We know that one of the keys to being a successful person is to read…a lot! Arizona-based Certified Professional Photographer and Imaging USA 2020 Allison Tyler Jones is known for her thoughtfully curated reading lists. She recently joined us for an episode of In It Together Live on Facebook to share what she’s currently reading as well as some long-time favorites that continue to keep her inspired as her business grows. Along the way, in her effervescent style, she also shared other thoughtful insights on being an entrepreneur and lifelong learner.
You can watch the full episode here or read through our quick synopsis below, including links to the books on her list of recommendations!
Like many photographers, entrepreneurs, and small business owners, Allison found her world turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. She quickly and unexpectedly found that her daily routine had been drastically changed, including her reading routine.
For Allison, a “normal” reading schedule pre-COVID looked like this:
All of a sudden this routine was thrown in a blender! Allison found herself with essentially no routine at all. Despite this sudden change, she was still drawn to reading scripture in the morning to help calm and center herself and to feel less fearful. But, she also began listening to the news—something she’d avoided doing on a regular basis for years! Instead of picking up a book at night to wind down and quiet her thoughts before bed, she found herself reading through news stories, scrolling through social media feeds, running down internet rabbit holes... and, slowly but surely, becoming more and more anxious.
Along with the gloom and doom stories on the news, there’s been a flood of advice on what you “should be doing” while stuck at home. From working on your business and learning new things to reading business books and organizing your home, playing new games with your kids, even learning to bake bread—the lists go on and on. For many people, being bombarded by “helpful” information like this ends up creating the perfect environment for negative thinking and anxiety spurred on by comparing themselves and their situations to others. Allison began to wonder if she was handling this situation the “right way.” Why was she so anxious when others seemed to be handling things just fine, even being more productive than usual? But then she paused a moment. She reminded herself that when it comes to social media and to the news, what we see is just a slice of reality, not the full picture.
It’s important to remember that no one can tell us how to best spend our time, especially during a global pandemic. This is unchartered territory! We are all simply working to do the best we can and deal with these unexpected and unplanned changes to our lives and our routines, often through trial and error.
It’s during times like these, Allison reminds us, that “books are our friends.” Finding a genre of book that helps you during this time is just as important as reading in general. For some, business and self-help style books may help you feel empowered and give you a plan during a time when control may feel like it’s gone out the window. For others it may be what Allison calls “brain candy” fiction; think thrillers, adventure, fantasy, etc. This type of literature gives your brain a chance to rest and recharge by escaping into someone else’s story for a while and allowing your imagination to run free.
For Allison, replacing ner nightly internet scrolling routine with a new fiction novel was the best way to shut her brain down, anesthetize the fight-or-flight feelings, and finally find a way to relax. The first book she settled on, Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle, pulled her away from social media and into a thrilling story about a woman who, in a fight for survival, must decide just how far she’ll go to escape the person she once loved.
Books on the top of Allison’s nonfiction list often include thrillers like the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and the John Rain series by Barry Eisler, but some of her recent night time reads have included Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and In Five Years by Rebecca Serle.
Under what she would consider “normal” circumstances, Allison’s reading list often includes nonfiction business and self-help books. She shared a few of these books with us but reminded the listeners that it’s perfectly okay if they are just not feeling up to reading these kinds of books right now. Regardless, they are good ones to have on your radar for when things start to feel like they are getting back to “normal”.
According to Allison, if you don’t read any other book this year, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown should be at the top of your list. Anytime you have a tragedy or something big happen in your life, it makes you really question, assess, and evaluate your priorities. Because of COVID-19, we have been forced to remove a lot of things from our life and make huge changes. We all have to ask ourselves: which of these things do we want to put back into our lives? Do we want to keep working the way we have been working? Do we want to work more from home? This book helps the reader discover ways to clarify and simplify their focus and priorities—in business and in life—to achieve more by doing less.
The rest of Allison’s recommended books from this video are listed below. Be sure to check out the full In It Together episode to get even more information on each book, as well as insights from Allison as to why she chose to share these particular books!
Focus on Growth over Speed.
We really can’t have speed right now, which means we have a unique opportunity to instead focus on the quality of our growth and allow time for reflection. Allison admits this can be one of the more difficult things to make time for, but it’s one of the most important things to do as your business grows.
There is no lack of helpful information out there. In fact, you could spend your time reading thousands of books, listening to podcast after podcast, and gathering endless information from others, but at some point you have to find time to actually sit down and put that information into practice. You have to decide “what do I think about this” and “how does this fit my business” and then put it on paper. This requires you to sit down, be quiet, be alone with your thoughts, and all of this information you have gathered, and create a plan.
Good Principles Will Always Stand You in Good Stead.
A month ago, we would market completely differently from how we would market now or how we will market in a month. Times may change, but the principles stay the same. For Allison, her principles and the entire foundation of her business revolves around the idea of creating and selling art, having long term relationships with her clients, and having a long term plan for these families over the course of their lives.
These foundational principles are never going to change, which means that no matter what books she reads or new business ideas she comes across, Allison will be viewing them through the lens of her business and her brand. Allison reminds the listeners that when you're new to an industry or even when you are unsure of yourself, you tend to be easily influenced. You are “kind of blown about by everything” and find yourself asking “what is the latest thing?” rather than focusing on the foundational principles of your business and having a filter through which to view this new information.
How do you create this filter you may ask? It starts by asking yourself the following questions to help identify and strengthen the foundational pillars of your business.
Learn to Love Learning and Be Eternally Curious.
The current education system isn’t exactly set up to teach us to be lifelong learners. The first thing we should learn as children, according to Allison, is how to love learning. Instead of fostering a natural curiosity we are focused on regurgitating information and making the grade. This means that it can take work to get back into the mindset of loving to learn, asking questions and continuing to grow and learn as adults.
“To be eternally curious is the greatest gift that I have ever been given”. - Allison Tyler Jones, CPP
Be gentle to yourself and others.
Everyone is doing the best that they can and trying to find certainty in a world where there is none. Allison reminds us that the one thing that’s certain is that we are all human beings who are trying to have our needs met, and we all need to remember to show kindness to both ourselves and others during this time.
We may find ourselves playing both the roles of alarmist and comforter as we get caught up in the news cycle and in social media, but if we can remember to show grace and kindness to others during this time, we will all be better off.
Don’t forget that you can watch the entire episode with Allison Tyler Jones below or view it here on PPA's online education platform where you can also check out hundreds of other inspirational and educational videos!
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