My Most Inspiring Books of 2011

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

A lot of the ideas I have through the year are inspired by what I read. My reading is not restricted to Twitter, Facebook RRS feeds, blogs, web sites and white papers.

I have always loved books, and since the advent of the Kindle I horde books, although electronically, more than I ever have. The ability to acquire a book instantly can be an addiction and my Kindle is full of unread books bought on a whim. I also have numerous sample books where I’ve managed to reign at least little control, leaving my wish list for those books not available electronically yet.

In addition I have an Audible subscription, allowing me an audio book a month to accompany me on my daily commute.

These books are my core inspiration, study and sometimes entertainment. I read widely everything from Gary Vaynerchuck to Voltaire, each book adds it’s own unique attributes to my daily learning. This year has been the one in which I have been inspired most, more news on this after Christmas, for now I thought I would share my picks of 2011.

Poke the Box by Seth Godin

I first came across Seth Godin in the late ’90s following the release of the Idea Virus, which is still available free online. A prolific writer he has now turned publisher, helping others achieve their dreams of publishing their first book. Poke the Box was his first book as part of the Domino Project. The book is all about “shipping”, following through on ideas and completing the work we started out on. Seth has the ability to take the obvious and see it from a different angle, nothing he highlights is new or unique, it’s just a change of perspective he brings to the world around us. This book began my theme for 2011, an idea I try to live up to every day, following through on everything I start. Seth has many books I could recommend, but if you just read one, make it this one.

On Writing by Stephen King

Stephen King is my all time favourite author and The Stand a fantastic book that still has pride of place on my bookshelf. As a teenager I grew up on King’s horror and twisted stories; much of which inspired me to try writing my own book. When I saw this 10th anniversary addition of On Writing I wondered how I had missed it the first time around. An insight into the writer and his techniques; what it reveals is the hardwork and passion that King put into his writing. His addiction to drugs and alcohol, his return from the depths of Hell’s cauldron to his own near death experience. What ever you want to write, fact, fiction, blog posts or ebooks there is inspiration for all in this gritty guide into the mind of one of the best modern writers alive.

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuck

Although I had used Social Media prior to finding out about Gary and it really was his book Crush It! that inspired me to to probe deeper into this fascinating world, uncovering all sorts of opportunities. Where was almost an autobiography filled with passion and reason, The Thank You Economy presents Social Media on a firm business footing. With plenty of samples of success Gary reasons that by just by building relationships with your customers, you can exalt your business way beyond the competition. If you ever needed a reason for Social Media being part of your business you’ll find it in this book.

The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry

We often think that creativity is for designers, artists, performers, but if you’re in business you need to be creative. Finding time for that creativity to evolve into something useful is a struggle in todays world of hyper-connectivity. We are expected to produce brilliant ideas in an instant, yet expected to also spend time on our Board Reports and Spreadsheets; activities that are at odds with each other. Todd describes a way you can align your tasks to maximise your chances of being “ever creative”. More than just thought provoking, we are provided with a framework to deliver creatively more often, improving the way we feel about what we do to the benefit of everyone.

Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields

Have you ever wanted to do something in life but been afraid to follow through? Jonathan Fields helps you identify the cause of that fear and how you can use it to push you forward into a better future, rather than let it hold you back. The book does drift into a discussion of meditation and it’s benefits, which can feel uncomfortable when you expect more business reasoning. It did lead me to research the subject more fully only to find many of the great business people of our time used meditation in some form to create quiet and force focus into their lives. Overall this book was just extra encouragement for me in the direction I was looking to take anyway.

The Flinch by Julien Smith

Available for free on Amazon Kindle at the time of writing, The Flinch is a short study of why we shy away from things we should embrace. The natural fight or flight instinct that protected us in a evolutionary past can now do more harm than good as we get too comfortable with our lives. Julien invites us to take a cold shower, talk to a stranger and give away the largest monetary note in our pocket on a whim. Having tried all of his suggestions I can honestly say I was at least, entertained, if not enlightened. My talk with a stranger was one of the weirdest conversations I have had in my life. If you read only one of these books, make it this one, and let me know what you think.

Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way by Richard Branson

A true business rebel Richard Branson inspired many entrepreneurs to fight the system, stand up for themselves and build companies their way. I grew up alongside the Virgin brand name, but never really knew much about it other than exploits reported in the press. It was great to get the inside story from the man himself, growing up in an age of discovery, fighting against the machine, his autobiography brings to life what is really possible if you’re prepared to front it out. Buying his own island for under a tenth of it’s asking price is just one example in this book of how you make your own luck in life.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

No book list of 2011 could be complete without this revealing biography of a man who just should not have succeeded or achieved much in life if it wasn’t for his single vision and the awesome “Reality Distortion Field” he applied many times. A big book that reveals a man that was insecure, yet determined, selfish, yet grateful; Steve Jobs devoted his life, to ensuring ours was a pleasure, when using Apple products of course! I’m not sure you will learn much that can be applied in life or business, only because, could anyone other than Steve get away with the things he did? There is one sentence in this book that resonates, the full quote is below, but for now just have in mind, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.” Must be read.

This is just a selection of the 20 or so books that I read in 2011, a year of coming of age for me. A realisation that if I want something in life, I have to go get it before it’s too late. This won’t be my last post of 2011, but will be my most poignant, I publish it now, rather than hold it back until year end as I want to “Ship”, “Deliver”, “Inspire”, “Create”. Above all I want to say “Thank You”; if you’ve ever read a word I have written, shared a Tweet or commented on my blog you have made a contribution to my future. With that said, I leave the last word to a great man who left his mark on the world and will be missed; admired by some, despised by others, but was at his best when he was “creating enjoyment” for others…

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address, 2005.

About Sean Clark

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