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10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2016

3-1/2 minutes to read

Every year I read at least 50 books. With so many goods ones, even at one per week it seems to make hardly a dent. My reading focuses on personal development, history & biography, business, and literature (my guilty pleasures are detective and historical fiction).

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2016

While I generally keep abreast of current works, I also look back to see what older books and classics I have missed. Here are the best, why not get yourself one for a Chanukah or Christmas gift?

Personal Development

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin

If you have ever thought you couldn’t do something because you lacked the talent, Colvin will convince you that ability has nothing to do with inborn skill. Not persuaded? I challenge you to read this book and keep your belief.

How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits by Judy Robinette

Everything you want in life is owned or controlled by someone else so it makes sense to spend time learning how to create relationships for your personal and business life. My blog post reviews this remarkable book more fully.

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

THE CLASSIC BOOK ON LIFELONG LEARNING AND DEALING WITH CHANGE. For over a century this great grandson and son of U.S. presidents has illuminated the path to personal growth. Though of another age, Adams’s wit and eloquence remain compelling to this day.

Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked by Paul Raeburn

For any or man or woman who wants to excel at raising children, Paul Raeburn explains why fathers are essential to the proper development of sons and daughters. Ignore his sidetrack into politics but carefully follow his explanation of the scientific evidence.

History and Biography

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

You may have heard of Roger Bannister but his being the first to break the four-minute mile was by no means a sure bet. Fierce competition required new ways to train and frame success. The book is about running. The lessons apply to all realms of your life.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Relationships are the building blocks of life. Creating teams multiply the impact of relationships. No sport builds teams more effectively than rowing. From the depths of despair to Olympic Gold, Brown’s telling of Coach Ulbrickson’s triumph will stir your creativity and desire to win.

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge

Another classic. Sledge’s memoir delves deeply into the impact of war on those who fight it. To understand combat you either have to live or read this book.

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage by Jeffrey Frank

On what could one of the greatest men of the 20th century and one of the most ignoble possibly base a relationship? The answer will surprise you and give you insight into how to build a relationship when you have little in common with the other person.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick by Alexandra Watkins

You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to brand your business or follow Watkins’s step by step formula. The book costs less than $20. Need I say more?

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spenser Johnson, M.D.

I don’t know how I overlooked this gem for almost 20 years. You’ll be amused while being motivated to handle change.

What books did you read this year that you recommend? Comment below.

On a Mission . . .

Do you have a defining purpose to your life? Does it motivate you to enthusiastically get out of bed each morning looking forward to the day’s activities? When your time on earth is just about done will you feel your life was worthwhile because you pursued this mission?

On a Mission . . .

One of the great aspects of the military is that no matter what our rate or rank we begin our service by dedicating ourselves to a mission: To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . This statement gives purpose to everything we do. When we experience the searing heat on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea during combat ops or have to de-ice that same flight deck to conduct humanitarian assistance operations in the northern reaches of Japan, we have a reason to endure the harsh weather and the punishingly long hours.

Why Will You Do What You Do?

So too in your life and business, you need to have a mission. Non-profit organizations learned this long ago because they have to motivate their workers, especially volunteers, to commit to a purpose and devote time and money to its fulfillment. The United Way provides a good example.

For-profit businesses can reap tremendous benefits from the same clarity of purpose. The mission statement for my company is: to help veterans secure a share of the American dream they fought to preserve.

Notice that this is not a goal per se. While it is written down, there is no objective to reach or time limit by which it is to be reached. Once you have a mission for your life and/or business, it becomes the litmus test by which you decide whether a particular activity or goal is relevant and purposeful.

A mission statement should be an expression of your most important values because if the two are in conflict you will be working at cross-purposes. Yet, if you are unclear about your morals it may be difficult to create a compelling mission statement.

5 Steps to a Personal, Business, or Family Mission Statement

Here are the steps for writing a mission statement:

1. Make a list of your five most deeply held values

Be careful not to mistake political positions for values. Look at why you have a particular political belief to determine the values the underlie it. If you need some help getting started check out this list.

2. Write down your elevator pitch

This is a brief explanation of what you want to do with your life or what your business is and does.  So called because you can deliver it in the length of an elevator ride. Harvard Business School has a website to help you build one.

3. Use your values to describe WHY your business does what it does

Write a paragraph with each sentence addressing how one of your values relates to your life or business. For example, if you are starting a plumbing company and one of your values is being thrifty, one sentence of your paragraph might be about providing the highest level of service at the lowest price.

