As I was scrolling through the Insta’s this morning, I was reminded of the need to constantly and relentlessly improve. Wow, that sounded really arrogant and maybe that is the reason why this simple list of “things” from Jay Vallotton impacted me more than the simple self-improvement post that I oftentimes just glide by. Not only was there a definite “conviction” (for my non-christian friends, this is the idea that God lovingly reminds you of who He created you to be and you quickly realize you aren’t living up to that and need to change, generally with His help), but there was a reminder of one specific area that I used to be better in – reading.
I’m not sure the exact point, but something happened during COVID. Funny how I hear a lot of people say that say thing about different habits. At some point, I stopped following my reading agenda. Some of this was because I stopped traveling as much, meaning I didn’t have drive time to listen (yes that counts) to the number of books that I had listened to before (I’m also an audio learner primarily, so listening is more conducive for me to retain information), and I also wasn’t flying as much so my typical book time changed. This sounds like a terrible excuse and it is. But just maybe that is about to change.
What is “The Rotation”?
Several years ago I fell in love with military books – novels, survival, history, geopolitics and war, special operations, the whole gambit. There is something in my line of work that the juxtaposition of being an individual contributor in a team environment speaks to. Also, the idea of scaling and being able to be strategic has always been attractive to me. Unfortunately, as I was reminded by my wise wife, a single focus can skew your mindset, and it did. It was after reading about 15 military strategy, story, novel, or documentary-style books that I knew it was time to adjust my approach. Because of that I came up with the idea of a rotation (based on a simple pie graph) that reminds me to move to the next quadrant and read or listen to a book from that area. There are also times in my life when I know I need to spend more time in the first quadrant although many times books I read in Business/Improvement or Strategic/Leadership or Fun/Enjoyment can also fit into the Biblical/Spiritual category. As I write this, I have a list of books that I am going to share as possibilities if you are trying to figure out where to start. I’m not saying you have to read these, but I am saying these are going back into my rotation or they are examples of what I recommend.
The first section, while maybe obvious, should not be overlooked. We are spirits, wrapped in a body, that has a soul. This category has to be first (while this graphic is not a typical Eisenhower Matrix, you could say that this quadrant aligns with “Do First/Must Do”). When picking for this quadrant, ask a few questions – “what is God doing/wanting to do right now in your life?” and “what must you do or what do you need to do to be more effective for Him and the vision in your life?” and finally not a question but for me it is about worship. David says in God is enthroned or inhabits the praise of His people. So, for me, it is about creating an atmosphere where God’s presence can live. By the way, this isn’t a destination, but a journey. I will admit to sucking at this right now, but here are a list of books (and links to Amazon) that I am either going to revisit to read or are new that are on my list:
- When God Becomes Real, Brian Johnson
- 10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman
- When Heaven Invades Earth – Bill Johnson – This is where I would recommend most people start!
Business/Improvement and Strategic/Leadership
This and the next one are sometimes interchangeable for me and may be for you too, but I will tell you that right now these are very different. The business/improvement category is specific to practices for change leadership or lean-agility (the focus that I am currently in with my career). Like the previous category, questions are often asked when choosing a book: “what are modern principles or current working models that are innovative or have shown success?” and “who are some of the past innovators or current pioneers in business that can help influence my approach?” This tends to overlap sometimes with the question from Strategic/Leadership that some may ask, “what strategies have been played out in a military or war situation that apply to business?” but right now I think more on the team and personal standpoint of this – “what can I learn that makes me a better person.” I also learn about preparedness from the military. So, what is my recommended list or books that I am revisiting/reading?
- Holocracy – Brian J. Robertson
- What Motivates Me? – Adrian Gnostic and Chester Elton
- Emergent Strategy – Adrienne Maree Brown
- Start with Why – Simon Sinek – This is where I would recommend most people start!
and now the Strategic/Leadership category
- Teams of Teams – Gen. Stanley McChrystal
- Sheep No More – Jonathan T. Gilliam
- Extreme Ownership – Jock Willink and Leif Babin – This is where I would recommend most people start!
Often overlooked as you get older (ha!), but don’t forget to read something just plain enjoyable. This may bring in the different categories by extension, but just let this be fun. Do you enjoy novels? What about books on how things are made? What about a new topic that is experimental for you? I went through a period where the idea of “storm chasers” was just interesting even though I would never do this. Another time, I truly enjoyed reading a book called “Anguished English” about a Jr. High teacher’s experiences with what students wrote. Just fun. I’m not going to give a list here but I will tell you that I enjoy authors for novels such as Lee Child, Pat Conroy, Jack Carr, Robert Whitlow, and even Gene Kim. Whatever it is, it can inform, but let it be fun.
Last Words (no pun intended)
As Jay Vallotton said in his post, what you read now impacts who you are in 5 years. It also impacts the direction of where you seek information and how you enjoy to change and learn. There are also tons of studies that talk about the neural plasticity of people who read more; that it helps your brain create new neural pathways and actually can repair broken pathways. I would recommend, just like any other habit that consistency is more important than quantity. Don’t try to read a book a day or even a week! Lastly, I am a big believer in visualizing your work, meaning, create a physical list – a bit sticky note with your books on it or a digital board on your computer that is always visible. And let me know how you are doing or books you have encountered!