2019: Added a video companion to this article:
Almost without exception leaders are readers, and here at Insurance Nerds we are obsessive readers. After much thought, here is our list of books a new insurance professional should read in his first year, which would put him WAY ahead of the game.
- Getting Things Done: The first thing you have to figure out when you show up at your first job is how to be effective getting results, and this book will teach you EXACTLY how to do that. Simply read this pretty easy read and start applying its teaching. Bonus points if you end up getting a whiteboard for your desk and make it into an Eisenhower matrix.
- Happiness Advantage: Now that you know how to be effective getting your work done the next thing you should learn is the fact that ultimately what you’re seeking is happiness. You might think that you’re seeking money, or career success, or power, but in reality, you’re seeking happiness. This amazing book changed my life and it’ll change yours if you let it. The first half of the book teaches you that you have been taught about happiness exactly the wrong way: you probably think that success leads to happiness, but that is exactly backward, in reality happiness leads to success. He goes to great lengths to help you see just why happiness is what you should strive for. The second half of the book teaches you multiple empirically tested ways to become happier. It sounds fluffy, but seriously, this is no motivational self-help drivel by a self-promoting author (takes one to know one :-P), this is a Harvard scientist who has spent his life studying happiness, success and the connection between the two. Read it!
- Against the Gods: Now that you have some solid early career skills (how to get things done and the importance of striving for happiness in an intelligent way), the next step is working on quickly building a solid understanding of the insurance industry. Pretty much every insurance executive I’ve ever asked about books to read has recommended this one! It’s not a super easy read but stick with it. You’ll learn a LOT about insurance, it’s history and you’ll start to see why it’s a fascinating industry. Really understanding this book will make it much easier to come across as a much more experience and mature insurance pro whenever you have the chance to chat with people who have been in the industry for decades. Thank me later.
- Grit: At this point you’re likely a bit burnt out from reading this list. That’s why it’s time to read Grit. When my sister failed a semester of Med School after a lifetime of being an A student, I gave her a copy of this book, that’s how strongly I feel about it. I even wear a “got grit?” bracelet (thanks Gregg!) to remind me of the important lessons of this book. Angela Duckworth is the world’s leading expert on grit (perseverance) and this is the result of decades of research into it. The biggest predictor of success is very simple, NEVER GIVING UP. Quite simply if you stick to it regardless of what happens, you WILL eventually succeed.
- Flirting with the Uninterested: So now you have a solid system to be productive and effective, you understand the importance of happiness and HOW to be happier, you have a solid historical understanding of where insurance came from and you’ve learned the why and the how of undying perseverance. It’s time to dig a little deeper into insurance. This one teaches you how customers think (or don’t) about insurance and how to better get around. This is an important read whether you’re on the sales side or on the carrier side.
- Never Eat Alone: In the 21st century career environment you’ll be dealing with, having a solid network couldn’t be more important, but building such a network is not something that comes natural to most of us. This book will teach you how to build an amazing network. I don’t do everything it suggests, but even the few things I do have made an amazing difference in helping me building a 14k insurance professional strong network. Alternatively you could read the classic How to Make Friends and Influence People which is shorter, but that one is REALLY old fashioned and it’s much easier to misunderstand it and misapply it.
- 80/20 Rule: You’ve now been at your insurance job for six months, and you’re producing solid results, building a great network and have a deeper understanding of insurance than people who have been in the industry for five years and haven’t put in the work the way you are. This is the time to realize that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts and start focusing on the things that really create results. DO NOT read this book before putting in a good six months of solid performance, because you could easily get yourself in trouble. Alternatively you could read The 4 Hour Workweek, which is an easier read, but you’re better off reading the source of the best ideas in that book, same warning applies, do not read it until you’ve got six month of solid performance at your job.
- Deep Work: You think you’re a great multi-tasker, we all did. The job description when you applied for your current job might have even called for “ability to multi-task”. Sadly, the reality is that humans simply can’t multi-task. Not as in we’re bad at multi-tasking, rather our brains are literally unable to focus on two things at once. What we do instead is switching back and forth between two unrelated tasks and we do crappy at both. This book will teach you exactly why multi-tasking is a bad idea, how focus is the only way to achieve great things AND best of all, it teaches you how to break your addiction to attempting to multi-task. If you get good at Deep Work, you will be a monster success in our industry.
- Influence: Chances are it’ll be a few years before you grow to a job where you have a job title that carriers a lot of weight and allow you to easily influence change in your company and maybe even in the industry. We can’t wait that long! We need your help to help change the industry for the better faster that that. Robert Cialdini has spent decades researching how to influence people and organizations even if you don’t have a position of authority. Read it, highlight it and take notes. This is one you’ll want to re-read every few years.
- Quiet or Brag! How to Toot Your Horn Without Blowing It: For the 10th month we’re splitting you into two camps. If you are an introvert read Quiet by Susan Cain. Unfortunately the business world is designed for extroverts, and you’re at a disadvantage unless you learn strategies to take advantage of your amazing strengths as an introvert, and learn strategies that will help you be highly successful as an introvert, without going crazy in the attempt. If you’re an extrovert How to Toot Your Horn Without Blowing It will help you moderate yourself a little, and will keep you from putting your foot in your mouth more than absolutely necessary, without completely giving up some of the self-promotion that is kind of necessary in today’s business world. It’ll help you do it in an effective way. This book probably saved my career!
- Strengthsfinder 2.0: I debated whether this book should’ve been the first on the list, but I decided that it makes sense to get a good 10 or 11 months under your belt at your current job before you realize that chances are you are in the wrong job for you. If you figured this out in month 4 and your company doesn’t allow you to apply for a job that’s a better match until you’ve put in 12 months into your current position, you would have been tempted to leave the industry to find a better fit. This would have been a big loss both to you and to the industry… Reading it after 11 months in the job is the perfect time, since by the time you finish it and realize which jobs you should be applying to, you’ll be at month 12 and allowed to apply internally. Win/win! The Gallup organization has spent many years researching productivity and employee engagement, and they have found that the way we do talent management is fundamentally wrong. We tend to focus on fixing people’s weaknesses. Their research has found that you’re much better off understanding your natural tendencies, and then finding a role that takes advantage of those tendencies so you can grow them into true strengths. You’ll be MUCH more successful AND happier too, all with less effort than if you try to make it work in an area that’s not a good match for you. This easy read includes access to an online quiz which identifies your top strengths and teaches you a TON about the types of roles you’re likely to be successful and engaged in. Do not buy this one used since the code for the quiz can only be used once.
- Who Moved My Cheese: Congratulations, you’ve stuck to it and read 11 GREAT books that will help you turbocharge your career. For month 12 we’re letting you off with a short and fun read. This cute little fable teaches you the importance of becoming a change agent rather than a change resister. Given the speed of change in the business world today and the fact that it’s likely to continue accelerating, learning to deal with change in a positive way is a key skill in career survival.
Note: This list was very much designed for carrier side professionals, if you’re in the broker/agent side of insurance I’d recommend instead of book 3 read Fanatical Prospecting and instead of book 10 read The Wedge.
If you feel that we missed a book that would have been amazing, let us know in the comments!
Great comment from our friend Bruce Hicks, CPCU: Read the policy forms you’re working with!