2017 In Review: Top 10 Book Suggestions

Reading is a Super Power

I have a love affair with books. I use the term love affair because my habits around them tend to be as chaotic as relationships tend to be. For example, in 2015 I spent a lot of time reading non-fiction, philosophy, and some metaphysics around self-awareness. If you switch over to 2016, you’ll see much more focus on the psychology of execution.

The effect is the same, they changed how I saw the world, sometimes much later than expected.

One thing I’ve recognized is that the effects of such books surface much later than when you read them. A book’s worth is measured by how much it affects your DNA, your perception, and what you think is possible. The books listed here have made a dent, and I recommend them because they might do something for you as well.

Without further ado, Top 10 Book Selections

Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal By Oren Klaff

Power dynamics exist. I think it is important to state that up front because it is comfortable to dismiss this when it is comfortable. “Type A” personalities or those in contact with “type A” need to have a toolset to operate. Pitch Anything gives that person something to work with to start to read a room, and then transform it to help your purposes. Dismiss this at your peril. If there is a nagging part of you that says “I don’t need to use persuasion because I have all the facts,” know that the person that doesn’t have the facts is counting on you keeping the “high ground.” Don’t let the world suffer because of your ego.

Use: power dynamics, negotiation

The Knowledge: A Too Close To True Novel By Steven Pressfield

This book was my first time reading Steven Pressfield fiction, and I am happy to say it is a page-turner just like his nonfiction. The Knowledge is a fictionalization of Pressfield’s life, and inside the margins, you’ll find lessons on understanding “the work,”  the mysticism surrounding the creative process, the power of distraction, your own bullshit and so much more. Creatives heed, this book will help explain some of the strange things that tend to happen when you want to get something done.

Use: understanding yourself, creative process

Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts by Ryan Holiday

Crafting something is hard. Putting it into perspective is even harder. Wanting something “now!” and thinking the rest of the world is ready for it is a trap that we, as makers, continuously fall into when we make things. Ready for an uncomfortable truth? The last thing you’ve made wasn’t ready for primetime, and unless you make some changes in how you work and seek feedback, you won’t grow from it. Ryan Holiday has written something that has shifted my perspective on the process and as a result, improved the quality of what I am working on, project wise. You’ll see the results in 2018.

Use: process, growth

SuperBetter: A Revolutionary Approach to Getting Stronger, Happier, Braver and More Resilient – Powered by the Science of Games By Jane McGonigal, Ph.D

Depression is a part of me, and it has taken almost 30 years of life to acknowledge it. It has been hard to talk about, much less tackle as a part of my personality. That is what makes what Jane McGonigal’s work so important. I’ve never had a book describe tools to help manage anxiety, sadness, and overwhelm in such a fun way. Each of the quests contains methods to use your self to get you better quickly.

Use: self-awareness, depression management

The Chomsky Reader  by Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is known as America’s most cited scholars and isn’t just the father of modern linguistics, but also is a leading voice in history, foreign policy, and politics. This book contains many of his critiques on topics such as the intellectual class, class warfare, crimes perpetrated by America/Western Europe on communities around the world, and many other enlightening topics. He also takes the time to cite everything, giving you the opportunity to refute (if you are curious). This book was an important stepping stone to help me understand the world around me.

Use: foreign policy, social policy

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

Man. The inner critic in my head screams at me all the time. Every mistake, both perceived and real, are used as ammunition in this trial that never ends. This book from Tara Brach is a reminder that this is a journey. We are not judged by each step, or even by where we go. Life is about the experience, and we are striving to be our best selves. I leave this on my shelf to remind me that I and others are doing the best they can, and give my inner critic a break.

Use: inner critic, self-reflection

The Truth: An Uncomfortable Book About Relationships by Neil Strauss

This book is uncomfortable. It lives to the subtitle by investigating love, intimacy, and sex in a raw, well-written way. As part autobiography and part therapy session, Neil Strauss lets you into many worlds, including sex parties, harems, and even sex addict therapy. Even more interestingly though, he talks about himself, his relationships, and his growth. Strauss bares all, and in it got me thinking about the relationships in my life much more proactively while helping me drop my judgments on how people express themselves sexually. A tall order and he delivers.

