Today I wanted to talk about a key element of success — reading. It’s no surprise that reading is a common denominator amongst many of the biggest names in business, and almost all entrepreneurs have a book or two they accredit to changing their lives and shaping their careers.
Warren Buffet credits his business philosophy to “The Intelligent Investor,” by Benjamin Grahman; Douglas Adams’ “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy changed Elon Musk’s life — and boy, did it! Sometimes it’s not a business book that gives you your “Eureka! Moments,” but nevertheless, it’s important to be constantly consuming new content to stay sharp and creative if you want to succeed. Bill Gates takes up 50 books a year, Warren Buffet reads 500 pages a day, Mark Zuckerberg challenged himself to read a book every other week and Jeff Bezos is also an avid reader.
With that, I thought I would share some solid recommendations for you to check out:
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
It is a common book suggested by business leaders, but it has such fundamental lessons that I would be remiss if I did not mention it. This 6th century BC book is still used for military strategy today and has direct translations for business strategy and management. Based on Chinese warfare and military thought by the legendary general Sun Tzu, this book can be used to gain advantage of opponents in negotiation, understand office politics and foster a sustainable and positive corporate culture.
Check out some of these quotes to get an idea of its timeless insights:
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
“Treat your men as you would your own beloved sons. And they will follow you into the deepest valley.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
Some strategies don’t change within 25,000 years. This is a must read.
The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton M Christensen
There’s nothing better than using your predecessors to guide your own success. There’s a reason why Isaac Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” This book offers the success and failure stories of the world’s biggest firms and creates a guide for capitalizing on innovation. It encourages you to strategically think about the best times to take big jumps in your business — especially as it pertains to technology. It also covers situations when demand might not meet your innovations, which could destroy the business you already have.
This book is a great guide for when you come up with your next big disruptive innovation idea.
Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
This book is championed by business schools around the country and illustrates a simple strategy that revolutionizes how people think about how to beat competitors.
A good takeaway from this book: avoid the cutthroat competition of going to a business market (or a bloody “red” ocean) and instead look for bluer waters, where you can swim to success unbothered. Sometimes it is much easier to become top in your field by finding your own niche than by trying to directly compete against more established enterprises that already own their respective markets.
Check out the full read for more insights into this idea.
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This classic book is perhaps the most well-known from Carnegie, and for good reason.
It gives practical tips for establishing relationships in business and in your personal life as well. Relationships are the foundation for success in many ways, so learning skills that allow you to cultivate meaningful and impactful connections with those around you is something that pays for itself many times over.
This book shows you how simple it really is to do — although getting yourself to follow them is a different challenge.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey
All of the habits that Covey suggests in this book seem simple — but they have a profound impact.
The one I want to stress the most is the habit of continuous improvement that Covey calls “sharpening the sword.” Covey stresses that through meaningful progress and growth, you will propel yourself along a path of personal freedom and success. One of the main things you can do to “sharpen the sword” is read! So by reading Convey’s book, you will be already starting to develop one of those highly effective habits.
In business, the best way to be on top of the competition is to diversify your perspective, reimagine solutions to our world’s biggest issues and do things that spark your creativity. Reading the worthwhile thoughts of great thinkers is one of the best ways to do just that.
So while we are still stuck at home for the time being (although it is exciting that we are slowly opening up in Kansas City!), I suggest you spend some time reading.
This lists is a great place to start and will help give structure to your thoughts and your business ideology, but business ideas can come from anywhere. Start with whatever you have on your shelves, and who knows, you might think of your next big venture or inspiring idea.
Until next time,
~ Michael Gortenburg, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri.