“The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss
Decide to buy a black BMW and it suddenly appears left and right. It’s driving down the freeway. It’s parked at the grocery store. It’s idling at the stoplight.
The same applies to your profession. Decide to be a big success in your career and you’ll begin to notice:
- Inspiring, influential blogs and vlogs to learn from
- Meetups and networking events in or near your city
- Colleagues introducing you to other professionals
- Career opportunities unfolding before you
Seek and you shall find.
GrowthX Academy runs cohorts of students through 12-week immersion programs. They cover professions like UX design, sales and business development, and marketing. As a mentor and guest lecturer, I occasionally visit the academy and meet with the students.
During a recent visit, I noticed a bookcase at the back of the classroom. It was filled with powerful titles.
“There are so many answers on the bookcase behind you,” I told the class. “Let’s just riff.” And with that, my prepared presentation was scrapped.
I grabbed a stack of books and a Pink Floyd-branded coffee mug from the shelves. The students and I explored the value each title could lend to their studies, their careers, and their lives.
This is what we covered.
The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
Listen to the 1973 album here
Whether in UX design, sales, or marketing, YOU need to become a master storyteller. String together a narrative that connects dots for your stakeholders (colleagues, customers, partners, and prospects).
Engineer a vision of the promised land and then lead stakeholders to it. If this exercise is difficult for you, just “Breathe (In the Air)”.
- The best UX designers keep visitors at their site by capturing attention and inspiring action. Read Bill Widmer’s article, The Fundamentals of Storytelling in UX.
- The best salespeople share “what happens next” in the process; from who must get involved, to why time is critical, to the expected return on investment. Acquaint yourself with different sales methodologies like Solution Selling and its 9 Block Vision Processing Model.
- The best marketers live and breathe storytelling. Download slides from Gary Vaynerchuk on Storytelling in 2014.
The First 90 Days – Michael D. Watkins
Get the book here
A mistake most new hires make is to wait. They wait to hear instructions. They wait for guidance. They wait to see if they joined the right team. They wait for information about the company they just joined (vs. the marketplace they must serve).
Jim Rohn said, “If you rest too long, the weeds take the garden.” Stop waiting. Go! Take initiative. Get to work.
You were hired for a reason – to bring value to the organization and make it better because you’re there.
The First 90 Days introduces “The Breakeven Point”. New hires reach it when they transform from consumers of value to contributors of value.
Employees who don’t reach The Breakeven Point aren’t around long
Employers must invest in providing a structured onboarding program or risk heavy turnover. New hires who experience solid onboarding programs are 58% more likely to stay with their company more than three years.
It’s a two-way street, though.
- The best UX designers accelerate their own learning. Consider the Interaction Design Foundation and its tips for improving your game.
- The best salespeople win early and win often. They quickly identify low-hanging fruit and are resourceful in uncovering opportunities. Learn from Mark Leslie and his Sales Learning Curve.
- The best marketers match strategy to situation. There are several ways to generate leads, illustrate an organization’s standards, and shape the team’s image. Read how Engagio approaches Account Based Marketing.
The Sales Development Playbook – Trish Bertuzzi
Get the book here
Sales development is an integral function of building prosperous businesses. By qualifying (and disqualifying) prospects and suspects, these teams fuel the rocket ship.
The Sales Development Playbook dives into six core elements of revenue acceleration with sales development. It guides leaders to 1) drive a repeatable, viable revenue pipeline, and 2) develop a strong, scaleable people pipeline.
These six elements bolster revenue acceleration
What does your playbook contain? How is your rocket ship fueled? What is your strategy for success?
- The best UX designers craft ideas in wireframe. Soon, their concept takes shape and becomes real. Peruse the UX Playbook (GitBook) or download the GE UX Playbook for ideas.
- The best salespeople begin with the end in mind. They see themselves reaching the desired outcome, and go from A to B, not A to Z, to ensure the win. Read 10 Sales Leadership Lessons from Mark Roberge (especially #3).
- The best marketers also fuel the rocket ship. Their finely-tuned campaigns, relevant interactions, and optimized demand generation efforts increase conversion rates. None of this is done without a crisp visual or plan. Download The SiriusDecisions Demand Waterfall®.
The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande
Buy the book here
Intensive care patients undergo an average of 178 tasks during their hospital visit. Too much can go wrong if fundamental steps are missed. Doctors and nurses mitigate the risks by using checklists.
The Checklist Manifesto underscores the importance of writing down and publishing essential procedures to run your operation.
The late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden kept checklists on everything – from running an efficient practice, to sizing up opposing teams, to developing player-coach relationships.
What do your checklists look like –
for preventing mistakes, mitigating risk, or mastering your craft?
