How To Strengthen Your Mind-Set – Five Books

As the pace of change in the world shows no sign of slowing, I believe it’s more important than ever that we find ways to keep learning. So a couple of weeks ago I attended a Business Mastery course in Florida delivered by the always-extraordinary Tony Robbins. Through the course, we were shown numerous strategies to help anyone improve and grow their business. Tony was clear however that while we can often think the thing we are most lacking is the best strategy or technique, this is actually rarely the case. Instead, the most common barrier to the success we desire is not a lack of strategy, but rather a lack of focused action. This model helps explain why:

STATE      affects        STORY     affects      STRATEGY

In Robbins’ model above, STRATEGY is actually the last piece of the puzzle we need to solve. In the middle is the STORY we tell ourselves. And on the left, the piece even before this is the STATE we tend to show up in. If you think of a time you’ve been in a great mood, a time you’ve felt full of energy…the chances are that more of your thoughts at this time were positive and you believed that progress was possible. This is because in great STATES, we tell ourselves a better STORY. And with this story playing in your unconscious, you were probably much more likely to do (or find) the strategies or fundraising tactics you needed to get the result you wanted.

On my Major Gifts and Corporate Mastery Programmes and in the Bright Spot Members Club, one important thing we do is help fundraisers explore habits that can help you get into positive states, but in this blog I instead want to focus on one way of changing the STORY in your head. These unquestioned stories are about who we are, about what we are capable of and about how we could take our fundraising to the next level. I’ve found that a great way to change and lift your story is to read books.

I have found all five books incredibly helpful in making sure that the story, that is, the meaning I give things, is as empowering as possible. I hope you find them useful too:

  • GRIT by Angela Duckworth. WHY? Every very successful fundraiser I have interviewed has been gritty, that is, they have developed the ability to keep going. If things don’t work, they change their approach. Professor Duckworth is the leading academic to have spent a career researching what resilience is, and shows how anyone can grow theirs. (See also her fabulous TED talk).


  • Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The inspiring, best-selling autobiographical account of the holocaust. WHY? Because it can be surprisingly hard to even notice, let alone question the limiting beliefs you may have about life, about your potential, or about your fundraising project. This moving book is a study of how to find an empowering meaning in any situation. Given examples of how such meanings were possible in the most extraordinary circumstances, helps your brain realise there are always has more interpretations to choose from.


  • The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle. WHY? Left to our own devices, most of us might wish for a life without problems, but the truth is, it’s when you are stretched that you make most progress in your skill. Coyle studied a substance called myelin which gets laid down in the human nervous system when we practice just outside our comfort zone. He studied the practice habits of dozens of world class musicians, sports stars et al, and found that they are able to operate at a vastly superior level than others because of the myelin that has been laid down in their nervous system. It makes their decision-making happen ‘as if at broadband speed instead of dial-up’. This book makes you find more appetite for hard practice because of all the myelin your brain is then making.


  • Loving what is, by Byron Katie. WHY? Byron Katie has developed a powerful, yet deceptively simple coaching technique. Her five questions help us question the stories we tell ourselves that lead to stress. The questions are designed to help us realise that what is causing us stress is nearly always not the unhappy event itself, but the story we are telling ourselves about that event. By reading transcripts of real Byron Katie coaching conversations I’ve found it’s much easier to recognise most of my stressful thoughts for what they are (untrue stories!). In short, reading and exploring the ideas in this book can help you more instinctively choose empowering meanings for what is going on. In this state, its much easier to get on and apply the fundraising strategies that will bring you success.


  • Team of Mentors, by Tim Ferriss. WHY? A powerful habit of very successful people in any field is to have a great role model(s). Robbins recommends that everyone find a role model who inspires them. It is rare that many of us would be able to meet our heroes, but thanks to books we can read about their strategies and their beliefs, their victories and defeats. But where to start if you don’t have a role model? I recommend this fascinating book in which Ferriss interviews 100 massively high achievers from business, sport, art and entertainment. The repeating themes (eg ‘how to say no!!’ are inspiring, but this is also a great way to find someone you want to study in more depth.