This was a great year for nonfiction book readers, especially for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Although I've read more than 50 books published in 2021, these four stand out because they contain insights for people like me who own their businesses. 

Here's the list along with one lesson from each book that I found valuable. 

'Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success' by Gary Vaynerchuk

In his sixth book, social-media superstar Gary Vaynerchuck reveals twelve emotional skills that he credits for his success. These skills include gratitude, empathy, tenacity, and curiosity, among others. But there's one in particular that resonates with me: Optimism.

"Chasing optimism over pessimism is, at the end of the day, wildly practical," writes Vaynerchuk in Twelve and a Half. After 20 months of Covid-related lockdowns and problems, it's understandable that many of us have become more anxious and pessimistic. I agree with Vaynerchuck, however, that we have the freedom to choose our thoughts. And successful leaders choose optimism, facing the future with hope and confidence.

According to Vaynerchuk, optimism requires "re-wiring your emotions." The best way to start is to surround yourself with optimistic people and "limit interactions with people who drag you down mentally," says Vaynerchuk.

The start of every year is a time for me to take stock of my relationships, peers, colleagues, and social media that dominate my time. In 2022, I'll take Vaynerchuk's advice and spend more time with those people and platforms that lift me up.

'Invention: A Life' by James Dyson

After five years of failed prototypes, James Dyson finally succeeded in 1983 and designed the first bagless vacuum. In his autobiography Invention, Dyson revels in the 5,126 failures he experienced before inventing the product that would make him a billionaire.

"Learning by failure is a remarkably good way of gaining knowledge," Dyson writes. "Failure is to be welcomed rather than avoided or feared. It is part of learning."

Dyson considers failures (or setbacks) learning opportunities. In fact, the word "fail" appears over 50 times throughout Dyson's book. He reminds us that 'Eureka' moments work in movies, but great inventions rarely strike in a single moment of inspiration.

If you can't accept failure, it's next to impossible to accomplish anything audacious. Read an excerpt of his book at Fast Company.

'Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It' by Ethan Kross

Ethan Kross is an award-winning neuroscientist who says chatter-- a flood of negative thoughts--is largely responsible for impairing our performance when the pressure is on.

The next time you feel stressed or get anxious before a client meeting or a presentation, Kross recommends in Chatter using "distanced self-talk" to build your confidence. This means using your own name and imagining that you're coaching a friend through a performance.

For example, if I were to use distanced self-talk before a presentation in front of a large audience, I would tell myself: "Okay, Carmine, you've got this. You've done this before and your audience loved it. They're going to be excited about your ideas."

According to Kross, studies show that when people use their names instead of "I," it makes them feel like a coach and not a critic. Stop the flow of negative chatter in your head by coaching yourself to success.

'Choose Possibility: Take Risks and Thrive (Even When You Fail)' by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy

Singh Cassidy has an impressive Silicon Valley resume. She started three companies, served as CEO of two others, and advised Google and Amazon. 

Singh Cassidy told me that she made at least 23 career choices over the past thirty years. Some worked out. Others didn't. But like software engineers that iterate their way to better products, a 'dream career' takes shape after taking many small risks. 

"Success comes from choosing repeatedly, not choosing once," she says. "Many people subscribe to what I call the 'Myth of the Single Choice.' They think people are successful because they take one mighty risk. The opposite is true. A career is built over many, many choices."

In Choose Possibility, Cassidy recommends that we re-frame the way we look at our careers. Don't strive for perfection, strive for progress, she says. If you spend too much time waiting for the perfect opportunity, you'll be waiting a long time. "The biggest risk is inaction," she says. 

Make a choice to take action in 2022. Your move might work out as planned, better than you imagined, or it might fall short of your expectations. But if you learn something, meet new people and stay in motion, you'll be one step closer to the success you deserve.