I never really remember being one of those kids in school who always had her nose in a book. A textbook or homework? Maybe. But it wasn’t until I was an adult that I began reading books more for pleasure and personal development than to pass the English assignment with flying colors.
When I started my business, I found myself reading a lot of productivity books like the GTD (Getting Things Done) method and Malcolm Gladwell books. As I evolved into a more seasoned entrepreneur, my reading selections shifted to more leadership and CEO mindset pieces.
As my time got more limited to sit down and read an actual book because of raising kids, growing the business, and finding my days filled with more school pick ups and chaperoning to swim team and other kid activities, I found a new love for Audible. It gave me such freedom and opportunity to read ANYWHERE, even if it was to catch 5 minutes on the way home from dropping the kids off at school.
If you’re like me, you may be looking for some inspiration to light a fire under your arse again. Or maybe you want to hone in your negotiation skills. Or perhaps you’re getting ready to hire a new team member, and you want to plan how that will affect your overall business performance and growth. I’ve compiled my top 10 business books that have shaped my entrepreneurial journey (in no particular order – it was too hard to rank them), and I’m sharing them with you below. Enjoy!
Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALS Lead & Win
By Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
On first glance, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy this high-intensity, real-life account from Navy SEALs as they retell stories from their deployments in the Middle East and tie them to leadership principles. But I gotta say — it was a fantastic read.
I completely underestimated how many parallels there are between this elite group of highly skilled and trained Navy SEALS and the skills needed to lead a team to greatness. Speaking of “leading your team to greatness”, I was gifted this book from my mentor Nicole Jackson during one of our CEO Roundtable retreats. Thanks, Nicole! :)
By Gino Wickman & Marc Winters
I picked up this book when I was trying to figure out what team member was missing in my team structure. I’ve always identified as a Visionary, and I always noticed it’s sometimes hard for me to actually do the work when it comes to daily operations, etc.
This book was an eye opener for me because it showed me the dynamic (and fascinating) relationship between a Visionary and an Integrator in a business. Think of those two roles as peanut butter & jelly or Sonny & Cher. It finally made sense to me why other team members who were more “visionary” like weren’t quite jiving with operations & execution, and it helped me understand the exact qualities I was looking for during the hiring process.
Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business
By Gino Wickman
Ok, ok. This book suggestion is a freebie. I had to include it because it’s written by the same author as Rocket Fuel, and (cue the peanut butter & jelly analogy again) it pairs so nicely with Rocket Fuel.
Traction is a book that outlines a proven implementable system for business growth and scaling. It outlines exact steps and directions in a sequence that makes up the EOS System (Entrepreneurial Operating System) that will make sure you’re not overlooking key components that every business should have like a vision that reflects core values, a systematic approach to collecting useful business data, a framework for productive meetings, and a People Analyzer for making sure you have the right bodies in the right seats at the right time. New and seasoned business owners will find all kinds of nuggets in this gem. I suggest a paperback copy so you can take notes and dog-ear pages to refer back to later.
Dare to Lead
By Brené Brown
Brené Brown is a leadership guru and my tribe of creatives, visionaries and coaches love her work and reference her often. I personally had never read any of her books because I didn’t think i really needed to learn more about shame and vulnerability (probably a good sign that I actually *did* need to read them…) But I couldn’t pass up checking this book out from our local library while my kiddos were picking out a few new summer reading books.
I absolutely loved every single word of this book. This book should be on the bookshelf at every company and every business. Brené walks through four skillsets that you can incorporate into your work (and life, if we’re being really honest) that will help you have conscious conversations when they’re uncomfortable and build a team culture that thrives on courageous leadership.
I’ve used the lessons I’ve learned in this book to communicate more effectively when I’m talking to my kids. I’ve used the skills to diffuse and discuss heated disagreements with my husband. And I’ve used the techniques to keep my openness and vulnerability at forefront of my mind while navigating tough conversations with clients and team members.
