A Snapshot of Jen’s Summer Reading List

I read some great books this summer, including our CCEI Book Club book (Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara). Today, I wanted to share a few of these books with you, as well as some insights and ‘ah ha’ moments I had throughout my reading journeys. 


1. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Yes, yes, I know what you are all saying: "Jen – why has it taken you this long to read Dare to Lead?! I would have assumed you read it the moment in was released five years ago!"

And my response is this: was 2018 really five years ago? Okay but seriously, this was one of those books that I was saving. I have read several of Brené’s books, watched her Netflix special, and tried to listen in on any podcast she is featured on. Why? Because she reminds me so simply that we are all human. We are all here on this earth navigating the rollercoaster of life. The sooner we remember that there is more that connects us than divides us, the easier it is to lead from a point of humility.  

One of my favorite insights was that: "If we want people to fully show up, to bring their whole selves including their unarmored, whole hearts — so that we can innovate, solve problems, and serve people — we have to be vigilant about creating a culture in which people feel safe, seen, heard, and respected."

I want my team, and the entrepreneurs we work with, to feel that they are in a space where they can create, make mistakes, learn, grown, connect, and be a part of something even greater than anything they can individually achieve. The team you build is important, but the culture you continuously create each day is what will determine the success of that team. I want the environment at CCEI to be one where we can come be authentically ourselves, and we can be comfortable being vulnerable. Because I know that in order to truly do the work, we have to feel safe, and we have to feel like we matter.

But how are you creating spaces for your team to show up and bring their fullest selves to the work they do?

I challenge you to think about how you are showing up each day. You would be surprised at how much opens up around you when you yourself are willing to be vulnerable.


2. High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard

Okay, I promise that not all of the books I read this summer are authored by those with first and last names begin with the letter 'B.'

One of the most inspiring books I read this summer is High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard. It is actually one of the books that took me the longest to read because I continuously paused for reflection, and read this one in very small chunks at a time. This book was jam-packed with great quotes, insights, and tactical ways to live a fulfilling and productive life.

One of my favorite takeaways was: "Often the journey to greatness begins the moment our preferences for comfort and certainty are overruled by a greater purpose that requires challenge and contribution."

With our "founder first" model of working with entrepreneurs, we spend time coaching them through the fears they have. As humans, we spend a lot of our mental (and sometimes physical) bandwidth reducing uncertainty. We set expectations for our interactions with others; we often play out scenarios in our minds, and we plan – we plan A LOT. These tactics we employ often take away our capacity to step outside of our comfort zones and do whatever it is we believe we are called to do. 

I love the question: if you knew for certain that you wouldn’t fail, what would you do?

I am sure we each have a list of hobbies we would try, careers we would pursue, and I’m guessing if you are here reading this blog post, than you have ideas for businesses you want to launch … but what stops us from doing most of these things is our fear of not just failure, but of an uncertain outcome. 

So, I challenge you to step into your greatness by reducing the need for comfort that certainty brings, and allow yourself to go out into the world to create your true purpose.


3. Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

If you have been following along with our other posts, you know that we launched our inaugural book club this summer with Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara. This book was one I finished in less than two days. It was easy to read and even easier to go back and grab those key points, because Will did your job for you – he bolded statements and made sub-sections in each chapter focused in on a key point. 

I chose this book for our Book Club because I wanted our team at CCEI to think about the ways we are serving our entrepreneurs. I want to focus our energy on building a culture of greatness that focuses in on delivering very intentional support to those we serve. While Will’s stories are all framed around the restaurant and hospitality industry, there is a way to translate most everything he talks about into any organization or team.

I love that Simon Sinek, one of my favorite thought leaders, podcast hosts, and authors, published Will’s book. In the forward, Simon states: "We are left feeling lonelier and more apart than at any other time in recent history. Yet our intense desire to feel a sense of belonging remains, it's an innate human need."

Additionally, I loved: "Most important, we have an opportunity, a responsibility, to make magic in a world that desperately needs more of it."

Both of these quotes stuck with me for a variety of reasons, mostly because it is so true that our world, our teams, friends, family, students, entrepreneurs, and everyone around us can be reminded of the magic in this world. That feeling of awe and wonder. A feeling that I am sure was more frequent for you as a child, when you got to experience something for the first time. 

How can we create more opportunities for awe, for wonder, and for magic? Are we intentionally leading organizations to create these experiences for our customers and for our teams? 

I challenge you to think about how you are cultivating hospitality and greatness in the work you are doing.


What these three books have left me feelings is that we have a greater responsibility as leaders to create – create a culture in our organizations that make our teams and those we serve feel like they can show up and be uniquely them. That we inspire others with a sense of true belonging, where they can be vulnerable, brave, and courageous. And that we have a bigger purpose to make magic in this world, because we all know we could use much, much more of it.

- Jennifer Mathieu, Executive Director, CCEI