I’m a big reader. There is nothing I like more than curling up with a good book. I read for relaxation, escapism, enlightenment and inspiration. So you won’t be surprised to hear that after I’d left my job and had a few weeks of unplanned time I was researching books to help me get my head around this next stage of my life. I revisited some old favourites as well as searching for something new. I wasn’t disappointed. The books I’ve read (or re-read) over the last few months have been instrumental in spurring me on; making me believe I can make this change and for giving me some really practical steps to get out there and do it. These are my favourites.
Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values – Fred Kofman
I read this book for the first time a couple of years ago after reading Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg. Sandberg refers to Kofman quite a bit in the book and I was intrigued. I wasn’t disappointed. This book resonated so strongly with me. I have a strong belief that commercial success doesn’t mean you have to park your moral compass. That it is possible to stay true to your values and be successful in your chosen career. Sometimes the messages we receive in our workplaces or through the media can make this seem like a naïve or unrealistic goal. Kofman’s book puts a values based mindset at the heart of business success. It gave me a framework within which I could be the person I wanted to be at work. There are many wise words in this book and I would urge you to read it. The concepts that have helped me most during this time of change and transition are: we are always free to choose how we respond to a situation; and we are the captains of our own lives. There is so much more in this book but taking full responsibility for my own part in the situation I found myself in and taking full ownership for how I responded to it was one of the most liberating and empowering steps I have ever taken in my life.
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
This is another book I read some time ago and return to again and again. I was sent the link to Brown’s TED talk following a leadership course I had attended. This is now the most viewed TED talk ever (close to 32m views to date!). If you haven’t seen it I would urge you to watch it. If you have, watch it again! I bought the book as soon as I finished watching the talk. This book had a transformational effect on me and it is so relevant when setting up a business. Vulnerability is ever present. You have to put yourself out there. Allow yourself to be seen. This has been one of the hardest things for me to grapple with as I’ve become self-employed. I hate talking about myself and my achievements. It makes me want to crawl up into a ball. I feel it physically and often find I am hunching my shoulders over in an attempt to disappear as I talk about what I’ve done. So getting out there, shouting about myself and convincing people that they should pay me to do what I’m good at put me massively out of my comfort zone. Brown’s wise words helped me to see the value and the pure joy that can come when you make this step and it pays off. To not be afraid of failing or being ridiculed. It has taken me 41 years to work out that there is no shame in knowing, recognising and communicating your worth to others.
You are a Badass – Jen Sincero
This was the first book I read after leaving my job. I couldn’t have made a better choice. The no nonsense language in this book was exactly what I needed. Some of the content won’t be for everyone but I would encourage you to go with it and see where it takes you. It’s an eminently quotable book. One of my favourites is: “The only failure is quitting. The rest is just gathering information”. This book really put the wind in my sails. It’s the one that made me realise that I was the only one standing in the way of creating the life I really wanted. It was the one that made me believe in myself and my abilities. It’s like having your own personal cheerleader. Someone who is totally on your side and wants you to win.
Screw work, Let’s play – John Williams
I’m currently half-way through this one but can already recommend it. This is a great book for shaping a life for yourself that’s based around your true talents and passions. There are really practical, useful exercises to follow. It helps you to look at work in a totally different way: to find the activities that you get lost in and to find ways to make those your work. Williams also helps you to banish the demons in your head. The ones telling you can’t do it; that it’s not the sensible course of action; that you’ll fail. It’s a great book to read if you are on the verge of making a change and need some practical advice along with some motivational oomph!
The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
This is a really interesting book. It focuses on the force of Resistance which we all battle with daily. Steven describes this malevolent force as the reason why so many of us don’t follow our passion; don’t take the big, life-changing decisions. He offers up examples of Resistance in all its forms and strategies for defeating it. It’s a compelling narrative and when I find myself making excuses or see people around me reacting in unexpected ways to my journey, I think of this book and the powerful force of resistance.
These books have taught me a great deal. One common theme among them is: there is no reason why you cannot follow your dreams. Everyone feels the fear. And to truly live this one, incredible life we are blessed with you have to take a bloody great breath and dive in to it. You are enough. You can. You will.
I am always on the lookout for new sources of inspiration and insight. What have you read that’s prompted or supported you to make a change? What would your top three recommendations for me be?