Up and coming self made millionaire entrepreneurs and business people would do well to heed the words of blockbuster Hollywood actor Will Smith (whose personal net worth tops $250 million). Renowned for his charisma and work ethic, Will Smith also has a secret to his out-sized success in life: he reads!
Of reading, Will Smith says, “There have been gazillions of people that have lived before all of us. There’s no new problem you could have–with your parents, with school, with a bully. There’s no new problem that someone hasn’t already had and written about it in a book.”
Indeed the average member of the top one percent of income earners in the United States reads 60 books a year, setting a pace of slightly more than one new book every week, whereas the bottom quartile of income earners in America reads exactly zero books a year!
If you want to be Self Made, you’ve got to read!
Here’s a list to get you started:
30. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future: Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel founded PayPal in the 1990s to create a seamless form of electronic cash for online merchants to accept payments. It became a big hit with eBay power sellers, and went on to become the number one online payment processing service in the world, eventually selling for a billion and a half dollars to eBay. Thiel was also an early Facebook investor and founded Palantir Technologies, which is worth over a billion dollars.
In his 2014 #1 New York Times bestselling book, Zero to One, Peter Thiel gives a remarkably cogent overview of the evolution of the corporate cultural mindset from the mid-20th century, through the 1990s, to the present, noting the important events that shaped business, and explaining his secret to superlative success: how business startups go from “Zero to One” by going “off the map” and bringing what they find to market one step at a time.
29. Think and Grow Rich: Napoleon Hill
As a close family friend of 20th century American business magnate, Andrew Carnegie, Napoleon Hill grew up under the tutelage of Carnegie, who was for his time, the richest man in the history of the world as a result of using his preternatural business acumen to expand the U.S. steel industry into a powerhouse of the global economy.
At a suggestion from the elder business magnate, Hill embarked on a mission to apprehend and condense the mindset of the very rich into a set of principles that could be learned and emulated by anyone with any degree of education to become very wealthy, as wealthy as they make up their mind to be, in fact. The core principle of the bestselling book (first published at the height of the Great Depression, and a classic still today) is the importance of having a very specific goal backed up by a burning desire to succeed.
28. How to Win Friends and Influence People: Dale Carnegie
Born in 1888, Dale Carnegie was a renowned scholar of the science of success and personal development, achieving an iconic status in the 20th Century as a lecturer and the creator of self-improvement courses to improve an aspiring, self-made individual’s salesmanship, business acumen, speaking abilities, and communication skills. His bestselling book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, remains a popular self-improvement business book today.
The book was put together by a stenographer who condensed a series of Carnegie’s most popular 14-week business courses into the draft that would later become How to Win Friends. The book offers very specific and straightforward rules for interacting with others that develop a budding entrepreneur’s empathy and compassion for others. Caring about others and finding how to be useful to them trumps putting your own interests first and finding out what you can get from them, it turns out.
27. Rich Dad Poor Dad: Robert Kiyosaki
A legendary real estate investor and author of a bestselling book series beginning with Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki grew up in Hawaii where he had one rich “dad” (his best childhood friend’s dad, who was a father figure to him growing up), and one poor dad (his real, biological father, who was a highly educated professor and political activist in Hawaii, but who had a very negative emotional attitude toward money and always struggled with his finances).
In the book, Robert Kiyosaki relates the lessons he learned as a child from his rich dad, who dropped out of high school to take over the family grocery business when his own father passed away, and developed it into a successful grocery chain and real estate empire. Kiyosaki teaches how the rich think about money, and how it differs from the way the poor think about wealth. The principles shared are simple, but powerful.
26. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Stephen Covey
Stephen Covey was an American educator, author, businessman, and keynote speaker. His main claim to fame, the bestselling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold more than 25 million copies globally since its first round of publication in 1989.
The Seven Habits are: 1) Be proactive. Make sure you circle of concern is never larger than your circle of influence. 2) Begin with the end in mind. Envision what your end goal is for any business endeavor and work backward to where you’re at now to make a plan to get there. 3) Put first things first. This chapter is a discourse on the difference between the urgent and the important, and how to balance the two in business. 4. Think win-win. Business rewards those who do not view it as a zero sum game. 5) Seek first to understand, then to be understood. People don’t care how much you know. They want to know how much you care. 6. Synergize. A chapter about team work. 7. Sharpen the Saw. Your work routines should be sustainable and devote periods to rest and recovery.
25. Atlas Shrugged: Ayn Rand
A Russian immigrant to California from the Soviet Union shortly after the Bolshevik revolution, Ayn Rand was an American 20th century political, business, and artistic philosopher, and the author of two bestselling novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. In the 1980s, when the Library of Congress conducted a survey to determine the most influential books on the American mind at the time, Atlas Shrugged turned out (to their surprise) to be named #2 by survey respondents, behind only the Bible.
