Byron's Babbles

Curating The Eight

I really hope everyone enjoys my Top 8 List of Non-Fiction Books for 2021. This was really tough because in a year where I read 120 books, grew a lot from that reading, and the fact that all the really great authors deserve credit for providing me much needed growth. I also know it took me about two weeks longer to get this post done compared to past years, but even after I began to narrow it down, I was torn. I’m glad I took the time to go through the exercise because it provided some great personal development time for reviewing and reflecting on all I learned from reading this past year. Then it came down to a stack of books that really offered the right things at the right time for me – I love it when that happens! There were eight books in that stack, so thus, a Top 8. As I write this introduction I am still trying to put the list in order and still really struggling. Really, to me, the order is not important (put them in whatever order you want), but everyone always blow me crap when I don’t put them in order.

Here they are – my top 8 books from 2021 curated for you:

#1. Stronger Through Adversity: World-Class Leaders Share Pandemic-Tested Lessons On Thriving During The Toughest Challenges by Joseph Michelli I’ve read every one of Dr. Michelli’s books, but please don’t ask me to put all of them in ranked order. I was a fan and hooked (pun intended) forever after first reading When Fish Fly. Then in 2021 out comes Stronger Through Adversity which topped all my non-fiction reads for the year and was definitely at the right place at the right time. As many organizations were trying to figure out how to lead in a crisis, here was an incredible resource where the best had been curated for us. This book also helped me get my mind wrapped around creating sessions/programs for developing leaders for crisis management/leadership. I blogged a bunch this year from inspiration gained from this book (search Stronger Through Adversity and you’ll find them all). Dr. Michelli is the absolute best and being able to access the great leaders and then share out the learning so we all can benefit.

#2. Alien Thinking: The Unconventional Path To Breakthrough Ideas, by Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade As the guy who always comes up with ideas that cause everyone to look at me like I am an alien, I loved this book. This book really helped me to begin to better channel the alien that is in me. Instead of trying to curb alien thinking I learned to better make use of it. I loved the framework they brought forth in the book:

  • A – Attention – look with fresh eyes to observe problems that need to be solved, opportunities worth addressing, and solutions that can be dramatically improved or revised
  • L – Levitation – step back from the creative process to gain perspective and enrich your understanding
  • I – Imagination – recognize hard-to-see patterns and to connect seemingly disparate dots to imagine unorthodox combinations
  • E – Experimentation – test ideas quickly and smartly, with the goal of improving – not just proving – your idea
  • N – Navigation – deal with potentially hostile environments and adjust to the forces that can make or break your solution

#3. Love ‘Em Or Lose ‘Em (Sixth Edition) by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans This book profoundly changed me and helped get my mind wrapped around being people-centric and becoming more human. I was very fortunate to be on the launch team for this sixth edition. I am very critical of those individuals and organizations that are not as I call them “people centered.” I love (pun intended) that Kaye and Jordan-Evans taught us that loving those we work with is the correct terminology. This book taught that we need to think about how our people want to work and what inspires and motivates us to do the work. The pandemic has exposed the issue that already existed that everyone’s work situation is a little different and we need to find ways to make sure we are personalizing that experience for each and every one of our people. What really resonated with me was the notion that if we really want to love ’em (those we serve) then mass customization of how we deal with those we serve does not work. As Kaye and Jordan-Evans argued, there is no one policy for the workforce anymore. We need to allow for everyone to be a part of determining what is fair and right for them. As a leader in education, I believe this principle is true for the scholars and families we serve. This book really is about how to love.

One of my favorite quotes from the book says it all: “Approach things not as an expert, but as an explorer.” I love the metaphor of us looking at the world as an alien would see it – without preconceived notions or bias. There are so many things that can stifle even the most alien of thinkers. We are taught that both our strengths and our weaknesses can serve as deterrents to successful creativity and innovation. This book caused a great deal of introspection and reflection.

