Raise your hand if you have less time to read now than you did a year ago. Yep, me too. (You can put your hand down now.) I miss my books – the cottony feel of the uncoated pages and the way their razor crisp corners form a perfect point. I love the clean edges that frame the words and how the not-quite-white paper pushes the black letters toward my eyes as I fall asleep. Falling asleep while reading before bed is what finally pushed me past my love of the physical book into the world of audio books. And while I haven’t been able to step off the audio ledge when it comes to fiction yet, I do find that they’re perfect when I’m reading to learn.
I consider it a kind of “Driver's Education” – If I’m driving – I’m reading (kind of), but you can also listen at your desk, in the kitchen, or on your bike. Like green eggs and ham, you can listen to books most anywhere!
My audio vehicle of preference is Amazon’s Audible and Bluetooth and I typically choose non-fiction books that will teach me something – about business, the world, or just about myself. Most books are between 6 and 12 hours, so depending on your commute, you can usually finish a book a week just on the drive to and from work.
If you’re new to Driver’s Ed, buckle your seat belt and try some of these:
Getting Naked – by Patrick Lencioni
(Start by getting your mind out of the gutter.) This book was my first audiobook and remains my favorite of Lencioni’s “business fables”. It’s smart, funny, and has fantastic narration. It takes us through the painful and enlightening merger of two management consultant firms with drastically different client service approaches and teaches us how to navigate the three fears that sabotage client loyalty: 1) fear of losing the business, 2) fear of embarrassment, 3) fear of feeling inferior to your clients. It’s at the top of my list.
The New Rules of Sales & Service – by David Meerman Scott
If you’re in Business Development or Marketing (more closely tied today than ever), I recommend you give this a spin. Narrated by the occasionally less than humble author, it’s a real world look at today’s buying cycle and the switch to real-time, agile sales. The companies he features have some ideas worth emulating. Scott also shares the one quality you should be looking for in a seller today (hint – it’s not what it used to be).
Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World – by General Stanley McChrystal
What can the War in Iraq and the structure of terrorist networks teach us about today’s business environment? Turns out – quite a lot. General McChrystal and his co-authors use the backdrop of the war on terror to demonstrate the way our networked world has changed, and to teach us about the effective use of small, agile teams.
I’m nearly halfway through this one, and as someone who is a strong believer in adaptability as a personal strategy, I’m learning how critical it is for organizations as well. To survive in a business environment of real-time, disruptive engagement and rapid technological change, we have to be able to change our focus from hierarchal planned efficiency to agile, collaborative teams, connected in their adaptability. The behind-the-scenes stories are compelling and the narration is as smooth as the nightly news.
Triggers – by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter.
This one’s up next in my queue. They say this book is the secret sauce to changing your own behavior and becoming the person you really want to be. “They” would be some of the world's most powerful and successful CEOs, and the Triggers that the authors are referring to are those in our everyday environment (like say, someone cutting you off in traffic) that make us “behave against our interest”. Seems like the perfect GPS for some serious soul searching.
The Great Courses
This was a bonus find for me – a great go-to for the lifetime learner. Each book is a series of short college level lectures on subjects like The Economics of Uncertainty or The Art of Critical Decision Making. If you like Ted Talks, but yearn to know more, this is for you. For one Audible credit ($14.95) you can grab a seat in the lecture halls of renowned college professors, and never have to do a bit of homework. One of my favorites – How We Learn, with Professor Monisha Pasupathi, helped me to better understand different learning styles and explore topics like "The Myth of IQ and Academic Achievement", and "Why, as We Age, it’s Easier for Our Bodies to Learn New Things Than Our Minds." (Tell that to my hamstrings!)
If I can leave you with one last tip for your next road trip it would be this:
Take a test drive before you click buy. The only thing worse than a back seat driver is a lousy narrator.
Narration is a performance. Bad narration can give you road rage. Always listen to the audio sample before you buy. (and don’t forget to signal before turning)
Other Boxer Recommendations:
Abby – Autobiographies like Amy Pohler’s Yes Please! is a favorite, and David Sedaris' books which he narrates himself and "absolutely must be listened to!”
Kasey – I'm more likely to be listening to Podcasts like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, for deep dives into specific historical periods; and for fun – WTF with Marc Maron ("legendary comedian and probably the most successful podcaster of all time").
What book is driving your success right now? Audio or old school?