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THE POWER OF HABIT - CHARLES DUHIGG
This book explains why doing new things is so exhausting.
It's not that we replace old habits with new, better ones, it's that our brain literally creates new habits which have to work overtime to maintain themselves and override the unhelpful ones. That's why, when under stress, we're more likely to default to our old habits, as it's what we know. It feels 'safe' - even if it's self destructive.
To change a habit, Duhigg says: identify the cue around the craving (eg hunger, rejection, sadness, boredom), the routine (it is at 3pm most afternoons, on a Sunday eve, after seeing X person), experiment with alternative rewards (eg read instead of eating X, phone a friend instead of drunk dialling your ex), create an alternative for your brain.
Habits influence everything we do, says Duhigg. From what we buy, what we say to what we do - even when it's not really what we'd choose to do. In this book I learned of the concept of 'weak-ties' - third party connections which influence our actions through social pressure. The fear of missing out, not being seen to do the 'right' thing, or letting down friends of friends have more influence than we might like to admit.
A little known fact, for example, was the role weak-ties played in the ground swell of the civil rights movement in USA. Rosa Parks wasn't the first person to refuse her seat for a white; but she was one of the most connected individuals in her community in Montgomery. Once word got out Rosa was in trouble, her immediate and third-party connections swiftly came into action - and soon, not participating in the bus boycott was a reflection of your commitment to the community.
For other marketers out there like me - it was also super interesting to learn that buying habits are most likely to be influenced by major life events. They act as a 'circuit breaker' if you will, for thinking differently, even if just for a small window. New parents, for example, are one most profitable market as when having a baby, it's likely sleep is the first to go and you'll consider anything to make life easier. Either you or your well meaning friend (that's me) is buying you crap you don't need.
I really enjoyed this as the science of it all was weaved into real life case studies.
ESSENTIALISM - Greg McKeown
A super helpful, easy read which helped me big time with focus.
McKeown outlines 'Essential' behaviour which is individuals who prioritise the important tasks over the many; flex their no muscle to focus on what's important and how to take control of your to do list if you suffer from overwhelm. Included are gems for people leaders wondering if their frazzled behaviour is impacting their team (yes), and for employees who are feeling frazzled and wondering why (lack of clarity on what your focus is). Loved the concept of working on a 'Minimal Time Investment' of starting small on big projects or goals to set you up for success. One takeaway I've now implemented as a result of reading this is writing on a notepad 'what is important right now'? (immediate priorities), and, 'what is something I'd like to to as a result of today?' (ideas for the future).
WOMAN OF SUBSTANCES - Jenny Valentish
I learned more in this book than I have in years of reading about psychology. Woman of Substances shares the contributing factors which can make some people more susceptible to addiction, including temperament, personality type, what events we are exposed to between the ages of one to seven, socialisation, exposure to childhood trauma and environment. Valentish shares her own journey through addiction and what factors contributed to her behaviour with a chilling honesty that is part memoir, part research piece, and part call to action on what opportunities there are for providers, families, friends and people who suffer from addiction to seek support. Valentish has translated academic research into rememberable highlights that will help you become a better support person to those who may suffer from addiction or more aware of your behaviours if addiction, or addictive behaviours plays a role in your life - be it success, work, drugs, sex, food, or love. This book covers everything from physiology, psychology and real life experience including her lessons through recovery with refreshing cynicism, as though you're talking to a close friend.
SO, YOU'VE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED - Jon Ronson
Fascinating look into the psychology of what makes us feel mortified, embarrassed, and why we're more likely to divulge our deepest secrets when someone else shares theirs (see also: how to un-fuck up). If you love true stories, mixed with people / behaviour / psychology, backed by research and a healthy dose of cynicism - you'll enjoy this.
LOST AND FOUND - Geneen Roth
I read this as a first step towards addressing my relationship with - or lack of attachment to - money (read also: why uber isn't a bank). Geneen literally teaches people the parallels between emotions, food and money through her first hand stories. Great if you're keen on taking a hard look at some of your money myths and peering into other peoples brains. Swap the lessons about food for basically any challenge you have in your life and there's some pretty confronting lessons in this book. Super interesting.
THE WAY WE'RE WORKING ISN'T WORKING
- Tony Schwartz, Jean Gomes, Catherine McCarthy.
Major research suggests the way we're working is broken. This book suggests the way we kick ass at work is actually less about the work and more about how we're looking after ourselves.
If we can regularly recover, rest and rejuvenate our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual selves we're more likely to produce kick ass work.
The book also delivers super complex info into digestible chunks to outline how our brain works and what emotions and beliefs trigger our not so hot behaviours (see also: my traffic light system if you're interested in the behaviour stuff).
This is the research and practically backed book you want to read if you're a people manager and the book you wanna show your boss if you want to advocate for a different way of working. (See also: perspective: you rock).
FOCUS - Daniel Goleman
A dry read that has some helpful points for people leaders. Kick ass strategy is more likely to be produced when we combine creativity and insight, argues Goleman. Backed by case studies, he outlines how the biggest tech brands in the world are able to look Internally (at themselves as individuals, what their skill gaps are, address them, recruit to fill them), Externally (what is going on outside the organisation in complimentary industries that can affect how our product / service is sold / distributed), and at the 'Other' detail of the organisation (what's working well? What element of our kick ass company can we better exploit / investigate?). I took out of this book that kick ass brands can exploit (market what they do hella well, shamelessly and to the point) while also looking for opportunities to explore different ways of doing things. I think we can apply this model to our own careers as well as building businesses.
THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A FUCK - Mark Manson
An entertaining read with great points to help you get out of your own way if you're feeling unhappy. Logic with plenty of laughs and reminder to not take life so seriously. A fun read for the perfectionists as well as those stuck in a rut. I found the chapter on boundaries particularly helpful (towards the end) as well as the analogy that we're all onions, slowly peeling away layers to find out who we really are through experience.
Key points: if unhappy, accept your disposition is based on crappy values; instead allocate values for yourself that are healthy and constructive to helping you get what you want; understand that all jobs / gigs / lives endure some form of suffering, instead of looking for something better, accept we all suffer, even people with kick ass jobs and lives so ask yourself how much suffering you're willing to put up with instead; seeking certainty is certainly going to make you more unhappy and stall in the long run; get familiar with what healthy boundaries look like for yourself and in relationships; and: you only get better at something by doing it more and accepting nothing is ever for certain: only death. Sounds grim but was refreshing and helped me just ... well, get on with it.
Have reading recommendations? I'd love to hear them!