I’ve Found One Common Trait in Every Interesting Person’s Story: They Love to Read
7 minute read
There is no fool-proof, well-defined road map for charting out a successful career or building a thriving business. Or being an interesting person. It’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition. But I’ll let you in on one secret that’s true of every leader and entrepreneur that I’ve admired and emulated throughout the years: they’re all voracious readers.
People are usually shocked to learn that I read about a book a week (plus several articles a day) — all while running my company, raising my four kids (plus two dogs), authoring a book and staying committed to living healthily. Reading has always been a priority for me because it’s yet another way I feed my insatiable curiosity. It allows me to understand how different people think and how they approach the world. Reading lets me get in the heads of some of the most brilliant thinkers and business people out there, folks I may never get to actually talk to face-to-face but who I get to learn from through the life lessons they’ve committed to paper.
So, naturally, I wrote my own book, Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters, because everyone’s journey is unique, and I wanted to share how I found success on my own terms by overcoming the obstacles in my path. In this way, I’m repaying the debts I owe to authors who have helped me along the way and created the foundation for a philosophy that I call Undaunted Leadership.
Who are those influential authors and business leaders? Let’s start with these three…
1. Simon Sinek’s Infinite Game taught me to think bigger than my business.
Here’s the gist: most business owners approach success all wrong. Too many people think about running a business as a finite contest — like a game of football or a round of chess — where there’s a clear end point, everyone’s playing by the same rules, and one side wins after everyone else loses. In reality, business is an infinite game, where everyone’s playing by different rules (and you can even make up your own rules!), there can be multiple winners, and the goal isn’t to reach a successful endpoint but to keep on succeeding day after day.
Infinite Game was nothing short of a total mindset shift for me — a powerful lesson in how I approached my business, especially in a world where I’m surrounded by Silicon Valley unicorns seeking out growth and “winning” at all costs.
If I had approached Hint as a finite game, honestly, our path would have focused on quarterly sales metrics above all else, expanding as quickly as possible — even if that meant compromising our product or our values — and ultimately cashing out with a big exit and calling it a day. Certainly, many people may have seen that as a successful outcome, but that’s never what I had in mind for Hint. Simon Sinek offered me a different way to think about my business, and it became essential advice for me.
By approaching our company as an infinite game, we’ve been able to make a meaningful impact so far beyond producing delicious unsweetened flavored water. It allowed us to launch new product lines completely outside of the “category,” knowing we were fulfilling on our mission to give customers healthier options. It’s allowed us to support initiatives that make the world a better place, like pushing for clean water legislation and tirelessly working to make our supply chain more sustainable. It’s helped me attract and inspire the most talented people because they know they are getting behind something important. And, on top of all of that, it’s allowed me to build a brand that I’m proud to stand behind every single day.
2. Scott Galloway’s The Algebra of Happiness taught me the kind of resilience that carries me forward.
As may be evident from the title, this book literally breaks down the equations for creating happiness and success. It has informed so many of the fundamental ways I live my life, and more than anything it has had a profound influence on how I view failure.
Specifically, Scott takes us through the equation that success = resilience / failure. In other words, succeeding is not a matter of never having failed. In fact, we know the opposite is true — failures are inevitable. Instead, it’s a matter of how much resilience you have to get through the tough times. Failures set you up to see obstacles as something you overcome rather than insurmountable barriers.
Hint would have fizzled out in the very early days if I wasn’t prepared to confront failure. We spent years trying to figure out how to increase the shelf life of the product so we could ship it around the country, without adding preservatives or other unnatural chemicals. Each time we thought we cracked the code, we found a flaw in the logic. So we continued to sell Hint locally and build our loyal hometown customers, and we continued to learn about our brand and our fanbase — while figuring out how to overcome that shelf-life issue. It was the passion of those early Hint fans that gave us the confidence and the resilience we needed to keep at it and eventually perfect the formula that would get us over the hump. In a lot of ways, failure was the ingredient that helped us ultimately succeed.
Side note: I often think about Scott when I head out on my morning hikes because of this little gem: “the ratio of time you spend sweating to watching others sweat is a forward-looking indicator of your success.”
3. Bill Campbell’s Trillion Dollar Coach taught me to focus on the people around me.
I often wish I could have been mentored by Bill Campbell, the leadership coach and business executive behind many of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies (including Google and Apple). Instead, I got to read this book, written by three executives who worked closely with him, which dives into the principles he used to build higher-performing teams and leaders.
Yes, I learned so many tactical lessons from this book that helped me improve my own leadership. But, more than that, it reminded me of the importance of people in building a successful business.
I’ve always thought of myself as a “people person,” starting from my first job working a cash register to waitressing through college and chatting up my customers. But this book is a reminder of how critical the people around me are in the success of my business. Making the investment in showing up more intentionally for those relationships is an essential part of my job. It takes constant work and dedication to your team to be a good leader. This book makes one thing clear: I will never “make it” and that task can never be crossed off a list. Instead, I am constantly learning and figuring out what works for me and my team — adjusting as we grow and iterating as our needs evolve. Bill’s advice taught me that showing up and really being there for my team could help us get through nearly any challenge.
These are just three examples amongst dozens and dozens of books that have helped me get unstuck or forced me to reevaluate my old assumptions. My advice to you is to always have a great book on hand and carve out the time for a good read.
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