2013 Reading List

I was fortunate to read some great books in 2013. From time to time, I am asked what I’ve been reading. For those of you that are interested (and for my sake!) below is a list of the books I read in 2013.

Mostly everything was business focused. In 2014, I’d like to expand my non-fiction and read more – a lot more. My blogging hero, Shane Parrish, has read 16 books in December alone! (note: please check out Shane’s blog!)

I was able to make it through 18 this year (with read a few of those on the list twice). In 2014, I have the goal of reading 26 books – 1 every 2 weeks.

Thanks for checking out my blog in 2013. Happy New Year!


Books listed in the order read.

1. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others – Daniel Pink

2. What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World – Tina Seelig

3. Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works – Roger Martin and AG Lafley

4. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Timothy Keller

5. Shepherding a Child’s Heart – Tedd Tripp

6. Understanding Michael Porter: The Essential Guide to Competition and Strategy – Joan Magretta

7. Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation – Tim Brown

8. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business – Charles Duhigg

9. The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? – Seth Godin

10. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses – Eric Ries

11. The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership: Achieving and Sustaining Excellence through Leadership Development – Jeffrey Liker and Gary L. Convis

12. Wired to Care: How Companies Prosper When They Create Widespread Empathy – Dev Patnaik

13. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen

14. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants – Malcolm Gladwell

15. The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon – Brad Stone

16. Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All – Tom Kelley and David Kelley

17. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard – Chip and Dan Heath

18. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die – Chip and Dan Heath


Pretending to be someone I’m not

A few Saturdays ago I spent three hours helping my first grader with her math homework. It was a frustrating for both of us. The concepts weren’t making sense to her. I didn’t understand why she couldn’t focus. It probably didn’t help that I was trying work while she completed her homework (my attention was divided).

That night, I thought about my failings as a parent and how I wished the afternoon had gone better. I started to think through alternatives to help her learn and keep me from becoming impatient. How might I make learning fun for her and focus my attention on teaching her?

The idea I settled on was to pretend to be someone else – to role play.

The next day (Sunday) I told my daughter that I had hired a private tutor. “He has extensive mathematical training AND he is British. Mr. Shepard, the patient, British math tutor.”

source: newsone.com

I set up a flip chart and we started working away on concepts (doubles, making ten, adding by 8, and so on). I used my best British accent and was very patient. I tried to think “what would Mr. Shepard do?” (by the way, I just invented Mr. Shepard that day). Mr. Shepard thought of lots of fun examples and was complimentary

My daughter loved this time and it was a blast for me too. She learned the concepts and finished her homework quicker than the previous day. Mr. Shepard has not visited since, but I’m sure he will come again when the time is right.

This exercise got me thinking about the value of role playing – pretending to be someone else is a great way to gain empathy and take a stand. You may be wrong in how you are approaching the role, but there is no middle ground.

Imagine that you and a colleague are working on a presentation for your CFO. What if one of you pretends to be the CFO? Mannerisms and all – really get into her head. What questions would she have? What other information would she want to see on slide 4? What parts would she like, what would she not like?

This is an exercise in empathy – by role playing you are consciously stepping out of your shoes and into your CFO’s shoes. Also, you are taking a leap. You have seen your CFO in action, but thinking like she thinks takes inference. These leaps lead to insights – seeing the world from a different perspective.

source: d.school

source: d.school

But what if you are wrong? What if you completely misunderstand how your CFO thinks and you bomb the presentation? This is great!

Imagine the next time you are preparing for a presentation? You’ll remember how the last stand that you took needs to be adjusted. If you had not role played, if you had not taken a stand, what would you have really learned from the meeting about your CFO?

Empathy is a continual learning process. Attempt, fail, adjust, attempt again, fail again, adjust again, etc.

So the next time you need some inspiration, patience, or want to approach a problem the way and expert would, just play pretend and gain instant empathy!

What Jack Taylor can teach us about strategy

Half-way between the cities of Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, IA sits the Darby gymnasium. In its cozy rafters hang banners that tell of the records set by Grinnell’s men’s basketball team. The banners point to an unusual style of play: Grinnell has more “point champions” than national championships.

Grinnell’s strategy is simply to take as many shots as possible, defend the entire length of the court for the whole game (full-court press) and wear the other team down. In a game on November 18, 2013, Grinnell’s Jack Taylor scored 109 points and took 70 shots. The team won by the score of 173-123.

For anyone who has played basketball, you know just how difficult it would be to take this many shots and how unorthodox Grinnell’s style of play is. In an interview with Jack Taylor, he was asked, “it’s clearly successful. Why don’t other schools run this system?” Taylor responds as follows:

I think it’s difficult to implement. It’s hard to get a lot of players to buy in to such a unique system. Because it is such a crazy way to play the game. Our team it just so unselfish and we have all committed to it and I think that is what makes it successful.

There are a many lessons that could be drawn from Taylor’s words and Grinnell’s strategy, but I will pull out a couple.

First, sometime winning requires that you play the game in a way that the rest of the world sees as undignified. I can just see players, coaches and fans of opposing teams saying “this isn’t basketball!” as Grinnell is handily defeating them.

In your life or in your work, what does unorthodox play look like? Are operating the same as the rest of the world? Or have you picked a strategy that relies on key strengths that you have. Are you willing to do things that others are not?

Second, the more shots you take the more you will miss. Jack Taylor missed 35 shots on his way to scoring 109 points. Most players would be humiliated with 35 misses, but Taylor knows that part of his strategy will entail missing shots.

Are you willing to take a lot of shots? Can you live with failure if it means learning and having more wins? Are you accepting of the failures in others? Taylor’s team continues to pass him the ball, even after he misses five, six, or seven shots in a row. IT DOES NOT MATTER, they keep passing him the ball because they understand and buy into the strategy. Do you operate like this?

There is much to be learned from Grinnell and Jack Taylor. In fact, Malcom Gladwell has written an entire book about these kinds of stories. I just finished reading David and Goliath a few weeks ago and would I’d highly recommend it.

Push yourself to do something unorthodox and learn to embrace failures.