by Lori Milner, author, entrepreneur, thought leader and founder of Beyond the Dress
I consume books. Especially books that help me understand myself better; books that help me learn from other people’s journeys. Both their successes and their mistakes are invaluable ways to fast-track our own growth. These 7 books incorporate all that … and so much more. Happy reading!
1. Presence by Amy Cuddy
Amy Cuddy is best known for having delivered the 2nd most-watched TED talk in history. The talk, titled ‘Your Body Shapes Who You Are’, is worth watching if you haven’t already done so. In Presence, Cuddy reveals that by accessing our personal power, we can achieve ‘presence’, the state in which we stop worrying about the impression we're making on others and instead adjust the impression we've been making on ourselves. As this book tells us, tiny tweaks lead to big changes. We need to nudge ourselves, moment by moment, by tweaking our body language, behaviour, and mind-set in our day-to-day lives.
An insight from the book:
‘The way we carry ourselves from moment to moment blazes the trail our lives take. When we embody shame and powerlessness, we submit to the status quo, whatever that may be. We acquiesce to emotions, actions, and outcomes that we resent. We don’t share who we really are. And all this has real life consequences. The way you carry yourself is a source of personal power — the kind of power that is the key to presence. It doesn’t make you smarter or better informed; it makes you more resilient and open. It doesn’t change who you are; it allows you to be who you are.’
2. Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss
A nugget-a-minute read, there really is something for everyone in this book. Broken up into three sections; healthy, wealthy, and wise, author Tim Ferriss deconstructs the habits, routines and daily rituals of the world’s top performers. The guests range from super celebs (like Jamie Foxx and Arnold Schwarzenegger) and athletes (icons of powerlifting, gymnastics, and surfing) to legendary Special Operations commanders. What really resounded for me was how all success is intertwined with self-doubt, failure, challenges, and the passion to always rise above it all.
Here are some quotes from the book that really resonated for me:
‘It’s the small things, done consistently, that are the big things.’
‘It’s not what you know, it’s what you do consistently.’
‘You’re not responsible for the hand of cards you were dealt. You’re responsible for maxing out what you were given.’
‘The small things are the big things. #1—Make Your Bed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.’
‘What is the ultimate quantification of success? For me, it’s not how much time you spend doing what you love. It’s how little time you spend doing what you hate.’
3. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown
Writer, speaker, and Harvard Business Review blogger Greg McKeown offers both a manifesto and a manual on how to deliberately focus on the vital few priorities that really count and how to dispense with the rest. The way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It’s about freeing ourselves to make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter to us.
He says before accepting any task, commitment or responsibility, we should be asking ourselves, ‘Is this truly essential? Is this very important to me? Is this really how I want to choose to spend my time?’
Here are some more nuggets from the book:
‘What if we stopped celebrating being busy as a measurement of importance?’
‘Here’s another paradox for you: the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus. No matter how busy you think you are, you can carve time and space to think out of your workday. Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, for example, schedules up to two hours of blank space on his calendar every day.’
‘With the focus on what is truly important right now comes the ability to live life more fully, in the moment. For me, a key benefit of being more present in the moment has been making joyful memories that would otherwise not exist. I smile more. I value simplicity. I am more joyful.’
4. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Zander and Benjamin Zander
The key message of the book is that everything in life is an invention. If you choose to look at your life in a new way, then suddenly your problems fade away. One of the best ways to do this is to focus on the possibilities surrounding you in any situation rather than slipping into the default mode of measuring and comparing your life to others.
Here are some nuggets from the book:
‘It’s all invented. Everything in life is an invention. The way we see things. The way we measure things. The way we compete. The way we judge ourselves. If it’s all invented, then you might as well invent a way of viewing life that benefits you. You might as well invent a frame of possibility.’
‘Nearly everyone lives in The Measurement World without realizing it. Everything we do is based on measurement in our lives. How much money we make. Whether our team wins. How beautiful our spouse is. Everything is based around some form of measurement. You don’t need to play the measurement game. You can play the possibility game. You can live in The Possibility World.’
5. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit helps you understand why habits are at the core of everything you do, how you can change them, and what impact that will have on your life, your business, and society. Duhigg has managed to combine the scientific research with his own ideas and personal experiences in such a way that the book tells many extremely compelling stories, while teaching you everything you need to know about habits. And it finally answers the question for us why New Year resolutions just don’t stick.
Here are some fascinating insights from the book:
‘One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t actual decisions, but habits.’
‘Habits emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort. In another word, the brain will make almost any routine into a habit because it allows our minds to ramp down more often.’
‘The habit formation within our brain is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue to tell your brain to go into automatic mode. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain to figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future.’
‘You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it by using the same cue, provide the same reward, but change the routine.’
6. Getting to Yes with Yourself: (and Other Worthy Opponents) by William Ury
If we learn to understand and influence ourselves first, we lay the groundwork for understanding and influencing others. The greatest obstacle to successful agreements and satisfying relationships is not the other side, as difficult as they can be. The biggest obstacle is actually our own selves - our natural tendency to react in ways that do not serve our true interests. Renowned negotiation expert William Ury offers a seven-step method to help you reach agreement with yourself first, dramatically improving your ability to negotiate with others. As he says, ‘How can you expect to get to Yes with others if you haven’t gotten to Yes with yourself?’
Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:
‘As President Theodore Roosevelt once colourfully observed, “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”’
‘If we can learn to influence ourselves first before we seek to influence others, we will be better able to satisfy our needs as well as to satisfy the needs of others. Instead of being our own worst opponents, we can become our own best allies. The process of turning ourselves from opponents into allies is what I call getting to yes with yourself.
The first step is to understand your worthiest opponent, yourself. It is all too common to fall into the trap of continually judging yourself. The challenge instead is to do the opposite and listen empathetically for underlying needs, just as you would with a valued partner or client.’
7. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman
Have you ever felt busy all day but still found you didn’t move forward in the most important priorities in work and in your life? This is a book that shows us how to cut through the daily clutter and all the distractions and find a way to focus on those key items which are truly the top priorities in our lives. Mixing first-person insights along with unique case studies, Bregman infuses this delightful book with pathways which help guide us — pathways that can get us on the right trail in 18 minutes or less.
Here are my top gems from this book:
‘When an unsettling event occurs, pause before reacting. In that pause, ask yourself a single question: What is the outcome I want? Then, instead of reacting to the event, react to the outcome. In other words, stop reacting to the past and start reacting to the future.’
‘The four behaviours around which you should shape your next year: 1. Leverage your strengths. 2. Embrace your weaknesses. 3. Assert your differences. 4. Pursue your passions. You’re already doing something – whether it’s a job, a hobby, or an occasional recreational pastime – that exploits your strengths, allows for your weaknesses, uses your differences, and excites your passion. All you have to do is notice it.’
‘Don’t waste your time, your year. Spend it in a way that excites you. That teaches you new things. That introduces you to new people who see you at your natural, most excited, most powerful best. Use and develop your strengths. Use and even develop your weaknesses. Express your differences. And pursue the things you love. There’s no better way to spend your year.’
Here’s to owning it,
LORI MILNER is the engaging facilitator, thought leader and mentor known for her insightful approach to being a modern corporate woman. Her brainchild, the successful initiative Beyond the Dress, is the embodiment of her passion to empower women. Beyond the Dress has worked with South Africa’s leading corporates and empowered hundreds of women with valuable insight on how to bridge the gap between work and personal life. Clients include Siemens, Massmart, Alexander Forbes, Life Healthcare Group, RMB Private Bank and Unilever to name a few. Lori has co-authored Own Your Space: The Toolkit for the Working Woman in conjunction with Nadia Bilchik, CNN Editorial Producer. Own Your Space provides practical tools and insights gleaned from workshops held around the world and from interviews with some of South Africa’s most accomplished women to provide you with tried-and-tested techniques, tips and advice to help you boost your career, enhance your confidence and truly own your space on every level. Own Your Space is the ultimate ‘toolkit’ to unleash your true power. It’s for the woman who wants to take her career to new heights and who is ready to fulfil her true potential.
Read more articles by Lori...