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My Favorite Books From 2021


Christmas is gone, and now you’re thinking about the New Year. “What should I do in 2022? I know!” you think. “I’ll ask Matt Lyles!” Well, I’m honored. And, you are right - I do have a suggestion for you! 


Read. Make it a priority to keep - or start, if you’re like a few busy people I know - reading. And, I’m not talking about the back of your cereal box or the instructions to that IKEA shelf you got for Christmas (Ha! Good luck with those!).


I mean reading great books by even greater authors that'll help you tackle and defeat those pesky personal or career hang-ups you’ve been putting off facing. I don't know if you know this, but I'm leading a crusade of “simplicity." And one thing to make your life really simple is to get rid of what’s holding you back. (This article may give you a little inspiration as to why it’s important to begin that process sooner rather than later: The best way to grow your personal brand and career? Reading.)


If you know me, you know I love to read. I love aimlessly wandering around bookstores. I love reviewing and comparing book covers. I Love that new book smell (If you've ever thought of gifting me a scented candle, this would be the one to send.) Through reading, I’ve been able to look into the minds of my favorite musicians; to better understand the minds of my kids (still working on that one!); and to discover how to work as a team to slay a dragon named Smaug. (Tolkien had me from “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”


But, the most important inspiration from books I’ve read in recent years is the courage to start my own business. I learned that the burning desire - and fear! - of being one’s own boss belonged to many. And, from those that took the leap earlier than I did, I was able to avoid some mistakes they’d made and build on successes they’d had. Books can be excellent teachers!


One of the valuable tips I gleaned from the works of other business leaders is that reading is essential to success. You cannot stop being a student. There will always be someone else with better advice than what you’re telling yourself. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have stumbled upon the following list of books over this past year. And, not only have I pored over these pages, but I’ve had the grand opportunity to interview the authors for my SIMPLE brand podcast.


If you're looking for a starting point on getting "your read on" in 2022, I highly recommend beginning with one of these books! These were my favorite finds from 2021. Looking for a Cliff’s Note version of the topics highlighted in these books? I’ve included a link to my podcast interviews with the authors.  


Big Little Breakthroughs: How Small, Everyday Innovations Drive Oversized Results - Josh Linkner

We tend to think that a small percentage of the population drives innovation and that innovation comes through big technical breakthroughs. But, it turns out, everyone has the ability to be innovative. Most people just don't understand how to exercise or hone their creative thinking skills. Josh dispels the myth that only certain companies corner the innovation market. In fact, everyone - including you and your team, has the ability to be innovative and creative. Listen to my interview with Josh Linkner.


RE:Think Innovation: How the World's Most Prolific Innovators Come Up With Great Ideas That Deliver Extraordinary Outcomes - Carla Johnson

We’ve made innovation much harder than it has to be. Because of this, most people think that they’re not innovative. The truth is, consistently coming up with great, innovative, creative ideas isn’t a talent you’re born with or a skill that takes years to learn. Anyone can do it. But it does help to have a process to understand HOW to be innovative Carla’s got a goal to teach one million people how to become innovative thinkers by 2025 - and today - you can be one of those people. Listen to my interview with Carla Johnson.


Marketing Mess to Brand Success: 30 Challenges to Transform Your Organization's Brand (And Your Own)! - Scott Miller

Rarely will you find someone who’s vulnerable enough to say, “Well - I made some mistakes. Do NOT do what I did.” Scott Miller is one of the few authors who’s on a mission to release leadership books filled with lessons on what NOT to do. Marketing Mess to Brand Success is 30 different challenges Scott went through and that you need to overcome if you’re a marketing leader who wants your team to truly thrive. Listen to my interview with Scott Miller.


Get Different: Marketing That Can't Be Ignored!  - Mike Michalowicz

Your customers are bombarded with distracting messages and experiences all day, every day. Too many business owners are left frustrated because they feel invisible in a crowded marketplace. They know they’re better than their competitors, but when they focus on that fact, their customers don’t pay attention. That's because, to customers, better is not actually better. Different is better. And those who market differently are the ones who win. Listen to my interview with Mike Michalowicz.


Human-Centered Communications: A Business Case Against Digital Pollution - Ethan Beute

Digital pollution and Unwelcome Digital Distractions. They’re all around us. Digital noise and digital pollution reduce our ability to connect and communicate with the people who matter most. What’s at risk? Our revenue, but most importantly, our relationships. There has to be a way to solve this. Ethan teaches us how to get past all the digital pollution, clutter and distractions to build and manage relationships that truly matter. Listen to my interview with Ethan Beute.


