I’ve always been a big reader. At any given moment I’m probably reading three different books. It’s how I learn and feed my creativity. While I learn something from every book, there are a special few that have had a dramatic impact on my life and career. Their messages have shaped my professional attitudes and actions. I return to them on a regular basis for booster shots of wisdom and insight.
Here are four of those books:
1. The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This classic argues that many new businesses fail because the owners work “in the business” instead of “on the business.” These struggling entrepreneurs brought technical skills to the venture but have little understanding of the life/death importance of business management skills. As technicians, their focus is on the process: “What work must be done?“ when the critical entrepreneurial question is: “How must the business work?” The technicians tend to see the business as a collection of parts, while the true entrepreneur views the enterprise in its entirety, as a unified system for producing results for customers.
I first read Gerber’s book during a beach vacation after my appearance on The Apprentice. It’s been invaluable to me as I pursue my personal dream of entrepreneurship. I recommend The E-Myth even if you are only thinking of maybe, one day, possibly starting your own business.
2. 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader by John C. Maxwell. Some people are natural leaders. Fortunately, leadership can also be learned. This deceptively easy-to-read book details the traits that make for great leadership – courage, initiative, character, confidence, generosity – and offers concrete advice on how to improve in those areas where you may be lacking.
To improve character, for example, Maxwell urges readers to make a merciless inventory of their flaws, face the consequences of those flaws, apologize to those who may have been hurt, and then commit to a plan to prevent them from repeating their mistakes.
3. 48 Laws of Power by Robert Green and Joost Elffers. I know, I know. This one has a controversial reputation. Its “laws” are manipulative, self-serving and selfish – “Conceal your intentions” “Get others to do the work and take credit for it.” I’m not surprised the book is said to be popular among prison inmates. (Hey, at least they are reading, right?) But 48 Laws helped me better understand the mindset of powerful people and the dynamics of power struggles.
4. Public Speaking for Success by Dale Carnegie. I love all of Dale Carnegie’s books, including the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. Carnegie believed public speaking is a crucial skill for success that can be mastered through training and practice. The book’s 16 chapters each address an important aspect of making a public presentation, from developing the confidence to speak in front of audience all the way through polishing your diction.