#4. Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading With Authenticity For Real Business Success by Sabrina Horn I cringe when I hear someone say, “Fake it till you make it.” I am always said that is the stupidest thing you can do. And, I’ll even have people argue with me. Imagine my relief and delight when Sabrina came out with this book that taught us all why “faking it” really is the stupidest thing you can do. In fact in light of the latest verdicts in the Elizabeth Holmes/Theranos case we have even more proof that “faking it” does not work. Great leaders know what they don’t know and understand there are things they don’t know they don’t know. And, sometimes we even know things we don’t know we know. But, learning from and with others, asking questions, and asking for help are hallmarks of an effective and humble leader. Sabrina also taught us that “Intuition is knowledge, and knowledge is intuition.” I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book, be on the launch team, and learn from the great leader, Sabrina Horn.

#5. Subtract: The Untapped Science Of Less by Leidy Klotz I loved this book! In education we are always talking about how things keep getting added to our plates and nothing ever gets removed. Well, it turns out this happens to everyone and it is how our brains are wired. Who knew? Leidy Klotz! If nothing else this book has caused me to have a new sniff test when wanting to improve, change, or create something – what should be/could be subtracted? Klotz told us that “In our striving to improve our lives, our work, and our society, we overwhelmingly add.” He asked a bunch of questions that I had to answer “yes” to, but he had me dead to rights with these three:

  • “Do you spend more time acquiring information – whether through podcasts, websites, or conversation – than you spend distilling what you already know?
  • “Do you spend more time writing new content than editing what’s there?
  • “Have you started more organizations, initiatives, and activities than you have phased out?

Using research we are shown how being poor and worrying about money takes away our brainpower to devote to other areas of our lives. As an education leader this was very powerful. Also, as I promote reducing the number of standards being taught to a more manageable number of essential skills actually raises the bar for student learning, am reminded of something else Klotz said in the book, “Weeding less useful ideas allows the indispensable ones to flourish.” Bottom-line, I no longer think in terms of adding OR subtracting, I think add AND subtract.

#6. Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom For Breakthrough Performance by Sara Canaday This book is really special. I had the chance to meet Sara year before last. She is such a unique and gifted leader. It is immediately evident when meeting her and reading her work that she “walks the talk.” I was reminded when reading Leadership Unchained that defying conventionality requires allowing for creativity, flexibility, and risk taking. She made a comment saying, “Innovation happens at the intersection of different perspectives.” This made me reflect on one of my own core values of learning forward from different perspectives. Innovative ideas are not just about adding another feature or an
adjacent market. If we want to keep breaking new ground we must make it a priority to seek out the intersection of multiple fields, disciplines, and cultures. She argued we should create our organizations, teams, and mind by seeking out these intersections of multiple fields, disciplines, and cultures. All those different perspectives are far more potent than any incremental extension of what you are already working on using a single perspective. This kind of thinking will lead us to someplace completely different.

#7. The Long Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere by Kevin Eikenberry and Wayne Turmel My good friend Kevin Eikenberry has this amazing sixth sense for being in the right place at the right time to provide valuable help. This book was released a year ago while we were still in the height of pandemic and beginning to figure out how to figure out how to work and learn from anywhere. This book has so much value for all disciplines. In fact, Kevin did a webinar on the book and content for me for a group of teachers I work with. This is one of those books that I’m glad I read in electronic form because I continually go back to my highlights, search for things I remember reading. This book will be evergreen for a long time as we continue to figure out how to work effectively from anywhere.

#8. Mindset Mondays with DTK: 52 Ways to REWIRE Your Thinking and Transform Your Life by David Taylor-Klaus (DTK) This was another book in this group of top eight that I was on the launch team for. Also, every year I try to find a book that is written in the 52 weekly lesson format. So, I read this book one lesson a week for a year and did a blog post each week (without fail, I might add). It was incredible, and each week I was forced to reflect, study, and expand my thinking. In this book, DTK asks you the right questions to make you take a deep and introspective look at who you want to be and who you do not want to be.

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