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Stimulate Your Thinking


Sometimes we get stuck thinking one way when we need to find new patterns around us. Without a "cognitive poke", we become victims of our own limited perceptions. These are some of The Headhunter's favorite stimulants.

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The Power of Now
by Eckhart Tolle
(New World Library, 2004)
I'm not big on New Age-type books. Rehashed philosophy is cheap and usually worthless. But I was pleasantly surprised when I picked up this book at the local Borders store -- it was on the "Recommended by Employees" list. Tolle doesn't preach. His writing is simple and clear. And he teaches a simple concept that underlies Eastern religions: If you can learn to focus on who and where you are right now, you will relax and do your best thinking and your best work. Sorry if that sounds mushy. I read short sections of this book almost every day, and Tolle reminds me how to be myself rather than who others expect me to be. A very good partner to this book is The Enlightened Mind, below. Order this book.

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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
by Robert Pirsig
(Harper Torch, 2006)
This is the only book about quality you need to read. It will change the way you think about your work, and about what value means.
I wish I'd read this book in high school, like my friends did. But I'm also glad I didn't, because my brain was not mature enough to handle it. Now it's on my top-ten list: a must-read. Pirsig approaches philosophy with a neophyte's enthusiasm and sense of discovery. I never really understood what this book is about -- and now I realize there is no way to describe it. Except maybe to say, everything we know is wrong, and Pirsig helps us understand why -- and what to do about it. Yah, big words. But, when you consider that our view of the world was defined by Aristotle long, long ago, and we've been stuck -- and screwed up -- as a result, then this book provides some important hope. Everything we know is wrong, and that's good, because now we can do something about it. Go ahead: I dare you. Read this book. Then come tell me I'm nuts. Order this book.

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Never Eat Alone
by Keith Ferrazzi
(Currency Doubleday, 2005)
Nah, you're not going to get as good at networking as Keith Ferrazzi, who has established a new class of guru in the universe of inside contacts. You won't even like some of his methods. But no matter. There's wisdom in this book that no one should ignore. In a world where technology lets you "connect" with a zillion other members of "online social networks", Ferrazzi reminds us that flesh and blood is the be-all and end-all of life. Who you know matters, and who knows you probably matters more. It ain't the "nodes" in the network. It's the people and the relationships. Real people. Real relationships. If you can't sit down and break bread with a real person, then you have no real relationship, and the joke's on you. Having friends takes a lot of time and a lot of love. Order this book.

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Authentic Happiness
by Martin E. P. Seligman
(The Free Press, 2004)
Tired of fretting over how you got to be frustrated, unhappy, and unmotivated? Maybe it's not you, but the "rotten-to-the-core doctrine" that's widely accepted in the religious and secular world. Martin Seligman, whose Learned Optimism I also highly recommend, says our lives are  screwed up because our culture is focused on "fixing what's wrong with us". Seligman takes a different view, which is largely ignored: Happiness comes from building strength and virtue in our lives. Seligman's book is based on solid psychological research -- a field in which he's a respected leader. This ain't your mother's Dr. Phil. This is science made usable by an expert who leavens hard data with common sense and examples that will make you breathe a sigh of relief. Half of successful job hunting is knowing who you are and what you want. Unless that knowledge is based on your strengths and virtues, you'll never find the job you deserve. Order this book.

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The Enlightened Mind,
edited by Stephen Mitchell
(Harperperennial Library, 1993)
You needn't be religious to enjoy and appreciate the far-reaching ideas in this book. Very short chapters, great to read at bedtime or breakfast. These ideas have served as the foundation of much of mankind's culture and thinking for -- dare I say it? -- millennia. From the Upanishads of the 5th century B.C.E., through the Chinese Taoists, Muslims, Greeks and Albert Einstein, you'll find the perspectives that conventional religion has forgotten it arose from. These guys were more radical than you'll believe. Get radical. Order this book.

