I started a new reading habit over the past month and it’s been life changing.

I want to share the riches with you by sharing five books I’ve read that can help you enhance your performance and set yourself up for success in your career and life.

These five books have helped me to be a better leader, manager and person

I feel better for having read them. And when you feel better about yourself and the situation, no matter what else is going on around you, then you can bring your best to any situation.

This has had a knock-on effect on not just my performance, but also that of my team. I hope they inspire you to greater performance too.

The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level

by Gay Hendricks

If you’re feeling unfulfilled, a bit stuck or like you’re not doing the most with the talents you’ve been given, this book will help you become your best, most powerful self. And with it, raise your performance in the new year.

My three main takeaways from the book (and there are loads of gems beyond these three) are:

  • Leap into your zone of genius if you want to perform at your best.
    Hendricks talks about the four zones we operate in: Incompetence, Competence, Excellence and Genius. The trouble is we get stuck in our Zone of Excellence where it all looks great on the outside, but you can feel bored, frustrated or worse on the inside. Instead, if you stepped outside of your comfort zone of Excellence and into your zone of Genius, you could feel good and have things go well all of the time.
  • The Upper Limit Problem is real.
    What keeps us from making the leap from Excellence to Genius is the level of success we believe is available to us. That’s the “upper limit” we set for ourselves. And like a home heating system that self-regulates to stay at the comfortable temperature you’ve set, you’ll self-sabotage when your level of success goes above the upper limit you’ve set for yourself.
  • Four hidden barriers can hold you back if you’re not aware.
    When we “upper limit” ourselves, it’s usually one of four hidden barriers at work. Once you recognize which one(s) are affecting you, you can overcome them. Hendricks shares strategies for doing just that. I’ve got two hidden barriers at work, both of which show up as worrying. And I now realize I have to quit pressing the “worry button”. I wonder what it will be for you?

Develop the skills to get recognized, promoted and paid more

The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World

by Dorie Clark

If you’re pressured by the urgent, having doubts about whether you’re on the right track or feeling overwhelmed without having the bandwidth to even think, then this book will help.

Learn how to break out of the short-term cycle of busy-ness so you can perform at your best and stay true to your own aspirations.

The three steps Clark shares resonated with me and I believe they will be transformative for you too:

  • Create White Space.
    For me, that means carving out time for myself to think. And there are many strategies for doing that, but the most important one for me is to “be okay with saying no (even to good things)”.
  • Focus Where It Counts.
    The core concept here is to start with the right goals. That is, goals that are true to you and not based on what society says our goals should be. Of the many strategies Clark shares for identifying those right goals and achieving them, my favorites are the “20% time for experimentation” and “optimize for interesting”.
  • Keep the Faith.
    Sometimes the hardest part is sticking to your game plan. Especially when there are so many distractions pulling you back to the urgent and immediate and those long-term goals seem so far away. That’s where Clark’s strategies are pivotal to helping you stay the course. I especially like “start with small steps” and “savor the process”.

The biggest impact this book has had on my performance is by helping me get off the “I’m busy” hamster wheel and stay true to the aspirations and relationships that are most meaningful, not just the most urgent.

Let It Be Easy: Simple Ways to Stop Stressing & Start Living

by Susie Moore

If you equate hard work with success or find yourself struggling in some aspect of your life or work, this book can help you find ease and perform at your best.

For me, the main takeaways are:

  • It’s your choice as to how to direct your energy.
    Based on your choice, life can be hard or easy. Why not choose ease?
  • All it takes is one simple question: “How can I let this be easy?”
    When I read this question, it felt like a huge burden was lifted. I felt lighter. The key is to notice that it’s not about making it easy – it’s about letting it be easy. That question has changed my life for the better and is freeing me to perform at my best.
  • There are at least 143 ways to let it be easy.
    That’s how many stories and strategies Moore shares. But don’t worry, each “chapter” is super short – just a couple of pages. Unsurprisingly, they’re easy to digest!

Some of my favorite quotes are:

  • On habits: “Any habit you’re not changing you’re choosing”
  • On being courageous: “Living a small life is not inspiring or helpful to others”
  • When you think you’re not enough: “Rock what you’ve got”
  • On worrying: “A well-directed mind is the wisest, most valuable tool on earth… Life will happen – good or bad – whether or not you suffer ahead of time.”
  • On fear: “You don’t clear the fear to do the things. You do the things to clear the fear… If you try to avoid failure, you also avoid success.”

