June 25, 2023

Rachel Strella

13 Books Shaping 13 Years of Personal and Professional Growth


I've always had an appreciation for personal and professional growth, and there's something magical about immersing myself in books. Over the years, I've ventured into countless literary worlds, stumbling upon some that transformed the course of my life and career while others left me feeling a little underwhelmed.

To commemorate my 13-year journey in business, I've taken it upon myself to curate a special collection of 13 books. These books represent the rollercoaster of influential — and sometimes disappointing — experiences I've encountered along the way. As you dive into my list, you'll discover the titles, the brilliant minds behind them, my assessment of each book’s effectiveness, and most importantly, their impact on my personal and professional growth. 

13 Books: Their Impact and My Recommendations to Readers

1) Fundamentally Different by David Friedman 

This is one of the most practical books I’ve read on how to implement core values throughout an organization. In the book, Friedman breaks down each value into action statements tied to a specific behavior. The behaviors are called “Fundamentals.” He encourages readers to assign a Fundamental to one team member each week and task that person with instilling it across the organization. We do this at #Strella and have found it’s a great way to foster ownership within a company.

My recommendation: Read it!

2) Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This book dives into the principles and mindset necessary for achieving financial success and personal fulfillment. Hill presents a roadmap for transforming thoughts into tangible riches using the Law of Attraction. I read the book earlier in my entrepreneurial journey and even founded a mastermind group based on its principles. While I didn’t “grow rich” immediately, I developed a mindset essential to embarking on that next step.

My recommendation: Read it! 

3) Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss

This book also requires a shift in mindset, and it has been the most impactful read for me when it comes to embracing life's challenges and finding true happiness. The author shares a compelling anecdote from two decades ago about when an old VW bus accidentally scraped his newly acquired car. The distressed bus driver, lacking the means to cover the damage, appeared even more distraught upon seeing the author. Surprisingly, Prentiss approached him and remarked, "Perfect. That's just what my car needed." The author decided not to repair the car's damage, using it as a perpetual reminder that the world is inherently perfect. It symbolized his belief that the universe does not make mistakes. I re-read this book at least once a year. 

My recommendation: Read it!

4) Who Not How by Dan Sullivan

Prepare to have your perspective flipped upside down by this book. It challenges the way we typically approach our work, urging us to shift our question from "How can we achieve this?" to "Who can help me achieve this?" By focusing on the "who" instead of the "how," we unlock a world of possibilities. It's a seemingly simple concept, yet it demands a profound change in mindset. Do you notice a pattern emerging here? 🙂 Whenever I encounter a daunting task, I take a moment to pause and ask myself, "Who, not how?" This shift in thinking has become my secret weapon in tackling challenges head-on.

My recommendation: Read it!

5) Traction by Gino Wickman

This was the most transformative business book I have ever read. Through introducing the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), Wickman presents a practical framework that empowers businesses to clarify their vision and achieve concrete outcomes. I read this book during a critical period, between the sixth and seventh year of my business. Shortly after its implementation, my revenue doubled. The six principles outlined in the book proved to be the defining catalyst behind this success. We continue to use the EOS as our business model. 

My recommendation: Read it!

6) The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss 

Ferriss disrupts conventional work and lifestyle norms by offering strategies to break free from the monotonous 9-to-5 routine, adopt automation and outsourcing, and forge a life of freedom and fulfillment. I came across this book during my early business endeavors. Although its principles resonated with me, I lacked the financial means to fully embrace its concepts. In fact, I believe it would be challenging for any start-up to pursue this as a viable business strategy. Today, I feel closer to achieving its ideals, but I recognize the challenges of implementing its advice on process optimization and productivity maximization in the constantly evolving realm of social media. 

My recommendation: Maybe read it.

7) The Barefoot Executive by Carrie Wilkerson

Filled with practicality and refreshing honesty, this book is a must for every budding entrepreneur. Wilkerson lays it all out, stating, "The truth is, being an entrepreneur is tough. It's stressful." She peels back the glamorous facade many associate with working for yourself. In reality, the weight of responsibility falls entirely on our shoulders. Wilkerson's words ring true, resonating with the challenges we face. Among the wealth of advice she offers, one gem shines brightly: instead of blindly pursuing our passions, she urges us to first find a path to profitability. Only then can we passionately pursue our dreams. The starving artist routine simply won't cut it in this realm of entrepreneurship.

