For many of us, reading is one of those things that we just let fall by the wayside as soon as we graduate from college.
It's one of the biggest mistakes we can make though. Entrepreneurship is hard enough as it is. There's a ton of traps you can fall into and things you have to watch out for.
Imagine having mentors who have already walked the path and made some of those mistakes, guiding your every move and teaching you the things you need to be looking out for.
That's what reading provides you with. You can learn from some of the best business minds to ever walk this earth and shorten the learning curve by a tremendous amount.
Here are some of the books that have helped me the most along my own entrepreneurial journey:
Michael Gerber is one of the world's best startup consultants and has coached thousands of entrepreneurs along their path towards business success.
He realized that all business owners have three main personalities within them: The Technician, the Manager and the Entrepreneur.
The Technician is where most people become stuck – focused on the daily tasks involved with their craft (i.e. Baking Pies). The Manager is focused on the things that make the business run: paying the bills, making sure the sales calls are made, etc. The Entrepreneur is the dreamer, the one who has a grander vision of the way their business can grow and can impact the world.
Gerber argues that you need to have a balance between the three roles, but unfortunately most business owners are stuck in the Technician role.
To get out of this, he suggests implementing the “Franchise Model,” in which the owner gains the freedom to remove himself from the business while having it continue to run. This is accomplished with a relentless focus on systemizing everything for your employees.
My key takeaway from this book was that I need to be focused more on working on my business, rather than working in my business. It's those higher-level focuses that allow the business to truly grow to a point where it can provide the type of freedom we're all seeking
If you're going to be successful as an entrepreneur, developing a strong morning routine is absolutely critical. I think this is something all of us understand in the back of our heads, but in The Miracle Morning, Elrod really drives home just how important it is.Elrod actually died in a car accident at the age of 20 (his heart stopped beating for 6 minutes). After being revived and spending the next 6 days in a coma, he finally came-to and was told that he would never walk again. Determined to not let that come to fruition, he not only learned to walk all over again, he went on to become an Ultra-Marathon runner.
He traces much of his success back to the way he wakes up each morning with a defined routine. Elrod has an acronym for his morning routine: “SAVERS,” which stands for Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading and Scribing (journaling).
This was a huge wake up call for me (see what I did there?). I had always been a morning person but by actually waking up with intention and putting some structure around my mornings, I’ve been able to dramatically increase my overall productivity. This uninterrupted time while everybody else is sleeping is truly invaluable.
Keep it Simple, Stupid.
That’s what too many businesses get wrong. As Entrepreneurs, we tend to be overzealous when coming up with product ideas and end up adding too many bells and whistles. We spend way too much time, money and energy on bringing our products to market instead of focusing on what truly drives a product – sales and cash flow.
Ries proposes a different model in which we focus on bringing to market as fast as possible the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). He goes on to suggest that we want to only start by including the 20% of features that 80% of the customers for that market would actually use. If you can build a successful product out of that, then and only then should you consider more options.
What separates the haves from the have-nots? Grit, Angela Duckworth will tell you.Grit is a person's tendency to stick with a particular undertaking through the inevitable challenges that are presented along the way. Duckworth looks at a variety of successful people across a wide range of disciplines and demonstrates how sticking to the plan in the face of adversity is what ultimately makes the difference.
This book was incredibly helpful to me as I had really struggled with follow through when I was younger. I had tried a variety of different things over the course of my life (playing guitar, starting different businesses, playing soccer, etc.) that I ultimately gave up on too early to see any sort of meaningful results.
It's only once you've pushed through a number of failures in a given endeavor that you begin to really bear the fruits of your labor.
Buckle up Ladies & Gents – this book ain't for the faint of heart.Felix Dennis, the late founder of Maxim Magazine and owner of a massive publishing empire, was an incredible businessman who knew how to tell a story or two. In his book, How to Get Rich, Dennis holds nothing back in explaining his cut-throat approach to business.
Not only are some of his business principles invaluable, he also presents, very honestly, some of the pitfalls of becoming incredibly wealthy and discusses the idea of giving it all away upon passing away (which he ultimately did when he passed in 2016).
Dennis truly has a way with words and also had a brief stint of severe drug and alcohol abuse halfway through his career (from which he almost died), both of which make for an incredibly engaging read – you won't be able to put this book down once you pick it up.
We live in a time where everywhere you look there’s something trying to steal your attention. Your ability to not only focus on getting work done, but focus on getting the right work done, will largely determine your success as an entrepreneur. This means you need to always have a keen awareness of your priorities.
Keller points out that at any given point in time, there is one thing you can do, such that by doing it everything else becomes unnecessary.
If you take a step back and look at things objectively, you know that there are a handful of things that, if you were getting them taken care of, would dramatically improve your life. Keller drills home that we need to be focused on understanding exactly what those things are and then attacking them with everything we have.
For me this is creating content. If I don’t make it an absolute must to create content and deliver value to you guys, my business would go nowhere.
As Stephen Covey says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Find your “main thing”.
