Top 10 Book List 2020 (to read in 2021)

2020 Changed us. 

We learned to care.

We learned that we all deserve to be surrounded by people who care.

We learned that those who care the most always prove it with words and actions.

In 2020 we learned to TRUST. We learned to trust each other and most of all, we learned to trust ourselves.

2020 Changed things.

We think differently.

We see things differently.

We experience things differently.

Because of 2020 we are less materialistic.

Because of 2020 we are relationship oriented.

Because of 2020 we spend more time in nature.

Because of 2020 we are more focused on health and wellness.

Because of 2020 we all care more. 

We care about each other. We care about what we produce and consume. We care about truth and we care about growth.

The more we care, the more we do.

To truly care about someone it includes both emotional and the physical. Caring is when you are physically and emotionally invested. One without the other could be sympathy, or empathy, or even compassion. But to truly care we must emotionally connect and physically do. As we do, we show care. But we must do the right things, we must become the right person. That comes through personal growth.

One way to show you care is by growing. There are many ways to drive personal growth. None are better than doing. Reading though is a close second. As we read we can learn what to do, we can learn how to do it, and that then can help us get the courage to do.

As we read more, we will grow more, which helps us care more. 

Reading helps us fight distraction. Reading helps us prioritize our thoughts and focus on what is real and relevant. Some say to kill your TV, you don’t have to. Just one hour more reading a week can change your life.

Every year I say I am going to slow down. I say that I am not going to read 100 books. Every year my addiction takes over and I read over 100 books.

The best part though is at the end. Each year I reflect on what I have read and then think about the people I know and the people I am close to. Then I put together a list of the books I think everyone should read. These might not be the most popular, or even new, but they are always new to me. These are the books that impacted me and caused me to think in new ways. They helped me overcome problems, helped me help others, or helped do things better. These books have given me valuable insights, support, and ideas. Hopefully, they will help you too.

Last year’s list was pretty powerful. 2020’s might be better.

Here are the TOP 10 Books everyone should read in 2021:

  1. Your Stories Don’t Define You by Sarah Elkins
  2. The Art of Caring Leadership by Heather Younger
  3. Leading the Workforce of the Future by Brigette Hyacinth
  4. Who Not How By Dan Sullivan & Benjamin Hardy
  5. The Inspirational Leader by Gifford Thomas
  6. Together by Vivek Murthy
  7. The Man Who Solved the Market by Gregory Zuckerman
  8. The Vision Code by Oleg Konavalov
  9. The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
  10. Mr. Monkey and Me by MIke Smerklo

Honorable Mention (should also be in the TOP 10) :

How The Best Leaders Grow Even Better Leaders

Some dreams don’t come true, at least not as initially dreamed.

While I wasn’t forced, it sure felt like it. I never wanted to be (dirty word coming…) a “salesperson”.

After graduating from college, I was accepted into the Teach For America Program and assigned to an East St. Louis High School. Due to family considerations, it didn’t work out and I took a sales job.

I was horrible. Working hard only gets you so far.

Eventually, I accepted my current fate and decided if I was going to be “in sales” for a while I might as well become the best I possibly can. So, I started to read. I read everything I could. I read over 50 sales books that the first year, and more than 350 sales books in total since. (most are garbage, by the way, don’t read them)

The biggest lesson I learned is that selling is just another form of leadership.

By and by I learned that true sales is only about helping others get what they want and need.

Thinking about others more than yourself.

I loved helping people, and while I still hate “sales”, I love selling. I love helping people, serving and leading. Books and conversations and daily practice are what got me to this breakthrough.

The second biggest lesson I learned is that in order to truly do something well, you have to have the knowledge and then take action. With the right knowledge and massive action, eventually the actions you take will turn into proper action and your impact will be meaningful.

The best leaders read the best books.

“Reading is still the main way that I both learn new things and test my understanding.” – Bill Gates

If he thinks reading is important, we probably should too.

The saying, “leaders are readers” is very true. I have never personally met a great leader who does not work hard to: 1st – understand their team, 2nd – serve them, and 3rd – read to expand their knowledge.

These are 6 books that have had a massive impact on me this year.  They are filled with powerful stories, unique ideas, and timeless wisdom. By contemplating deeply on what you read and then taking positive action you can become a better version of yourself – someone who leads others.

