Visionary Leadership 101 – An Entrepreneurs Journey – Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I loved this book. Within, you’ll discover the dark side of Jobs; the selfish, horrible father and family member he was. However, you also see how diligently he worked at looking at the world differently. He was a true innovator in every sense of the word. He defied logic regularly, he changed industries, and he did it in very counterintuitive ways.
It’s difficult not to be inspired by the Steve Jobs story.
Still not an excuse to be a bad Dad. Just saying.
Finding Your Purpose 101 – They Call Me Supermensch by Shep Gordon
My favourite book of 2017. This book is written like a roller coaster ride, you won’t want to get off. I learned a lot from Shep. From Create History, to The willingness to fail is more important than the drive to succeed. I’ve written about this book before: 10 Business Lessons From The Amazing Supermench.
Shep has a very refreshing way to look at business, I wish more people looked at the world like him.
Finding Your Craft 201 – A story on a friendship of the two smartest professors – The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis
I don’t think a book has made me cry like this one did in a long, long time. It’s one of the few books to bring me to tears. I don’t want to ruin it for you but when Amos is on his death bed, the Nobel committee calls his house to tell him he’s short listed for the prize. He doesn’t even take the call. He said that winning the Nobel prize is something he will not miss when he’s gone. He never did his work for pride or money or anything other than the love for the work.
It’s an inspiring read that makes you want to fall in love with something in this life just as Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky did.
Side note, Michael Lewis is a brilliant writer, he’s one of the easiest writers to keep your attention. Highly recommend!
Entrepreneurship Strategy 203 – The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
This book really hits home for the startup entrepreneur who hasn’t yet found success. Ben makes you feel what he felt when he was at his worst. The candour of his stories makes you appreciate his advice. I love the one email he published of Mark Andreesen to Ben Horowitz after a media event that had gone bad. Basically Mark (a brilliant Silicon Valley VC) chews out Ben with some choice language. You’ll have to read the book to find it. I wrote about The Hard Thing About Hard Things Here.
If you don’t already want to buy the book, the fact that he starts each chapter off with rap music lyrics is amazing in itself. One of my favourite entrepreneurship books.
New Entrepreneurship Strategy 204 – Better & Faster by Jeremy Gutsche
Jeremy Gutsch’s writing is like Jurassic Park remade for the business world! He’s very entertaining! For a Canadian market, I really like the way he thinks. I call it the “New Entrepreneurship Strategy” because the way he looks at growing a company is completely different than what we’re taught in school.
I wrote about some of my favourite quotes in the book here: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas
This book should be the textbook for Business 100.
The Story of Success 205 – The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
Motivation 101 – finding out that no one is born with talent, we become talented at that which we practice over and over again. This book really gives you hope by showing you how to focus your time, create positive habits, and take a long hard look at the long term of what you can be.
I love the subtitle on the cover: Greatness isn’t born, it’s grown, here’s how.
Fitness and Life Psychology 101 – Spark by John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman
It’s like a big secret that no one knew until recently, fitness is a wonder drug. The only thing more important may be sleep. The stats in the book and the research studies referenced will ensure you keep going to Wheelhouse regularly.
I wrote and did a video about the book here: The most underrated activity in your life
A must read for all ages!!!
Self Improvement Strategy 206 – Mastery by Robert Greene
Want to learn how the most successful people learn? Read Mastery. This book will help you navigate how to improve any skill in your life. A valuable tool in 2019 and beyond.
“Everything that happens to you is a form of instruction if you pay attention.” -Robert Greene, Mastery
Business 221 – how to become amazing at something.
Business 245 Defining Your Personal Brand – Originals by Adam Grant
If you’re looking to learn from some of the most unique minds and business leaders of our time than this book is for you. It’s written like a story book, telling tales about Warby Parker and Nobel Prize winners alike. I really enjoyed this book, you see how imperfect these leaders usually are, the “norm” is anything but normal.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” Scott Adams
“The more experiments you run, the less constrained you become by your ideas from the past.” – Adam Grant
Did you know if you’re not the first born child you may be prone to take a few more risks than your siblings?
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.
Business 345 How To Run a Business in 2019 and Beyond – Without Their Permission by Alexis Ohanian
“Five years ago, I doubt you would’ve found many international hotel companies who were worried about startups disrupting their industry. They owned all those expensive, big, solid buildings, after all! It would take ludicrous amounts of money to build a hotel empire in a few years, but that’s exactly what Airbnb did—except they did it with pixels rather than bricks. It turned out that a vast empire of hotel rooms was in our homes the whole time. –Alexis Ohanian
It’s no secret that I’ve been a big fan of Reddit for a long time. This book was written by one of the cofounders. Jam packed with stories, tips and how-to’s from one of our generations biggest success stories. Alexis is relatively unknown in the business community, which makes this book even better. He’s the “Jim Collins” of a new era in business.
Whatever you think of the world’s youngest billionaires, Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook crew, they’re just the beginning. The Forbes list of richest people—or its future equivalent—is going to have far fewer businesspeople and far more creators on it.
Business 282 The Psychology of How You Think – Mindset by Carol Dweck
“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?” -Carol Dweck
This book shows you it doesn’t matter what you’re born with, anyone can do something great in their lives if they understand the growth mindset.
“What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?” –Carol Dweck
I was speaking to the Canadian Foster Families Association in Saskatoon, after the presentation Justin from The Justin and Greg show comes up to me and says “Growth mindset, eh?” I had no idea what we was talking about. He followed it up with, “You’re a growth mindset guy, eh?” Still thinking he was crazy, I had no clue. Justin simply told me to read this book and it would make sense. Did it ever!
Mindset is one of the best business books because it gives you the power to get better. At reading, at managing, at selling, at anything you can wrap your growth mindset around. This book should be the last book students are given in grade 12.
