Reading has been an important part of my life for many years and has very much shaped my business and life philosophies that guide my journey.
As a teenager, I read countless business biographies and was always intrigued by the way the titans of the day outwitted and overwhelmed their adversaries. As I reached my thirties and beyond, my philosophies softened dramatically as I embraced the Taoist philosophy of “by yielding you shall overcome.” Conflict creation morphed into conflict avoidance. Probably not surprisingly, my softening philosophy generated a significantly higher level of personal success.
Although not all of the following books are technically “business books,” the following is my list of the ten books which have most influenced my business career:
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu
Not actually a book about war, but a book about minimizing conflict and creating the gentlest possible victory. Led to one of my life mantras of “a true master allows his opponent to fall gently to the ground”.
Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu
A wonderful and subtle book. Explores how water overcomes rock by being soft and flexible.
SPIN Selling, by Neil Rackham
The Challenger Sale, by Matthew Dixon
In my mind, these are two of the best sales books ever written. Prerequisites for reading both of these books is to REALLY know the nuts and bolts of your business offering so you can provide value to customers.
Shogun, by James Clavell
A fictional tale which teaches patience and illustrates the lessons of The Art of War.
The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand
A must read about being true to yourself and deeply learning your chosen craft.
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
My favorite part of this book is the second part when Jobs returns to Apple with more wisdom than he had his first go around. The result was maybe the most epic comeback ever.
The E Myth, by Michael E. Gerber
The Cliff Notes of this book are work on your business, not in your business. A must read if you ever want to scale your business.
The SMED System, by Shigeo Shingo
Great story of how Toyota and Japan reengineered production processes to turn the disadvantage of their location into advantages beyond what they originally envisioned.
Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, by Richard P. Feynman
A lighthearted biography of a theoretical physicist who lived his life in an easy yet extremely productive manner. The cargo cult science section and the scientific requirements to do research are notable lessons to learn from this book.
BONUS: On the fiction front, these three books were also very influential to me:
Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
Epic tale of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call. I often wish I was more like Augustus, but in reality, I am probably more like Woodrow.
West With The Night, by Beryl Markham
Beautifully written book about flying an airplane in Africa to scout for elephants and ultimately crossing the Atlantic Ocean East to West in a small, single-engine plane. As a pilot myself I might be biased, but after reading this book you should feel inspired to increase the adventure level in your life.
Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
Wonderful story of good vs. evil and the lifetime struggle to create something of lasting value.