Summer Reading List 2019

It’s been a few years since I’ve compiled a suggested list of business books to read over the summer (and beyond). Professional development need not always require enrolling in a semester-long course or workshop. Reading is a gateway to so many positive experiences, from learning to pleasure. If you don’t want to buy books, visit your local library and check one out, at no charge. A library card is a good investment.

  1. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big (Scott Adams)

For Scott Adams, creator of the world-famous Dilbert cartoons, life’s path wound through many jobs, failed startups, useless patents he applied for and countless other indignities. In his memoir, Adams shares lessons learned about keeping himself motivated, healthy and happy while racking up all the failures that ultimately led to his success. Dilbert, a clever gallows humor cartoon that allowed him to share his failures and frustrations with the world, has been in circulation for nearly 30 years.

  1. Million Dollar Consulting: The Professional’s Guide to Building a Practice (Alan Weiss)

Having now written 49 books on the subject, it is reasonable to regard Alan Weiss, Ph.D. as a consulting guru. If you are consulting, or thinking about packaging yourself as such and searching for clients, Weiss is recommended reading. His insights and recommendations are based on lived experiences of starting and operating an international management and organizational development firm.

As the book’s title implies, Weiss claims that he has consistently produced over $1 million/year in revenues. Although his background is in management consulting, his practical advice applies to all types of consulting. The book contains an abundance of ideas. The focus is on helping existing consultants take their practice to the next level, but he includes advice for beginners as well.

 3. Dare to Lead (Brene Brown)

Brown is an Oprah-endorsed author who gets invited to participate on the global mega-speaker circuit, TED Talks included. In the book, she dispels common myths about modern-day workplace culture and shows us that true leadership requires vulnerability, values, trust and resilience.

Brown asks the reader to think back to the most important leadership role one has had. Were you the captain of your high school football team or cheer leading squad? Or did you take on a leadership role only as an adult, such as overseeing a business unit with dozens, or maybe hundreds of employees? Whatever it may have been, there’s a high probability that you fell into one of the many leadership traps laid out in modern culture.

You may have thought you had to look strong and could never admit to a failure. You may have avoided telling the truth because you didn’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. These things often happen, especially in the office, because that’s how leadership is portrayed in our society. However, we usually figure out later, when it’s too late to make amends, that the exact opposite behavior would have yielded the best result.

  1. The Breakthrough Speaker: How to Build a Public Speaking Career(Smiley Poswolski)

“If you want to get paid to speak, you have to speak about something that matters and something that other people are passionate about. You need to speak about something that other people (specifically people that are in a position to book you to speak) are obsessed with. This is the single most important lesson to keep in mind when building a paid speaking business.”  —Smiley Poswolski

  1. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Simon Sinek)

“The limbic brain is responsible for all our feelings, such as trust and loyalty. It is responsible for all human behavior and all of our decision-making. It has no capacity for language.”  —Simon Sinek

When we communicate starting with the why, we speak directly to the section of the brain that controls decision-making and we use our limbic brain. In contrast the language center of the brain, the neocortex, allows one to rationalize those decisions. The limbic brain has no capacity for language and that is why it is so often difficult to explain one’s true feelings. When we make a decision that feels right, we frequently have a difficult time explaining why we did what we did.

  1. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It (Michael E. Gerber)

The book explains why 80% of small businesses fail and details how to ensure that your venture doesn’t wind up in that group. Gerber says that building a company based on systems and not just on the skill set and labor of a single individual is the secret because having great technical skills does not mean you know how to run a business. Gerber points to this misconception as the entrepreneurial original sin. Being a great baker, graphic artist, or writer does not necessarily make you an expert at running a business in that industry.