For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. – Carol Dweck, Mindset
Business 182 The Science of Motivation – Drive by Daniel Pink
In business and in life, no matter what you get into, understanding how we’re motivated will help you be more successful. During my first management job at Nimbus Water, I concocted a scheme to pay the water bottlers a “per bottle filled” amount, instead of the hourly rate like they’d always done. I was brilliant, we’d pay for performance, the incentives were aligned and all was well in the universe. Until we rolled out the new program.
Broken bottle skyrocketed, quality control plummeted, and we had to switch back within two weeks. It was an utter failure. I didn’t understand why completely until I read this book. Humans can’t simply be motivated by money. If some people are (or claim to be), they have blinders on to all the unintended consequences of dangling dollar bills in front of humans.
Understanding more about how we’re motivated will help you to better work towards what matters to you in your life and in the lives of your loved ones.
Dan Pink, very smart fellow!
Business Strategy 189 – How Every Visionary Organization Works – Start With Why by Simon Sinek
The golden circle, why, how, what, (which you’ve probably seen in the now famous Ted Talk by Simon Sinek) is powerful due to its simplicity. We use why, how, what in proposals, in strategy documents, in pitches; few weeks go by without mentioning why, how, and what.
This book explains the concept much better than the Ted Talk. I believe this is a great resource to start your eduction on business strategy.
Business Management 382 The Science of Leadership – Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
If he didn’t already do enough for the business community with Start With Why, Sinek follows it up with another power book, this time on the topic of leadership. It’s my favourite book on leadership to date. He studies the U.S. Marines and finds something very curious about the order of how they eat. Starting with the newest recruits and working their way up to the leadership in the room, the leaders always eat last. Sending a message to everyone there about who is important.
Just how the title sums up the point of leadership, Sinek gives you example after example of why leadership is mostly about serving people. This book really should be taught in every business school.
Leaders are the ones who run headfirst into the unknown. They rush toward the danger. They put their own interests aside to protect us or to pull us into the future. Leaders would sooner sacrifice what is theirs to save what is ours. And they would never sacrifice what is ours to save what is theirs. This is what it means to be a leader. It means they choose to go first into danger, headfirst toward the unknown. And when we feel sure they will keep us safe, we will march behind them and work tirelessly to see their visions come to life and proudly call ourselves their followers. -Simon Sinek
Purpose Development 371 The Psychology of Purpose – The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma
After your first finance class, I think every student should read this book. It really puts into perspective what matters in life in the long run. Throughout our lives we are pulled in many material directions, Robin Sharma has a beautiful way of reminding us about that.
One of my all time must read books. Sharma is a brilliant thought leader.
Purpose Driven Life 471 Navigating the journey of life – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Another must read for everyone at a young age. I do believe things happen for a reason. You can get lucky if you put yourself in a position to be lucky. Paulo is a great writer, you won’t be able to put this book down.
Decision Psychology 171 How we make decisions – Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
This is the first book I bought after University. The night I started reading, I ended up being late for hockey because it was so damn interesting! It’s like books never existed in this state before I read Gladwell. It was entertaining to the point of being addictive.
The book focuses around a pretty simple concept: the preconscious thoughts we have in the split seconds before we think we make a decision are much more important than they may seem. First impressions matter a lot. Experts often can’t explain how they are experts, they just perform at a higher level. Like the tennis pro seeing the way a person contacts the ball during a serve, she knows whether it’s a good/bad serve far before she’s consciously aware of the serve. It’s her instincts at work, her highly trained instincts.
Thanks to Gladwell’s enthralling writing style, I never hesitate to pick up any book with his name on it.
Psychology of Business 271 How To Get Your Ideas To Spread – The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
Are you a Maven, a Connector, or a Salesperson? You’ll find out in this book!
A very easy read that will encourage you to reflect on why you do what you do. We all have incentives we rely on, what if companies are using those to their advantage?
A mandatory read for the marketing mind or anyone studying business or people.
Success Psychology 371 The Story of Success – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Finally a book that was very applicable to my life. I wasn’t born with anything “special”. Just an average kid from Regina, Saskatchewan. But if what Gladwell is saying is true, no matter who you are, if you practice at the right thing for 10,000 hours, you have a fighting chance!
“In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.”
He goes on to reiterate his point: success isn’t something in someone’s genes, it’s in their work ethic.
A very empowering book.
“It’s not how much money we make that ultimately makes us happy between nine and five. It’s whether or not our work fulfills us. Being a teacher is meaningful.”
Success Psychology 471 The Hidden Secret to Winning – David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Another in a long line of fantastic books by Malcolm Gladwell.
As the tag line goes, underdogs, misfits, and the art of battling giants. He starts the book off by correcting the Biblical story of David and Goliath. The ultimate underdog achievement we learned about as kids. But was it really an underdog victory? Did Goliath actually have the upper hand? Could have we been wrong all these years?
Gladwell dissects the story, educating the reader on what actually happened that fateful day in Babylon. From David’s sling being comparable to a handgun and Goliath being weighed down by his armour and not being able to see well at all. It was hardly an underdog battle.
It seems we give attribution to the wrong things over and over again in life. A remote miss is better than a near miss. And there is such a thing as “desirable difficulties”. When the things in life that we believe hold us back actually make us better.
This is a must read for high school students.
Change Psychology 241 How change works when change is hard – Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
Chip and Dan Heath have a knack for telling a story you easily can’t forget. From the authors of “Made To Stick” comes this best seller on change. Definitely an eye opener for all the mistakes we make on a regular basis. Change is easy to talk about but difficult to put into practice.
“Fundamental Attribution Error.” The error lies in our inclination to attribute people’s behaviour to the way they are rather than to the situation they are in.”