The Experience Maker: How to Create Remarkable Experiences That Your Customers Can’t Wait to Share - Dan Gingiss

Too many business leaders assume their customers make decisions with their heads. But -  in reality - customers are not rational people. They make irrational decisions on what they buy and who they’re loyal to. The best place to compete is on the customer experience. You have to create a truly remarkable customer experience that taps into all the right feelings and emotions that help the customer feel like they’re winning their day, like they’re a hero. Listen to my interview with Dan Gingiss.


Be Vigilant!: Strategies to Stop Complacency, Improve Performance, and Safeguard Success. - Len Herstein

Too many businesses continue to operate under the idea of "that’s how we’ve always done things." Sure, it’s always worked that way......until it doesn’t. Many books and authors teach lessons on how to become successful. But Len’s lessons are a little different. They focus on what to do once you’re already successful. Len pulls from his experience as a business leader - and as a volunteer sheriff’s deputy - on how to guard against complacency so that we can remain successful. Listen to my interview with Len Herstein.


Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum For Your Ideas, Business and Life Against All Odds - Mark Schaefer

Customer expectations have never been higher. And customers are bombarded with distractions from an ever-growing number of businesses competing with yours. How can you stand out? Mark’s Cumulative Advantage lessons show how to build unstoppable momentum through five key factors, no matter the size of your business. And they can even be used to help you create unstoppable momentum in your own professional career. Listen to my interview with Mark Schaefer. 


Crush Your Career: Ace the Interview, Land the Job, and Launch Your Future - Dee Ann Turner

Know someone who feels trapped in a stale career? How can you avoid the same fate as you curate your own career path? Dee Ann knows what it takes to develop, build, and manage a fulfilling career. As the former head of Talent with Chick-fil-A, she was instrumental in building and growing Chick-fil-A’s well-known culture. If you’re just starting your career, ready for a change, or even helping someone on their journey, Dee Ann’s advice will help launch a career to love. Listen to my interview with Dee Ann Turner.


 The Long Game: How to be a Long-term Thinker in a Short-term World - Dorie Clark

Success - real sustainable success - takes time. But, it also takes work - strategic, intentional and focused work. It takes setting up the right decisions and boundaries so that you can ensure you’re always focused on the right work. How do we plan for and play that long game? Dorie gives us the strategies and frameworks to work towards our goals so we don’t simply give up when realistic timelines and our own timelines don’t match up. Listen to my interview with Dorie Clark.


From Paycheck to Purpose: The Clear Path to Doing Work You Love  - Ken Coleman

A rewarding career doesn’t just happen. It’s built, step by step, opportunity by opportunity, decision by decision. It takes a lot of intentionality to know the right steps to take, the right opportunities to pursue, and the right decisions to make. Not only does Ken show how intentional, focused work over time leads to career success, he also lays out the seven stages for discovering and doing the work you were born to do so you can have career significance. Listen to my interview with Ken Coleman.


Overcoming the Imposter: Silence Your Inner Critic and Lead With Confidence - Kris Kelso

According to the International Journal of Behavioral Science - over 70% of people experience imposter syndrome and that inner critic voice at some point. So if you don’t suffer from it, there’s a high chance that your people do. Kris helps define that inner critic voice that downplays our own accomplishments and tells us we don’t have what it takes. And he gives strategies and tools to silence that inner critic voice to be able to emerge as more effective and confident leaders. Listen to my interview with Kris Kelso.


Take Back Your Time: A Guilt-Free Guide to Life Balance - Christy Wright

So many people today are feeling stretched too thin: like they’re overworked, overwhelmed, and overcommitted. And it doesn’t seem like that’s slowing down. We’re being bombarded with all kinds of distractions that we’re not ignoring. And we’re saying yes to what seems like so many worthwhile opportunities. We know we can’t do it all, but it’s difficult to know what we can, or should do. Christy gives you the method, framework and lessons to help you identify what balance looks like in your specific life. And she uncovers the steps to help you focus on what matters most and achieve your own version of balance. Listen to my interview with Christy Wright.


William Shakespeare's Avengers: The Complete Works - Ian Doescher

Okay, this one was a last-minute entry as I got it for Christmas! Is it a business-related book? No, but I love it all the same. Just as he did to the Star Wars and Back to the Future franchises, Ian Doescher takes the MCU Avengers movies and reimagines what they'd be like if they were penned by the greatest playwright of all time. But it's not just rewriting the dialogue in flowery language. Doescher uses authentic meter and verse and stage directions as if you were watching these performed at the Globe Theatre. And it's not just The Avengers in this collection. You get all four films reimagined in this set of works: Assemble, Ye Avengers; Lo, the Age of Ultron; Infinity War's Tale; and The Endgame's Afoot.


Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts on them or any suggestions you have for “must-reads” for 2022. 

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