Monthly Bookmarks –
140th Edition – January 16, 2022
In college, I started reading biographies, self-help books, and books about business. For the next 20 years, I averaged reading a book a week. I did not agree with everything I read. As I read more stories about successful people, I became more ambitious. ‘Emulate Success’ became one of my favorite sayings.Dave Cummings – Make the Trade
1. My Three Favorite Books in 2021
Picking ten books out of 109 was hard enough, but once I narrowed my list, I found three that are still fresh in my mind. There’s one title that I will read again in 2022.
Railroader by Howard Green was one of the first books I read last year. The story of Hunter Harrison was so fascinating that I reached out to Howard Green, the author, for an interview.
Every railroad that Harrison took over, he transformed it into an industry leader generating excess cash flow through better processes, setting a very high bar for all employees, and fanatically adhering to critical customer-based metrics.
Since I’ve worked directly and indirectly in the food industry over the past 21 years, The Secret Life of Groceries was memorable because Benjamin Lorr gave us names, faces, and personalities behind the business of groceries. And these are not necessarily feel-good stories. If 60 Minutes wrote a book on the food industry, this would be it–Ben just happened to write it first.
The Wisdom of Finance was so good, I read it twice and listened to it once. I’m still not done. Several rebound books followed such as Tolstoy’s, How Much Land Does a Man Need? and Willa Cather’s O, Pioneers!
For business leaders who fear and dread finance on any level, this is the book to read. There’s no math. Instead, it’s finance told through the eyes of great literature and storytelling on the big screen.
What were your favorite books in 2021?
2. On Reading Goals
I never set a target for the number of books I want to read each year. Near the beginning of every January, I just know that my book count will be somewhere between 100 and 120 when the year comes to an end.
How many books should you read? That’s for you to decide. When I coach CEOs and CFOs who do not read much, my encouragement is just one book a month. Even one book a quarter is fine.
Regarding my personal book goals, I always have a few titles I want to read during the upcoming year. I have three books that I’ve been putting off. One is a biography that I put down after about 300 pages three years ago, and I never finished it. The other two are classics.
- The Power Broker by Robert Caro is one of those books I’ve always wanted to complete. When I started, consulting work got into the way. Not this year, and I’m starting from the beginning and will give myself about two weeks to complete it.
- I’m a longtime fan the writing of Shane Parrish over at Farnam Street. Many of his paid-subscribers are fans of The Count of Monte Cristo and Don Quixote. Both are on my list for summer reading.
What will you be reading in 2022?
3. Tactical Books
In 2021, I did not read many nuts-and-bolts tactical books. These are what I call how-to titles. My favorite in this type of genre was Bryce Hoffman’s, Red Teaming. If the name sounds familiar, he’s the gifted journalist (turned global consultant) who gave us one of my favorite business books of all time, American Icon.
I’ve added one title to this category for 2022. I know the content well, but I’ve never read from cover to cover Barbara Minto’s, The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Writing and Thinking. If you worked at a large consulting firm, you know this book extremely well. You applied it to every consulting engagement.
A word for FP&A professionals–read it. Chapter eight will be one of the most important pieces of analytical thinking you’ll ever read. The chapter title is Questioning the Problem-Solving Process.
4. Books for CEOs
Everyone works for the CEO. If you are two to three layers removed from reporting to the CEO, you still work for this leader. I believe that’s why I enjoy reading and listening to the stories of great CEOs.
Each year, I pick one book that I want CEOs to either read or listen to. As the year unfolds, we periodically mention big ideas, inspirations, and constant battles these CEOs encountered as told in their books.
Last year’s CEO book that I recommended was Ed Stack’s, It’s How We Play the Game (The DICK’s Sporting Goods story). I loved that book. It was almost Shoe Dog good, very close.
I already have my 2022 book picked for CEOs and have started buying physical copies to give away. The title is John Rossman’s, The Amazon Way. I had already listened to it, but I just finished the text version. Healthy, complete, challenging, thought-provoking, and not for the weak-hearted. There’s zero fluff in this book.
May I suggest a way to read it?
- Look at every chapter title first to get the big idea of the fourteen leadership principles (John has added a fifteenth which you’ll agree with).
- Then read the conclusion, a chapter where half my pages are highlighted.
- Then read the book from cover to cover.
- Summarize your notes and reread it.
I estimate that 50 percent of the CEOs reading this book will take action by starting the process of writing out their company’s leadership principles with supporting mechanisms and metrics to ensure they are embraced and followed.
Before moving on, I want to applaud John’s writing. He’s humble and will claim he’s only a messenger. Okay, I accept that, but he’s embraced these principles from the time he launched Amazon’s first third-party seller program on their platform.
If I was told I could spend one hour with Verne Harnish, Alan Mulally, the late Peter Drucker, Jamie Dimon, or John Rossman, it would be the author of this book.
Yeah, this book can make a difference in either the business you lead or serve. The book is short. Unpacking it will take far longer to do, but take your time doing so.
5. An Appropriate Bookend
Let’s wrap with some inspiration from another CEO who reads a lot –
I have read hundreds of good business books over the years. From age 20 to age 40, I averaged reading a business book a week. I strongly encourage young professionals to read many business books. No one knows everything. The key to reading is to extract bits and pieces of wisdom from each story.Dave Cummings – Make the Trade
Dave Cummings is the founder of Bats Global Markets and Tradebot. He wrote those words in his book, Make the Trade. In one of his playbook chapters, he adds that “Intellectually curious associates tend to love our environment.” That’s because of one of Dave’s leadership principles is lifelong learning for all staff members.
Do you agree with Dave’s opinion on reading?
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Thank You For Reading. Thank you for making this a successful newsletter.
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Always be learning and growing.
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