4. Edit your paragraph to one or two sentences

Work on combining the essential idea of one sentence with that of another. Sometimes a single word can replace an entire sentence. For example, in my mission statement the value of “taking care of G-d’s children, especially my fellow service members” is expressed with one word: help.

5. Let it sit overnight then edit it

Once you have written your mission statement put it away until the next day then review it. Edit ruthlessly. Say it out loud. If it does not flow well keep working on it. Try using a thesaurus to find variations of words that express your thoughts more accurately. If you get stuck, set it aside overnight again. You may have to do this several times before you develop a compelling mission statement.

When you have completed your mission statement read it periodically, every morning before you begin work, or each evening when you plan your next day’s schedule. Even when you have it memorized, refer to it in written form. Its impact is greater.

Where are you stuck figuring out your personal and business mission?

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Fit to be an Entrepreneur

When I started my business in 1986 I was always on the look out for the secret to success. I don't remember who it was but somebody told me the key was to “stay in the game.” The person meant you should have enough money to last through the start up phase, but in the 26 years since I have found that staying in the game requires more than money. It requires being fit. Just like in the military, an entrepreneur must be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. I call this the Three Pillars of Fitness.

Fit to Be an Entrepreneur - 3 Pillars of Fitness

Think of it this way: if you are mentally and physically fit you are standing on two legs. That works fine during normal times, but if life gets very turbulent you will get knocked down. A two-legged structure is inherently unstable. Now think about a tripod. Once its three legs are properly spread it is extremely difficult to push it over. The platform supported by the legs may on occasion not be quite level, but its three legs are the utmost in stability. The same is true for us. Click on each heading for more about each leg.

Physical Fitness

As service members, we had to periodically pass a physical readiness test so staying physically fit was a part of our job. It may seem that once we are out of the military we need not worry about this anymore. But stamina is a crucial aspect of being successful in business. While we may not be going on long hikes or wearing body armor to do our work, we will be working long hours. Proper nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep are the keys.

I recommend having a fitness program to keep on track. I use The President’s Challenge, which is the latest program from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. If you are interested in joining my Three Pillars of Fitness group let me know. One of the benefits of the group is I will pay for the medals you earn.

Mental Fitness

Business is mentally and emotionally demanding. You will deal with a lot of new issues and challenges. Failure will become part of your everyday existence. But just like physical training gives us greater stamina, so too can we train for the mental rigors of entrepreneurship. When I was ten years old I started reading biographies of famous, successful people and I have continued to do so for over four decades. There are many fantastic motivational trainers such as Zig Ziglar and sales trainers such as Tommy Hopkins. Over twenty years ago at Tommy’s Boot Camp I learned one of his mantras that I developed as follows: I never see failure as failure, but as the information I need to go on to succeed.

Mental fitness requires that we continually seek out the information we need to achieve success. We must challenge our assumptions. Remember, the definition of insanity is to repeatedly try the same thing while expecting a different result. A friend of mine recently introduced me to Michael Hyatt and I have found his ideas to be very stimulating. The good news it that there are numerous resources, including podcasts and recorded books many of which are free, on the Internet to help us get and stay mentally fit.

Spiritual Fitness

When our physical stamina is running low and our mental toughness has taken its twenty-fifth hit that day, nothing will get us through except our spirit. For some of us we will look to religion, having faith that G-d will show us the way through. Others will use meditation or other physical techniques that have a profound impact on the spirit. Still, others will grab their iPods and plug into music that recharges their souls. My point is not to suggest that you must use any particular method, only that like with physical and mental fitness, you train your spirit for the demands of entrepreneurship. Just like we have to work out at least three times a week to stay in shape, we have to have a regular plan to exercise our spirits.

I will return to this topic periodically, expanding on a particular pillar and giving resources for its development. In the meantime let me know if you found this subject valuable and what your thoughts are about it.

Do You Know THE Key to Wealth?

The California and Yukon gold rushes are probably the last times you could walk into the wilderness and come back wealthy. For about a century, to earn money you have to sell a product or service that people want to buy. Debates swirl as to whether people should buy a particular product, and therefore whether its producers deserve their wealth. But when people don’t want what you’re selling you won't make any money. You may believe your product or service will massively benefit humanity. If customers disagree, you’ll earn zero.

Do You Know THE Key to Wealth?

