We compiled a list of our favorite reads to bring you the best professional development books to kickoff 2021. We’re thrilled to finally say goodbye to 2020, and we can’t wait to get this new year started.
Personal growth and professional development keep business professionals from going stagnant. Continued learning ensures you stay up-to-date with industry trends, develop your career, and grow as a human being.
💡 Setting new goals for 2021? Read our list of over 40 professional development goal examples to make the most of the year to come.
Check out our list of books for professional development, as well as some books that help connect personal development with your professional goals. Cheers to a fresh new year! 🥂
Best Professional Development Books
The Infinite Game
By Simon Sinek
The Infinite Game is a Blue Summit favorite! We believe anyone in business, especially those just starting out, should give it a shot. Our CEO Owen Franklin swears by this book, and he sat down with Grace Treutel, our Content Marketing Manager, to discuss The Infinite Game in detail.
A finite game is like a game of chess, for example. It has a designated game board and players, a clear way to win, and firm parameters on how to play. Business, however, is completely different. It’s an infinite game—one that’s ever-changing with many variables, a wide cast of players, and no clear path to victory.
Focusing on arbitrary, short-sighted goals, such as financial benchmarks, in order to “win the game” isn’t a good long-term strategy for a business, and it can lead to unethical practices and rule-bending. Businesses that hope for longevity need to recalibrate to an infinite mindset, one that’s not focused solely on short-term gains. Instead, with a “just cause” at the forefront of decision making, a business can preserve itself through the ups, downs, and the completely unexpected.
When the pandemic hit the Blue Summit bank account hard, Owen maintained our people-centric focus as we weathered the storm. He put all eyes on our “just cause” instead of short-term gains. We could have reduced our customer service or fired all of our freelancers, but then where would we be next year? Instead, we made small compromises together to ensure the longevity of the business.
Remote: Office Not Required
By David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried
At the beginning of 2020, we never would have guessed our tight-knit office would need to learn a whole new way of working. Remote work made headlines as many businesses were forced to work from home, literally overnight. While we all made due and solved problems on the fly, there’s certainly a lot more to learn about remote possibilities.
Remote: Office Not Required comes from the founders of Basecamp. It’s one of the founding bibles on remote work that discusses the challenges of remote work as well as the plentiful benefits. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in working remotely and for businesses looking for an alternative to the traditional workplace.
If... “you can't let your employees work from home out of fear they'll slack off without your supervision, you're a babysitter, not a manager. Remote work is very likely the least of your problems.” - Jason Fried
The duo also wrote Rework, a book with an easy-is-better approach for anyone who’s ever dreamed of doing business on their own terms.
The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick)
By Seth Godin
In The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit, Seth Godin proves that winners are really just the best quitters. Successful people know when to quit and when to keep pushing on.
Every time you begin something, whether it’s a career, business, or hobby, there’s an initial burst of fun before it all gets more difficult—when you feel a dip. For greater success, you need to understand whether that dip is a temporary setback that you can climb out of or if that dip is a total dead end.
Quit fast and often until you find a dip you can truly beat. This book will help you recognize the difference between the two so you can put your energy where it matters most.
How to Win Friends and Influence People
By Dale Carnegie
First published in 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a long time classic that keeps getting better with age. If you’ve read it before, it’s worth a refresher, and if you haven’t, it’s time to pick this one up.
The book holds endless practical advice that’s stood the test of time. It will help you in both your business and personal life by teaching you how to make friends, how to convince people of your way of thinking, and how to change people without inciting resentment. It’s a must-read, no matter what your industry or profession!
Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers
By Dave Gray
Gamestorming is for people who want to work more efficiently, effectively, and creatively. It’s a staple in the design thinking world, with over 80 games for solving problems in brand new ways.
It will help you improve communication, eliminate conflict, and break down barriers. Use this when you get stuck on a big problem or need a new way of looking at something. It’s ideal for people who work in teams, but it will also help individuals generate new ideas, insights, and strategies.
What is Personal Growth and Development, and How Can It Help You Professionally?
Career and personal development go hand in hand. When you grow in your professional life, you’ll be more likely to succeed in your personal life. When you develop on a personal level, those developments transfer professionally. It’s all connected. Personal and professional development are both equally as important to your success, and neither should be neglected.
Personal growth and development can include a number of different learning opportunities. You might pursue a new skill such as playing an instrument, knitting, or kickboxing. While these activities may not directly tie into your professional life, they will help you become a better learner and turn you into a more well-rounded and interesting person.
Personal development for life and work can also include inward reflection, positive thinking, mood management, and self-care. Your quest to become a better person will seep into your professional life, no matter what type of betterment you pursue.
Personal Growth and Development Books
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
By James Clear
Habits are the not-so-secret key to nearly every one of our goals. That’s because habits stick—they’re ingrained in our brains. If you want to lose weight, you need to break down that goal into repeatable habits. You could go for a walk every day, drink 8 glasses of water, or avoid food 4-5 hours before you go to bed. Bad habits die hard, but so do the good ones.
Atomic Habits teaches you how to form good habits and break bad ones. It will provide strategies to help you master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results. No matter what your goals are this year, this book will help you make lasting positive changes to your lifestyle.
Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World
By Cal Newport
Called the Marie Condo of technology, Digital Minimalism helps people focus in a noisy world. Coming from the bestselling author of Deep Work, the book provides timely advice on how to become a digital minimalist.
Newport argues for the urgency of a quiet moment in a tech-saturated world filled with noise. Digital minimalists are able to fall deep in conversation without looking at their phone, get lost in a hobby, and don’t feel the urge to document every experience. They’re people who don’t feel a “fear of missing out” because they are deeply living their own lives.
The book will help you understand what tools to use, for what purposes, and under what conditions to take back control of your technology. It includes guidance on how to complete a thirty-day "digital declutter" process to help you rediscover the pleasures of the offline world.
By Matthew McConaughey
Greenlights is a book packed with life lessons, humor, and words of wisdom. It’s the most fun suggestion on our list, but hey, sometimes we need some feel-good words in our life. The book, written by actor Matthew McConaughey, is his 50-year memoir, packed with whimsy, poetry, and thought-provoking bumper stickers.
It’s a guide to catching more green lights, all those moments in life that say go—progress, success, love, and happiness. And it illuminates that the yellows and reds—the cautionary tales, hiccups, failures, and pain—eventually turn green too.
It’s filled with powerful and zany words to live by like “Sometimes which choice you make is not as important as making a choice and committing to it,” or “Cool stands the test of time. Because cool never tries. It just is.” Plus, if you’re into movies or the entertainment industry, you’ll love the inside look at Hollywood.
Try the audio version to hear it blissfully read straight from McConaughey himself. Alright, alright, alright.
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