Polen Reads: Our 2021 Culture Club Book Selections

A look at four books that inspired us to keep learning and growing in both our professional and personal lives

At Polen Capital, we’re passionate about continuous improvement and learning. We strive to maintain a growth mindset in all we do.

These values come to life in our firm’s Culture Club, a voluntary, employee-driven initiative to choose books to read together as a community of learners. We gather weekly to discuss these selections and apply what we have learned to our professional and personal lives.

Here is a look at the four books we covered in 2021 and what they mean to us at Polen Capital.

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

We kicked off the year by exploring Simon Sinek’s theory that the most successful leaders and companies are driven by a powerful sense of “WHY” – defined as a fundamental purpose or vision that inspires action. While the “what” and the “how” are critical success factors, Sinek encourages us never to lose sight of our WHY.

We make this concept visible at Polen’s offices through our “Why Walls,” displaying images of the people, communities, and causes we serve.

The Why Wall in our Boca Raton headquarters

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday

Here, author Ryan Holiday brings the age-old teachings of Stoic philosophers to life with anecdotes and inspirational lessons. He examines how an unchecked ego can be a toxic and destructive force and explains how managing it effectively can support the achievement of life’s biggest goals.

At Polen, we reflected on the book’s messages around humility and lifelong learning. We shared our thoughts on how these issues manifest in our daily lives and how we can ward off the corrosive effect of ego in the workplace. Our CEO Stan Moss then reinforced these themes in an all-company meeting.

The Great Mental Models by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

In Q3, we expanded our thinking with a tour of versatile mental models, guided by Farnam Street founder Shane Parrish. From thought experiments to Occam’s razor, the tools offered in this book equipped us to identify patterns more adeptly and improve our understanding of how the world works.

In our Polen discussion group, Whitney Young Crawford, analyst and director of research for our Small Company Growth team, explored the connection to Polen’s investment process. She explained, “Abstractions – such as maps, mental models, financial statements, economic theories, and business models – are useful representations of reality, helping us grasp what is hard or navigate what is complicated. Parrish reminds us that these abstractions are, by definition, incomplete and often specific to a moment in time. We must avoid the danger of forgetting their limitations.”

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross

We closed 2021 with a deep dive into our inner voice – the running monologue that has the power to either propel us to greatness or derail us with self-doubt. Kross blends psychological research with real-world examples to shed new light on the inner “chatter” that is central to the human experience. The importance of mastering this internal narrative is something that Jeff Mueller, co-portfolio manager of Polen Capital’s Global Growth strategy, knows very well from his prior military career, flying combat missions in a U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18 fighter squadron.

Our clients and associates tell us they value the wisdom Jeff has shared with them on leadership in the face of adversity. He encourages people to practice positive and genuine self-talk and ensure that those in their care are doing the same.