Inspiration in the Business World 198 Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not that – Small Is The New Big by Seth Godin
This was one of my first Seth Godin adventures and I loved every minute of it. It reads like his websites blog because, well, it is! It’s the best 193 blog posts he made over a several year period.
“There are two ways to grow: by stealing from the competition or by growing the market. The first path is slow and painful and difficult. The second path is where the magic of fast growth kicks in.”
There’s something about Seth Godin I’ve always enjoyed. I think he’s one of the (if not the) smartest thinkers of our time. With follow up books like The Dip, Linchpin, and The Icarus Deception, it’s hard to say which of Seth’s books are my favourite. Though Small Is The New Big is probably the easiest to read.
“Today, working hard is about taking apparent risk. Not a crazy risk like betting the entire company on an untested product. No, an apparent risk: something that the competition (and your co-workers) believe is unsafe but that you realize is in fact far more conservative than sticking with the status quo. Richard Branson doesn’t work more hours than you do. Neither does Steve Ballmer or Carly Fiorina. Robyn Waters, the woman who revolutionized what Target sells—and helped the company trounce Kmart—probably worked fewer hours than you do in an average week. None of the people who are racking up amazing success stories and creating cool stuff are doing it just by working more hours than you are. And I hate to say it, but they’re not smarter than you either. They’re succeeding by doing hard work. As the economy plods along, many of us are choosing to take the easy way out. We’re going to work for the Man, letting him do all the hard work while we put in the long hours. We’re going back to the future, to a definition of work that embraces the grindstone. Some people (a precious few, so far) are”
Life Strategy 131 How to navigate your business career – How To Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
A fun but also very enlightening read. Scott has an interesting way of getting his point across. The creator of Dilbert, the comic strip, so you know he has a great sense of humour.
He talks a lot about failing at things to get better as well as offering unconventional advice and just gives you confidence to try what you were always thinking.
“Goals are for losers, systems are for winners.”
Life Strategy 132 The Psychology of Who You Want To Become – Choose Yourself by James Altucher
I’ll be honest, I didn’t think much of this book to begin with, but as I started to read it I fell in love. James is a really good writer, very stilled at simultaneously entertaining and educating!
The only truly safe thing you can do is to try over and over again. To go for it, to get rejected, to repeat, to strive, to wish. Without rejection there is no frontier, there is no passion, and there is no magic. – James Altucher
This book helped me at a time when I was floundering. Doing “okay” but without the right things to sustain the life I wanted. This book truly was a wake up call. Moments like this:
Only think about the people you enjoy. Only read the books you enjoy, that make you happy to be human. Only go to the events that actually make you laugh or fall in love. Only deal with the people who love you back, who are winners and want you to win too. -James Altucher
The sign of a bad salesman is a good negotiator.
I love the refreshing outlook on sales too:
Another sign of a bad salesman is a good negotiator. This might not always be true, but it’s true for me. I am horrible at negotiation. If I say, “This car is for sale for $10,000” and they say, “Eight thousand,” I shrug my shoulders and say, “Okay.” When you’re negotiating you have to say no a lot. When you are selling, you are always trying to find the “yes.” Everyone has a “yes” buried inside of them. A good salesman knows how to find where that “yes” is buried and then how to tease it out. Great salesmen know it instinctively. When you’re a negotiator you have to be willing to say no, regardless of what the other side says. So although they aren’t total opposites, the goals are completely different. NEGOTIATION IS WORTHLESS. SALES ARE EVERYTHING. -James Altucher
Success Psychology 231 How to be an expert at anything – Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool
This book is mentioned by many other authors and on podcasts galore. I had to find out what all the hubbub was about. It’s amazing. It really is the recipe for getting better at anything.
The right sort of practice carried out over a sufficient period of time leads to improvement. Nothing else.
Getting outside your comfort zone is key!
This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your comfort zone, you will never improve.
Economics of the real world 232 The Hidden Side of Everything – Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
This book is now iconic. The way these two authors think is as remarkable as their ability change your mind on a topic is refreshing. I now subscribe to the podcast and have bought their amazing followup book “Superfreakonomics”.
You won’t find disappointment in this one!
Economics of the real world 332 The Hidden Side of Everything Else – Superfreakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
This sequel to Freakonomics is even better than its predecessor, hence the prefix “super”! It even changed my mind on global warming. Although I did change my mind back after further research, I still have to commend them for presenting a great argument.
The Secret to amazing art 121 How Artists Create – The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
A must read for creative types of all stripes in any field. We all spend our fair share of time battling the “Resistance” as Pressfield puts it, the hidden force that’s working against us. The more we understand the forces working against us, the better prepared we can be for our everyday battle to make our art.
“It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.
What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.”
I also like how he differs the professional from the amateur. It helps to think about what you’re doing at work and how you’re going about your work. Are you an amateur or a professional?
“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome.”
What don’t you have time for? The professional doesn’t have time for a lot of things.
“The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble prevents her from doing her work.”
The secret to creating amazing content 123 Content Creation Strategy – Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
The follow-up book to Pressfield’s The War of Art, Turning Pro is just as good with even more practical take-aways.
“The sure sign of an amateur is he has a million plans and they all start tomorrow.”
Customer Service Strategy 201 How to make raving fans out of your customers – Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
A love story from an entrepreneur, and not just any entrepreneur, Tony Hsieh of the now famous Zappos!
The book isn’t all rainbows and unicorns though, he struggled his way through the first seven years and it was far from pretty. He made mistakes but never lost the vision of what he was trying to create. And create he did. I don’t want to ruin the story but Zappos was purchased by Amazon.
Tony talks a lot about culture and what he’d created at Zappos. But he doesn’t come off arrogant like other business gurus talking about culture; when Tony talks about it, you can tell he’s experienced it, not just touting what sounds good for a book.
