Published: November 26, 2019
Author: Martin William Harvey
As an entrepreneur, the most powerful way to ensure business success is by continuous learning, visioning and experimenting with new ideas. One of the best ways to keep your mind focused on success is through reading. Whether its through reading fiction, non-fiction, self-help guides, or topical content, having a consistent reading schedule and wish-list of books is key to ensuring your brain muscle is strong and effective.
Of course, it is easier to read on a regular basis if you enjoy learning new ideas and experiencing others’ interpretation of concepts. This year, I decided to include reading goals in my business goals to motivate myself to commit the same dedication and discipline to reading and learning as I do to customer service and revenue goals. After reading over a dozen books in 2019 by life and business goals were far exceeded, and I can confidently say it’s because I have learned to enjoy reading on a regular basis.
Most of the books I read in 2019 focused on business concepts such as The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle and Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury, however I also enjoyed reading books such as Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Trails by Robert Moore. I found alternating professional educational books with non-fiction narratives like Wild allowed me to envision new ideas and concepts unrelated to the book’s narrative, but simply because my subconscious brain was continuing to work efficiently and effectively.
Below are the top 5 books I read in 2019 and would suggest all entrepreneurs read in by the end of 2020.
As a Kansas State University Alumni and a K-State Football Fan I was naturally drawn to the leadership qualities and the track record of overcoming adversity that Bill Snyder is known for in the little apple and throughout the sports world.
On November 24 1988, a not-so-well-known Bill Snyder arrived in Manhattan, Kansas to accept the offer for the football head coaching position at Kansas State University. At the time the Kansas State University football team had not won a game in over two years and had a record of 0-26-1.
Winning only one game in his first season at K-State, Snyder had ample opportunity to resign and move to a school will greater talent and more funding – but he chose to stay. In 1993, Snyder lead his team to their first college bowl game in over a decade. In 1995, the Kansas State Football Team went 10-0 and ranking #6 in the AP Poll, their first top ten finish in school history.
In 1998, Snyder hit his stride with the Wildcats achieving their first 11-0 undefeated season, and ranking #1 in national polls. This just 10 years after being described as the worst football program in the United States.
Today Snyder is known to have performed the greatest turnaround in college football history. He has won 3 Big 8 Conference Coach of the Year Awards, 4 Big 12 Coach of the Year Awards, the Paul “Bear” Bryant Award, the Walter Camp Coach of the Year Award, the AP Coach of the Year Award, 2 Bobby Dodd Coach of the Year Awards, Sporting New Coach of the Year Award, Woody Hayes Coach of the Year Award and he was inducted in both the Kansas State Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame. It is easy to see how Bill Snyder has both the Kansas State University Football Stadium and a Kansas Highway named after him.
This book not only details how Snyder overcame adversity from a young age, but also outlines Snyder’s 16 Goals for Success including Commitment, Unselfishness and Unity. Although not as well-known as the other books on my list, I would highly recommend purchasing this book as soon as possible.
Bill Snyder: They Said it Couldn’t Be Done is a book about committed leadership, teamwork and problem-solving, skills every entrepreneur must master to be truly successful in business.
Every time I meet a new entrepreneur who is having trouble envisioning their future or is facing a significant business obstacle I ask “Have you read Start With WHY by Simon Sinek”? Most of the time the answer is “no” and at that point I completely understand why they are facing difficulties.
Start With WHY is like the beginner’s guide to entrepreneurship and I believe that all college students should read this book. Simon Sinek is a revolutionary entrepreneur, thought-leader and culture activist. To put it simply, Simon Sinek’s goal is to teach leaders how to inspire others.
Sinek reached his global breakout through a 2009 TEDTalk called “Start With Why – how great leaders inspire action”. Sinek’s debut TEDTalk quickly rose to one of the world’s most popular TEDTalks with over 47 million views to date.
WATCH SIMON'S TEDTALK HERE
The quote “people don’t by what you do they buy why you did” is famously coined by Simon Sinek in Start With WHY and in one sentence captures the essence of Sinek’s life purpose. If you are a seasoned business owner, an emerging entrepreneur or are considering opening a business in the next few years, I would strongly recommend overnighting this book and making it a top priority.
Leaders Eat Last is Sinek’s sequel to Start With WHY. In Leaders Eat Last Sinek focuses on what makes a leader, a leader. Sinek discusses several situations where ordinary people have risen to the level of extraordinary leadership and how they put the people who follow them first.
Although not required, for entrepreneurs I would recommend first reading Start With WHY before reading Leaders Eat Last.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is the first book I read via audio book and I’m glad I did. As I was driving through the hills of Arkansas and the plains of Oklahoma, I was immersed in the various successful stories of multi-millionaires, sports-athletes and Nobel Prize winners analyzed and discussed by Gladwell.
Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, author and public speaker. Appearing in the Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people, Maxwell enjoys using the chapters in his books to investigate recognizable concepts to discover the deeper meaning and reasons behind what makes the concept so recognizable.
In Outliers, Gladwell focuses on why people are inherently so successful. How was Bill Gates able to build Microsoft, and what positioned him to be a multi-billionaire? Why do only a select group of athletes have what it takes to play college sports and even then, why do only a few make it to professional levels? Why does being a genius not always amount to a successful life and why do some geniuses end up not changing the world at all? These are all major concepts Gladwell breaks down into simple concepts.
I enjoyed this book because it completely disregards the theory of “I came from nothing and through some divine miracle I became outlandishly successful” theory we hear so often from successful people. This book has enlightened me to look at the world from a different perspective and specifically to look at everything in life as either an opportunity we can take advantage of or an opportunity we ignore.
If you are someone who likes to break complex problems down in bite-sized discoveries then Outliers should be the next book you binge read.
When I first read Elizabeth I CEO by Alan Axelrod, I was a senior studying Aeronautical Science at Kansas State University. I was within 6 months of literally taking off into what could have been a successful career in corporate aviation. Little did I know that two years after reading this book I would starting a business of my own and four years later co-founding a second and Elizabeth I CEO was an important stepping stone to reaching my potential.
Elizabeth I CEO is about Queen Elizabeth I of England, but this is not just a history book. Queen Elizabeth I was one of the most successful CEO’s in world history; her business was just ruling over an empire rather than running the businesses of today.
Elizabeth was only 25 when she ascended to the throne, but the journey to that point couldn’t have been more difficult. Recognized as a bastard of King Henry IIV, Elizabeth’s mother Anne Boleyn was executed by her husband when she was just two-and-a-half-years-old. After her mother death, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate. After her father died, Elizabeth’s half-brother Edward VI became King and ruled until his early death in 1533. At that point Elizabeth’s sister Mary became Queen and in her five-year reign, Elizabeth was imprisoned for almost a year under suspicions of opposing the Crown, which there was no evidence of.
After becoming Queen in 1538, Elizabeth took the appointment seriously and became one of the most positively recognized rulers in British history. Axelrod breaks down Elizabeth’s life into individual leadership concepts that can be translated from Crown to Business.
I have read this book numerous times since my senior year in college because I learn something new every single time. I have personally used leadership techniques from Elizabeth in the continuous development of White Whale Web Design with amazing results. If you are a history buff, you will not be disappointed with Alan Axelrod’s Elizabeth CEO.