Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Email for September! 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.
This month, I’d like to jump right in and highlight some great books I’ve read.
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The Reading List
Happier Hour: How to Beat Distraction, Expand Your Time, and Focus on What Matters Most by Cassie Holmes, PhD. In this book, Dr. Holmes shares the findings of her research into helping people live more fulfilling lives.
Dr. Holmes points out that feeling happy is a worthy pursuit because it leads to increased work performance, better relationships, better health, and even helps with our creativity. She also found that it’s not necessarily the amount of free time we have in our day that makes us happy (the sweet spot is 2 hours if you were wondering), it’s how we spend that time that matters. In other words, if we are deliberate with our time, focusing on those things we value, we will ultimately be happier.
I understand Dr. Holmes’ concept is easier said than done, which is why I think it’s great that she includes exercises and practical approaches to time management in her book. I took lots of notes!
Check out my interview with Dr. Holmes on the podcast for a great sample of the ideas in her book.
The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers. A few months ago someone sent me an email (okay, it was a few of you) and reminded me that I should probably read more fiction – and you all were right! I chose to tackle The Overstory, a 512-page book about a group of people who learn how to see a world that’s invisible to most of us. That’s all I’m going to share with you. Read it.
I first heard about this book in an interview Tim Ferriss did with Hugh Jackman in 2020. He told Tim, “[The Overstory] is the most transformative bit of fiction I have read in a long time.” Jackman also shared that he and his wife Debbie read out loud to each other every morning for about 30 minutes before they start their day.
Shackleton: The Biography by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. If you aren’t familiar with Ernest Shackleton, he’s one of the most celebrated polar explorers of the 20th century, and his story is a case study of leadership in-extremis. After Shackleton’s ship was crushed in the pack ice and he got his crew to the safety of a remote island, he then had to complete a 720 nautical mile journey in a row boat and climb over a mountain to get help.
Fiennes’ biography is an account of Shackleton’s life from his youth, dreaming of one day accomplishing some great deed, to his surprise death while on an expedition in his late 40s. One of the themes that emerges is how Ernest spent his life chasing an external goal, while internal peace remained elusive to him throughout his life. Even after getting the girl he spent years chasing, completing the famous Endurance expedition, and getting the recognition he so craved, he still wasn’t content. He wanted more.
One of the benefits of reading this particular biography is that Fiennes shares his own experiences with polar expeditions, helping to provide additional color to Shackleton’s exploits. If this book interests you, I also recommend reading Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer and Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage.
Fans First: Change the game, Break the Rules, and Create an Unforgettable Experience by Jesse Cole. The Savannah Bananas are one of the most popular minor league baseball teams in the world. There’s a two year wait list to purchase tickets to one of their games. Their social media accounts rival major league teams. More importantly, nobody thought they would be successful.
Cole tells the story of how he and his wife Emily (along with their first followers) built an organization that focused on the fan experience and revitalized baseball in the city of Savannah, Georgia. The book addresses several important themes for leaders, including culture, feedback, priorities, learning by doing, and several others.
One more theme of the book that stood out to me was their focus on removing “micro frictions” from the fan experience. Cole explains, “These are little details that chafe and scratch at fans, even if the fans don’t realize it.” They spend a lot of energy observing fans and figuring out ways to make their experience better. Cole and his team begin with fans purchasing tickets and don’t stop tweaking the experience until the fan leaves the stadium. It made me think of the leader’s role in doing this for the organizations we lead. What if we did the same for our people? What if we started removing the micro frictions from the day they find out they are going to start working for us until the day they leave? It’s aspirational, I know. But, I think it’s a worthy goal.
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.
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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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