In 2015, I re-discovered the passion for reading I had when I was younger. In 2016, I made reading a focused, specific habit as an essential part of my personal growth. As the year winds down, I have been reflecting on what I read the past years. Of course, there were the hundreds and hundreds of blog posts, news articles and enewsletter subscription content. As well as a daily stream of Instagram and Tumblr poems, quotes and micro-stories. I also occasionally indulged in contemporary fiction and even made a thrift shop run to buy a pile of Louis L’Amour paperbacks. While all of that reading entertained and informed, it was the reading of books that produced the most growth. Real books for holding in the hand, marking up with a highlighter and snapping the most moving passages for social media.

Here’s what I read in 2016 (in no particular order) – along with a key lesson from each book:

“Blessed are the Weird” – Jacob Nordby. The second book by this amazing thinker and author … and close friend. This is the book to read if you feel like you don’t fit in to modern society, yet want to find your way to contribute value and meaning to the world. Key lesson: I am exactly what and who I’m supposed to be in this time and place.

“Heretics to Heroes” – Cort Dial. A friend and client, this is Cort’s debut book. An incredible memoir on increasing value and creating actual change by pushing back against dogma and being brave in the face of political pressure. Key lesson: Change begins by controlling what you say yes and no to.

“Unbeatable Mind” – Mark Divine. Penned by a modern day warrior, this book blends Navy SEAL methodology with martial arts and some of the best mind hacks I’ve ever read. Key lesson: Everything I need to be excellent is already inside me.

“Power of Now” – Eckhart Tolle. I started this book in early 2015 but it took me an additional year to finish it. Every page is packed with nutritional value about being present, creating space between thoughts and feelings and understanding that our body is a receptor. Key lesson: everything you need to be happy is in this very moment.

“The Last Shaman” – William Whitecloud. Another highly readable fable featuring the same main character as in “The Magician’s Way”. Not just a great story, but an allegory of challenging what our eyes and minds see. Key lesson: a slight change of perspective reveals the magic around is.

“The Four Agreements” – Don Miguel Ruiz. A truly transformational and simply profound book that was recommended to me at just the right time. I devoured it in three days and know that its lessons will stay with me forever. Key lesson: this book helped me reconcile my past as well as create a framing structure for the future.

“Ego is the Enemy – Ryan Holiday. Packed with excellent historical examples, thoughtful quotes from generations of thinkers and his own insights on ego, this book by fellow Austinite Ryan Holiday is the perfect read for our “selfie” culture. Key lesson: Level of ego is not a personality trait.

“A Manuscript Found in Accra” – Paulo Coehlo. An author who never ceases to impress and awaken, this fable about Jerusalem being under siege came along at just the right time. Key lesson: it taught me one of the most valuable gifts of 2016- to surrender.

“Traction” – Gino Wickman. A business planning book that was so good that it became our guidebook for planning 2017 and beyond for Root + River. Built around the concept of an Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), it provides a detailed map for sustained growth. Key lesson: My grit and self-determination will eventually become growth inhibitors.

“Switch” – Chip & Dan Heath. The best book I’ve ever read about organizational change and transformative leadership. It blends scientific concepts with compelling examples to show you how to change things. Key lesson: change is a code that can be hacked.

“Warrior of Light” – Paulo Coehlo. A gift from a close friend, this companion piece to “The Alchemist” is the closest thing I have to a daily reader other than the Bible. Key lesson: I am a Warrior of Light.

“The Bassoon King” – Rainn Wilson. A funny, heart-stirring, thought-provoking memoir by the actor most famous for playing Dwight Schrute on The Office. He accidentally introduced me to what is now one of my favorite poets: Rainer Rilke. Key lesson: all useful journeys evolve to a level of spreading joy in the world.

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