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Business & leadership

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Rebel ideas

Matthew Syed

First of all: the library was shut. For 6 months. Which is why I had to wait for 6 long months before I could get this book out. But it was well worth the wait.

A fantastic book that shows how - without diversity in our thinking, and connectivity - we would collectively not be where we are today.

Some highlights for me:


  • How everyone is different. Even down to our digestive system. Which means that a standardised system, where everyone is forced into a system designed for the 'average', will never work. What works for you won't work for me.

  • How today's complex problems can only be solved by diverse groups of people, with different ideas.

  • How a level of control over what you do and how you do it makes you happier and more productive.

  • And that you need to build trust first before trying to persuade someone with facts. Without it opinions will remain polarised.

Compelling reading.

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Centered Leadership 

Joanna Barsh

Joanna Barsh works for McKinsey and for the last 10 years she has worked with and interviewed leaders. She has set up her Centered Leadership courses which are based on the principles in this book. 


What it comes down to is that for us to be a 'Centered Leader' there are a number of things that need to be in place:

  • We need to do something that feels meaningful to us, that makes use of our strengths.

  • We're going to have to reframe how we are experiencing and responding (rather than reacting) to situations.

  • Connection and community is key, and for that a thorough look at your network is key (and boy, is this an insightful chapter!).

  • You'll need to become courageous (and vulnerable) in your story telling.

  • And of course, last but not least, you're going to have to look after yourself. Manage your energy.


It's a lot, this book. Written in a deceivingly simple way. But I bet that there are chapters in here that hit you straight in the gut. That - when you do the exercises - will make abundantly clear what your focus should be. In your quest to become that Centered Leader.



Malcolm Gladwell

Do you sometimes wonder how Serena Williams succeeded? Or Bill Gates? Why it's not you raking in the millions? Or having that dream career? Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers explains all that.

I'm probably the last one on the planet to read this book. And I'm obviously suffering from 'self-help-book-itis', because I kept turning the pages in the hope that there would be a 5 step plan to help me from where I am now to that success.

If that's what YOU're looking for, then you may want to look elsewhere. This book explains all the elements that contribute to 'overnight' successes. Turns out overnight successes don't really exist (you knew that, right?). Turns out that it depends on a lot of factors. Like working incredibly hard at things, for more than 10,000 hours. Or what time of the year you were born. Or what industries were on the up and up at the time. What you had access to. Or how you were supported.

But luckily there are also some things mentioned that ARE in your control. Like finding meaningful work. Identifying what you're already really good at (and love doing). Discipline. Finding the right people to work with and support you.

OK, so it's not a self-help book. But in the stories you'll find pointers that will help you become that success.


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The Gifts of Imperfection

Brene Brown

Had you given me this book 10 years ago I would have been a whole lot less receptive. Now? Every single 'guidepost' in this book hit me straight in the gut.

If we start with the 'easy' ones: the ones on creativity (guidepost #6) and meaningful work (guidepost #9). If you have been reading some of my posts you will KNOW that this was always going to strike a chord.

Take another one: the one on perfectionism (guidepost #2).

BANG! Straight in the gut. Just a quote: 'Life paralysis refers to all of the opportunities we miss because we're too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect. It's also all of the dreams that we don't follow because of our deep fear of failing, making mistakes, and disappointing others.' Recognise anything in this? Because I most certainly did *cough, just spent 25 years doing the 9 to 5, only, cough*!

Another one: Letting go of ... Productivity as Self-Worth.
Wow. That one HURT! If you have ever found yourself on a Sunday afternoon looking around for something, ANYTHING, to do, because otherwise you think of yourself as a useless lazy so-and-so, it'll hit you hard (guidepost #7).

And finally, just for fun, cultivating laughter, song and dance (guidepost #10).
Have you ever sung songs at the top of your voice, totally out of tune and had loads of fun doing it (even if your family was walking around with their hands over their ears - or perhaps exactly BECAUSE that's what they were doing)? Or danced a *mum dance* looking like an idiot? Yeah? Keep doing it! Is what Brene Brown tells us.

So, if you asked me if this book is worth reading, what would I say? Absolutely. Do it!

But only read one chapter at a time, and build in proper recovery time after each, is what I'd say. You can't say you haven't been warned!



Dan Heath

Dan Heath's book is all about prevention. About solving problems before they become problems. And how it's notoriously hard to do this.

Because to solve problems you've got to first recognise it as a problem. Someone (or multiple someones) needs to take ownership of it. And people need to have time or money to look up and start looking - well - upstream! Where the problem started in the first place.

Of course, in today's world, problems are never simple. Problems like obesity, or global warming, or mental health, are never caused by just one thing. Which means that we then have to deal with the issue of ownership. And who is responsible for solving it. Who will receive the benefit. And who will pay to solve it.

A fascinating read.

