Admittedly, when audiobooks started to gain traction I felt a sense of Ivy League defiance – listening to a book is not the same thing as reading a book, after all. Beyond my arrogance, I found this had little to do with the format itself and lots to do with my tactile need to interact with the content through scribbles in the margins, highlighters, and double underlines.
With a minimalist-inspired desire to reduce the number of items in tow when I travel combined with a love for learning, I have turned to the audiobook. The format has come a long way since its “books on tape” cassettes with Audible, Apple, Google Player, Kobo and Scribd competing for a share of the pie. I have consumed over 20 books this year because of the audiobook and have been surprised by just how much I’ve been able to retain.
Here are four audiobooks along with the key insight and quotation I’d recommend reading:
1. Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success by Phil Jackson
Takeaway: Phil Jackson applies Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer’s work in Tribal Leadership on the development of a championship caliber basketball team. He framed his role as a coach not as a tactician, teacher, or even manager but more as an anthropologist. The work of coaching is understanding how to move a team through the different stages of tribal development in order to achieve something well beyond their individual talent, skill, or drive.
He referred to the Buddhist practice, “One Breath, One Mind” to illustrate how the role of the coach is to drive alignment and collective action not individual achievement or skill. The insights here are many for anyone in the role of coach or mentor. Specifically, in the way we frame our roles in our teams.
Standout Quotation: “That’s why the so-called universal principles that appear in most leadership textbooks rarely hold up. In order to shift a culture from one stage to the next, you need to find the levers that are appropriate for that particular stage in the group’s development.”
2. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don't by Simon Sinek
Takeaway: The “Circle of Safety”. Sinek shares the story of the ancient warrior society of Greece in the context of organizational development and leadership. He notes, “the power of the Spartan army did not come from the sharpness of their spears, however; it came from the strength of their shields.” For a Spartan warrior, the single greatest offense, punishable by the loss of all citizenship rights, was losing one’s shield. The reasoning is simple, “a warrior carries helmet and breastplate for his own protection, but his shield for the safety of the whole line.” Sinek draws a direct line between leadership and the Spartan’s “Circle of Safety.” The role of the leader is to ensure the collective strength of the group to defend against outside forces.
Standout Quotation: “Like the Spartans, we will have to learn that our strength will come not from the sharpness of our spears but from the willingness to offer others the protection of our shields.”
3. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
Takeaway: Nike wasn’t built in a day. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, opens his komodo to share the long, difficult, painstaking path Nike traveled. From selling Onitsuka Tigers out of the back of his hatchback to being forced to come up with his own company (after years of operating as a reseller of Onitsukas called Blue Ribbon) there is a plethora of entrepreneurial nuggets to glean from this book. The largest of those is how success is always easy, fast, and destined in hindsight.
Today, many founders carry an air of entitlement when they launch their venture. “We’re the Spotify of blockchain”; “We’re the Uber of healthcare” and on, and on, and on. Companies like Spotify, Uber, and Nike didn’t predict the future, invent the business model, and then sit back and reap the expected rewards – they worked to learn not only what worked, but what would keep them alive to fight another day. Technology has made it more accessible today to launch our own venture than it has ever been in human history. But along with that ease comes the trap of entitlement-thinking. Shoe Dog reinforced the idea that entrepreneurship isn’t a sexy lifestyle but a slog of hard work.
Standout Quotation: “Driving back to Portland I’d puzzle over my sudden success at selling. I’d been unable to sell encyclopedias, and I’d despised it to boot. I’d been slightly better at selling mutual funds, but I’d felt dead inside. So why was selling shoes so different? Because, I realized, it wasn’t selling. I believed in running. I believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, the world would be a better place, and I believed these shoes were better to run in. People, sensing my belief, wanted some of that belief for themselves. Belief, I decided. Belief is irresistible. Sometimes”
4. All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood by Jennifer Senior
Takeaway: There are hundreds if not thousands of books written about child development but very few books devoted to the development of the parent. All Joy and No Fun describes the changes and evolution of parents by pulling from an impressive array of research in philosophy, psychology, and social science. The conclusions Jennifer Senior makes help give context to what is often experienced as “running in the dark” parenthood. Specifically, I found her insights about balancing the self against the parenting self to be particularly useful.
Standout Quotation: “Today parents pour more capital—both emotional and literal—into their children than ever before, and they’re spending longer, more concentrated hours with their children than they did when the workday ended at five o’clock and the majority of women still stayed home. Yet parents don’t know what it is they’re supposed to do, precisely, in their new jobs. “Parenting” may have become its own activity (its own profession, so to speak), but its goals are far from clear.”
Bonus: Stealing Fire: How Silicon Valley, the Navy SEALs, and Maverick Scientists Are Revolutionizing the Way We Live and Work by Jamie Wheal and Steven Kotler
This was recommended to me by a friend I respect. I’m about halfway through it now and am finding both the writing and the content to be extremely valuable.
Standout Quotation (so far): “When free from the confines of our normal identity, we are able to look at life, and the often repetitive stories we tell about it, with fresh eyes. Come Monday morning, we may still clamber back into the monkey suits of our everyday roles—parent, spouse, employee, boss, neighbor—but, by then, we know they're just costumes with zippers.”
The Friday Four. Every Friday I publish four top of mind thoughts from the experiences of the previous week. Themes include growth, coaching, startups, innovation, family, fatherhood, travel, food, or any other top of mind topic.
The rules are simple:
- Publish every Friday.
- Four thoughts (as long or as short as necessary).
- No content calendar. No SEO hacks. No marketing bullshit.