It goes without saying that 2020 gave me more time to read books than any other year of my life. As somebody who enjoys learning and sitting in a quiet room reading, I can only say I miss the hustle-bustle and noise of the pre-Covid world. With that in mind, it is a good time to review some of the best books I read this year. So from least to most influential here are the books that have shaped my thinking about 2021.
Washington: A Life By Ron Chernow
I read history books to learn about how historic figures have dealt with difficult situations and how they have advanced towards their goals. George Washington was more than the Father of America, he set the philosophy of responsibility and action under duress that has shaped America over the past 240 years.
Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg Ph.D.
Myth: You have to make a plan and stick to it. Reality: You transform your life by starting small and being flexible. This book is sort of the theme song for 2020. Do the little things right no matter what you think or feel.
Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott
I first read this book in 2004 and I re-read it this year because I realized that the conversations I was having in March and April would shape my business for the next 10 years.
Grit by Angela Duckworth
A fantastic book that makes the case that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a focused persistence” over the past year I have watched supremely talented professionals resign themselves to being a victim of circumstance, at the same time I have seen the relentless determination of lesser talented people who have maximized their results by sticking to the behavior required to produce the results they want.
Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Even the best decision does not yield the best outcome every time. There's always an element of luck that you can't control, and there is always information that is hidden from view. So the key to long-term success (and avoiding worrying yourself to death) is to think in bets. How often do you decide you screwed up based on the results rather than judging the decisions and actions you took based on the likelihood they were correct. This is a great book about giving yourself grace if you have done the best you can with the information you have.
Company of One by Paul Jarvis
Whether you work for yourself or as part of a larger group, the ideas in this book can be used to shape the company and job that you want. As you look forward to next year the decisions you make about what is better versus what is more should guide your actions and your goals.
It Takes What It Takes by Trevor Mowad
The day I finished reading this book I bought copies for my wife, my son at Indiana University, and my daughter at Purdue University. Good times or bad, when things are going well or when times get tough the messages in this book are both priceless and timeless. If you are going to read only one book make this book your choice.
I have read more than 65 books this year and while most had nuggets of value these 7 books were truly game-changers for me. As you make goals for next year I hope you include a goal of reading more books and taking action on the knowledge those books give you.