Here are 6 Powerful Books:

The Power of Positive LeadershipJon Gordon

The best leaders know how to practice empathy and encourage others. The best leaders inspire greatness. They lead with positivity.

This book is packed with breakthrough ideas, true principles and important methods for every leader to become better and help more people.

Your legacy is actually built by those who follow after you. Leaders must do more than be positive, they must get rid of the negative.

Questions Are The AnswerHal Gregersen

If you think you know all the answers, you have already lost. In order drive breakthroughs you need ask bigger questions, risk being wrong, and get used to discomfort.

The second and third questions, the deeper follow-up questions are where you find the answers that create innovation, build trust, and drive performance in others and yourself.

The better we become at asking questions, the more problems we can solve. The true benefit of questions is found when we become adept at asking them of ourselves.

Our personal identity and freedom come when we ask ourselves the most meaningful questions, and then keep on searching for more, not more answers, but more questions.

The Model ThinkerScott E. Page

The world is complex. There is so much data. The challenges we are called to solve are full of so many variables that there is never just one way to approach them. The way we view, categorize, and understand the variables in every situation is called a mental model.

The mental models we use enable us to make sense and simplify the complexity we face every day. No single model works in every situation. We need to have a better way to approach the challenges and obstacles we are working to overcome.

If you want to become better at solving problems, use all the data you can that is helpful and apply multiple models to the same situation to find numerous perspectives and more creative solutions.

RangeDavid Epstein

If you want the best chance for success make sure you gain lots of broad experiences. Delay your specialization until you are truly ready so you can acquire the many needed skills it takes to become great.

Do not worry about feeling left behind because you are not specialized

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. For most people, eventually, a wide range of skills will add up to be worth more then just one skill mastered early on.

The world’s most successful fail the most, quit the most, and cross career boundaries more often than most. That is why they accomplish more than most. To become great, make sure you are developing into a complete person with skills gained from experiences across multiple disciplines.

The Power of DecisionRaymond Charles Barker

If you want to change your life, read this book first. If you want to help others change their life, have them read this book after you read it.

Indecision creates fear. Fear enables long-term failure if not confronted with courage.

Mindset health is different than mental health, yet just as important. Your mindset is the foundation for all achievement. And becoming who you were meant to become. Without deciding what you want and how you will get it, you will never fulfill your potential.

How you think determines what you think, and what you think determines what you do, what you do determines your destiny. You have control, you have the ability, just decide.

#SalesTruthMike Weinberg

If you are in sales, you have to read this book. If you are not in sales, you should read this book.

The world turns on successful relationships of mutual benefit. Sales are how those relationships start (no matter the industry or role: non-profit, government, engineering, accounting, etc.). In sales, the simple truths also are the ones that work the best.

As you master the basics, you can create unlimited opportunities to help drive new sales. As you focus on doing what works, you can create better relationships built on shared goals.

The truth hurts, especially when you are not following it. This book will probably hurt, read it anyway.

In conclusion…

Read more so you can help more.

You are stronger than you realize. You are good enough. You do not need anyone’s permission to be great, you already are great. Let others see your greatness. Keep going. You can accomplish your heart’s desire if you help enough other people accomplish theirs.


P.S. — Want better relationships? Get this free guide now!

I’ve created a quick guide for mastering professional relationships, immediately. If you follow this one MAIN truth and actionable steps found inside, your whole life will improve, quickly.

Your Recipe For A Customer Focused Sales Strategy

How do you generate new business?

This is a question even the most seasoned leaders seem to always ask.

Selling, consulting, and designing sales strategies across industries (Software, Financial, Commodities, Heavy Mfg, etc.) and across geographies (Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Middle East) have taught me that all the best sales teams have a few main commonalities.

The sales strategies and sales approaches that have always worked for the most successful companies I know are built from the ground up, one commitment at a time.

The basics are a given, of course, they know exactly who the perfect dream client is and have an ideal customer profile. Of course, they understand the market, the competition, and the industry. Yes, they have value statements, clear goals, and understand the need to talk with decisions makers. That is not strategy, that is just the price of admission. The real strategy comes next.

