In 2018, Four Books That Make You Go Hmmm …

Happy New Year friends! I’m looking forward to a year that pushes me out of my comfort zone … not just in PR and marketing but in my business too. What are your goals for 2018 and what tools, skills and roadmap will get you there?

Reading has helped me to learn about myself as a professional and to take greater leaps with my brand. Out of the 25+ books that I’ve read in 2017, there were four that stand out in my mind. These action-oriented books are the kind that makes you go Hmmm.  For those of you who remember, in 1990, the C+C Music Factory released a song called “Things That Make You Go Hmmmm,” and yes, I danced along to the lyrics, many times, with friends. When a book makes you go Hmmm, it means you realize that (1) you have learned new and valuable information, (2) you need to make some changes and move out of your comfort zone and (3) it’s time to rearrange your pattern of thinking.

The four books that made me go Hmmm and will make you do the same in 2018 are: The Opposable Mind by Roger Martin, The Agony of Decision by Hello Fred Garcia, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod.

I want to thank Corina Manea, founder of NutsPR and Chief Community Officer at Spin Sucks, for recommending The Miracle Morning and the Power of Habit. I also want to thank Fred Garcia for sending me a copy of his book, and my husband, Mark, for insisting that The Opposable Mind should be on my list even though it was the last book I read in 2017. In this case, I saved one of the best for last.

Here’s why these books will make you stop in your tracks and make you go Hmmm.

The Opposable Mind: I wasn’t sure what I was going to get with this book. Just by the title, I knew that The Opposable Mind would give me a different perspective (a push and pull tension in my thinking). Little did I know it would not only challenge the way I think but also how I go about problem solving. The central premise of the book is that many leaders focus on the either / or model of thinking. You’re predisposed to do “this” or do “that” when there are so many other approaches and models that you can construct to get to an ideal resolution.

In The Opposable Mind, you’ll learn how to be more salient, asking different questions and getting more data to eventually reach your conclusions. Greater salience is the first step in a model that also moves you through different ways to look at causality, your problem-solving architecture and how you reach your resolution. The interviews with business leaders are eye-opening. I was fascinated with the story about Issy Sharp and how he was able to take a different approach expanding the Four Seasons Hotel internationally.  Then, there’s A.G. Lafley, who served as President and CEO of Proctor & Gamble. The author discusses  how he reignited P&G and made products that were more innovative than the competition.

Both examples show you how to use different models, challenge conventional thinking and take risks that make sense because you have comprehensive data and you can be more salient in your approach. I highly recommend this book if you want to challenge you own approach, try different models of reasoning and really take mastery and originality to new levels.

The Agony of Decision: I had the pleasure of reading Fred Garcia’s earlier book, The Power of Communication and was blown away. I gave this book two thumbs up in a review in December 2012. Fred does it again with The Agony of Decision. Whether you’re in crisis management or not, this book is about making tough decisions that may have severe consequences and how you can have “mental readiness” as a leader, especially when a crisis is unfolding. I loved the three dimensions of mental readiness model, which include Emotional Discipline, Deep Knowledge, and Intellectual Rigor.

Each area made me stop, pause and think about my own decision-making process.

  1. Emotional Discipline is very hard. You may think that you are acknowledging reality, but in essence, you have to be forthright and clear on exactly what is happening. You’re remaining calm and not letting your emotions get the best of you. At the same time, you’re balancing out the fierce and bold actions that you may need to take. Note: Emotional discipline today means not firing off too quickly on social media (especially Twitter) and not letting impulses get the best of you.
  1. The second area is Deep Knowledge; an area where you can’t pretend you have knowledge, not just with respect to a crisis but with any pressing situation as a leader. As pointed out in the book, “good judgment is often the result of experience and experience is often the result of poor judgment.” If you have deep knowledge from years of experience, then you know what works and what doesn’t, and you can apply what you’ve learned from situations and their positive outcomes. If you don’t have the deep knowledge then it’s best to surround yourself with people who do tap into their deeper understanding of a situation.
  1. The last area is Intellectual Rigor, which is often not applied during a crisis. “ The rigor begins with clear thinking. The leader, among other things, is a steward of the organization …,” states Fred, in Chapter 1. Clear thinking means accurately naming the problem to be solved. If you get the problem wrong, then you can’t come up with the right solution.

In the book, the case studies highlight leaders who have exhibited mental readiness and, as a result, moved forward in a more positive direction. In other cases, some leaders learned valuable lessons from challenging experiences. The Agony of Decision is a book that helps with decision making and getting you mentally prepared for 2018.

The Power of Habit: Here’s a book that had me at “Hello.” I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. The first story and then every additional story highlighted patterns of thinking and how you can work to change your habits. The author breaks down the cues that can trigger a routine, which leads you to the reward you seek. However, are all of your habits good? This book helped me to change one of my bad habits … my incessant need to check political headlines (far too many times in a day) after the inauguration of President Trump. The routine led to a reward, which I thought was knowledge, but was actually stress in disguise.

The book is divided into three sections to help you personally and in business:

Part I: “The Habits of Individuals” which can help you break personal habits.

Part II: “The Habits of Successful Organizations,” will enlighten your thinking on how your business can change to create a better working environment or to make a more significant impact using good habits.

Part III: “The Habits of Societies” and what makes a movement happen in a society and how it can take root quickly.

The Power of Habit will challenge your everyday activities, how you create momentum in your business, and why you may or may not choose to be a part of a broader cultural initiative. If you want to change some habits, then read this book.

The Miracle Morning. This book is a life changer. I can’t exactly say I’m a morning person, but the use of the morning hours has changed my daily outlook for the positive. Every morning (no matter how busy the day ahead), I’m finding time for reading, meditating, stretching, journaling, etc. which is extremely liberating. The author lays out a plan called S.A.V.E.R.S., which stands for:

S = Silence / Mediation

A = Affirmations

V = Visualization

E = Exercise

S = Scribing / Journaling

If you’re struggling to find your true purpose, lacking energy, or you feel like you’re not reaching your full potential, then SAVERS and all of the advice in The Miracle Morning is a way to unlock your passion and transform your life. I feel so much more clarity as a result, and I’m a lot happier, even on the most hectic days.

I’ve read so many great books, but the books that made me go Hmmm are the four that had the greatest impact on my year. Now it’s 2018, and I’ve got a list of 30+ books to tackle, and I’m ready to, once again, dive in, learn more, try new things, and move out of my comfort zone.

I also know I’ll have to take pause and make sure that I go Hmmm … the more I do, the more I’ll take my professional skills and business to the next level.