We all know reading is important, but for those charged with leading, inspiring, and invigorating others, it’s essential.
Reading, after all, is one primary way people learn about new ideas and acquire the hard-won wisdom of the eminent leaders and authors who’ve come before them. It’s a means of expanding your perspective, enabling yourself to think bigger, and improving the accuracy of your mind’s eye. There’s a reason that the world’s smartest people and most capable leaders all cite reading as an essential component of their ongoing development: it makes them smarter and more effective.
One can see the impact of reading on a smaller scale, too. Recently Skylum’s Chief Product Officer, Dima, read the Steve Jobs biography, in an effort to obtain new ideas and strategies for our upcoming launch of Luminar, our flagship product. And almost immediately after Dima started reading that book, he proceeded to empower both of us with new knowledge and surprising insight that’s allowed us to more effectively bring all of our products to life––Luminar very much included. The wisdom proffered in that book doubles as guidance. It’s provided us with direction.
I’ve noticed the same impact personally, too, after committing more purposefully to building reading (and listening to audio books) into my daily schedule. A few books in particular have even made me feel almost immediately more intelligent, sharp, and productive.
Indeed, certain books, especially, promise outsized intellectual benefit. The following are the best books you should plan on reading in 2020 to further both your own individual progress as a person and to improve your leadership capacity, such that you can lift your company to new heights.
1) That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea (by Marc Randolph)
The Birth of Netflix is a book about the fascinating origin story of Netflix, in which the founder shares details about the early days of the company.
Nestled in these details are morsels of wisdom which every entrepreneur should familiarize themselves with. The Skylum executive team, to be sure, applies many of these learnings everyday, both in the way we develop new tools and test our ideas to the purpose and persistence with which we go about identifying what really resonates with our customers.
As evidenced in this book, that sort of dogged commitment is critical to ultimately persisting to success
The book also notably highlights the “Canada Principle,” which is a useful reminder that for growing companies, focus is paramount.
2) The Making of the Atomic Bomb (by Richard Rhodes):
The Making of the Atomic Bomb highlights the remarkable journey from scientists took from the discovery of the atom to ultimately redefining––through relentless experimentation and persistence––the laws of the universe.
As Rhodes eloquently details throughout his book, the atomic bomb, all things considered, was an unlikely success. It required billions of dollars of government funding, and the employment of thousands of the world’s brightest scientists. And until the last moment, no one was sure if it will work. It’s a wildly entertaining story in addition to being ripe with useful wisdom and knowledge.
I’d also venture to say that if the efforts of these scientists, leaders, and politicians doesn’t inspire you to level up in your professional life, you need to do some soul searching!
3) Legacy (by James W. Kerr)
Legacy takes a long hard look at the psychology behind the success of the All Blacks, a legendary New Zealand rugby team. More specifically, it examines the timeless importance in team-building of establishing a positive, supportive culture. Without a humble, healthy culture, even the most talented teams and companies likely won’t succeed.
The All Blacks, for example, were an unusually humble group of players, yet they also exacted one of the longest winning streak of any professional sports team in the history of organized sport. And they that not only because of their humility, but because of their discipline; despite their celebrity and success, after each game, every All Black team member helps clean the locker room. They do this because they believe that being an honest, hardworking person doesn’t start and end on the field; it has to extend to all facets of life.
Needless to say, I’ve since tried incorporating the same ideals in my teams at Skylum.
4) The Three-Body Problem (by Cixin Liu)
The Three-Body Problem is a sci-fi novel about the universe. Specifically, species a planet from a planet far away from ours plots to attack Earth.
All told, as many pieces of good fiction do, this book sheds light on just how insignificant humans are as a species, along with how drastically people are in fact capable of adapting and changing, at least in the face of an existential threat. It puts things into perspective, in other words.
It helped encourage me, to be sure, to start thinking bigger in terms of what my company and I might be able to accomplish.
This is one of the most powerful benefits of reading both fiction and books more generally––they help you think about things in a different way. They help you break out of your mire myopic tendencies, which allows you to be more creative, solve problems more effectively, and lead with more empathy.