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01TH March 2013

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On my Kindle: a few great books for entrepreneurs

Gray, the digital native

Gray, the digital native

My son stole my Kindle the other day and ordered a bunch of books because the button looked good. Not much more to add to that story, aside from he’s a digital maniac and I still like to read. So, I went back and looked at what I have read in the past decade and what stuck. As many of you know, I’m still not quite done with my college degree… but I’m still an enthusiastic learner and read a book or two a month. That’s a must-do for any leader who is looking to keep his mind fresh and his thoughts topical.

But there are also some books that I constantly refer to, reread, and recommend. Some of them are great learning on outright effectiveness, others highlight specific processes, a few deal with venturing, others on triumph… and death. Anyways, I think the body of work is indicative of where my values lie. And perhaps my un-nerving ability to make anything into an analogy. So here’s my top list, and why.
  • Who for Hiring: Great book and a good 30 minute read on spotting, attracting, motivating, and retaining A Players. I currently source a least 5 candidates per month for our business by using his techniques, which boil down to simply listening to what people’s goals are and talking about their strengths and weaknesses. It has helped me attract, retain and motivate hi skilled employees in a brutally tight market.
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Great book and process on being which was originally the senior thesis of Steven Covey. I had an EO retreat on this last week and reconnected with these powerful techniques for listening, problem solving, goal setting, and self-discipline. It has helped me to craft a mission statement, honor commitments across all roles, and focus on what is most important.
  • Ownership Thinking: A new one on the scene, and a good read on how people in a business think: like employees or like owners. Obviously, the leverage comes when people focus on the latter. It is just beginning to help me focus the team on what the true company priorities are and why building value in the enterprise creates a positive effect across the whole base.
  • Flow: The Science of Optimal Experience: A simple yet effective way to find happiness through a combination of challenge and skills acquisition. It has helped me reframe the debate on what we are doing and how we feel about it, making everything a quest for “the way” and a game that never stops. It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it never gets old. It is the definition of happiness, for me at least.
  • Into Thin Air: Another epic adventure that played out as several teams attempted Everest, and a few dozen almost got killed. A lot of lessons to be learned about provisioning, planning, and the effects of elevation on human capacity and performance. There are so many similarities to start-ups, except perhaps frostbite and death. It has helped me to express the entrepreneur’s journey as one in which people join the expedition at different times, but very few actually ascend the peak, safely. It also teaches the lesson it is better to own a part of the expedition than to force your way above an altitude you can effectively handle.
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom An epic by any stretch of the imagination, and required reading for every US Army grunt assigned to the MEA theatre in the past two wars. T.E.Lawrence has a lot to say about strategy, preservation of resources, and use of the mighty pen. The fact that it is going on 100 years in print, and was rewritten from memory when his notes were left on a train… says something. This book has helped me to imagine events in great scale and over longer periods than most people think. It also has inspired me to live with minimal drag, and a few very big objectives.
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain. A touching book, and actually not one you’d expect to see here. But there is something to be learned. Things are not always as they seem, you can effect change in seemingly locked in lives, and good guys do get second chances. It has helped me persevere in situations where I just could not imagine how to exit, and then imagine the perfect exit.

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