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Welcome to Laugh Cry Think. In this space I publish new blogs once a month about the moments and experiences in my life that drive me to live wholeheartedly: things I find funny, that move me, and drive me to live with increased passion and presence. I’m hoping the same for you. Thanks for reading!

5 Books That Impacted Me in 2018

5 Books That Impacted Me in 2018

Thumbnail photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

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1.    Daring Greatly – Brené Brown

This book rocked me. It’s about the importance of vulnerability in a world where appearing to be strong and competent is the norm. Brown is a social worker and researcher and her work on shame – and how we often fail to properly discuss it – is changing the way people live, love, parent, and lead. As I wrap up a Human Resources rotation working in the Performance world, this simple but profound nugget hits me:

How would engagement change if leaders sat down next to folks and said, ‘Thank you for your contributions. Here’s how you’re making a difference. This issue is getting in the way of your growth, and I think we can tackle it together.’

Friends, I work for a Fortune 30 organization that is changing the world every day, and there are many leaders at the company that do not know how to lead like this. We have work to do, but the good news is, there are great resources like this book to help us all become better leaders.

As a parent-to-be, Brown’s section on wholehearted parenting is going to be invaluable to Kendahl and me as we raise our daughter and show her that her worthiness doesn’t have any contingencies. One of the things she writes, when discussing how parents often feel the need to “rescue” their children when they experience pain and disappointment, is so good:

I no longer see rescuing and intervening as unhelpful, I now think about it as dangerous… because Hope is a function of struggle.

I’m going to let you sit on that one for a bit.

Buy this book. Read it. Give it to every adult you know.

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2.     Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Both Brené Brown and Sinek have two of the most watched TED Talks ever, so perhaps I’m developing a theme. I watched Sinek’s TED Talk and was hooked on the idea. He believes that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. He connects his argument to the biology of the brain to show that the limbic brain, the part of our brains that controls emotions but not language, drives our decision-making. Therefore, when companies have a compelling why, they succeed in fantastic ways. I recently wrote about Sinek’s description of Apple and how their commercials are an excellent example of this idea. Here’s a quote from the book about one of Apple’s rivals:

It’s not Bill Gates’s passion for computers that inspires us, it’s his undying optimism that even the most complicated problems can be solved.

Who are you leading or inspiring, and are you giving them a compelling why to follow?

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3.     White Awake – Daniel Hill

This book had a major impact on me and how I think about my own whiteness. Hill uses the Biblical story of Nicodemus to show that perhaps we often ask the wrong questions when we attempt to engage race; as white people, our first question is often “What can I do to fix this problem?” when a better question might be “Can I see, or am I blind?” He further describes the biblical account of Nehemiah, who rebuilds the wall after Jerusalem was destroyed; what we often overlook is that before Nehemiah got to work on rebuilding, he first lamented. This lesson was so hard for me to wrap my mind around, particularly as someone who is drawn to achievement, but it has been very important for me to consider. If you’re interested in racial reconciliation, this book is a wonderful place to start. And, in case you are wondering, it does provide some concrete steps we can take to work towards redemption and healing. 

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4.     The New Dad’s Playbook – Benjamin Watson 

Written by a current NFL tight end, this book has me pumped for the massive change that is occurring in my life in 2019. It’s full of sports analogies (one chapter is called “X’s and O’s”) and generally solid wisdom for what it’s like to be a dad, such as how to support your wife through pregnancy and planning for financial implications. I haven’t finished it yet, because I got to the chapter on birth (“Game Day”) and wanted to wait until it’s a bit more relevant. Until then, this one waits on my bedside table (the sidelines) until we are closer to the big day (the Super Bowl).  

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5.     The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson

This click-baity title is actually misleading; Manson doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t care about anything, but that it’s essential for us to carefully choose the right things to care about. It’s so interesting how it relates so well to Essentialism, a book I wrote about last year. Here’s a great, mind-blowing example:

Ultimately, the only way to achieve meaning and a sense of importance in one’s life is through a rejection of alternatives, a narrowing of freedom, a choice of commitment to one place, one belief, or (gulp) one person.

Freedom through limiting of choices. Wow.

Other notables from 2018:

Open – Andre Agassi (wherein Agassi admits he actually hates tennis and did meth!!! Aside from these headlines, it’s a really thoughtful and well-written memoir and encouraged me to continue writing in the first person)  

All 7 Harry Potter Books (Kendahl and I read them aloud together and it made every day and every long car trip so much better)

The Advantage – Partick Lencioni (Excellent leadership book on organizational health from a consultant’s perspective)

Beyond Performance – Scott Keller and Colin Price (Another great, albeit thick book about leadership and organizational health)

The Road Back to You – Ian Cron and Suzanne Stabile (Have I mentioned I’m obsessed with the Enneagram?!)

Failing Up – Leslie Odom Jr (I’ll read just about anything that has to do with Hamilton)

Hamilton: The Revolution – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter (Speaking of…)

My Reading List for 2019

Husband-Coached Childbirth – Bradley (Here we goooooooooo!)

The Century Trilogy – Ken Follett (Just started and am already sucked in)

You Are Here – Thich Nhat Hanh (I’m a Jesus guy, but I think Buddha was on to something and mindfulness has been key for me in dealing with anxiety. Cheers to the present moment!)

Thirst – Scott Harrison (The story about one of my favorite charities, charity:water)

The Eternal Current: How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us From Drowning – Aaron Niequist (Yet another book that the podcast Typology led me to, sheesh)

Humilitas – John Dickson (Didn’t get to it this year… hopefully with a child I can stay on top of it this time!)

Whatever Novel John Grisham Writes in 2019 (Because we all know he’ll never stop cranking them out and never should)

You Have Taught Us Grace: A Poem

You Have Taught Us Grace: A Poem

The Greatest Commercials of Today, and Why

The Greatest Commercials of Today, and Why