2018: My Year’s Worth of Books and Growth
  • Post category:Books

I hope to always remember 2018 as a year of growth –– both personal and financial. Growth, happens at the juncture between experience, learning and understanding. Sometimes it entails getting your face smashed in the process and sometimes you’re spared in the nick of time.  

Many times we can spare ourselves by learning from others. When others have learned a valuable lesson and are willing to share it, we gain a mentor and many times, they gain hero status. Because telling stories is hard. Especially when it’s personal and it involves telling about that time that you could have avoided crashing into a wall, but you were too blind, too drunk or too high on yourself to think anything could go wrong.

People, learning and growth fascinate me. I may have already lived half my life but I haven’t even accomplished a tenth of my dreams. That’s another reason I read. Because it gives me hope. It gives me the opportunity to choose my own heros and learn from them.

These 7 books have helped me grow in some way during 2018; they have helped me put together more pieces of the puzzle we call life. We each get a different puzzle and a different puzzle size, but thankfully there are enough great books that can help us make sense of our puzzle and how we can fit the pieces together.

Without further ado. This is a (very) partial list of the books that have helped me grow in 2018:

(Author’s note: Books consumed digitally or audibly will be marked ‘Kindle’ or ‘Audible,’ respectively, otherwise it can be assumed a physical book was read.)


1. Why She Buys by Bridget Brennan

https://www.amazon.com/Why-She-Buys-Strategy-Consumers-ebook/dp/B002FQOHVK

Why did I want to read this book?

Because I specialize in marketing to women and I want to become even more knowledgeable in the strategies that will help me better market to them.

How this book helped me grow:

This books made me more self aware of how I buy things and what I care about. It made me see that I, like other women, care about everything. I care about the product of course, but I also care that the salesperson serving me listens and cares about my business.

A few months ago, I went to a store to buy a mattress. I asked the salesperson questions. Instead of getting off his chair to explain the difference between different mattresses, he lazily pointed to them. Needless to say, he didn’t get my business.

The point in the book, that women notice everything and that nothing can be overlooked made me self-aware of the way I do business and how important it is to make an effort. When you make a genuine effort to please, the other side can tell. And usually it counts.

What did I love about this book?

Bridget breaks down why it makes more sense to market to women but points to the paradox: Most consumers are women, but most businesses are run by men. As a result, what women want is often overlooked, though if businesses would pay more attention they would make much more money.

Oh, and she explains why female copywriters are better than male copywriters 😉

2. In My Shoes by Tamara Mellon (Audible)

https://www.amazon.com/My-Shoes-Memoir-Tamara-Mellon-ebook/dp/B00C5R7E6Y

Why did I want to read this book?

Because if you follow my blog (see my InspHERation series), you know that I care about women’s stories. I’m interested in the stories they tell about the lives they lead, about their decision-making process, and in learning about their failures and successes.

Tamara Mellon is the co-founder of the Jimmy Choo brand, and as such, I was interested in learning about how she founded her business and attained success. Also, I had heard about it. I can’t remember from who, or what the context was. But something told me that I needed to read it.

How this book helped me grow:

Before starting the book I hadn’t previously heard of Tamara Mellon. When I finished it, I was in awe. Tamara had overcome adversity in order to find her voice and become the powerful woman she is today. Despite her hardships of never having a mother who loved her, her battles with drugs, and attempts at a hostile takeover attempt, Tamara Mellon finds her way and voice.

In My Shoes made me more deeply understand that no success comes without planning and hard work.  Not every person who works hard succeeds, but there are certain levels of success that simply cannot be attained without having a plan and working hard.

Also, Tamara doesn’t talk about the nice and fluffy aspects of being the co-founder of Jimmy Choo. Instead, she provides insight into the type of responsibilities she had and the obstacles she had to overcome in order to survive. But also, that business is not only about survival. It’s about bringing your talents to the table, finding your voice and being unrelenting.

