Sometimes you pick up a book and feel instantly consumed and inspired by it. Don’t you love it when that happens?
When I think back to the many books I’ve enjoyed reading over the years, the ones that have left an impression are the ones that have stayed with me and drummed up something inside me.
Sometimes, like a good mentor, they have motivated me enough that they have led me to action or change.
There are three books, in particular, that I go back to regularly because I find them to be so useful. I revisit pages I’ve tagged with sticky notes, highlighted sections of text and even entire chapters.
Each of these books have influenced me, on a personal and professional level, and been a catalyst for change or development in my career.
1. Thrive by Arianna Huffington
I remember reading this book during my first trip to Byron Bay. Huffington’s book was a great holiday read and just the thing if you’re looking to start anew or shift the way you do a few things in your life.
Thrive passionately redefines what it means to be successful in today’s world and Huffington talks candidly about her own challenges with managing time and prioritising the demands of her career and motherhood.
While the book mostly reflects on Huffington’s personal experiences, she draws on research and scientific findings to support her case for finding new ways of living and working.
The book is split into three main parts: Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder. It is finished off with a fourth section called Giving, which offers a well-rounded conclusion to her previous discussions.
I think the crux of Thrive lies in the exploration of how people want to measure success for themselves, and that they are ultimately seeking a more meaningful life.
For me, this book came at such a relevant period in my life. I was working full time and juggling contract projects on the side. I was financially stable but anxious about money. I was chasing a promotion and pay rise. And while I wasn’t miserable, I felt dissatisfied and like I wanted more.
Thrive forced me to put a lot of things into perspective and to have a good, hard think about what I wanted and why. It encouraged me to reflect and look inwards, and it was the first time that I took stock of my career.
2. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
I’d always been an ambitious career woman but I’d often found myself frustrated with the lack of opportunities and professional development in the workplace. I thought this book could help.
Lean In focuses solely on women in the workforce and their will to lead.
Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg looks at the very real challenges that women face in the workplace – everything from the gender pay gap to the lack of women in executive roles are covered in the book. Reading about these disadvantages was alarming.
I’d always felt like I had worked hard to earn my roles in the workplace and was well respected but I couldn’t argue with some of the points made by Sandberg because it highlighted that perhaps I was not taking the bull by the horns as much as I thought I was. It was a stern reality check.
After pursuing a raise at work for over a year and getting nowhere, I called a meeting with my manager. I was again told no, so I decided to look for new opportunities. I left that job a short time later, managed to negotiate a better pay rate in my next job and have continued to “sit at the table” (something Sandberg talks about in the book) and do my work with confidence.
While Lean In came at the exact moment I needed to read it, I dare say it provided the impetus for me to take action. It may do so for you, too.
3. Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
As someone who works in a creative field, I knew I had to read Big Magic.
In this book, Gilbert shares stories from her own experiences, as well as those of her friends and the people that have inspired her.
She challenges readers to embrace their curiosity, follow their passion and face up to what they most fear.
While Gilbert has a very broad interpretation of what being creative is, she at least gets you thinking about what a creative life might look like.
One of my biggest takeaways from this read was to move beyond the fear of creating. I have often prevented myself from getting creative because I’ve been afraid that it wouldn’t be perfect or I worried what others would think of it.
But the key to living creatively lies in the creative process itself, Gilbert explains. I try to remember this when I consider taking on a new creative project.
SHE DEFINED was a creative outlet I wanted for myself for so many years but fear, doubt and grappling with the idea that it wasn’t perfect all held me back.
I eventually came to the decision to simply launch the damn thing so that I could get back to being creative. And when I sit down to write an article for the site, and think of simply being in that creative process, I am reminded of Gilbert’s encouraging words in Big Magic.
It’s a light read, and by no means the only path towards a creative life, but it will get you thinking about ways you can finally tackle that project you’ve always wanted to do.
What is your favourite career or business book? Share it in the comments section below.