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March 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 new The Sunday Email where each week we will share a quote/passage from a book and a short insight. 

A special thanks to Adyton Public Benefit Corporation for, once again, sponsoring this month's bonus book giveaway. Congrats to Greg P. who received a copy of A Man at Arms by Steven Pressfield in last month's giveaway. Several of you have already gotten in touch with the Adyton team, and for the rest, if your team is still using phone trees, text chains, and spreadsheet tracker data entry to manage people and operations, check out what Adyton is doing with their Mustr software

Let's dive into this month's email. 

In 1977, psychologist Dr. Albert Bandura published an important discovery about how people learn. He found that “most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling. From observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are formed, and on later occasions, this serves as a guide for action.” In other words, what we do is largely dependent on what we see other people do. 

This has major implications for leaders. Our leadership styles are largely influenced by the examples we encounter along the way. We enter into our professional lives drawing from the leadership examples of coaches, parents, and teachers. As we gain more rank and responsibility, we continue to develop as leaders by trying on the various approaches, styles, and traits we see others exhibit. 

History is full of examples of inspirational leaders, innovators, and creators who we can use as models for our own behavior. We can find people worth emulating or, conversely, identify those traits that we find undesirable and therefore avoid. In one of his essays in the second century, the philosopher Seneca encouraged people to learn from books written about prominent people, writing,

We are in the habit of saying that it was not in our power to choose the parents who were allotted to us, they were given to us by chance. But we can choose whose children we would like to be. There are households of the noblest intellects: choose the one into which you wish to be adopted, and you will inherit not only 

We don’t have to be limited by the examples of people in our immediate vicinity. We can follow Seneca’s advice and make a conscious decision about examples we want to emulate. 

In the 1400s Queen Isabella of Spain learned that women could be powerful leaders by reading accounts of Saint Joan of Arc who died only two decades before Isabella was born. She used the examples of Joan’s leadership as inspiration when she seized the crown at the age of twenty-three years old, a feat that was unheard of for a woman in the 1400s. “The Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979-1990 studied Winston Churchill growing up and learned from his approaches to leading a nation through crisis. And what about Churchill? Who did he study?  He studied Napoleon. And Napoleon? He studied Alexander the Great. At the height of Napoleon’s power, he instructed his officers to:

Peruse again and again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick. Model yourself upon them. This is the only means of becoming a great captain, and of acquiring the secret of the art of war. Your own genius will be enlightened and improved by this study, and you will learn to reject all maxims foreign to the principles of the great commanders. 

In The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, Walter Isaacson tells the story of how a young Jennifer Doudna read a copy of The Double Helix by James Watson in the 1970s when she was in sixth grade. One of the central figures of Watson’s book was Dr. Rosalind Franklin whose work led to the discovery of the structure of DNA. Doudna would tell Isaacson, “It may sound a bit crazy…But reading the book was the first I really thought about it, and it was an eye-opener. Women could be scientists.” Doudna went on to become a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, leading a team that discovered CRISPR, an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA and may reshape the future of the human race.

History is full of leaders who modeled their behavior based off someone who they read about, not someone in their immediate vicinity. Through our selection of books we can expose ourselves to the greatest thinkers, innovators, troublemakers, and influential leaders history offers us. 

This month, I read books that provided great examples worth emulating in my life. The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson reminded me of the importance of staying curious as an adult. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear helped me to push the bounds of my creativity and vulnerability in writing. The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll gave me some ideas of how to improve my daily journaling habits. Finally, Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others by David Kord Murray helped codify some of my thoughts on where ideas come from. 

The Reading List

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson. This book is about the race to discover gene-editing, with Dr. Jennifer Doudna (who won the Nobel Prize for Science in 2020)  being the central figure of Isaacson’s story. 

One of the most fascinating parts of the book is the observation that Isaacson makes about the three major revolutions of modern times: the atom, the bit, and the gene. He points out that as we advanced each of these sciences, life changed. The first revolution led to the creation of atom bombs, nuclear power, lasers and other technology. The second revolution led to the development of microchips, computers, and the internet. And now with the third, humans will be able to code genes like they do computer programs. The book dives into the ethical, philosophical, and scientific implications of this third revolution. 

