If you don’t already know, one of the top differentiating factors between successful entrepreneurs and the average one is how much these cohorts read. Equally important of course is what they read. Ask any business mogul and they’ll tell you their competitive edge: books, books, and more books. It’s this never-ending engagement with passed on wisdom, lessons, habits, techniques, and so forth, that tips these people into the territory of becoming pioneers, innovators, visionaries, or most generally speaking: a business success.
If you’re looking to join the legion of super-successful entrepreneurs, below are the 10 best books to read that can seed your inspirational ideas.
Born out of the 3rd most popular Ted talk of all time, speaker and author Simon Sinek boils down what makes certain people and organizations more ingenious, influential, and profitable than others, to one crucial ingredient: leadership. These leaders all have a common denominator: how they act and communicate. Sinek explains how these commonalities make them stand out since they’re often opposite to how the masses operate.
By analyzing such leaders as Martin Luther King Jr. and Steve Jobs, he finds they think in ways that answer pivotal questions. So if you’re looking for yourself or your business to breakthrough amongst the herd, this is the book for you.
By now it may be common knowledge that high EQ matters twice as much as high IQ, technical know-how, or years of expertise. High IQ has been found to be no more a predictor of professional success as rolling a pair of dice. Author of the infamous book that started the EQ revolution, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, Daniel Goleman is back with a version specifically catered to the professional world. With case histories, unparalleled insights from top business leaders, and studies in 500+ organizations, EQ has been the one critical component that accounts for 90% of why individuals and companies stand out.
Goleman goes through the 5 key skill sets that determine who gets hired and fired in the world’s leading corporations. He also provides a guideline for training an emotionally intelligent organization. Managers, CEOs – any business leader or emerging one – listen up. If you want to rise above the rest – this may be one of the most important books you’ll ever read to get there. And the best takeaway from the get-go? You don’t have to have a predisposition for a high EQ or be “born with it” – it can be learned and honed as you go.
Author of Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Success, Adam Grant has done it again. In this thought-leading book, Grant draws from studies spanning business, sports, entertainment, and politics to show the importance of going against the grain, rejecting groupthink, battling conformity and challenging outdated traditions. He explains how we can nurture original thinking in children and companies. Also taught is how to recognize a good idea, manage fear and doubt, and stick to bringing such ideas to fruition no matter the novelty or dissent.
Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead states how it’s “full of surprising and powerful ideas. It will not only change the way you see the world; it might just change the way you live your life. And it could very well inspire you to change your world.”
Especially pertinent to our Northwestern culture, Cal Newport spotlights one of the most scarce skills you’ll find in the workforce today: deep work ethic. Both parts cultural critique and how-to guide, Newport celebrates the gemstone that is focused work. He expresses how deep work will reap mastery on an efficient scale at a craft (or more) of your choosing, and in turn produce tremendous and fulfilling benefits. People who possess this skill of deep work ethic are one of a kind in a world that’s so distracted, which will help them glean outstanding results.
If you want to stop wasting your time in a blur, franticness, or overwhelm of social media and emails, this book is your training guide. By following Newport’s 4 rules, your mind and habits will reorient to develop and hone this skill that’s considered a superpower in contemporary society. Who wouldn’t want to do better work, in a shorter amount of time, that allows you to do more of what you truly find meaningful? This is your go-to if you want to learn how to rid of the fluff and focus on the more important stuff.
Author of his other best-selling business book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make The Leap…And Others Don’t, Jim Collins enlightens us yet again. But this time, he’s partnered with Jerry I. Porras to disseminate their findings from a 6-year research study at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. They tracked 18 successful companies to determine what made them come up top compared to their competitors.
Their focus is on what made visionary companies successful, despite even losing their best talent leaders or visionaries, while maintaining the company’s vision. What you’re in for is a debunking of what you thought you knew about attaining success in the world of business.