I made a note to myself to make sure I never lost sight of the value of a tribe where people truly felt connected and cared about the well-being of one another. To me, connectedness—the number and depth of my relationships—was an important element of my happiness, and I was grateful for our tribe. -Tony Hsieh
Have you developed your Brand Culture Pipeline yet?
Even today, our belief is that our Brand, our Culture, and our Pipeline (which we internally refer to as “BCP”) are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied. -Tony Hsieh
And of course, remember the very inspiring act of creating a “wow” every day.
Ask yourself: What are things you can improve upon in your work or attitude to WOW more people? Have you WOWed at least one person today? -Tony Hsieh
Competitive Business Strategy 401 How to Win – Winning by Jack Welch
I really enjoyed this book. I didn’t have many expectations going in, I thought it would be story after story about GE and the iconoclastic leadership Mr. Welch embodied. Nope. It’s fun! Jack’s a fun guy, he doesn’t take business too seriously. He makes you seriously rethink many of your preconceived notions. For example, a company’s mission statement:
In my experience, an effective mission statement basically answers one question: How do we intend to win in this business? It does not answer: What were we good at in the good old days? Nor does it answer: How can we describe our business so that no particular unit or division or senior executive gets pissed off? -Jack Welch
How many meetings have you been in where people just keep adding and adding to the mission statement and by the end it’s nothing more than a nonsensical paragraph of jargon that even the top professor of Harvard Business School couldn’t decipher?
Behaviours instead of values:
By contrast, a good mission statement and a good set of values are so real they smack you in the face with their concreteness. The mission announces exactly where you are going, and the values describe the behaviors that will get you there. Speaking of that, I prefer abandoning the term values altogether in favor of just behaviors. But for the sake of tradition, let’s stick with the common terminology. -Jack Welch
Competitive Business Strategy 401 How to Win – Playing to Win A.J. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
I had no idea what to expect going into this book, but A.J. Lafley was the CEO of Procter and Gamble so I assumed he couldn’t be full of shit! Wow was I impressed. It’s basically a guide to business strategy in the real world, with examples! A.J. and Roger get it, strategy comes down to two main decisions all the time: where to play and how to win.
It makes you think about business in a whole new way. Not just in “competitive advantages” and “strategic focus”, or any other jargon filled text. This book shows you what it’s like to makes decisions in the real world.
Do think long and hard before dismissing an entire industry as structurally unattractive; look for attractive segments in which you can compete and win. Don’t embark on a strategy without specific where choices. If everything is a priority, nothing is. There is no point in trying to capture all segments. You can’t. Don’t try. Do look for places to play that will enable you to attack from unexpected directions, along the lines of least resistance. Don’t attack walled cities or take on your strongest competitors head-to-head if you can help it. Don’t start wars on multiple fronts at once. Plan for your competitors’ reactions to your initial choices, and think multiple steps ahead. -A.J. Lafley and Roger L. Martin
The best strategies are simple:
One of the biggest lessons I had learned in my years at P&G was the power of simplicity and clarity. I found that clearer, simpler strategies have the best chance of winning, because they can be best understood and internalized by the organization. Strategies that can be explained in a few words are more likely to be empowering and motivating; they make it easier to make subsequent choices and to take action. – A.J. Lafley
Business Strategy 290 The basics of strategy – Built to Last by Jim Collins
I first learned about this book in Business 290 with Lorne Schnell. He talked about how the best companies have a foundation to fall back on, they have a vision that details their future, and they run with eyes wide open into new ventures regularly.
“Visionary companies make some of their best moves by experimentation, trial and error, opportunism, and—quite literally—accident. What looks in retrospect like brilliant foresight and preplanning was often the result of “Let’s just try a lot of stuff and keep what works.”
It was passages like the one below that helped me in my early years to focus on what matters.
Those who built the visionary companies wisely understood that it is better to understand who you are than where you are going—for where you are going will almost certainly change. – James C. Collins
Business Strategy 390 Intermediate Business strategy – Good To Great by Jim Collins
This follow-up to Built to Last has a lot more meat on its bones. I still quote passages from this book regularly, citing its timeless business analogies like “getting the right people on the bus”, “The Hedgehog Concept” (what can you be the best in the world at?), “Level 5 Leadership”, and “The Stockdale Paradox” (facing the brutal facts). This book really framed what business strategy could look like in practice. I just can’t believe I only had one professor talk about Jim Collins during my 5 years at a business school. Weird.
Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the key reasons why we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life. -Jim Collins
It’s not all hard hitting business acumen, he does have a nice moment when he talks about meaningful work.
For, in the end, it is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.
Beware of bureaucracy
The purpose of bureaucracy is to compensate for incompetence and lack of discipline. -Jim Collins
You don’t want to manage people. You must fight this urge. Managing people only helps ego, not the company. The best people don’t need to be managed.
The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you’ve made a hiring mistake. The best people don’t need to be managed. Guided, taught, led—yes. But not tightly managed. -Jim Collins
The Stockdale Paradox – one of the most important, if not the most important, lessons from Good to Great.
A key psychology for leading from good to great is the Stockdale Paradox: Retain absolute faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.
Early on in business, I’d tell myself that as long as I stayed with my head above the water, I’d keep breathing. Starting and running a business isn’t easy and it’s not supposed to be. If you can come to the understanding that business is hard and that’s why it’s so fun, you’ll go much further than you ever thought possible. As long as you are determined never to give up, you can achieve some remarkable feats.
Business Strategy 490 The advanced business strategy – Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
If you’ve read any other Jim Collins book, this will most likely be your favourite of the bunch. You can tell he’s becoming a better storyteller, crafting very vivid analogies to make his points stick with you. Fanatic Discipline, Empirical Creativity, Productive Paranoia, and Level 5 Ambition. Collins covers these over and over but not in a repetitive way. Stories like the 20 mile march or Firing bullets before cannonballs give the reader an entertaining way of learning about what it takes to be a part of a world class organization.
