5 Tips (& 5 Books) That Will Give You an Edge at Work
Get ahead and learn valuable skills with these enlightening career books.
I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 14. I was living in the woods in Canada back then — bored out of my skull. Luckily, my parents were both in television news, and so they got a crash-course on all things ‘World Wide Web’ very early on.
I remember the day my parents came home with a new Macintosh computer and hooked it up to the WWW. It was a fascinating portal to the outside world, with endless possibilities. And it was in my living room. It felt like magic.
A combination of very supportive parents, a limit on how many hours of TV I was allowed to watch, and an innate curiosity created the perfect storm in my life (as they say) that motivated me to learn programming and launch my first business that year. I’ve been in the same field ever since, and have never had a traditional job or a boss.
Whatever your motivation and circumstance may be, it’s always the right time to learn. As the idiom goes: knowledge is power. And that’s especially true when it comes to your career. Whether you think you learn best through taking classes, trial-and-error, apprenticeships, or loads of research, everyone can learn something valuable from listening to the advice authors and entrepreneurs.
A piece of advice that really stuck out for me was well-said by Richard Branson: “The amount of time people waste dwelling on failures, rather than putting that energy into another project, always amazes me,” the Virgin Group founder and chairman told The Good Entrepreneur. “I have fun running all the Virgin businesses — so a setback is never a bad experience, just a learning curve.” In other words, pivot or cut your losses if something isn’t working, and put your energy into trying something else that inspires you.
JK Rowling shares these sentiments. “I don’t think we talk about failure enough,” Rowling told Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today Show. “It would’ve really helped to have someone who had had a measure of success come say to me, ‘You will fail. That’s inevitable. It’s what you do with it.'”
Whether you want to become an entrepreneur, you already are one, or you just want to get a promotion, here are five enlightening career-focused books that will help you reach your goals:
Barking up the Wrong Tree: The Surprising Science Behind Why Everything You Know About Success Is (Mostly) Wrong
This is an incredibly fascinating book that will make you re-think the “rules” of success and your own career possibilities. By the author of one of my favorite blogs, this book takes a deep and scientific look at what makes certain types of people successful — and what we can do to be more like them. Packed with surprises and anecdotes, it’ll help you understand what works and what doesn’t so you can start to fulfill your full potential.
To give you a taste, here are three gems of advice from Eric Barker, as told to Forbes:
1. You need to have a personal definition of success. It will change and evolve but if you don’t have an idea of what you want, you’re going to be on a nonstop treadmill towards “more” and that’s going to make you awfully busy but not necessarily happy.
2. You need to know yourself. Know your signature strengths — those things you are uniquely good at. What do you bring to the table? Doing what you’re good at not only makes you better at your job, research shows it also makes you happier and respected.
3. Pick the right pond. Find a place that rewards your signature strengths. A great company isn’t a great place for you if it’s not aligned with your talents and your goals. That’s also true for personality and ethics. If you’re a good person working at a place full of sketchy people, you’re not going to thrive.
If you’re thinking about launching a startup, Peter Thiel (the co-founder of PayPal and a Silicon Valley giant) has a lot of good advice for you.
From how to tell if your idea might have wings, to how to deal with distribution and HR, and just generally how to conduct yourself to ensure the greatest odds of success, this book walks you through all aspects of evaluating and running a business, in an engaging and entertaining way.
From my own experience in observing the people I’ve worked with and my most successful friends, the lessons in this book ring true. The overall lesson is that it’s not luck or talent that make people successful (although some people are really good at pretending that’s why they’re rich and famous, ahem, Kardashians…) What really makes people succeed is a unique blend of passion and long-term perseverance, also known as grit.
While not as entertaining as the other books in this list, Grit is definitely worth the listen because it provides actionable steps and examples of how to improve your career (and life!), backed up by numerous examples, data points, and decades of research.
This is the most important book to read, and re-read. It will teach you how to be convincing, how to resolve disputes, and how to communicate effectively — all extremely useful skills for both daily life and career advancement. In fact, I can say with confidence that there’s not a person in the world that wouldn’t benefit from reading this book. Whether you’re in sales, HR, a CEO, an activist, or just want to get a raise or close a deal, this will become your indispensable guide. Just trust me on this.
If you’re in a position where you manage staff, or even where you work closely with colleagues, then this is a must-listen. Richard Branson is arguably the most prolific entrepreneur of our time, and he’s distilled his vast experience into an entertaining book that will give you insight into his leadership style, how he thinks, and why certain Virgin businesses succeed while others failed.
I’ll finish with perhaps my favorite piece of advice, this time from Steve Jobs: “Yeah, we’re always talking about following your passion, but we’re all part of the flow of history … you’ve got to put something back into the flow of history that’s going to help your community, help other people … so that 20, 30, 40 years from now … people will say, this person didn’t just have a passion, he cared about making something that other people could benefit from.”
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.
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