2023 was a year of significant growth and introspection, and my bookshelf reflects this. I have also discovered that my brain naturally creates balance; when works is busy, I am drawn to fiction. And when life slows down I have the mental bandwidth to take on business and leadership topics.
If you are loooking for inspiration for 2024, here are some books to consider.
Process! How discipline and consistency will set you and your business free
Some of the best business books are remarkably simple, short, and easy to read - like Process! No matter your industry, size, deliverable, or value proposition, you have processes. Even companies famous for innovation follow them!
You don't need to be a Six Sigma Black Belt (and it's ok if you are!) to define and implement effective processes. This book is a primer on the importance of processes, the framework to document them, and how to train and manage to sustain them.
Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big
"Big does not equal great, and great does not equal big." - Jim Collins
This book gets to the heart of how we define Success. Through a series of stories about companies that define success differently - not by top line revenue, or profits - Burlingham makes the case for being Great instead of Big.
These companies strive to be the best in their field; take service to the next level; are highly engaged in their communities; and provide meaningful work that creates an environment for their employees to thrive. If you need some inspiration to start the year, you will find it here.
Life Beyond Measure: Letters to My Great-Granddaughter
This book by Sidney Poitier has been sitting on my "to read" shelf for a number of years. I was curious about the topics he felt important for his great-granddaughter to learn about directly from him.
Through a series of letters, Poitier addresses family history and traditions, his personal journey, and his fears. The final section is titled Questions, Answers, and Mysteries, and addresses meta topics including Science & Society, Faith, Death, and the World. Equal parts informing and inspiring.
Condoleeza Rice: a memior of my extraordinary, ordinary family and me
I was curious about Secretary Rice's back story - and what a story it is! The arc of her life that took her from the segregated South to Secretary of State is a lesson in the value of focus, hard work, and an unbridled love of learning.
One of the themes that runs throughout is the importance of having high expectations: from parents, from teachers, and from ourselves. Thriving on challenge is another character trait Rice embodies that particularly resonated for me. If you like to learn history by reading about the experiences of those who lived it, you will love this book.
Best Brain Books
I am endlessly fascinated by the brain <-> body connection. These 2 books proved easy to read, and provided new insights into the trending topics of Kindness and Happiness.
The Rabbit Effect: Live Longer, Happier, and Healthier with the Groundbreaking Science of Kindness
More and more, researchers are developing data that demonstrates the value of "soft skills" including compassion, empathy, and kindness. If you are a skeptic, this book will challenge your thinking.
The first section expands on the Hidden Factors of kindness, and the impact on our relationships, work and school, and our communities. If you intend to lead a high performance team - or family - you will learn just how much influence you can have by how you show up. There are no barriers to entry other than your willingness to try.
The second section speaks specifically to the impact on our health, in a very literal way. The physical impact of toxic relationships is well-documented, and Dr. Harding makes the case for kindness in every area of our lives.
Habits of a Happy Brain: Retrain Your Brain to Boost your Serotonin, Dopamine, Oxytocin, & Endorphin Levels
All of these hormones are "happy" hormones...but they are different in how they are triggered and the feelings they evoke. Feeling lonely? Look for ways to boost your Oxytocin. Finally solve a problem that has been bugging you for days? That rush you feel comes from Dopamine! Are you in pain? Endorphins can help mask it. And when we receive praise, or are feeling respected, that's when Serotonin is released.
Do these distinctions matter? They do, for a few reasons. First, our desire to "feel good" influences every action we take and the words we speak, whether we recognize this or not. And second, each and every day we have experiences that are draining and impact us negatively. Once we understand the mechanisms behind each unique sensation, we can take intentional action to boost the one we need in the moment. We have the tools to recognize the source of our discomfort, and options to help shift back to a positive state.
Since I read this book, I have also been able to think a bit deeper about the behaviors and reactions of others around me. Seeking to understand why someone shows up the way they do is a good first step towards living with compassion.