Recently I was in an elevator where I was asked what I learned from all the books I’ve read this year. It was difficult to give an answer because of the short elevator ride. If I have to sum all learnings into an elevator pitch it will be something like this:
Ask, listen, understand and decide, let your frequent and consistent behaviour build a strong compound effect in everything you do, invest wisely your finite time, focus on getting better than yesterday and create valuable outcomes not only for yourself.
However, this probably seems like a very generic statement for most of you even though for me it has a much deeper meaning because of all the attached thoughts and reflections from the different books I’ve consumed.
To summarize the main learnings and principles that stayed with me from my reading list in 2019, I decided to put together this post/story.
Learnings and the books are arranged into a few buckets for the sake of simplification. I’ve tried to distill as much as possible the points. I recommend the 28 books that are highlighted in this post. Check them and read them. The same book can tell different stories to each reader.
Side note: You might end up with a lot of browser tabs open from all the Goodreads references.
Learning how to get better than yesterday
I found the 5 books below to be well written and encouraging me to become more focused and intentional on how I create value for myself and others. Let me share the more prominent learning points.
Don’t obsess over building preset habits like getting up at 5 am and then do first this and then that. Rather focus on reflecting! Reflect what works for you and WHY. Connect your new habit/activity to another one or several that you do already. Try to connect it to well-established activity that is consistent otherwise you will risk dropping the new habit as soon as you stop doing the main habit/activity. e.g. Listen to high-quality content such as audiobooks while you commute or do other activity that allows you to keep the focus on the content.
Make sure to spend time with yourself and reflect on what you’re thinking and why. Today we are spending so much time just consuming but not spending time to assimilate consciously what we’ve consumed. Reflection is a key activity. Do a journal, notebook or whatever works for you that allows you to braindump your impressions and learnings so you can deepen your understanding of them.
Change is one of the few constants in life, make sure to master your adaptation skills. Learn to accept the current situation for what it is and learn how to push forward towards change. Make a habit of reflecting on what is going on and consciously choosing an action that has the WHY behind it. After that, practice, practice and more practice.
Don’t be just a thermometer be a thermostat that can change the environment.
Keep a memory bank in your mind of all the winning moments and emotions. Withdraw energy from it when you hit a wall or a dip so you can feel empowered and continue forward.
Self-development books that I think will be valuable to check:
Well, it is another book about Habit building, but very well written! At least it did click with my brainwaves quite well.
How to focus better. What to do and practice to help you gain better focus. A good reminder that modern people might be needing.
Can't Hurt Me
Read between the lines, there are good principles on how to deal with shit when it hits the fan and you can’t see anything else but pain.
Ego Is the Enemy
Understanding your Ego and gaining control over what decisions you make so that there not always for satisfying your Ego.
Tells a good story about an elephant, a rider and the path. How manipulating these three elements you can initiate and support a lasting change.
Learning how to be healthier
A healthy brain makes attaining a healthy lifestyle easier. Build stable habits of eating nutrition-dense foods. Focus on plant-based whole foods and cook more.
Keep moving, either exercising or any motion that involves the majority of your body. Aim to incorporate motion into your daily activities. Take the stairs, go around the office, go for a short walk after lunch. The compound effect will take care of the rest.
Sleep well and long enough to feel rested. Spend quiet time to allow your brain to adapt better and solidify what you’ve consumed as information.
Don’t expect immediate results, be patient and trust the process of transforming your body. It is similar to cultivating plants, it takes time to see the effects of a well-managed environment. Take care of the soil(nutrition), temperature(emotions) and light(consumption of information).
Check out these books if you wish to improve your health:
An informative, well-written book on how to keep your brain healthy through diet, exercise and meditating.
Brain Myths Exploded
Explore how our brain works and the complexity of its nature. Learn why common statements are not entirely true due to the involved complexity and contextual influence.
Changing Body Composition Through Diet and Exercise
How your actions and diet is impacting your body. Why balance and diverse food is important and how the different nutrients influence your body.
Learning about Leadership and Management
Give to others especially to people who deserve it, it is one of the best investments you can do. At the least, you can give a smile and a happy greeting.
Make sure you connect to people with your heart and your brain. Lead by asking questions and gaining a deeper understanding. Show people the direction and let them figure out the best way to get to the objective.
