I read a lot. Typically I try to get through a book every month or two. I like to re-read books that have had a significant impact on me in one way or another.I find I get something new out of a book when I re-read it, probably because my frame of reference has changed since I last read it.
Below I’ve included the 17 books I would consider the most impactful on my life. They all fall within one of three categories: books that have helped me become a better entrepreneur, a better father/husband or just a better person in general.
I hope you find the list useful.
Behind The Cloud
I learned so many great business lessons from this book that I can’t even remember them all. Written by Marc Benioff (founder of Salesforce), it’s an excellent primer if you’re launching a company where you’ll be David going up against Goliath, such as a large, slow incumbent.
Marc’s rules for PR, positioning, dealing with competitors and hiring are legendary. I’ve read this book at least 10 times — most recently I spent a weekend in February reading it cover-to-cover.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things
Honest, brutal lessons that all CEOs will experience as they scale their companies from a few people to a few thousand. I found myself nodding almost non-stop as I was reading the book. If you want to know what it’s like running a large technology company, read this book.
Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
I thought I had a strong work ethic. Then I read this book. Of course Elon Musk is a visionary, but what most impressed me with the book was how involved he continues to remain in the details at Tesla and SpaceX. You need to hire great teams, but this book proves you should never remove yourself from the details that matter to you and your customers.
I’ve always believed you should look at your customer service and support teams as potential profit centers, not just cost centers. No one company does that better than Zappos.
In his book, Tony Hsieh shares details how he implemented his vision for customer happiness at Zappos. Two stories really stood out to me. First, that Zappos would pay you $2,000 within your first week if you decided to leave. Second, customer service people could send gifts to customers as they saw fit — they simply had to use their best judgement when doing so.
The book shows that Tony clearly knew Zappos was in the business of selling happiness, not shoes. It’s a great reminder that your product isn’t necessarily what you’re selling to customers, especially if it’s a commodity.
Remote: Office Not Required
If you think you need to rent an office and have everyone come in to work from 9am-5pm, you need to read this book. That old model may not be the best approach today, but it does depend on what your business does.
Mastering The VC Game
The only book you need to read when it comes to raising money as an entrepreneur. After reading this book I understood how most investors think as well as the “nitty gritty” details of term sheets including preferences, ratchets, drag and tag along rights, etc. If you want a crash course in venture capital, this is a must-read.
Your Inner CEO
One of the few books you can read that will show you what it takes to be a “real” CEO, which means preparing you for everything the job entails when you scale past a handful of people.
I live by the mantra of doing what you’re good at and delegating everything else. StrengthsFinder helps you figure that out and explains how your own unique style can help you get more done with less work. It includes access to take the StrengthsFinder test and you’ll receive your strengths profile at the end of it.
My strengths are thrust+accelerate, which means I’m good at starting from nothing and turning an idea in to something, then propelling it past that initial stage and turning it from a product into a company.
Knowing my strengths, I can build a team around me that compliments, not conflicts, with my style and strengths.
Once I read my profile I realized why I love building and scaling companies so much — because that’s where my strengths lie. Definitely worth the investment to understand you own strengths.
Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
The impact a dad can have on his daughter’s life is huge. This book helped me understand how girls think and what they need from their father. If you’ve got girls and want them to grow up feeling strong, confident and in control of their life and emotions, read this book.
The Wonder Weeks
New babies go through a predictable pattern of ups and downs. This book tells you what those patterns are and why they occur. There’s also a mobile app which tells you the exact dates when your new baby will be happy (wonder weeks) and when they will be fussy, upset and angry. It also details upcoming physical and mental milestones you can look forward to.
Love & Respect
About 50% of marriages end in divorce. 90% end as a result of financial stress. Assuming you’re OK financially, this book breaks down the reason most marriages fail and shows you how both men and women think and what they need in a marriage to thrive.
Put simply, women need love and men need respect. The book goes deep in both areas and includes lots of “Do’s” and “Don’ts”. It helps you understand how your communication style is impacting your marriage and explains changes you can make to satisfy the needs of your husband or wife.
The Business Of Happiness
I was lucky enough to meet the author, Ted Leonsis, in the locker room of Washington Wizards game in 2013. A self-made billionaire, Ted does a great job in this book explaining how happiness is the ultimate outcome, not money. He details how happiness has been the core driver in his career and lays out a blueprint to do the same.
The Power Of Habit
I’ve always believed your habits define who you become over time and this book proves it. It includes dozens of examples, anecdotes and stories about how habits lead to change and improvement both personally and professionally.
The 50th Law
Written by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson and Robert Greene, this book details the “rules” 50 Cent used to build up his career as a musician and entertainer.
I specifically love how he details the entire process he used to manufacture drama as a Hip Hop artist to get press coverage and sell more CDs. He understood better than anyone that the music industry is all about image first and talent second — and used that to become one of the biggest artists of the 2000s, parlaying his music money into a stake in Vitamin Water which he then sold to Coca Cola for $400M.
MONEY Master The Game
In his latest book, Tony Robbins shares the investment strategies he learned interviewing some of the sharpest financial minds in the world, including hedge fund manager Ray Dalio and vocal investor Carl Icahn.
This is a long book, but if you’re doing what most people do — turning your money over to a “professional” money manager, then you should definitely invest the time to read it.
I read the whole book a few times, but was mostly interested in how the investors Tony interviewed think about and mitigating risk even before making their investments or placing a trade, as well as how they use leverage after taking a position in a company to influence change (such as M&A or selling off parts of a company to build up the balance sheet), which ultimately creates more value for everyone.
Retire Young Retire Rich
I’ve read every one of Robert Kiyosaki’s books at least 5 times. Retire Young Retire Rich is my favorite because of the way it’s written. If you haven’t read Rich Dad Poor Dad yet, start there.
This book does an excellent job detailing the numbers and process behind investing in multi-family real estate (apartment buildings) and growing your asset base predictably over time through leverage. If you don’t understand (or aren’t comfortable with) using debt for leverage, this book breaks it down in a way most people can understand.
Ultimately the books helps you think beyond your salary and put a plan in place to make sure you’ll not just retire comfortably but retire rich, hence the name of the book.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography. An amazing read that shows what an incredible entrepreneur he was, even before he set foot in the gym.
Did you know, for example, that he is one of the largest real estate owners in Santa Monica? Or that he buys commercial jets (over $100M each) and leases them back to Singapore Airlines?
His investing and business knowledge is incredible and while he doesn’t talk much about it publicly, he shares everything in this book. Of course he also talks about the topics you’d expect to see in his autobiography — his career as a bodybuilder, actor and then politician, but I found the chapters about his business ventures a lot more interesting and insightful.