17 Must Read Books For 2017
1. How To Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big – Scott Adams
Counterintuitive thinking on how one attains success. It’s a fun read, he’s a cartoonist so you can imagine how much fun Scott has in a book. My favourite part was the first time reading through, he gives you some piece of contrarian advice and then follows it up with “remember, you are the one taking advice from a cartoonist”. He’s not afraid to make fun of himself.
Scott has these moments of brilliance like; Goals are for losers, systems are for winners. He means having one set ending point isn’t a good strategy to get through life. Its much wiser to have a system to approach most problems in life.
He also comes up with these amazing realizations about life:
2. Zero to One – Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel is one brilliant person I look up to. Mr. Thiel was a co-founder in PayPal, one of the first investors in Facebook, and the fellow who offered 20 Ivey League entrants $100,000 to quit school and start a company. Yeah that Peter Thiel.
His book Zero To One was one of the best business books for entrepreneurs. Whether it’s education or communication he’s trying to disrupt the establishment.
Here’s a quote on his views of education”
“From an early age, we are taught that the right way to do things is to proceed one very small step at a time, day by day, grade by grade. If you overachieve and end up learning something that’s not on the test, you won’t receive credit for it. But in exchange for doing exactly what’s asked of you (and for doing it just a bit better than your peers), you’ll get an A. This process extends all the way up through the tenure track, which is why academics usually chase large numbers of trivial publications instead of new frontiers.
3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz
A must read for all Entrepreneurs and anyone trying to do something in life. Life is a struggle. Life isn’t easy. Business isn’t easy. There are lesson to be learned in everything we do. This book helps you in the bad times.
From the book:
The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place.
The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer.
The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right. The Struggle is when food loses its taste.
The Struggle is when you don’t believe you should be CEO of your company.
The Struggle is when you know that you are in over your head and you know that you cannot be replaced.
The Struggle is when everybody thinks you are an idiot, but nobody will fire you.
The Struggle is where self-doubt becomes self-hatred.
The Struggle is when you are having a conversation with someone and you can’t hear a word that they are saying because all you can hear is the Struggle.
The Struggle is when you want the pain to stop.
The Struggle is unhappiness.
The Struggle is when you go on vacation to feel better and you feel worse.
The Struggle is when you are surrounded by people and you are all alone.
The Struggle has no mercy.
The Struggle is the land of broken promises and crushed dreams.
The Struggle is a cold sweat.
The Struggle is where your guts boil so much that you feel like you are going to spit blood.
The Struggle is not failure, but it causes failure. Especially if you are weak. Always if you are weak. Most people are not strong enough. Every great entrepreneur from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg went through the Struggle and struggle they did, so you are not alone. But that does not mean that you will make it. You may not make it. That is why it is the Struggle.
The Struggle is where greatness comes from.
4. The Third Wave – Steve Case
I recently finished reading this book and was blown away not only on the theory of the third wave but also the story of AOL (America Online). A company that largely gets forgotten in our app filled, Snapchat style life we think all tech companies are like. The third wave talks about the future of the Internet and how it’s more going to replicate the first wave rather than the second. I’m getting ahead of myself.
5. Mavericks At Work – Bill Taylor
One of my favourite authors of all time. Bill Taylor founded Fast Company magazine
“It’s the hardest thing to do as a leader, but it’s the most important thing. Whatever day it is, something in the world changed overnight, and you better figure out what it is and what it means. You have to forget what you just did and what you just learned. You have to walk in stupid every day” -Dan Wieden, Co-founder of Wieden + Kennedy
You cannot motivate the best people with money:
“There’s another lesson that’s really obvious, you cannot motivate the best people with money. Money is just a way to keep score. The best people in any field are motivated by passion. That becomes more true the higher the skill level gets. People do their best work when they are passionately engaged in what they’re doing”
Still one of my favourite quotes when thinking about your own company or whether to work with an organization. Why should great people want to join your team? It makes you think about what you have to offer. It’s not money, it’s deeper.
6. Originals: How Non-Conformist Move the World – Adam Grant
Non-conformists change the world, no one can argue against that but Adam Grant shows us they do it in unexpected ways. People think every change agent is as driven a Jobs and as smart as Uncle Phil off Fresh Prince. This book shows you another way. Originals inspires you to find your own thing, to seek out something to be great at for the rest of your life.
“We find that entrepreneurs are significantly more risk-averse than the general population”
You find gems like this. Did you know if you start your entrepreneurial venture while still employed you have a 33% less change of failure? Or that younger brothers were 10.6 times more likely than their older siblings to attempt to steal a base.