With some real insight on how (and how not) to solve complex problems.

Before they happen.


Think like an artist

Will Gompertz

A book with a title like that was always going to appeal to me! So, with a cup of tea and a biscuit nearby I read this in less than 3 hours.

The book advocates we all think more - well - like an artist! In other words more like an entrepreneur, freeer, more critical.

It tells us that we should have the courage to create and tell the world about it. To not be beige and mediocre. To break out of our straight jacket and show the world what we can do. No matter how scary that is. No matter that we don't know how people will react to what we've created.

It advocates that creativity should be what businesses should encourage. And what schools should aspire to.

So, yeah, this book was always going to appeal to me. I'm keen to learn what you thought of it!


The heart of laser-focused coaching

Marion Franklin

For all you coaches out there. I finished Marion Franklin's book!

And it's all it's cracked up to be! If you are ever in doubt about being a coach this book reminds you why you're a coach.

It helps you hone your skills, makes your coaching more focused, gives you clear tools and examples of how to get to the heart of the matter quicker. How to be a transformational coach, not just staying on the transactional level.

I've come to realise that good books - like people - should energise you. That's what this book does.

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Big Magic

Elizabeth Gilbert

I'd seen the TED talk. But I hadn't read the book.

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity. About how we are all creative (I told you!). And that we should therefore - well - go and create!

In fact, that you should give yourself permission to create. Just for the heck of it. For nice. Because you can't not create. Because you want to write, draw, paint, make music, sing, dance, act.

But keep it light. Do it because you want to. If you can make money with it, great! If you can't then make money another way, but keep on creating.

Create, but don't expect any results. Even Elizabeth Gilbert had to have a job when she wrote her first four books. And if inspiration eludes you follow your curiosity. And keep creating. We are all creative. So create. You have permission.

A lovely book. A quick read. Down to earth (No one owes you a living when you choose to create, so don't expect it! Don't let your creativity be stifled by the need to make money with it), but inspiring.


This is marketing

Seth Godin

Marketing. Not my go-to subject, to be fair.


Only when I signed up for Seth Godin's daily blogs - which are inspiring and saying exactly the right thing at the right time - did I really get to grips with the language used and the ideas in this book.


So, why am I even talking about (or reading) a book about marketing? What's that got to do with career change?


Well, as it happens, everyone is marketing.


You're marketing when you're applying for a job. Or, when you are making a career change, getting known in your new field. You are considering your audience, identifying what they want and need and bringing your services under the attention of the audience that want it.


And if your career change involves setting up your own business, you will need to find your niche and create 'tension' so that your audience will want the services you provide. And this book might well help you on your way to define what that looks like for you. 


As a coach - having spent time to learn about this stuff - this book brings together the current marketing thinking all in one book.


The most inspiring takeaway for me? If you don't market the change you'd like to contribute, then you're stealing. Because there's someone who needs to learn from you, engage with you, or buy from you.


So it isn't about you. You're not marketing or even selling you. You are marketing your services. To people who want it. Not to market would be a waste - or in Seth Godin's view a crime. 


Bullsh*t jobs: a theory

David Graeber

Now, have you ever felt that no one would miss your job if it wasn't there? That what you are doing on a day-by-day basis is pointless? Yes? Well, you're not alone! Up to 40% of people feel that way! 

Can you imagine what a waste that is? Of people's capabilities, talents and time? Can you imagine what that is doing to people's self-esteem and confidence? 


Economists back in the 1800s predicted that by now people should be able to work just 15-hour weeks. But somehow we are finding ourselves working harder than ever! 

In this book David Graeber defines what a 'bullsh*t' job is and - from an anthropological point of view - what societies could be doing about it. Keeping in place these 'bullsh*t' jobs - Graeber argues - is precisely the reason why we're still working so hard! 

The author approaches the subject from an anthropological perspective (e.g. what can society do about this). What I'm finding much more interesting however is what briefly is described in Chapter 4 about the psychological impact of finding yourself working in a bullsh*t job. And quite frankly, the effects of bullsh*t jobs on people can be devastating (David Graeber likens it to 'spiritual violence')! 

Do you find yourself in a bullsh*t job? Is it affecting your self-esteem or your confidence? You might want to consider reading this book. And get the hell out of there!

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Rutger Bregman

Wow, where to start.

Well, first of all, what if we all just assumed that human beings are generally, well, kind. And that it's only since we started claiming property, and people in power started wielding that power, that we became fearful, and sometimes nasty.

This book has done what every good book does. It makes you look at things from a totally different perspective.

It disproves theories that we thought were common knowledge and even fact. It shows us how there are alternative ways of treating our fellow human beings.

I learnt that compassion is better than empathy. And that I should stop watching the news, and that there is a reason why Sillicon Valley executives restrict access to social media for their kids.

A must-read. For everyone.

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