How’s your reading coming along in the new year? Has the cold winter brought you closer to the fireplace with your favorite books? Did those books inform, inspire, or entertain? Perhaps all three?
Looking back a month, the seven books I completed were moving, inspirational, insightful, and encouraging. And, I’m still working my way through The Power Broker.
Let’s start with books that seemingly have nothing to do with financial leadership. In 2018, I promised myself that I’d start reading more high-quality literature. My goal is to read one important
In February, I completed A Tree Grows in Brooklyn that chronicles a poor family generally told through the perspective of a young girl’s life from birth to the college and work years.
Do you prefer reading about grit and determination or about people possessing these traits? About one-third through the book, young Francie Nolan started becoming a hero to me for the way she approached obstacles, setbacks, and poverty. Beautiful read.
Nathaniel Philbrick has a way of bringing history to life. In the Hurricane’s Eye was insightful as I learned that General Washington and the colonists do not win their freedom without the support of the French navy and some untimely hurricanes in the Caribbean which devastated parts of the English navy.
I had forgotten that the Continental Congress had a hard time collecting enough money to pay soldiers. Many went home. How they won is still a head-scratcher.
Good, not great. I liked In the Heart of the Sea better, another book by the same author.
I prefer reading about leadership
My favorite takeaways are the pre-mortems and post-mortems. If you are familiar with the U.S. Army’s
Ken Iverson of Nucor is a CEO I would have loved to have work for. I enjoyed Plain Talk and recommend it. I won’t say much as I’ll be reviewing the book in detail soon. Key takeaways include:
- How Iverson and his team went about changing an industry
- The pioneering of minimills
- Pay structure (lower-than-market base, but high incentives)
- Few layers of management between the plant worker and the CEO
- Autonomous leadership and decentralized management across plants
I want to be careful in that I don’t put any CEO on a pedestal, but I’m tempted to do so with Iverson who appears to be a man of integrity and humility. You want to read this book.
I stumbled upon How to Take Smart Notes by accident in Goodreads. Once I started, I was hooked.
The title is misleading. It’s not just a book on how to take notes, but one on how to learn as well.
There’s not enough space to talk about this book, but I’ll leave you with a key takeaway. If you read something you like, don’t just copy what you’ve read. Put the notes in your own words. If you do so, you’ll be more likely to remember the content in the future.
Some parts of the book drag at times. If so, read those sections fast while slowing down in parts that are more applicable to your situation.
CEO and Employee Memoirs
I love this genre when the CEOs are not self-serving or overly stuck on themselves. Starting with the first book, Daniel Milstein’s 17 Cents and a Dream was outstanding. Talk about being dealt a bad hand. Daniel experienced the Chernobyl disaster, his family risked their lives by fleeing their Ukrainian homeland, and he lived in extreme poverty after his family moved to the U.S. That’s not all. He knew no English once he started going to school.
Milstein’s inspiring life can be summed up through hard work and perseverance. He was the embodiment of a grit-filled life.
The Cilantro Diaries included a similar theme of hard work and getting ahead in a competitive world. Lorenzo Gomez never attended college, yet he worked his way upward in various jobs including Rackspace where he worked 8 years including tours of duty in Europe at that firm.
My favorite advice of Lorenzo’s is forming a personal board of directors. He goes on to explain who should be on the board and how he uses them.
Great book, get it. Give it to the team members who work for you.
What did you read in February? Good? Useful? Worth recommending? I’d like to know.
Title Photo Credit – Tim Gouw