2020 has been a wild ride – full of ups and downs, twists and turns. The year certainly brought it’s share of uncertainty, but all the unpredictability also forced clarity and rebirth. Each year I round up the top 5 books that were most influential to me through the year. This year’s list reflects the mood of that 365 days of getting real, finding meaning, and saying no to apathy.
Growing up, we’re often taught if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. But how are we supposed to build relationships or improve if we only ever offer (and receive) surface-level praise? Often, when we care about someone, we’re afraid to hurt their feelings and never say what needs to be said. Yet, for those who do offer feedback is given it’s often too late and lacks empathy, and is gratuitously harsh. We often miss letting people know that we’re providing guidance because we care.
This paradox between Obnoxious Aggression and Ruinous Empath is the challenge Kim Scott outlines. With examples from her time at Google and Apple, she outlines what it takes to becoming radically candid. That is how to challenge directly and care personally about the person.
The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues by Patrick Lencioni
So often in today’s workplace, work gets done in a team. But what makes someone a good team player, and how do you hire for it? In typical fashion, Patrick Lencioni tells a fable. The management team must crack the code on the ideal virtues of team players to save the company in the story.
The three virtues that the book outlines are humble, hungry, and smart. Humble individuals lack ego and favor team recognition and are quick to point out the success of others. Hungry individuals are always looking for more and to go further. They are self-motivated and diligent. Lastly, smart individuals are emotionally intelligent and know how to deal with others. Team players need to possess all the qualities (though they may be stronger at some than others). If they are lacking, you ned up with doormats, bulldozers, and politicians.
In a unique juxtaposition of anthropology, history, and psychology, Tribe explores the human need for purpose and belonging. However, with the advancements of modern society, the need for community has mostly vanished. Yet, our human instinct yearns for a deeper belonging offered by the community and kinship of tribes who work together towards a common good.
Sebastian Junger, a war journalist, and documentarian begs the question, “How do you become an adult in a society that doesn’t ask for sacrifice?” He tells stories of early settlers fleeing over to the Indian and combat veterans missing the intimate bonds while deployed despite the adversity. His stories highlight examples of where people find purpose amid disaster, fulfilling our instinctual need for purpose.
In today’s ideological and divisive culture, it can be hard to stand alone. For so many, the world is black and white, with no shades of gray. You are either an ally or an enemy. But true belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are. Belonging requires you to commit to yourself fully, it’s a commitment to show up every day that demands integrity and authenticity. It’s often too easy to stay quiet and fit in rather than showing up.
Brene Brown suggests you do this with a strong back, soft front, and wild heart. A strong back means setting boundaries and saying what we mean. With a strong back, it’s easy to put up armor around love and joy. Having a soft front gives us permission to be vulnerable and open ourselves to trust, intimacy, and courage. Our lives are a paradox; the wild heart permits us to live that out. Being courageous requires vulnerability, being brave during uncertainty.
No one wants to be the obnoxious self-promoter, but how do you share your work when the loudest person in the room gets all the attention? Meredith Fineman has practical tips for standing out, taking pride in your work, and giving yourself credit.
The first step is to be strategic and know what you want. Where do you want to go, and what do you want to communicate about your skills and success? Be specific and highlight the facts. Sticking to unexaggerated facts makes it easier to share. Your work was published, you contributed to a panel. Be proud of your work and be loud. You must consistently advocate for yourself and your work.