Ask anyone who has achieved huge success in their lives, and they will tell you that personal development and self-education are the major principles that led to their success. As well as listening to various podcasts, TEDx talks, interviews and documentaries, in the last 18 months, I’ve also squeezed in the time to read a total of 19 books that have each helped to contribute to my growth and success in some way.
Now, when I say ‘read’ – that’s not technically true, because I’ve digested many of the titles as audiobooks. So, please don’t use the excuse that you’re not a reader, or dismiss it, saying you’re too busy to read. I’ve listened to many of them whilst driving or travelling to work when I would otherwise have had some nonsense on the radio or been listening to my own mental chatter.
I’ve spent many years learning the art and science of success, endlessly fascinated to discover how high performers achieve what they have done. And in my study of successful people, I am especially interested to discover that many of them are also avid readers of books – on business, personal development, leadership, success, performance – all contributing to their knowledge and skills base. They never rest on their laurels. They are never satisfied. There is always more to learn, and more learning to apply to their lives and their businesses.
Fortunately, since I make all my book purchases via Amazon, I am able to track my learning material. This made it easy to share the books that have contributed to my growth as a business leader and entrepreneur over the past 18 months, for the purpose of this article.
In this two-part series, I am going to share the titles of each of these books along with some background on why I made the purchase. Hopefully, you will come across a book that captures your attention, triggering you into taking action on your learning journey.
Here is the first half of my reading list:
1. Good to Great – Jim Collins. Good To Great analyses the key learning from Jim Collins’ intensive research of 28 companies over 30 years. He identifies what makes ordinary companies become great ones – achieving accelerated growth in key markets, excelling in their industries and outperforming the competition – while others fall by the wayside. He examines issues such as organisational culture, discipline, and use of technology and identifies key common denominators that result in success. If you intend to build a legacy through your business, read this.
2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen Covey. Within this classic, there are some really powerful principles and insights that will elevate your success. For example, the art of negotiating for win-win. Business is about relationships: everyone feeling like a winner. His guidance on being proactive, and in prioritising tasks closest to achieving your vision, is something I share in my working life. We tend to shy away from the big tasks that will take us towards our goal, and distract ourselves with the small stuff. We might feel that we’re busy, but it doesn’t help us in our lives. Use these 7 habits to take you far.
3. Jab, Jab, Right Hook – Gary Vaynerchuk shows you how to tell your story effectively on social media, so that people take notice. He is the god of building a personal brand through a social media presence – a guru for our times. He has undeniable insight, although personally, I can only take him in small doses (I find him a bit egotistical – just my personal opinion of his style!). But I wanted to know about using social media marketing to build your brand, and how he built his successful platforms. He’s the expert, and he certainly delivers.
4. 5am Club – Robin Sharma. He wrote the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, so I knew this book would be great. Here, Robin Sharma shares the power of daily practices, and how daily morning rituals or routines can get you transformative results. The first hour in the morning can really set you up for success in your day, your week, and your life, driving forward personal growth. It’s an enjoyable read, because the messages are wrapped up in a story. Because our brains are hard-wired to accept and connect with stories, it makes it easy to digest and apply these principles in life.
5. Crushing It – Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s the man, right now, when it comes to using social media for marketing and sales. This is the follow-up to Crush It, but I actually read this one first. I wanted to know how he applied his methods to his business. He took over his father’s shop – Shopper’s Discount Liquors, rebranded it as Wine Library, launched it online and started a daily webcast: Wine Library TV. He applied his online knowledge to his expertise on wine, generating millions. His platform added value to his community – who bought mores products. He reinforces the importance of your personal brand and the infinite possibilities that arise from building it.
6. Crush It – Gary Vaynerchuk This is the original book introducing his philosophy for building your brand and using social media. A ‘personal branding manifesto’ and blueprint for turning whatever you love into a business. This book provides you with the tools to develop yourself into a personal brand, shows you how to leverage social media and produce brilliant content – and ultimately, brings you financial rewards.
7. Girl, Wash Your Face – Rachel Hollis Besides the fact that this is a great read in itself and certainly enlightened me, 90% of the books I read are written by men, so it was important for me to gain a different perspective. Rachel Hollis gives a brutally honest real-life account of her own experience and motivation for success, which makes it especially engaging. She inspired me, as a writer, to fearlessly share my own stories and show my vulnerability – because the more you share, the more you connect. Her voice is powerful and her honesty in baring all is amazing – as is her spiritual journey. If you haven’t done already – read it. It helps you to take action on achieving your goals and living a confident, happier life.
8. Management Accounting – Greg Shields. I’d just completed a mergers and acquisitions course, and I knew I needed to be able to scrutinise company figures. Knowing how to read balance sheets and decipher accounts is essential for making informed decisions, based on company performance. All entrepreneurs should develop these skills and knowledge, rather than relying on accountants to understand your accounts. You don’t have to read a particular book (none are very engaging!), but it is important to build your knowledge in this area.
9. The 4 Hour Work Week – Tim Ferriss * HIGHLY RECOMMENDED * Powerful! I’d been hearing about this book for years, but only just got around to reading it. I wish I’d read it sooner! It just opens up your world to a revolutionary new way of working. This epitomises what my book, The Success Rebellion, is about – breaking away from convention; not settling for the status quo; being creative in disrupting ‘usual’ expectations. All to create a better quality of life – our dream lifestyle. So, so powerful. It’s about working smarter, not harder; utilising the resources around you to become more effective and efficient – to create a life that works for you. Really powerful – a highly recommended must-read.
That’s the first half of my shared reading list, so far. I’ll share another ten, next time.
Realising that it’s not always practical to read a physical book, remember that all of these are available as audiobooks. I know how valuable your time is. And learning more about best practice for improvement is invaluable, too. My intention is to share reading that will develop and empower you on your personal journey, just like it did for me, on my own road to success.