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Hi, 

Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Email for August! 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.

A Book is not Static

I recently had an insight that hit me like a flash while I was reading. It’s something I intuitively knew but have very rarely felt so clearly. 

A book is not static. It changes as we change. It gifts us lessons based on the life experiences we bring to the book. For example, while reading Creativity Inc. I found myself focusing on the passages that directly applied to my current leadership role. I became excited as I read, highlighting, and making extensive margin notes. If I was in a different job or never had this professional experience, the passages that struck me as significant wouldn’t have even caught my eye.

Why is that? 

There’s an interplay between our experience levels and the books we read that we might not always appreciate. Often, our life experience helps us better relate to and understand the material, as well as influencing which ideas strike us as important and which ones we quickly pass over.

But books can change us too. They introduce us to new ideas that influence how we live our life and help to unlock new insights of our past experiences. Reading also gives us a vocabulary to understand what we feel. I’m now able to identify when my ego is in the driver’s seat or when I’m wrestling with imposter syndrome – all because I learned about these concepts through books. 

The British historian Chris Croker captured this concept brilliantly when he wrote, “I am not the same person I was when I first read the works, and I am a different person, in part, because of what the books have made me.”

Now that I’m leading my own organization, books such as Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Chernow’s Grant, or Legacy by James Kerr will affect me differently. When I read these again, I’ll do so through the lens of someone who has had the honor and felt the weight of leading a large military organization.  

I encourage you to go back and pick up a book that you read five or even ten years ago. While you may still return to familiar lines and passages that interested the old you, I bet you will find new ideas and insights tucked inside those pages.

The Reading List

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson. If you are looking for an easy read that will get you reflecting on your current perspective, this is it. This is a collection of insightful tweets and interview excerpts from entrepreneur and angel investor Naval Ravikant compiled and edited by journalist Eric Jorgenson. 

There are a couple of concepts in the book that stood out to me. First, investing in wealth, relationships, and knowledge consistently yield compound interest. These types of investments are deliberate decisions we make with our time and energy. Second, he writes, “Become the best in the world at what you do. Keep redefining what you do until it is true.” My goal with the FTGN platform is to make it the best leader development resource for military leaders and veterans. We’ve continued to tweak our platform to achieve this goal. 

Ravikant also touches on other topics including making your own luck, status games, and learning through failure. Overall, I enjoyed reading it and added several passages to my notebook so that I wouldn’t forget them. 

James Patterson: Stories of My Life by James Patterson. If you’re unfamiliar with James Patterson, he is a prolific storyteller who has written over 200 books, with almost half of them achieving best-seller status. I read his mystery novels throughout college, buying one every time I saw it in a store. This book is a collection of his life stories, and the audio version made my morning commute fly by. 

One of the interesting highlights of Patterson’s life is that he was a successful marketing executive, climbing to the top of his organization before walking away and becoming a full time author. While he was great at being one of the “Mad Men,” his true passion belonged to telling stories. His story is a great example of someone betting on themselves and going all-in on the thing they love doing (and are good at) instead of sticking with a job where they are successful, yet don’t feel satisfied.

Look for my interview with James Patterson on an upcoming episode of the podcast! 

Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants to Be by Steven Pressfield. In Pressfield’s latest book, he challenges readers to physically/mentally put themselves (aka “their ass”) in a position to achieve their goals.

The concept is simple, yet it’s really hard for a lot of people to do (including myself). If you want to become physically fit, you wake up each morning and put your ass in the gym. Or, If you want to become a writer, you put your ass in front of the notebook or keyboard and write. Pressfield’s book serves as a great reminder for all of us, that if we want to achieve something, we’ve got to put in the work and put ourselves in a position to achieve results. 

While I’m a fan of his novels, I enjoy his self-help/creativity books because they are motivating and quick reads. This particular book is only 138 pages, with some pages containing only a few sentences. If you are trying to achieve or overcome something in your life, I recommend this book.  

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace. This is one of the best management books I’ve read in a while. In telling the story of the evolution of Pixar, co-founder Catmull discusses many of the problems they encountered in their growth and how they learned to overcome them. He also shares what these lessons taught him about leading others and fostering a positive organizational culture. 

As a current commander, I found myself nodding throughout the book. The lessons from Creativity Inc. are applicable to any organization. For example, he observes that when a motivated workforce is paired with leaders who want to achieve results, the culture could destroy itself if left unchecked. Therefore, he writes:

It was management’s job to take the long view, to intervene and protect our people from their willingness to pursue excellence at all costs. Not to do so would be irresponsible… the ambitions of both managers and their teams can exacerbate each other and become unhealthy. It is a leader’s responsibility to see this, and guide it, not exploit it. 

I recommend this book for anyone currently in a leadership position or for those about to step into a leadership role.  

One more book.....

I'm a few chapters into Always Faithful: The Story of the War in Afghanistan, the Fall of Kabul, and the Unshakable Bond Between a Marine and an Interpreter by Major Tom Schueman and Zainullah Zaki. This book is powerful and the writing style is different than most military memoirs-It pulls the reader in! The story is told in first person, with Tom and Zak taking turns as narrators. Zak was eleven years old in Afghanistan when the Towers fell. Tom was in 10th grade. Zak grew up under the Taliban, and shares what life was like and how it changed after the invasion. Tom's story is equally powerful. He was raised by a single mother who served on the police force in Chicago and cleaned apartments to take care of her family. I look forward to their paths converging and seeing how their intertwined story develops. 

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:

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

**This email contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. This helps with the cost of running the website each year. 
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