Read time: 8 Minutes.
Statistics shows that every day less and less people read. It’s no quantum physics that most people don’t have time to read. Whether they work 24/7 or run a (successful) business. In the end, doesn’t matter.
Time is money, someone said.
I read somewhere that most od directors read on every day basis. Apart from a fact that they run automated businesses and have time for such things, they always learn new stuff.
So, why shouldn’t you do the same?
You maybe don’t have time or you’re not interested in reading. Maybe you’re more of a “watch” person. You enjoy watching some series on Netflix or Amazon?
It’s your preference, I respect that.
But know this.
Nothing can teach you more than a quality book. When you read someones first hand experience of something you’ll easily dive into his way of thinking.
That’s something that you cannot buy.
With this in mind, I’ll share with you a list of top 21 best business books of all time. I recommend that you read them all. Not in a year or two, maybe in a decade, but I suggest that you sell your time for this.
Knowledge in these books is real power.
What are the best business books of all time?
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
- Zero to One – Peter Thiel
- How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
- Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
- The 4-Hour WorkWeek – Timothy Ferriss
- The Lean Startup – Eric Reiss
- Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
- How to Be Rich – J. Paul Getty
- Art of War – Sun Tzu
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
- Running Lean – Ash Maurya
- The Innovator’s Dilemma – Clayton Christensen
- Ready Fire Aim – Michael Masterson
- Traction – Gabriel Weinberg
- The E-Myth Revisited – Michael Gerber
- Start with Why – Simon Sinek
- The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau
- Crush it! – Gary Vaynerchuk.
- Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely
- All Marketers Are Liars – Seth Godin
- The War of Art – Steven Pressfield
1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad – Robert Kiyosaki
Robert Kiyosakis book is a bible of business. It is a book that is written in a style that is very easy to read and understandable. The book itself talks about the importance of financial literacy (financial education), financial independence and building wealth through investing in assets, real estate investing, starting and owning businesses, as well as increasing one’s financial intelligence (financial IQ) to improve one’s business and financial aptitude.
It’s written as a metaphoric talk between poor dad who works as a professor ( public service ) and rich dad, a businessman who, in the long run, becomes rich. A protagonist is the narrator (probably Kiyosaki?) and he utilizes and talks about the ideas of these two “fathers”. It’s fun book, good for financial literacy.
Among some of the book’s topics are:
- Robert Kiyosaki’s personal story, upbringing, and his business and investment ventures throughout his early adult life and into the late 1990s.
- Differentiation between assets and liabilities
- What the rich teach their kids about money that the poor and middle class do not
- The base definitions of income & expenses (profit and loss statement), assets & liabilities (balance sheet), cashflow = income – expenses (statement of cashflow) as the foundation of financial literacy and education, for example, the next point.
- The concept that your primary residence is not your asset, but the banks asset and your liability (assets put money in your pocket, liabilities take money out of your pocket, ie a mortgage takes money out of your pocket and puts it into the banks pocket).
- The value of financial intelligence and financial literacy
- How stronger business and financial skills, aptitude, and experience play a role in one’s financial success
- The vitality of entrepreneurial and investment skills are both necessary and useful traits to prosper in a capitalistic society
- The importance of investing and entrepreneurship in taking control of one’s financial future
2. Zero to One – Peter Thiel
Written by Paypal Co-founder, book deals with the subject of starting a business. The core idea is based on the notes from which he taught at Stanford University. Zero to One is full of unique, practical insights, and discusses success in terms of human nature and culture. Along with business strategy, Thiel outlines how successful innovation shapes society and shares an intriguing vision.
Here are the seven questions Thiel writes “Every business must answer:”
- Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?
- Is now the right time to start your particular business?
- Are you starting with a big share of a small market?
- Do you have the right team?
- Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?
- Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?
- Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?
3. How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie
Classical book. I’m sure you heard about this one. It’s the most selling self-help book of all time, and yes, it deals with people and relationships. It’s perfect for businesses because in every venture you have connection with various people.
This book is basically divided into four parts. The first half of the book discusses techniques in handling people and how to have people like you. The final half of the book gives instructions about how to win people to our own thinking and how to be a leader by changing people without offending them or causing resentment.
Twelve Things This Book Will Do For You
- Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.
- Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.
- Increase your popularity.
- Help you to win people to your way of thinking.
- Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.
- Enable you to win new clients, new customers.
- Increase your earning power.
- Make you a better salesman, a better executive.
- Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.
- Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.
- Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.
- Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.
4. Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
Hill studied their habits and evolved 16 “laws” to be applied to achieve success. Think and Grow Rich condenses them, providing the reader with 13 principles in the form of a “Philosophy of Achievement”.Mark Hansen has said time has shown that two of the laws/principles are most important: 1) The MasterMind principle/process and 2) “Know very clearly where you want to go.”
The 13 “steps” listed in the book are:
- Specialized Knowledge
- Organized Planning
- Power of the Master Mind
- The Mystery of Sex Transmutation
- The Subconscious Mind
- The Brain
- The Sixth Sense
5. The 4-Hour WorkWeek – Timothy Ferriss
Tim Ferrisss book deals with what he refers to as “lifestyle design” and repudiates the traditional “deferred” life plan in which people work grueling hours and take few vacations for decades and save money in order to relax after retirement. This book contains all sorts of great advice and is structured somewhat like a work/exercise book with examples and background information.
4-Hour WorkWeek gets you to question things about your life. Why are you working? Why is it so important to collect money and things? Why wait for retirement to get when it is way easier to surf and snowboard and take trips in your 20s.
Definitely a good read.
6. The Lean Startup – Eric Reiss
If you’re considering becoming an entrepreneur or have any position of management within a company. This is the book you need. This will teach you how to skyrocket your businesses growth quickly and very efficiently.
The focus of the book is on “what” a lean start-up is and the following philosophy.
- 1. An entrepreneur is a person who creates a business around a product or service under conditions of “extreme uncertainty”, and should ascend the vision-strategy-product pyramid. (Google: Start with Why TEDx – Ries redefines that concept)
- A start-up is a phase of the entrepreneur’s organization, tasked with the goal of reducing the condition of “extreme uncertainty”, and finding a sustainable business model (Google: Lean Business Model Canvas).
- Use customer discovery (class) and validated learning (method) to find a sustainable business model around your product or service idea. The validated learning method of Build-Measure-Learn is synonymous with Plan-Do (Build), Check (Measure), and Act (Learn) cycle, which as most people know is derived from the scientific method.
a. Build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
b. Measure using Actionable Metrics instead of Vanity Metrics.
c. Learn from your MVP and Actionable metrics and Pivot to improve problem/solution and product/market fit or Persevere.
- Finally, use lean principles (i.e. small batch sizes, 5 whys root cause analysis, chief engineer, blah, blah, blah) to stream-line your operation once you’ve found a viable business model and are ready to leave the start-up phase and enter the growth phase. (Minus 1-star: As a hardware guy and having extensive experience in lean it’s blatantly obvious Ries is just starting his lean journey and his last section (Accelerate) is superficial, survey, regurgitation of some of the lean tools and ideas)
7. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini
Arguably the best book ever on what is increasingly becoming the science of persuasion. Whether you’re a mere consumer or someone weaving the web of persuasion to urge others to buy or vote for your product, this is an essential book for understanding the psychological foundations of marketing.
“Influence” deals with the study of persuasion, compliance, and change – a subject that has application for every area of life. Cialdini presents the latest research on influence in a compelling way, clearly stating the 6 principles of influence and providing wonderful illustrations of each principle from advertising, psychology and other fields. If we understood these 6 principles better, we would be less subject to manipulation from others (for example, the manipulation to buy things we don’t need or to buy more than we need). We might, in turn, also be able to understand how to influence others for good.
The 6 principles of influence are:
- The Rule of Reciprocation: “We should try to repay in kind what another person has provided us.”
- Commitment and Consistency: “Once we make a choice or take a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment.”
- Social Proof: “We determine what is correct by finding out what other people think is correct.”
- Liking: “We most prefer to say yes to the requests of people we know and like.”
- Authority – we have a deep-seated sense of duty to authority
- Scarcity – something is more valuable when it is less available
8. How to Be Rich – J. Paul Getty
Jean Paul Getty was at one point the richest man in the world, and has written this book for upcoming executives. He emphasizes the point that what makes and does not make a good executive in business, that independent thinking is crucial to be successful at a business, and what is needed is a calm and rational plan to be a success, rather than the swaggering attitude praised often on Wall Street and others. His writing style is quite readable and enjoyable.
Book covers all arenas of wealth creation. Paul Getty got millionarie when he was 26 and in the end of the 1950’s he got the title of the “richest man in America” and then “the richest man in the world”. In this book he presents many thoughs that are up-to-date even today, almost 40 years after this book was originally written. A must-have if you are a wealth-seeker.