What sets the best teams apart is the focus, the accountability, and the coaching.

From my experience with Fortune 500 companies all the way down to 10-person startups — the most robust, effective, and innovative sales strategies have 3 main pillars. They include major elements from Design Thinking, LEAN, and Systems Thinking and then roll it all up into an agile process.

Those focused strategies are first built on the foundation of empathy (care, curiosity, concern) though. Those leaders and teams who care the most, serve the most, help the most, and therefore sell the most.

The only sales strategy that will ever work is the one that is put into action.

In order for a sales rep to execute the best strategy, they need to have one defining trait: tremendous courage.

Courage is the ability and willingness to act in the face fear, pain, or grief. Courage is about being vulnerable and still taking action. Courage is not knowing the outcome but still making the choice and committing to serving and helping the customer. All fear is mitigated with action.

Connection through stories is the way the best teams apply the foundation sales skills.

Because of their courage and empathy, these sales reps develop the skills they need to help make important connections with the right people. They connect by consulting (diagnosing) and then selling value. They usually do this through stories, memorable stories. The best sales reps use stories to demonstrate real (aligned) value while setting up unique positioning with relevant differentiators.

Some people think strategy is mainly about ideas. Some people are wrong.

The best sales strategies include accountability and coaching as part of the strategy. It is not something they add on later or do once a year. Being accountable for your results and actions is integral to making any sales strategy work. Yet, the top leaders also know that you can only hold someone accountable if they have been shown the way. That is accomplished through continuous coaching.

When a great strategy is aligned with outstanding sales reps, revenue growth is automatic.

The ingredients needed to craft a world-class sales strategy are:


  • EMPATHY (care, curiosity, concern)

Supporting Pillars:

  • Design Thinking
  • LEAN
  • Systems Thinking


  • AGILE Processes


  • Sales Storytelling (Relevance, Meaning, Impact)
  • Consultative Diagnosing (Questions, Needs, Pain)
  • Value Differentiation (Insights, Outcomes)
  • Solution Positioning (Pathway Forward, Guided Future State)

Take those elements, apply yourself, focus, care just a bit more, and you will craft a great strategy that will help so many others.

**Your Turn: What else is needed for a truly customer-focused sales strategy? (comment and share your experience)

P.S. — Some reading material: 

Here are a few books every sales leader needs to own, especially if they want to create and execute sustainable sales strategies:

1. Agile Selling by Jill Konrath

2. Beyond the Sales Process by Steve Andersen and Dave Stein

3. Sales Differentiation by Lee Salz

4. Sell With a Story by Paul Smith

5. Combo Prospecting by Tony J. Hughes

6. Sales Manager Survival Guide by David A. Brock


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. Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions by Keith Rosen

8. Sales Management. Simplified. by Mike Weinberg

9. Sales EQ by Jeb Blount

10. The Challenger Customer by Brent Adamson, Matthew Dixon, Pat Spenner, and Nick Toman

11. Sales Leadership by Keith Rosen

12. Selling From The Heart by Larry Levine

13. Seven Stories by Mike Adams

14. Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

15. Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura

16. Eat Their Lunch by Anthony Iannarino

17. Gap Selling by Keenan


P.S.S. – Want better sales relationships? Get this free guide now!

I’ve created a quick guide for mastering professional relationships, immediately. If you follow this one MAIN truth and actionable steps found inside, your sales will improve, quickly.

Complete Impact Model

For the first time in my life I invented something. Actually, it was more of a process/model than a ‘thing’. I didn’t think it was very good; but it worked for me. I shared it with a few people, it worked for them too. Maybe it will work for you as well.

The Problem

When trying to help and lead others we often encounter resistance, challenges, and obstacles. Taking action will solve most problems. Well, what do you do when that action doesn’t get you anywhere? You know you need to change, but you don’t know what they change should be. Trial and error works, but often takes too long. One way to overcome stagnation is when you have models to follow, mentors to mimic, and processes to plan around.

Every leader has to sell. Every professional needs to sell processes, to sell results, to sell outcomes, and to sell visions. When you are in sales your ultimate goal is to help others make a decision that results in positive outcomes for all stakeholders. When you are truly trying to help others, ‘sales’ is a noble profession, even if you are not a sales professional. There are some great resources to learn how to sell well. They teach you tactics, or some of the science, or offer models for presenting and closing. They are all valuable. Then there are research based materials. The field of influence and persuasion has been studied by the greatest minds on earth. Data backed research and thousands of examples have been done to show how humans are influenced. Most of that research is focused either on the emotional state or the mental state of the people involved in the sale.

While these ideas/methods work and are useful, most of the material does not provide us with a model that does two very needed things:

  1. They Don’t Teach You How to Apply the Findings
  2. They Don’t Combine Both Mental and Emotional aspects into One Model  

Since I have been in sales my entire professional career, this bothered me. I didn’t have the time or resources to figure this out on my own, I knew other people must have figured it out. So I read. I read some more. I studied everything I could on sales and influence and found some amazing material. Yet, nothing connected it all together.

Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence”, is the greatest resource produced so far on learning the various methods for how people can be influenced.  These are Cialdini’s – 6 Principles of Influence:

(1) Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the large amounts free samples in marketing. Do something for someone, and they will often do something for you.

(2) Commitment and Consistency – If something is consistently heard or seen, it is more likely to be believed and acted upon. Also, if people commit to a goal, they are more likely to honor that commitment even if the original reward or incentive is taken away after they have already agreed.

(3) Social Proof – People will do things that they see other people do or approve of.

(4) Authority – People generally obey authority figures if they deem that authority legitimate.

(5) Liking – People are persuaded by other people that they like. If Peyton Manning or Beyonce like something, we tend like it is as well.

(6) Scarcity – Scarcity will generate demand since we think it must be valuable if it is running out.

These are valid and science backed principles. Yet, the more I studied them the more I realized something was missing. It was the emotional, or the why, or the purpose, or the main motivator. Simon Sinek’s content was imperative in understanding the need for this.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

The thing that lacked in Simon’s work was a specific model or pattern that can be applied to personal and professional situations.  I needed a way to apply Sinek’s and Cialdini’s great insights.

I was thinking about this problem constantly for a few months. Then one evening I took a group of 16-18 year old young men to master marketer Russell Brunson’s “garage” (gym/wrestling room/man cave) where he taught the boys some life skills as well as showed them some cool wrestling moves.  One thing he shared was Tony Robbins Six Human Needs.


Finally, I heard something that addressed the “why” in a way that can be applied to the science of influence.  Tony Robbin’s teaches that these are the 6 Humans Needs we all have:

(1) Certainty – The need for security, stability, and reliability.

(2) Variety/Uncertainty – The need for change, stimulation, and challenge.

(3) Significance -The need to feel acknowledged, recognized, and valued.

(4) Love and Connection – The need to love and to feel loved, and to feel connection with others

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(5) Growth – The need to grow, improve and develop, both in character and in spirit.

(6) Contribution – The need to give, to help others, and to make a difference.

Study those needs here.

Basically, every human has six emotional needs. We possess all of them, yet one of the needs is our own personal primary driver. Our main need, the one we thrive on, is our most dominate Human Need. Each person has one major need and that need always wins out when decisions are made and actions are taken.

My wife is driven by Certainty. I thrive on Growth. Donald Trump is motivated by Significance above all else. Serial entrepreneurs are often driven by Contribution or Uncertainty (variety).

The Model

Once I learned about these 6 Human Needs I was able to connect them to Cialdini’s 6 Methods of Influence and “curated” the Complete Impact Model (CIM) or The Robbins-Cialdini Impact Model. I wish I actually invented something so awesome, but really I just took what was already there and found a way to use it for my situation.

This model works only once you really get to know the person you are in a relationship with, selling to, leading, or working with.

The first step is to discover what their main human need is. You need to truly care enough about them to get to know them. Find out what drives them and then help them achieve what they want. The second step is once you know what they are motivated by, you can then determine what principle of influence you are going to use to help them make a positive decision.  You choose a Cialdini influence method and then apply it in an ethical fashion.

In order to apply the Complete Impact Model (CIM), first you determine which of the Robbin’s Human Needs are most relevant for the person you are leading and then combine that Human Need with a Cialdini Influence Principle. You now have a better way to help lead, inspire, and motivate others.