The 20 mile march. You win before you start. To those who are prepared, the conquest isn’t difficult, it’s routine. Those who don’t prepare always find a way to lose and become the victim.
Victory awaits him who has everything in order—luck people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.” —Roald Amundsen, at The South Pole
What are most successful leaders like? Are they risk-taking iconoclast visionaries making daring decisions to move the business forward? Hardly.
Entrenched myth: Successful leaders in a turbulent world are bold, risk-seeking visionaries. Contrary finding: The best leaders we studied did not have a visionary ability to predict the future. They observed what worked, figured out why it worked, and built upon proven foundations. They were not more risk taking, more bold, more visionary, and more creative than the comparisons. They were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid. -Jim Collins
Creativity without discipline is worthless. It takes a large amount of focus and effort (discipline) to create sustainable innovation. Sure it’s easy to innovate once or twice, but much more difficult to consistently be innovative.
I also loved the story about the iPod. It is a perfect deconstruction the myth that brilliant products are a result of some sudden breakthrough and illustrates how they are really the result of a slow and deliberate process of iteration and innovation.
Nontraditional Business Strategy 295 Radical Business Strategy – Practically Radical by William C. Taylor
I remember reading this book just after University. I brought it with me to the gym on the weekend to keep reading because it was so captivating. From Vuja De thinking to the story about the Children’s Hospital where the construction workers painted the kids names on steel beams to cheer them up. I think this was the first book to ever make me cry while reading. If you like marketing or innovative business strategy, you’re going to very much enjoy this book.
Vuja dé is the flip side of that—looking at a familiar situation (an industry you’ve worked in for decades, products you’ve worked on for years) as if you’ve never seen it before, and, with that fresh line of sight, developing a distinctive point of view on the future.” “Vuja dé is the flip side of that—looking at a familiar situation (an industry you’ve worked in for decades, products you’ve worked on for years) as if you’ve never seen it before, and, with that fresh line of sight, developing a distinctive point of view on the future. -William C. Taylor
Innovative Business Strategy 395 Thinking differently about busines strategy – Mavericks At Work by William C. Taylor and Pauly G. LaBarre
I love Bill Taylor, his writing style just gets me. He’s always talking about the future of business and how to think differently about the way you’re competing and operating, all illustrated with practical examples. This book should be included in University business strategy classes.
In an economy defined by overcapacity, oversupply, and utter sensory overload – an economy in which everyone already has more than enough of whatever it is you’re selling – the only way to stand out from the crowd is to stand for a truly distinctive set of ideas about where your industry should be going. You can’t do big things as a competitor if you’re content with doing things only a little better than the competition.
The best people aren’t motivated by money.
“There’s another lesson that’s really obvious,” he continues. “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”.
Your job as the leader is to be the dumbest person in the room.
Wieden argues that his job is to “walk in stupid every day “ – to keep challenging the organization, and himself, to seek out unexpected ideas, outside influences, and new perspective on old problems. “It’s the hardest thing to do as a leader,” he concedes, “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”.
One of my favourite parts of the book is when he talks about walking into a new business and asking the hard hitting question, “Why would great people want to work here?” I’ve used that question a lot in business; it really puts it into perspective what you’re working on at your company.
Why should great people join your organization? Do you know a great person when you see one? Can you find great people who aren’t looking for you? Are you great at teaching great people how your organization works and wins? Does your organization work as distinctively as it competes?
Leadership Strategy 280 The basics of running a visionary company – The Virgin Way by Richard Branson
I’ve listened to this in audio book form probably 6 times over. It never fails to make me laugh out loud. Richard Branson is a very special leader in my mind. Yet when I bring him up to younger audiences, few know of him. What the hell is wrong with our youth??!
I can hardly bring up entrepreneurship or visionary leadership without mentioning the name of Branson or Virgin. This book is why I look up to him so much. He just has moments of brilliance that really show character. Like when Virgin Coke was an utter failure, or when his wife talked him out of Virgin Condoms, being one of the smartest business decisions he decided not to do.
Listening is a key trait he says, yet most leaders don’t practice it very well. Not just listening but taking notes as well.
I believe that listening is one of the most important skills for any teacher, parent, leader, entrepreneur or, well, just about anyone who has a pulse.
Giving people a second chance isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of trust and faith in someone.
It’s so much better, where possible, to try and forgive offenders and give them a second chance, just like my mother and father did so often with me as a child.
Meet problems head on and don’t waste time.
I have always found it to be one of the more intriguing idiosyncrasies of the human condition that a problem that is handled quickly and effectively will almost always serve to generate more long-term customer loyalty than when the original service was delivered satisfactorily.
I also love his famous mantra we learn in the book, screw it, just do it! Whenever he wanted to take a risky move for the company, he would recite this phrase and make it happen.
Life Strategy 445 How to structure your life in 2018 and beyond – Die Empty by Todd Henry
Wow, I highlighted 131 different quotes in this book. I loved it. It’s that hard book you need to read that helps you figure out what’s going to make you happy later on in life. You have to listen to that little voice in the back of your head that pushes you in the right direction.
You possess a one-of-a-kind combination of passions, skills, and experiences; there is something you bring to your work that no one else could. If you relinquish that power, then it will never see the light of day and you will always wonder “what if?” The price of regret is incalculable.
Remember, most people aren’t driven by an inner vision of what they can become one day, don’t let that be an excuse to follow in their footsteps.
The average man does not know what to do with his life, yet wants another one which will last forever. —Anatole France
Greatness doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a the result of deliberate decisions taken over and over and over again.
The truth is there’s no deep, dark secret to unleashing your best work and finding your sweet spot. Though not easy, it begins with the decision to build practices that help you scan your life for areas where you might be growing stagnant, and to help you pour more of who you are into your work. Your legacy is built one decision at a time.
