In early January my wife and I were discussing New Year’s resolutions when I told her I didn’t have any new goals. I dubbed 2016 the year of essentialism, a nod to Greg McKeown’s book on the disciplined pursuit of less. The prior year had been filled with big goals and big changes and I wanted to focus my energy on that which was truly important.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
But as the year went by, I found myself adding more back into my life. I built a website, started writing for The Muse, launched this newsletter, and spoke at several conferences and events. None of these were goals at the beginning of the year. In fact, in some way they were achieved because I had no goals. By cutting out many of the non-essential activities and commitments, I had more time. More time to get bored. More time to read. More time to think. More time to create. More time to experiment.
Heading into 2017, I have the same goal as last year—to get rid of the clutter and refocus my time and energy on that which is essential. As you look to the new year, I encourage you to do the same. I believe that by focusing less on the trivial many and more on the critical few we’ll find greater success and deeper satisfaction.
Here are my four favorites from 2016.
Do you struggle with distraction? I certainly do. My quest for productivity and efficiency is continually offset by the hundreds of things vying for my attention. Cal Newport argues that the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly more valuable in our economy. I recorded an audio clip where I provide a summary of Deep Work, including my favorite passages and how I’ve tried to implement the books principles.
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable by Seth Godin
In Linchpin, Godin argues that everyone is an artist now. By his definition, an artist is somebody who does “emotional work.” Work that you put your heart and soul into. Work that matters. Work that you gladly sacrifice all other alternatives for. And in Godin’s words, the only way to get what you're worth is to stand out, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about. My favorite lesson from this book was understanding how you can change your job without actually leaving it.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Influence outlines the psychological tactics used by people when influencing us to say yes when we would otherwise say no. He shares why TV laugh tracks work, how free samples are effective in increasing sales, and why censorship may actually stimulate demand. In addition to teaching how to gain more influence, this book shares how we can avoid the tricks and tactics used by others to get us to do things we normally wouldn’t.
Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog vividly captures the struggles of an entrepreneur’s life in the trenches as he builds his dream company. It’s easy to look at a large, wildly successful company and presume that things would inevitably turn out that way. The same goes with a successful career. Too often we focus on the end result, rather than the countless obstacles someone endured before ultimately reaching his or her goal. Nike was on the brink of failure on many occasions. Had a few things gone differently, Knight couldn’t have built the footwear and apparel juggernaut that stands today.
Around the Web
How a Mexican Janitor Invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos
My favorite article of the year. Richard Montañez’s story of how he became an Executive Vice President at one of the largest food companies is incredible.
Don’t Waste Your Time on Networking Events
Derek Coburn argues that too many of us are quick to attend yet another networking event, when in reality, we should spend that time focusing on existing relationships.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself if You’re Questioning Your Career Path
My first non-LinkedIn article for The Muse. I share my experience changing careers from finance to HR and questions you should ask yourself before making your own switch.
Fireside Chat at UC Berkeley Extension
Last month I did a Q&A where I discussed the principles from my book, Not Your Parents' Workplace. Check out the full interview or a 2-minute clip of the highlights.
In other news, I recently left LinkedIn to take an HR leadership role at DoorDash, a Series C startup focused on local delivery. If you want to learn more about what we're up to, check out this Fast Company article.
Thanks for reading! My goal is to write and share great career-related content. If you've read anything worth sharing, please let me know. And do let me know if there's anything I can do to help you. I wish you all the best in the new year.
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