Younger brothers were 3.2 times more likely to steal a base safely. In fact, their appetite for risk makes younger siblings less likely even to play baseball. Across twenty-four different studies of more than eight thousand people, laterborns were 1.48 times more likely to participate in sports with high injury rates, such as football, rugby, boxing, ice hockey, gymnastics, scuba diving, downhill skiing and ski jumping, bobsledding, and auto racing. Firstborns preferred safer sports: baseball, golf, tennis, track, cycling, and crew.
Hundreds of studies point to the same conclusion: although firstborns tend to be more dominant, conscientious, and ambitious, laterborns are more open to taking risks and embracing original ideas. Firstborns tend to defend the status quo; laterborns are inclined to challenge it.
Creative geniuses weren’t qualitatively better in their fields than their peers. They simply produced a greater volume of work, which gave them more variation and a higher chance of originality. “The odds of producing an influential or successful idea,” Simonton notes, are “a positive function of the total number of ideas generated.” Consider Shakespeare: we’re most familiar with a small number of his classics, forgetting that in the span of two decades, he produced 37 plays and 154 sonnets…..Picasso’s oeuvre includes more than 1,800 paintings, 1,200 sculptures, 2,800 ceramics, and 12,000 drawings, not to mention prints, rugs, and tapestries—only a fraction of which have garnered acclaim……Einstein wrote papers on general and special relativity that transformed physics, but many of his 248 publications had minimal impact. If you want to be original, “the most important possible thing you could do,” says Ira Glass, the producer of This American Life and the podcast Serial, “is do a lot of work.”
The original thinkers aren’t worried much about fashion. “Looking the part” seems to be bad advice these days. You’re better off wearing something you’re comfortable in, something that makes you smile when you wear it.
Adam Grant has some great advice on strategic planning and creating a “vision”. Let your people do it! They’re going to be the ones carrying out that vision, why wouldn’t you get them to help out creating it?
7. Mastery – Robert Greene
A book on motivation I read along the way somewhere talked about what “everyone is looking for” in our business careers. The answer? Mastery in our trade. To be the best at what we do. To get there I wanted to find out what Robert Greene had to say. I was not disappointed.
Life is about learning, if you take shortcuts when you’re young you may not learn the lessons you need to for later in life. The story about the adult who was “babied” as a child, protected from the world, never turned into anything worthwhile in the long run. Why? They never learned to fight for themselves.
Life should be difficult, that how you learn if you’re on the path to mastery.
From the book:
In the process leading to this ultimate form of power, we can identify three distinct phases or levels. The first is the Apprenticeship; the second is the Creative-Active; the third, Mastery.
We’re all at different points in our lives, recognizing where you’re at is the first key to discovering mastery.
When you are faced with deficiencies instead of strengths and inclinations, this is the strategy you must assume: ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others.
On the road to mastery there will be many distractions, many things that will take your attention away from focusing on your strengths. Don’t listen to naysayers, focus on what you’re great at.
An emotional quality separates the good from the Great? How interesting! Stop worrying about your last test score, IQ, SAT score or Resume, they don’t matter anymore! What matters is if you’re a human, if you care, if you’re on your own personal path to mastery.
We must always remind ourselves and those who are young around us. Practical experience is priceless. You will be come what you focus on and if you are focusing on a skill-set that isn’t valuable in 2017 and beyond I’d change some thing. You can also sum this up by; “make less money get more experience”.
8. The Obstacle Is The Way – Ryan Holiday
What a refreshing read. Loved by many professional athletes (including the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks). The Obstacle is the Way is about the journey. Ryan Holiday talks about many philosophers, stoicism, and working on ones’ self.
He asks the difficult questions. He gives you hope by teaching you a way of thinking. When bad things happen they are to teach us. When good things happen they are to remind us of why we go through the struggles. Anyone that’s done something worthwhile in this world have struggle a lot with it. The best challenges to tackle are the impossible ones.
9. The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle
More and more research is coming out on how we’re born with very little but can train it into a lot. The Talent Code talks about how our brains are wired and how we all can change that wiring well into our later years.
We’re taught that whatever we’re born with we’re stuck with but that’s just not true. Our brains our massive engines, ever growing, ever changing. No one takes kids aside and asks them about their superpower, it’s not common to think that everyone has a secret hidden superpower just waiting to get out. We think about our brains wrong.
10. Smartcuts – Shane Snow
Need a business “pick-me-up”? Read Smartcuts. Novel ideas, brilliant execution, Shane Snow is a guy to follow on the new world of business. Smartcuts is about not following the beaten path. It’s about taking not shortcuts, but smart-cuts. And in our internet filled lives there are many Smartcuts to take.
We can’t be afraid to question the establishment and authority. That’s where many amazing ideas come from. Until be ask but why not? You’ll never really know what you’re missing.