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Wisdom for a Young CEO,
by Douglas Barry
(Running Press, 2004)
This book has been quickly criticized as a collection of platitudes gathered by a kid from CEOs of major corporations. That's the nose-in-the-air reaction of jaded pundits who are missing the point. Barry was just 14 when he wrote to CEOs, asking advice on how to become one himself. And boy, did they respond. Yes, the advice might seem obvious and trite. But read this book carefully. I don't give a rat's batootie what the critics say. Nowhere else will you find the common threads of wisdom that invoke hard work, perseverance, and self-motivation as the rulers of personal success. If you're preparing for a job interview, you could read ten of those dopey books about "how to answer 2,000 tough interview questions", or you could read the minds of 100 key hiring managers by reading this book. Kudos to Barry. This book is a great idea. I always giggle when I'm reminded how simple real wisdom really is.  Order this book.

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Accidental Genius: Revolutionize your thinking through private writing,
by Mark Levy
(Berrett-Koehler, 2000)
Buried in your mind is a way of thinking that breaks all the rules, while exploiting all your inner genius. Sound kind of new-age? It's not. Mark Levy bases his "private writing" method for finding your own genius-within on the little-known work of some of the world's greatest educators, scientists, and business people. All you need is a desk, a pencil, and some paper. Your mind will do the rest. Heck, what have you got one for, anyway? Put it to work. Order this book.

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Six Degrees: The science of a connected age,
by Duncan J. Watts
(W.W. Norton, 2003)
Think you know anything about networking and meeting people to promote your interests (and career)? So did I, until I read Watts' book. It turns out we can learn a lot about networking with people by understanding the effects of other kinds of networks on epidemics, mathematics, terrorist organizations, and stock market madness. Watts has applied his Ph.D. in mathematics to sociology, and he has produced a readable book on a topic that we all need to know more about. Try this: Where in your network are the people who are most likely to introduce you to your next boss? Trust me: you'll be as surprised as I was at the answer. Order this book.

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Management of the Absurd,
by Richard Farson

(Simon & Schuster, 1997)
Need to solve a problem? After you read this book, you will realize that there are no solutions, because there are no problems, and there are no right or wrong ways to do anything. Sorry if that sounds like a new-age cop-out, but it's not. I agree with Farson that only by recognizing the paradoxes in our work and our lives can we cope with them. Business (and much of life) does not lend itself to being "fixed". Order this book.

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The Magic of Thinking Big,
by David J. Schwartz

(Fireside, 1987)
This is an oldie-but-goodie. I picked up my copy at a used-book sale because the title was so bold. Guess what? So are the ideas. Originally written in 1959, it's interesting to see ideas that are beaten to death in today's self-help books presented clearly, simply, and without great commercial fanfare. Schwartz's message is hidden in the title: we usually fail because we think too "small". Order this book.

The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work, by Richard Leider
(Berrett-Koehler, 1997)
Everyone knows I'm not a fan of career counseling. I put Richard Leider a cut above the career quacks -- he offers real insight into what makes people happy at their work. He bases this book on research he has done over 20 years. Having heard Leider speak, I can tell you his perspective on "purpose in our work" is both profound and useful. Besides, I'm a big believer in the idea that if you aren't doing what you love to do, you'll soon be out looking for yet another new job. Order this book.

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A Whack on The Side of The Head:
How you can be more creative,
by Roger Von Oech

(Business Plus, 2008)
The title says it all. Von Oech was one of the first creativity consultants, and this book is a classic. You can't apply The Headhunter's methods until you figure out how to bend, shape and use them in your own unique ways. Von Oech's book will help you out of your linear thinking rut. Order this book.

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When All You've Ever Wanted Isn't Enough, by Harold Kushner
(Pocket Books, 1987)
Success often breeds questions like, Why am I doing this? and Why am I so bored? Rabbi Kushner's book isn't one of those formulaic "feel-good" guides. It's a compassionate discussion about how to alter your perspective on life. Imagine sitting on a park bench, having a comforting talk with a wise man who knows more than you do. If the title gets your attention, you need to read the book. Order this book.

 

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