Looking for your next brilliant business read? Get inspired by 10 of the most life-changing entrepreneurial texts around, with Cluboid’s must-read countdown.
George RR. Martin once said that ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies’. If we believe this to be true, then by immersing ourselves in the lives of the most successful, we can in effect, place an old head onto young shoulders. So now, the only question that really stands is ‘Whose head do we want’? Here are 10 must-read texts to inspire, instruct, inform and explain the best business strategies for the successful start-up:
‘Trust Me, I’m Lying’ is a wildly controversial and insightful recount of the career of master manipulator, Ryan Holiday: media strategist-turned-author. Holiday explains exactly how he ‘faked it’ until he made it in an unbelievably honest retelling of his career as it unfolded. Or at least we think it was honest. Should you in fact believe anything written by a self-confessed liar? The book itself is seemingly lesson 101: question what you read.
Holiday completely picks apart organised media and its formulas to the extent that after reading this book, you will never look at websites or online journo in the same way again. Holiday’s Machiavellian methods of fake scoops and personas adopted is a frightening, but fascinating insight into just how far people are willing to go to make their mark. As a successful entrepreneur needs to be able to identify when the wool is being pulled over their eyes, knowledge is the ultimate power, so if your business concerns itself at all with news and media - this is an absolute must-read. After all, ignorance may be bliss, but it certainly never made a savvy business person.
Business decisions can sometimes feel terrifying, as in any industry, to excel you must be unique. This by default indicates unchartered territory, and with that, a whole lot of uncertainty. Heivly counters this anxiety with a really lovely parable of childhood which makes the whole business model far more approachable and familiar. It’s all about context, after all. By removing the business principles from the realms of the adult and stripping all unnecessary complexities - Heivly instead anchors them in childhood. By writing about them in relation to building a fort, Heivly’s analogy articulates some very shrewd, yet basic business strategies from a brand new perspective.
‘Build The Fort’ is a relatable and entertaining start-up bible, detailing the 5 common stages of starting a business that were first encountered in our earlier years. Despite his successes, Heivly’s principles can relate to the entrepreneur at any stage so is something of comprehensive road-map from start-up to success. Only instead of reaching your destination in your Honda, you’ll get there in a Hot Wheels.
In ‘True North’, Bill George and Peter Sims make you take a long hard look in the mirror on a quest for your ‘authentic self’. It is a psychological awakening, and a very sincere approach to the sometimes deceptive nature of business. What is refreshing here is that ‘True North’ is less of an advice manual and more a collection of inspirational, and informative case studies. 125 to be exact.
George and Sims endeavour to explain the 6 styles of leadership (directive, engaged, coaching, consensus, affiliative, and expert) using interviews and motivations from many of the most successful leaders in the world. The purpose? To establish self-awareness and become a remarkably better leader because of it. The anecdotal nature of ‘True North’ makes it a joyful, encouraging read and far more digestible than other business guides that are brimming with jargon. These are real stories of business minds overcoming adversity thanks to their exemplary approach to leadership, and George and Sims even provide personal development plans so you too can to follow their lead whilst discovering your own.
Running a successful start-up is never going to be ‘easy’ per say, but with Guy Kawasaki’s guide for ‘anyone starting anything’, it’s pretty darn close. This book is in fact, so full of business ideas and strategies that it feels like somewhat of a business cheat-sheet. Kawasaki’s humourous approach to the traditional ‘business book’ is a breath of fresh air to all entre/intraprenuers, and readers are invited to complete the exercises provided for a better understanding of his principles.
Kawasaki closes each chapter with a selection of FAQs - ‘frequently avoided questions’ - to help readers digest and implement the practises in every chapter. ‘The Art of the Start’ is thought-provoking on every single page and will have you getting excited all over again about the potential of your brand. Not knowing quite ‘where to start’ is no longer a legitimate excuse.
‘The price of being a sheep is boredom. The price of being a wolf is loneliness. Choose one or the other with great care.’ Just one of Hugh MacLeod’s insights beautifully depicted in this informative, and kooky pictorial. MacLeod disposes of the traditional format for business guides and instead provides a much-needed, unorthodox spin on advice for the budding (and established) entrepreneur. But then again, would you expect anything less from a book brashly titled ‘Ignore everybody’?
MacLeod retains all of the insight, but with none of the waffle, leaving the reader with just the need-to-know info in short and brilliantly creative chunks. With this charming and uplifting read, MacLeod reminds us to conform a little less, gamble a little more and above all, get creative!
