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The Great 2020 Reading List

They say that hindsight is 20/20 and I think that this year of incredible tragedy, divisiveness and social upheaval is going to prove that theory. I have spent much of my time at home this year doing some soul-searching to discover what I want for my life and how I truly want to live it. I have listened to many books by incredible writers and inspiring people through Audible and I want to share with you some of my favourites (in no particular order), the ones that resonates with me the most.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod | Full Stride Solutions

This book was the first I listened to on Audible. I was waiting in a doctor’s office, they were running late as usual, and I ran across an article that mentioned this book. I immediately went looking for it. Hal Elrod created what he calls the Miracle Morning ritual at a very low point in his life when depression was rampant. He started working on personal development and self-care first thing in the morning with his Life S.A.V.E.R.S. This stands for Silence, Affirmation, Visualisation, Exercise, Reading and Scribing. I wasn’t in a good place to try the Miracle Morning at the time of reading it, but two years later I have begun to work it into my morning routine. The transformation isn’t yet there, but the feeling of accomplishment and of putting myself first in the morning is.

Why I love this book: I think it’s such a simple thing, creating a morning routine, but how you start your day is a great indicator of how your day will go. I love the idea of beginning your day and making a deliberate decision to create space in your life for personal development and self-care. The suggestions of the specific exercises stretches your mind, body and spirit so you are developing a me-first action that will ripple throughout your life, those you interact with and your future.

Favourite quote from the book: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body and prayer is to the soul. We become the books we read.”

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Everyone in the world knows this woman, or we think we do. This memoir is witty, poignant and very relevant for today with everything that has happened in 2020. I learned a great many things about Michelle Obama, Barack Obama and the United States that I didn’t know before. It goes through from her early childhood, her young adulthood, right through until after the presidency of her husband ended. It touches on aspects of her life, the lives and struggles of black Americans, the hopes she has for the world and why she hates politics.

Why I love this book: I’ve admired Michelle Obama since I first learned who she was when Barack was running for president, but after learning even more and hearing her inner struggles, often so much like my own worries of “Am I enough?” I not only admire her, but I also feel like she is someone who could be a friend. She is strong, determined, intelligent, kind and compassionate. All of these things I strive to be. I love her viewpoint that becoming who you want to be isn’t a one-and-done but an ongoing journey of realisation of who you are and who you want to be.

Favourite quote from the book: “For me, becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”

The 5 Second Rule by Mel Robbins

The 5-Second Rule is for anyone with ADHD, who procrastinates or who has anxiety. It’s a way of rewiring your brain to work with you instead of against you. The idea is that the second you get an instinct to act you need to follow through because it only takes a few seconds for your brain to talk you out of that action. It could be anything from getting out of bed to submitting that proposal or talking to someone that could change your life but who seems way out of your league. That first thought of “I should…” or “I need to…” or “I want…” is an instinct to act. You need to do something about that or the should, need, want will turn into “next time”. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2- 1 MOVE!

Why I love this book: It reminds me of the movie We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon. If you haven’t seen that movie, go do it. It’s phenomenal and fun and also a great metaphor for everyone’s life and how you deal with tragedy and trauma. In the movie, Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, has a saying that he uses throughout the movie “All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage” to change your life. Sometimes that courage comes as the ability to get yourself out of bed, like it was for Mel Robbins, and sometimes that courage is bigger than you. It reminds us that we can conquer our own minds, doubts and paralysing fear and believe in ourselves again.

Favourite quote from the book:

“There will always be someone who can’t see your worth. Don’t let it be you.”

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

One wouldn’t expect a memoir by a young comedian from South Africa to show up in an article on a business blog, but I was compelled to add this particular book in a time when civil unrest for social justice is rampant and showing us we need to do better. Trevor Noah is known as the host of the Daily Show, but I’ve been aware of him for years through his comedy. He is both funny and deeply socially intelligent. He was born during the apartheid, and as the title of his book suggests, his birth was a crime. He was born to a white father and a black mother and if they had been found out by the authorities it would have resulted in prison for his parents and foster care for Trevor. The reason I include this book in this list is simple: It creates space to think about the world and our places in the unjust policies, both overt and unwritten, that shape our lives. It’s incredibly smart, moving, saddening and fun all at the same time.

