Behold! The contents of my brain, spread out for you as if on a cracker, ready for you to consume!
Posted on December 30 2015
I'm a huge fan of business and self-help books. Over the years, I have read quite a few of them. Since the next few days are a big time for deciding to start and/or learn new things, I figured I'd share some of the books I've read in the past few years in order of "must read" to "eh, if you're bored and have absolutely nothing else going on, clear out your belly button lint and then pick these up."
These aren't affiliate links, but they are Amazon "Smile" links, so if you pick a charity, Amazon will donate part of the sale to the charity of your choice. See? You're already doing good!
Because I want 2016 to be the best year of your life, I have bought a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People to give away. Click here to enter the giveaway, which is run by Amazon.
(The book will ship directly from them.)
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie - The single most important book about what I think is the most CENTRAL skill anyone can develop: the ability to get along with people in a productive and pleasing way. I have read or listened to this book AT LEAST every five years since I was 9 years old.
If you read nothing else all year, read How to Win Friends and Influence People.
The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy - This book was a REVELATION to me. All my life, I have focused on quick wins, and have often bailed when results weren't immediately forthcoming. This book talks about how success is often a long process, and is more about dedication to the smaller steps than big, grand steps.
The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy - TWO books by one author in the top three books to read? Yes indeed. This was ALSO a revelation to me. Such a wonderful book! It made me really feel confident that all my bipolar feelings of elation and near-suicidalness were not signs that I was losing my mind, but in fact just part of the process of having a business. I think I've listened to this book about five times and am in the process of listening again.
You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero - I want everybody I know to read this book and then I want them to read it again. If every person on earth read this book, the world would be better. Yes, I know that's a big statement, but it's absolutely true.
You Are A Badass is one part spiritual advice and one part practical advice. It is responsible for many of my ah-ha moments in the past several months and I have listened to it over and over. I really love this book.
To Sell is Human by David Pink - I think anyone who sells anything has a moral and ethical responsibility to read (or listen to) this book. It has completely and 100% defined how I see sales, taking something that I absolutely used to dread and turning it into, well, honestly, not selling at all. This book has helped me see sales and customer service as more about providing value than about selling, and that has made all the difference. Small business people, stop hating your life and get this book.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - WHAT? AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY FROM A DEAD DUDE? Yes. Absolute must-read. Franklin is amazing, witty, driven, focused, flawed, charming, and a very great role-model.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill - Another must-read book. It was a real hippie revelation when it was published, but now it reads like a bible for personal direction in business. I have read or listened to it about 6 times and have found it interesting every time.
How to Build Self-Discipline by Martin Meadows - Very similar to Grit, mentioned later, this book is broader and talks about how to just get up and do stuff. I listened to it when I first started doing my daily video series and, well, we can all see how that has gone.
Traction by Justin Mares and Gabriel Weinberg - This book not only includes a great list of available traction channels, but offers a fantastic strategy for figuring out which traction channels work for your business.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih - Great book about corporate tenacity and the importance of having a central governing principle of customer satisfaction
Great by Choice by Jim Collins - What makes a company great? Collins takes a very scientific and methodological approach to discovering the secret and explains it in a very clear and practical way.
Good to Great by Jim Collins - Some companies evolve from just good companies into GREAT companies, exceeding market conditions, even as their similarly-positioned competitors flail. What do these companies have in common and how can that be applied to your company?
Do the Work by Steven Pressfield - Recommended in our Lucky Break University group, I find this very inspirational. It's just about getting up and doing the fucking work, even though there are lots of things telling you you can't/aren't good enough, etc
The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber - Scaling one's business from being a small-time maker to having a sustainable business. I found it very informative.
Grit: How to keep going when you want to give up by Martin Meadows - I think it's time to give this another listen, since it was a really good book. It includes practical physical and mental tricks to harden yourself against adversity and build perseverance.
Gumption by Nick Offerman - Not really a business book, this evaluates the common characteristics of many of the United States's most gumption-filled individuals throughout history. I found myself thinking "What would Teddy Roosevelt do?" many times after listening to this book, and the answer was always "Pull up his goddamn pants, stop whining, and get to work." Read by the author, I strongly recommend listening to this book.
Accounting for the Numberphobic by Dawn Fotopulous
"Ah numbers, the letters of math." - John Mulaney.
I am ABSOLUTELY numberphobic, so the title of this book really grabbed me. For any small business owner, even if you don't shiver when you look at numbers, this book breaks down the essentials of accounting into easily comprehended chunks. I recommend buying the paperback, though, since I found myself wanting to take notes.
Positioning by Jack Trout - Probably the most important marketing book I have ever read. It is an absolute revelation in terms of how to create a significant market niche for one's company. It was written about a hundred years ago, though, so most of the references to advertising are outdated (newspapers?). The core concepts are SOLID, though.
The Virgin Way by Richard Branson- Branson is one of the most brilliant and charming people of our time. His book is witty,interesting, insightful, and shows why they are a very successful company.
Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port - I found this to be a very good book about making what you're worth.
Pour Your Heart Into It by Howard Schultz - This is the story of how Starbucks changed from a small-time roaster to a mega-brand on every corner. I personally found it VERY INFORMATIVE and inspirational.
Street Smarts by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham - A very insightful book about starting a business, protecting capital, and stuff like that. I found it very helpful.
Bossypants by Tina Fey - This is really more of a comedic biography, but I think it's really a good and important read for any entrepreneur. Tina talks about the importance of having a good mentor and how one of my favorite shows weathered many near-cancellations.
The Lean Startup by Eric Reis - mostly for technology companies, this is still a pretty good book about keeping your business and your production as small as possible for as long as possible, thereby avoiding the regular ol' business mistake of growing too fast and crashing in the dust.
