Radio is noise. If you’re serious about growing your mind on the go, audiobooks are the answer. We burn countless hours driving, exercising, and working around the house. So everyone has time to leverage the power of audiobooks. I made the case for “Multithreading Your Commute” in my 2014 audiobook list and in my Becoming an Outlier course on Pluralsight.
The audiobooks below changed my life. These aren’t necessarily new, but they’re the best content I found in 2015.
Disclaimer: I get a small payment if you purchase through the Amazon links below. That said, I recommend checking out audiobooks from your public library for free!
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
The first quote in “Essentialism” sums it up: “The wisdom of life exists in the elimination of non-essentials.” This book hit me hard. It reinforced my philosophy of improving effectiveness by cutting noise.
The non-essentialist thinks “how can I do it all?” The essentialist asks “what do I want to go big on?”
Essentialism is not merely a one-dimensional, “do one thing” message. McKeown points out the power and importance of unstructured play, sleep, and routine, while outlining a mental framework for discerning “the trivial many, from the essential few.” This is the single-most powerful book on this list. Why?
It’s only after you stop saying yes to everyone that you can fully contribute to the things in life that matter most to you.
Antifragile by Nasim Taleb
I enjoy books by Taleb because he changes the way people see the world. “Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder” explores the concept of fragility. Taleb warns of “fragilelistas”: People who try to take the unpredictable world and make it more predictable, but create unintended consequences.
This book opened my eyes to the fragility of many seemingly powerful people. Polititians and executives are actually quite fragile. Why? They must carefully choose their behaviors and words at all times or risk losing their standing forever.
In contrast, people like Kanye West are antifragile. Why? What could he honestly do or say that would hurt his record sales? He actually benefits from adversity and bad press.
Anything organic like the human body is antifragile — it actually benefits from variety, change, and challenge. That’s precisely why we lift weights and run.
“Antifragile” will change the way you see risk and opportunity so that you can structure your life in a way that leverages volatility instead of avoiding it.
The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
We think we know what needs to be done. We think we’ll remember. But our memories are faulty. “The Checklist Manifesto” explores the power of working through checklists and the contexts when they’re essential. Gawande tells the story of how checklists have transformed health care and saved countless lives in the process.
This book has improved my public speaking as I now rely on checklists for 90 days, 1 day, and the moments before a talk. This assures the long list of details I have to juggle actually get considered for each event. Checklists aren’t a panacea and don’t apply everywhere, but the Checklist Manifesto makes it clear: if it must happen, memory is not enough.
Mindset by Carol Dweck
“I’m lousy at math. I have bad handwriting. I’m no artist.” We all struggle with a fixed mindset in certain areas of our lives. In “Mindset The New Psychology of Success”, Dweck explores how the stories we tell ourselves create artificial limits on our abilities and our future. This book is an optimistic story of hope for anyone who wants to radically improve. The implications of embracing a growth mindset are vast. It will change everything from the way you interact with your kids (stop saying “you’re so smart”), to the way you view your professional and personal opportunities. Mindset is a wake up call to reconsider your options:
Early performance tells you nothing about someone’s ultimate ability to be extremely successful.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
Sure, this book doesn’t seem to fit in the rest, but trust me, it’s a wonderful listen. Steve actually narrates his story. It’s a fascinating testament to the power of continual practice, despite years of struggles with feeling like an imposter, copying others, and finding his own voice. Steve’s story is a wild ride that goes from performing in completely empty rooms to filling 45,000 seat auditoriums. “Born Standing Up” is a testament to the power of consistently showing up, yet a sober warning to the costs of becoming an outlier.
2015 was the year of mindfulness and meditation. It seems everyone is talking about it. In 10% Happier, Dan’s unique and revealing story will pull you in. This short video shows his panic attack on live television.
Dan provides a fascinating look behind the scenes of the news industry while discussing how his very public meltdown on live TV led him to radically change his life. I admired his open skepticism to the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, as well as his openness about what parts worked, and what parts are worth ignoring. If you’ve never tried meditation, this is an honest and secular take on the merits.
To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink
I’ve been a fan of Pink’s writing ever since “Drive”, and this audiobook, narrated by the author will sell you on a simple point: We are all in sales. We’re all selling our ideas. To our peers. To our family. To our bosses.
Since we’re all in “the moving business” as Dan calls it, we might as well learn how to get better.
“To Sell is Human” provides insights on what changes people (positivity, ambiversion) and what doesn’t (power, and mere information). He offers six new pitches for the 21st century, and the tactics aren’t what you’d expect. Active questions, rhyming, and concise pitches are effective and subtle approaches in this new age of information asymmetry.