One thing most people don’t understand about success in any industry is that it is simply not easy. Nothing worth doing is easy, it’s all about leaning into the difficult parts and grinding through as far as you can possibly go.
“the love of comfort is frequently the enemy of greatness”
What goals are you setting regularly?
There are three kinds of goals that help you grow: Step, Sprint, and Stretch. A step goal is a very short-arc goal (often daily) that helps you maintain forward progress, even if it’s small progress. A sprint goal is a medium-arc goal (a week or two weeks) that causes you to go beyond yourself for a season in order to increase your capacity, and a stretch goal is a long-arc goal that forces you to go far beyond your comfort zone.
Persuasion Strategy 199 The basics of belief – The Business of Belief by Tom Asacker
I really enjoyed this book, written for the marketing brain in all of us with a little sprinkle of psychology for good measure. I thought Asacker’s definition of what a “belief” truly is was fascinating. Especially when he starts the book off with this zen story about the demon Mara:
Mara is the personification of temptation and anxiety. He seduces and frightens people. He obscures the knowledge of ultimate truth. Mara is referred to as “the Evil One.” One day he was traveling through a village with his posse. He noticed a man doing walking meditation. Suddenly, the man’s face lit up in wonder. He had come across something on the ground. Mara’s attendants were quite curious. They asked Mara what the man had discovered. Mara replied coolly, “It’s nothing. Just a piece of truth.” “But Evil One!” exclaimed one of his entourage. “Doesn’t it bother you when someone finds a piece of the truth?” Mara chuckled. “No. Not in the least.” “Really master? And why not?” “Because right after they discover some truth,” Mara grinned. “They usually make a belief out of it.”
The Future of Human Resources 206 How to run a company with no leader – The Starfish and The Spider by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
We base part of Strategy Lab’s internal structure on this book. The authors make a great case for leaderless organizations and decentralized power.
This is the first major principle of decentralization: when attacked, a decentralized organization tends to become even more open and decentralized.
There’s nothing more frustrating than being a “junior” in a division of a company with absolutely no power to make decisions. It’s not healthy, companies with traditional pyramids burn out the people at the top and the bottom, strict rules and policies are easy to hide behind to avoid doing any “productive” work.
It’s smarter to give people freedom and watch what they do with it. If they start abusing that freedom you let them know, if they do it twice you let them go. It’s a very simple way to find out who you should keep around the office.
When you give people freedom, you get chaos, but you also get incredible creativity.
The authors use Wikipedia as an example of a decentralized organization. When the founder Jimmy Wales was asked an IT question, his answer: “I have no idea.”.
As a catalyst, it’s all about letting go and trusting the community. For example, we asked Jimmy who’s in charge of managing the server software for Wikipedia’s computer system. “I have no idea,” he said. “The users decide amongst themselves. I have no idea how they do it. It’s just general consensus in the community who gets an account. And they watch each other.” It was that simple.
It takes courage to give control to other people, it also takes vision because it’s a long term play. It’s also far more sustainable than to control every decision from one office.
Another example was how much tax data Intuit has compared to a room full of experts.
The collective knowledge of the entire tax professional community is far more powerful than any handful of experts.
Contrarian Entrepreneurship Strategy 204 The Change Makers Guide – Worthless, Impossible and Stupid by Daniel Isenberg
This book unveils some common myths about entrepreneurship and business in general. Most entrepreneurs aren’t the young hipster whippersnappers you may assume they are.
Joining many of our protagonists in this book, Colonel Harland Sanders was in his sixties when he started the Kentucky Fried Chicken chain, and Ray Kroc was in his fifties when he began building the McDonald’s franchise system. Arianna Huffington started the successful website The Huffington Post when she was fifty-five.
If you’re a baby boomer the odds are in your favour!
In 2008, researcher Vivek Wadhwa showed that the number of founders older than 50 was double the number of founders younger than 25.5. The average age was 40 for men, 41 for women. In fact, Wadhwa’s study revealed that the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity had shifted to baby boomers in the 55–64 age group—a trend he predicted would continue for several years to come.
It’s always easy to say “I thought of that too I just didn’t DO anything about it”.
In hindsight, of course, ideas that work seem obvious to most of us—“I could have thought of that!” But none of us did think of that. And even if we did, we didn’t go out and do it.
Daniel gives a great breakdown for a business in the book. This would be a perfect entrepreneurial framework for a class.
As I have described in another publication, we can characterize any entrepreneurship environment in terms of six major domains: (1) policy and leadership, (2) capital availability and capital markets, (3) human capital and formal education, (4) customers and markets that are entrepreneur-friendly, (5) social norms and success stories, and (6) organizations that specifically support entrepreneurship.
Take the 2 Minute Opportunity Checklist for Entrepreneurs:
- Does your business idea soothe someone’s pain, discomfort, frustration, or dissatisfaction?
- Are there lots of those people out there?
- Do these people (or companies, or governments) have money to pay for it?
- Will they be able to decide quickly to buy your product or service?
- Does your idea exploit something about you that is outstanding or unique?
- Are there important assets you have that no one else has? (money, access to customers, technology, leadership skills, execution, location, salesmanship, etc.)
- Can you think of at least two people who might join you?
- Do their skills complement yours?
- Do they have the same values as you do?
- Do the majority of people whose opinion you highly respect think your idea is a good one?
- Does at least one person (and not more than three people), whose opinion you highly respect, think your idea is a bad one?
- Is there something about the idea or its implementation, that compels you to really devote yourself to it?
- Can you sneak by the big competitors without them noticing you for awhile?
- Can you find a potential customer who will take your calls, give you feedback, try a pilot out?
- Can you start up without huge gobs of money?
- Can you keep your fixed costs low during launch?
- Does your idea lend itself to small incremental steps that can inexpensively generate valuable information as well as at least a little cash?
