6 Books That Changed How I Thought About Life

Last week I talked about the books that changed my business and this week I'm going to stick to that theme by tackling the books that changed how I thought about the world around me. Ranging from how I thought about gender issues to the way I think about when you're failing and should keep pushing through, these books changed me.

How To Read A Book

The first entry into this list needs to be How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. I read this in 2016 and it changed how I read books in a profound way. It changed how I read books in such a profound way that I felt like all the reading I had done before was essentially left in an undone heap. This was echoed shortly after when I met the former president of the college I attended and after a bit of discussion on books he asked for a single book recommendation which I refused. I said that unless I could give two I wouldn't be doing him justice because my first pick would inform how he read everything else.

Based off that sentence he guessed my first pick and congratulated me that I read it when I was 36 not 57 like he had. He also agreed that everything he read before that suddenly felt like it hadn't been read with the care deserved. If you're interested in reading and getting something out of the books you read How to Read a Book is the first book you should read.

Purchase How to Read a Book: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository

Invisible Women

Did you know that the seat in your car is safer for you if you're a man? How about that much of the medication prescribed to everyone is much less effective in women? That transit mostly serves work commuters and thus devalues the time of caregivers (usually women) because their trips the rest of the day take way longer than they need to?

Likely not, and neither did I until I read Invisible Women.

Based on this book I'm working to change my language from "you guys" to refer to a group of people to "you all" or something else that is not gender specific. I first noticed this after reading the book when I referred to my kids as "guys" even though I actually have three girls. But it's been more than language, I've looked at where busses meet to pick people up and how it's going to be used less by women because of the lighting. I've also wondered if there were any women in the committee that made those decisions in my town (likely not based on Invisible Women).

This also spurred me to put ROAR on my list of books to read since it specifically deals with the lack of any true data on female athletes. I've got three girls and at least one of them is a regular athlete as a figure skater.

I'm not sure what this information is going mean in my long term life, but I'll start by working to ensure that we have female voices even if it's at the expense of my voice.

Purchase Invisible Women: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository
Purchase ROAR: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository

Scarcity

When I finished Scarcity I didn't think it was going to be that influential. Sure there was some interesting facts, but it wasn't until I read other books that Scarcity started to shine as it lent more power to my later reading.

Two books in particular stick out, Free Range Kids and Last Child in the Woods. Both of those books are about getting kids out and letting them do their thing without parents hovering all over. The both present that far from being unsafe, children are so much safer now that us kids from the 80's were basically living I in a child murder epidemic. No that's not true, but we played outside without parent supervision then and kids are safer now despite the perception that it's much less safe now.

Scarcity comes in here as it pertains to crime and the fact that it's not a specific area that's higher in crime, it's actually one street in an area. The rest of that area of town in just about as safe as the safest area, only one street is of worry.

Further Scarcity continues to make me think about how programs are designed and about the capacity that we have (or don't have) for betterment. If you're in dire financial straights then thinking about a healthy dinner basically won't happen. All of your mental bandwidth is consumed by the thoughts of money and you have none left for dinner, or pretty much anything else.

Purchase Scarcity: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository
Purchase Free Range Kids: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository
Purchase Last Child in the Woods: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository

Quiet

Years ago my wife worked at home and I was out in the sun all day dealing with customers and lifting heavy things. The first thing she'd say when I got home was something about heading outside, often to the beach. We were working outside of our optimal surroundings. She needs people and activities, I need quiet and home to recharge. The conflicts over this were many.

Enter Quiet, a book all about being introverted an quiet, and about that being okay. In Quiet Susan Cain examines the extrovert ideal that the world lives in and expects of us. When I tell people I rarely go to conferences, and even when I do I take long recharge breaks by myself in the hotel room, they often are surprised and tell me the best part is being in the life of the party area. For me, that's the part that makes me want to head to my room for the rest of the day.

This is entirely okay.

Out of Quiet, I stopped beating myself up about not attending events and started focusing on my strengths. Want someone to sit with a problem quietly for hours, that's me. Need someone that can talk to no one all day and be okay, I'm your guy.

The truth is that I get enough stimulation from talking with my kids, and my wife, and the parents we see at the arena when I'm there to watch my kids skate.

