2019 Books

“Let’s be reasonable and add an eighth day to the week that is devoted exclusively to reading.” – Lena Dunham. 

As 2019 draws to a close, I realize I have read 31 books this year. Fiction, non-
fiction. Short, long. Great, less great. For book club, not for book club. Here are my favorite, in the order that I read them.

  1. Le Petit Prince by Antoine de St. Exupéry. I started 2019 with this book, which I have read a dozen times at least. There is a reason why this novella of love, loss, friendship, and loneliness is one of the best-selling and most translated books ever published.
  2. On Becoming by Michelle Obama. I miss the Obamas. That is all.
  3. Love you Hard by Abby Maslin. I don’t often cry while reading, but this memoir of love, loss, and marriage is a real tear-jerker (in the best sense of the word).
  4. The Banker’s Wife by Christina Alger. The author is a friend of a friend and a fellow Harvard graduate, and discovering her writing is one of my 2019 highlights.
  5. The Darlings by Christina Alger. I am addicted.
  6. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou.The best book I read this year, this Theranos exposé is proof that reality is indeed stranger than fiction.
  7. Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing by George Cloutier. A powerful reminder that profitability enables the mission.
  8. Girls Like Us by Christina Alger. Christina, please write more faster.
  9. The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy by Michael Lewis. A must read in today’s political climate. (Truly, anything by Michael Lewis is a must read).
  10. The Friends We Keep by Jane Green. A touching book about friendship.
  11. The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins. A lovely story about a small town and the power of books.

My goal for 2019 was to read a book per week. I did not quite get there – although I do plan on reading four more books before 2020:

This has been on my reading list since this past summer. It is time.

Reminders

This week, I am in Tinos, Greece. Not my first visit, but my first visit during the low season. The magic of this island is as strong as ever…

Fewer people make for stronger connections – those of us here really want to be here. The cooler temperatures make for new experiences – walking through the villages and heading to the Chora (town) more frequently. And the lessons of the island are as insightful as ever.

  • Feeding the island cats feels like the day’s most important project. AKA taking care of others, with no expectation in return, makes me happy.
  • Leaving the book I just devoured (The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda) in the unofficial “sidewalk book exchange” of Isternia village, and seeing it gone the next morning makes my whole day. AKA an act of random kindness for an unknown stranger, makes me happy.
  • Going to the bank (inside the building, not the ATM) feels like an enlightening, welcoming, kind, human connection. AKA taking the time to enjoy every human interaction, even in the form of an “errand,” makes me happy.
  • Slowing down and watching the sunset, grateful for nature and her rhythms, no matter the season, is good for the soul.
  • Finally, as the Greeks say, “eteron ekateron.” AKA “it is neither here nor there.” And/or “it is said of two things that can both apply simultaneously, different from one another, without affecting one another.”

“Love is the precursor to contribution” and other wisdom from Marcus Buckingham

Last week I had the privilege of attending the annual International Spa Association (ISPA) conference at The Venetian in Las Vegas. There were many highlights, including reconnecting with spa friends, listening to Susan Cain speak about introverts, dinner at Morel’s, and more. Yet what I can’t stop thinking about is the presentation Marcus Buckingham gave on the topic of his latest book, Nine Lies About Work.

Here are the nine workplace misconceptions (aka lies):

  • People care which company they work for (they care which company they join).
  • The best (strategic) plan wins (forget about them, yet planning is a great activity to engage in)
  • The best companies cascade goals (yet alignment is a good thing)
  • The best people are well-rounded
  • People need feedback
  • People can reliably rate other people
  • People have potential (everyone can get better)
  • Work / life balance matters most (balance is stasis and we don’t want stasis)
  • Leadership is a “thing” (there is no such thing as leadership, if you look at great leaders, they are all different)

I am still wrapping my head around these misconceptions and can’t wait to dig deeper with Buckingham’s book. I also jotted down a few other amazing one-liners from his presentation:

  • Average is homogeneous; excellence looks weird quickly
  • Define a job by the outcome not the method
  • Your strengths are your key areas of development (your weaknesses are not)
  • Your future greatness is based on your current goodness
  • Strength replays (stop saying “stop that” but “keep doing that,” not to celebrate but to interrogate)
  • Good job is not the end of the sentence; good job is the start of a sentence (a sentence that includes these questions) what were you thinking? what was going on? what worked?)
  • Love is the precursor to contribution
  • Burnout is the absence of love
  • Don’t do what you love but find love in what you do – a little love goes a long way to fight against the feeling of burnout

Thank you Marcus Buckingham, and thank you ISPA!

 

Pillars + Values

Two years ago I Marie Kondo’d my home, and pulled a number of books from my bookshelf that I had not read. I committed to reading them all.

This week, I picked GROW by Jim Stengel from that pile, and the timing could not be better. Alchimie Forever is growing, and growing fast – and this book is reminding me to stay close to our mission and ideals.

“Great businesses have great ideals,” Stengel says. Our big ideal is to improve people’s lives by improving their skin.

Self care through skin care.