Learning from those who took Smartcuts years ago will always help. Creating a “Mentorship” culture is not a new idea but one that more and more smart organizations are adopting.
11. Mindset – Carol Dweck
What an amazingly simple concept; there are only two types of people, growth mindset and fixed mindset thinking.
Fixed mindset thinking is based on what you’re born with is what you’re stuck with. That your mind has already been developed and determined in advance. That you’re predisposed to live a certain life, but it’s just not true. The fixed mindset is a lie.
The growth mindset is what we need to teach our kids.
From the book:
Did you know that Darwin and Tolstoy were considered ordinary children? That Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers of all time, was completely uncoordinated and graceless as a child? That the photographer Cindy Sherman, who has been on virtually every list of the most important artists of the twentieth century, failed her first photography course? That Geraldine Page, one of our greatest actresses, was advised to give it up for lack of talent?
So why is it that some of the most incredible people in history were completely ordinary as children? Is it because greatest is more of a habit than a trait? Something we develop not born with.
This means that everyone, and I mean EVERYONE can change their own brain for the better. This book has amazing ramification for your life.
12. Better & Faster – Jeremy Gutsche
Jeremy gets it. Not only a Canadian, an avid user of Fiverr as well! Kidding! I found out about Fiverr in Better & Faster, but not sure if he still uses it. He was talking about it making a point. If you’re doing something simple in this world, someone else can do it for cheaper and probably better. We’ve reached the point where we have an option for everything, so how will you standout?
Your only advantage now is to operate faster than others and find ways to adapt better than others. There’s no “perfect” strategy, develop a framework and get ready to change.
It’s not about being like the giants of the past, it’s about being “very good”, quite the opposite actually. Better & Faster gives you a lot to think about, you may end up changing your internal strategy after reading this book.
From the book:
In the 1950s, the average life span of a Fortune 500 company was seventy-five years, similar to that of a human. Today, the number has declined to that of a dog—just fifteen years—and some expect it to plummet to just five years.2 Companies are failing to adapt.
13. Conscious Capitalism – John Mackey, Rajendra Sisodia
Conscious Capitalism is the new reality we’re living in. John Mackey, Co-CEO of the darling Whole Foods Market chain of supermarkets across the US. I’ve been talking about Whole Food ever since I read this book.
Whole Foods has some very different “policy” when it comes to running their company that we all can learn from. The Executive team has the same benefits plan as the cashiers on the front line, meaning no one is better than anyone else here. Also, the pay of any employee can never be any less 19X the CEO’s pay. IN a world where bank CEO’s make millions of dollars every year, here is a company doing the exact opposite.
There are some truths in the book that slap you in the face.
14. Execution is the Strategy – Laura Stack
I’ve been referencing this book more and more lately. When folks get too caught up in “strategy” I like to remind them of this book. The “strategy” isn’t the important part, at least I don’t think it’s as important as the outcome (if it ends up being more important than the outcome run far, far away from that organization, they suck).
Laura starts the book off talking about Corporate Strategy Plans which by her calculation “by the time a strategic plan is printed, it’s obsolete by the time the ink dries on the page.” I’ve worked with enough organizations on Strategic Planning to agree wholeheartedly.
You’re going to get a lot from this book, specially if you’ve grown up or have experienced the “traditional” corporate world.
From the Book:
“1. Reject perfectionism. Everything has some level of downside risk; even “sure things” can blow up in your face. Let’s face it: no matter how much time and effort you’ve spent preparing, you’ll probably hit unexpected snags. So stop hesitating and move forward.
2. Accept the possibility of failure. Naturally, you want to do your best for yourself and your team, but inevitably a certain percentage of your decisions will prove incorrect. Recognize this fact and stop huddling in place; instead, choose a direction and get moving.
3. The simplest solution is probably the best. Often, the path of least resistance represents the best possible choice.
4. Follow your core values. If a potential decision conflicts with the things you or your organization believe in most, dismiss it from consideration.
5. Focus on getting started. Knowing where you want to go and the basic route you need to take represents half the battle.
6. Establish milestones and a drop-dead deadline. Know when you absolutely have to have a task done. Break it into easy pieces that allow you more than enough time to complete it before the final deadline arrives.
7. Listen to both head and heart. Sometimes a certain course of action makes absolute sense from an intellectual perspective, but still seems wrong. If so, your subconscious mind has probably noticed something your conscious mind hasn’t. So use both your IQ and your emotional intelligence (EQ) when making decisions.