9. Art of War – Sun Tzu
The bible of warfare. Ancient text which is attributed to the ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu (“Master Sun”, also spelled Sunzi). It is composed of 13 chapters. Each one is devoted to a distinct aspect of warfare and how that applies to military strategy and tactics. For almost 1,500 years it was the lead text in an anthology that would be formalised as the Seven Military Classics by Emperor Shenzong of Song in 1080. The Art of War remains the most influential strategy text in East Asia. It has also had an influence on Eastern and Western military thinking, business tactics, legal strategy and beyond.
On a first impression, one can thought of it as a book on how to smartly fight a war. Then when you re-read you’ll find that it may be an instruction book on how to live an honorable life. If you read this book, you will actively have to replace Sun Tzus’ ancient terms and placement of hierarchy and apply them to modern situations and people. Family, bosses, neighbors, employees and the list goes on. It is my belief that this “manual” can help solve minor and major disruptions in life if used correctly. It is a book meant for good.
Sun Tzus Art of War Summary:
- Detail Assessment and Planning (Chinese: 始計) explores the five fundamental factors (the Way, seasons, terrain, leadership, and management) and seven elements that determine the outcomes of military engagements. By thinking, assessing and comparing these points, a commander can calculate his chances of victory. Habitual deviation from these calculations will ensure failure via improper action. The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration.
- Waging War (Chinese: 作戰) explains how to understand the economy of warfare and how success requires winning decisive engagements quickly. This section advises that successful military campaigns require limiting the cost of competition and conflict.
- Strategic Attack (Chinese: 謀攻) defines the source of strength as unity, not size, and discusses the five factors that are needed to succeed in any war. In order of importance, these critical factors are: Attack, Strategy, Alliances, Army and Cities.
- Disposition of the Army (Chinese: 軍形) explains the importance of defending existing positions until a commander is capable of advancing from those positions in safety. It teaches commanders the importance of recognizing strategic opportunities, and teaches not to create opportunities for the enemy.
- Forces (Chinese: 兵勢) explains the use of creativity and timing in building an army’s momentum.
- Weaknesses and Strengths (Chinese: 虛實) explains how an army’s opportunities come from the openings in the environment caused by the relative weakness of the enemy and how to respond to changes in the fluid battlefield over a given area.
- Military Maneuvers (Chinese: 軍爭) explains the dangers of direct conflict and how to win those confrontations when they are forced upon the commander.
- Variations and Adaptability (Chinese: 九變) focuses on the need for flexibility in an army’s responses. It explains how to respond to shifting circumstances successfully.
- Movement and Development of Troops (Chinese: 行軍) describes the different situations in which an army finds itself as it moves through new enemy territories, and how to respond to these situations. Much of this section focuses on evaluating the intentions of others.
- Terrain (Chinese: 地形) looks at the three general areas of resistance (distance, dangers and barriers) and the six types of ground positions that arise from them. Each of these six field positions offers certain advantages and disadvantages.
- The Nine Battlegrounds (Chinese: 九地) describes the nine common situations (or stages) in a campaign, from scattering to deadly, and the specific focus that a commander will need in order to successfully navigate them.
- Attacking with Fire (Chinese: 火攻) explains the general use of weapons and the specific use of the environment as a weapon. This section examines the five targets for attack, the five types of environmental attack and the appropriate responses to such attacks.
- Intelligence and Espionage (Chinese: 用間) focuses on the importance of developing good information sources, and specifies the five types of intelligence sources and how to best manage each of them.
10. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change was a groundbreaker when it was first published in 1990, and it continues to be a business bestseller with more than 10 million copies sold. Stephen Covey, an internationally respected leadership authority, realizes that true success encompasses a balance of personal and professional effectiveness, so this book is a manual for performing better in both arenas. His anecdotes are as frequently from family situations as from business challenges. Before you can adopt the seven habits, you’ll need to accomplish what Covey calls a “paradigm shift”–a change in perception and interpretation of how the world works.
At its core, author Stephen Covey seeks to promote the idea of the “character ethic.” He criticizes the other idea of management and effectiveness called the “personality ethic.” While the personality ethic focuses on techniques and appearances, the character ethic focuses on core principles such as integrity, courage, and compassion. While the personality ethic means appearing to be someone, the character ethic means to actually live that. This is where the seven habits come in.
It summarizes a lot of the ‘best’ ideas in entrepreneurship (Steve Blank, Eric Ries, others) and gives you a very practical guide to getting started. At one point in the past, it would have been possible to ‘push’ a product onto users. Now, unless you are a company like Apple it is almost impossible. There are thousands of other start-ups that will do what you do AND listen to users.
Using data from various industries, this book discusses dilemma between sustaining and disruptive innovation.
