Non-Business Books For Business Leaders Vol 4
2023 will mark my 29th year in business. During this time, I’ve had the honor of working with thousands of business leaders, many of whom I love and respect.
As David Whyte writes in Consolations, “Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future.” Those who lead know that this type of courage is vital.
Being transparent, I see myself in how you struggle and strive; you constantly search for more meaning and insight and continue working for ever-great impact, service, value, and care for the people surrounding you.
For any business to grow; the leaders must evolve. Meaningful and lasting evolution is an inside job. So, the garden leaders must tend to is the constant and caring evolution of the Self. To do that, we must drink from wisdom wells beyond business topics.
I’ve found that reading non-business books is just one accelerate to get myself thinking differently and living differently at work and elsewhere.
One of the questions that I ask all Podcast guests is what non-business books they would recommend for business leaders. Below are a few of my curated reads in Volume 4 of Non-Business Books for Business Leaders.
To see the previous books that I recommended, visit Volumes One, Two, and Three on this list and the Beautiful Business podcast.
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
This is the only book I took with me on a 2022 think week, and it changed my life. Aside from absorbing myself into this beautiful book, all I did was write, hike, eat and sleep. Braiding Sweetgrass was an eye-opening book and the best I’ve read in the last 10+ years.
As a botanist, professor of plant ecology, and a Potawatomi woman, Robin Wall Kimmerer has spent a career learning how to ask nature questions using science tools. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer combines these two lenses of knowing to reveal what it means to see humans as “the younger brothers of creation.” As she explores these themes, she circles toward a central argument: The awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires acknowledging and celebrating our reciprocal relationship with the world.
Braiding Sweetgrass is not only beautifully written, but it also offers an eye-opening invitation to listen for the languages of other beings. By doing so, we can begin to understand the innumerable life-giving gifts the world provides us and learn to offer our thanks, care, and gifts in return.
The Way of Integrity: Finding the Path to Your True Self
By Martha Beck
Like many others, I’ve striven to see (and live) the deep meaning within Dante’s The Divine Comedy. In The Way of Integrity, Martha Beck uses Dante’s classic hero’s journey as a framework to break down the process of attaining personal integrity into small manageable steps. The book shows how to read the internal signals that lead us toward our true path and to recognize what we actually yearn for versus what our culture sells us.
Martha Beck is a life coach and sociologist who explains why “integrity” — needed now more than ever in these tumultuous times — is the key to a meaningful and joyful life. Integrity is a cornerstone concept covered in The Beautiful Business. The best businesses, from my observation, work with integrity and reciprocity (see above).
Martha Beck says in her book, “Integrity is the cure for psychological suffering. Period.” While this may be an oversimplification, I believe there’s wisdom in the thinking, and I loved this book for it.
Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words
By David Whyte
David Whyte was quietly working on Consolations when I had the honor to work with him some years back. I remember him sharing just a few essays before the book was published. I found it remarkable how we took common words we assume we understand and broke them down into their essential, significant characteristics.
Consider the word crisis for instance:
“Crisis is unavoidable. Every human life seems to be drawn eventually, as if by some unspoken parallel, some tidal flow or underground magnetic field, toward the raw, dynamic essentials of its existence, as if everything up to that point had been a preparation for a meeting, for a confrontation in an elemental form with our essential flaw, and with what an individual could until then, only receive stepped down, interpreted or diluted.
This experience … where the touchable rawness of life becomes part of the fabric of the everyday, and a robust luminous vulnerability, becomes shot through with the necessary, imminent and inevitable prospect of loss, has been described for centuries as the dark night of the soul: La noche oscura del alma. But perhaps, this dark night could be more accurately described as the meeting of two immense storm fronts, the squally vulnerable edge between what overwhelms human beings from the inside and what overpowers them from the outside.”
Consolations is a “go-to” book for me when I feel bewildered by the world, my life, or my way forward. It remains one of the beautiful reminders to look deeply within the underlying meaning and mystery of language and meaning and to use the artist’s eye and the poet’s heart to make more sense of the inexplicable.
From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life.
“The roadmap for finding purpose, meaning, and success as we age, from bestselling author, Harvard professor, and the Atlantic’s happiness columnist Arthur Brooks.”
Many of the business leaders I work with are midlifers looking for greater meaning and purpose. As we approach midlife — whatever that means to you — we search for greater meaning. And success in business can be a distraction from living a life of significance. I found Arthur’s book to be an excellent guide to jumping the ruts that success can carve.
From the book’s description:
“Many of us assume that the more successful we are, the less susceptible we become to the sense of professional and social irrelevance that often accompanies aging. But the truth is, the greater our achievements and our attachment to them, the more we notice our decline, and the more painful it is when it occurs.
Drawing on social science, philosophy, biography, theology, and eastern wisdom, as well as dozens of interviews with everyday men and women, Brooks shows us that true life success is well within our reach. By refocusing on certain priorities and habits that anyone can learn, such as deep wisdom, detachment from empty rewards, connection and service to others, and spiritual progress, we can set ourselves up for increased happiness.”
Michael Meade is one of the most untapped resources for explaining our current-day world through a mythical lens. Why this matters is contextual understanding. The stranger things seem to be, the more disorienting it becomes. When we understand the world’s events, including how they personally affect us, we can make more sense of our own lives. Awakening the Soul is an invitation to claim or reclaim your Self.
From the author’s description:
“Awakening the Soul addresses issues of the loss of soul throughout the world and the loss of meaning and truth in modern life. Using ancient myths and stories and compelling insights, Michael Meade illustrates how meaning is essential to the human soul and describes how soul can be recovered and people can learn to “live in truth.”
Drawing from dramatic episodes in his own life, Meade shows how the soul tries to awaken at critical times, and how an awakened soul is crucial for finding medicine to treat the ailments and alienation of modern life. What we need now is not a minor repair, but a major transformation of the world that can only start with the awakening of the individual soul.”
“There is more going on than we can see or understand, and we need to find a way to lean into the mystery of things…. and recognise the evident value in doing that, and summon the courage it requires to not always shrink back into the known mind.”
I’m only loosely familiar with Nick Cave’s music, but this beautiful book and the insights within have deeply touched me.
What we commonly call mystery — the otherness or beyondness — is the inaccessible realm to our analytical and strategic minds. And yet, it is the realm that can reach beyond doubt, kindle a confident knowing, and cultivate a future life. When we learn to work with the imaginary forces that we all have access to, we can live as human artists and shape ways of being that few have dared to imagine, let alone live.
This book is a deeply moving conversation between Seán O’Hagan and Nick Cave. It is a profoundly thoughtful exploration of what drives Nick Cage’s life and creativity.
From there book’s description:
“The book examines questions of faith, art, music, freedom, grief, and love. It draws candidly on Cave’s life, from his early childhood to the present day, his loves, his work ethic, and his dramatic transformation in recent years.
From a place of considered reflection, Faith, Hope and Carnage offers ladders of hope and inspiration from a true creative visionary.
Steve can help you create an integrated belief-driven business that can reach and align with more of the right people —employees, customers, donors and investors—in a sustainable and meaningful way.
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