The book is highly cited by many famous people as one of the most influential books on their careers, including President Ronald Reagan and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. The book is a philosophical treatise in novel form that explores the psychology of successful business people and the philosophical premises that lead great figures to do amazing things in the inexorable march of human history toward greater technological and commercial success.
24. The Four Hour Work Week: Tim Ferriss
Serial entrepreneur and growth hacker, Tim Ferriss’ breakout 2007 non-fiction success, The Four Hour Work Week, was an instant New York Times Bestseller. The book was subtitled “Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.” Obviously any self-made uber-ultra-arch success story is going to involve something more like 80 hour work weeks than 4 hour work weeks, but that’s not the point of the book.
Of course someone could use its ninja-level hyper-efficiency tactics to find the free time to loaf all day after putting in their four hours for the week, but the point of the book is to teach people how to extract themselves from soul-sucking corporate grinds and create focused businesses called “muses” that enable the free time necessary to spend all your time devoted to a business or artistic cause you’re passionate about, so you can really come out ahead and change the world.
23. The Definitive Book of Body Language: Allan and Barbara Pease
Nearly all communication between people in any kind of business setting– whether it’s a job interview for your dream job at a Fortune 500 company, high stakes negotiations for a major global business merger, or a sales pitch for a high dollar retail item like an automobile and 60 month financing to go along with it– is non-verbal. Another large portion of what’s communicated is in your tone of voice.
As a veteran used car salesman who makes high six figures every year at a volume dealership once told me: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. A scant remainder of communication is the actual word content of what we say. The few who climb to the very top of social and business success in this world understand the lessons in this book, how to convey a message via body language, and how to read the signals others are sending with their bodies.
22. The 10X Rule: Grant Cardone
Grant Cardone is considered one of the foremost experts on sales, sales psychology, startups, business growth hacking, real estate, and finance. With years of success as a sales person and consultant for sales forces around the world, as well as the orchestrator of multi-million dollar private placement investments in real estate, Grant is also a bestselling author on these subjects and a motivational speaker who has a total personal net worth of $300 million.
In his book the 10X Rule, Grant Cardone urges readers to achieve outstanding success by aiming very high. Middle class isn’t good enough. In fact according to Grant, middle class is settling for mediocrity, and always just barely having enough. Cardone urges readers to take “Massive Action” to achieve the necessary results and do something really magnificent with your life! Whatever measures you’re currently taking to success, Cardone says times it by ten! Whatever your goals are: Times them by ten!
21. Secrets of Closing the Sale: Zig Ziglar
Zig Ziglar was an absolute motivational speaking and sales professional consulting phenomenon in the 20th century, who would sell out massive auditoriums for people to come hear his electric talks that sounded like something halfway between a gentle yet riveting charismatic preacher’s sermon, and a stellar motivational sales talk with practical advice on the mindset and tactics that keep a salesman’s children from being skinny.
Indeed timid salesmen have skinny children, but Zig Ziglar’s advice in Secrets of Closing the Sale, teaches salesmen how to have both a high level of appropriate aggression in closing their sales deals, and a deft ear for listening and empathizing with their prospects to uncover their needs and dominant buying motivations, then to gently guide them toward a comfortable decision to buy (today!) in order to solve whatever problem they are facing personally or in business that the salesman’s products can address.
20. The Art of War: Sun Tzu
Written during the Spring and Autumn Period of the ancient Chinese Zhou Dynasty by a formidable Chinese military tactician named Sun Tzu (pronounced “Son Sue”), the Art of War isn’t about business directly. It was written just before the Warring States period in Chinese history in the middle of the Fifth Century BC. Its comprehensive and highly nuanced understanding of military strategy has made it a classic for generals throughout the ages.
But corporate business leaders and CEOs have turned to the ancient tome for guidance in overall strategic and management principles as well. Many books on business have cited the Art of War throughout the last century, and many Japanese companies include it on their required reading list for key executives. Western business leaders also look to the book’s stratagems for sound management practices and strategic thinking. Entrepreneurs consider it a powerful source of inspiration and motivation to keep the fight within alive.
19. The Fountainhead: Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged wasn’t Ayn Rand’s only bestselling novel in the 20th century. Some years before its publication, her breakout success into the world of fiction publishing and as the intellectual vanguard of business, free markets, and artistic vision was a slightly shorter (though still lengthy) novel entitled, The Fountainhead.