Once you start a business, you’re not just the person doing the technical work; you’re also the CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO and a whole bunch of other things. You must bring in customers, track and manage finances, create advertising material, answer customer requests, set a strategy and, and, and…

  1. Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant (W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne)

Are you tired of competing head-to-head with other companies? Do you feel like your strategy differs little from the competition surrounding you? You may need to redefine the rules of competition by defining a new strategy. The book describes two types of playing fields:

  • Red oceans, where competition is fierce in bloody waters, strategy centers around beating rivals, and wins are often zero-sum.
  • Blue oceans, where a market space is new and uncontested, and strategy centers around value innovation.Blue ocean strategy pushes company leaders to create new industries (well…!) and break away from the competition. In short, you create a blue ocean by focusing on the factors that customers really care about and discarding factors they don’t appreciate. This often attracts a new type of customer the industry hadn’t previously encountered and so the market grows.
  • The hard part is actually finding a reasonable strategy and executing it successfully. This book contains plenty of examples of successful blue ocean strategies, and it teaches you how to discover and execute them.
  1. The Non-Obvious Guide to Emotional Intelligence (Kerry Goyette)

Being in touch with the emotions of those around you is key to developing strong, reliable relationships. Kerry Goyette’s guide to upping your EQ is a powerful tool for understanding how you can trnslate emotional skills into valuable business practices. The techniques included show you how to navigate change, find the root causes of problems and make better decisions.

9. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey)

Increasingly, people look for quick fixes. They see a successful person, team, or organization and ask, “How do you do it? Teach me your techniques!” But these “shortcuts” that we look for, hoping to save time and effort and still achieve the desired result, are simply band-aids that will yield short-term solutions. They don’t address the underlying condition.

Covey advises us to allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts, to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviors on the surface level so that we can achieve true change. Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us. More than 15 million copies of this classic have been sold.

  1. How to Win Friends and Influence People (Dale Carnegie)

Since it first appeared in 1936, this beloved book has sold more than 15 million copies. Dale Carnegie developed courses that became famous in the disciplines of sales, corporate training, public speaking and interpersonal skills, from networking to business best practices to Emotional Intelligence. Carnegie will teach you actionable skills such as six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people over to your way of thinking, nine ways to change people without arousing resentment and much more.


Thanks for reading (and read a book very soon, please!),


Image: The Bibliophiles, 1879 Luis Jimenez y Aranda (Spain, 1845 – 1928), Private collection

Business Books to Read Summer 2011

Our Summer idyll will end in just a couple of weeks, but there’s still time to squeeze in some all-important professional development and maybe a meeting with a promising prospect, too.  Freelancers cannot afford to merely work hard when September rolls around.  We must also work smart.  I’m lucky to have discovered a trove of worthwhile business books that will make me smarter and I’m happy to pass along my take on what I’ve read.

The books will teach us effective ways to turn prospects into clients (sell only to VITOs),  how to devise business goals and strategies that will ensure our long-term success (because the red ocean is where you’ll drown)  and that  y=f(x) —and how to apply that formula to make both our own and our clients’ business processes operate more efficiently and profitably (what’s your sigma?).

The Borders book chain is going out of business, so why not make the most of that sad event and scoop up a few titles on the cheap? What’s not left on the shelves at Borders can be checked out of your local library.  Get started now on creating both a strong fourth quarter and laying the groundwork for a financially healthy 2012.

The Secrets of VITO: Think and Sell Like a CEO (2002)  Anthony Parinello
If Freelancers expect to convince decision-makers to award us assignments,  it is imperative that we understand what motivates them to hire us.  This astute and sophisticated book helps Freelancers understand the standard concerns,  priorities and mindset of the typical CEO or organization leader.  Learn how to win trust and convey expertise.  Learn smart ways to approach, persuade,  negotiate with and sell to those who can either veto or green-light our projects.

