13 Books That Changed My Life (And Every Founder Should Read)
Have you ever read something that fundamentally changed how you see the world? It’s amazing that just reading another perspective can be like a lightning bolt that disrupts your perspective. For me, that book was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I’m far from the only one – Alan Greenspan, Mark Cuban and John P. Mackey (CEO, Whole Foods) have all “gone Galt,” too. In the book, Rand uses her protagonist, John Galt, to argue that rational self-interest is in the best interest of the whole. In other words, by seeking personal gain, individuals improve the world and serve their communities. It may sound counterintuitive, but it applies both to our professional lives and the unique opportunity of angel investing. After I read this book, I never saw the world quite the same way again and it continues to influence me today (I even named my boat “Goin’ Galt”). I read a lot; I like exposing myself to different viewpoints and perspectives. I’m always seeking out opportunities to radically transform my view and make me more effective and successful. Here are the books that have risen to the top for me and that I recommend to every founder (and everyone else).
13 Books Every Leader Should Read
I am also passionate about investing in our local communities. Whenever possible, links below are through bookshop.org to support local bookstores. I make no commission from any purchase.
As I already mentioned, reading this book was a pivotal moment in my life and changed my perspective forever. In a nutshell: self-interest guides resources to their most valued use. It’s not about greed, it’s not about being selfish, it’s about using our innate natures to drive our success for the good of the whole. Read it, you won’t regret it.
The Hard Things About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are no Easy Answers
I talk a lot about getting comfortable with discomfort because building and running a successful startup isn’t easy, and it doesn’t always feel good. This book gives essential, real-life, actionable advice that you can apply to your business today. And it’s funny.
7 Habits of Highly Influential People
A classic. This book may have been around for a while, but it’s still as relevant today as ever because it’s based on values like human dignity, integrity, and honesty – not on trends. This is one every founder should have on their bookshelf.
Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, And Betrayal
Early on, it’s hard to know which tech startup is going to hit and which one’s going to bust, and (as shocking as it sounds) Twitter was very nearly one of the casualties. You’ll fly through this intimate account of how four hackers created Twitter practically by accident and almost let it fail, only to turn it into the force of nature it is today.
With a fresh batch of startups hitting the ecosystem every day, it can feel like there is nothing left that’s new. If you ever struggle with the feeling that we’re at a technological standstill, this is a book that will light you up with optimism for the future and get you thinking differently about innovation.
Elan Gil is a serial entrepreneur and investor and he’s held key roles at companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Google, Stripe, and Square. In his book, Gil lays out in plain language the common patterns he noticed during his career when it comes to board management, the CEO role, funding, IPOs, and M&As and turned it into an easy-to-follow playbook that you can use to save yourself a lot of pain.
Another Eric Ries pick, and it’s a must-read. If you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve inevitably heard the old chestnut “most startups fail.” The good news is that they don’t have to. In his book, Eric Ries explains how lessons learned from lean manufacturing can help companies find their course to success through rapid experimentation and some counter-intuitive practices that can allow startups to pivot and adjust in the face of challenges.
Another Eric Ries pick, and it’s a must-read. This time Ries focuses on the system behind successful organizations of all sizes, from GE to Airbnb, and distills down stories, insights, and tools that you can put to work for your organization.
This book may be one of the most life-changing books you’ll read for your business. Simon Sinek (who wrote another great book called “Leaders Eat Last”) based this book on his famous TED Talk, a video that is now in the top 3 most popular TED Talks of all time. Passion and motivation don’t last forever, especially without intentional action towards keeping them alive. Sinek explains why some people and some businesses are just more successful than others and how to embrace that knowledge to be successful over and over again.
Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do To Increase The Value of Your Growing Firm
Innovation has its place, but there are times when it does not pay to reinvent the wheel. Think of this as a book of best practices designed to help you run your startup like one of the most successful businesses in the world. From creating a dynamic culture to mastering marketing, scaling your business, and engaging your team, Harnish defines the four major decision areas that are crucial to master and tells you exactly how to do it.
Not only is Google one of the most successful tech startups of all time, but it’s also a fascinating workplace and culture. In their book, Google Executive Chairman (formerly CEO) Eric Schmidt and former SVP of Products, Jonathan Rosenberg, reflect on how they faced the considerable challenge of following Larry Page and Sergey Brin, how they nurtured Google into a global innovation icon, and the lessons they learned along the way.
This one is going way back to the early ’90s but it’s still hyper-relevant as a razor-sharp account of the way our major shift towards a society based on knowledge would transform every facet of our lives from society to politics, economics, business, and more.
An insider’s perspective on the top success stories from Silicon Valley startups with insights, lessons, and firsthand accounts of how the visionaries behind Skype, Zappos, Yahoo, Measurex, and more, changed the world.
The Best Mistakes To Learn From Are Other People’s.
When it’s your business, especially as a startup entrepreneur, it hurts to fail. Failure is part of the process, but if I can leverage insights from someone else’s hard-earned lessons, even better. Staying curious, accepting feedback, and perpetually learning is how you’ll build a successful business. Reading is a great way to fuel those habits and gain a new perspective on your business and yourself. And it’s fun – and that matters, too.
Enjoy the ride.