- Can you think of something that Isenberg has forgotten? (and it is….)
You can also find it here at the Harvard Business Review: 2-Minute Opportunity Checklist for Entrepreneurs
Business Strategy in the age of the Internet 304 A “How To” on Social Strategy – Can’t Buy Me Like by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy
This is a fantastic guidebook on the future of business in the digital age. The authors are knowledgeable on the topic and tell great stories throughout. Bonus, Bob Garfield is awesome when he’s on the Bean Cast Podcast.
“The currency of Relationship Era marketing is not awareness, nor even quality; it is authenticity.”
There’s no better summary of what’s happening right now in the marketing world than the following:
“There are four forces at work, converging momentously to dictate your future: 1. The ongoing collapse of mass media and the corresponding loss of advertising reach and efficiency have turned the economics of marketing upside down. The cost of reaching consumers with advertising messages and promotional offers is rising unsustainably, even as consumer tolerance for such messaging declines. In the meantime the Internet has torn down the ramparts separating the corridors of business power from the teeming hordes. Once, corporations and brands could operate behind nearly impregnable fortifications. Now there is hardly an event that takes place—especially an ugly one—that doesn’t become exposed to one and all, immediately and in perpetuity.”
It’s the age of customer driven businesses. Everything you say or do can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion via the Internet.
“The single most important decision any of us will ever make is whether or not to believe the universe is friendly.” -Albert Einstein
We are living in the “relationship era”
“We like to call the journey from the Consumer Era to the Relationship Era the Shift. It’s a single term that represents all of the upheaval described over the past seven chapters: the shift from mass to micro, the shift from top-down to bottom-up and the shift from traditional marketing to purposeful marketing.”
Hacking your Marketing Strategy 404 Growth Strategies for the noble mind – Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday
What is a “growth hacker” you ask? Growth hackers are people who focus on numbers and tests and use them to create results.
“The term “growth hacker” has many different meanings for different people, but I’ll define it as I have come to understand it: A growth hacker is someone who has thrown out the playbook of traditional marketing and replaced it with only what is testable, trackable, and scalable.”
People have a tendency to think that major breakthrough apps are just conjured up all at once by some maverick programmer in their basement, when in fact they’re the end result of a long series of evolutions, tweaks, and changes made slowly, one test at a time. Holiday tells a great story about Instagram to help you understand what your customers like you for.
“Instagram started as a location-based social network called Burbn (which had an optional photo feature). It attracted a core group of users and more than $500,000 in funding. And yet the founders realized that its users were flocking to only one part of the app—the photos and filters. They had a meeting, which one of the founders recounts like this: “We sat down and said, ‘What are we going to work on next? How are we going to evolve this product into something millions of people will want to use? What is the one thing that makes this product unique and interesting?’” The service soon retooled to become Instagram as we know it: a mobile app for posting photos with filters. The result? One hundred thousand users within a week of relaunching. Within eighteen months, the founders sold Instagram for $1 billion. Both of these companies spent a long time trying new iterations until they had achieved what growth hackers call Product Market Fit (PMF).”
Keeping current customers happy is a smarter strategy than to always be search for new ones. Retention trumps acquisition.
“According to Bain & Company, a 5 percent increase in customer retention can mean a 30 percent increase in profitability for the company. And according to Market Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70 percent, while to a new prospect it’s just 5–20 percent. Bronson Taylor, host of Growth Hacker TV, puts it in a phrase: “Retention trumps acquisition.””
Creativity Strategy 405 Unleashing your creative potential – Creative Confidence by Tom Kelley and David Kelley
This book was filled with 136 highlights in my Kindle by the time I finished reading it, that aught to give some indication of how brimming with gems this piece of writing is. Tom and David Kelley (founders of IDEO) are two brilliant minds on creativity. After reading this book, you’ll be able to paint mountains and climb paintings! Well, maybe not really tall paintings, but this book is very effective in breaking down how to be a better creative.
“That combination of thought and action defines creative confidence: the ability to come up with new ideas and the courage to try them out.”
Being creative is just opening your mind up to the possibilities, transforming what others think is impossible into something possible.
“Creative confidence is an inherently optimistic way of looking at what’s possible.”
Everything has a purpose, even not having a purpose is intentional.
“Once you start creating things, you realize that everything has intention behind it.”
Don’t tell people about it, show them! Never go to a pitch without a prototype!
They subscribe to Boyle’s Law (named after one of IDEO’s master prototypers, Dennis Boyle): never go to a meeting without a prototype.
It’s much easier to “sell” to someone if they can see what it is, feel what it is, or listen to it. A prototype shows that you’re not just interested in planning (the easy part) but you’re much more interested in going to marketing with something. Ideas are easy, getting an idea off the ground is the hard part.
David Kelley has a great Ted Talk on Creative Confidence where he tells the story about “touching the snake”, how people with major phobias can learn to get over them. Just like most things we learn in life, it just takes one small step at a time.
I like how he redefines how creativity works, instead of the “big breakthrough” moment, it’s built upon a long series of failures.
“I learned that creativity is always in hindsight,” says Ankit. “It’s not about just coming up with the one genius idea that solves the problem, but trying and failing at a hundred other solutions before arriving at the best one.”
This book was made for a marketing mind, you’re liable to fall in love with it and feel inclined to buy every book by these clever fellows.
Decision Theory 406 How To Make Better Decisions – Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath
I adore Chip and Dan Heath, they will absolutely go down in history as two of my favourite authors. Their other books Made To Stick and Switch are already on this list!
Decisions are never easy, let Chip and Dan guide you through decision making theory that’ll help you in work, relationships, and pretty much anywhere you make decisions. Ha! (That’s everywhere) They talk about how our brains make decisions and how our conscious mind can only manage a small amount of information while our subconscious mind can handle WAY, WAY more. Putting things into your subconscious mind helps you achieve long term goals.
