Mindset Shift: Change Starts Here
Carol S. Dweck
Carol Dweck’s theory of growth mindset—about an open mind that isn’t fixed—has big implications for how we think and learn. A psychologist at Stanford University and one of the leading researchers in the field, she uncovers the crucial link between achievement and belief in your own personal development.
From Mindset: “Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call.”
It’s no exaggeration to say that Mikaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow has changed the way we understand work. Flow, or being in the zone, is that ideal state of engagement when your skillset is perfectly matched by the challenge at hand.
From Flow: “Most enjoyable activities are not natural; they demand an effort that initially one is reluctant to make. But once the interaction starts to provide feedback to the person’s skills, it usually begins to be intrinsically rewarding.”
The Power of Habit
It takes focus, discipline, and 21 days to adopt a new behavior. This engaging and invaluable book by New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg gives you the tools to develop new habits.
From The Power of Habit: “If you believe you can change—if you make it a habit—the change becomes real. This is the real power of habit: the insight that your habits are what you choose them to be.”
The Crossroads of Should and Must
Designer, painter, and writer Elle Luna’s journey of change started with a dream, encouraging her to ditch the shouldn’t life and follow her must. This book is as beautifully designed as it is helpful in tapping your intuition.
Luna writes: “Should is how other people want us to live our lives…Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic selves. It’s that which calls to us most deeply.”
Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown
The future doesn’t come from a formula. Futurists Edie Weiner and Arnold Brown help you craft a mindset that helps you look for your own version of the future, and isn’t confined by the trends, predictions, and misplaced certainty of others.
From FutureThink: “Seeing alternative realities more clearly helps you penetrate many veils—those that can cloud political issues, make you wrongly judge others’ behaviors or beliefs, and lead you to believe that what you knew in the past shapes all you will know in the future. Seeing alternative realities with fresh eyes helps untrap your mind.”
Thinking, Fast and Slow
Despite what many business people believe, not all of our decisions are based on logic. Nobel-prize winning economist Kahneman lays out a case for a battle in our minds: between our intuitive, emotional mind versus our more deliberate, logical mind. Emotions win more than we think.
From Thinking, Fast and Slow: “The intuitive system is more influential than your experience tells you, and it is the secret author of many of the choices and judgments you make.
Joi Ito and Jeff Howe
The innovative leader of the MIT Media Lab is always on the edge of what’s next. Whiplash looks at the deep forces contributing to the acceleration of change and how we deal with it.
From Whiplash: “What seems increasingly evident is that the primary condition of the network era is not just rapid change, but constant change.”
On Creativity: Sometimes You Need a Prompt
The Creative Habit
An acclaimed artist, dancer, and choreographer, Twyla Tharp shares her strategies for maintaining consistent creativity, from physical activities to writing exercises. Her book is one of my favorites.
From The Creative Habit: “In the end, there is no ideal condition for creativity. What works for one person is useless for another. The only criterion is this: Make it easy on yourself. Find a working environment where the prospect of wrestling with your muse doesn’t scare you, doesn’t shut you down. It should make you want to be there, and once you find it, stick with it.”
Orbiting the Giant Hairball
The book’s subhead helps to explain one of the reasons I like this book so much: “A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace.” In this creative “cult” classic, MacKenzie, a former greeting-card creative director, uses illustration and practical advice to make important points about what stands in the way of creativity.
“To be fully free to create, we must first find the courage and willingness to let go:
Let go of the strategies that have worked for us in the past…
Let go of our biases, the foundation of our illusions…
Let go of our grievances, the root source of our victimhood…
Let go of our so-often-denied fear of being found unlovable.”
I find Gilbert’s prose electric and empowering. Some of you may know her work through Eat, Pray, Love. Big Magic is an inspiring read about why you should abandon fear and embrace your curiosity as a conduit for creativity.
From Big Magic: “Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart.”
A professor of psychology and economics at Wharton, Adam Grant draws on a wealth of research to show how anyone can spot opportunities for change and unleash their originality at work.
From Originals: “The hallmark of originality is rejecting the default and exploring whether a better option exists. It turns out to be far less difficult than I expected.”
On Timeless Wisdom: Good Leadership Lessons Never Go Out of Style
The Essential Drucker
Peter F. Drucker
Peter Drucker is often described as the father of modern management strategy. This book, which includes insights and wisdom from his classics The Practice of Management, and Management Challenges for the 21st Century, is a must-read for managers at every level.
From The Essential Drucker: “Management is about human beings. Its task is to make people capable of joint performance, to make their strengths effective and their weaknesses.”
The co-founder of Nike shares his personal journey from selling sneakers out of his car to scaling Nike to the powerhouse brand it is today. To me, this is an essential book for anyone who considers themselves a business builder.
Knight writes: “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.”
The Power of Myth
Campbell’s classic work explains the universality of myths and the power of myth in creating the stories that unite us. Navigating change requires good strategy, and all strategy is a story well-told.
Campbell says: “We need myths that will identify the individual not with his local group but with the planet.”
How To Win Friends and Influence People
It’s been over 80 years since this classic of self-improvement came out, but its advice will never go out of style. Every one of us works with people every day, and we all stand to learn something from Dale Carnegie.
From How to Win Friends and Influence People: “Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance, and kindness. ‘To know all is to forgive all.’”
When he wasn’t ruling the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius wrote this central work of Stoic philosophy. Nearly two thousand years later, we can still learn from his simple advice to think calmly and clearly. To me, they’re perennially fresh ideas about how to deal with change.
From Meditations: “You have power over your mind—not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”
On Discovery: Be a Wanderlust
The Wander Society
“Make room for discovery” is a favorite mantra of mine. Smith’s clever book unlocks the joy—and value—of wandering.
Smith writes: “Wandering is not about a specific place or destination, getting from one place to another, or movement as a means to an end. Instead, it’s about letting the soul and mind roam.”
Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton
Where to wander? Tap this explorer’s guide to surprising places built for the curious, written by journalist Joshua Foer and Atlas Obscura founder Dylan Thuras.
The authors write: “We wanted a way of finding the curious, out-of-way places—the kinds of destinations that expand our sense of what is possible.”
I love to read, and I believe in the power of books to inspire us, spark our imaginations, and nudge us toward meaningful change. That was one of the reasons I was compelled to write Imagine It Forward: Courage, Creativity and the Power of Change. I wanted to document the challenging and ultimately rewarding journey of the innovator within a company, big or small, who is trying to push for meaningful change. In the book, I share my deeply personal stories of navigating change, offer practical advice and challenge you to take steps on your own. I’ve learned that change starts within, with giving yourself permission and then taking small steps to make it happen.
I try to finish a book a week, and usually, have two books—fiction and nonfiction—going at the same time. I find fiction especially helps opens my mind to imaginative new worlds, creating a collaboration between my mind and that of the writer. One of my habits with fiction is that I’ll read one classic work—like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which I read recently, and then a contemporary work like My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh which I’m reading now.
Here is my list of recommended nonfiction books for people looking to incite change in their own lives, their communities, or the world at large. (You can, of course, round it out with your preferred style of fiction). What does it mean to be a changemaker? It’s about imagining a new future and summoning the courage and hard work it takes to make it happen. These books will help make it happen.