The Results (Example & Application)

I was a manager for 7 direct reports. The top executives decided to change the customer success model where how we handled the daily client interactions would be drastically changed. The current process seemed to work well, so we felt getting buy-in might be hard.

Of the 7 reports: 2 were driven by certainty, 3 by contribution, and 2 by growth. In order to make the impact model work I decided to use the same influence method of consistency and commitment while personalizing it by using their main human need as the foundation. The goal was to influence through consistency, since the more we hear something, the more we believe it. But, what each person needed to “hear” was different because each of the human needs were different.

When implementing the model, I took 3 specific actions:

  1. Since I had a few weeks of lead time I decided to purchase each of the reports a book that connected with their main driver. Each were provided with self-help business book where I felt they would resonate with the “findings”. Instead of trying to teach them something new, I focused on their strengths, on what already connects with them. Inside the cover of the book I reminded them how important following the right processes is to sustained customer satisfaction and how the unique skills/outlook they have (Certainty, Contribution, Growth) will impact the success and then be sustained over time.
  2. Then I sent a follow-up email reminding them how I am thankful for the skills they bring to the team and highlight their main driver and why it helps, and how it will help as we continue to change and innovate to help our customers. For the people who thrive on contribution I connected the end results with their ability to contribute to the team. For the ones who need certainty I was able to help them understand that as we change and adapt the certainty we attain is found in not losing the client. Each human need was emphasized and the value drawn out.
  3. The third “consistent” message was done in-person as I created one-on-one time with them and reiterated everything I told them in the book message and previous email.

The results were impressive. Finally, when the time came to formally introduce the changes, we were able to share the ideas and I was able to connect with each report on a deeper level. While many people in the company did not like the changes, those 7 were 100% on board because they were able to connect emotionally and mentally to the vision and to the process in which the vision was presented.

Bringing it All Together

Leadership is about helping others see the solution and the process and then giving them the tools and confidence to achieve the vision. You need to sell yourself, and then you need to sell others. Sales is about helping people. In all cases you need to be able to influence others on an emotional and mental level. Not manipulation, but pure motivation.

Sometimes we need models and processes to follow. One process that might help is the Complete Impact Model. The essential key is to learn and understand Tony’s Robbins’s 6 Human Needs and combine that foundation with Robert Cialdini’s 6 Influence Principles in order to create an actionable plan that will help you help others. Happy Selling.

Mareo McCracken

What The Best Leaders Do That Other’s Won’t


“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”







We were on the 5th floor of our downtown corporate headquarters.  It was our weekly sales meeting with bunch a uber-successful sales executives for our company. Our leader had been with the company since it was founded almost 30 years before. He was a legend. Young leaders can learn from experienced leaders on how to help others. This is what I learned:

Every week we had our “sales team call”. This call was to discuss opportunities, track progress and most importantly come up with solutions and make decisions. At least that is what I thought. Really it was the way our leader helped us overcome our challenges. Our leader would post a question to make it seem like he had a certain problem, or we as a team had that problem. In reality, he was addressing a specific personal issue one of us was facing. He knew what each of our strengths and weaknesses were and used these meetings to help us overcome our personal obstacles. He then would ask each of us for our own solutions and ideas. Everyone got to voice their opinion. Everyone felt heard. Our leader knew where he was going with the questioning and what would help us the most. The leader would pick and choose which answers made the most sense according to his years of experience and then he then would help us feel like we came up with the solution on our own. Then he would give us the confidence we needed and send us on our way. He lead us in the right direction. As a team we overcame challenges together. Our boss guided us and gave us the tools we needed. He was a true leader.

Good leaders have vision. Great leaders inspire. The BEST leaders have vision, inspire and help others overcome obstacles to accomplish the vision.

The “Best Leaders” do some things consistently:

  1. They Coach
  2. They Inspire Action
  3. They Provide Feedback
  4. They Show Extreme Patience
  5. They Are Never Jealous
  6. They Embrace Change
  7. They Show Gratitude
  8. They Are Open Minded
  9. They Help Others Develop Talents
  10. They Stand Up for Others

In order to build up these abilities it takes thoughtful practice. It takes being self-aware and exercising deliberate practice. A way to speed up self-awareness is by studying others and then comparing your actions to those who are already successful. You can do this by reading biographies and journaling.