Looking good, means feeling good, means doing good.

Specifically, Stengel challenges businesses to clarify pillars (values) that will guide every aspect of the business. Here are our five, which guide everything we do from product development to distribution partnerships to caring for our employees and customers.

Clean. We focus on the safety and efficacy of our ingredients rather than the source. We are paraben-free, vegan, gluten-free, cruelty-free.

Read more here.

Clinical. We are dermatologist-formulated. We believe in science. We believe professional skin care treatments are a necessary complement to home care.

Approachable. We believe in making products that are available to all, in price and place. We like to think we are aspirationally accessible.

Responsible. We are fiscally responsible. We are environmentally responsible. We are humanly responsible.

Transparent. We work with integrity. We say what we do and do what we say.

Tinos Reading List – 2019 Edition

One of my biggest pleasures on vacation is the ability to read during the day for hours on end. I try to consume a book every day or two. Fiction, non-fiction, recently published books, older publications. Always paper books – no e-book for me, even though it does mean all of these traveled in my suitcase from DC to Tinos, via Geneva. 

Here is my (very ambitious) reading list for this year’s time in Tinos. 

Bad Blood by Jon Carreyrou. I have been fascinated by Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos for as long as I can remember, thinking of her as an example of what a woman entrepreneur can accomplish. Her company’s demise makes her all that more fascinating to me. And this book reads like fiction – and is the perfect example of reality being stranger (and more stressful!) than fiction. 

The Next Girl; Her Pretty Bones; and Her Final Hour by Carla Kovach. These three will be my guilty pleasures, crime thrillers that will be hard to put down. 

Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing by George Cloutier. I have been meaning to read this for some time after my husband gave it to me as a reminder that while a company’s mission is everything, profits make the mission possible. 

The Naked Truth by Leslie Morgan. This is our next Book Club book, a memoir of a woman in her 50s who gets divorced and decides to actively date for a year (aka have sex with five guys) to get over her sorrows. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear. My friend Jenny gave me this book as she knows one of my favorites is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I can’t wait to dive into this one! 

Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You’ve Got by Jay Abraham. A Brigadoon-recommended book, these never disappoint. 

Building a Great Business by Ari Weinszweig. Adam Ross, co-founder of Heyday, with whom I enjoy trading book recommendations, said this was the best book he read in 2018. “Unconventional, but awesome,” I believe were his exact words. 

Le Prophète by Khalil Gibran. My sister Cyrille gave me this book (one of her personal favorites) last week. I guess she thought I needed to add something less prosaic than all my business books to my reading list…  

Le Nouveau Féminimse by Barbara Polla. It’s not a Tinos reading list without my Mom’s latest non-fiction… and this one will be quite the controversial read. 

What are you reading this summer? 

Business Books

The Business Books That Make Me Smarter

A couple of months ago, I wrote a blog about the email newsletters that make me smarter. Today, I want to share some of the business books I have read and loved, and learned from.

Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.

An oldie but goodie, this book was published in 1Roger Fisher981 and is almost as old as I am. It is still the best book on negotiations that I have read, I go back to the five propositions on a weekly basis:

  1. “Separate the people from the problem.” (watch out for emotion, make sure the negotiation builds the relationship, instead of destroying it)
  2. “Focus on interests, not positions.” (what are they really asking for?)
  3. “Invent options for mutual gain.” (grow the pie)
  4. “Insist on using objective criteria.” (commit to a real conversation)
  5. “Know your BATNA.” (best alternative to a negotiated agreement)

Love Is The Killer App by Tim Sanders. 

Other than the amazing title (the world needs more love), I return to this book almost daily for the way Sanders suggest we treat others in the workplace. Every day, I try to be a “lovecat.”

How? By sharing my knowledge, my network, and my compassion and love. Because, “Those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from our competitors just as world-class distance runners separate themselves from the rest of the pack trailing behind them.”

Good To Great and Built To Last by Jim Collins.

From Good To Great, I go back to the idea of the bus: get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to drive it. Not necessarily the other way around. “First who, then what.”

From Built to Last, I go back to the acronym BHAG, Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I ask myself, is my BHAG big enough? It is clear and compelling enough?

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.

Duhigg explains habits as cue, routine, reward. He also explains that you can’t stop or extinguish a bad habit, but you can work on the cue and the reward, and thus change the routine, change the habit.

The concept of keystone habits (the habit that makes every other good habit easier) is also eye-opening.  

On that same topic, on my reading list next is Atomic Habits by James Clear.

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

I love lists. But am I using my various lists in the most impactful, efficient manner? This book is about how to create the right checklists, and how to use them to save lives (in hospitals or in the airline industry for example) and make businesses work better. I read it twice, and still feel like I would learn more by reading it a third time.

The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma.

There are so many lessons from this book, I wrote a separate blog post on it after finishing it. It is a reminder to think about our thinking. Indeed, as Sharma puts it, the “one thing that makes us fully human is our ability to think about our thinking.”

Think about your thinking. And read books that help guide, improve, challenge, grow your thinking.

What are your favorite business books?