3 Books With Key Lessons for Business (and life in general)

During the past three years, I’ve read a number of books around motivation and self-development. I was at a place in my life where I was in desperate need of finding the reason I was placed on this earth. I was on a mission, a soul-search. I needed clarity on my life and purpose. I’ve put together a list of books with powerful life lessons in them. These lessons can apply to business, and life in general.

Lesson 1: We were all born with innate gifts. Use them.

The book: Instinct: The Power to Unleash Your Inborn Drive by T.D. Jakes

Personal application: When I tell you this book spoke to me – it spoke. to. me. T.D. Jakes might as well have added, “for Jennifer Vassel” on the dedication page – that’s how much I was able to connect. He talks about the power of using our natural gifts, and tapping into our instinctual talents. We are so used to measuring up to someone else’s standards of what they think we should be and do. It’s easy to lose sight of the gifts that lay dormant within, but the truth is, true fulfillment comes when you’re fully aware of your intrinsic values.

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Business application: Have you ever met someone who was in a profession or service that didn't fall in line with their gifts? Like, you could tell they were in business just to collect a paycheck, but had no deeper connection or why to the profession/service? If there is a misalignment between your gifts and your business, it makes it difficult to authenticate your brand and gain people's trust. Zeroing in on what you're naturally good at will help build your brand's credibility.

Lesson 2: Recognize the areas in your life that are self-limiting and self-sabotaging.

The book: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

Personal application: One of the agreements in this book says, "Don't take anything personally." If someone gave me a dollar whenever I internalized what others have said to me or about me, I'd probably be a billionaire right now. This agreement was probably the toughest for me to practice because I'm sensitive by nature. I've realized that not everything is a personal attack, but that:

Others are going to have their own opinion according to their belief system, so nothing they think about [you] is really about [you], but it is about them.

So that aunt who always tells you you're gaining/losing a lot of weight might be battling her own demons around self-image. Or that co-worker who gives you a backhanded compliment might be on edge because his job may be eliminated. The point is that people's perception of you are based on their own perspectives - we cannot burden ourselves with the negative mind-talk and emotions. It really isn't about us.

Business application: Another agreement says, "Be Impeccable With Your Word." What do you think would happen to your business if you said you were going to do something, but you never followed through? You could probably guess that you wouldn't be in business much longer. As a business owner, you want to build your credibility by having integrity - that's a great way to earn your customers' respect. When you're in the business of serving, it's good to under-promise and over-deliver. That way, you're able to manage realistic expectations of your brand and your audience's needs.

Lesson 3: There’s power in numbers and your network.

The book: Click: Ten Truths for Building Extraordinary Relationships by George C. Fraser

Personal application: I had the pleasure of meeting George Fraser back in 2013, and I bought a signed copy of this book. I learned there's power in numbers - I'm not saying quantity over quality - I'm saying there is power in synergy. I've been guilty of saying things like, "I don't need anyone, I can do it on my own." But the truth is, we are relational beings and we all need someone. Building strong relationships and working with each other for a common goal is more impactful than doing things in silos. It's easy to break a finger. It isn't easy to break a fist.

Business application: Impressions are everything - both in your personal and professional life. When you're building your network, you want to make a good lasting impression. Some people cringe when they hear the word, "networking," and that could be because they've experienced some of the biggest mistakes to make when networking. Here's 4 of them:

1.  Networking for personal gain, instead of creating mutual benefits

2. Poor first impression (no personal intro, no business cards, poor body language)

3. Not spending enough time cultivating, nurturing, and building relationships

4. Not following up

Building your tribe through effective networking can have rewarding benefits. Take Tonya Rapley of My Fab Finance for example - she landed the cover of Black Enterprise magazine because of someone in her network.

Do you feel as if you don’t have time to read like you used to? Another alternative is purchasing the audiobook version of print books, if available. Listening to audiobooks is a great way to soak in valuable information. If you’re a commuter like me, why not make your drive-time more productive?

What are some books you've read/are reading that is applicable to business and your personal life?