If you're going to be a successful entrepreneur two of the most critical skills you need to master are the ability to market and the ability to sell. Luckily for you, Chris Smith has already mastered both and lays out what it takes in painstaking detail in his book, The Conversion Code.
Most people are now coming to the realization that the internet is the future of marketing as more and more people continue to fast forward through TV commercials (or cancel their cable all together), read the newspaper online and stream music rather than listen on the radio. That's why Smith's focus when it comes to marketing is exclusively on internet marketing, with a primary focus on Facebook advertising.
But here's where it gets interesting – Smith is different from many internet marketing “gurus” because he still believes in picking up the damn phone and selling your leads via, you guessed it, a good ole' fashioned real conversation.
Before Smith ever learned anything about internet marketing he was one of the top phone salesmen at Quicken Loans. After he started learning the ins and outs of internet marketing, he saw the largely untapped potential in a marriage between the worlds of sales calls and internet leads. He's able to open your eyes to a world of possibility that the vast majority of internet marketers don't even consider.
I think one of the biggest loads of bullshit that some people out there perpetuate is this idea that most successful business people are evil, cigar-chomping, narcissistic assholes who are willing to do whatever it takes to make more money, even if it means throwing others under the bus.
I've been fortunate to spend time around a number of different people who have seen incredible success over their careers in business and this plot line simply couldn't be further from the truth. In fact, in my experience, I've found that the people who make it the farthest in business are generally the ones who are best able to communicate and collaborate with those around them.
For some of us, this is a skill that we're naturally born with. For others, this is something we must constantly work at. Luckily, it's a skill that can absolutely be taught and learned. And as far as teachers go, there's nobody better than Dale Carnegie.
Carnegie wrote this book in 1936, but every word of it still holds true to this day. He teaches you the fundamentals in understanding what makes people tick. Having this understanding will allow you to better empathize, collaborate and communicate with everyone from your customers to your employees to your mentors.
Have you ever found that you know exactly the steps you need to take in order to get where you want to be, but for some reason you just can't seem to take those actions?
I know I struggled (and still do struggle) with this for a long, long time with relation to starting an online business. If you boil an online business down to the things it takes to be successful, its not all that complicated (I said not complicated, not easy). You publish great content, get eyeballs on said content and continue to build it from there. I knew this for a year and a half before I ever sat down to write my first piece of content.
That was because, unbeknownst to me, I was stuck fighting a powerful force. A force that each of us must face. A force that wants to keep you exactly where you are. A force that wants you to sit down and shut up. To color inside the lines. To let fear run your decision making.
That force is known as Resistance.
In his book The War of Art, Steven Pressfield dives deep into the bowels of Resistance, showing us where it comes from and why it is critical to not only understand it, but to also beat it – day in and day out. To wake up each day, stare Resistance in the face, and give it a big “Fuck You.”
As an added bonus, check out Turning Pro and Do the Work (also by Pressfield) after you finish The War of Art.
Nothing in business matters if you don’t have the ability to go out into the marketplace and create revenue.
No, really – nothing else matters when you don’t know how to sell. You can have the best employees, the best systems, even the best product. But if you do not acquire the skillset necessary to sell the product, the business cannot and will not work.
Luckily, there are roughly a million sales books out there covering everything you could ever learn about the skill. I’ve read my fair share of those books, and the first one I ever read is still to this day one of the best ones I’ve come across.
As the title suggests, Bettger takes you through the story of how, when he first started as an insurance salesman, he had no idea what he was doing; but after learning a handful of different tactics and habits, he was able to transform himself into one of the best insurance sales reps in the entire country. He ended up crossing paths with Dale Carnegie, who was so impressed with his ability to sell that Carnegie insisted he write a book divulging his knowledge.
The book was written in 1947, so the language is a little dated (prepare to read the word “fellow” a lot), but it’s lessons are timeless.
“And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
I’m usually not a fan of fiction books, but Paulo Coelho knows how to write a damn good piece of fiction.
In The Alchemist, Coehlo teaches us the importance of truly committing. When we want something bad enough and are willing to wholeheartedly commit ourselves to seeing it through, the world seems to work in mysterious ways in helping us get to where we want to be.
So ask yourself what you're willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals. Are you unwilling to stay in on weekends? Are you unwilling to live within your means so you can spend more money on your business? Are you unwilling to wake up early and put in a couple of hours on your business before you go into work? Then good luck getting the results you're after.
If, however, you are willing to do these things, you'll find that sooner or later things seem to fall into place when you least expect it. That – Paulo Coelho will tell you – is the whole universe conspiring to help you.
Being an Entrepreneur is messy, so I don’t know about you but I’ll take all the help I can get…
When you read these books, the important thing is to not just be passively reading them; instead, you need to be critically thinking about the author’s message. Challenge their assumptions and for the points on which you agree, determine some concrete things you can do in your life to implement some changes.
Every Monday I let my subscribers know what book I read the week before and give a detailed breakdown of the key points I took away from it. Enter your email below to be added to the list and receive these cliff note breakdowns.
And as always….enjoy!
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Alex is a serial entrepreneur, coach, and active investor who drives growth and scale for his portfolio companies.