Million Dollar Woman by Julia Pimsleur - This is the book I was looking for about seeking investors. As a new entrepreneur and a woman, I have thought of the idea of going for investors as, well, something for other people. This gave me the confidence I needed to seriously consider getting funding.
The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman - This book was so good that I bought it in hardcover so I could read it and take notes in the margin. It is not just the things you'd learn from an MBA program, but really, things you'd learn from your first few years in business. I strongly recommend this book even if you have an MBA.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - Also not a business book, but essential for business anyways. This book goes over how to tidy your house and your life, and get rid of everything you don't need.
Profit First by Mike Michaelowicz - I consider this required reading for an entrepreneur. Most of us entrepreneurs bleed into our business and never expect anything in return... but if you're not going to make a profit, what's the point? This book, recommended by my dear friend Jennifer Hardaway of Klean Spa (shout out!), gives a practical approach to distributing profit to yourself instead of toiling endlessly on a soul-sucking money pit.
And if that doesn't sell it to you, I don't know what will.
Scaling Up by Verne Harnish - What seems to be a very useful and DENSE book about how to take a mid-size company (20 - 200 people) to a MEGAcompany. It's not very relevant to our business, but I am still going to use the exercises included when I'm working on the next phase of our business.
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday - A book about how to build virality into the core business structure. I found it very informative in a core principles way. Building "share-ability" into my business foundation is probably the main reason we have grown so quickly.
The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell - Could be titled "How to be a good person and still grow." I found it to be a very helpful book.
How to Become a Rainmaker by Jeffrey Fox - A very good, straight forward book on sales.
Startup Life by Brad Feld and Amy Batchelor - It's about keeping relationships healthy even when someone is an entrepreneur. I personally found it both helpful and depressing, since a lot of the book focuses on drawing limits around business involvement and not working until 3AM every day... which I don't do. I can easily take several days away from mail or phone, but the book mostly seems focused on assuring the entrepreneur that the world won't stop without them.
The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch- Don't buy the audiobook because the narrator is shit. However, the book itself is very interesting. Basically, it's about how 80% of your revenue is from 20% of your products, and how to build your business priorities around that. And now you've basically read the book.
Win the Game of Googleopoly by Sean Bradley - If you don't know, we get most of our sales through Google. I used to do Search Engine Optimization, so all this is kiiiind of second nature to me, but the biggest eye opener was about the importance of video (which I still haven't done much with - ahem -). I recommend that you get the actual physical book (as opposed to the audiobook), because the examples are basically just lists of words, and listening to about half a book of lists is BORING AS HELL. Still, good information.
Getting Things Done by David Allen - Hands down the productivity book that defined a movement of GTDers. I really wish I had more discipline to follow this method, but I have seriously never been able to adhere to it. The one thing I did implement from the book is a dogged dedication to keeping a filing cabinet stocked with easily-accessible folders and a beautifully professional label-maker for tidy labels. That alone has been worth the price of the book.
The Art of Exceptional Living by Jim Rohn - Eh, this book is ok. It's mostly a collection of talks that he gave. If you're stuck and not sure why, this is probably a great thing for you to listen to. I am not stuck, so this was just kind of "yep, preaching to the choir, dude."
Tribes by Seth Godin - A good book about how to build a community/culture around your product. This has been instrumental in guiding my online community around Outlaw Soaps.
The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss - Mediocre book, but it does include some good perspectives on how to leverage automation to scale your business so you don't personally have to be there to do it.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek - A study book about companies that have been philosophy-driven rather than product-driven. Kind of interesting and something I have incorporated into our brand, but we already kind of were that way before this book.
Small Business, Big Vision by Matthew Toren and Adam Toren - An ok book about entrepreneurs. It talks about the importance of having a big vision for your business, no matter where you're starting. It was frustratingly anti-funding, even though learning about funding was one of the reasons I bought the book. It seems to run on the premise that EVERYONE thinks you need funding to start a business even before you prove your market, and it was focused on dissuading the reader from that perspective, rather than talking about how to get funding once you have identified that you need it.
MEH. These books just didn't really delight me at all.
Got Your Attention? by Sam Horn - Totally useless.
Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul - I couldn't finish it. It was just a bunch of stories about entrepreneurs being entrepreneurs.
The ONE Thing - I found this totally boring, lame, contrived, predictable, and useless.
Close that Sale - Lame sales book. Don't read it.
No thanks, I'm just looking - I tried to read this book to get into the mind of the retail shop owner. It is slimy and not a very good book.
The Mackay MBA of Selling - I didn't finish it. I found that the beginning of the book did not include anything worth learning.
Decoding the New Consumer Mind - I finished this through sheer force of will. Here's the bottom line: people want what they want. Look at that! I saved you $15.
The Steve Jobs Way - I wasn't that enamored with this book. There wasn't anything included that I didn't already know (except maybe that they had t-shirts for every fucking project they did).
#GIRLBOSS - A fluffy book about a very young entrepreneur woman who dragged herself out of young punkitude by starting a clothing company on Ebay. Cute, stupid, not very useful.
Focal Point - Pretty useless overall, unless the idea of prioritizing your life is foreign to you.
Get Your Sh!t Together - Basically tells you to run the talk from Glengarry Glen Ross in your head 24/7 to get the life you want. I found it really annoying. Had I known that the author's other book was called "Run, Fat Bitch, Run," I would have totally passed.
The Art of Asking - I know some people are going to be very disappointed that this is in the "there's some time I'll never get back" pile, but to be honest, I don't like Palmer's approach. She seems to be saying that people like helping, so just ask for as much as you want, however you want, whenever you want, without hesitation. While I do believe that asking for help when you need help is important, it's also important to have respect for the people you're asking by not pretending like asking is nothing. If asking is an art, it's the art of a butterfly's kiss on a flower petal.