‘If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.’ Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations is a must-read for any entrepreneur, as it teaches not business practices but the perspective you need to best succeed. Meditations would fall under the category of philosophy, but imparts lessons of reason and meaning which are completely transferrable to the business mentality.
Aurelius’ philosophical perspective makes you feel both enlightened and invincible. It is something of a saving grace in a stressful work environment, and one that can slowly bring you back down to reality when things are becoming overwhelming. This abstract collection of thoughts is an extremely eye-opening read, and a welcome break from the intensity of a business guide. Aurelius teaches us that ‘Where a man can live, [...] he can also live well.’, providing hope and encouragement when sometimes it is most needed.
Memoir come instruction manual, ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ is both brutally honest and exhilarating. Ben Horowitz’s no nonsense approach to the traditional self-help business text unearths many uncomfortable truths from the business world, and chronicles them in such a way that you cannot put it down. ‘The Hard Thing About Hard Things’ is not only recommended by Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg for being an ‘incredibly valuable resource’ but it also received rave reviews from Google CEO, Larry Page and Twitter CEO, Dick Costello.
Having previously blogged about his business ventures and rounding up quite the hefty online following - Horowitz put his tried and tested style into print, and thank goodness he did. Allowing us insight into the underbelly of the business world, Horowitz details practical wisdom that you just don’t get on a traditional syllabus. We also loved the playful element that came from using creative headings taken from inspirational Hip Hop lyricists. Horowitz gives an extremely realistic, warts’n’all depiction of starting a company, which is exactly the kind of encouragement you need to hear as a young entrepreneur. He prospered, and you can too.
Notoriously enthusiastic writer, Gary Vaynerchuk is the posterchild for the mantra ‘actions speak louder than words’. Vaynerchuk is a huge advocate for hard graft. You won’t be finding any miracle quick-fixes here. Instead, Vaynerchuk gifts us with the will and fierce determination to keep our eyes on the prize. None of this get-rich-quick rubbish - Vaynerchuk is not for the lazy amongst us. His practices are rooted deeply in passion, dedication and labour.
Vaynerchuk writes with so much heart, that his energy is infectious and you can’t help but feel like a fire has been lit under you. Crush It! isn’t arduously academic either, instead it is earthy and real, sincerely giving you the motivation to stop talking about doing something and just do it. That may sound like a simple concept, but Vaynerchuk is both fun and soberingly informative with it in this powerful read. It won’t just be a once-read though, so keep it handy - it’ll be your reference guide.
Rather different to the work of Crush It! author Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferris does exactly the opposite and loves to cut corners where possible. The premise of ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ is of course, about starting practices that will allow you to get away with the bare minimum workload and ‘escape the rat-race’. It’s certainly a controversial read, posing many solutions which some may question on the grounds of seeming a little bit dishonest or cheeky. Things like: ‘How to convince your boss…’ type solutions may go against the moral fibres of the more conscientious but irrespective of this, Ferriss’ thought streams are undeniably captivating.
Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek aims to deconstruct excellence, and is possibly one of the most inspiring books of all time. Regardless of how you feel about Ferriss’ methods, you cannot deny the get-up-and-go that comes over you after coming into contact with this text. Ferriss’ writing is bold and fearless, shedding light on automating income, outsourcing and efficiency in the workplace. He is also one of the most popular guest lecturers at Princeton University, so by buying ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’, you’re essentially receiving Ivy League insights for under £10. That’s a remarkable saving on tuition, wouldn’t you say?
How do you make something go viral? That is the million dollar question that marketing professional, Jonah Berger, endeavours to answer in the New York Times bestseller: Contagious. As an entrepreneur, you know that publicity and marketing is invaluable, and we are yet to come across a book that better exhibits the knowledge of making things spread than ‘Contagious’.
Contagious is a manuscript of Berger’s extensively researched course content, taught at the University of Pennsylvania so is designed in a way that makes absorbing it’s content almost instinctual. Berger’s understanding of media reach is remarkable and his thorough analysis demonstrates a market awareness second to none. Contagious is anchored in logical, demonstrable psychology which makes the entire read completely fascinating. In spite of the sciency style, Berger manages to keep it extremely easy to read, explaining exactly why things get shared and how to design and tailor content for maximum impact as well as sharing potential. Berger is more conceptual than instructional with his advice so Contagious is probably better suited to those already familiar with the fundamentals of social media. It does however, make his insights all the more impressive.