First, read the biographies of people who have overcome great challenges. Then connect the the times they overcame the obstacles to the traits they were exhibiting. Next, journal your thoughts. Take a self-assessment of your current mindset. Dive deep and become more self-aware by writing down what you think and plan ahead for what you need to do to become better.

Self-awareness and gaining knowledge only becomes valuable when action is taken. Take action. Learn from your mistakes. Learn from others. Think. Ponder. Reflect. Focus on helping others take action. Use your vision to help others overcome their problems. Even the biggest walls can be torn down with enough help. Help others overcome the walls that are blocking their success

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. The more you help others succeed, the more you will succeed. Leaders are created. You become a better leader by helping others.

You Are Destroying Trust (and What You Can Do About It)

“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.”








This is how you are ruining trust in your (business) relationships:

  • You lie.
  • You hide information.
  • You stop producing for the team.
  • You think you know more than everyone else.

Don’t do these things. No one is perfect, but we sure can try. Instead of focusing on the negatives, focus on what you do well, what others do well, and magnify those talents. Every interaction we have with others either builds or destroys trust. Focus on building!

5 Effective Ways to Build Trust in the Workplace:

DO WHAT IS RIGHT – Easy. Just don’t be a jerk. Don’t hurt other people. Don’t lie. Don’t play politics. Help others

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. Be nice. Work hard. Think positive. In every situation just make sure you do what is honorable and helpful.

ACT WITH INTEGRITY – You show integrity through honest actions and words. Honesty is the root of trust in all relationships. Integrity must start from the top and then move down. Being honest means telling the truth, keeping promises no matter the consequences. If its people have integrity, the relationship is healthy. If relationships are healthy, then business is healthy.

HAVE SHARED GOALS – Teamwork only happens when the goals are shared. To create trust, employees/colleagues must feel like everyone is working together to carry out a shared dream, a shared vision, instead of a series of personal agendas. The best teams know the goal, believe the goal, and work toward it together.

ALWAYS COMMUNICATE – Communication is the vehicle for information and truth. We must communicate our values and vision first, and then we can communicate our organization’s vision next. By opening channels of communication, we can all stop trying to do the impossible task of reading minds.

CREATE PARTNERSHIPS – You build trust when people work together. We need to value each person. Trusted partners know that the work they do is important and that the work their partner will do is quality. AS partner has the same goals and dreams. A partner wants you to succeed.  This means the leaders need to spend more time with the team. Then leaders need to give and receive feedback.

If you are a leader you need to build trust.

Stephen M.R. Covey, Author of The Speed of Trust teaches that these are the 13 behaviors of high trust leaders across the globe, they:

  1. Talk Straight
  2. Demonstrate Respect
  3. Create Transparency
  4. Right Wrongs
  5. Show Loyalty
  6. Deliver Results
  7. Get Better
  8. Confront Reality
  9. Clarify Expectation
  10. Practice Accountability
  11. Listen First
  12. Keep Commitments
  13. Extend Trust

Mr. Covey says: “Remember that the 13 Behaviors always need to be balanced by each other (e.g., Talk Straight needs to be balanced by Demonstrate Respect) and that any behavior pushed to the extreme can become a weakness.” 

The foundation of all worthwhile relationships is trust. Trust is about risk. It is about emotional intelligence and it means giving control to others. The more trust we develop trust, the more success that we will find. Joel Peterson (JetBlue / Standford / Investor) wrote a new book (just finished it!) that outlines what trust is, how to develop it, and how to repair it. His book teaches these 10 Laws of Trust:

  1. Start With Personal Integrity
  2. Invest in Respect
  3. Empower Others
  4. Measure What You Want to Achieve
  5. Create a Common Dream
  6. Keep Everyone Informed
  7. Embrace Respectful Conflict
  8. Show Humility
  9. Strive for Win-Win Negotiations
  10. Proceed with Care

“…the absence of trust is betrayal…” – Joel Peterson

As we show our integrity and performance, we will build trust. Building trust is about people, competence, honor, and performance. Work hard to make sure the people you work with can rely on you. Once they know that you care and are trustworthy, everything else becomes easier.