What did I Learn Reading a Book a Week in 2019?

I'd love to share with you a recount of my year ~ in books. What I have read, how it has shaped my thoughts & at times, changed my beliefs.

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I always dismissed my inability to focus.  Outside of the Harper’s Bazaar, for years reading was merely a holiday past time, the benefits quickly forgotten within half an hour of returning from our annual summer break at Noosa.

It was only when I suddenly had too much time on my hands, when the silence in my head became filled with anxiety, that I became acutely aware I had a problem.  One that needed to be quickly solved for my own sanity. 

Recovering from my lowest – acute burnout in 2017- I found respite from my brain in the pages of my books & the shelves of my local book store. 10 pages to start, then a chapter, then a half an hour continuous reading.  No pressure, just what I felt I could manage at the time without my brain running off on a tangent.  If it did – I stopped.

Pretty soon I settled in a comfortable pace, digesting a book a week.  I found a passion for learning I never knew I had, sparking a creative energy I hadn’t felt in years. 

Non-fiction was and is, my happy place – leadership, high performance, fostering creativity and developing trusted relationships.  Books that make me a better person, better coach & better leader.  I couldn’t afford an MBA at the time, but by golly I underestimated the power of what books combined with professional experience could teach me. 

What did 2019 bring? 

Here is my yearly recount, woven with the book titles that have influenced my thoughts & instilled change in my beliefs & behaviour.  (Link to full list of 52 below )  Enjoy!

Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard kicked my year off with Let my People Go Surfing – an apt choice for the annual Noosa family pilgrimage.  Always one to choose quality over quantity, my consciousness of sustainable fashion & waste was amplified after learning the philosophy of this brand. 

Noosa was a great place to start the 5am Club by Robin Sharma given that is the time the town comes alive following the kookaburra’s Aussie wake-up call in “the 4’s” – uggh!  2 weeks of 5am, surfside, national park walks, instilled healthy Atomic Habits as suggested by James Clear through his powerful & proven behaviour changing techniques.  Out with the old & in with fresh rituals for the new year to set me up for success!

Back in Melbourne & on the tools, I continued my passion & the slow burn process of developing relationships based on trust.  The Trusted Advisor reminded me to keep my conversations less about me & more about others & the importance of giving rather than taking – a gesture often forgotten when we become too focused on our own networking objective, rather than ensuring it is a two-way street. 

You never know when the day will come when you can help others, or they can help you.

My keynote “Mastering the Art of Selling Yourself” was merely a thought bubble at this time. Brendon Burchard’s High Performance Habits resonated deeply and helped ignite my inspiration.  His theory of transformation became a stalwart exercise in understanding how to articulate the impact I made in my professional life.  It is a title I recommend frequently to coaching clients contemplating career growth and change.

How can others understand the impact we could make to their business, if we can’t articulate it ourselves? 

Quite simply, they can’t.

To prove this out, I pursued a new vision in a different high-performance industry, with one of Australia’s leading sporting organisations. Nailing my value was key.  If I didn’t make myself relevant to those I was speaking to, I wouldn’t be remembered, let alone ever considered. 

To effectively sell ourselves & get what we want out of our professional life, we need to master how we describe our value to others.  This becomes our story brand.  Being Story Driven as Bernadette Jiwa articulates, enables us to engage emotionally with our audience.  Emotional Intelligence does lead to Sales Success as we seek to understand the other person’s perspective. 

To sell myself effectively in a totally different industry, I had to believe my sales philosophy was effective – to sell based on curiosity & learning rather than telling & directing. 

If we don’t seek to understand our client’s world, how can we make what we are selling relevant?

Firstly, we should all consider removing our “judgement hat” when we are Talking with Strangers.  We should consciously seek to learn rather than assume opinion.  Assumption a sure-fire way to book end an opportunity. 

I believe any statement can be changed into a question.  One which then enables us to gain a better understanding of the other person’s perspective.  The Book of Beautiful Questions by Warren Gerber is a great guide for crafting questions that help to connect with others.  But remember, they are only useful if you consciously make the changes to your conversation style.  It’s worth it – I promise!

As the year rolled on, my coaching business grew through word of mouth & I kept investing in my network.  As anyone in their own business knows, timing is always an unknown & a risk you have to take.  I had to keep believing in myself to ride out the ups & downs.  And there were plenty!  Often, I found myself wondering what The Meaning of Life was all about. 

Viktor Frankel’s story is a classic.  One that as soon as I can get my Mr 13 to take a leaf out of Cal Newport’s book and embrace Digital Minimalism, I will be ensuring he reads.

