Quick! What’s the considerable essential lesson you’ve memorized in life and business? How about in the last few months? What about your last few weeks? In fact, what’s the single most important lesson you can share with your readers or listeners in just one sentence? Are you struggling to answer any of these questions right now? If so, don’t worry; that’s why I have this list of 10 books that will teach you important lessons in life and business, ranging from raising money to sales funnels to network marketing.
1) The New One-Minute Manager (HarperCollins, 2015) by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.
Some books are timeless and can be re-read every few years to help stay relevant. The New One-Minute Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, is one of those books. It was first published in 1986 and updated multiple times in 2015. This book will teach you how to effectively communicate with other people so that you and your team can work together toward a common goal, regardless of any obstacles that get thrown at you. One great tip: Listen actively, listening to what’s being said to you instead of thinking about your response. People appreciate when they’re truly heard (and it helps them trust you) and doing it is easier than most think!
Your ability to be a good manager is so much more than one-minute interactions; these insights will get you on your way. I recommend reading The New One-Minute Manager from cover to cover, but it’s also useful to refer back when needed. If you’re new to being a manager or feel like your skills need some refreshing, give it a read again!
2) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Fireside, 1989 by Stephen Covey.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Fireside is one of those timeless books that business people (and everyone) should read before they’re 30. The 7 Habits espouses seven key traits to help readers change their thinking. Covey draws on his years of experience as a professor, researcher, and consultant to illustrate how personal development habits can help you learn to see things differently to take action that benefits your goals. These habits include: begin with the end in mind; think win-win; seek first to understand then be understood; synergize; be empathetic toward others; make your character a high priority; sharpen your saw.
Even though it’s been around for more than 20 years, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Fireside still has a lot to offer today’s business person. It’s most likely something you grew up with (or at least heard about), and if you haven’t already read it, it’s worth making time for. Covey’s book First Things First is just as helpful, which helps readers refocus on long-term goals to be less reactive to immediate stimuli. Don’t run through life haphazardly—read these books!
3) Grit The Power of Passion and Perseverance Scribner, 2016 by Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth is a psychologist and researcher at Penn who has studied why some people are more successful than others. She believes that Grit, defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals, is one of the biggest predictors of success, whether finishing a marathon or earning a degree from an elite university.
She shares research and stories to show how Grit can be developed and nurtured in her book. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg: The Power of Habit is another business-related read, but unlike Grit which will probably appeal mostly to entrepreneurs or those who aspire to be one, The Power of Habit should appeal more generally to those interested in self-improvement or personal productivity.
We’re often told to follow our passions and seek out work we love, but that advice might not be helpful. Duckworth says having a growth mindset about your abilities—in other words, believing you can improve with effort—is key to success.
4) Outliers The Story of Success Little, Brown and Co, 2008 by Malcolm Gladwell
The book, Outliers explains that it takes years of dedication and sacrifice to master a skill. Gladwell shows us how people who succeed aren’t just born with talent—they put in years of hard work. Malcolm Gladwell is famous for offering new perspectives on common beliefs. He applies that unique outlook to a question that many of us ask ourselves: Why do some people end up so much more successful than others? Gladwell examines why people like Bill Gates and The Beatles rose to fame and why other equally talented individuals never got their big break. He found it surprising: it all comes down to timing, chance, location, and social class.
He also breaks down examples of outliers such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and John Lennon by pointing out factors that played into their success. In common, they all had mentors who helped them during their journey toward success. One of Gladwell’s main points is that we are often too quick to take credit for our achievements when sometimes it’s due to luck or someone else’s help.
5) Can’t Hurt Me Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds Lioncrest Publishing, 2018 by David
David’s book Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds is a collection of stories, personal anecdotes, and lessons he has learned. And although we’ve seen David take his fair share of punches throughout his journey as an entrepreneur, it’s more than just another business book filled with overused cliches and inspiring quotes that fade away once you put the book down. Instead, Can’t Hurt Me is full of principles David has carried with him through his life, which have helped him survive and become one of the most successful entrepreneurs today. If you want to learn how to overcome obstacles or achieve goals, pick up David’s book.
I couldn’t put it down. Throughout his stories, David writes about his own mistakes, from failing to take action to neglect important relationships. As an entrepreneur who went through similar experiences myself, I can’t stress enough how much you should read David’s book—if not for his lessons, then at least for your life lessons. If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, Can’t Hurt Me will give you a glimpse into what matters and inspire you never to give up.
6) Shoe Dog A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Scribner, 2016 by Phil Knight
One of the best business books of 2016, Shoe Dog, is a revealing memoir by Nike founder Phil Knight. Knight delivers a glimpse into the life and times that defined Nike. He delves into his own story and the personalities, events, innovations, setbacks, frustrations, and dreams that influenced him as he built an empire that changed what it meant to run and walk in shoes. This book will make you think about how you can manage your company differently.
