exclusives | August 08, 2016

What Are You Reading? Drew Dudley, Jonathan Fader, & Wajahat Ali Talk Books

What are the ideas and voices informing our most exciting keynote speakers? This week, we reached out to three of our roster—diversity speaker Wajahat Ali, performance psychologist (and author of Life as Sport) Jonathan Fader, and leadership speaker Drew Dudley—and asked them a simple question: what are you reading? As it turns out, each speaker’s literary choice reflects who they are behind the podium.

Want to know what drives some of today’s most prominent thinkers to make the world a better place? Read on.

Wajahat Ali on Black Flags: The Rise of ISIS by Joby Warrick, The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, and DC Comics


[Black Flags] is a fast paced account of the rise of ISIS and the Jordanian terrorist and founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, and won the Pulitzer this year. It reads like an action-packed thriller and an indictment of all parties responsible for the reckless Iraq War. Warrick has done his research but doesn’t clutter the narrative with polemics or gratuitous details. Folks who want to understand the origin and DNA (and numerous false steps) of ISIS should pick up the book. 


The Association of Small Bombs is a thoughtful, provocative and well-written novel examining the devastating consequences of otherwise ordinary terrorism on ordinary people. Instead of sensationalism, author Karan Mahajan treats all of his characters with a sensitive touch, giving them layers, personalities and contradictions that allow the reader to understand, or perhaps even empathize, with their self-destructive actions.  


I’m also enjoying DC’s Rebirth—yet another massive overhaul of the DC universe hoping to bring back a sense of heroism and optimism which went missing somewhere in the mid-80s. If you feel like you’ve been stiffed by the Batman v Superman movies, I recommend checking out the new titles, which have started in the summer. They’re rebooting and beginning with #1s for most of the popular heroes so you’ll be able to jump aboard without missing too much. I also have to give props to rival MARVEL, which is bringing in much needed diversity (hooray! people of color in comics as heroes! who woulda thought!) to their superhero roster. We now have a female Thor, a Muslim American member of The Avengers (Ms. Marvel), black and white Captain Americas and a Puerto Rican/Black Spiderman, Miles Morales, alongside Peter Parker. Now if we could match this diversity on Wall St, Hollywood Studios and U.S. Congress, we’d all be winning.

  • ali books

As a sport and performance psychologist working with elite professionals in baseball, firefighting, finance, and many other settings, one of my main objectives is to help high performers and everyday people divorce outcomes from their processes. That is, to shift their thinking away from the results, and instead think about what you can do more effectively that will organically lead to a better result. One of the biggest obstacles that can lead to an unhelpful concentration on results is our own ego. That is—concerns and worries about our image, how other people view us, or our position titles and statuses in life. As one high performer in finance recently asked me about a career move:


“But what will the parents of my kids’ friends say?” 


Who the hell cares? Unfortunately, we all do. We all worry to some degree about what people think and it affects our performance in a highly negative way.


Enter Ryan Holiday. I started reading Ryan’s book The Obstacle is the Way when it became big in the NFL and many athletes told me of its effectiveness in helping them deal with challenges in their lives. His new book Ego Is the Enemy is an insightful and highly compelling work that addresses the aforementioned issues of how our own ego gets in the way in our quest for fulfillment in work and the rest of life.


In moments when my own concerns and worries in life begin to bother me, I sometimes engage in a meditation in which I think about how small I actually am in relationship to the universe. Thinking of myself as a grain of sand in the vast beach that composes our universe helps me to put whatever financial, relationship or performance worries I have in perspective. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to see this concept reflected in Ego Is the Enemy.


Ryan quotes the well-known luminary astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson: 


“It’s possible to bask in both your relevance and irrelevance to the cosmos. When I look up at the universe I know I am small. But I’m also big. I’m big because I’m connected to the universe and the universe is connected to me.”


It is insights like this—and other useful parables from the ancients and modern day entrepreneurs—that help me continue the battle against my ego. I hope you get the chance to arm yourself with this book to help defeat yours.

  • fader books


Drew Dudley on Brainsprouting: How to Become Fearlessly Creative and Have Better Ideas More Often by Joel Hilchey and Brandon Love


In an effort to point people towards a hidden gem, I want to sing the praises of a little self-published book that’s among the most practical I’ve picked up in a long time: Brainsprouting by Joel Hilchey and Brandon Love.


The fact is, most self-published books are self-published for a reason—and as such, I honestly didn’t expect much when it was handed to me by the authors at a conference. However, I consumed it in a single sitting, and that’s despite consistently stopping to jot down a note while thinking, “damn, that’s a good idea.”


What I love about Brainsprouting is that is has a single purpose: help individuals and groups generate ideas more effectively. The book is less than 200 pages, and none of them are wasted on anything but practical ideas you can put to use immediately.


From identifying the problem with “brainstorming,” to how to set the physical space for idea generation, to breaking down walls between participants and setting the most effective ground rules for fostering creativity, it’s a powerful little book you could probably read over lunch and immediately be more effective at idea generation in the afternoon. It was one of the best little surprises I’ve stumbled upon this past year.

  • dudley books


To book Affinis Labs creative director Wajahat Ali, NY Mets performance psychologist Dr. Jonathan Fader, or motivational speaker Drew Dudley for your next conference or event, contact The Lavin Agency, their exclusive keynote speakers bureau. 


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exclusives | August 05, 2016