Stress For Success by Jim Loehr
This book is about living a balanced life on steroids. Jim Loehr has spent a long time in sports psychology, studying the psychology of how sports stars succeed – including many Olympic gold medal winners. He later realised that this same thinking can be applied in the corporate world. One of the most interesting parts to me is when he was trying to discover the difference between a #1 ranked tennis player, and #100 ranked player. Apparently the skills difference was negligble. Then they had a breakthrough – they realised that between sets, a #1 player used this time well for recovery – while a #100 player would be frustrated for losing and beating themselves up. Much of the book is about applying solid recovery routines to your work, so you can be more effective. This book contains a lot of insights from the professional sports world, applied to business.
Getting Things Done By David Allen
I first read this book in 2001, and became an instant fan. I noticed since that it has developed a real cult following on the internet. However it needs to be read with a warning – I don’t think the entire system is suitable for people working online, and in some cases can make you less productive.
Where it is great:
Teaching you how to set up your office, what you need to have, how to process and handle email, the basics of project tracking and some simple processes for planning projects.
Where it is not great:
I found the next action system tracked by context to not work for me. David likes to figure out what the next action is, and track that in context of where the task should be done, eg at home, on the road, in the office, etc. However, if you’re working behind a computer most of the day, knowing where you should do a task doesn’t help and ends up creating a lot of extra overhead. I finally came up with some of my own systems to handle this, based on what David presents in his book which have proved far more effective for me.
Drilling Down by Jim Novo
This is a very profound book. Its shows how to manage large customer bases in the most profitable manner. The thesis of the book is setting up paths for customers to follow after they have bought something from you via various followup systems. Whenever a trigger is tripped, it indicates that the customer has taken some kind of action which means they are defecting, and potentially no longer acting as a customer. Since you know about it right away, you can relatively cheaply take action to keep them actively involved with what you’re doing. This methodology was developed working with the Home Shopping Network, so they had a large base of customer data to experiment with. This mode of thinking applies in many different contexts online, including managing traffic for high volume websites and behavioural targeting – the concepts don’t just apply to followup customer sales. This book contains some really fundamental insights for doing business online.
This Business Has Legs by Peter Bieler
I found this book absolutely fascinating. Most people have heard of the Thighmaster, the annoying infomercial product sold during the 90’s. Well, this book is all about how they basically built a BRAND through informercial advertising, and then made massive profits (5 times greater than their TV promotions) by leveraging their brand equity when selling via retail. Online brands are rarely leveraged offline, and this is a very powerful technique which needs to be done more often.
Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz
Eugene Swartz was a superstar copywriter in the 1960’s, and this book was published in 1966. It contains some really insightful ideas about how markets evolve and brands are built over time. It contains some similarities to work from Jack Trout and Al Ries, but was quite a bit earlier, and the thinking is explained far clearly. The section I found most useful was on the sophistication of markets, however the entire book is extremely interesting.
No Surrender: My Thirty Year War by Hiroo Onoda
This book is about a couple of Japanese soldiers that continued fighting world war II for 30 years after the war actually finished. They were left on a couple of islands in the Pacific, and stayed there, fighting periodically with the locals and waiting for their commanders to return and “lead them into battle”. This may seem like an odd choice for a “best books” list, however this had a profound influence on me. As you read this book, you will gain appreciation for how intelligent Hiroo was, and the clever things they did to survive in the wilderness for such an incredibly long time. BUT, clearly they had the overall picture completely wrong. This happened because they were not connected with the rest of the world. This is a very good analogy for what is happening with many internet marketing teams today. They work in isolated units, thinking they are making the greatest project in the world – when in reality, they are falling far behind the times. The lesson from this book is that you must stay connected with your peers to achieve massive success.
Information Rules by Carl Shaprio and Hal Varian
Information Rules is not a particularly light read – but its incredibly insightful. If you haven’t built a competitive barrier to entry for your business yet, this is the book you need to study closely. Its a few years old now, but still remains incredibly relevant. I was interested to note that Google has hired the authors of this book to consult with them on various programs.
