Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Email for June! 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.
Before we dive into this month’s email I wanted to give a shout out to our newest partner, HOIST! I started drinking HOIST after my workouts because it tastes better AND is better for us than other sports drinks. They have six delicious flavors, 3x the electrolytes and ½ the amount of sugar of traditional sports drinks, no high-fructose corn syrup, and no artificial preservatives, sweeteners or dyes.
Try it for yourself! Head over to HOIST and use the discount code: GreenNotebook15 for a 15% discount on your order at checkout.
Too Busy to Read and Reflect?
When it comes to investing in our personal and professional growth, many of us struggle with finding time. Between work, family, and day-to-day life commitments, it seems there is no space left to read, write, or reflect.
This month I want to share with you one of the best periods of time I’ve found for concentrating on my professional growth: the commute.
For the last four years I’ve had a forty-five minute commute to work. That’s at least 450 minutes a week or 30 hours a month in my truck. I’ve found those commutes to be highly beneficial to my self-development.
Audiobooks are great for using the drive time to “read” a book during my commute. The average audiobook is ten hours, so my commute provides me the opportunity to listen to three books a month (if that’s how I choose to spend my time).
I’m not an auditory learner, so at first I resisted listening to books on Audible. But I finally figured out a system that works for me.
- Keep a notebook handy. Whenever I hear a sound bite that’s worth writing down, I copy it into my notebook. I do this at red lights, in bad traffic, or when I arrive at work. The important thing is that I write it down before I leave the car. If I wait to do it after I get into the office, it never happens. I forget. So, I’ll take 4-5 minutes after I park the car to write down a few notes from what I heard on the way in.
- Drive with a physical copy of the book. I’ve found some audiobooks so valuable that I decided to purchase a physical copy of the book too. For example, when listening to Marshall Goldsmith’s The Earned Life, I kept a copy in the passenger seat. When I parked, I highlighted the portions of the book I found interesting during my morning commute and made margin notes.
One more point on audio books: They are great for those books that have some nuggets of wisdom buried within pages of dense material. In January, I listened to Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. It’s over 300 pages of comparative mythology, referencing myths and cultures that I was unfamiliar with. Instead of risking book burnout (yes, it’s a thing), I listened to it on Audible while driving or walking. Whenever I heard passages that sparked my interest, I found them in my physical copy and highlighted and made margin notes. If I had not found a creative way to consume the content, I might have missed some powerful ideas.
I also take advantage of the opportunity the commute provides me for reflection. In My Green Notebook: “Know Thyself” Before Changing Jobs, Cassie and I highlighted an article in which the author wrote the following about reflection:
Once or twice a week, I’ll turn off the radio and embrace the silence of the morning commute. The quiet gives me a chance to work through the day ahead or think about an idea I’m wrestling with. Equally, the drive home allows me to process the day’s events and gain a better (more rational) understanding of events that were emotionally charged a few hours previous.
Reflection gives the brain an opportunity to pause amidst the chaos, untangle, and sort through observations and experiences, consider multiple interpretations, and create meaning…This meaning becomes learning.
I’ve also found the afternoon commute is a great opportunity to phone a friend and work through issues I’m dealing with at work or to talk through an idea I’m writing about (like this email). Gaining another person’s perspective helps me to look at experiences from different angles, which can be beneficial in helping me make sense of them.
For me, vocalizing a thought, hearing how it sounds out loud, and paying attention to how it’s received by someone who doesn’t live in my head, also helps me better understand it.
When it comes to our personal and professional development, no one is going to give us time to do it. We have to make time. By using the commute to work or the return trip home to “read” and reflect, we gain a sense of agency over time that might have otherwise been lost. For me, it’s an opportunity to repurpose 30 hours a month and make them work for me.
The Reading List
The School of Life by Alain de Botton. Susan Cain (author of Quiet and Bittersweet) recently recommended this book to me and it’s probably the most impactful book I’ve read since discovering the Stoics.
Plays Well With Others: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Relationships is Wrong by Eric Barker. Eric’s newsletter is one of my favorite reads each week, so when he published his second book I quickly picked it up. It’s about what we get wrong when it comes to relationships and how we can build better ones. In the book he examines four questions: 1) Can you judge a book by its cover? 2) Is a friend in need a friend indeed? 3) Does love conquer all? 4) Is no man an island?
Alain believes our formal education system doesn’t prepare us for life. He observes that “We have the technology of an advanced civilization balancing precariously on an emotional base that has not developed much since we dwelt in caves.”Therefore, his goal is to help people increase their emotional intelligence. Here’s a short passage he wrote about wisdom:
The wise emerge as realistic about the consequences of winning and succeeding. They may want to win as much as the next person, but they are aware of how many fundamentals will remain unchanged, whatever the outcome. They don’t exaggerate the transformations available to us. They know how much we remain tethered to some basic dynamics in our personalities, whatever job we have or material possession we acquire.
The book covers topics ranging from self-knowledge to sex and relationships. It’s the one I wish I would have read in my early twenties. Also, check out the School of Life Youtube channel. Short videos are published each week on many of the topics covered in the book. (goodreads)
Eric uses decades of research to examine these questions, and with his well-known snark, renders a verdict on each one. I flew through this book in less than a week, learning a lot in the process. Here are a few of the nuggets I thought worth highlighting:
When it comes to first impressions, that main battle is with confirmation bias. We’re prone to searching for and favoring ideas consistent with beliefs we already hold. We don’t test theories; we look for information to reinforce the decision we’ve already decided on.
Love is a verb. If you want to look good and be healthy, you have to consciously work on diet and exercise. Love is no different.
Status gives us that control over the world that we crave so much…The problem with status is that it isn’t fulfilling over the long-term.
If you are interested in learning more about the book, check out my interview with Eric on last weekend’s episode of the From the Green Notebook podcast. (goodreads)
The Earned Life: Lose Regret, Choose Fulfillment by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter. Marshall has been an author and executive coach for over fifty years, working with some of the world’s top business leaders. As a result, he has a strong perspective on what brings people fulfillment in life. He believes that once we figure out a purpose for our lives, our choices, risks, and efforts should all be aligned with that purpose.
Throughout the book, Marshall offers insights and exercises to help leaders create alignment in their lives. One of my favorite sections of the book is his thoughts on subordinating ambition to aspiration. He writes that ambition is what we want to achieve. It’s time-bound, and when we achieve an ambitious goal, it delivers a feeling of happiness that we can’t hold onto. Aspiration on the other hand, is who we want to become. It’s a continuous process with no time horizons and directs us towards a feeling that’s more lasting than ambition. It’s a great reminder for all of us.
I originally purchased the audible version of the book, but found his wisdom so valuable that I purchased a physical copy to follow along in and mark-up during my morning commute to work. (goodreads)
Upgrade by Blake Crouch. This book doesn’t come out until July 12th, but I wanted to tell you about it now in case you are looking for something to read during your summer vacation. I received an advanced copy a few months ago and there were several nights I lost sleep trying to figure out what happens next. (goodreads)
Upgrade is a science fiction thriller set in the near future. The book deals with the possibilities and dangers that arise from humans editing our own genes. Fundamentally, the story asks the question: If we could upgrade our species, should we?
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:
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:
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,
Thanks again to our newest partner, HOIST!
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