At times I still struggle with this. It takes a tremendous amount of confidence and resilience to do this. I’m working on it.

What did I love about this book?

I love that Tamara shares her thoughts and feelings about her difficult life and family experiences. But I also love that throughout building Jimmy Choo, she recognizes the contribution of her team. It’s clear to me, that you can’t build a business without a strong team, and you can’t build a strong team without being a strong leader.

For me, one of the most powerful quotes of the book is:

“You can’t have sustainable growth and real innovation when no one cares about what they’re actually producing or about the people who produce it.”

As I grow my team, I’m constantly thinking about the way I can better imbue my vision and why and how I can make my team care.

3. You Just Don’t Understand by Deborah Tannen

 

https://www.amazon.com/You-Just-Dont-Understand-Conversation-ebook/dp/B007OWRBL8

Why did I want to read this book?

In the end notes of Why She Buys, Bridget Brennan refers to Deborah Tannen as the pioneer of cross-cultural communication. To me it was clear that I would have to read at least one of her books. I chose You Just Don’t Understand because I thought it would be an eye-opener about what it means for men to communicate with women and the opposite. This book didn’t let me down.

How this book helped me grow:

I never really thought about men and women communicating differently. But after reading this book it’s so clear that we do: we seek respect differently, we argue differently and we cooperate differently.

Perhaps that most important insight of this book that has made me more aware and subsequently has helped me grow, is the importance of being flexible. Deborah Tannen points out that men (and boys) use opposition in order to establish connections. Men will challenge ideas in order to get a conversation going and establish a relationship
–– and they’ll act in this manner with both men and women.

But in such a case, women will often feel attacked. And if they do, they will simply shut down, not realizing that the man’s opposition is really his way of learning from her.

In certain circumstance, I might be that woman to shut down. Instead, this book has helped me understand that I must push forward
–– that if my idea is worthy, I have the obligation to make it heard and that initial opposition does not mean that my male counterparts disagree with me.

(Author’s Note: If found this book so valuable, that it was my pick my for my book giveaway in 2018.)

What did I love about this book?

I loved that the book is packed with stories about our everyday behaviours. It’s those stories that make life familiar to us. On the one hand, we like to think of ourselves as individuals. But this is one of the books that make it clear that we can better understand each other through patterns – and there are lots of patterns. The patterns are important. And we can use those patterns to make life better for ourselves as well as the people around us
–– both men and women.

4. Spin Selling by Neil Rackham (Kindle)

https://www.amazon.com/SPIN-Selling-Neil-Rackham-ebook/dp/B06XB35VCH

Why did I want to read this book?

As one who initially  built her business on cold calls, and who still uses cold calls as a marketing strategy, I thought it would be a good idea to read as I saw it on various “best book” lists.

How this book helped me grow:

I started my business as a copywriter five years ago with cold calling as my only marketing strategy. Spin Selling helped me think more deeply about sales calls. I made me aware that successful sales calls have a distinct pattern. The SPIN sequence identifies four stages to the sales call – even if those calls are brief and it is helping me to make the most of my cold calling strategy. I still have a long way to go to fully implement it, but I hope to dive more deeply into the process in 2019.

What did I love about this book?

When I tell other small business owners that I built my business on cold calls, they look at me like I’m crazy. But it’s true. (You can read more about it in this post about phone calls causing anxiety.) And if anybody wants to get into calling or improve their calls, this is phenomenal book.

There are incredible insights in the book about closing larger sales and I love that there is constantly more for me to learn to improve my calls with prospects and clients.  

5. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz (Kindle)

https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Thing-About-Things-Building-ebook/dp/B00DQ845EA

Why did I want to read this book?

I kept seeing this title come up time after time – whether it was on book lists or mentioned in other books (or magazines) I was reading.

Running a business is hard. And I wanted to see what this book had to offer. So I guess when it comes down to it – I was simply curious.

