February in Ohio is often cold and gray—perfect weather for staying indoors and reading. Which is why CEO Lucas Brown and COO Ben Bird wanted to recommend a few of their favorite professional development books to get you through this chilly, dismal month.
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Dr. Carol S. Dweck. This pick is actually around five years old now, but age has not diminished its impact. Dweck explores the “psychology of success,” as the subtitle proclaims, by introducing readers to two mindsets: the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. The fixed mindset—often still encountered in schools, sports, and workplaces—is the belief that your traits are immutable, or that some people are good at certain things, and others are not. On the other hand, a growth mindset means you believe that through time and effort, you can improve at anything. After introducing these two ways of thinking, Dweck outlines how individuals and organizations can try to foster a growth mindset so that mistakes are seen, not as failures, but as opportunities for further learning and betterment. Anyone interested in psychology will be fascinated by this book and may just find they learn about themselves, too.
Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. Right away Willink and Babin establish the concept of “extreme ownership” that comes to inform the rest of the book: “Extreme Ownership requires leaders to look at an organization’s problems through the objective lens of reality, without emotional attachments to agendas or plans. It mandates that a leader set ego aside, accept responsibility for failures, attack weaknesses, and consistently work to a [sic] build a better and more effective team” (31). Then, combining true stories from their time as Seals in Iraq with business application, Willink and Babin explain how leaders can take extreme ownership in all they do and encourage those throughout the chain of command to do the same.
Ben said this about book: “To call this book a business leadership development book would be underselling its sphere of influence. I would suggest, and hopefully my family and friends would agree, that this book has helped me as much in my personal life as a husband, father, and friend, as it has in my business life. This book is the spark of influence that caused me to delve much deeper into the concepts of self-reflection and taking responsibility for everything in my life. I would highly recommend this book to anyone that wants to upgrade their ability to take responsibility, lead, and improve their self-reliance. When you take responsibility (own) everything in your life, then you can take action to impact your future in ways you may not have considered before. Life stops happening to you, and you start happening to life. Be a victor! Not a victim. It is quite the juxtaposition that by embracing humility and taking responsibility (ownership) for everything in your life, you gain great strength. ‘Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.’ Matthew 5:5.”
Whether you are in a direct position of leadership or not, this book contains strategies that can help you be a better teammate and a better worker both up and down the chain of command. Ben even commented on the impact it has had on our team, noting, “The lesson of humility that leads to truly listening to others, considering their perspective, and letting others lead even when their ideas may not be, in my opinion, 100% ‘the best solution,’ has led to an empowered group of leaders that are stepping up to lead those around them both up and down. There is a great sense of gratification when I feel myself being influenced by someone on my team who has taken the lessons in this book to heart.”
Becoming the Obvious Choice, by Bryan Dodge and David Cottrell. Are you looking for a quick read that will still change your life? Clocking in at only 44 pages, this book can be read in an evening, but you’ll probably continue to think about it throughout your career. The book poses the question: if your boss is looking to promote someone in the company, who is going to be the obvious choice? Dodge and Cottrell then answer their question by explaining what attitudes and traits define the obvious choice (spoiler: one of them is being an eager learner—in fact, they say that you can be in the top one percent of readers by reading one book a month…why not make it one on this list to start?). Comprehensive and accessible, it’s a book that every ambitious person should want to read.
Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear. Our list wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include one native Ohio author! For everyone who has ever tried to kick a bad habit (or stick to a New Year’s Resolution), this is the book you need. Clear describes how atomic habits—or “a tiny change, a marginal gain, a 1 percent improvement” (27)—can make a big difference. He details how these changes are part of a larger system that helps you grow and insists you should focus on systems, not on goals. Then, he goes on to share strategies for making and breaking habits that will result in lasting change over time. This book had such an impact on our leadership that it was the inspiration for a January wellness challenge here in the office, and we include excerpts of it (and of all of these recommendations), in our Intern Program. Clear’s voice is authentic and his approach straightforward, making this a productivity book with wide appeal and applicability.
Even with winter—and COVID—keeping us at home so much, we still have our choice of myriad of podcasts, books, and television, so much so that it can be hard to know where to begin. But why not select something that will inform and entertain, with lessons that will outlast the cold weeks ahead?