Be candid with yourself and the people around you. Know who you are and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Make sure to clearly communicate to others with the understanding of what might hurt them. Try not to be a hammer but a sharp edge that cuts at the right places without completely smashing the foreign opinions.
Understand all of us are people made from a similar dough, full of desires, insecurities, and uniqueness. We can achieve much more once Trust is established and we multiply the efforts by the quality connections with our teammates.
Check out these books if you wish to improve your leadership and communication skills:
How to Win Friends and Influence People
A classic with some universal principle on how to communicate with people gain influence and do moderate manipulation. Good book if used correctly.
It is about how you should listen. How to clarify, how to debate, decide, persuade and learn more. Anyone can benefit from checking out this book.
15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership
A really good book on principles on how to become a better leader and that you can lead from anywhere. Probably the best book on Leadership I’ve read this year.
A More Beautiful Question
Learn the importance of questioning and asking the right questions to increase your understanding and bring more value afterward.
The Gifts of Imperfection
It is about accepting your insecurities, expectations, shame, guilt. Again reflect on who you are and accept it.
The Leader's Guide
Another good book by Eric Ries. Helping leaders be better at what they are supposed to do.
Books that made me think about life in general and its principles
Life is complex and we should not pretend or live under the illusion we understand it all. Paradox and Change are the constants that connect all of the system elements with an invisible net.
Use data and facts to make your statements, everything else is hypothesis and questions.
The future depends on how well we can ask questions and find nonbiased answers. Technology is just an extension of our brains and it is a tool that can be used for both good and bad.
Always think about how things connect with each other and never lose sight of the fact that there is a bigger system that can be impacted by the decisions you make. e.g. Consumers decide every day the future of our planet by making purchasing decisions.
Find the happy moments in your life and store them as bright seeds that can feed you positive energy in dark days.
Check these books below and please do share your impressions of them.
I found all of them really thought-provoking and with potential lessons for all types of situations in your life.
Very thought-provoking book with predictions and theoretical statements what if an AI goes berserk or how should it be implemented so it does not go against the creators and similar. Rally interesting book.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
The rise of Genghis Khan, the spread of his immense empire, the surprisingly farsighted policies he implemented and what made his empire go down.
Thinking in Systems
This is a nice basic text about systems. To illustrate how things in the world are interconnected and why we need to consider the systems when we are interfering with individual parts in them.
A good book to illustrate how our subjective minds can reach conclusions that are totally wrong and how we need to be more data-informed when making big statements.
Solve for Happy
An engineer's view of what elements and habits can bring you to a happy state even when you think there is not much to live for. It's more of a personal story about his suffering but I think there are some good lessons and principles.
A very heavy book on the history of Strategy from ancient times to modern times. Some good information but tough to consume.
Algorithms to Live By
A good book that feeds your brain with an interesting and more logical look at life and the principles that relate to programming when facing challenges and problems.
It is cleverly written. Plenty of factual knowledge along with interesting bits about people and history.
Fiction books that kept me entertained
Here a few fiction books that I thought were entertaining. Check them out if you like sci-fi and fantasy related books.
Interesting story about a guy who can’t easily die and is forced to live alone for a very long period of time. Touches on the topics of what is reality?
Occultist (Saga Online #1)
An engaging story about a guy playing/living in a virtual reality world and all the messed up adventures he is forced to go through. I found it very enjoyable also the other parts too.
Kingdoms and Chaos (King's Dark Tidings, #4)
A good story that so far has accumulated 4 books. The fourth book was still very engaging and entertaining. If you like characters that are slightly overpowered you will enjoy the journey.
Galaxy Outlaws (Black Ocean, #1-16.5)
Meet the galaxy's unluckiest outlaws and their journeys. The whole set of books is around 80 hours of entertainment. There is technology and magic mixed in together.
Have a Nice Day
A short story about the president and teaching the listeners the importance of appreciating the moments of every day and that death can be around the corner easily.
This is the full list of books I consumed in 2019
You’re welcome to follow me on Goodreads (free website). So we can discover together good books we would like to read/listen.
I realize that many of the statements above are not related to a concrete book or supported by examples. My purpose was to share the main points that made the biggest impression from my reading material this year with good book recommendations so you can get to experience these books yourself.
Please do share this post with people that like reading/listening to books. I do believe the books mentioned here can provide you with valuable information and insights.
Follow me on Medium if you wish to see more book learnings. I am planning to try and do them monthly bases instead of a full year, which was more challenging than I anticipated.