Why I was Wrong for 35 Years: Level Up Your Life and Workplace with These Six Books

Category: Build a Life You Love

By Jeremy DeRuiter

I’m a reader.  I’ve always been a reader.  But it took me a solid THIRTY-FIVE YEARS to start reading books that could be considered self-help.  Really didn’t read much at all in the way of non-fiction.  Stuff for old people or for the sad and desperate.  Ugh, what a mistake.  Every athlete, even the world-class once-in-a-generation talents, have coaches around them that help them improve their performance.  Why couldn’t I see that books like that are ways of receiving a little bit of coaching—some outside perspective to help me level up in life?!


Thankfully, I work for BIGGBY COFFEE.  When we started getting intentional about our workplace culture, it started with getting intentional about growing our self-awareness and adding more tools to our toolbelt for life.  And that sums up what the Life You Love Laboratory is working to provide, for the people of BIGGBY, and for the greater world beyond—tools to help you level up in life or to go to work on your workplace culture.


Here is a list of books that I think are great if you want to dive in.  I’m representing my own thoughts here, but I’m pretty sure my teammates will give this all a hearty thumbs-up along the way to adding their own thoughts on why they think you should look at these books, and others!


I want to level up…


–but I’m new to this work AND I can appreciate a good swear word:  You Are a Badass, by Jen Sincero


I really wish I would have encountered You Are a Badass back in my 20s.  Sincero covers a lot of ground in a fun and approachable way (get the audiobook—she narrates and is hilarious).  I appreciate that she tackles the nasty business of understanding what makes us tick and how we can self-sabotage while at the same time helping readers to love themselves for who they are and what they want to be.


–and I can appreciate loads of wisdom delivered with a grandfatherly vibe:  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey


This isn’t an intro level self-help book, but wowwee there’s a lot packed in here.  The first time I read it (I’ve read it three times since 2016) I felt like it was connected via secret tunnel to many of the other self-helpy books I’d read up to that point.  Covey talks about the power of your own perspective and how limiting it can be if you stay trapped in that one viewpoint, about our ability to choose how we react to the people around us, and about how much more productive we can be by focusing our energy on the things we have the ability to affect instead of getting wrapped up in worry about things we have no control over.  AND THAT’S JUST THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS!  Putting the stuff in this book into practice will change your life, I promise.


but first I could use some help with figuring out who I am:  The Moonshot Guidebook by Michael J McFall, Laura Eich, and Jeremy DeRuiter


Okay okay, blindingly biased opinion here, given that I’m a co-author of this book…but also kinda’ not.  You see, Laura and Mike wrote a book called the BIGGBY COFFEE Freestyle Visioning Tool, and I fell in love with it.  I believed in it so much that I wanted to bring it to an audience beyond the world of BIGGBY COFFEE.  I helped to rewrite it with that idea in mind and then helped to get it published by Conscious Capitalism Press.  This book will ask you questions like “What are some skills that I wish I had” and “What are the things that I want to own that I don’t own today” as the first steps in a process that will help you to uncover your personal Moonshot—that thing that you want your life to build toward.  Better than that, it provides you with a system to organize your day-to-day life to achieve those dreams!


I want to go to work on my workplace culture…


–and I want to start where BIGGBY COFFEE did:  The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni


Full disclosure, I can’t remember if this is the VERY first book we read at the BIGGBY COFFEE Home Office when we began to intentionally start building up our culture, but it was for sure one of the first.  Lencioni tells a “leadership fable” to help explain his model for high functioning teamwork, which makes the book a fast and easy read.  I love that his model sets up vulnerability-based trust as the foundation for achieving great results.  That if you and your teammates are comfortable sharing your real opinions, or to go out on a limb with a wild idea, or to admit mistakes or weaknesses and ask for help, you have a solid foundation to work toward achieving wild success.


–but I tend to sugar coat my delivery or I often rub people the wrong way: Radical Candor by Kim Scott


Scott has a really simple model at the heart of her book, with a lot of other brilliant ideas packed in around it.  The model asks you to consider, especially if you are responsible for running a team, how it is that you deliver feedback to the people around you.  Specifically, she wants you to think about how direct you are with your feedback, and how clear you are that you are providing the person with feedback because you care about them as a person.  I learned that I was practicing “ruinous empathy” and was actively hurting the people around me by trying to protect their feelings.  Ouch, right?  The good news:  Scott paints a clear picture of how to be radically candid by both being direct and demonstrating care.


–and I am squeamish about sharing how I really feel at work: Dare to Lead by Brenè Brown


Let’s be honest.  Brenè Brown is basically the patron saint of the Life You Love Laboratory.  She uses data to help ground her arguments and exploration of vulnerability, shame, and empathy and talks about it in the context of both the workplace and in personal life.  Plus, she’s grounded and she’s funny.  Please just go to YouTube right now and watch her Power of Vulnerability TED Talk and you’ll see what I mean.  In Dare to Lead, she starts off by debunking myths such as “vulnerability is weakness” and “vulnerability is disclosure” and then provides practices to help leaders lean into vulnerability in order to cultivate a daring, courageous workplace culture.



What do you think?  And what did we miss?  What are your favorite self-help-y books?  Shout them out in the comments or drop us a line at lifelab@biggby.com!


Happy reading!