Most technological companies drift up-market, improving technology for increasingly high-margin customers. This is sustaining innovation. It can be hard, but if you continue to serve the same market, return on investment is predictable. Sustaining innovation creates vacuum at the low end, and entrants fill it with new technologies, not as capable but better in other ways – simpler, more reliable, suitable in different environments, and typically cheaper up-front. This is disruptive innovation. When a working low-end business model is found, products start to improve until they meet demands of mainstream customers. At this point, being cheaper, or simpler, or more reliable, new technologies win.
Whether you’re thinking about starting a new business or growing an existing one, Ready, Fire, Aim has what you need to succeed in your entrepreneurial endeavors. In it, Masterson shares the knowledge he has gained from creating and expanding numerous businesses and outlines a focused strategy for guiding a small business through the four stages of entrepreneurial growth. Along the way, Masterson teaches you the different skills needed in order to excel in this dynamic environment.
Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth Revisited should be required listening for anyone thinking about starting a business or for those who have already taken that fateful step. The title refers to the author’s belief that entrepreneurs–typically brimming with good but distracting ideas–make poor businesspeople. He establishes an incredibly organized and regimented plan, so that daily details are scripted, freeing the entrepreneur’s mind to build the long-term success or failure of the business. You don’t need an M.B.A. to understand or follow its directives; Gerber takes time to explain buzzwords and complex theories. Read in a clear and well-paced manner, listening to The-E Myth is like receiving advice from an old friend.
This book is more than just a leadership book…or a book about strategy development…or a “business genre” book. It’s an inspiration book. It’s about discovering your purpose and then using that purpose to guide your actions and your deliverables. What’s more, you can apply its principles to either yourself or to your organization
It gives you a lot of techniques about how to price, research a product, how to market your product. It goes through a lot of case studies and drives home a point using the startup as an example. It is much better to see how a simple change of words on a product’s description helped a business increase sale rather than just studying the theory without an example.
While light on detail, Gary lays out some of the methods for creating an audience. He discusses the importance of building a brand, creating great content and being available on every platform. What’s is most valuable, I believe, is his energy on the subject. He literally jumps off the page to motivate and make a believer out of the reader.
Irrational behavior is a part of human nature, but as MIT professor Ariely has discovered in 20 years of researching behavioral economics, people tend to behave irrationally in a predictable fashion. Drawing on psychology and economics, behavioral economics can show us why cautious people make poor decisions about sex when aroused, why patients get greater relief from a more expensive drug over its cheaper counterpart and why honest people may steal office supplies or communal food, but not money. According to Ariely, our understanding of economics, now based on the assumption of a rational subject, should, in fact, be based on our systematic, unsurprising irrationality.
Advertising’s fundamental theorem-that perception trumps reality-informs this dubious marketing primer. Journalist and marketing guru Godin, author of Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, contends that, in an age when consumers are motivated by irrational wants instead of objective needs and “there is almost no connection between what is actually there and what we believe,” presenting stolid factual information about a product is a losing strategy. Instead, marketers should tell “great stories” about their products that pander to consumers’ self-regard and worldview.
Examples include expensive wine glasses that purport to improve the taste of wine, despite scientific proof to the contrary; Baby Einstein videotapes that are “useless for babies but…satisfy a real desire for their parents”; and organic marketing schemes, which amount to “telling ourselves a complex lie about food, the environment and the safety of our families.” Because consumers prefer fantasy to the truth, the marketer’s duty is to be “authentic” rather than honest, to “live the lie, fully and completely” so that “all the details line up”-that is, to make their falsehoods convincing rather than transparent.
Drawing on his many years’ experience as a writer, Pressfield (The Legend of Bagger Vance) presents his first nonfiction work, which aims to inspire other writers, artists, musicians, or anyone else attempting to channel his or her creative energies. The focus is on combating resistance and living the destiny that Pressfield believes is gifted to each person by an all-powerful deity.
While certainly of great value to frustrated writers struggling with writer’s block, Pressfield’s highly personal philosophy, soundly rooted in his own significant life challenges, has merit for anyone frustrated in fulfilling his or her life purpose.
Successful photographer Ulrich (photography chair, Art Inst. of Boston; coeditor, The Visualization Manual) explores the creative impulse and presents an approach to developing creativity that, like Pressfield’s, will be relevant to artists and others. He identifies and explains seven distinct stages of the creative process: discovery and encounter, passion and commitment, crisis and creative frustration, retreat and withdrawal, epiphany and insight, discipline and completion, and responsibility and release.
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