Courtesy of Garance Doré
If you’re looking for a new job—or a refreshed perspective on your current position—you’re not alone. Staying hungry is the first step in nurturing a thriving career. That’s why it’s probably no surprise that we’re on pins and needles, ready to devour the latest crop of books that promise to up your professional game. By utilising scientific breakthroughs and real-life narratives, these books offer a range of strategies and skills that will not only help you get that dream job but improve your overall happiness. Realise your full career potential by adding the following books to your shelf.
In Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mystery of the Creative Mind, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman distills the brilliance of highly creative people into 10 attributes and habits: imaginative play, passion, daydreaming, solitude, intuition, openness to experience, mindfulness, sensitivity, turning adversity into advantage, and thinking differently. By providing thoughtful explanations of the latest theories in neuroscience and psychology, Kaufman illustrates that the key to deep creativity is to embrace our own contradictions. He applies his theory to the lives of several creative luminaries—including Pablo Picasso, David Foster Wallace, and Thom Yorke—to show readers how to enrich this often overlooked facet of our lives.
Media mogul Arianna Huffington digs deep into the debilitating effects of sleeplessness in her new book, The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time. Huffington’s opening statement summarises her thesis perfectly: “We are in the midst of a sleep deprivation crisis. And this has profound consequences—on our health, our job performance, our relationships, and our happiness. What is needed is nothing short of a sleep revolution. Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.” American work ethic has largely echoed the sentiment of “You sleep when you die.” Huffington weaves together a thoughtful narrative of personal experience, scientific studies, and historical evidence to rebuke this assumption. She blows the whistle on our sleep crisis and, more importantly, provides actionable steps to help us transform our lives for the better.
In his recent book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, Adam Grant discusses the surprising advantages of being an outsider, and how having a unique perspective can bring individuals unparalleled success and creativity. To quote Malcolm Gladwell, “Reading Originals made me feel like I was seated across from Adam Grant at a dinner party, as one of my favourite thinkers thrilled me with his insights and his wonderfully new take on the world.” Some of Grant’s more interesting arguments are as follows: Procrastination triggers more creative and productive results; your choice of web browser is a reliable predictor of success and dedication; and having an artistic hobby or interest makes those in the STEM fields dramatically more accomplished.
Recent strides in behavioral science have revealed a better understanding of how our brains work and why we make the choices we do. But few people offer a simple way to apply these scientific findings into actionable steps. In How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb, an economist and former McKinsey partner, expertly translates three scientific ideas about our brain’s behavior into a practical guide for sustainable energy, expert decision-making, and renewed satisfaction and performance at work. “Webb has given us a great gift,” says Jonathan Haidt, a professor at the Stern School of Business. “She has synthesized all the advice coming out of labs around the world, filtered it for quality, and illustrated it with well-chosen examples.” Read this if you’re looking for the tools to live a happier, more efficient, and always productive life.
In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, MacArthur "genius grant" recipient and leading psychologist Angela Duckworth argues the secret to outstanding achievement is focused persistence, aka grit—not talent. Duckworth examines the lives of dozens of high achievers across different industries including finance, education, and the military to show the best indicator of success is how you handle setbacks. Those who identify their passions and marry them with unwavering commitment are prone to accomplishing greatness. Those who rely strictly on their intelligence don’t have the stamina to win in the long-term.
“Disrupt” has been the buzzword of the tech industry for years. Unicorns such as Uber and Airbnb have risen to gargantuan success by breaking the natural order of more traditional industries by offering a value proposition of convenience, reduced cost, and personalisation. In Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work, Whitney Johnson, the co-founder of highly successful investment firm Rose Park Advisors, applies the framework of disruptive innovation to the self.
Johnson argues that the most successful people are those who stray from the existing path to forge their own, even before the existing path is broken. For instance, if you know that climbing the ladder of an existing corporation won’t satisfy you, make a calculated move away from the expected. Take a pay cut in favour of a steeper trajectory in another field. Redefine your metrics so you account for psychological and social well-being as well as financial security. “Zigzagging career paths may be common now, but the people who zigzag best don’t do it randomly,” she tells Harvard Business Review. If you’re thinking about a career change, consider Johnson’s tenets of self-disruption first.
In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Highly Distracted World, author and computer science professor Cal Newport offers a cultural critique on our age of technologically enabled distraction. He values the power of deep work—or as he puts it, the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task. The book includes a very helpful four-part training guide for transforming your brain to support this valuable skill. His prose comes to life with memorable stories such as a social media expert buying a round-trip business-class ticket to Tokyo to write a book free from distractions. If you’re looking for a way to remove yourself from the shallow chaos of digital overload and dive into a rewarding rhythm of deep focus, read this book.
Have you read something that drastically improved your work ethic? Share with us in the comments.