Psychology of Irrational Behaviour – Sway by Rom Brafman and Ori Brafman
Ori and Rom Brafman have written an amazing book. I love the way Rom and Ori Brafman look at the world. The books Click and The Chaos Imperative were two of my favourites. They always seem to make you look at the world in a different way. Sway was no different. It’s about getting your way in an irrational world. The psychology behind what they talk about is fascinating.
“Priming” people does work
“This one word, “warm” or “cold”—albeit irrelevant in the larger scheme of things—made students assign a high or low value to the professor. Like the NBA teams with the draft order, once the students read the substitute’s bio, their opinions of him were set. In other words, a single word has the power to alter our whole perception of another person—and possibly sour the relationship before it even begins. When we hear a description of someone, no matter how brief, it inevitably shapes our experience of that person.”
Complimenting people can have long term impact
“Now, who hasn’t walked a little taller or smiled a little brighter after being told how beautiful they look? But does the chameleon effect simply change our self-perception temporarily, or can it actually have long-term effects? New research from Yale indicates that diagnosis can indeed have a lasting effect on our health.”
Social Media Strategy – Ctrl Alt Delete by Mitch Joel
If you like marketing and podcasts the author of this book is one of the best! Mitch Joel (also a Canadian, WOOO!) publishes the Six Pixels of Separation podcast which I’ve listened to for the past 6 years. Ctrl Alt Delete is a great book on the future of marketing and how companies are making the radical leap into the age of the internet.
“Relationships are at the very core of every business, and those with the strongest (and, yes, most direct) relationships win.”
He’s a purist, a marketing truist. When you hear how he talks about marketing you really trust him, maybe it’s his approach or experience, there’s something very right about how Mitch Joel approaches marketing. He references Seth Godin a lot.
On work life balance
“How does Godin look at the notion of work/life balance? “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you set up a life you don’t need to escape from,”
and is not afraid to let people know his opinion on a topic.
He has some brilliant moments on the topic of social media. It’s not all about the conversation.
“The commonly held misperception is that social media is all about the conversation. I do not believe that to be true. For social to be social, it has to be something that people can both easily find and share. The goal to being social is to make everything that you are doing as sharable and as findable as possible.”
Mitch Joel is the guy who convinced me to turn off my cell phone ringer.
“Many people are shocked to hear that my iPhone never makes a peep. I get one silent vibrate for text messages (and I’m quick to block those that I do not know) and two vibrations for a phone call. My iPhone will not beep, vibrate, or blink when emails, tweets, or Facebook updates arrive. Why? Because it’s my job to best manage my technology (and not the other way around).”
Neuromarketing Strategy – Brainfluence by Roger Dooley
I still quote this book to this day. Brainfluence is a must read no matter what industry you’re in. Roger Dooley makes it easy to read as well. I’ve written about Brainfluence as well as a few other neuromarketing books here: 33 Lessons in Neuromarketing.
Some findings from Brainfluence:
Does the multi coloured toothpaste work better than single coloured toothpaste? No, multicoloured toothpaste doesn’t “work” any better but you’ll think you get better results with a multicoloured toothpaste.
“In one experiment, I asked two groups of consumers to try two different versions of the toothpaste (Aquafresh)-one regular version and one that had been dyed just one color. Sure enough, the group using the paste with three colors not only reported that the toothpaste worked 73 percent better, they even claimed they believed that their teeth looked whiter.”
What’s the best way to display a dollar amount on a menu? With or without a dollar sign, with or without decimal places? Simple number without a dollar sign or decimal places attracted the high spend per person.
“One Cornell study looked at several common restaurant price display techniques: $12.00 or 12 or twelve dollars. The researchers expected that the written/scripted prices would perform best, but they found that the guests with the simple numeral prices (those without dollar signs or decimals) spent significantly more than the other two groups did.”
Does smell affect our behaviour? It sure does!
“Scents can affect behaviour and consumer perceptions. One experiment showed that nightclub patrons danced longer when the venue was scented with orange, peppermint, and seawater. When surveyed, the patrons of the scented clubs reported they had a better time and liked the music more.”
Can you use smell to keep people in your establishment longer? Yes and it happens all the time.
“A test in a casino found that people gambled 45 percent more money in a slot machine when a pleasant scent was introduced into the area”.
Can a scent make you like a product more? Again, yes!
“Another test found that changing a shampoo’s fragrance but no other performance characteristics caused testers to find that it foamed better, rinsed out more easily, and left their hair glossier.”
Can you process a scent without being consciously aware of it? Yup, subliminal smells.
“Sometimes, we process scents without conscious awareness. In one unique experiment, researchers asked female subjects to smell shirts worn by men who watched either an erotic movie or a neutral one. Virtually all of the women said they didn’t smell anything, but the functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of the brains of the women who smelled the shirts worn by the aroused guys lit up in a different way. (This is just one example of why surveys, questionnaires, and similar market research tools can yield unreliable results.)”
Can music influence the type of wine you purchase? It sure can!
“They chose a wineshop for this experiment, since wines have identifiable origins, and proceeded to play French and German background music on alternating days. The results were startling: the French and German wines each outsold the other by several multiples on the days the matching music was playing.”
Does the “illusion of progress” actually work? Yes surprisingly well! Whenever you create a loyalty card where you stamp or punch it, it’s always better to “pre-stamp” the card to show a little bit of progress immediately.
“One of the most interesting findings was that the mere illusion of progress caused people to buy coffee more frequently. The experimenters issued two different cards: empty cards with 10 spots to stamp and cards with 12 blanks of which two were pre-stamped. In both cases, 10 stamps were required to earn the free coffee. Despite the identical number of stamps needed, the group that started with apparent progress on their card bought coffee more frequently than the empty-card group.”