Atlas Shrugged By Ayn Rand
This book should be required reading for entrepreneurs – I have become a huge fan of Rand’s work. The author seems to raise a lot of emotion in people, both positive and negative. While some of Ayn Rand’s philosophies can be destructive if too literally applied, the emotional understanding entrepreneurs can gain is very powerful. The reason why the book is so useful is that we are often conditioned by society to be too concerned about what others think, do and say about what we’re doing. But to be a truly successful entrepreneur, you need to be able to think for yourself and focus on creating true value. The book itself is very long and takes a long time to read and understand. But if you are an entrepreneur and have not yet read this book, you must.
Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples
For anyone wanting some basic overview in copywriting techniques developed by the masters, this is an outstanding book. The original book was written by John Caples, a very long time ago, but it is periodically updated. Some of the headlines and copy are a little dated now, but much of it is very powerful. More people on the internet should get a grounding in writing copy – how you write and present things online is critically important.
Don’t Shoot The Dog By Karen Pryor
For anyone wanting to understand people better, this is a very powerful book. Its written from the perspective of training dogs, however the techniques covered apply to any creature with a mind, from chickens to dogs to rats to fish. Karen Pryor is a dolphin trainer, which is where she developed her techniques for training – these techniques are used in dolphin shows like Seaworld. She found after she was using the techniques on the animals at work that it also helped to improve her personal life. The basic foundation of the book is to reward good behaviour. But how, when and why to do this isn’t so simple. The techniques originally come from the scary BF Skinner, and have been much adapted and improved (note that BF Skinner was an incredibly prolific author, simply because he applied these techniques on himself to improve his productivity). I trained my dog with these techniques, and found that they did work. I also took a trip to Ocean World, here in the Caribbean, and spent an entire afternoon with one of the dolphin trainers – it was truly mindblowing to see.
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
This is another landmark book for understanding human psychology. It talks about the key elements for understanding what convinces people to take action. Cialdini spent a bunch of time analyzing what worked for persuading people, and distilled it down to some of the core concepts. He presents these as ways to “avoid” being unnecessarily persuaded, although these are obviously being applied in sales environments. The core ideas do work, and you will understand a lot more about yourself and others by reading this book.
Advertising Secrets Of the Written Word by Joe Sugarman
Joe Sugarman is the guy that came up with the BluBlocker sunglasses in the 80’s and 90’s. He was on TV a lot during this time, and sold a large amount of his products. He got his start writing copy and was very successful in building many direct response businesses. This book is like a friendly version of Caple’s “Tested Advertising Methods” – Joe has a very engaging way of writing. Anyone who is regularly writing for the web would be well served by reading this book.
Titan by Ron Chernow
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably heard about the Rockefeller family, but don’t really know much more other than they had a lot of money. This book gives the inside story on how it all happened, and is an amazing story of how someone started with absolutely nothing and rose to the top of the entrepreneurial world. The book is quite long but very fast paced and an easy read.One of the most interesting things was that while Rockefeller was succesful while he was working and building Standard Oil, most of his success came AFTER he retired. He built Standard Oil around kerosene – but later, along came cars and gasoline, and suddenly the entire distribution system that Rockefeller had built was needed to supply gasoline, not kerosene. Because of the scale of what he built, Rockefeller was first with many things, including modern corporations, later causing the first antitrust trials in the USA. Standard Oil was broken up as a result, and the result is most of the oil companies in the world. If Rockefeller was alive today he’d be at least 10x – 100X more wealthy than Bill Gates.
I actually visited Rockefeller’s primary residence, Kykuit in upstate New York. Its in a really beautiful area. I was impressed when we arrived, that the house was quite nice looking, although a little smaller than I expected. It turned out that what I was seeing was the stables for the horses, and the actual house is gigantic.