How do we teach our teenage children gratitude?  To appreciate what they have & understand the value of the simple things in life?  This is a daily work in progress in our household – integrating gratitude, empathy & mindfulness into our world in pursuit of a happiness & fulfillment.  It truly is a Resilience Project.  As parents, we should all be grateful for the work Hugh Van Cuylenburg has packaged for us.  A highly recommended read.

Losing our beloved Nan or “GG” in May was a Reality Slap for our entire family.  Russ Harris addresses how to manage life’s hardships & for us, it was through a celebration of her 101 years & keeping Nan ever present in the world of our family.  Nan knew how to connect with & read me as a person, her wisdom often hitting me between the eyes.  She was rarely wrong.

Ironically Nan’s death came hours before a significant birth in our family.   Mother’s Medicine was launched hours after her passing.  By my brave sister Tina Bruce, this memoir shares her story of birth trauma & subsequent addiction to opioids.  Her courage, an inspiration to me.  Through sharing her story, Tina has instilled hope & inspired confidence in others suffering the same pains.  To help them understand there is a way through the trauma & a wonderful life ahead should they choose to do the work.  She has discovered the Power of Her True North.

Dying to be Me by Anita Moorjani is another memoir I recommend to coaching clients frequently. The story of a woman wanting to stretch her wings in a world where the preference by others, was to keep them clipped.  Her cancer journey had a happy ending as she entered physiological remission & pursued her life’s dreams on her terms. 

Reading such personal & at times harrowing stories, always brings me back to earth. I wonder how individuals such as those within Bad Blood can justify their behaviours.  The corporate greed demonstrated during the life of this Silicon Valley start-up was mind boggling.  I thank journalist John Carreyrou for sharing this story.  If only we could have faith all employers & colleagues were well intended.

The Nine Lies About Work equally challenged my thinking regarding leadership behaviours & corporate governance.  It astounds me, the power of a company culture & how it can influence your thinking.  You need to step out of that bubble & realise how many other perspectives are on offer, how much bigger the world is & how better balanced you are for experiencing more than a single culture alone. 

Whether it be a change in profession within your organisation, a leap from corporate to start-up, or a backflip in industries, any professional change requires courage.  Fortunate to hear the queen of courage & vulnerability Brené Brown speak earlier this year, I was reminded of the importance of living life in accordance with personal values.  I ignored this for some time & paid the price with my physical & mental health. 

Resonating with many a hard-working, personally conflicted parent, the decision I made to share my journey back to a healthy & happy life was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.

Putting the words out into the ether tied a bow around this chapter of my life.  I owned & continue to own my Gifts of Imperfection, now realising what powerful life coaches they are – should we choose to listen.

Holding ourselves accountable for our decisions in life releases us of burden.

We need to be willing to learn from our mistakes & take full responsibility for our actions to put ourselves in the driver’s seat of a purposeful life driven with intent as opposed to constantly reacting, casting blame & looking in the rear-view mirror. 

Own your story, embrace your imperfections & find meaning within your deepest values.  That’s your Formula One engine.

In September, I learnt the benefit of patience.  Something I now know, is a powerful strength of mine.  Particularly, when it comes to nurturing relationships.  An opportunity emerged within the Victorian Racing Club that enabled me to fulfil a dream of being a member of their team leading into the 2019 Spring Carnival & Australia’s most iconic horse race, the Melbourne Cup.  Whilst we faced many uncontrollable head winds leading into the Carnival, this only validated for me I was in the right place.  No day was Any Ordinary Day.

I thrive in situations where the stakes are high & relished the experience to be back in the high-performance environment that was professional sport & live television.  Atul Gawande’s The Checklist was a mandatory framework to get through the days, along with Emotional Agility to weather the unpredictable curve balls.  Thank you, Susan David.  There are very few people in this world who wouldn’t benefit from improving the management of their emotions.  A much more sustainable strategy than pushing them aside and avoiding them all together.

And that brings me to a time when I am yet again back on the road heading towards our annual pilgrimage to Noosa.

I intend on using this time for getting back in the surf, reconnecting with nature & being with those in my inner most circle.  When these stars align, by brain tends to creatively explode.

For 2020, I am determined to do what I can to support others gain the confidence & courage to sell themselves & realise their wildest professional ambitions. 

Shane Hatton’s, Lead the Room is by my side, along with Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo, wonderful guides to assist in my story telling. 

It is my dream to dance with the fear public speaking can bring & hit the stage.  I love a good story & can only hope every person who hears my words, leaves feeling inspired that anything is possible in their professional lives. The confidence & courage they need, is within them. 

None of us need fall into The Happiness Trap.  We have one life, let’s make it The Ride of a Lifetime.  Just like Robert Iger has from Disney.

So on that note, I’ll leave you with the question – What’s your Disney story for 2020? 

I’ve just hit publish & sent my next chapter into the ether…now I had better hop to it!

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