In it Rand tells the story of a young architect who starts out the book being kicked out of architecture school for being too insubordinate in pursuit of his unusual artistic vision, despite his clear gifts for engineering and design. In his debriefing meeting with the Dean of Students, Howard Roark lectures the dean on the unimaginative staleness of modern architecture, which simply copies previous forms that were designed for older materials, rather than pushing the limits of new building materials to create things that were previously never possible. The climax of the novel is a courtroom trial for the crime of blowing up one of his own beloved buildings.
18. The Psychology of Selling: Brian Tracy
Due in part to timidity about sales, which is something many aspiring business people are afraid to do and believe their business can do without, and in part to the general negative attitude toward salesmanship as something “cheesy,” inauthentic, or even outrightly deceptive, many entrepreneurs neglect sales as they form their business plans, and many modern businesses– especially those guided by the heavily engineering-oriented mindset of Silicon Valley and tech entrepreneurship– even believe the product can speak for itself without the need for a salesforce or any kind of sales tactics, but that is all simply untrue, and costs American business startups untold billions in lost profits.
No doubt many never even make it to the point of profitability because of the neglect of salesmanship. Brian Tracy’s classic sales guide, The Psychology of Selling is required reading for any entrepreneur or business person. It doesn’t matter what you think you do– you have to be able to sell.
17. Linchpin: Seth Godin
Seth Godin is one of the greatest marketing geniuses of the 20th Century. Founder of Internet marketing company, Yoyodyne, creator of Squidoo, and vice president of marketing for Yahoo! back in the days of its fiercest competition for search dominance with the likes of Google and Lycos (they should have listened more closely to Seth), Seth Godin is also the author of multiple best selling books on marketing and business.
One of them is Linchpin. A linchpin is the part of the machine that if removed, causes the entire thing to no longer be able to function. The linchpin is an absolutely, 100% vital, if not the most important part of a system. In one of his very longest books, Seth Godin encourages would be self-made success stories like you to become the linchpin– the indispensable part– of your company, of your niche, of your entire industry… and write your own ticket in life.
16. The Intelligent Investor: Benjamin Graham
Before he was finally overtaken by Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft, Warren Buffett was the richest man in the history of the world, and not the way many of the new richest and nearly richest men in the world have gotten there (people like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison) by creating amazing new digital technologies. No. Warren Buffett got to where he is today by simply being so sharp an investor, that people started calling him “The Oracle of Omaha.”
In case you’re not brushed up on your Greek mythology, an oracle is a prophet who can see the future. Well Buffett credits his wildly unusual success in buying and selling businesses with the principles of value investing that he learned in a little red book by Benjamin Graham entitled, The Intelligent Investor. The book goes into detail, but value investing is looking for undervalued assets and buying them.
15. The Art of The Deal: Donald Trump
Agree with his politics or not, like his personal style or find it incredibly boorish, Donald J. Trump is still undoubtedly an important case study in massive, out-sized success in life. People say they could have become a multi-billionaire real estate mogul, marketing genius, brand promoter, and top-rated network television show host if only they got a million dollar loan from their dad to start out with, but a million dollars is really not that much money. Grant Cardone (from earlier on this list) says if you only have a million dollars, you’re broke.
And many people inherit much more than that from their parents and never turn it into anything more. They just sit on it and slowly consume it over a lifetime. Besides have you ever heard of Trump’s older brother? No? Because he’s dead. From alcoholism. If you want a look into the mind of the unlikely 45th president of the United States, read his 1987 New York Times bestseller, The Art of The Deal.
14. iCon: Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in The History of Business: Jeffrey Young
Steve Jobs was already world famous for his work in bringing computers out of the stuffy offices of corporate America and the garages of nerdy engineer tinkerers and hobbyists, and into the hands of every day people, and the legendary tech entrepreneur had graced the cover of Time Magazine by 1982. But some years later he would find himself ousted by the board of directors from his own company, the company he had co-founded himself out of a garage with his friend and business partner Steve Wozniak. Steve Jobs was “Employee Number Zero” of Apple Computers, and seemed to have gone from Hero to Zero in no time. The unauthorized Jobs biography, iCon, paints a detailed picture of the rise and fall of Steve Jobs, and his second rise to make one of the most extraordinary comebacks in business history, giving the world the iPod and the iPhone, and changing it forever once again.
