Leaders Are Readers

A mentor once told me that “leaders are readers.”  Ever since, I have looked to books so that I can glean knowledge and wisdom from others journey on this earth.  Im also experiencing the truth behind Charlie “Tremendous” Jones’ comment that “Five years from today, you will be the same person that you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  Im hopeful that as you pursue my 2017 reading list, you will see evidence of this in my life.

There are two schools of thought on reading books.  One is to only read what you can implement.  The other is to read as much as possible and deal with it.  I gravitate toward the latter.  At any given moment, I am actively reading three to four books with seven or eight downloaded and ready to go.  In fact, that’s one of the things that keeps me going.  I cant wait to uncover what the next author has to say. And yes, I read on a Kindle.  Almost exclusively.  I know that generates some opposing opinions, but let me just say that I love it.  As of today, I have 397 books in my Kindle library.  Each of them is full of highlights and notes (yes you can do that on a Kindle).  The best part?  My notes and highlights are accessible 24/7 from anywhere in the world.  I can use a smart device, a computer, or whatever gets me connected to the internet.  Its fantastic.

I follow two rules when reading.  First, I have to be actively engaged.  That means highlighting and taking notes so that I can come back to the information later.  It helps me with that implementation thing.  Second, if I am not actively engaged, I have to dump the book.  Thats right.  I’ve given myself permission to stop reading books that suck.  I must like the books I choose because I finish more than I dump.  To accomplish that, I don’t rely on luck, or best-seller lists.  I utilize references, a lot.  Most authors refer to books that they have learned from.  Those are the ones I download.  An added benefit is that the content I am reading is closely related to my interests.  In a way, all of my books tie together.  I think you’ll see that as you review my list.

These are not in any particular order, other than how they show up on my Kindle.

My Utmost For His Highest, Oswald Chambers

One of the best ways to start your day is with a daily devotional.  Chambers is a deep thinker and closely connected to the Holy Spirit.  He helped me connect spiritually, everyday, at a deeper level and better understand our perfect God.

Endurance, Scott Kelly

Scott Kelly holds the record for living on the International Space Station.  This is truly an inspiring story of someone who has overcome the odds to truly live a big life.  I am inspired by the choices he made, the commitment it took and the grit with which he chased his goals.

Why Jesus, Ravi Zacharias

Like everyone, I find myself questioning religion.  I have fully accepted that I am a spiritual being, and am often discouraged because I have more questions than answers about God.  RZ masterfully answers many of my questions.  I love RZ’s direct and confrontational style.  He does not leave room for excuses or half-baked answers.  Be prepared to challenge your beliefs when reading this book.

The Success Principles, Jack Canfield

Have you ever wondered about your potential?  Im often confronted with the reality that I was created for something more.  Canfield exposes the reality that we are all held back by our beliefs and mindset.  He provides practical tools to use daily that help us identify and overcome our limits.  This is a powerful book that will change the way you see yourself.

The Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis

I’ve read Screwtape before and was not disappointed the second time around.  Lewis has an incredible way with words and pokes directly at our shortcomings.   He frames our lives in a spiritual context that clearly illustrates the frailty and vulnerability of the human heart.   Our hearts and minds are continuously barraged with deception.  Trust me, this book will make you think.

The Last Arrow, Erwin McManis

This book will land on my recommended reading for anyone that asks.  McManis shows how easily we choose ordinary and mediocre lives.  This is not what we are created for.  His conversation stirs my heart.  He helps me think bigger and better.

Boundaries, Dr Henry Cloud

It’s ironic that what we want is freedom and what we need is boundaries.  In fact, to live joyfully is to set clear boundaries.  These boundaries fall into four categories, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual.  As I read this book, I was shocked to discover just how loose and undefined my boundaries are.  Dr. Cloud does a great job of showing how this relaxed attitude contributes to the sloppiness of my life.

Vacationland, Jon Hodgeman

Hodgeman is just funny.   While I read this book mostly for entertainment, I found myself longing for the candor and sharpness with which he speaks.  I particularly enjoyed reading from a world-view that is significantly different than my own.  Overall, a fun and quick read.

A Spy’s Guide to Strategy, John Braddock

I read Braddock’s first book, A Spy’s Guide to Thinking a year, or so ago.  Yes, he was an international spy, which means that the intentionality of his thinking and strategy are the difference between life and death.  Braddock illustrates how our strategies need to be built with the end in mind.  In fact, he says, “an end-game is so important, you cannot have a strategy without it.”

Finding My Virginity, Richard Branson

Most of us look at someone like Richard Branson and think that he has achieved it all.  Ironically, in all of his achievement, he found a truth that many of us never will.  Only by stretching ourselves, venturing into the unknown and taking big chances do we live.  Branson’s goal is to keep stretching, keep learning and keep striving.  I like it.

Shoe Dog, Phil Knight

This book easily lands itself in my top ten of all time.  Phil Knight has a way of figuring out what he wanted and chasing it all-out.  The book recounts his days in college and deciding to make shoes, of all things.  The result; Nike.  It’s his pure passion that inspires me and lifts my thinking beyond today, propelling toward a bigger vision of my contribution to this world.

A Failure of Nerve, Edwin Friedman

Friedman does an amazing job of highlighting the emotion and anxiety that surround us daily.  To be an effective leader, he asserts, we must be able to “separate our own emotional well being from those around us.”  What does that mean?  It means that we cannot allow circumstances or public opinion sway our beliefs and actions.  Do you believe in yourself, and your core convictions enough to fight for them?

The Four Loves, CS Lewis

Lewis explains every humans need for love.  In fact, there are four ways that we need it.  He defines them as affection, friendship, eros and charity.   Throughout the book, Lewis illustrates our attempts to replace God with each of these loves.  He asserts that only our reliance on God and relationship with God can we harness the power of each love in a healthy way.

Wooden On Leadership, John Wooden

Wooden has 10 NCAA titles to his name in a 12 year period.  How did he do it?  This book reveals his “secrets” for success.  Wooden defines his goal very simply.  He wants to “maximize his abilities, skills, and potential in whatever circumstance, good or bad.”  This is a book I return to often.  It contains powerful principles that are timeless.

An Unhurried Life, Alan Fading

If you have been tracking my reading list thus far, you will see that most of it has to do with success, productivity and achievement.  Fading has a great reminder.  He says, “In my preoccupation with efficiency, I miss much that God wants to do in my life and say to me in the moment. Hurry rushes toward the destination and fails to enjoy the journey.”  What a great reminder that today is more important than tomorrow.

Run With The Horses, Eugene Peterson

Peterson recounts and dives deep into the life of Jeremiah, an Old Testament prophet.  Like Jeremiah, God gives all of us an opportunity to do something great.  Unlike Jeremiah, most of us will stop short allowing fear and self-preservation to guide our actions.  Peterson exposes my mindset for what it is and opens me heart to the opportunities awaiting.

Everybody Lies, Seth Stevens-Davidowitz

I love studies about behavior.  This book shines a light of truth on who we really are.  Utilizing internet statistics – mostly Google – you will be shocked to learn the truth about what people really do.  (Not me, of course.  This is about everyone else)