1. Last Man Standing by Duff McDonald
More than a business book, this is a leadership book. It's the story of Jamie Dimon, CEO & Chairman of JP Morgan Chase, chronicling his rise from being Sandy Weil's partner in building the giant Citigroup, being fired by his mentor, making an amazing comeback, and in many ways helping stabilize the financial situation in America (and the world).
Some key lessons:
The importance of preparing for succession - Sandy Weil was legendary. He had built the biggest financial institution in the world, Citigroup, but his ego, his inability to let go, and prepare a brash, intense, but hard working and highly talented Jamie Dimon, prevented him from having the "best banker" as his successor. That also cost his company billions on losses while JP Morgan, under Dimon's leadership, stood out.
Principles are a solid foundation - The book described Dimon as a highly principled individual who made principled, sometimes unpopular, but ultimately defining choices that put him in a better spot than most when things got tough.
2. Permission Marketing by Seth Godin
This, at least to me, is Seth Godin's best book. It's an old book but still very relevant. It's a classic.
It's still about trust - With so many products being offered, so many causes being promoted, so many faiths, so many movements, so many choices, and options, and variations, how does one stand out? By earning trust. It's a slow process but it's the one that brings results.
3. Satisfaction by Chris Denove and JD Power IV
I'm reading this again. This time with a highlighter. This book talks about meeting expectations - not your expectations - but the expectations your customers.
Taken from the foreword: " Good is not good enough when better is expected."
I realized this when I had made a short payment to my creditor bank. No matter how much I explained the situation, no matter how rosy my projections of tomorrow, no matter how hard I had worked, and it didn't matter that I had given them all I had - it didn't matter - I had paid short. I had missed expectations. This was quickly solved when I was somehow able to give the full amount.
And it's the same way with our customers, audience, staff, followers, members, whatever, if we promote a certain standard, we create certain expectations, and it's our duty to meet these expectations.
4. The End of Christianity by William A. Dembski
Thought provoking book written by a very intelligent writer, mathematician, and theologian all rolled into one. I'm not too big a fan of self-help (or God-help?) Christian books that mostly like to talk about how "I" can be successful, or how "I" will become great, or how "I" will become rich, or other ways for the "I" to rise up. As if the point of Christianity is "ME" and that having no problems, no worries, and no shortages are a sign of being blessed. Living in the real world, with so much poverty, so much disease, and hurt, and brokenness, I am reminded over and over agan that there are problems, I do worry, and I do lack - BUT I'm still blessed not because "I" can rise up but because greater is He that is in me. And this is what I like about this book. It takes me back to God's greatness and the greatness of His plan, which is more than meeting our worldly standard of what a good life is, but really the end (result) of Christianity is "the radical realignment of our thinking so that we see God's goodness in creation despite the distorting effects of sin in our hearts and evil in the world."
5. Viral Loop by Adam L. Penenberg
Another old book but still worth reading, Viral Loop tells stories of the growth of some of the most amazing innovations today including Facebook and Twitter. The book talks about the word "viral" a lot or the idea of a virus that almost seems to spread itself, reinforcing itself in networks and creating positive feedback loops, and the end result is an explosion.
It starts with a great product - No matter how great your infrastructure for a virally implemented strategy, if you don't have a compelling product, as judged by your customers, not you, you'll never have a successful viral loop.
The common denominator: TRUST
Whether you're selling a product, raising funds for a foundation, or for yourself, or selling a home or insurance, or a car, or a clothes, or mentoring, or teaching, or preaching, or whatever, what you're doing is you're building or breaking trust. And we can find the best excuse, even valid ones, but at the end of the day we don't decide whether we deserve someone's trust, they do. If people aren't buying our brands, or products, or services, or teaching, or ideas, it only means we haven't earned their trust enough OR what we're offering isn't trustworthy.
My dad likes to say that TRUST is the foundation of relationship. And it's important that we have a trust-worthy foundation. The financial world crashed on credit trouble. The word credit comes from the word credere or "to believe". The financial world crashed because people stopped believing. They stopped trusting in the system and a lot of the wealth was revealed for what it was: vapor.
Churches become irrelevant because people stop believing - usually not in God right away, but in the representation of His people.
When people stop believing - stop trusting - the show starts to end. Sadly, sometimes it's an unbreakable trust barrier that keeps us from some of the most rewarding things. Such as a broken relationship with a spouse or a parent, or even with God.
The good news is trust can be earned, and if lost, it can be regained (though it's more difficult). But there's an element of time in trust, so the earlier you start building the better off you'll be.