At the beginning of last year, I recommended Deep Work by Cal Newport to you. To recap, Newport identifies two types of work: deep work and shallow work. He argues a pitfall of modern technology in the workplace is that we are being increasingly pushed toward shallow work (e.g. too many meetings, answering email, updating social media, interruptions from chat and text). Consequently, the ability to think and work deeply on meaningful projects is a highly valued skill in today’s economy. While the book is directed mainly at so-called knowledge workers, the elements of working deeply apply to many people.
I spent a lot of time in 2021 making an intentional effort to work deeply. The work has paid off professionally and personally. SOCA met its goals for the year and made significant progress toward our long-term goals. We have a clear plan for 2022 and beyond. From a personal standpoint, working deeply helped me grow as a person. Among other things, I exceeded my reading goals this year by sticking to a basic plan.
Leaders are readers! It a fundamental exercise for the brain and mind in the same way that physical exercise is important to physical health. As a Chamber leader, I recommend building at least 30 minutes of daily reading into your schedule.
It doesn’t need to be “all business”. According to Harvard Business Review (March 2020), recent research in neuroscience suggests that reading literary fiction helps people develop empathy, theory of mind, and critical thinking. Certainly, these traits will help you in your role as a Chamber Executive and in daily life.
Here are eight books that I recommend. The first three are books that I will either read again, implement into our work with SOCA, or keep forever as a reference. Although I’d recommend the entire list to anyone, I see the top three as imperative in my life and work.
- Deep Work by Cal Newport. There are few books that I’d take the time to read a second time. This is one of them.
- The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. This as a blueprint for organizational health. I ordered a copy for every SOCA Board Member and Mikki. Yeah, it’s that good. The subtitle is exactly right: Organizational health trumps everything else in business.
- Horseshoes vs. Chess: A Practical Guide for Chamber of Commerce Leaders by David Atkisson. We were fortunate to have the author as our keynote speaker. I cannot recommend this book enough for all Chamber Execs AND Board Presidents. A groundbreaking book and essential reading for our industry.
- Eat, Sleep, Innovate: How to Make Creativity an Everyday Habit Inside Your Organization by Scott Anthony, Paul Cobban, Natalie Painchaud, and Andy Parker. The authors work for Innosight, a business consulting company. Lots of good, practical ideas on bringing creativity to your organization. The framework for Behavior Enablers, Artifacts, and Nudges (aka BEANs) helped us redesign key elements of SOCA. There are many examples in this book. Read all of the footnotes. They help.
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Never got around to reading it as a kid. Glad I finally did! Great storytelling.
- Indistractable by Nir Eyal. Although this book could have been shorter, there are some key insights. The opposite of distraction is not focus. Traction is the opposite of distraction. Traction is anything that pulls us closer toward doing what we have planned to do. Distraction is anything that pulls us away from doing what we have planned to do. Planning is the key.
- Monster by Paul Roehrig and Ben Pring. Mikki Caston recommended this book to me. The authors have worked in the tech industry for many years and now work for Cognizant, a business research and consulting firm. Historically, technological advancements have always outpaced society’s ability to fully understand their capacity and lawmakers’ ability to adequately regulate them. The authors argue that this era feels different as it encompasses everything from individual privacy to post-modern warfare, and offer some rules for tech producers and consumers going forward.
- The TB12 Method by Tom Brady. I’m not exactly a Brady fan but the guy has seven Super Bowl rings and is still performing at a high level in the NFL in his mid-40’s. Clearly, his approach to the way he takes care of himself is worth a read. I have changed a couple of behaviors since reading it and I feel better. That’s the point.
I hope you learn from these ideas as I did.