The biggest impact this book has had on me is to change my approach from “complexitizing” everything I do to simplifying. Letting it be easy has helped reduce the amount of energy I waste on worrying, which means I can perform even better.

Career Mastery has been a game-changer for me. Wonderful, actionable advice that helps me be better than the day before.”

Carol Vincent

The Art of Rest: How to Find Respite in the Modern Age

by Claudia Hammond

This book is for achievers who feel exhausted because when you’re exhausted, your performance suffers. Getting rest is part of the solution.

My takeaways from this book are:

  • Rest isn’t the same as sleep.
    This explains why I can sleep yet not feel rested! Rest is about how we unwind, calm our minds and recharge our bodies. Both are needed, and most of us are not getting enough of either. While there’s rightfully a great deal of focus on the importance of sleep, there’s not much on the need for rest. That’s where this book comes in. Hammond shares the results from the “Rest Test” study she and colleagues did of 18,000 people globally.
  • Each of us has a different definition of what we find restful.
    The book focuses on the 10 most popular ways to rest. For example, I feel rested after a workout or while playing piano. But my husband prefers to plop down on the couch and watch television. The author finds gardening restful but that didn’t make it into the top 10. There’s no one “right way” and hopefully you’ll have multiple ways to rest. Including doing not much of anything!
  • What matters is to find your best ways to rest and then fit them into your day.
    When you’re “crazy busy”, it’s time to give yourself permission to rest. It will improve your performance more than if you just keep going. When you feel stressed, it’s time to prescribe yourself 15 minutes of your favorite restful activity. Again, your performance will soar after that break. How will you get the rest you need to perform at your best?

The biggest impact this book has had on my performance is to realize that I’ve taken potentially restful activities (like walking in nature) and turned them into stressful activities (like turning that walk into a workout activity).

Thanks to the examples in the book, I now see that I don’t have to do everything with my signature intensity. In fact, it’s counterproductive to peak performance.

Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork

by Dan Sullivan with Dr. Benjamin Hardy

This book is useful for those of us who struggle to delegate. It’s also useful if you have big goals that you’re putting off or struggling to achieve because you don’t know how to go about them. And if you believe that “if you want something done right, do it yourself”, then you need to read this book right away.

My takeaways from this book are:

  • Often, we’re asking the wrong question.
    When you want to accomplish something – especially something big – the tendency is to ask, “How can I do this?” This results in time spent researching, worrying, struggling, or procrastinating because you don’t know how to get started. It takes longer and doesn’t necessarily produce the right answer. Worse yet, you might abandon that ambitious project or goal and settle for something less.
  • Instead, ask “Who can help me achieve this?”
    This instantly engages a more hopeful, optimistic frame of mind. It’s no longer all on your shoulders to achieve the big goal. You’re looking for people who can help you advance faster, easier and more effectively than you could on your own. It’s a game changer!
  • Shifting to “who not how” thinking gives you more freedom.
    Instead of being limited by what you can do on your own, you’ll free up time and mindspace to do what matters most while also achieving those bigger goals. For example, instead of wondering how you’ll get visibility with senior management or a big client, ask yourself who can help you meet those people. Instead of asking how you can keep your house clean and do your job and have time with family and yourself, try asking who can help you achieve those things.

The biggest impact this book had on me was to help me gain confidence to think bigger and bolder. I’m no longer letting my performance possibilities be limited by my fear of not being able to do it all on my own.

How to capture what you learn

Since I was going to read so many books with my new reading habit, I thought I had better come up with a system for keeping track of what I learned. A sort of reference guide I could return to later.

As you’ll see, I’m still experimenting and haven’t landed on “the way” to capture my learnings… yet.

For The Big Leap, it was copious notetaking. Here’s the first page to give you a sense…

The Big Leap notes

For The Long Game, I got ambitious and created a “doodle”…

The Long Game notes

For Let It Be Easy, I did the simplest thing – scribble my favorite quotes in the book itself…

Let It Be East notes

How will you set yourself up to perform at your best in the new year?

Now is a great time to nourish yourself and prepare for being at your best in the year to come, no matter what it may bring.

I’ve found these books helpful and maybe they’ll help you too:

What books have helped you to be your best self this year?

Remember that it’s a “win” when you share what you know to help others. So please leave a comment with your recommendation(s) and let’s start your winning streak now!