Some books that inspired my career
I read a lot.
On my bedside table sits a pile of books I'm currently reading, my bookshelf is an archive of hundreds of books I've read and my Goodreads Wishlist is a vault of books I'm hoping to read.
My bag is filled with printouts of articles I read in between trips to meetings and down time.
Needless to say, I'm a voracious reader.
Reading for me is a way of continuing to learn new things and over the last 25 years that have influenced me greatly in the approach I've taken to making decisions about my business, whom I'll work for and whom I won't.
Some have inspired me to think in new ways and others have inspired me make up my own mind.
The following books are the books I attribute to shaping key, pivotal turning points in my career.
I hope they paint a picture for you. One that shows that inspiration can come from anywhere, the motivation is needed to continue into a career and that your values as a person are critical in shaping the decisions you make in your business.
No Logo, Naomi Klein
This book woke me up. If the early 90s were a slumber for me, this was the book that knocked politely on the door to my bedroom and said ... 'excuse me Jim but it's time to get a fucking life.'
After reading this book in 1999, I realised that I was part of the machine that I was trying so hard to fight and if I wanted to change something, it was completely up to me.
Cosmos, Carl Sagan
If Naomi woke me up, Carl Sagan popped over, grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and shook.
At one point I threw this book across the room in a frustration directed at my high school science teachers and their failure to make science — no, life — so interesting.
This book opened my eyes and took my blinkers off. It filled me with an admiration and awe for Carl Sagan that saw me dive into most of what he had written throughout his career. It reasoned to me that calmness, harmony and beauty of the Cosmos and the undying pursuit of knowledge and discovery that makes us human.
Sterling's Gold, Roger Sterling
Roger Sterling was my favourite character on the TV show Mad Men - with all of his failings and all of his peculiarities he made me laugh at the very industry I'm part of. Here are two of my favourite bits of Sterling Gold:
"The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them."
"They don't seem to give awards for what I do."
"I'm glad everybody can make it sound like they're working so hard."
"The ones with the best products make the worst clients."
The Cluetrain Manifesto, Various
I read this during the peak of Internet 1.0. It speaks about how the Internet will change marketing forever and how the status quo and conventions in marketing will be challenged by the conversations we will have with one another.
Way ahead of its time.
Lifestyle, Bruce Mau
This book is a huge, blue tome. I bought it over a decade ago and it holds pride of place in my office bookshelf. Bruce Mau's position and values have inspired my own in my business.
If you're interested in understanding how a design business can be part of a global economy yet still connect to culture and make a positive social impact, read this.
Rework, 37 Signals
Who says you have to turn up to work at 8:30am and work until 11pm? Who says you have to hire more people to saying that you're 'growing'? Who says you have to hate your day job, and work for the man? The founder of Basecamp tells it like it is and influenced some recent changes in my business.
Never Let Go, Dan John
It wasn't until I read this book that I made the connection between physical fitness, life and my career. Dan John's essays talk of life and philosophy of movement, mobility, strength and mindfulness. This helped me realise that I needed to get outside and move more, that if I made my life my fitness regime, I'd be more focussed, more nimble and more mindful. It taught me that work wasn't everything, in fact it was just one of many things.
Ten years later, if there was one thing I recommend doing to finding a rhythm towards success in your career, it's making that same connection for yourself.
Creative Illustration, Andrew Loomis
Andrew Loomis is a master illustrator. I'm not going into it, just Google his name. I borrowed this book from my school library in year 7 and returned it in year 12. I later found a copy in a second hand book store and I still have it, torn and tattered but still here. First published in 1969 this book reminds me of my true passion, my life's work and the one thing I can lose myself in - drawing.
The very first review on Good Reads sums it up:
"I wish I had read this instead of wasting my time and money getting a graphic design degree. There is more useful art and design information in this book, than was covered in all of my schooling."
The Responsible Company: What we've learned from Patagonia's first 40 years, Yvon Chouinard, Vincent Stanley
This book found me in recent years and it taught me that if I am in contact with executives of organisations I can influence them and challenge them to make those organisations meaningful and good businesses. I applied the same insight to my own business.