Warren Buffett spends six hours a day reading. Reese Witherspoon reads two to three books a week. Oprah says about reading: "It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing." Indeed, reading increases self-sufficiency as well as agency and possibility, and when you are an entrepreneur, all of those qualities are paramount to success.
Here are some recent business-oriented selections from our bookshelf:
Grit by Angela Duckworth
Sometimes the most talented people don't succeed and we scratch our heads as to why not. Angela Duckworth set out to study high achievers and what made them outlast their competition. Interviewing Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, and finalists in the National Spelling Bee, what Duckworth found is that perseverance and grinding through difficulty is more of a predictor of success than innate ability. A great book to couple with Todd Rose's The End of Average, Grit does fall into the self-help market trap of believing in a world where limits are only self-imposed and anybody should be able to accomplish anything if they put their mind to it, ignoring the fact that sometimes luck plays a much greater part in our successes and failures than we would like to believe. Still, one cannot argue that perseverance is critical to success, and although this wasn't my favorite in the self-actualization canon, it still had some worthy ideas to chew on.
Influence by Robert Cialdini
I remember telling a friend of mine who is a brilliant salesperson that I found this book a bit unsettling because all of the tactics—reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity—seemed like just methods of manipulation. Her response? "That's why I love it! It works!" And indeed, this book on the psychology of persuasion is a classic for a reason and perhaps even a Rorshach test if you read it as a warning or a beacon. A must for anyone in sales or any business person fielding salespeople.
The Voltage Effect by John List
Written by John List (the economist who helped scale Uber, not the serial killer), The Voltage Effect is all about the five signs of scalability, evaluating business vitals like false positives, true audience size, determining scalable ingredients, unintended consequences and supply side economics. He puts particular emphasis on the one factor that causes costs to balloon as you scale: human beings, and gives real-world examples from his own experiences out in the field.
So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport
With the title taken from Steve Martin's response when asked how to make it in show business, Cal Newport cuts through a lot of self-help and productivity hack language to simplify success. The reality is that all the marketing and luck and networking in the world won't make up for bad craftsmanship in whatever it is that you do. Daily habits, deep work, focus, and length practice are what lead to having the kind of rarefied careers that most of us dream of. It's that simple—and that hard—and it's also advice most people don't want to hear.
Unbound by Kasia Urbaniak
Not particularly a business book per se, but a book for women on how to get what we want written by a Taoist nun and former dominatrix. Her sections on putting all your attention on the person who you want something from and asking fully for what you want actually make sense. As does her solution to avoiding the freeze by turning the attention back on the other person with a question. Her in person workshops are hundreds of dollars. The book is $20—another reason why reading doesn't suck.
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