How this book helped me grow:

Building a business is hard and often I think that I’m doing things too slow and am frustrated at the speed at which I’m building. Except, that then I read a book like this, and Horowitz who is a co-founder and general partner of a venture capital firm and previously the co-founder and CEO of a software company acquired by Hewlett-Packard writes:

“There are no shortcuts to knowledge, especially knowledge gained from personal experience. Following conventional wisdom and relying on shortcuts can be worse than knowing nothing at all.”

It is this wisdom that has helped me and continues to help me embrace that not everything I try is going to work but even that knowledge is crucial to moving forward.

What did I love about this book?

The book is a great read. I love that Ben Horowitz is so candid about the hardships he went through to build the company he later sold. It made me understand that building a business is never easy – even if you’re really, really smart and even if you have the best people.

6. The End of Advertising by Andrew Essex  (Kindle)

https://www.amazon.com/End-Advertising-Creative-Resurrection-Come-ebook/dp/B01LYJ7YAA

Why did I want to read this book?

I heard Andrew Essex talk about his book on The Marketing Book Podcast and I was intrigued. As a copywriter who writes advertisements (among other things), it is important for me to learn as much as I can about how the industry is changing.

How this book helped me grow:

I’m a copywriter and I need to keep at the top of my game. The End of Advertising makes it very clear that a new type of advertising is rising. I can fear it or embrace it. I choose to embrace.

Since reading it, I work even harder to stay on top of trends and pop culture. Great advertising is built on creating emotional connections; it’s based on deeply understanding people, what they want, what they fear and what they love. Reading and consuming pop culture gives me a deeper layer of insight and understanding. It also inspires me with new ideas. As Essex points out “The most import thing is to be excellent, interesting, authentic, or useful. To be the thing, not the thing that sells the ting.” And this is the type of work I’m striving to produce.

What did I love about this book?

I love Andrew’s perspective. And I love that he challenges David Ogilvy’s idea that There is no correlation between people liking commercials and being sold by them.If an ad does not engage or entertain will it still be effective? If it doesn’t touch us, explains the author, it will immediately be deemed as noise and blocked out. So what we are looking for today is to touch, engage, influence. Today we require permission to enter people’s hearts and minds.

I also love that this book is challenging me to think differently about advertising. Every time I produce a new ad, I think about the message, I think about the medium and I push myself further to think about new ways and new places the message can be advertised. If the message is in fact the medium, this new world of advertising is about to become more exciting and I can’t wait.

7. Born Standing Up: A Comics Life by Steve Martin (Audible)

https://www.amazon.com/Born-Standing-Up-Comics-Life-ebook/dp/B000UZNSN6

Why did I want to read this book?

I don’t know about you, but I love Steve Martin. Such classics as Roxanne, The Three Amigos, Parenthood, Planes, Trains and Automobiles were the movie staples of my youth.

I don’t know where I heard or read about Born Standing Up. I guess it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I wanted to read it because as I said, I love Steve Martin.

How this book helped me grow:

As you would expect, the book provides insight into Steve Martin’s life before and as he becomes famous. And it’s a wonderful book, all of it. But for me, the most powerful sentence comes at the beginning; in fact it’s the first sentence of the book:

“I did stand-up comedy for 18 years. 10 of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining and four were spent in wild success.”

As I mentioned earlier, I often think that I’m not progressing fast enough. And though I don’t know how many years I’ll be successful for, I know that I’ll have to work a heck of a long time until I get there. I don’t get to give up. At least not until I’ve worked for at least 14 years to build myself up.  

What did I love about this book?

I love that it’s so candid, touching and funny. One doesn’t often think about the time a celebrity was not famous. In this case, I never thought about a time that Steve Martin struggled to be funny, struggled to gain an audience. I loved hearing his voice (Steve Martin narrates the Audible book) and at the end of each chapter there’s a short banjo tune, played by Steve Martin.

What books did you read in 2018 that have contributed to your growth?