11 Books That Will Make You More Creative and Influential

I know kung fu.”

In the 1999 science fiction action movie The Matrix, Neo (literally) connects his brain to the internet and downloads knowledge directly to his mind—learning new skills and information in seconds.

While we can’t acquire knowledge like Neo, we CAN do the next best thing…

Read. 📚

The 2010s gave us a lot to be thankful for: Game of Thrones, Harlem Shake memes, the Serial podcast, and the following selection of 11 books that will make you more creative and influential.

(Short on time? Skip to the end for the recap.)

Before we start…

  • All books were released in the 2010s.
  • The list is chronological in order of release date.
  • All touch on aspects of creativity, creative problem solving and leadership.
  • All are non-fiction and many of them fall into professional development, self-help, or business genres.

Here we go!

The Icarus Deception

Author: Seth Godin

Release Date: 12/31/2012

Takeaway: Aim higher. In Greek mythology, Icarus was told not to fly too close to the sun. But flying too low is equally perilous. Cut to present. The safety zone has moved. Creativity is more scarce and valuable than ever. To thrive, think of your work as a form of art and channel your creativity into it. Set your sights higher. Coasting on autopilot is just too dangerous.

David and Goliath

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Release Date: October 1, 2013

Takeaway: Your disadvantages can become your advantages (and vice versa). This is because, as the underdog, “…the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” On the flip side, we often overestimate the frontrunners because “the same qualities that give them strength are often the sources of great weakness.”

Leaders Eat Last

Author: Simon Sinek

Release Date: January 7, 2014

Takeaway: Keep the circle of psychological safety strong. In the circle, team members work together to do their best work because they feel appreciated, welcomed, and supported. If psychological threats like shaming, isolation, and derision, enter the circle and affect team members, individuals switch from collaboration to self-preservation. Squash this by keeping the circle of safety strong. 👊

Extreme Ownership

Author: Jocko Willink & Leif Babin

Release Date: October 19, 2015

Takeaway: There are no bad teams, only bad leaders. True leaders take full ownership of their teams’ results. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership, and operating with a high degree of humility, are integral to any successful team. But the ego can get in the way of taking ownership and we end up blaming others. This book was first recommended to me by the Co-Founder of SalesFirst Recruiting, Adam Morris, on episode #4 of my podcast Real iDeal Radio. He recommended it to me, and now I’m recommending it to you.


Author: Adam Grant

Release Date: February 2, 2016

Takeaway: To boost creativity, triple the number of ideas you generate. In every field, says Grant, even the most renowned creators produce large volumes of work considered average by experts and audiences. Meanwhile, Upworthy, a company that promotes viral content, has a rule that you need to generate at least 25 headlines to strike gold because “once you start getting desperate, you start thinking outside the box.”

Never Split the Difference

Author: Chris Voss

Release Date: May 17, 2016

Takeaway: Ask more calibrated questions. These are open-ended questions that remove aggression, buy you time, and give your counterpart the illusion of control. Questions like “What do you hope to achieve by ________?” and “How am I supposed to do that?” and “What are we trying to accomplish here?” This helps you avoid a “showdown” (yes I can vs. no you can’t) by asking questions that let your counterpart solve their own problems. In other words, they help you transform confrontational showdowns into joint problem-solving sessions.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*CK

Author: Mark Manson

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Takeaway: To be happy, solve your favorite problems. Life will throw us more problems than we can handle, so don’t try to solve them all. True happiness occurs only when we find the problems we enjoy having and enjoy solving. As we mature, we stop caring about the small stuff in favor of what is truly worthy of our time: friends, family, purpose…and tacos. 🌮🌮🌮 (OK, I added that part about the tacos.)

They Ask You Answer

Author: Marcus Sheridan

Release Date: June 26, 2017

Takeaway: Build authority by answering questions. To position your brand as the go-to thought leader in the industry, do this: First, make a list of the top 100 questions your customers ask. Then, write and publish 100 blog posts to answer them. I love this because it’s so simple and actionable.

Building a Story Brand

Author: Donald Miller

Release Date: October 10, 2017

Takeaway: Your brand is the guide and your customer is the hero. A common mistake marketers make is positioning the brand as the hero. But where does that leave the customer? To sharpen a memorable brand message that resonates with your customers, tell them a story about a hero that solves a problem with the help of a guide. You are the guide. Your customer is the hero.

Dare to Lead

Author: Brené Brown

Release Date: October 9, 2018

Takeaway: Clarify expectations with color and context. Brown calls this ‘painting done.’ Vulnerable and brave leaders hold themselves accountable for adding texture and meaning to work. So, when delegating tasks, give the details; explain exactly what you need and when and how you need it. This technique sets your team up for success because it opens a dialogue that can uncover issues you’re not considering.

Everything is Figureoutable

Author: Marie Forleo

Release Date: September 10, 2019

Takeaway: Start before you are ready. Don’t wait for conditions to be perfect (they never will be). Start now and figure it out. Fast track learning and growth by running towards projects that take you outside your comfort zone. I also like Forleo’s suggestion to ask two questions often: “How can this help me?” and “What else can I learn from this?” These questions hold open the door of opportunity even (especially) during moments of skepticism.


And there you have it!

Eleven of my favorite books from the 2010s that will make you more creative and influential.

  1. Aim higher.
  2. Your disadvantages can become your advantages (and vice versa).
  3. Keep the circle of psychological safety strong.
  4. There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.
  5. To boost creativity, triple the number of ideas you generate.
  6. Ask more calibrated questions.
  7. To be happy, solve your favorite problems.
  8. Build authority by answering questions.
  9. You are the guide and your customer is the hero.
  10. Clarify expectations with color and context.
  11. Start before you are ready.

I’m currently reading…

  • Leadership is Language by L. David Marquet.

How about you?

Send me your book recommendation!


Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash

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