stop to enjoy it; if we do, we zip off the back of the treadmill and wipe out. So we run and run, hoping that the next success, greater than the last, will bring the enduring satisfaction that we crave.

Please check out my interview with Arthur in August on the FTGN Podcast or read Arthur’s weekly column in the Atlantic. 

Call for Articles

Over at the blog, Dan Vigeant and the team are working hard on editing and posting great articles written by many of you. If you are feeling the itch to write, we’re looking for articles on the following topics:

  • The role of leaders in driving organizational culture

  • Peer leadership

  • Organizing for success (lessons learned in building processes for an organization)

If you aren’t in the military, that’s okay! Leadership is leadership, and your lessons are equally valuable. If you are interested in learning more: Here are the submission guidelines

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

This month we launched our #OneThing Series. We asked people what was the one thing you wish you would have known before starting your current job:

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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