The Top 10 Books We Read in 2023Dec 22, 2023
Welcome to Friday 411, issue #055. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll be equipped with more resources that can support your growth.
When you read and apply good books, they transform your life and leadership.
Between the two of us, we read a lot and read widely. At any given time, we’re reading fiction, biographies, self-help books, and leadership materials. We’re fascinated by psychology, theology, business, philosophy, travel, current events… pretty much anything.
Here’s our list of Top Ten books we read in 2023 that we hope will spark your enjoyment and development.
Leadership and Business Growth
Individually, these first three books were some of our favorites, but they worked together collectively to expand our vision for our lives and our company, AdVance Leadership.
- 10x Is Easier than 2x by Dan Sullivan and Dr. Benjamin Hardy
Sullivan and Hardy write to entrepreneurs, but their insights are valuable for all leaders. They demonstrate that 10x’ing your business – and any part of your life – is actually easier than small incremental growth. 10x growth forces you to rethink all the ways that you currently do things and then changes them all together.
- Vivid Vision by Cameron Herold
Most leaders make two mistakes when it comes to vision: (1) they have a fuzzy vision (2) that stays trapped inside their heads. Herold demonstrates the power of writing down your precise three-year vision for your company: products and services, revenue, staff and org chart, culture, and impact in the world (to name a few). Once you have it written down, you can share it with
- your staff: so that they understand where you’re going and how you’re getting there;
- potential new hires: so they understand what you’re trying to achieve together;
- vendors: so they know how to best partner together.
- Buy Back Your Time by Dan Martell
Like 10x is Easier than 2x, this book is written for entrepreneurs but highly applicable to leaders at all organizations. As your responsibility and impact grow, you, as a leader, must learn to free up your time so that you can concentrate on your company’s vision and culture. The best way to do this, Martell argues, is to buy back your time: to use money to free you up from responsibilities that suck away your time, energy, and attention. He even gives great advice for which responsibilities to “buy back” first.
We love reading biographies for leadership insights. It’s amazing how someone else’s life can give you wisdom for making better decisions and avoiding costly mistakes. I (Garland) am still working on Walter Isaacson’s biography of Elon Musk, so I can’t put it as one of my favorites of the year. Three biographies of very different influencers impacted us this year.
- Walt Disney: An American Original by Bob Thomas
We can think of few leaders who have had a bigger impact than Walt Disney. Even though he has been dead for 57 years, his legacy still lives on. He shaped business, entertainment, animation, storytelling, marketing, branding, and customer service.
This biography was originally published in 1976 but is still relevant for leadership today. What inspires us most about Walt Disney is that he stayed true to his vision. Even when everyone else advised him not to do something, his vision served as his true north.
- LeBron by Jeff Benedict (Garland)
I have no desire to start a debate about who the GOAT is in basketball. That’s outside the realm of my expertise. What made LeBron’s biography interesting to me is his life outside of basketball.
People are often promoted to leadership positions because of the skills that they have. But leaders must continue growing their Competence in order to help their teams get to the next level. LeBron fascinates me because he used one set of skills – basketball – to create a whole new set of skills to help him grow a portfolio of successful businesses and nonprofits. He has used both his platform and his wealth to do good for others while remaining a dedicated family man.
- All My Knotted-Up Life by Beth Moore (Dorothy)
When I think about female leaders who have inspired me throughout my life, Beth makes the list. Reading her memoir, I was especially struck by two characteristics of her admirable leadership. 1) Beth consistently stands up for what she believes is right, no matter the cost or criticism. 2) She perseveres, no matter the pain or loss. Relating to the stories of her life makes it easier for the rest of us to get up, brush ourselves off, and keep going.
(This is Dorothy’s area. Garland is not much of a novel reader.)
- Leave the World Behind by Rumann Alam
When it comes to reading fiction, I tend to value quality of wordsmithing over story, but this book embodies both. It’s my only book this year (of the over 50 I read) that I devoured in close to one sitting. One scene in particular (describing a noise that should be indescribable), was so captivating, I read it aloud to my kids to demonstrate how good writing can be.
- Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
A little confession. I wasn’t a big fan of Doerr’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See. It just wasn’t for me. Cloud Cuckoo Land, however, was right up my alley. Telling multiple stories spanning hundreds of years is a trendy trope some are tired of, but I enjoyed it. I was drawn in by its universal, timeless theme: Our yearning for new discovery can lead us back to rediscovering how much we long for home.
I (Garland) don’t like self-help books that are filled with inspiration but no application. There are two books this year that have significantly impacted the way that I live.
- Building a Second Brain by Tiago Forte
Both of us are creative people who have a hard time staying organized. It’s not uncommon for us to lose important information or create messes. Building a Second Brain has been a God-send. This book helps you get all of your tasks, projects, and information out of your head and into a trusted electronic system that you can quickly access.
I (Garland) have done this in the past with tasks and projects, but this was the first time I moved everything out of my mind and into a trusted system. I’m using Notion to keep track of all of our content for trainings, all of our previous and future blog posts. I use it to document our Standard Operating Procedures for home and work. We keep both our Business Plans and Life Visions in Notion, as well as books I’m reading and want to read. Most importantly, I keep track of all the hats that I’ve collected and the person who gave them to me or the event that precipitated me getting it.
- Perfect Day Formula by Craig Ballantyne
I read this book in December after a few months of intense travel. Things started to feel out of control, and I wasn't utilizing any of my life-giving habits. Ballantyne encourages you to write down “Rules for Life” that help you be the best version of yourself. For example, one of my rules is to wake up at the same time every day. While certain habits might change with the seasons life and business, it’s great to determine the one thing that’s most important and commit to do it.
Pick one book that most resonates with you and enjoy it!
Want to unleash your leadership and help others do the same? Here are three ways we can help: