26/01/2018 by Chris Green
LeaderBox is the latest offering from Michael Hyatt and his team. It’s a monthly subscription service, delivering guided reading through two books a month. The key idea is simple: to quote Harry Truman,
“Not all readers are leaders,
but all leaders are readers.”
Team Hyatt are big fans of the Apple experience, and that’s what you get here. The red box arrives, sealed. Open it, and buried in navy-blue filling are two books, each wrapped in navy blue tissue and sealed. This feels luxurious, and fun. Although it’s mostly to do with safe shipping, whether or not it’s wasteful, it’s mostly recyclable. No polystyrene, and minimal plastic.
One nerdy note – some people like the element of surprise in unwrapping the books. I get that, and the team could enhance that further, by indicating which book we are going to read first, so the other can be left till half way through the month. On the other hand, the books have been chosen as a pair, so seeing both does give an idea of the theme for the month. In December there was an extra gift: a copy of Your Best Year Ever.
Live unboxing of the February 2018 selection
The level of the books has been, I would say, graduate business school. I taught a Masters level programme on Christian Leadership, and any of the books so far could have fitted on that reading list. Having said that, I think that of the books we’ve had, only one would have made the cut: the excellent and necessary ‘Rest: Why you get more done when you work less’, by Alex Soojong-Kim Pang. But that’s only because I had a limited time for the students to read, and they needed to cover some basic essentials rather than niche stuff on organisational theory. But a number of the others have been hugely relevant and stimulating, and could have made a supplementary list. All of them have been worth reading, none has been a predictable choice, and none of them has been business-as-usual type books.
The daily read has therefore been of a level that you’ll do it if you’re serious and seeing this as an investment in your career. It is on average ten pages a day, give or take, and that’s usually a chapter. Reading with pen in hand, that’s not too bad. But reading intentionally, to take notes, does slow you down. There are only five readings a week, though, so this is done at a sustainable pace if you need to catch up at the weekends.
But it’s worth remembering that Hyatt has been in publishing, and I suspect he devours books at a pace that most of us would find beyond us. Some people are going to drop off because they’ll find it takes an hour to do this, rather than the 20-30 minutes the programme claims.
Each book comes with an ‘Activation Guide’, and it’s a really good example of how Hyatt takes things a stretch further than most, and stretches you in the process.
It’s worth reflecting on that. Each book comes with its own notebook, called an
‘Activation Guide’, and it’s a really good example of how Hyatt takes things a stretch further than most, and stretches you in the process. They are nicely printed, cardboard covered, and spiral bound. So, good quality. Each one contains an executive summary of the book, and then ten daily sections. These each give the pages to read, the Big Idea of the section, some key quotes, and then some questions to mull over from that section. There are then two or three blank pages for your jottings.
I’ve found this liberating, once I realised that I wasn’t sitting for an exam. That is, I can put whatever I find relevant or stimulating there, and no-one else is going to know. But it does take time.
Then there’s Day Ten-and-a-Half. After finishing the book, there’s a dedicated section to help you to think about what you’ve read, and take any action points across to your work. Hyatt gives a helpful structure for this – he’s been in publishing for years, and so his way of analysing and summarising a book is professional and thorough. I liked this.
Hyatt’s been in publishing for years, so his way of analysing and summarising a book is professional and thorough.
If you liked that particular book and need to think future, there’s a bibliography and list of weblinks, blogposts and podcasts, and then a final few blank pages. I’ve found that the ideal place to chuck down ideas I want to blog about.
Having done all that, you have a problem: you now have a book and a notebook. I don’t know what Im going to do long term, but my immediate pattern has been to snap the complete notebook and any relevant pages into Evernote.
As with so many Hyatt projects, there’s a dedicated Facebook learning community, and a new post and discussion with each day’s reading. This has been fun, and encouraging, but – to me – not the primary way to grow in my reading. Most of the post there have been people engaging with the material, but it’s also interesting seeing the two main reason people seem to fall off the programme: the amount of reading, and the relevance of the books. Hyatt is working a very particular niche here, and if you don’t fit it, you won’t stay long.
Leave aside the time issue, because Hyatt assumes that you’ll see this as an investment in your future. For someone like me, an ordinary pastor, this is an impossibly expensive project. It is $79 per month, plus shipping, or $790 per year, plus shipping. There is no way on this planet I could ask my church to pay for that, given that they should be encouraged to buy me commentaries, theology and so forth. Because it’s Hyatt, there’ll be nothing anti-Christian in the box, but I doubt if an explicitly Christian book from a Christian publisher would go in. And it’s a massive slice out of our holiday budget if I bought it for myself.
But if you are investing in it, it is weirdly value for money. Around half the cost is for the books themselves, then there are the notebooks (forget the little drinks mats with memorable quotations that you also get). But the big gain is the intensity of the reading and learning experience. No surprises, but this system is dedicated to getting you reading with focus, and then implementing what you learn. And there have been action points for me out of every book.
So it’s worth saying, that I’m on a special package here, entirely due to the company’s generosity. A few months ago I wrote a review of the full Focus Planner on my blog and, in the infinite wisdom of Google, it became the go-to review on the web. The referrals from that blog post mean that the Hyatt people have gifted me LeaderBox out of the kindness of their heart. My experience has been superb, and rather lucky.
Up to that point, I was like the kid outside a toyshop looking at the stuff he couldn’t afford, nose pressed against the glass window.
$$$ Is it worth it?
If you’re a serious CEO, and part of your self-development involves reading business books, this is the best investment I have seen (I’ve seen one rival out there, which looks pretty thin compared to this). It avoids you having to decide what to read next, and delivers quality and implementation to your door. This is a permanent, rolling MBA, with a seminar always in session. You can order it here. (This is an affiliate link)
If you’re not, then I’d forget the envy factor, and look away. But make sure you keep reading.