I learn best through reading, so I’ll always opt for a personal development book over a video or audio course. Personal development is crucial for the health of our businesses and lives.
But like most entrepreneurs, I struggle to find the time.
When I tell people I have a book publicity company, most of them say, “That’s so cool! You get to read for work!” And while yes, that is one of the major perks of my job, it also comes with a major down-side…
I have very little time to read for pleasure.
That’s why my 2019 resolution is to read at least two books per month that are not client-related, and so far, I’m staying on track. Books that have been sitting on my to-be-read pile (okay, it’s actually a full bookshelf in my bedroom) are finally being devoured and I feel like I’m catching up on so many wonderful stories.
Because we mostly represent novelists, when it comes to pleasure-reading, I find myself gravitating towards nonfiction, particularly self-help and personal development books. The other reason for this is probably the same reason I gravitate towards entrepreneur podcasts; I’m always trying to learn new things and improve both myself and by business.
Since I’m always looking for my next great read, I thought I’d share a few of the personal development books I’ve recently enjoyed:
Atomic Habits, by James Clear*
I never skip James Clear’s newsletter, so when I heard he was publishing a new book, I immediately pre-ordered. What I love most about Clear’s approach, is that he breaks down major lifestyle changes (quitting smoking, working out regularly, etc.) into small, easy-to-implement habits. Rather than saying, “I’m going to workout 5 days a week,” he recommends focusing on the first two minutes of that new habit and saying, “I’m going to put my gym clothes on first thing in the morning and walk out the door.” Once you’re in your gym clothes and out of your house, you’re not going to turn around, go inside, and go back to bed, right? By only focusing on those short, 2-minute habits, you can make real, long-term change.
This book inspired me to change my habits and focus on reading more for pleasure. He also emphasizes the importance of setting yourself up for success, which for me included leaving my book out on the coffee table or on my nightstand where I could see it regularly. I would also put away my laptop and remote so I was less tempted to turn on the computer or TV. By changing aspects of my environment, I set myself up to read more for pleasure and avoid distractions like work or Netflix.
Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert*
I had listened to this book on audio a while ago, but I found myself quoting the lessons so frequently, that I went back to read it in print. Gilbert’s outlook on creativity and the struggles of a working artist echos so much of what I feel, not to mention what my clients feel. When you expect your art to support you, when your art should be putting a roof over your head and food on your table, you begin to resent it. Sometimes, the muse even stops visiting.
I think so many of us are told, “Quit your day job!” and “Follow your bliss!” but that choice can be a double-edge sword. Just as my job has turned reading from pleasure into work, being a full-time working artist can result in the art being more work than pleasure. It’s why Gilbert worked side-hustles and other jobs, even when she had multiple books in print. I think this is a fresh, and much-needed take.
One Good Deed, by Erin McHugh*
Like James Clear, Erin McHugh’s book focuses on making small changes in an effort to create a great, lasting impact. Her book chronicles a year-long commitment to doing one good deed each day. Whether it’s reaching out to an elderly family friend or counting to 10 before snapping at someone in the checkout line, McHugh demonstrates how one small thing can make a big difference in someone’s day.
It’s a short, quick read and an easy reference guide for anyone who wants new ideas on how to make a small, yet impactful, difference in the world.
Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown*
This is a bit more professional development than personal development, but honestly, the techniques in this book have helped me both at work and at home. One example is her suggestion, when facing a potential conflict, to come from a place of curiosity and ask the right questions. Rather than assuming a team member was slacking and just didn’t make a deadline, I ask why the deadline was missed and what we could have done differently. Instead of getting irritated when my wife is on her phone during family time, I ask her if everything is okay and if there’s something I can do to help. Before charging in with anger and accusations, I can assume positive intent and figure out ways that we can all do better.
There are many more lessons in the book, so I highly recommend this for anyone who’s in a leadership position, whether you’re leading a company, a team, or a household.
I’d love to hear about the personal development books you’re reading! Share your favorites in the comments! And if you want more recommended reads, check out last year’s summer reading list!
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