The book reveals lessons on how companies like Nike are successful in today’s world. Shoe Dog A Memoir by the Creator of Nike Scribner, 2016 by Phil Knight: In Shoe Dog, Phil Knight shares with readers his journey from selling shoes out of his car trunk to building one of America’s most iconic brands.
After graduation from Stanford Business School, Knight borrowed $50 from his father and launched Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS), which would later become known as Nike Inc. After years of hard work and some lucky breaks, BRS was doing so well that he felt confident enough to quit teaching high school PE to devote himself full-time to BRS/Nike. He did not know if running a shoe company was even possible; he knew that few people had done it successfully.
7) Competitive Advantage Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance The Free Press, 1985 Michael Porter.
Competitive Advantage Creating and Sustaining Superior Performance The Free Press, 1985 Michael Porter is one of my favorite books about management. I found it very easy to read and quite helpful in understanding competitive strategy. It was published originally in 1985, so some of the examples he gives are from that period, but all of them are still relevant today.
This book helped me think more deeply about how companies compete and how they can continue to succeed over a long period by creating sustainable competitive advantages for themselves. This book is a bit more theoretical than others on my list. Still, I repeatedly go back to it when starting new businesses or thinking through strategic plans within existing ones.
The entire book focuses on helping managers create a unique position in their industry that will allow them to outperform their competitors. He says that these positions need to come from five sources: Cost Leadership, Differentiation, Market Focus Strategic Flexibility. Any successful business needs to have at least one Advantage in each of these categories (he calls them strategic groups) if they want to stand out among their competitors.
8) The Elusive Fan Reinventing Sports in a Crowded Marketplace McGraw-Hill, 2006 Irving Rein by Philip Kotler and Ben Shields
In The Elusive Fan, McGraw-Hill’s Irving Rein brings a marketing mind to the sports business by revealing how individual sports franchises struggle to build new fans despite their popularity in America. Rein reveals ways organizations can better attract fans and sustain long-term growth: upgrading the stadium experience to tapping into new revenue streams such as merchandise sales, premium ticketing, and sponsoring.
This book is worth reading for any professional involved with sports—from sponsorship opportunities to stadium development—because it shows how teams need to look at building their fan base differently than they have in years past. While many takeaways are applicable outside of sports, some of my favorites are applicable even if you’re not trying to grow your audience:
Most importantly, Rein points out that you should focus on creating reinventors instead of loyalists. Loyalists are easy to please because they’ll follow your team no matter what; reinvention means finding new ways for your team, brand, or organization (whatever it is) will engage with them, so they continue to pay attention.
9) Intangibles Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry Little, Brown and Co, 2020 by Joan Ryan
Ryan has spent more than 20 years studying teamwork, and her book digs into what she calls the intangibles, the things that most of us are overlooking as we get our teams up and running. This book is an essential read for anyone who wants to understand why some workgroups click and others flounder. It’s a great guide for any manager looking to better relate to their team members or staff. We hope you’ll consider picking up a copy of Intangibles Unlocking the Science and Soul of Team Chemistry Little, Brown and Co, 2020.
The book is broken into three sections. The first lays out what she calls the magic of chemistry and how it’s shaped her own working life as a professor at Harvard’s business school, where she’s built one of academia’s most-cited research programs on teamwork.
Ryan explains how those intangibles can shape everything from team building to employee satisfaction, profitability, and long-term success for your company. Her book is full of examples, including ones from Google, 3M, Verizon Communications (VZ), MasterCard (MA), BP (BP), and Deere & Co.
10) Bounce Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham and the Science of Success Harper Perennial, 2010 by Matthew Syed
Mozart, Federer, Picasso, and Beckham are talented individuals who’ve set the bar high for achievement. But they all have something else in common: They’re all people of extraordinary discipline, and they each used a specific practice known as a deliberate practice to reach the top of their field.
To understand how such practices can help you master your job or craft more efficiently, read Matthew Syed’s Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso and the Science of Success. In his book — a finalist for the 2010 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book Award — Syed shows that excellence is not born; it’s cultivated through careful repetition and constant refinement.
Matthew Syed’s book, Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso and the Science of Success, is a finalist for the 2010 Financial Times/Goldman Sachs Best Business Book Award. The author finds common ground among well-known achievers —all famous names—to show us a science of success beyond innate talents and hard work.
There is a pattern to their successes that we can all follow to reach greatness. However, it must be practiced every day like playing music or sport. Practice alone does not make perfect.
Books can profoundly impact your life and business, but they don’t have to be a chore. We’ve listed ten books that we think are worth reading, but there are plenty of other great books. When it comes to books, you only need one piece of advice: skip reading anything about business or life that wasn’t written by someone who has walked their talk. The most memorable lessons come from authors who have lived what they’re writing about—and if you want more practical advice from some of today’s top minds.