15. David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
It’s good to be the underdog. That’s Gladwell’s point here. He looks at situations like countries being bombed during World War II but came out ahead after the war. He looks at education, an unconventional basketball team and yes he deconstructs David vs Goliath the epic Biblical tale. I don’t want to spoil the book but we’ve been thinking about the David and Goliath story all wrong for centuries now. Finally someone cleared up the air.
I’ve referenced this book to my Volleyball teams before we play games we’re a drastic underdog. The first time I listened to the audio book (on my way to speak in Saskatoon) I literally changed around the end of my presentation to include a story from Gladwell’s book. It was that inspiring.
The underdog story needs to be told more and more. Kids, adults and everyone in between working on something above their weight class needs to know why it’s beneficial to be an underdog. In sports psychologically it’s much better to be the underdog, it gives you a reason to try, because you have nothing to lose.
From the book:
Suppose you were to total up all the wars over the past two hundred years that occurred between very large and very small countries. Let’s say that one side has to be at least ten times larger in population and armed might than the other. How often do you think the bigger side wins? Most of us, I think, would put that number at close to 100 percent. A tenfold difference is a lot. But the actual answer may surprise you. When the political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft did the calculation a few years ago, what he came up with was 71.5 percent. Just under a third of the time, the weaker country wins.
Arreguin-Toft then asked the question slightly differently. What happens in wars between the strong and the weak when the weak side […] refuses to fight the way the bigger side wants to fight, using unconventional or guerilla tactics? The answer: in those cases, the weaker party’s winning percentage climbs from 28.5 percent to 63.6 percent. To put that in perspective, the United Stats’ population is ten times the size of Canada’s. If the two countries went to war and Canada chose to fight unconventionally, history would suggest that you ought to put your money on Canada.
16. The Virgin Way – Richard Branson
One of the best entrepreneurial books out there. Branson will always have a place in my heart. He’s wild, crazy, doesn’t care what people think (he drove a tank down Timesquare and proceeded to “blow up” the Coke advertisement in celebration of “Virgin Cola”). Branson is simply amazing.
He has moments when he shows his human side. During a board meeting a director had to take him aside and ask if he knew the difference between “net” and “gross” when it comes to accounting terms. He didn’t know.
One of the greatest business people of our time didn’t know the different between net and gross, meaning everyone isn’t perfect. We all have our flaws, we all have our imperfections, that’s what makes us awesome!
One of my favourite parts of the books are Richard’s Seven favourite words to say; I’m not sure what do you think?
What an amazing lesson in leadership. He doesn’t need to have all the answers if he focuses on what he does best, attracting amazing people to the Virgin group of companies.
He says his job is to recruit. That’s the job of any visionary, to find individuals that want to join the movement. He’s at the centre of the Human Resources Corporate structure for Virgin. I’ve referenced what Branson says about corporate hierarchies many times. In his view you don’t need them, they distort what you do, create back-stabbing among teams, and is counterproductive to the team. At Virgin they have a visionary at the centre (like a bike wheel) and the rest of the team are just spokes in the wheel. No one is viewed as higher up the totem pole than others.
I love that.
17. Steve Jobs – Walter Isaacson
Yes he was a tyrant, yup a visionary, transformed many industries, check! The story of it all is simply fascinating. Steve Jobs is brilliant. The way he could motivate people, the people who inspired him, and how he truly lived a non-traditional life. Whether it was the story of an LSD trip with friends or when he became a “Fruititarian” the book does not disappoint!
One of my favourite parts is when Isaacson talks about Jobs’ “reality distortion field”. He would literally distort reality to get his way. At time frustrating many of those on his team.
The reality distortion field was the exact reason Jobs transformed so many different industries unlike most leaders. Jobs saw the future and he wanted to create technology for the world around him.
Showing much hubris, Jobs never liked reporters comparing his products to others
“On the day he unveiled the Macintosh, a reporter from Popular Science asked Jobs what type of market research he had done. Jobs responded by scoffing, “Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?”
Chalk full of Jobs-ism the Walter Isaacson biography is written very well, you are surprised and entertained throughout. Jobs didn’t care what people thought of him, he lead a very interesting personal life as well. I was more interested in the Apple side of the story and quotes like:
“Picasso had a saying – ‘good artists copy, great artists steal’ – and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Shamelessly admitting to stealing ideas and encouraging others to do so. How many years later in our world and that advice couldn’t be more true today.
Whenever I think of “consumer research, focus groups or, survey data” I always think about what Jobs would say. The customer doesn’t always know what they want:
“Some people say, “Give the customers what they want.” But that’s not my approach. Out job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, ‘A faster horse!'” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Finally, pick a focus and know what you aren’t willing to do.
“One of Job’s great strengths was knowing how to focus. ” Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do, ” he said. ” That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.”