Inspiration

Learnit CEO's Top 10 Books in 2020

2020 has been a year like none other in our lifetime - Books have had a significant impact on my ability to stay positive and resilient

Learnit CEO's Top 10 Books in 2020
Damon Lembi
February 20, 2021
Learnit CEO's Top 10 Books in 2020

2020 has been a year like none other in our lifetime. I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have my wonderful family, friends, and incredible Learnit team members as support during these trying times. Beyond those mentioned above, I have to say books have had a significant impact on my ability to stay positive and resilient through all the chaos. When the pandemic hit I pivoted my approach to reading and put an emphasis on learning more around “leading during crisis” as well as the challenges surrounding us as a country. I hope you find value in my top books of 2020 and wish for you to stay safe and positive. We will make it through this!

Range

I really connected with the message in Range. As I was fortunate to have played Division 1 college baseball, parents throughout the years have asked me to recommend a path for their children to become great baseball players. My response has always been, “Encourage them to participate in as many different sports activities as possible. Let them sample for themselves what they want to do and don’t force something on them.” Too often I see kids play a single sport (or instrument for that matter) and nothing else. Range dispels that myth.

David Epstein presents great examples of how important it is to think broadly, fail often, and have diverse perspectives. Wonderful book.

The Nickel Boys

The book is based on a real school in Florida that closed in 2011. This powerful story set in the 1960s during Jim Crow follows the lives of two young boys and the horrible injustices and racism experienced at their school. Very well written and a timely read.

The Splendid and the Vile

Winston Churchill has always been one of my favorite historical leaders. I read The Splendid and the Vile at the very beginning of the pandemic, and it helped put into perspective how we aren’t alone in dealing with “once in a lifetime” international crises. This perfectly timed book chronicles Churchill’s leadership and the courageous efforts of the people of England to pull together and survive “The Blitz.” The author tells the story as if you are there and I couldn’t put it down once I started.

The Accidental President

The Accidental President is the first book I read about Harry S. Truman. This fast-paced book tells the story of an ordinary man who was thrust into one of the most challenging and turbulent 120-day periods in history—stepping in as president after FDR’s sudden death, the founding of the United Nations, liberating the concentration camps, the Nazi surrender, fire bombings in Japan and the atomic bomb. It would be hard to find an individual who had to lead and make so many irreversible decisions in a 4-month period.

This book helped me gain a tremendous amount of respect for President Truman, and one of my goals in 2021 is to take on the mammoth 1,120-page Truman by David McCullough.

Leadership in Turbulent Times

Amazing book! Leadership in Turbulent Times follows the lives of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Lyndon B. Johnson. The author does a great job showing how individuals can develop into leaders, dispelling the myth of “being born a leader.”

Everyone should read this book, from people who are curious about some of the central figures in American history to inspiring leaders who want to gain confidence to face adversity in times of uncertainty. You won’t go wrong with investing the time to read this one.

Writing My Wrongs

I first came across Shaka Senghor when I read this article. I have always been a big fan of the underdog and love stories of redemption. Mr. Senghor tells us the story of his violent childhood in Detroit at the height of the crack pandemic in the 1980s, the crime that landed him in jail and his ability to overcome all of this adversity (with the help of some unlikely supporters) to become a bestselling author/speaker and champion for prison reform.

Great book for leaders at all levels with insights you can leverage for anything from company culture to community engagement. Writing My Wrongs. I want to see this turned into a documentary.

Vision Driven Leader

With so much uncertainty in the world as a business leader you may ask yourself, “Is it even possible to have a company vision with all the chaos around us?” Michael Hyatt would argue that now it is even more important to have a company vision, and Vision Driven Leader is literally a road map on how to develop and implement one. The book is an easy read and full of great stories, tools and resources.

If you have spent an hour with me discussing leadership at any point in the past 3 years you wouldn’t have escaped without the name “Michael Hyatt” entering the conversation. I am a huge fan of his work and a member of the MH Business Accelerator community. Vision Driven Leader and Free to Focus are my two favorite books from his collection of work.

The Art of Pricing

I have always been fascinated with pricing and came across this great HBR podcast which led me to read The Art of Pricing and eventually connect with Rafi directly. Beyond our mutual love of live concerts, Rafi has helped open my eyes to understanding how there are “hidden profits” in any organization by very simply and quickly adjusting your pricing models. I have recommended Rafi and his book to every business leader I have come across who has pricing influence in their organization.

How to Lead

How to Lead is a wonderful collection of conversations David Rubenstein has had over the years with standout leaders in six categories. It provides an insightful look at leadership principles from Jeff Bezos, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Oprah, and many more. This book wins the award of the most dog-eared and highlighted of all the books I read this year.  So many amazing insights all curated in this one book. I enjoyed and learned from all of them; two of my favorites were Jamie Dimon and George W. Bush.

Fanatical Prospecting & New Sales Simplified

Okay, this is a “two for one.” When the pandemic hit I knew it would have a tremendous impact on our Learnit sales efforts. I just wasn’t exactly sure how at the time. On a morning walk in early July, I listened to a great podcast by Pat Lencioni – Plant Your Friggin Tree – and it inspired me, instead of freezing in the midst of uncertainty, to pivot and leverage this opportunity to hire a completely new remote sales team, and that’s exactly what we did. Learnit recruited and onboarded 5 brand new sales reps in early August.

In my opinion, there is absolutely no other way to successfully onboard successful new sales reps without integrating the thought leadership of Jeb Blount and Mike Weinberg into the onboarding process. These books provide the required fundamental skills everyone in the field of sales will benefit from. I reread both books for probably the fourth time each; they got me pumped up for this new journey and we set up internal book clubs along with additional training on-demand content from both authors that I have had the great fortune to get to know personally. I am confident the new hires are on the right path and supported with the tools they need to be successful in 2021.

I hope you enjoyed my list of “Top 10 Books of 2020,” and I am always excited to receive book recommendations.