Skills ≠ Value ↔ Time ≠Wealth

Internalizing this simple lesson will make all the difference on your road to success.

Wealth Comes from Value Delivered

Admittedly it took me a while to learn this. During the first decade of running my real estate company, I equated the number of hours I worked with how well I served my clients. But after years of 60 to 80 -hour weeks, there had to be a better way.

I put a lot of effort into streamlining my processes. Within a few months, I had cut down the number of hours I worked by one-third. My clients didn’t even notice a difference. As long as their needs were met they couldn’t have cared less how much of my time it took. As new services like online banking arrived, I whittled down the hours even more. When I sold my property management company I had reduced my working hours by half.

If you’re starting out, the faster you determine the viability of the market for your offering the better. Fortunately, social media gives you the avenue to quickly and inexpensively see if people want what you are selling.

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Knowing this rule applies to everyone will help you let go of the disappointment if YOUR idea doesn’t pan out. It’s not personal. I started a t-shirt business and a real estate brokerage before gaining moderate success in property management and hitting a home run in commercial appraising. If people don’t like your first idea, NEXT!

The Key to Your Job-Hunt

The wealth-value formula applies equally to developing a career. Instead of having a pool of customers to whom you’ll market a product or service, you deal one-on-one with a few people who hire employees. What counts are their perceptions of the value of your skills. It used to be that a college degree was gold. But today, with 20%-25% of college graduates jobless or under-employed, that's not the case. Credentials may get you an interview. Skills that solve the needs of the organization will get you the job.

Another thing: The lower the value people put on your product, service, or skills, the more hours you will have to work in order to earn the income you want.

Lastly, the same formula, wealth comes from value delivered, is true of almost everything.

If You Want a Wealth of Friends You Have to Be a Valuable Friend

Any realm of your life that you want to prosper: health, self-care, faith, grows when richly and consistently nourished.

People in the military excel at executing the mission. Rarely do commanders care how many hours it took to complete. Rather, they value how prudently resources were expended and how completely the objectives were met. Today’s business world has adopted this same model.

Where can you get abundance for free?

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Relationships are the Building Blocks of Life

If you’ve read my blog before you know I believe life rests on a foundation of relationships. They permeate all of the Three Pillars of Fitness. So I am delighted to share with you a book that addresses the vital topic of building relationships. How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits by Judy Robinett reads fast and serves as a step-by-step guide on the strategy and tactics you need to know to create, build, and improve the relationships you need to direct your life.

While the title focuses on business, Judy addresses familial, personal, and professional relationships. As important, throughout her book, she stresses the importance of shared values as a basic building block for interacting with people.

Darrah Brustein beautifully summarized the book in her article on Rather than reinventing the wheel, I asked Judy some questions that arose from my reading her book.

Question: How much of your day is devoted to building and maintaining your network?

Answer: Not even a half hour a day. Keep in mind, just because somebody can help you doesn’t mean he will. Be clear about your goals.

Question: In your book, you shared many of your successes. What have you learned from your networking setback besides avoiding bad actors?

Answer: When you hit a wall, just say next. Relationship building requires resilience, and faith in G-d.

Question: There are people who think those who differ with their politics by definition do not share their values or are bad actors. What advice do you have that might help them reconsider this idea?

Answer: You have to be smarter to see the value in two divergent points of view. Just because you have a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you agree with him on all points.

Question: As a person of faith, how would you respond to someone who says if G-d wants me to meet the right people He’ll make it happen?

Answer: This is Santa Claus thinking.

Question: I have found one of the most important functions of experts is to give people permission to do things they otherwise would avoid. [More on this idea in a future blog post] What things will you give people permission to do?

Answer: It’s okay to be afraid. But adopt the good fear – the kind that moves you out and up, known in Hebrew as yira. Keep in mind, almost nothing can be done alone. Know that half of Americans are shy. They feel just like you do. So talk to strangers. Ask people, “What ideas do you have?” “Who should I meet?” Always be thinking - how can I add value?

Aside from being known as the woman with the platinum Rolodex, Judy is a brave woman. Quoting Hebrew to a rabbi!

The other day I was speaking with a colleague about whiskeys and tequilas he found life changing. I had never considered libations could be that impactful. But whether you are a novice entrepreneur or approaching your silver wedding anniversary, Judy’s insight and advice will improve your relationships and help you take your life to the next level. Get her book today!

How would being more strategic about developing relationships help you?

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