5 books to read in 2021

For the second year in a row, I accomplished my goal of reading one book a month (Check out last year’s post, here). Actually, I surpassed that goal. Some books were for pleasure, like Walt Whitman. By far, much of my reading was to gain a better understanding of me. Who is Bo? How can I be a better me for my friends, my family and my team, both current and future? 

With Covid-19 wreaking havoc on everyone’s world, throw in a divorce and a move, and 2020 was as much of a dumpster fire as everyone has been billing it. But with all of that, two similar questions come to mind:

  1. Where is the opportunity?” It’s a question I’ve been asking our clients all year. With every crisis, there is always opportunity to learn and grow.
  2. Where is the gift?” It is a question my coach asks me to keep me grounded and focused on the positive. 

Despite the setbacks of 2020, the books on my list this year have helped me find opportunities and focus on the gifts that have come out of the setbacks of 2020.

As you head into a new year, it’s not too late to ask those same questions of yourself and your credit union. Where is the opportunity for your credit union to grow? What are the gifts you’ve overlooked while putting out the fires of 2020? 

Here are five books I’ve read this year that have had a major impact on me that could turn your world around in 2021.

  1. The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown: In short, The Gifts Of Imperfection teaches how to embrace your inner flaws and accept who you are rather than constantly chasing the image of who you’re trying to be, because other people expect you to act in certain ways. Living an “authentic life” means summoning your courage, compassion, and connection. When you finally choose to be vulnerable with your shame and imperfection, you allow yourself to experience connection and the gifts of imperfection. But the impacts of what you learn and implement from this book goes well beyond you. Being courageous makes the people around us better, too, and the ripple effect is powerful when it compounds. The most compassionate people are the ones with the most boundaries. They use boundaries to hold people accountable, instead of blaming and shaming them. Brown writes, “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life paralysis.” 
  2. Limitless, Jim Kwik: Human potential is one of the only truly infinite resources that exists in the world. The only limits on your creativity, imagination and ability to think are the limits you place on yourself. Those limits are the LIES (limiting ideas entertained) you tell yourself. The lies you’ve heard other people speak to you or about you and the lies you tell yourself to calm your fear. If you’re not currently functioning at your full potential, there are limits in place that must be released. A limit in your mindset (the WHAT) – you have incorrect beliefs, attitudes or assumptions. A limit in your motivation (the WHY) – you lack the drive, purpose or energy to behave in a more limitless manner. A limit in your methods (the HOW) – you were taught incorrect processes that will not generate the results you want. Kwik relates much of his content back to his personal experience, being called the “boy with the broken brain” by his teachers in elementary school. Kwik believed this to be true, until one day he decided not to. He found that to achieve more in life means removing the limits in your mindset, your motivation and the methods you use. Kwik makes you think about what you’re actually capable of achieving when you stop saying “I can’t because…” Now more than ever that’s a great message in a time when a virus a thousand times smaller than a grain of sand has brought whole populations and global economies to a grinding halt, forcing everyone to rethink everything. If ever there were a time to expand our thinking and become limitless, it is now.
  3. Remote, Jason Fried: How ironic. This was one of the first books I kicked the year off with in January as we toyed with the idea of implementing flexible work opportunities for our team, only to find not more than a few weeks later we would be forced into a remote work situation. Remote makes the case as to why offices are (or will be) a thing of the past. It also explains what both companies and employees can do to thrive in an organization that’s spread all across the country and even the globe with people working wherever they choose. What is the one major thing that has kept leaders from implementing remote work? “My employees are slackers,” Fried says. “If you run your ship with the conviction that everyone is a slacker, your employees will put all their ingenuity into proving you right.” Seriously, the obstacle boils down to the one word we discuss over and over again in strategic planning sessions with credit union leaders. What keeps us from making a decision to do something new and uncomfortable? Fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of failure. As much as I miss seeing my team on a daily basis, we’ve sharpened our communication skills and even become more productive as a team by not being in the office every day. Reading Remote prior to being forced into this gave the YMC Leadership team the knowledge to make it a positive experience for our team and our clients.
  4. The Soul of Money, Lynne Twist: If reading Brené Brown wasn’t enough of a gut punch, Lynn Twist finished it off with The Soul of Money. As a credit union marketer and board member, I’ve seen the worst of the worst when it comes to people’s personal financial situations. I also am very aware that through good decisions (not using credit cards and limiting borrowing) coupled with good luck (accidentally becoming a landlord and buying my first office several years ago), I have been gifted sufficiency when it comes to personal finance. However, after reading The Soul of Money, I realized sufficiency can also lead to financial gluttony. Though being blessed financially, I realized through this book that I was experiencing scarcity. A funny thing happens when you have enough. The more you have, the more you think you don’t have. Twist says that at the root of our problem with money is a (false) mindset of scarcity, the belief that everything is in limited supply – not just money, but material goods, time, rest, exercise, power, and love. This mindset isn’t limited to one group of people. It is present in both rich and poor, and leads to competition, mistrust, exploitation, envy and a host of other symptoms, including the idea that ceaseless acquisition is the best way to live. Until we begin to appreciate what we have and value ourselves and others based on inner qualities rather than external factors, we will never have enough. If you get nothing else from this article today, reflect on your relationship with money. Since reading this I have spent time divesting myself of some of the things that I have collected over the years that were distractions. I have vowed to not deprive myself of life’s enjoyments and the fruits of my labor but to also be mindful of not letting stuff drive my decisions and my worth.
  5. The Untethered Soul, Michael Singer: The Untethered Soul describes how you can untie yourself from your ego, harness your inner energy and expand your thinking beyond yourself. If you stop and think about your thoughts, you’ll find you have a constant inner monologue going. It never shuts off. 24/7/365, your inner voice is talking, directing how you see and experience the world. The first step toward an “untethered soul” is realizing this is occurring. Singer says only then can you pause and take a step back to look at what’s happening. One of the most powerful thoughts in this book is that our thoughts don’t define who we are. For example, if you often feel sad, you might start to think you’re just a sad person when actually, these thoughts are nothing more than objects flowing through you. Your inner voice keeps picking them up and starts to believe them. Coming full circle to The Gifts of Imperfection, what you think about yourself in your mind is who you become. “I am a bad leader. I am an introvert. I am….” Fill in your blanks. Why is it so important to be more conscious of what is unconsciously in your head? Because Singer reminds the reader that we are only gifted a limited number of trips around the sun. “Whatever it is you want to do in your life, if it’s worth doing before you die, chances are it’s very much worth doing right now. Don’t wait. This is your only at bat,” he writes. You can’t choose what life throws at you, but you can choose how you react and how you react is a direct correlation of your thoughts. If you can become more aware of your thoughts, you can control how you choose to react.

These books are a few that have made a lasting impact on me and have guided me through a tough year. We’ve all had to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and perhaps you’re like me and had to navigate personal challenges such as divorce or loss of loved ones. I challenge you to look for the gift in your situations, become aware of who you truly are and who you want to be by investing in yourself this coming year. Not only for you, but for your family and your team who need the best version of you.

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald

Bo McDonald is president of Your Marketing Co. A marketing firm that started serving credit unions nearly a decade ago, offering a wide range of services including web design, branding, ... Web: yourmarketing.co Details