I don't feel guilty about this anymore, and if this is you, I hereby give you permission to stop feeling any guilt as well.

Purchase Quiet: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository

All In

By any measure I'm an involved dad. I drop my kids off at school, do most of the after school care while my wife works. I make most dinners and do 99% of the laundry. Dishes, pretty much mine weekdays and I get some help on the weekends. Kitchen cleanup, also mostly mine with a bit of help from my wife.

Despite all of this, I still get regular comments about "babysitting" my own children, as if their natural state of care isn't with me most of the time and I'm simply an interim caregiver that won't be there later.

Enter All In by Josh Levs, which actually angered me a bit. Not that the book is bad, but it's documentation of how the role of dad is not valued in society. Sure mom can leave early to get a kid, but if dad does it then he's not committed to his job. Taking your allowed parental leave, well it's likely to stall your career because your business will not look upon that well. I mean what is dad for anyway, just smoke a cigar after and then head back to work. Taking care of babies is mom work.

This stretches further into dads not allowed to organize play dates if a woman isn't there (happened to me when my wife wasn't going to be at the house as well). This thinking casts all men as abusers and poor parents, when the truth is anything but that. We've got some progress to do on getting men back in the home and having it recognized as a good place for them to be.

Purchase All In: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository

The Dip

The Dip by Seth Godin is all about failing right. Godin says that you need to fail, and learn, and then fail again, if you want any type of success. To help you decide when it's time to keep going, or when you're just failing he provides three questions to ask yourself.

1. Am I Panicking?

When faced with a bad client, or a bad product launch, it's so easy to run back to whatever you knew before. This is panicking, and you shouldn't be doing it. If you're scared, don't quit...wait. Give yourself a 3 - 5 day cooling off period past the panic of the bad events and then take another look at what you should be doing.

2. Who Am I Trying to Influence?

Gauging your influence, or lack of it, is a good way to see if you should stay the course.

Sure, some of the people in a market have considered you (and even rejected you). But most of the people in the market have never even heard of you. The market doesn’t have just one mind. Different people in the market are seeking different things.

Maybe the group you're trying to influence is a "whale" and you're only ready for goldfish. Evaluate where your at influence wise and aim at something you can hit instead of aiming for the biggest and best right out of the gate.

3. What sort of measurable progress am I making?

Finally, are you moving forward, falling behind, or standing still? If you're trying to get new clients, are you getting a trickle of offers or nothing? If you're getting some contacts all the time, then you're likely moving forward. If leads are continuing to dry up, then maybe you're moving backward.

If you're moving forward, even slowly, then maybe you should keep going.

I use these three questions all the time as I evaluate where my business is at monthly, quarterly, and yearly. Just last year I shut down my current coaching work because I was moving backward. Instead I'm pouring that energy into other directions.

Purchase The Dip: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository

Boundaries

One of the biggest boundaries that needed to be established when I was first married was between my wife and I and her parents. They're nice people, but they had some very clear ideas about how we should be doing things and weren't afraid to let us know when they thought we strayed from that very clear plant they had. Thankfully, we're long past that into a point where they give some advice and then are good grandparents and in-laws.

On my family side it was a different issue, they used to try and make all their issues my issues. Be it money, or disagreements, they wanted me to get on some side or have some opinion, or get some money out of my bank account. Again, we're mostly past that, and living 52 hours away helps because there is little I can do about anything.

The pivotal book in setting good boundaries with anyone was Boundaries. When my family, or my kids, come to me with a problem of their own making they now get "well that sounds like a problem" and if they try to bring me into it I usually say "oh I didn't say it was my problem". You can acknowledge that someone is having issues without taking any part of the solution onto yourself.

It's important to remember that with clients as well. While they are hiring me to solve their problems, I don't fix printers or debug their computer. Sure I may know the answer, but I hate doing that crap at my own house let alone over the phone with someone. I just let those requests when they come1 roll off my back with "that sounds like a problem you should get looked at".

You've got enough issues of your own so don't take responsibility for something that's someone else's problem.

Purchase Boundaries: Independent Bookstore | Amazon | Book Depository


  1. The more I've charged the less those crazy questions have come ↩︎