There are hundreds of books that speak to every aspect of entrepreneurship, with many more being published every year. It can be hard to sift through all the options and find the ones that will be most helpful and useful for your journey. Below are some books I consider particularly influential and helpful, broken down by the crucial piece of entrepreneurship they support.
Finding Your Path
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Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans
This book takes the revolutionary approach of applying design concepts to growing your career and improving your life. It’s packed with questions to help you find your best suited purpose and grow the kind of life that will make you happy. Unlike books that tell you to just “feel” things out, here’s a guide to purposefully designing the kind of career you want.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
Sinek explores why some business (and other) leaders become highly influential and see their products take off, while others don’t. Successful entrepreneurs and consistent change-makers, he finds, tend to ask and seek to understanding the “why” behind what they lead or create. “Why” is crucial to consumer adoption of products, so it should be crucial to the entrepreneur’s understanding of their company and brand. Sinek engages with a number of examples to show readers how they too can fall into the camp of those who inspire and influence by asking “why?”.
Grit by Angela Duckworth
Psychologist and author Angela Duckworth explores what she considers the key component to career, life, social, and other successes: grit, defined as a “unique combination of passion and long-term perseverance”. By examining West Point cadets, teachers in underperforming schools, historical figures, and some of the most successful individuals in business today, she leads the reader on a journey to discover how they can build the grit needed to thrive in their endeavors.
Mindset by Carol S. Dweck
Dweck, another well-respected psychologist, explores the differences in mindset between those who succeed and excel, and those who do not. Her research-based finding is that those who view talent, strengths, and abilities as fixed points (aka those with a “fixed mindset”) have less success than those who think abilities can be nurtured and grown (“growth mindset”). She then shows the reader how to cultivate a true, deep growth mindset (instead of a false or superficial one) in everything from career to parenting to interpersonal relationships.
Presence by Amy Cuddy
This book teaches you how to harness your power and be present in your biggest challenges, while removing fear, worry, anxiety, and regret from your experience. Research-backed, it aims to help readers connect better with their views of themselves, and also with all the things they undertake and people with whom they interact.
Kickass Confidence by Alyssa Dver
Confidence is a tough thing, especially for a young startup founder or innovator. Alyssa Dver has a straightforward confidence-building method that anyone can follow. Her book is filled with neuroscience and psychological research that tells us the brain can change, and with it, our confidence, if we do certain things. This no-nonsense book will help you build the self-trust that’s necessary for success.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Horowitz gets real about the many challenges that arise when you run a company. He tackles topics like firing friends, when it’s time to cash out, the worries that plague most CEOs, and more problems from the world of running a business. He also offers excellent insights on how to meet those challenges and doesn’t let himself get mired doldrums about the difficulties entrepreneurs face. Instead, he offers wit, humor, and the occasional swear word to make this a fun and empowering read.
The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen
In this book, Christensen shows how a company can have everything (good ideas, good staff, etc.) going for it, do everything right, and still lose its place in the market or fade into oblivion nonetheless. Then, he shows you how you can avoid that fate by being truly innovative. He profiles successes and failures and pulls valuable lessons from each one.
The Innovator’s Solution by Clayton M. Christensen and Michael E. Raynor
This followup to The Innovator’s Dilemma teaches you how to make your company disruptive. It also looks at the common pitfalls that lead good managers to making bad decisions, and helps you combat them. In addition, it proposes a framework for how to identify the best timing for your product to successfully disrupt the market.
A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger
Berger champions the forgotten art of asking questions in this book. He traces the loss of our questioning tendencies from childhood into adulthood and the way that questions are often looked down upon as we grow older. But, he finds, the most innovative and brilliant people in history never stopped questioning. By studying some of today’s top companies, as well as some lesser known inventors, entrepreneurs, educators and other change-makers, he illustrates that questioning is pivotal to making a difference in the world and our own lives, and that so many of our greatest discoveries and innovations have bloomed from asking a “beautiful question”.
Originals by Adam Grant
This insightful book explores ways in which revolutionaries in a variety of fields made an impact via non-conformity and challenging the status quo. Because busting through the status quo is tricky and risky, Grant also outlines how to identify the ideas most worth pursuing, and how to go about getting people on your side instead of standing in your way.
Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters
Investor and founder Thiel uses his years of Silicon Valley experience to define some key things he thinks the future of technology and innovation will bring. He also instructs readers on how to be a part of that. Zero to One will show you how to use the valuable lessons he’s gathered over the course of his career to start and run successful companies, and help make a better future.
Disciplined Entrepreneurship by Bill Aulet
Aulet’s book will teach you how to become a successful entrepreneur in 24 carefully laid out and described steps. He guides readers through coming up with a great product, expounds on the importance of focus to any entrepreneur, lays out and teaches how to surmount potential obstacles, and much more. This book busts the myths that someone cannot be taught entrepreneurship or that it’s an innate quality that you either have or don’t. Aulet shows us exactly how we can cultivate every important aspect of entrepreneurship.
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The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
This book proposes a work-life balance that maximizes the “life” and minimizes the “work”. A major proponent of of the “work smarter, not harder/longer/later” mentality, Ferriss aims to show readers how they too can take their jobs anywhere in the world, cut costs by thinking globally, and use the time they’re working much more wisely. On the surface, it might seem like the introduction to a get-rich-quick scheme, but Ferriss’s book is well researched and full of excellent time-saving and time-maximizing tips.
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
Procrastination gets the best of us, and has the chance to really sink our goals and dreams. Tracy offers up 21 morsels of great advice to help you stop procrastinating. For example, if you complete the most difficult/unpleasant task you have set out to do today first thing in the morning, then you’ll know that you’ve already gotten past that hump and everything else should be relatively more palatable. Check this book out for even more simply ingenious suggestions.
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How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Carnegie’s classic self-help book is still as relevant today, as it was when he first published it over 80 years ago. This quintessential book on getting the most out of your social interactions is based on the author’s workshops, which drew from his years of sales experience. It’s a great guide or blueprint for how to make your interactions with people positive and fruitful. It delves into things we might think are common sense (like treating people with sincerity, not being overly critical, being a good listener) and extends to how to be a good leader and turn others around to your way of thinking.
Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi
Ferrazzi imparts his hard-won networking wisdom in this great book. He aims to help readers harness the power of relationships (which he considers the basis of successful entrepreneurship) by teaching them to be and stay more connected with others. He tackles the need to think of what both parties get from a relationship, not just you. He also takes on how to make meaningful connections through social media. Best of all, he uses examples of well-known and influential figures in a number of fields to highlight connection strategies that really work.
The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane
If you’ve ever felt that you’d go so much further in life if only you’d been born, this book is for you! Cabane dispels the notion that charisma is an innate and unacquirable quality. Instead, she frames it as a set of practices, skills, and behaviors that anyone can adopt. The book teaches you ways to raise your influence and persuasiveness, without having to change the core of who you are.