These things create excellent hardware for a business person.
And books (among other things like articles, mentors, networking, forums, videos, and good old experience) create excellent software.
Think about it: books have an astonishingly high ROI. One realization can upgrade the way that you operate forever.
But I’m going to do you one better.
I’m going to give you not 1, but 10 new realizations to upgrade your personal software. Here my top 10 best business books that I personally found really helpful, and the big idea from each one.
Get ready to take some notes. This is going to be epic.
- Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937)
Imagine having access to every millionaire and billionaire alive, and being able to sit down with them for in-depth 1-on-1 chats. That’s exactly what Napoleon Hill had, and it produced one of the most succinct instruction manuals on how to think in order to make money. Namely, if I were to summarize it, it’s to figure out what you want in life, map it to a specific goal with a time period (e.g. I’ll have $2,000,000 in 5 years), work yourself into a burning desire for that result, have faith in its eventual completion, and not stop until it’s done.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1936)
A year before Hill’s guide on how to take hold of your own mind, Carnegie published this classic on how to take hold of the minds of others. It’s got timeless tips like letting others do the majority of the talking: you learn more, and it makes you more likable. When convincing people of things, instead of talking about your desires, focus on how the idea will benefit the other person. You don’t catch fish with strawberries and cream, which is what you’d want. For some reason, fish want worms. To catch a fish, you need to think about what fish want. Get it?
- The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco (2011)
If you’re looking for something more contemporary, this is it. It’s a gritty, personal account of MJ’s journey from $0 to millions. It’s autobiographical, with business advice throughout. One of the best lessons? The amount of money you make depends on 2 factors: scale (the number of people you help) and magnitude (how deeply you help each one). Selling 1000 tea infusers for $5 each on Amazon is some scale (we helped many people), but not magnitude (no one’s life is forever changed by a tea infuser). I shouldn’t say no one. Just very few. We made $5000. Magnitude is selling 17 air conditioner units to 17 people at $300 each, which produces about $5000 as well. And invariably, the strongest businesses have both scale and magnitude: helping lots of people in a deep and meaningful way. Are you scale or magnitude right now? How can you improve both areas?
- The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss (2007)
As Tim says: “what would this look like if it were easy?” This book introduced me to the Pareto Principle, which asks: “what are the 20% of activities that are creating 80% of my desired results?” Got it? Focus on those things to maximize results and minimize busy work. Busy work is actually a form of laziness, as it shows a lack of clear priorities. Developing your strengths often provides a multiplier effect, whereas trying to fix weaknesses typically leads to incremental improvement. Public Service Announcement: Tim notes that you need to work extremely hard before you ever reach a 4-hour work week, if that’s your goal. This work consists of figuring out the industry you’re in and relentlessly trying things until you find what works. If you like Tim’s work, he also has an excellent podcast. I’d recommend Episode 124 with Jamie Foxx (for some new insights on being human in general) and Episode 125 with Derek Sivers (for those working on their own business, which I know is most of you).
- The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson (2006)
This book taught me patience. Basically, the idea of the “Slight Edge” is that doing the right activities day after day for a long time will have a compound effect that’s only really visible down the line. Success is rarely immediate, and neither is failure. Both are a result of the little things that you do everyday that progress you towards your worthy ideal (the goal that you might have if you take my advice and read Think & Grow Rich).
- The One Thing by Gary Keller (2013)
This book taught me how to be more productive. I’m sure you’ve seen it on Instagram somewhere: you have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or Fonzie. It’s about what you do with that time. To maximize your time, Gary Keller suggests bringing up this simple question throughout your day: “What is the One Thing that, by doing it, will make everything else easier or unnecessary?” It’s a great question. I encourage you to ask it often.
- Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin (1992)
Most of the books on this list are about how to get money. This one shows you what to do with it once you’ve got it. After all, isn’t it true that it doesn’t matter how much money you make if you spend it all? This one’s a sobering read that will help you consciously regulate your spending, and live well within your means.
- The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo (1988)
This isn’t a “business” book in the same way the others are. It’s not tactical instruction. It’s a short story (around 160 pages) of a Spanish shepherd named Santiago, and his quest to realize his own “personal legend.” Like The Little Price, it’s an adult allegory that reads like a children’s book.
- Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins (1991)
Have you ever received this advice to “think positive”? Right. So Tony Robbins took the time to actually show the world how to do that, and the results are extraordinary. Page after page of practical mental upgrades like “The three decisions that control your destiny are:
1. Your decisions about what to focus on.
2. Your decisions about what those things mean to you.
3. Your decisions about what to do about these things.”
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini (1984)
Carnegie shows us that persuasion is about entering the mind of the other, and Cialdini gives us some specific tactics that work in this framework. Two of my favorites are…
1.Reciprocity: waitresses who simply serve get regular tips. Waitresses who leave mints get higher tips. What’s something small that you can give in exchange for something of greater value?
2. Social proof: get reviews for your Amazon listing, provide testimonials on your website, add achievement badges… trust leads to sales.
If you’ve come this far, congratulations because I’m about to give you an example that ties this all together.
Let’s start from the beginning. If you’re further along in your career, don’t worry. We’ll get there.
In the beginning, you have this vague idea that you want to be successful.
From The Alchemist, you know that everyone has a “personal legend” to fulfill. It’s the culmination of your being and special abilities. You figure out that for you, it’s all about family. Or fishing all day. Or reforming the educational system (it might just be broken, but that’s a topic for another time). Or making millions and going nomadic. Or having 3 beautiful kids. Your dream, whatever it is.
Point is, you’ve become aware of your goal.
You get practical and calculate that to make your dream real, you need $250,000. So, you set a definite cash target with a timeline as in Think & Grow Rich: you’ll have $250,000 in 2 years. You cultivate a strong desire and belief.
You decide that a good place to start is by selling products on the largest marketplace in the Western world, Amazon.
From The Slight Edge, you know that big goals are accomplished by the right behaviors repeated daily; by showing up. You calculate that $250,000 in 2 years is $125,000/year. $10,416/month. $347/day. Let’s round up to $350/day. Profit, that is.
We start selling tea infusers on Amazon through Seller Central, but then we realize that we can’t get to $350/day on tea infusers alone. From The Millionaire Fastlane, we know we either need more scale (more people) or magnitude (a deeper impact). We pick scale. So, perhaps our One Thing for the moment is to source a second product. You keep running your business by focusing on the 20% of activities that account for 80% of your profits via the Four Hour Work Week. You’re not afraid to experiment with automation software and virtual assistants, because you now know that time is the asset.
You grow your business with tactics learned from experience, and with Cialdini’s tactics from Psychology of Persuasion to increase your conversion rate: give small bonuses in exchange for more business, and get reviews for your Amazon products to build social proof.
There will be challenges. There will be competition. Your employees won’t follow orders. Customers will be rude. Product will arrive damaged. There are regulatory challenges. Business has a million road-bumps that you couldn’t have foreseen. But it almost doesn’t matter, because you cultivate a positive mental framework from Awaken the Giant Within, realizing that difficulties are bad in proportion to the meaning that you assign to them. And, you realize that you catch more flies with honey rather than vinegar, Carnegie-style.
And as you show up day after day, getting closer to your goal, you track your spending month-to-month so that you can spend it on the things you find truly meaningful in this world.
And with relentless work, you’ll get there. It’s only a matter of time. Go get it.
Share this with anyone who needs it.
It’s been great hanging out today. I’ll see you in the next one!
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