13. Beating The Street: Peter Lynch
Peter Lynch is the legendary American investor and mutual fund manager who averaged a 29.2% annual return (more than doubling the S&P 500 stock index) from 1977 to 1990, the best performance of any mutual fund over that period in the world.The assets under his management grew from $18 million in ’77 to $14 billion by 1990. He’s famous for saying, “Invest in what you know.” In Beating The Street, the legendary money manager elucidates his own personal business strategies for successful investing and offers his advice on how to successfully pick winning stocks and mutual funds from losers and to put together a solid, high performing investment portfolio. he shares this wealth of information from one of the greatest investing minds in Wall Street history in the form of a list of “25 Golden Rules” for investing. As you read, be sure to take notes.
12. Purple Cow: Transform Your Business By Being Remarkable: Seth Godin
In his 2003 book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, marketing guru Seth Godin takes on traditional creative advertising, and as he does in many of his other high-selling marketing tomes, he– well– slaughters some sacred cows… the boring, same old piebald kind. In Purple Cow, Godin explains how creative advertising is ineffectual today because of the unprecedented, fever pitch amount of noise in the marketing space leading many people to ignore or forget advertising. The book advocates building marketing right into the product by creating something truly remarkable, something that people just have to tell others about, the same way they would tell others if they were driving down the highway and saw a purple cow. He concludes saying, “Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable.”
11. Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us: Seth Godin
In this 2008 masterpiece of business philosophy, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, marketing and business guru Seth Godin explains that a tribe is any group of people, however big or small, that shares a common goal or value, and a way to communicate. He points out how for most of history human beings have worked together in tribes of many kinds, religious, racial, economic, political, artistic, and even commercial. With the advent of the Internet, the barriers of space, time, and cost have come down, and it’s easier than ever before for people to find each other and connect to their tribes, the group that shares their goals or values. But the question is: who is going to lead all these tribes? In the book, Godin makes the case that in the Information Age, there is a critical shortage of leadership, and he goes deep into what makes a good leader.
10. The Singularity Is Near: Ray Kurzweil
Ray Kurzweil is a lifelong engineer and inventor who holds multiple patents, and was the man who taught computers how to read. (No computer could merely look at a photo of text and recognize the letters until someone had taught it how using software protocols that mimic how the human brain recognizes letters when a person reads!) He is currently Google’s chief engineer, the only job he’s ever had with a company he did not start himself. This book is not a business book per se, but any aspiring business leader would do well to familiarize themselves with the concepts in the book, which takes a sweeping look at the beginnings and developments of digital computation, and its positively cosmic effects on human commerce and society. A key concept from this book is that the price performance of digital computation is increasing at an exponential rate, so changes are coming faster now than most business people would predict.
9. The Black Swan, the Impact of the Highly Improbable: Nassim Taleb
In this bestselling book that made him famous, data scientist Nassim Taleb discusses the importance of “black swans” –highly unlikely events that share three properties in common: they are unpredictable, they have a massive impact on a field (or maybe even all of society), and after they happen we often create a post hoc explanation to attempt to understand them, make them seem less random, and portray them as more predictable than we had thought (all with the benefit of hindsight). Google’s success in dominating online search was a black swan. So was the 9/11 terrorist attack in dominating world history. So was Donald Trump’s 2016 election upset over Hillary Clinton. Taleb says we are more prone to miss black swans until after they’ve happened when we are bounded by concrete thinking, bogged down in specifics, instead of understanding general principles. This book is required reading for those self made aspirants who would be giants.
8. Ender’s Game: Orson Scott Card
If you’ve ever strolled past the science fiction section in a bookstore, you’ve seen this book. It’s considered by many to be the greatest science fiction novel ever. It might look like a long read, but it goes fast. You can probably finish it in a couple of days. The novel tells the story of a young boy named Ender Wiggin who goes to Battle School, a military space training academy.
It is in orbit around the planet Earth. They designed the school to train students to become hardened soldiers for the inevitable future conflict with an alien race known as “Buggers.” The aliens have already attempted to invade Earth once and they were barely able to repel them. Though it’s a work of science fiction, it is highly valued by corporate leaders (and its’ even on the Marine Corps’ official reading list) for the many nuggets of wisdom woven into the narrative on leadership, teamwork, and success.
7. 12 Rules for Life: Jordan B. Peterson
The Jordan Peterson phenomenon is itself a black swan event in the style of Taleb’s book listed above. This Jungian philosopher, practicing clinical psychiatrist, and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto rose from complete obscurity to a worldwide bestselling author of 12 Rules for Life, mostly through the popularity of his lectures uploaded to YouTube, and YouTube videos of students aggressively protesting his public talks about politics and culture.
His book 12 Rules for Life is a must read general overview of psychology, mythology, history, and even biology, brimming with wisdom about the ways to success and defeat in life, including the role of serotonin in regulating success and social status, a neurochemical social mediator that is so old, we share it in common with lobsters. Our most recent common ancestor with lobsters is so old, that the serotonin system responsible for our success is even older than trees!