Use: Relationships, sexuality

Product Management in Practice: A Real-World Guide to the Key Connective Role of the 21st Century  by Matt Lemay

This year has been my first year being an official “product manager.” As a product strategist, I’ve had to learn how to do almost everything that a product manager does, on the fly. To assist that, I’ve read a bunch of books on the subject, while calling on my experience as a founder and mainframe architect. Matt Lemay has written the only book that I feel accurately captures the day to day I experience, along with the decisions I have to make. If you want to be a product, and wonder what it is like, read this.

Use: Product management, strategy, decision making

Against Interpretation and Other Essays by Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag is known as one of America’s greatest essayists. This compilation will show you why. She has a fiery point of view and writes courageously about the arts, white / male supremacy, and life itself. I made a goal to implement more gender diversity in my reading in 2017, and like the book that I started this year with, this opened my eyes to a well written, clear, honest view of the world that made me feel uncomfortable and as a result, helped me grow. Pick it up.

Use: perspective, art, excellent critique

Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t: Why That Is And What You Can Do About It  by Steven Pressfield

Ha! Twice in one year. I’ve loved what I’ve read from Steven Pressfield this year, and this short, impactful, compelling book is no different. Here, he talks about his career, ranging from being an ad man to picking apples in California (yes, seriously) and puts together lessons he learned to write something some wants to read. It is a reminder that the arc of a career is long, and every piece of your journey informs another. If you are just starting, please believe no one wants to read, listen, see, or anything else with your shit, but if you stay uncomfortable and dedicated, one day someone will. This book helps you know that.

Use: Process, journey, creating

My Bookshelf System – a Forcing Function to Help Me Prioritize

My bookshelf creates priorities

I love to read.

In the few years, I’ve come into contact with close to 200 books.

No, that doesn’t mean read (I am not a robot). It means that I need bookshelves :-).

Books are physical objects. They take up space. If you aren’t careful, they can take over your residence.

That jibes against my minimalist tendencies.

So I’ve developed a system to keep my books relevant and help me prioritize:

  • One bookshelf holds new books(50) – I can’t buy new books unless they fit here. This amount stops me from going too far ahead and creating a system of despair (“There is no way I can read allllllllllllll these books”)
  • One bookshelf holds books I can keep(50) – I can’t hang on to books unless they are relevant and I reference them often. This shelf is full. Now, I have to give something away if it doesn’t fit.(“I have too many books.“)

This simple system forces me to prioritize and is an exercise to build the skill of prioritization.

2016 in Review: Eleven Book Recommendations

At the end of the year, I take the time to reflect. This post, and the others like it, are my lessons for 2016. My hope is by reading them; you get a sense of what my overall lessons were. My hope is by writing them; I’ll have a place to archive my memories. In the future, they are quickly sorted and filed when someone looks for insight.

Reading is fundamental

I used to laugh at that slogan, “reading is fundamental.” It always ended with me saying “fundamental for what?”

It took me years to get serious with my reading habit. Now, I read over 60 books a year. Reading made my life better.

I like to end the year clarifying my favorite books of the year. If you don’t read regularly, start. Pick one of these books.

Must reads

  • A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.– Sometimes one bright spot can blind us to other great work. The “I Have A Dream” speech may have propelled Dr. King into our country’s heart. However, the bright lights of inspiration blind us from the practical. This book contains selected sermons, speeches, and essays that lay out Dr. King’s platform, much of which is still relevant today. Read this a little at a time and consume it. It’s a masters class on how to make your point in the face of adversity and a great history lesson to boot.
  • Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger, 3rd Edition – How often do you think about how to think? One of the tenets of leadership is “direction.”  You use a map to give direction.  In building a plan, it is important to think about the tools you use.  Seeking Wisdom is an excellent primer for that, as Peter Bevelin takes great effort to distil several tools great thinkers have used, from Charles Darwin to Charlie Munger, to do that. This is an expensive book (cost me $50.00 or so) and worth every penny.
  • Finite & Infinite Games – We play two types of games, finite and infinite. Finite games are winnable; the infinite game is not. The infinite game affects us much more than finite ones. However, we can catch ourselves bowing to finite games. We often give too much power to the smaller things in life, and let them affect the big picture. This is a great book to help you set perspective and add some play in your life.
  • Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World – All work is not created equal. As much as we like to use time as a barometer, it fools us. Cal Newport gives you a recipe to help create the circumstances where getting a ton of stuff done is the “norm.” Why is this practical? Professor Newport used these tools to become a tenured professor at 34(extremely young) while writing and speaking all over the world.  He also shuts off his computer every night at 5:30 PM.
  • Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders– The secret to leadership is your vulnerability, all things equal. If you need proof, I’ll suggest this book, where the author, David Marquet, takes on the “worst” submarine and makes it the “best” in a short period. Give respect, responsibility, and agency to the people around you, and often their success will far outweigh the risk.
  • Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition – The key to fixing problems is to ask the right questions. This book from Jay Abraham gives you the tools to keep asking the right questions. This is my genius book, because every time I go into it and use the solutions, it makes me look like a genius. Seriously, the book is that good.

