Welcome to the Monthly Reading List Email for October! 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.
Now, I’d like to highlight some great books I’ve read this month.
Today marks the one year anniversary of the publication of My Green Notebook: "Know Thyself" Before Changing Jobs. When Cassie and I finished the project, we weren't sure how the book would be received and we agreed that if we sold a few hundred copies we would be at peace. We've been humbled by your support!
Over the last year the book has sold thousands of copies all over the world (this review was recently published in Denmark). Military units have used the book for leader development; private companies for their human resources programs; and veteran transition organizations, to include The Honor Foundation, to help transitioning service members. More importantly, many of you have reached out to us directly about how the book helped you to learn more about yourself!
We can't thank you enough for supporting our book! Keep reading, keep writing, and keep reflecting!
The Reading List
Discipline is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control by Ryan Holiday. This is Ryan’s second book in the Stoic Virtues Series and one of my favorite books he’s written. He makes the case that in a world where most things are literally at our fingertips, discipline becomes a virtue of great importance. It’s what helps us remain in check and avoid ruin, imbalance, dysfunction, or dependency.
The book discusses discipline within three domains, with each one leading to the next: body, mind, and soul. Ryan provides numerous philosophical insights and biographical sketches to illustrate the importance of maintaining discipline in each of these domains.
One of the reasons this book resonated with me is that I’ve learned that discipline is really hard. In the military, we throw the word around a lot, and yet many of us don’t really understand what being disciplined means. We put a lot of stock and energy into the veneer of discipline (spit and polish, haircuts, etc.), but as Ryan points out in this book, this isn’t true discipline. Becoming disciplined is about being consistent, avoiding dependency, and staying focused on our mission or purpose and not getting distracted by mirages along the way.
Learn how to put these principles into action, by checking out this book and listening to my interview with Ryan where we dive into Discipline is Destiny.
Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. Several people recommended this book to me, so I finally picked it up and I’m glad I did! Bill Campbell’s story is fascinating and his lessons about leadership are valuable.
Campbell started out as a college football coach, but at age 39 his coaching career ended because he didn’t have the ruthlessness required to win in the game of college football; he had too much compassion for his players. So he went into the private sector and rose to the rank of CEO at a few different companies, but he never lost that compassion for others. Eventually, he became an executive coach, sharing his passion for leadership with the founders and CEOs of Google, Apple, Twitter, Facebook, and several other names we would recognize today (hence the title “Trillion Dollar Coach”). Bill died of cancer at 75, but his legacy was so important that his proteges wanted to write this book.
Bill believed that it was the role of managers to help people be more effective at their jobs and to grow and develop. He recognized that managers foster growth by cultivating an environment of support, respect, and trust. One of the lessons I gleaned from this book is the power of believing in people more than they believe in themselves. Bill had this uncanny ability to get people to aspire to be something greater than they believed themselves to be. It’s something I hope to emulate.
Finally, this book is a great plug for the value of personal and executive coaches. My My Green Notebook coauthor Cassie Crosby is a coach, and it’s amazing to see the impact she’s making through the company she founded, Iterata Solutions. Even the catalyst for starting the book project came from conversations with my coach at the time, Stu Conley. I think the military would benefit greatly from providing executive coaching services to commanders and senior enlisted advisors.
How Proust Can Change Your Life by Alain de Botton. In this book, the author distills Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, a multi-volume, three thousand page novel, into a short and practical guide to life. The book is a mix of philosophy, biographical sketches of Proust, and excerpts of In Search of Lost Time. The nine chapters cover topics ranging from how to be more present in life and how to be a better friend to the benefits of reading novels.
I’ve become a huge fan of Alain de Botton’s writing. His book, The School of Life: An Emotional Education is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Even though How Proust Can Change Your Life is a much shorter book, the lessons are equally powerful. Below are a few passages I wanted to share with you:
What all books might do for their readers–namely, bring back to life, from the deadness caused by habit and inattention, valuable yet neglected aspects of experience.
The value of a novel is not limited to its depictions of emotions of people akin to those in our own life; it stretches to an ability to describe these far better than we would have been able to, to put a finger on perceptions that we recognize as our own, but could not have formulated on our own.
Though we can of course use our minds without being in pain, Proust’s suggestion is that we become properly inquisitive only when distressed. We suffer, therefore we think, and we do so because thinking helps us place pain in context. It helps us understand its origins, plot its dimensions, and reconcile ourselves to its presence.
There may be significant things to learn about people by looking at what annoys them the most.
This is probably one of the most obscure books I’ve read in a while, but my lack of knowledge of Proust didn’t make this hard a read at all. I enjoyed learning about this 20th century French author and Alain de Botton’s insights were extremely helpful.
Meditations: The Annotated Edition Translated, Introduced, and Edited by Robin Waterfield. I’m currently rereading this book by spending a few minutes each morning reading a couple of pages. In other words, I’m taking my time with this one.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this book, it’s the personal journal of Roman Emperor Marcus Auerilius. The entries cover about an eight-year period while he was leading the Roman military on campaign during the Marcomannic Wars and deal specifically with his inner conflicts and thoughts. This translation is great because Robin Waterfield provides historical context to those entries that would be lost on readers today.
I’ve chosen to reread Meditations because it offers a great insight into the mind of someone who also commanded soldiers. Marcus wrestled with many of the struggles that modern leaders face. He was extremely self-aware and understood how people treated leaders in positions of power differently, so he wrote many warnings to himself about the corrupting influence of power.
At heart, Marcus was a philosopher, but life thrust him into the role of the most powerful man in the world, -and so it was his intention to play the part to the best of his abilities. For most of us, I think we have the same goal: -to play our part in this world to the best of our abilities.
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All the best,
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