The 4 Most Influential Business Books I Have Read

The value of a business book is, in my opinion, determined by its capacity to provide ideas that are: novel, impactful, and actionable.

The ideas must be novel so that they are unique from the thousands of business books covering many of the same core topics. If you pick one up out of thousands, it should have a different message.

The ideas must be impactful so that it can stimulate real change. The revelation an author has and writes about is meaningless to you if it doesn’t have the potential to impact your life.

Lastly, and most importantly - the ideas must be actionable. “Knowledge without action is useless.”

These are five books that illustrate novel, impactful, and actionable ideas.

  1. Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive

Whether you are in business, sales, or merely want to improve your communication and negotiation skills: Harvey Mackay’s Swim with the Sharks should be top on your list. It’s easy to read, hard-hitting, and sharp with applicable insights.

Taking rejection can be hard. This book teaches you how to parlay rejection into acceptance; how to turn “no” into “yes.”

Preparation is key. As Mackay teaches, equipping yourself with surpluses of information on people — before you even speak with them — can transform the direction the dialogue takes.

Beyond all else — at the foundation of one’s ability lies motivation. This, the book teaches, can be understood, measured, and redirected in order to accomplish one’s goals.

Negotiation is a final core piece that is discussed. How to say “no” with conviction, while maintaining the relationship — and also how to push for “yes.”

  1. The Subtle Art of How to Not Give a F*ck

My favorite ideas in this book:

1. Focus on the things that matter and spend less energy on the rest

a.) Figure out what things matter to you (values, beliefs, long-term goals and relationships)

b.) Focus your attention and energy on those things

c.) Decrease the number of things that you care about, think about, and give energy to in your life.

2. Humility and Self-Doubt are the keys to growth and success

a.) Having an introspective, humble, iterative approach to discovering your own flaws, understanding them, and fixing them is the recipe for success.

b.) Ego is your enemy. Doubting yourself enables you to become better.

Things I didn’t like:

1. At times it felt self-indulgent. The majority of his stories and examples come from his own life rather than the lives of people older, wiser, and more successful than him. The ending story of him sitting on a cliff in South Africa could have been summed up in 3 sentences, but instead goes into vivid detail in what felt like a stroking of his own ego and past memories. The section about romantic relationships felt unrelated to the point of the chapter.

2. The book wasn’t very funny. Not a big deal; I wasn’t reading it to get a laugh.

3. At least one assertion was incorrect. The notion that “happiness” is derived from accomplishment and from correcting your faults is, in my understanding, wrong. While accomplishment and self-improvement are hugely valuable for a meaningful life, they certainly don’t equate to happiness. Being present and appreciative of the present moment is how happiness exists and is created.

3. Tools of Titans

This is a long book, but it’s a great one.

Pros:

Tons of great insight in easy-to-digest, short chapters. Tons of knowledge, tips, tricks, advice, and perspective from people you admire.

Cons:

There’s a lot of text here. It’s basically an encyclopedia of interviews, ranging all types of people and topics.

4. Reach

Andy Molinsky’s Reach is a great book for building comfort and ability to deliver bad news, speak in public, network, and be assertive.

It teaches you how to build confidence to step outside of our comfort zone, and take on new assignments, tasks, to move up the career ladder and grow personally and professionally.

It is important to be equipped with the proper tools to manage difficult situations - even when it feels uncomfortable, and this book helps you discover and develop those tools.

Molinsky presents five core challenges which he feels are paramount in inhibiting people from breaking boundaries and operating outside of their circle of comfort, which are: authenticity, likeability, competence, resentment, and morality.

He explains that what often sets successful people apart is their willingness to do the things others fear, in order to overcome these challenges. What’s more, we have the false notion that successful people like to do these things, when the truth is they have simply found their own way to do them.

The book is incredibly engaging, easy-to-read, and packed with info. Better yet -- the tools in the book are immediately applicable. You can pick up the book, read it, and immediately start applying the ideas to your own life.

5. How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

A must-read for everyone.

Pros:

Identifies and describes the behaviorisms that help create positive, effective, valuable relationships.

Cons:

Perhaps neglects some of the underlying factors, thought patterns, and attitudes which underly behaviors and influence behaviors. Replicating behaviors from this book is limiting if done outside of the context of going a layer deeper into the internal values.

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