Reading Inspiration: Best Books I Read In 2019

Updated: Dec 16, 2020

Last Bookstore - Los Angeles

2019 was a big year for reading, bigger than most as I transitioned my career from leading a team of bid and proposal professionals in Europe and Asia to building a coaching and consultancy practice.

The reading I did was wide, and I mean very wide - from textbook-like manuals on coaching to modern-day pioneers on personal development and spirituality, to corporate rebels and deep dives into entrepreneurialism.

If you're interested in my library, you can check it out on GoodReads.

My top reads includes books to help stimulate your thinking about purpose and value, remind you the basic laws of finance we all forget, help you create and impossible future, lead better and serve.

I hope you find something to excite your inner bookworm:

1. Soulbbatical by Shelley Paxton (released on January 14 2020)

In November 2019 I spent two weeks split between the South of France and the West Coast of Portugal - a mini-break away from work as I wound down my 20 year career. It was the perfect time to read (power read at that) Shelley Paxton's own story of transition from corporate rebel to corporate refugee.

Shelley's book is raw and as you read each page it's as if Shelley is speaking directly to you. It's not just a story though. Shelley has intentionally provided guidance on how anyone can take their own Soulbbatical to get more connected to the work that lights them up with purpose and meaning.

While Shelley recounts an increasingly familiar trend of people leaving 'corporate' to create the life of their dreams, Shelley's intention is not for you to leave your job and change the world - that's just how it worked for her. Instead, Shelley encourages you to discover, through your own explorations, what matters most in you work and to focus on that instead. That might mean changing your focus at your existing job. Changing how you show up changes everything else, and that in itself changes the world.

It's witty, evocative and a lot of fun to read.

The prompts at the end of each chapter allow you to speak directly to your own soul.

2. Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt

Trillion Dollar Coach follows the career of Bill Campbell - a football coach who shifted careers from the sports field to the boardroom and ended up coaching some of Silicon Valley's leading executives from Apple to Google.

Beyond the biographical account of Bill's life, the book is a manifesto for leadership in our changing times. More than a tribute to Bill Campbell, Trillion Dollar Coach offers timeless advice for leaders who believe in the power of people to change or world. 

Bill's manifesto reminds us to step beyond the platitudes we so often see and hear in corporations. My favourite being 'people are our most important asset'. Too often we hear it, we read it but we rarely see the behaviours in companies reflect this.

Each chapter explores an element of Bill's leadership capabilities and the way he uniquely sees the world. The chapters explore the latest thinking which either agrees with Bill's approach or on the rare occasion disagrees and the author has been fair in how this has been documented and highlighted.

As a leader of people, I could completely relate to Bill's approach and I only wish that more leaders take note and walk the talk.

If you take a single learning or new way of leading from this book you will change your leadership style forever.

I promise.

3. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason

This 1926 classic seems to be having a resurgence in entrepreneurial circles, and I have seen it referenced by influencers and coaches in a number of different circles over recent months.

The book is an a-b-c of money and explains, in parable form, how the richest man in Babylon makes his fortune.

For anyone who understands the basics of finance there isn't likely to be anything new here, but there are some time-honoured principles that we all choose to ignore, such as the power of compound interest...

There were a few moments reading the book where I slightly regretted not making different financial decisions in my earlier years - it's a case of if I only knew then what I know now; but I'm not sure knowledge alone would have made all the difference - we know how young people are!

The Richest Man in Babylon is one of those books to keep in your collection and come back to at times when you are reviewing finances and considering what to do with your money. It won't tell you what to do, but it will remind you of the fundamentals of how our current economic system operates.

4. The Last Word on Power by Tracy Goss

I read The Last Word on Power in May 2019 on the recommendation of another Executive Coach, and I'm glad I did.

At the time I didn't know that Tracy has used some of the foundational principles of Landmark Education. I am not a Landmark Graduate so I wasn't familiar with some of the concepts at first, but it didn't take long to understand the fundamentals and the transformation that Tracy is supporting business people to make.

If you're working through this alone, it pays to read ahead to fully appreciate the intention behind the approach and then return to the earlier sections to go through the transformational steps. It was reading this book between New York and Washington that I was able to get real clarity on the transformation I was making and the one I was going to support my clients with.

By making that declaration to the world (via the internet!), I was then able to comfortably take the next steps forward in creating the future that I wanted to step into.

I have read other books after this one which take an entirely different approach to exploring transformation, but The Last Word on Power remains a useful tool that I use with some of my clients to help them understand their 'from' and 'to' in terms of their transformational journey.

Give it a read if you want some intellectual stimulation and gain deeper insights into how you might create your own impossible future.

5. Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business by Paul Jarvis

Jarvis' book is as relevant to the Company of One as it is to the company of 1001. This was the first book I read while on my mini-break in France and it was perfectly timed for me stepping out on my own to create my own business.

I'm firmly in the camp of growing a sustainable practice that doesn't necessarily involve 10x'ing and scaling for scaling sake.

Jarvis uses a wide range of companies to explore the concept of staying small to grow a big impact and he helped me feel less guilty for wanting to create a business that is based on quality and service rather than massive scale, a huge platform and growth. He elegantly reminds us of the difference between being wealthy and being rich - and there's absolutely nothing wrong with being both at the same time.

Like a number of books in the genre's presented today, the concepts aren't necessarily 'new' but they are often lost in the rush towards the next big thing or the next latest thing. In that rush we forget what matters most - service and all that goes along with creating an experience that our customers love us for.

If there's one criticism of this book, it's that it focuses on product rather than services businesses, but that doesn't mean that the concepts don't apply - it just means that it's easier to grow bigger by staying small in a productised business than it is in one where you're the star trading your time for money.

Lots of good reminders and takeaways. For something similar but focused on service, read Bluefishing by Steve Sims.

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