6. The Internet of Money: Andreas M. Antonopoulos
Even if you aren’t planning on starting your own cryptocurrency, some second layer technology built on top of a cryptocurrency blockchain, or some other crypto-based business (such as a mining pool, crypto wallets, or a crypto exchange), anybody with an interest in enduring commercial success would do well to understand the impact of cryptocurrency on the world scene over the next decade or two. Leaving the technical details of how bitcoin works for his other book (Mastering Bitcoin), world renowned public speaker and cryptographic security expert Andreas Antonopoulos explains the economic and social significance of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in The Internet of Money. If you are doing business in 2018, you are doing business in the digital marketplace. And if you are doing business in the digital marketplace, you will have an enormous advantage as a disruptor, rather than one of the disrupted, as cryptocurrency becomes a standard means of payment and cash settlement globally.
5. The Theory of Money and Credit: Ludwig von Mises
Now we’re getting into the deep knowledge of monetary policy, macroeconomics, and global finance that is essential to any self-made success who plans on being a world conquering modern industrialist on a truly global-historical scale. If you want to understand the entire ocean your boat is floating atop as you build your fleet of businesses, assets, and investments, then read this 1912 classic of economics by the much underrated, but incisive Austrian economic theorist Ludwig von Mises, who explains the theory of the origins and use value of money by means of his logical “regression theorem” a foundational work of the Austrian school of economics, a heterodox economic school that has earned one of its adherents (Friedrich von Hayek) a Nobel Prize for economics for the explanatory power of the school’s theories for understanding the “boom and bust” business cycle that has characterized modern capitalism.
4. Winning: Jack Welch
Jack Welch is the legendary CEO of G.E. who took General Electric from a “ran its course” dinosaur legacy behemouth leftover from the 19th century that had hit its plateau, and turned it into a miraculous engine of growth, making shares in the company a 4000% growth stock in twenty years’ time. In his bestselling book Winning, Welch begins by outlining his overall business philosophy in an intro section entitled “Underneath it All,” in which he explains the importance of integrity, values, differentiation, voice, and dignity. The business titan’s objective in the book is to speak to people at every level of a large corporate organization like General Electric, so that both executive, C-level employees down to temporary hires can all glean from the collected pearls of wisdom of Jack’s years winning big in business.
3. The Hero With A Thousand Faces: Joseph Campbell
This is another book that isn’t technically about business, but will serve anyone very well to read who plans on doing incredibly great things in business. In it, new age philosopher and cultural anthropologist Joseph Campbell takes a look at the religious and mythological stories people have been telling for hundreds and even thousands of years to map out the path of the hero in human civilization. As it turns out there is a recipe to success– great, heroic, epic success. And we know about it because our species has produced many heroes like this, and they have carried us all the way out of the meager hunter gatherer existence into this modern world of marvelous abundance and great technological power. The hero always follows a certain path through certain challenges to achieve “the boon,” the great achievement that makes him and his community wealthy (and usually attracts him a mate).
2. I Will Teach You To Be Rich: Ramit Sethi
I Will Teach You To Be Rich is Ramit Sethi’s New York Times bestselling 6-week personal finance course in a book for young people aged 20 – 35 years old. It’s a very pragmatic, cookbook approach with the recipe for financial success, written in a gentle, friendly style that encourages readers to take Sethi’s advice to heart, rather than in a tyrannical or judgmental form. Sethi bases the advice in his book on the four pillars of personal finance– banking, saving, budgeting, and investing– as well as the wealth-building strategies of entrepreneurship. Sethi also covers time management, negotiating tactics, budgeting, taxes, networking, investing, and even the hidden relationship between money and food. Throughout, Sethi emphasizes that it doesn’t matter whether or not you’re the smartest person in the room. The benefits in life will accrue to the one who is able to simply get started in the first place.
1. Hustle: The Power to Charge Your Life with Money, Meaning, and Momentum: Neil Patel
Neil Patel is a global thought leader in search engine optimization, massively successful website promotion, and online commerce. His 2016 book, Hustle, is much like the Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss, a step-by-step guide to breaking free from the drudgery and lifelessness of the 9-5 working lifestyle of the corporate employee, and making your dreams come true instead. It lays out the specifics of what you need to know in order to do the work you love and to give you the confidence and self-starting motivation you need to actually have an adventure and achieve something worthwhile in life. Loyalty to a company doesn’t always lead to success. At a time of mass layoffs, it often leads to betrayal and instability. Instead you can get ahead on your own and live more imaginatively using the lessons learned in Hustle. This is a great book for entrepreneurs and startup founders.