I highly recommend reading this book. Issacon’s style of writing makes it easy to understand the science behind gene editing and how we used it to develop the first ever RNA vaccine to fight COVID-19. He also touches on some important themes that span all of his books: teamwork, competition, and the power of a single person remaining persistently curious. 

Check out our latest episode of the podcast where Walter and I have a discussion about Jennifer Doudna, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, and Leonardo Da Vinci. 

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert. Similar to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, Big Magic is a series of short essays on creativity, writing, and not being scared of putting your thoughts out in the world. 

One of the essays that greatly resonated with me was one called “Pinned Beneath the Boulder.” Gilbert hypothesizes that Harper Lee didn’t write another book immediately following the success of To Kill a Mockingbird because “she had become pinned beneath the boulder of her own reputation. Maybe it got all too heavy, too freighted with responsibility, and her artistry died of fear --or worse, self competition.”

I think a lot of people who experience success get pinned beneath their own boulders and stop pushing themselves and growing  because of fear of failure. Overall, this is a great book for anyone who feels a creative itch, but might be too scared to scratch it. 

The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll. This book is a how-to guide to keeping a notebook broken into two parts. The first half of the book is a walkthrough of Ryder’s method or notebook organization to include creating indexes, tracking goals, keeping various logs, and ways to quickly enter items into your notebook. I found the second half extremely beneficial. It was about why we should keep a journal. 

In his chapter on reflection, Ryder makes a profound philosophical observation:

Like a block of marble, our lives are finite. They start out rough and formless. Each choice we make places a chisel to the stone. Each action irreversibly chips away time. No action is so insignificant that it can’t benefit from attention. It’s the lack of attention that’s often responsible for the rubble of cringeworthy decisions weighing in our conscience. 

I started a daily habit of journaling within the last year and I’ve found that it’s helped me identify those areas of my life I needed to pay attention to the most. I recommend this book if you need a little inspiration to get started on a habit that has proven beneficial to me. 

Borrowing Brilliance: The Six Steps to Business Innovation by Building on the Ideas of Others by David Kord Murray. My brigade commander recommended this book to me six years ago, and I finally got around to reading it this month. The premise of the book is that ideas aren’t produced out of thin air, they are borrowed, imitated, and recombined to solve new problems. Murray goes on to break down the creative process he’s used as a serial entrepreneur into six steps that begins with defining the problem - a step that most of us usually skip.

I recommend this book for those who struggle to be creative. As I think back to everything I’ve created, I felt like they naturally followed Murray’s steps, so I know the process works.

Finally, if you haven't been on our website lately, check out the following new posts!

We also released some amazing episodes on our podcast!!
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. 

And, again, please help me grow this list! If you think these emails are valuable to your self-development, please forward them to your friends and family. 

This month's Reading List Email is sponsored by Adyton PBC, a veteran-owned technology company enabling military and civilian leaders of all levels to improve the readiness, safety, and efficiency of their teams with 21st century tools for accountability of distributed personnel and information. Adyton built their core software product, Mustr, based on their experience in the military and as tech industry leaders, and with input from hundreds of early adopters and testers across all levels of DoD. Mustr is a mobile-first accountability software system for distributed organizations that makes wide-scale accountability, information dissemination, and data collection fast, easy, and secure.

Mustr gives leaders the power to manage their personnel at scale, whether they are in the office, at a job site, or on the move. Leaders from all corners of DoD and from E-6 to O-7 have brought Mustr to their teams and not only seen massive gains in efficiency and readiness, but also in personnel safety and engagement (especially amidst the pandemic). You should be using your green notebook for writing and reflecting, not for managing your team's accountability and day-to-day operations. You can learn more, connect to the Adyton team, and see how others have started up free, no-risk market research trials at this link


All the best,

Joe

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