The last few weeks of a year can be a time for rest and relaxation, or it can be a time to regroup and reposition for your personal and professional goals in the year ahead, or both. If you’re one who plans to spend your winter vacation time getting some mental fuel for the changes you’d like to make in 2013, here’s a hit list of my six favorite personal development titles from this year.
Load ’em onto your reader, check them out at the library or order them now, and get ready to reap the inspiration and activation of these impact-packed books:
6. "Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead," by Brené Brown (Gotham Books, 2012). "Daring Greatly" is a manifesto about one of the most essential, most neglected, most human of qualities — vulnerability. It masterfully makes the case that truly living a great life is not possible without the courage and resilience that is possessed only by those who embrace the risks of being vulnerable.
5. "Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength," by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney (Penguin paperback, 2012). "Willpower" relates the explorations of research psychologist Roy Baumeister and New York Times science writer John Tierney into the world of willpower research and synthesizes them into entertaining, entirely usable insights we can all use to drive our own "productivity," "fulfillment" and "happiness."
This book is uber-educational, serious, funny and fascinating all at once. Baumeister and Tierney cover everything from how and why to be an effective, efficient goal-setter, dieter and self-scientist to how and why to raise children who have self-control versus self-esteem.
4. "The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything and Living the Good Life," by Timothy Ferriss (New Harvest, 2012). "The 4-Hour Chef" is Ferriss’ 700-page primer on how to learn to do anything you want to do at a world-class level, without the time, money or genes you might think it takes to truly excel at something.
True to form, he tracks his own culinary evolution, from his lifelong apathy to cooking anything to hobnobbing with the likes of Alice Waters and replicating Michelin-starred entrees in his hotel bathroom, and shares what he gained along the way: values for whole, fresh and beautifully prepared foods and the hacks that make them feasible for us all.
But before he even gets to all the food stuff, Ferriss devotes an exciting, approximately 200-page chunk of "The 4-Hour Chef" to the best recipe in the book, the details of the system he’s honed for learning any skill in record time: the system he calls "meta-learning."
3. "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business," by Charles Duhigg (Random House, 2012). Renowned New York Times journalist Charles Duhigg takes a hybrid approach to illuminating the power of habit, and how we can all use that power to change our lives and our organizations. He breaks down the science of habits into the essential findings that hold the keys each of us can use to understand and systematically transform the habits that largely drive our lot in life, while offering a series of vivid stories from the business world and from the individual lives of relatable people to illustrate and inspire.
Duhigg’s "The Power of Habit" is overflowing with compelling, actionable takeaways for readers who seek to assert control over their own behavior and the outcomes they achieve at work and in life.
2. "Mastery," by Robert Greene (Viking, 2012). Unlike the scads of writers and bloggers who have focused on short-circuiting the mastery process Gladwell first laid out, Greene’s "Mastery" seeks to expose a deeper flavor of mastery.
The book starts with illuminating how masters like Benjamin Franklin, Frank Lloyd Wright and Carl Jung obtained the subject matter knowledge and expertise that was the endgame of Gladwell’s mastery, through devotion, apprenticeship and, eventually, surpassing their mentors. Then, he surfaces insights into how each of nine modern day masters took that expertise and married it with social intelligence, expertise in related subjects and, ultimately, intuition, deploying what Greene estimates to be 20,000 hours of devotion to change their entire fields and the course of history.
"Mastery" is broken into six sections, all of which are both sprawling and deep, engrossing more than entertaining, latent as they are with the promise of inspiring and instructing every reader to become a master, too.
1. "Three Simple Steps: A Map to Success in Business and Life," by Trevor Blake (BenBella Books, 2012). The elegant, yet exuberant, map to success that Blake draws in "Three Simple Steps" is prefaced by his own story of having watched his mother defy the doctors’ expectations for more than 14 years and through two different cancer diagnoses with little more than mental fortitude. Watching his mother literally, and vocally, defy death for most of his childhood obviously had a dramatic impact on both the course of his life and his view of the world.
After walking readers through buttery-simple, profound perspective shifts and actions they can take to reclaim and master their own mentalities to get and stay out of the emotional quicksands of defeat, depression and powerlessness, Blake shifts gears and spends the last third of the book instructing us on how to set intentions, rather than goals, and how to convert these intentions into reality.