In last month’s column, the first five books on the list were discussed. Those tomes covered the subjects of finance, happiness, networking, reading body language and achieving goals. The final five follow.
6. “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins:
If one were to peruse the many lists of executives’ favorite business books, this one would rank rather highly. It is a popular publication that, as the title suggests, focuses on why some companies become elite, while others remain stuck in the netherworld of average performers. “Greatness” is defined as financial performance several multiples better than the market average over a sustained period. Collins and his team performed a massive amount of research that included reading thousands of articles and publications and conducting numerous interviews. As such, the book is much more than the opinion of a consultant—it is backed by in-depth study.
Among the findings were not just the obvious importance of leadership, but also an analysis of the traits that separate great leaders from mediocre ones. The book also examines the delicate balance of cultivating entrepreneurship, while maintaining discipline throughout an organization. Although “Good to Great” is geared toward leaders, such as CEOs and managing partners, the lessons are of significant value to a lawyer who has management responsibility, whether it is a general counsel, a department head, or an attorney who has developed a practice team.
7. “Ultra-Prevention: The Six-Week Plan That Will Make You Healthy for Life,” by Mark Hyman and Mark Liponis:
The studies that support the thesis that staying in shape, eating a healthy diet and maintaining balance have a profoundly positive impact on one’s life started as a trickle and now have become a torrent. Interestingly, the newest wave of such reports also reveal that exercise, good nutrition and stress management (particularly through means such as meditation) boosts the brainpower of those people and makes them more creative and facile.
I would be stunned if there is a lawyer who has not heard, hundreds of times, that the practice of law is a marathon and not a sprint. The reason for this is that the maxim has merit, although I would tweak it a bit to note that the modern practice is more of a lifetime series of sprints, but the principle holds true. If one wants to not only stay in the race, but excel, then it is vital to keep your body and mind in peak shape.
Although it would take days on end to wade through all the books that address this topic, my favorite is this one. Even though it is not as groundbreaking as it was when first released in 2003, Hyman and Liponis, who were co-medical directors at the time at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, offer still-relevant advice and reasoned perspective. The authors lay out a program that is designed to repair your body and keep it healthy through nutrition and other techniques. The success of this book has spawned other “Ultra” books by each author, but this one remains the standard-bearer.
8. “Presenting to Win: The Art of Telling Your Story,” by Jerry Weissman:
The element of persuasion underlies the practice and business of law. This could entail making a pitch for new business, an associate marshaling his or her argument as to why a partner should follow a specific course of action, a GC trying to convince a board of the importance of resolving a potentially crippling piece of litigation, or even a partner advocating to a compensation committee as to why he or she deserves more money (not that this ever occurs). Successful lawyers know that simply providing facts, figures and a recitation of what legal precedent may be do not cut it—making the case is often the crucial element.
“Presenting to Win” is an invaluable tool. As one may expect, the book covers all the essentials relating to presentations, such as organization, creating better visuals, more effectively using the ubiquitous PowerPoint and many other related aspects. In fact, for those who speak at seminars or make presentations of any type, Weissman’s follow-up book, “The Power Presenter,” lays out invaluable tips on cadence, physical gestures and all the little things that make one a top-flight presenter. The two books fit very well together.
The reason why this book makes it on the list, though, goes far beyond providing tips for becoming a better public presenter. In my opinion, the most valuable advice is Weissman’s admonition that one should focus on “what’s in it for you” (his self-categorized WIIFY moniker). The author stresses the importance of tailoring your presentation in a way that addresses what others want; if that can be done, it often enables you to get where you need to be. This point, of course, extends far beyond presentations and, if mastered, is of inestimable value.
9. “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie:
This is one of the all-time classics, not with respect to its literary might but because of the lessons it imparts. If one needed proof of that, consider that it was first published in 1936 and still ranks among Amazon’s top 100 selling books. The reason why the book has remained popular is that, despite having some antiquated references, the advice is timeless.
Carnegie believed that 15 percent of financial success was related to professional knowledge, with the balance driven by relationship-related elements such as communication, leadership and the ability to arouse enthusiasm in others. The author covers a range of important topics, such as “how to make people like you,” “how to win people to your way of thinking,” and how to change others “without giving offense or arousing resentment.” If you are the rare person who needs no advice on those topics, then this book is not for you; for the rest of us, it is a valuable read.
10. “Essential Writings,” by Thich Nhat Hanh:
Hanh is a Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, poet and peace activist. He has written more than 100 books; this one serves as a “best of,” as it contains passages from his other tomes. The author does not try to proselytize in any way—he takes all forms of religion and spirituality into account. Hahn’s focus is on mindfulness and how being in the moment can have such a positive impact in our lives.
The book is a collection of short stories (each one of which has meaning and purpose), poetry and insights. Reading the book is like putting salve on a wounded soul and, quite simply, will make you feel good. We all know that the practice of law is demanding and can take quite a toll; periodically picking this book up to read a chapter or two will restore balance and perspective.
Frank Michael D’Amore is the founder of Attorney Career Catalysts, http://www.attycareers.com, a Pennsylvania-based legal recruiting and consulting firm that focuses on law firm mergers and partner placements. He is a former partner in an Am Law 200 firm, general counsel in privately held and publicly traded companies, and vice president of business development. He can be reached at email@example.com.