Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Email for May! 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.
So, this month I’m asking for a favor. Would you mind responding to this email and answering the following questions:
It's transition season, so I encourage you to check out My Green Notebook: "Know Thyself" Before Changing Jobs. We created this 30-day guided reflection notebook so that we could learn more about ourselves by deliberately examining our experiences. It's the book we wished we had twenty years ago. I hope you check it out!
Since 2017, I’ve set time aside each month to write this email of book recommendations to you, a community that grew from a couple of hundred people five years ago to over five thousand subscribers today.
Someone recently asked me why I thought this list continues to grow and why people open these emails each month. I struggled to articulate an answer. I think it’s because, like me, you’re interested in leveraging reading to become better leaders, but I’m not sure.
- What value does this monthly email bring to you?
- Is there anything I could do to make it better?
If you’re too busy to respond, no worries. I understand! I hope you find something within this list of books that interests you.
Also, our special discount code with TRX Elite runs out at the end of this month. Type in FTGN30 at checkout to get 30% off your entire order!
The Reading List
I enjoyed this book and look forward to incorporating her lessons into my own life. I’m also excited about my conversation with Juliet later this summer on the From the Green Notebook Podcast.
A Minute to Think: Reclaim Creativity, Conquer Busyness, and Do Your Best Work by Juliet Funt. This was an extremely practical book that should be required reading for leaders (especially military leaders). Through her consulting and coaching work, Juliet has observed that too many of us view white space as the enemy, thus filling up our calendars and daily schedules to our own detriment. She argues, “We miss game-changing, breakthrough ideas that fail to grace us with their presence because busyness is barring the door. We miss human moments of serendipity and connection that should occur in the in-between moments of life – because in-between moments no longer exist.”
Throughout the book, Juliet explains why we feel compelled to stay busy. For example, she writes that our workplace cultures lend themselves to insatiability (we never feel like we’re doing enough), conformonity (we’re busy because other people seem to be busy), and waste (we have unnecessary processes and systems). She offers very practical advice on how to create white space within our organizations and in our daily lives.
Hearts Touched With Fire: How Great Leaders are Made by David Gergen. This book is a collection of lessons learned by someone who has led an interesting life. David grew up in rural North Carolina, attended Yale University and Harvard Law School, joined the Navy during Vietnam, and went on to work for four U.S. Presidents (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton). He’s seen some stuff.
He wrote this book as a call to the next generation to step up and make a difference in the world by being leaders in society. One of his main messages in the book is that we need to take the time to understand our inner selves before leading others. He writes, “ It is only through first mastering your own intentions, coming to understand your values, and then leading increasingly large groups of followers that one can truly become an effective leader.”
His observations about leadership and the addition of personal stories (like being in his late 20s, working in the White House and not wanting to believe his boss was guilty during Watergate) makes this an extremely insightful book. Some of the topics he covers in this book include: the need to understand our values, running a staff, serving on a staff, leading through adversity, and the importance of being able to communicate.
Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain. In this book, Susan observes that many of us are calibrated to have a bittersweet state of mind, which can stand in opposition to the culture of positivity prevalent in many of our organizations. In fact, one of the main messages of her book is that pain can be transformed into creativity, love, and transcendence. She writes:
We’re taught to think of our psychic and physical wounds as the irregularities in our lives, deviations from what should have been; sometimes, as sources of stigma. But our stories of loss and separation are also the baseline state, right alongside our stories of landing our dream job, falling in love, giving birth to our miraculous children. And the very highest states – of awe and joy, wonder and love, meaning and creativity – emerge from the bittersweet nature of reality. We experience them not because life is perfect – but because it’s not.
Bittersweet was a little outside the range of the typical books I read, however I thoroughly enjoyed Susan’s insights. I think her message is important for military leaders, because many of us adopt a “suck it up and drive on” mindset, which isn’t alway helpful to our emotional well-being as we’ve seen with our rates of alcoholism and veteran suicide. Her book speaks to transforming pain into something that helps others. Look for my interview with Susan Cain this summer on the podcast.
Verissimus: The Stoic Philosophy of Marcus Aurelius by Donald J. Robertson and Ze Nuno Fraga. This is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel that shows readers how Marcus Aurelius rose to power and how Stoic philosophy influenced his life and how he ruled.
If you’re curious about the title, Verissimus was the nickname given to Marcus as a young child by the Emperor. The name means “most true” and reflects the character he was already displaying at an early age. You can read more about the nickname and the history behind it in this blog post by Donald Robertson.
This graphic novel brings literal color to the life and times of Marcus Aureilus. It provides a great resource for understanding how Stoicism can help us improve and strengthen our character. It’s also a great companion to How to Think Like a Roman Emperor or Robin Waterfield’s translation of Meditations.
Verrismus isn’t available until June 14th, but the publisher is offering a cool pre-order promotion. Check it out here.
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Magic by Dave Grohl. This is Dave’s entertaining memoir of his journey from a hyper kid in suburban Virginia to the front man for the Foo Fighters.
There’s a lot of personal/professional growth value within this book. For instance, Dave’s stories about how his mother encouraged his exploration of music offers great lessons for anyone with kids. His account of how he structured his touring schedule around important family events, evening moving concert dates so he could be present for a father/daughter dance, provides a great example for those struggling with the tension between work and family life. Finally, Dave’s example of defining success on his own terms is powerful. I even wrote about it a few weeks ago in an email that went viral on LinkedIn.
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,
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