Why I love this book: The reason I love this book and have included it in this list is simple: It creates space to think about the world and our places in the unjust policies, both overt and unwritten, that shape our lives. It’s incredibly smart, moving, saddening and fun all at the same time. I’m was a fan of Trevor Noah prior to reading this book, but now I am also an admirer of his and his tenacity to survive in a world that didn’t want him to exist.

Favourite quote from the book: “We spend so much time being afraid of failure, afraid of rejection. But regret is the thing we should fear most. Failure is an answer. Rejection is an answer. Regret is an eternal question you will never have the answer to.”

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off: And Other Lessons in Life by Michael Caine

Michael Caine is a beloved actor who has starred in numerous films throughout his 67 year old career. In this entertaining and illuminating memoir he takes us through his career and the lessons he’s learned through the good, the bad and the ugly. He doesn’t sugarcoat what he considers his failures but also shows that he has few regrets as he always got something out of each experience. Listening to him narrate the book in his distinctive cockney accent is a fun and enjoyable experience.

Why I love this book: While he’s an actor, the lessons he imparts through his experiences and the wisdom gained throughout his lifetime can be applied to people from all walks of life and in all career choices. Listening to this book was like listening to stories from a beloved grandfather. You just know there’s more to them than he’s letting on and it makes you realise that he was once as young, reckless and arrogant as all youth are and, with his well-known voice, you yearn to hear more and soak up the insight he is imparting.

Favourite quote from the book: “find what you love, and do it as well as you can. Pursue your dream and, even if you never catch it, you’ll enjoy the chase. The rest comes down to luck, timing and God: even if you don’t believe in him, he believes in you. And when all of that runs out, use the difficulty.”

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

In my humble opinion, everyone in the world can benefit from knowing Brené Brown. I’ve read several of her books now, but the one to start with is The Gifts of Imperfection. She is down to earth, open and honest about her own struggles with addiction, shame, perfectionism, life and love. Her books are part humour, part cheerleader, part “come to Jesus” all wrapped up in learning to live what she calls a Wholehearted Life. Being a wholehearted person is all about embracing vulnerability to allow yourself to be authentic. In this book she looks at how you can embrace your imperfections and realise that it is a necessary part of being wholehearted. By understanding that you don’t need to be perfect to be worthy, you can use this as a jumping off point toward living the life you deserve to live simply because you are human.

Why I love this book: I struggle a LOT with perfectionism and feeling inadequate and Brene’s books have made me examine what has brought me to this point in my life and why I can’t embrace being vulnerable, why I struggle incredibly with shame and guilt and, while I’m still very much a work in progress, I want to be Wholehearted and give of myself for those I love. The biggest question she has induced me to ask is “Why am I so willing to love completely those in my life because of their imperfections, not in spite of it, but I insist that to be loved I must be perfect?”

Favourite quote from the book: “Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think?”

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

If you are not familiar with Simon Sinek and you are an entrepreneur, I encourage you to get to know him. I learned about Simon Sinek through his Ted Talk and various snippets of talks about his philosophy a few years ago. A few months ago I came across his book Start With Why on Audible and immediately bought it. This is it. This is THE book to set you apart from other businesses. Start With Why is, as the name suggests, all about using your Why (everyone’s got one whether they are aware of it or not) to inform every business decision you make and staying true to who you are as a person, an entrepreneur and a business and why you do what you do.

Why I love this book: Why wouldn’t you is really the question. Simon uses examples such as Apple, Southwest Airlines and Disney to describe why some businesses succeed and others fail, why some brands create cult-like loyalty and some can only seek the lowest common denominator. Simon’s Why is “To inspire others to do the things that inspire them, so that, together, we can change the world.” This is why he does what he does. Through his process (continued in Find Your Why) I’ve started to discover my why, which is “To connect with others to spark their creativity and passion so that we can all rise together.”

Favourite quote from the book: “There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.

Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”

Honourable Mentions

There are so many other books that I’ve read and enjoyed that I could create a list twice this size, so I’ve decided to give some of them an honorable mention. I encourage you to check them out as well. They are a mix of personal development and business-related books, with a smattering of books that simply made me think and consider. They are in no particular order.

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I Always Want to Be Where I’m Not by Wes Crenshaw, PhD

Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

Rising Strong by Brene Brown

Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller

Home Work by Julie Andrews

Sapiens by Yuval Harari

Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama

Made in Scotland by Billy Connolly

Greenlights by Mathew McConaughey

You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

I hope you’ve enjoyed this collection of books and that you are inspired to read any or all of them. I wish you all the best for a beautiful, bright, fulfilling 2021.


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