The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
By Gary Keller
I’ll admit, it’s been a few years since I’ve read this book, but I’ll never forget the overarching lesson I learned that made me breathe a sigh of relief and stop trying to do everything at once.
There is no such thing as multi-tasking. Literally. The brain is completely incapable of focusing on two things at once, regardless of what you may have heard or experienced in your own life. It may seem like you can juggle multiple tasks or thoughts at the same time, but this book will make you think twice about that myth.
You’ll learn how and why you should be focusing on one task at a time and simplifying your daily activities so you can start actually seeing better results and progress over time. This book gave me joy when I realized that it’s actually 100% okay to do one thing at a time instead of buy into the whole multi-tasking and work/life balance BS lies we’ve all heard over and over. If you’re looking for a loving kick in the pants to stop doing everything and start doing the ONE thing that will really build momentum, pick this book up next time you’re at your local bookstore.
Radical Candor: Be a Kick-Ass Boss without Losing Your Humanity
By Kim Scott
When I downloaded this book, I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised and delighted to read a tactical approach to communicating with team members in a way that will produce my desired outcome and also instill company culture that focuses on building relationships and genuinely caring about others. Sometimes caring about others means being brutally honest and candid about feedback, but delivery is everything. And Kim identifies several skills and techniques you can use to hone your craft of communication.
She also uses great storytelling and examples from Microsoft, Apple, a Diamond Production company and other real life roles she’s had over the course of her career.
My only caveat: I didn’t love her voice, but that could just be me being picky. I think I would have enjoyed the paperback copy more than the Audible version, but I digress.
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
By Greg McKeown
Raise your proverbial hand if you’ve ever felt maxed out, stretched thin, and stressed beyond all get-out. Let me give you some quick advice: GO GET THIS BOOK. Read it. Listen to it. Live it. This book gives you the permission slip you’ve been longing for as you try to balance all of your commitments, handle everything you need to handle in a given day, and finally focus on the right things.
Author Greg McKeown says: “Only once you give yourself the permission to stop trying to do it all, to stop saying yes to everyone, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.” Don’t misunderstand this book premise to be the same as The One Thing we talked about above. They’re two completely different principles with different outcomes.
I promise after reading this book, you’ll find yourself looking for ways to live more intentionally, spend your time more wisely, and respect your boundaries for commitments that you may have otherwise said yes to without thinking twice.
Bluefishing: The Art of Making Things Happen
By Steve Sims
My mentor Nicole Jackson also recommended this gem of a book to me. Do yourself a favor and please use one of your Audible credits on this one! It’s a quick read, and his accent is so fun to listen to. Steve’s company creates experiences for the rich and famous that anyone else would define as impossible or a once in a lifetime event. But it’s not a braggy book or one that will make you feel bad about not being rich and famous.
The key to his success lies in authenticity and building relationships. One of my favorite takeaways was hearing Steve describe his process for hiring a new team member. If he doesn’t want to sit down and drink a beer with him or her, then he doesn’t want to work with them. I realize at first thought this may seem ridiculous and trivial, but give it some thought and try to understand the real lesson he’s trying to convey.
Excellent stories. Excellent tactics to apply if you want to make impossible things possible for yourself and others. This book should definitely be in your library of favorites. Sidenote: Google him. I guarantee he doesn’t look like you imagined he would look. :)
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended On It
By Chris Voss & Tahl Raz
If there’s one skill that every single entrepreneur should know how to do (and do well), it’s negotiation. I could not stop listening to this audiobook when my husband Justin recommended that I give it a shot. Y’all. It is one of the best books I have EVER read.
Whether you’re negotiating with terrorists, hostages, children, clients, team members, partners or your spouse, this book will give you amazing insight into how empathy and emotional intelligence plays a huge role in helping achieve the outcome you’re after. Seemingly simple things like the tone of your voice (think: late night radio host) or certain questions to ask or even how you begin the conversation in the first place will all make an enormous impact on the negotiation situation.