Regarding entrepreneurship as anything from a solo act (i.e. freelancer) operating out of one’s garage, to business veterans within a Fortune 500 company, Ries shares his transformative approach to building and sustaining a business. His approach is based on lean manufacturing and a phenomenon he coins as “rapid idea validation.” Basically, his acquaintance with his own start-up and failed product launches taught him more than a thing or two. Such as requisite (and rapid) testing of a potential product, starting with a minimum viable version from which to keep iterating until their testing shows one that’s the best market fit.
Focused on understanding the wants and needs of the consumer first and foremost, shortening product development cycles, creating less waste, and operating on capital-efficiency, Ries shows us how to play the business game differently to accelerate and sustain your company’s success. Discarding what you know about conventional business models, you learn how to innovate faster, while always validating the demand for your visions, and adapting along the way to continuously stay in sync with your target market.
You won’t find any glamorization of entrepreneurship in this book here. Ben Horowitz, one of Silicon Valley’s most respected and experienced entrepreneurs, gives it to you straight about the tough realities that come with starting and running your own business.
From working with friends (and having to fire them), poaching competitors, and honing a CEO frame of mind, he gives advice on how to manage tough problems leaders face on a day-to-day basis that you don’t learn in business school. He does this by drawing from his personal experiences having developed, managed, sold, bought, invested in, and supervised various tech companies. The best part? He deduces these multifaceted business lessons by means of his own flava-flav: rap lyrics.
And now, time for the classics…
Big players in the business game – Warren Buffett and Bill Gates – have basically become ambassadors for this book. It’s Buffett’s favorite business book, and Gates – after receiving a copy from Buffett – believes it’s the best business one out there. The book takes you on a journey through 12 pivotal case studies in business, economics, and finance. They range from the Ford Edsel failure to the 1962 Flash Crash, the 1959 Texas Gulf scandals, to lessons from the Xerox up-and-down success, the Bretton Woods Conference of 1964, and more.
Although these are all historical accounts, their teachings have stood the test of time, making this book among the bestsellers even 40 years after its initial publishment. It’s been a book whose shelf life was brought back due to its timeless value, and demand.
Following book recommendations made by Warren Buffett, this one is touted by the business tycoon himself as the best book ever written on investing. While teaching at Columbia University, Graham developed and refined in the book his paradigm of “value-investing.” Reading about Graham’s philosophy – that focuses on more concentrated portfolios and the skills of portfolio managers via a long-term perspective – Buffet claims “has changed his life forever.”
Now with commentary from Jason Zweig that illustrates how this philosophy can be actionable in contemporary times if you give it a read and a go, it may very well change yours, too.
I’m sure you’ve seen Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People on almost every must-read list out there, and for good reason. As one of the most influential and best-selling books in history, it’s helped people succeed in both their personal and business lives time and time again. Takeaways include how to be likable, a leader without eliciting offense or resentment, how to handle people, get others on board to your point of view, and even make your home life happier, among others. These may seem simplistic or intuitive, but once you start reading, you’ll come to learn these practices are multi-faceted and require you to think twice before you act on what may be your autopilot.
This book suggests habits, makes you become more conscious of your behavior and will help you unlearn unproductive tendencies. So if you’re looking for a self-help book to drive you to business success, this one’s been a tried and true one people have sworn by for decades. And its newest edition is reframed in the context of the digital age. Also available as an audiobook, Carnegie & Associates write this edition that teaches how to help your life and your business in today’s world, where your online presence and communication (i.e. all your social media platforms and written emails) can make or break a deal.
Well, there you have it! This list takes on a holistic approach – from entrepreneurship, leadership, management, emotional intelligence, idea-circulation, business practices and frameworks through case studies, historical accounts, research findings, insights from leaders in the world themselves – we’ve covered a lot.
But of course, this isn’t the most extensive list, and learning and staying with the times is a never-ending process. However, these ones are relevant to our current state of the world and will help you become your own thought and business leader, and think of how to shape or alter our world in ways people may have never explored or imagined, and for the better.