The Revenge of Analog (PublicAffairs, 2016)

My personal involvement in the digital revolution made me extremely interested when I encountered journalist David Sax’s book, The Revenge of Analog. He follows the trend away from digital in several different areas including publishing, retail, the work environment, and education.

Sax makes explicit something many of us feel implicitly. Real, tangible things matter. And that insight has tremendous implications for business today—not only in how we purchase and consume, but also in how we invest and grow.

Sleep Smarter (Rodale Books, 2016)

The importance of sleep for our energy, focus, creativity, and overall health has been a major topic for me. When we skip sleep we downgrade our performance. But good sleep boosts our energy, mental function, everything. It’s like a secret weapon. Sleep Smarter reveals twenty-one strategies anyone can employ to unlock the power of high-quality sleep.

I was surprised to see how many I already knew and used. I was also surprised to see how many I didn’t. Mileage may vary, so Stevenson encourages the reader to experiment and optimize your sleep for success.

The 4 Disciplines of Execution (Free Press, 2012)

I’ve read dozens of books on planning. But after the planning is done, the execution begins. In my experience, this is ninety percent of success. Yet, surprisingly, very few books have been written on this topic. In this book, the authors identify four disciplines of execution (4DX): focus on the wildly important goals (WIGs), act on lead measures, keep a compelling scorecard, and create a cadence of accountability.

Not only do the authors explain each discipline in detail, they provide scores of real-world examples from companies big and small. They also explain exactly how to “install” the disciplines in your organization. Based on consulting with hundreds and hundreds of clients, they provide practical solutions and best practices.

My team and I used 4DX for most of 2016, and it was incredibly helpful in reaching our organizational goals.

Mindset (Ballantine Books, 2007)

What is a mindset? According to world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, it is an established set of attitudes or beliefs. We all know instinctively that attitude is important, but Dweck argues that it is basically everything.

She explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as … well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are what they are, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure.

A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity. Which mindset do you possess? This book challenged me, because I realized that in some areas I possess a fixed mindset and others a growth mindset.

Deep Work (Grand Central Publishing, 2016)

If we want to be productive, we have to stay focused on the kinds of projects that add real value to our businesses. But that’s harder than ever today. When I talk with busy leaders, they tell me the biggest productivity challenge they face is constant distraction.

The problem is that even if those distractions qualify as work, they don’t add much value. Cal Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, labels most of these activities shallow work. Think about bouncing in and out of email, checking social media, or tweaking lists. This is low concentration work just about anyone can do. Deep work, on the other hand, requires intense focus and concentration. It’s demanding but adds a lot of value.

Extreme Ownership (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2015)

Extreme Ownership, written by two Navy Seals and Seal Trainers, is both compelling and practical. Each chapter begins with a combat example, taken from the authors own experience in Iraq. The authors distill the leadership principle they learned and then apply it to business. They then share how their business clients implemented in this in a civilian context. This is must reading for any leader who wants to create greater accountability in his or her team and drive greater results.

Elon Musk (New York City: Ecco, 2015)

If you have a narrow definition of success, Elon Musk is one of the most successful entrepreneurs of all time. However, I see this biography as more of a cautionary tale. In his drive to win, Musk sacrifices friends, business associates, and even his family to get what he wants. His life (so far) is a living example of what happens when you value projects more than people.

The Art of Work (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2015)

Today, unlike any previous time in history, we have options about the work we do and the role it plays in our lives. But it is precisely here that so many of us get stuck. With so many choices, we struggle to figure out what we really want or where to start once we do. In The Art of Work, Jeff Goins provides a clear framework for discerning our calling, developing our mastery, and maximizing our impact. This is the plan we’ve been waiting for—from a guide we can trust.

The ONE Thing (Austin, TX: Bard Press, 2013)

Ever feel overwhelmed by having too much to do? In The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller chairman of the board and cofounder of Keller Williams Realty, Inc., and New York Times bestselling author, starts off by dispelling five lies people believe about productivity. He then explains how to focus on the one that that if done, makes everything else easier or unnecessary.

The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide

Markdown (David Sparks, 2013)

One of the biggest problems writers face is distraction. It is especially frustrating when the very tools designed to help you become a distraction. That’s why I am now writing everything in a simple text editor, using a method called markdown. It enables me to remove the clutter of technology and just write. If you want to markdown, I recommend The MacSparky Markdown Field Guide by David Sparks and Eddie Smith. I read the whole thing in one sitting.

The Ultimate Sales Machine (New York City: Portfolio Trade, 2006)

This is by far the best business book I have ever read. I know that is a big claim, but I found the book enormously compelling. It is full of real-world examples, brilliant strategies, and proven tactics. And make no mistake: this book is not just about sales. It is about life and an approach to running a business that is different than anything I have ever read. I can see why Tony Robbins partnered with him. (Sadly, Chet died of leukemia in 2012.)

The Power of a Positive No (New York, NY: Bantam, 2007)

If you are ever going to create the margin you need to focus on the things that matter most, you have to learn to say no. This is difficult, especially for recovering people pleasers like me. Fortunately, Dr. Ury make it easier by reframing the whole exercise as something positive—both for you and for the person making the request. If you struggle with saying no, this book will provide the motivation you need to say no more often.