Here are seven books I’ve enjoyed and that have influenced me. Most of this has been career influence with side interests. I enjoyed those side influences so much that I blended them into my work routine and used them to expand my relationships on the job. I’ve found that if you can creatively add what you like into your work, it can make the days more productive and inspiring.
Note: There’s no affiliate money here for me from book clicks. These do take you to smile.amazon.com which is the charity version of the main site. You set a charity and everything you buy sends some money someplace good at no cost to you. Why not!
The Icarus Deception by Seth Godin
This is all about the perception that you’ve got to conform to a set of expectations on how you do your job. It was a major source of inspiration for me because I realized I didn’t need to fit in a box. I began changing my approach and making a pitch to get a new position created based on what I wanted to accomplish. I aligned it with organizational needs to make the position compelling and make me obvious as someone to do the role. I learned a great deal about how to build win-win situations where I could succeed in new ways and make sponsors look good in the process. Shannon and Tim, thanks for that. Shetal and Scott, we got to do so much creative work.
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
I bought this little book to take on a trip to my in-law’s place in the mountains of North Carolina over Thanksgiving. I needed something thoughtful and easy to read while sipping bourbon with headphones on. This fits the bill. I was on a new team which was coming together and we were starting to do some new projects together. This line about standing next to the talent really grabbed me and helped me get more out of the work we did together. It was the first of several books we shared as a group. Jonathan, Tyler, and Mike – We had a great thing and recognized it while it was going on, which made it more special.
The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde
Have you ever seen those detailed drawings of meetings or presentations which look creative, logical, and way out of your reach because you’re not an “artist”? Mike Rohde helps with all of that. The book is extremely digestible and accessible. I’m still an obsessive Evernote user, but I draw out concepts all the time. It’s a valuable skill for capturing and presenting ideas no matter what the situation is. The Sketchnote Handbook walks you through how to build a visual vocabulary and how to use it productively. From a practical perspective, this can transform how you work and communicate with others plus how others see your work. It’s easier than you think and just plain fun. I doodle as part of my day job and life in general. I actually used this smoked pastrami recipe (from Steve Raichlen’s Project Smoke) in a job interview to help explain who I am. Successfully. Really. Lisa – You were right, this one was priceless!
The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp
Yes, a guy who sells digital marketing software has a book on here from an ultra-creative choreographer. Crazy, right? Not really, IMO. When you’re selling something, you need to make sure your ideas come across cleanly in a way which sticks and stands out. That takes a different perspective and a perspective which is always shifting. There’s so much change in the market space on its own, plus you need to factor in the company you’re talking to and the individuals who need to understand what you’re pitching. The only way to adapt is to be constantly looking for new angles and ways to express yourself. The Creative Habit covers how to package ideas and build regularly. It probably has more wisdom than any other book on this list and that’s saying something. This may be the single biggest reason I was able to go after a job I really wanted with no time to spare. Because I was prepared with all the material I needed to be successful. Including that pastrami recipe.
Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie
I honestly learned much of this from the Icarus Deception and my own experimentation. The Icarus Deception taught me that I didn’t really need sponsorship for great ideas at a small sale. I figured out how to make that work in the corporate environment so that I could get that to work in a job description kind of way. Orbiting the Giant Hairball is all about this process. The hairball is the morass of corporate life which sucks you in and sucks you down. The trick is to leverage that hairball in an empowering way to let you try new things but not let its gravity pull you under. There’s resources to use which you won’t get elsewhere. There’s also a quicksand-like effect to using them you’ve got to learn to avoid. This is a fun book to help you understand how to make that work for you. It’s a close second to Steal Like an Artist when it comes to a quick read. Mike – thanks for pointing this one out to me!
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
‘What’ describes what a product or service actually does. ‘How’s are “unique selling propositions” or “differentiating value propositions” which bundle up the ‘What’s and provide messaging about them. A ‘Why’ is at the core of everything authentic and truly different. It’s a mission statement fulfilled first and delivered by ‘Whats’ and ‘Hows’. There’s no company without ‘What’s and ‘How’s, but there’s no uniqueness without a core ‘Why’. These can be tough distinctions to make on your own. Once you’ve identified them, you may never look at a job or employer the same way again. You shouldn’t ever look at a sales pursuit the same way again. Jonathan – Way to drive this home and help us use it to guide our work!
somethingtofoodabout by Questlove
More Questlove (remember that quote in Austin Kleon’s book above). In complete honesty, there’s not a lot of life lessons I gained here. It did help me extend my understanding that there’s creativity to be had no matter what field you’re in. Cooking can be pretty rote – as can anything you don’t have a passion for. While it’s a life good skill to have, most of us don’t go beyond getting food on the table. A lot of restaurants we go to deliver on that basic premise. The exceptional experiences, the ones we want to pay good money for… those go beyond. It’s good to branch out of what you do and see creativity and career evolution through the lens of what we can all understand. somethingtofoodabout delivers on that.