I was stressed around the December holidays one year. My manager and I were not getting along well. We were having an especially difficult time communicating with each other. Still, the holidays are a time to reflect upon the previous year and to add hope for the coming year. I came back to my desk to find a small wrapped present from my boss. I opened it up and found the book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, by Richard Carlson. We did not have to communicate directly to understand the message he was sending me.
We were not enjoying the work atmosphere because we were creating an up-tight environment ourselves. We were also spreading this throughout the work environment. The subtitle to that book is, “And it is all small stuff.” I got the point my manager was trying to say in a not-so-subtle way, and I really got hooked on what Dr. Carlson was trying to say. I received the book in 1997, and it has not left my desk since. I added a recurring calendar appointment to read a passage each day.
Reading a small passage everyday sets up my attitude with a fresh perspective and gives me the settling feeling I need to take on the business world. I am appreciative of the gift and the creative way my manager sought to provide me with the message he thought I needed. We still had our struggles and eventually found that we were both better off in other areas. However, my ability to tolerate my existing situation has improved with the enlightenment of the book.
Sometimes, a gift is just a gift. However, when it comes to book recommendations, especially obvious ones landing on your lap, it deserves to be read. Whether a book is a gift or someone says, “You ought to read this book…,” take notice and add it to your reading list.
Even if the message is not as obvious, you should take notice. You may be in a class and a book gets mentioned. Write it down and at least read the summary to pique your interest. Your world can be broadened and diversified. If you have a tendency to think one way or have a strong perspective on a subject, have a willingness to see the other side. Your openness to try to get a different perspective than your own will broaden your ability to be more diverse in your thoughts and beliefs.
You should also consider different genres, different styles, and mix between professional and personal reading. You do not have to load yourself up with 365 days of pure leadership and business self-help books. A few summers ago, I challenged myself to read War and Peace for the simple sake of saying I could do it. I had stared at the book on the shelf for so many years. Coincidently, I am friends with a couple who were also in the middle of reading it. I was excited to be able to share their thoughts when we got together. We had a great discussion about the first half of the book. The second half may take a little longer since they decided not to finish it. I won’t give you my book review but enjoyed the challenge of such a difficult and lengthy read. I tried to understand the complexity of the author’s attempt to weave in so many characters, and I tried to understand what had gone into making it a classic. I laughed when I had heard that the author was paid per word. I now understood, at least, a little behind the making of a classic.
I had a great manager who was also my sounding board after we went on to other positions. He is now a good friend and he referred a book to me that he was very excited about. My manager-friend had such a cool head in the middle of a crisis. He always maintained a level head and provided feedback when you didn’t even realize it. He made the people around him feel these “aha” moments on their own—after a little prompting to encourage them to learn along with him, of course.
He was once described to me as having the ability to rip off your skin, and gently put it back on you. This so-called compliment of him was an accurate description because I was usually kicking myself after saying to myself, “How did I miss the obvious?” The book he recommended to me was It’s Called Work for a Reason: Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault, by Larry Winget. My manager-friend was always teaching me about taking ownership. He encouraged me to put myself into situations I had always wanted to be in, but may not have been confident in my ability to do it. The book he recommended was not my natural style, but was a good lesson in learning how to read something from a different perspective. I finished the book, inspired to take on the world—with a little chuckle, of course.
Many people have referred leadership books to me over the years, with some being better than others. Without getting political, I really enjoyed Rudy Giuliani’s book Leadership. September 11 was hard-hitting for the United States and much of the world. Whether we liked it or not, Rudy Giuliani was the leader when one of the more tragic historical events of the U.S. occurred. He had several key messages including “surround yourself with great people” and “weddings discretionary, funerals mandatory.” I enjoyed the cut-to-the-basics approach of his message.
If someone thinks enough of you to hand you, send you, or suggest a book, take advantage of it. You should be honored and humbled that someone thought of you when he or she picked it up. You should invest the time to read it and understand the connection that made it relevant to you. Your ability to like or dislike the book to some extent is irrelevant. The message someone is sending to you could be strong. The investment from you, and the possibility that you walk away learning something, is strong. Take advantage of the situation and read the book. Be aware: sometimes, there is not necessarily a connection to you and it is just a good book. There is nothing wrong with that, either.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
See “Products” for details on www.transformationtom.com. Book, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only) purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com