The Best Books I Read in 2016

In 2016, my wife and I purchased our first home, welcomed our first child into the world and, as part of the day gig, I led (or otherwise worked on) cause marketing alliances that raised more than $3.7 million to help end cancer.

As you can imagine, that didn’t leave as much time for reading as I’m accustomed to, but I still wanted to highlight some of my favorite reads from 2016.

Photo Credit: Mikhail Pavstyuk

Deep Work – Cal Newport

Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. Most people have lost the ability to go deep-spending their days instead in a frantic blur of e-mail and social media.

Cal argues that distraction is bad and makes the case that in almost any profession, cultivating a deep work ethic will produce massive benefits. He then presents four rules for transforming your mind and habits to support this skill. Part cultural criticism, part actionable advice, “Deep Work” is an indispensable guide to anyone seeking focused success in a distracted world.

CLICK HERE for 90+ insights from Cal Newport’s “Deep Work.”

How Will You Measure Your Life – Clayton Christensen

World-renowned innovation expert, and Harvard Business School professor, Clayton M. Christensen, asks: How can I be sure that I’ll find satisfaction in my career? How can I be sure that my personal relationships become enduring sources of happiness? How can I avoid compromising my integrity—and stay out of jail?

Using lessons from some of the world’s greatest businesses, he provides incredible insights into these challenging questions and examines the daily decisions that define our lives and encourages all of us to think about what is truly important.

The theories he, and his co-authors, share in this book can sharpen the acuity with which you can examine and improve your life.

CLICK HERE for my favorite takeaways – including why we should not measure our success in life against the progress we make in our careers.

The Crossroads of Should and Must – Elle Luna

Elle’s initial essay, published on Medium, was one of my favorite three reads of 2014 so it’s no surprise that I the expanded manifesto-turned-book shows up on this list.

This is a story about two roads — Should and Must. It’s a pep talk for anyone who’s chosen Should for far too long — months, years, maybe a lifetime — and feels like it’s about time they gave Must a shot.

It talks about the most common fears of choosing Must over Should—money, time, space and the ultimate fear: total vulnerability—and shores up our hesitation with inspiring stories and quotes from the artists and writers and thinkers who’ve faced their own crossroads of Should and Must and taken the leap.

Still unconvinced? Check out Maria Popova’s amazing review @ Brainpicker.

Sit Like a Buddha – Lodro Rinzler

Considered by many to be the ultimate go-to guide for learning how to meditate.

Lodro begins by challenging you to understand why you want to meditate in the first place, then, after the basic instructions, he shows how to prioritize your practice among your other daily activities. Most importantly, he shows you how to bring the wisdom and insight gained from meditation into all aspects of life.

CLICK HERE for 44 takeaways from “Sit Like a Buddha”.

Mindless Eating – Brian Wansink

Brian Wansink is a Stanford Ph.D. and the director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab. He’s spent a lifetime studying what we don’t notice: the hidden cues that determine how much and why people eat.

In “Mindless Eating” he explores why we eat more than we think and provides the facts you need to easily make smarter, healthier, more mindful and enjoyable choices at the dinner table, in the supermarket, in restaurants, etc.

Bonus: Jenny Blake’s “Pivot: The Only Move That Matters is Your Next One

Whether you’re looking for a new job or not, Pivot provides a potent playbook packed with practical strategies and tactics to make impactful changes in your work life.

A few things I love about Jenny’s book:

  • As we move to a more project-based economy, the strategies within Pivot will become even more relevant. (i.e. “Careers are no longer straightforward, linear, and predictable like ladders. They are now much more modular, customizable, and dynamic, like smartphones.”)
  • The strategies are rooted in a strengths-based approach and aligned with your values.
  • The strategies are designed to mitigate risk; it takes courage to pivot, but it’s less scary with this book as your road map.
  • Like everything Jenny writes/does, she’s broken Pivoting down intentionally and methodically into a process (Plant, Scan, Pilot, Launch) that will work for you — complete with relevant exercises. If you’re actively trying to pivot, don’t skip these!

Even if you’re not one of the 90% of workers “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from your job, I highly recommend (regularly) going through the first three stages of Jenny’s Pivot-method. This is what top performers/impacters (individuals that optimize for high net growth and impact) do to continue growing and remain agile and proactive in their careers and work lives.

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This blog started primarily as a marketing blog, but now I write much more about work/life, social psychology, health and happiness. I will also continue to explore top performers (authors, entrepreneurs, business leaders and more) and dissect what we can take away to be top performers in our own work and personal lives.

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