There’s “a lot to get right” as an organization scales (or reaches scale). Pinpoint the steps required to sustain your business.
Basics are missed when miscommunicated, misinterpreted, or not communicated at all.
- The best UX designers constantly keep lists. Check out these UX checklists (via uxdesign.cc) and the UX Project Checklist (GitHub).
- The best salespeople know deals can get squirly. Each stage of the cycle requires specific actions, otherwise deals push or slip altogether. Adhere to a selling methodology. Download these PDF summaries of The Challenger Sale, SPIN Selling, ValueSelling, Miller-Heiman, Sandler Training, Solution Selling, and so many others.
- The best marketers efficiently manage several moving parts (branding, demand generation, product and field marketing, to name a few). Consider this comprehensive priorities checklist for marketers.
Good to Great – Jim Collins
Buy the book here
How can you not love this title? You have ridiculous potential to reach greatness in your career. You bring a unique gift or strength to your school, family, organization, and the world.
Steve Prefontaine once said, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” If you’re a writer, we want to read your articles, posts, and books. A smooth presenter? Let’s see you speak at the next conference. A natural leader? Tell us where to donate to your cause or meet your team.
Great doesn’t just happen. You must build sweat equity throughout your career. Climb from Level 1 (a Highly Capable Individual) to Level 5 (an Executive).
On what level will we find you?
In this book, Jim and his researchers define great companies as ones with disciplined people, thought, and action.
Shape (or, for some of you, re-shape) your habits. Elevate your game through discipline. Get the work done and then share what you’ve learned with others. Become great.
Caterpillars develop into butterflies over time. They evolve from the “chrysalis phase” (say it with a lisp to lighten-up your mood) to take on their new form. This does not happen overnight. Neither does going from good to great.
What phase of evolution are you in?
- The best UX designers see the world through users’ eyes. They break down the user experience into bite-sized chunks and optimize the value of each “chunk.” Watch Rand Fishkin spit game every week on Whiteboard Friday.
- The best salespeople embrace the grind. They aim to create the next viable opportunity, then the next, and so on. Watch Neil Patel and Tai Lopez discuss how to execute from one thing to the next.
- The best marketers turn the right dials to move the needle. They do it step by step. Speaking of Neil Patel, read this comprehensive article on how simple it is to build an online marketing machine.
The 10X Rule – Grant Cardone
Buy the book here
Grant Cardone reminds us that success is our “duty, obligation, and responsibility.” He says the 10X Rule is “based on understanding how much effort and thought are required to get anything done successfully.”
Each chapter of this book finishes with an exercise. You see, what you say you’ll do and what you do are often different. The exercises prevent that from happening.
Grant uses chapter titles such as:
- Criticism is a Sign of Success
- The Myth of Time Management
- Competition is for Sissies
- Obsession Isn’t a Disease; It’s a Gift
- Average is a Failing Formula
- Go “All In” and Overcommit
- Expand – Never Contract
You sell yourself short. Your limited beliefs stunt your growth and the value you could add to the marketplace. You also underestimate what’s required to level up (or win altogether).
The 10X Rule reframes your mindset and opens the aperture of your perspective.
Step it up. Stop giving us (and yourself) excuses. We are waiting to see and learn from all you have to offer.
Think and act WAY bigger than you do today, plain and simple. Design your life.
- The best UX designers help users think and act big. They see beyond what the user will (and does) experience. Read Rosie Allabarton’s The UX Design Process: An Actionable Guide to Your First Job in UX.
- The best salespeople have already read this book! In fact, they’ve taken things a step further and also use the 10X Planner. Watch Grant Cardone explain the 10X Planner.
- The best marketers embrace omnipresence. CMOs like Deborah Wahl (McDonald’s), Kelly Bennett (Netflix), Greg Hoffman (NIKE), Julia Goldin (LEGO), and others weave their company’s brand into everyday life. Take note of their methods. Follow the most influential CMOs on the planet.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni
Buy the book here
There’s a big difference between being on a team and being a team. Teams are as strong as their weakest link. It’s vital, then, to have your teammates’ backs as they have yours.
Patrick Lencioni is an expert on teamwork. He’s authored close to a dozen books on leadership, collaboration, and approach.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team examines the required framework for codifying a unified front in the workplace. It applies to all business units.
You can’t win if you don’t keep score.
How good is your team in these areas?
Ponder these questions:
Who are your stakeholders? How well do you contribute to the interlock of your team? How consistent is the cadence of one-on-ones, team meetings, all-hands calls, leadership retreats, or team-building exercises?
How does your organization prioritize employee engagement? Are you and your colleagues recognized for your results and hard work? Leaders, are your teams aware of the mission and the role they play in acquiring the target? How do you hold them accountable?
What’s measured is managed. Assess each of the five dysfunctions on their own. Reconcile your own performance relative to each dysfunction.