Nice to haves

What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s Always Your Turn) – Seth Godin gives you a tome to help you execute. This book is beautiful and full of relevant information on performing.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future – Think big, do the work and risk it all. This book can inspire you to take action on the ideas worth doing.

80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More – Eliminate. Always eliminate. The Pareto principle helps you work on the things that matter.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life – Love yourself. The only way you are going to get to yourself is if you listen.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Pixar opens to the books to give a blueprint for consistent success.

Delegating vs. Holistic Delegating – Lessons From September

Holistic delegation is a meta-skill

When I started unpacking the concept of regular delegation this month, I thought that I would write about just the act of giving someone something to do.

That is regular delegation.

Simple enough. However, there is more than that.

Great leaders recognize the action around the transaction as well. That regular delegation pales to “holistic delegation,” which is delegating which considers all other concerns.

Even before you give someone something to do, there are things to consider:

These questions sound like a lot of work, and they are. That’s why the focus is always important. Doing high leverage work is your leadership balance. Everything else has to fall to the side to even attempt holistic delegation.

Holistic delegating is a meta-skill. The good news is, leveling up any one of those things makes the rest doable.

So, get some coffee.

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@GaryVee Led Me To Snapchat and I Realized Something

My natural inclination was to stay away for social media

For most of my life, I thought social media apps were time sinks (or wastes of time), where when I engaged, I felt like I didn’t connect with my greatest moments. Even worse, the social media stuff was boring.

If you look at my Instagram before 2016, it’s horrific. There is a ton of emptiness, and the pictures that do exist are a horrible snap shot of my life. It is a mix of me trying “artistic” shots and wondering why the app existed – and then it becomes nothing.

If you looked at my other social media outlets, it’s more of the same. There is no consistency, there is no story. In fact, instead of me reaching out and trying to connect, most of my posts are me being someone I am not.

Another part of the Dayjob

A photo posted by Adam Thomas (@thehonorableat) on


What does this even mean?

Changes…Changes…

In 2014, I read Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World, and I got introduced to Gary Vaynerchuk. At first, I thought, what a loud brash guy, but he was a Jets fan.

 I thought I understood the book, but it took almost a year for it to snap into focus.

What I didn’t see is that social is about connection. The apps don’t exist to show off my life, they are there to allow connection at scale.

But I still didn’t get this yet. It took some time, and I had to get obsessed.

So what did I do

Of course I went all in, signed up for his YouTube, and got into his other keynotes, mining for information.

I heard him talking about Snapchat, and raving about it. So like most people, I went ahead and gave it a spin.

I found it boring.

I realized the boring came because most people are awful at it.

All sunshine and rainbows

People use “the snap” for things that are better suited for other networks.

I don’t think Snapchat is for that. The value add that comes from Snapchat is impromptu connection.

It is connection, through the randomness of life. It is learning through doing. Snapchat wins for the content creator because it gives us a view on what you do, honestly, in bite sized chunks. The shortness of the snap, the chance that you might miss it, having double opt ins, all mean that you have to want the material, and you have to digest it.

This is the greatest move in gaining attention in the moment.

The best people I see using the service do so in a candid way. You put a piece of yourself out there, and it opens the door for honest conversation. It’s why when you answer a snap, you find the conversation going in a million places.  You get more from adding and getting than you do from subtracting and synthesising.

So, if you want a service that builds on you talking about your day, about connecting with important work, about getting to know people, Snapchat is your deal. It is a place for real insight.

Find me there , @thehonorableAT, and be ready for a message. I love interacting, and talking back 🙂