I’ve personally used these tactics to close big project proposals, to handle situations between team members, and to get my kids to do their chores. This is also a great book for Audible listening!
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do
By Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit was a game changer for me because it made me realize that a vast majority of the things we do everyday stem from building habits. Even things we wouldn’t normally think of as a “habit” have surely become one. It would make sense then, that if we can define and create successful habits, we will find success in business and life using this formula.
Charles gives great examples and stories of different scenarios from toothpaste marketing back in the day to the story of Michael Phelps and how (by the power of habit) he went to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.
As Charles explains in the book, habits are scientific neurological patterns consisting of a cue, routine and reward. And he gives practical advice on how we can change old habits and create new ones so we can do better business, be better humans and live a more productive and successful life.
Tribe: On Homecoming & Belonging
By Sebastian Junger
This quick little read was enlightening and intriguing as Sebastian reiterates the importance and necessity of small groups and forming community within our society. I believe that building community is one of the most important qualities of a successful membership or continuity program, and this book gives historical evidence of why that is – especially in our modern age.
Junger talks about several different types of tribe examples from our Western history lessons, and he also describes something that hits close to home for me — the necessity for combat veterans to re-transition into civilian society in a way that will reduce post traumatic stress disorder that plagues an overwhelming majority of military veterans.
This book isn’t necessarily a “business book” per se, but it’s definitely worth your time.
The 10X Rule
By Grant Cardone
I thought long and hard about putting this book on my list. I feel like people either love or hate Grant Cardone, as he has some pretty polarizing opinions and viewpoints, and he doesn’t hold back on anything, really. If you follow him on social media you’ll see him flaunting his beautiful wife, riding on his private jetliner, and throwing hundred dollar bills around like they’re confetti. Okay, I don’t know if he’s actually done that last one, but I can imagine him doing something like that. Anyway, there is no denying he’s ridiculously successful, so he must have some lessons to share, even if we have to dig around a bit to mine them out.
The premise of this book is that every person who wants to be successful needs to be setting goals that are 10X what they think they should be. And we should be doing 10X of the actions required to reach those 10X goals. I totally get it, but I’m the type of goal setter who likes to take a different approach to goal setting, and that’s quite alright.
What I took away from this book is mindset. Grants honest, brash kick in the pants motivation can be helpful for me when I’m feeling defeated or feel like there’s a block I need to work through. I have read the whole (Audible) book in it’s entirety, listening to him on 1.5X speed nonetheless, and sometimes I go back and re-listen to different chapters just to remind myself that if Grant can do it, I can surely do it.
This book isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay. If you want to explore a new way of experiencing motivation from an author that takes a no-nonsense approach to telling you exactly what you need to hear, give it a try.
Reflections Before We Close This Book
There you have it, folks. The top books that have shaped me and my skills as an entrepreneur. If you’re following along at home, you may have noticed I added a couple bonus books into the list, bringing the official count to 12 instead of 10. I hope you’ll forgive me for that. I don’t like breaking rules, but I had to make an exception because it was too hard figuring out which two books I wanted to cut from the list.
I believe there is always something new to learn or re-learn, and prioritizing time to read has proven to be good for my soul. It’s also helped me form self-care habits (lookin’ at you Charles Duhigg!) that allow me to spend time outside while I walk Churro after I drop the girls off at school as I listen to an audiobook. When I get back home, I’m refreshed, inspired, relaxed and ready to start my workday.
I’d encourage you to pick one or two from the list that sound interesting to you and pick them up next time you’re at the store. Or whip out your Amazon app. 1-Click Purchase FTW! Or if you’re like me, and you prefer Audiobooks so you can listen on the go, use a couple Audible credits and give them a spin.
If you’ve found any books that have been particularly enjoyable or awesome for you, please share them with me in the comments! I’d love to check them out! :)