Improve yourself without worrying about others. When you change for the better, everything (and mostly everyone) will change, too.
- The best UX designers evolve their teams fast. They make a collective effort to deliver consistent, inspiring,informative experiences for users. Learn about The 5 Key Elements for a Thriving UX Design Team.
- The best salespeople know teamwork makes the dream work. Watch Navy SEAL David Rutherford explain the Team Life Missions.
- The best marketers create marketers out of everyone in the company. Aspire to build The Ultimate Marketing Machine, explained via Harvard Business Review.
Thinkertoys – Michael Michalko
Buy the book here
Master strategist Sun Tzu once wrote, “Order of disorder depends upon organization.” Master philosopher Confucius once said to “set things in order before there is confusion.”
We all face confusing problems at work:
- UX teams regularly deal with unrealistic requirements – from user testing, to color palettes, to test environments, to engineering-to-UX ratios
- Salespeople navigate a web of issues – from thorough discovery to helping frame scopes of work to accurately forecasting to negotiating and closing
- Marketers are on the hook for generating viable traffic and leads, managing the website(s), and driving a strong brand in the marketplace
Adding structure to the chaos first requires an organization of thoughts. This book aids in reframing your thoughts, assumptions, and judgements. It enables you to view problems from different angles and elevations.
“Thinkertoys” are creative-thinking techniques to awaken ideas and change the way you think. Thinkertoys is a handbook filled with these techniques.
You don’t see things as they are; you see things as you are. The same applies to problems.
Consider the popular Magic Eye® 3D pieces of the early 90’s. Crisp images reveal themselves once you relax and look through the image. The next time you’re faced with a problem, see all of its facets, and look through it to see potential solutions.
Can you see the teacup? Stereogram by Magic Eye, Inc.
The first step to solving problems and setting order is to get clear. Recalibrate how you respond to problems and address issues like a leader.
- The best UX designers hack away at the unessential. They create space and flow. Read 7 Design Principles, Inspired by Zen Wisdom and Designers Solve Problems by Building Interfaces.
- The best salespeople solve critical business issues for their prospects. Here are Eight Ways to Turn Reps into Creative Thinkers, written by the author of Thinkertoys himself.
- The best marketers look for context to solve problems. They ask thought-provoking, action-oriented questions to arrive at root cause. Learn what the American Marketing Association (AMA) calls The 7 Big Problems in Marketing.
Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk
Buy the book here
“You’d watch the cartoons and not have to pay a dime. But when the movie or new action figure or toy came out, you went and paid for that. Cartoons were the jabs that pulled you in so you would then pay for the movie or toy.”
The subtitle is plain as day – tell a story! No matter the situation, too many professionals struggle to string together a narrative.
Stories capture audiences.
- Recruit and hire great candidates. Tell the story of how your company started and arrived to where it is today. Share how your offering smashed critical business issues into little pieces. Get people talking about why they work for you and are proud to represent your organization.
- Land the ideal gig. Demonstrate to viable employers how you continue to go the extra mile, balancing school, work, and life. Point hiring managers to the work you’ve produced and the communities you’ve impacted.
- Increase your customer base. Ask customers to explain how their business has grown from working with you, your offering, and your firm. Earn the right to publish compelling testimonials, case studies, and net promoter scores.
- Establish conversation flow on the phone or in person. Ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions. Build by starting with a problem or conflict, add a “but then…,” and finish with a resolution.
- Listen to Pink Floyd records. Remember reading about concept albums at the start of this article? After hearing The Dark Side of the Moon, listen to Wish You Were Here, then Animals, then The Wall, and then The Final Cut. Nearly 1,000,000 Pink Floyd catalog albums are sold and each year, worldwide.
Back to the book. Your stories will resonate on social media when they’re native to the medium’s platform. Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube are each unique; so craft posts with color, context, and language unique to the platform.
Transfer this approach to your profession and market. What value are we getting from you, time and time again? What is it you want from us? Have you earned the right to ask or do you feel entitled, since you’ve given so much?
- The best UX designers LISTEN to customers. Read these answers on how designers get feedback and validation.
One wonders if the users were heard
- The best salespeople know their audience and craft perfect social media posts. Study The Ultimate Guide to Branding Yourself on Social Media. Read How to Craft the Perfect Post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- The best marketers are remarkable. They Understand the Psychology of Social Networks and use Creative Ways to Use Social Media for Storytelling.
Leaders are Readers
It was a fun visit. We covered the books (no pun intended) + arriving at a point in your career where you don’t need a resume + how to optimize the GrowthX Academy experience.
Books contain most of the answers, but so do your experiences. Share what you’re learning so that others can benefit.
Excited to visit the next groups of cohorts.