My recommendation: Maybe read it.

8) Essentialism by Greg McKeown

McKeown challenges the notion of "doing it all" and instead encourages readers to focus on what truly matters. He introduces the concept of essentialism, emphasizing the importance of discerning between what is truly essential and what is merely trivial. The examples he shares throughout the book offer valuable context, which makes it easy to grasp the principles and apply them to our personal and professional lives. My favorite is “edit.” 

My recommendation: Read it!

9) Effortless by Greg McKeown

I became a fan of McKeown’s work after reading “Essentialism” and couldn’t wait for “Effortless” to release. This book explores a similar concept of making life and work easier by focusing on what truly matters. He offers strategies for prioritizing essential tasks, eliminating unnecessary complexity, and achieving more with less effort. I particularly like the passage where he advises readers to look at any seemingly complex task and ask, “What if this were easy?” It encourages us to reconsider how we approach projects. 

My recommendation: Read it!

10) Same Side Selling by Ian Altman and Jack Quarles

“Same Side Selling” takes a different approach to sales. Rather than Always Be Closing (ABC), they emphasize Find Impact Together (FIT), which puts the buyer and the seller on the same side to create mutually beneficial outcomes. I love this book because it eliminates the typical slimy sales tactics and replaces them with meaningful, collaborative conversations. I especially like what they call “One Hundred Pennies of Trust.” The concept is that a prospect comes to you with 100 “pennies of trust” to allocate for your services. It’s a finite resource, so you must figure out where (which products or services) those pennies of trust should be spent.

My recommendation: Read it!

11) The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

Through humorous and blunt language, Mason challenges conventional wisdom and encourages readers to prioritize what truly matters in life. He encourages readers to let go of unimportant things, set realistic expectations, and find meaning by choosing what truly deserves their attention and care. A huge takeaway for me (especially as a writer) is to employ the formula “Action, Motivation, Inspiration” when I don’t feel inspired to start a project. That may seem counterintuitive, but it works because it builds momentum. Just take action! Motivation and inspiration will follow. 

My recommendation: Read it!

12) The Content Code by Mark Schaefer

This book is my content marketing Bible — and not just because I’m quoted in it! 😉 Schaefer introduces the concept of “Content Shock,” meaning the amount of content available to consumers (blog posts, articles, videos, etc.) surpasses their ability to consume it. Although written nearly a decade ago, Schaefer’s assessment remains incredibly accurate. He emphasizes that creating exceptional content is merely the beginning; marketers must also have a strategic plan for distributing and promoting content and setting their brand apart from the competition. It's fascinating to see how Schaefer now extends "Content Shock" to encompass ChatGPT and other AI platforms, displaying true insight into the evolving landscape.

My recommendation: Read it!

13) The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

Gerber argues that many entrepreneurs fail because they overlook the essential skills and systems required to run a successful business. He defines three distinct roles and how balancing them is crucial for achieving sustainable success. When I read this book, I literally couldn’t put it down — until I got about three-quarters of the way through it. While I agree with the need for systems and processes, he introduces the concept of the "franchise prototype," which involves creating a business model that can be easily replicated and scaled. However, this does not align with #Strella's aspirations. In my perspective, any McSocial business runs the risk of losing the human element that is central to sustainability. (I actually burnt this book!)

My Recommendation: Maybe read it.

What Will The Future Hold?

These 13 books have played a significant role in my personal and professional development over the years. From practical guides like "Fundamentally Different" and "Traction" to mindset-shifting reads like "Think and Grow Rich" and "Zen and the Art of Happiness," these books have offered valuable insights and strategies. Everybody’s journey is different. This curated collection represents a diverse range of ideas and experiences that have shaped my growth as a person and business professional. As I continue my self-development journey, I look forward to the books that await me in the years ahead!

What professional or personal development books would you recommend (or not recommend) reading? 

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4 comments on “13 Books Shaping 13 Years of Personal and Professional Growth”

  1. Rachel, these are excellent recommendations, especially "Think and Grow Rich", I have the book and a CD series from the book. I have also liked "The Untethered Soul" by Michael A. Singer, "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu and "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius.

    1. I have heard a lot of good things about "The Art of War." I will have to check that out!

      Thanks for reading and for taking the time to respond!

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