Blue Ocean Strategy (2005)  W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne

Blue Oceans represent untapped markets and undiscovered customer preferences.  Who knew they craved Sony’s Walkman or Apple’s iPod until the marketing campaign told them so?  Red Oceans represent mature,  shrinking and highly competitive markets.  Remain there and your business will surely operate in the red and perish. This classic guide to innovative strategy development shows Freelancers,  business owners,  corporate execs and nonprofit organization leaders how to pursue fearless, rational and uncomplicated approaches that will redefine and energize strategic direction,  articulation of the value proposition, the business model and marketing.

Six Sigma for Dummies (2005)  Neil DeCarlo, Craig Gygi and Bruce Williams

Six Sigma is a highly sophisticated and exacting data-driven process improvement system that was originally designed for manufacturing companies.  However,  the system can be successfully applied to service delivery as well,  from hospitals and health clinics to restaurants and financial institutions.  Six Sigma will substantively minimize errors and inefficient practices in product manufacturing and service delivery systems.  The material is complex,  but the book is well-written and very clear.  I found that anyone whose work involves operations,  strategy or finance will benefit from exposure to the basics of Six Sigma, whether or not you become formally trained in its tenets.  You’re bound to gain useful insights on how to accurately measure, assess and streamline the delivery of your organization’s products or services.

Thanks for reading,

Summer Reading List

For just about all of us,  the school year Summer Break meant having fun: hanging out with friends,  going on picnics and trips to the beach,  summer camp and family vacations.  Yet Summer was not all fun.  When I reached high school,  Mom and Dad made sure I got a job every year,  so I would earn some money and learn the habit of saving when they insisted that I bank half of my paycheck each week.

Also,  students at my college-prep public high school were required to read two books  (from the school’s list)  over the Summer and submit a book report for each when we returned to school in September.  I’ve always been an avid reader,  so the reading assignment was never a chore for me  (although I disliked writing the book reports).

This year,  I decided to renew that tradition and get into some business-themed books.  It had been a while since I’d mined that category and I had the appetite to make up for lost time.  Here are three books I’ve read since June.  Maybe you’d like to suggest a few titles that you’ve found to be useful?

TouchPoints  (2011)     Douglas Conant and Mette Norgaard

Freelancers,  corporate execs,  nonprofit organization leaders and business owners all require leadership training.  This excellent and informative book provides first-rate lessons for experienced leaders and those new to the club.  Learn how to create a leadership model that reflects your unique style and values,  rather than merely mimicking a cookie-cutter template.  Learn how communication skills promote leadership skills.  Explore the existential question of why you choose to lead.

Knowing Your Value  (2011)     Mika Brzezinski

Although this book’s intent is to confirm that women deserve to receive appropriate financial reward for their professional gifts and teach them how to successfully negotiate a raise,  salary or contract fee  (and other perks)  that accurately reflect the value they bring to the organization for which they work,  I recommend this useful and enjoyable book for both genders.  The Haves are shamelessly using the weak economy to withhold money from the Have-nots and that means we all need to learn how and when and under what conditions we can respectfully request money and recognition  (plus a good title!).

Black Faces in White Places  (2011)     Randal Pinkett and Jeffrey Robinson

The title of this book is misleading.  It is not primarily a book about survival strategies designed to assist people of color who work in Euro-American dominated environments.  Randal Pinkett was the winning contestant on  “The Apprentice”  in 2005  and he is the only African-American to be named the winner.  The authors do speculate as to why no other  “Apprentice”  winner has ever been asked to consider sharing the prize.  Was it subtle racism?  Only Trump knows.  But who among us has not been treated unfairly at some point?  The authors posit that the most reliable way to triumph in life and business is to deliver excellence and that is the subject of this well-written,  dense and absorbing book.  Pinkett and Robinson  (who run a lucrative consulting firm)  provide a detailed roadmap that is applicable to Freelancers,  business owners and all professionals of all races.  Learn to identify your passions and your purpose,  nurture beneficial relationships,  develop and consistently deliver excellence and give back generously,  to pay it forward and mentor others.

I’ll be back next week with the rest of my Summer reading list.

Thanks for reading,