I’ve read a lot this year. Maybe…too much. (gasp!)
With so much good information out there, it’s easy to get caught up in trying to consume it all. But just like with food, wolfing it all down as fast as possible doesn’t make for good digestion.
What really matters is what we do with what we read.
So here’s a short summary (in no particular order) of the 10 best business books I’ve read recently.
But don’t add them all to your reading list. Instead, just pick one – whichever one you think will give you the best chance to change your life for the better. And then go and do what you learn.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
The ethos of this book is similar to what I just said. You’ve got to focus if you want to get more out of your time. Fractured attention hurts the quality (and Cal argues, the volume) of your work, and as science has shown, is bad for your brain. So after making a case for why you should focus, Cal gives some practical advice for how to do it. Thankfully, he doesn’t tout a one-size-fits-all approach. He suggests 4 different ones for us to experiment with, depending on our own personal circumstances.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
A critical reading of this book will reveal a number of issues, but nevertheless, it’s a classic with relational techniques that have now become common knowledge. The principles are quite sound, though in hindsight we can see how some of them can be twisted by less-than-conscientious salespeople. But the straightforward, folksy how-to approach is endearing, and it’s good to be reminded of implicit knowledge by having it spelled out once in a while.
Multipliers by Liz Wiseman
Are you a Multiplier or Diminisher? It’s something easy to spot in others, but sometimes we need someone to ask the hard questions for us to be able to see it in ourselves. Multipliers amplify the intelligence of those around them. Diminishers drain the intelligence, energy, and capabilities of others. Lest you answer too quickly, this book is a gut punch to help you really see what you’re made of, and what you do to those around you.
Challenger Sale by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson
This book describes the findings of one of the largest sales studies in history, and how it bucks the conventional wisdom on who makes the best salespeople. It describes 5 sales profiles (Hard Worker; Lone Wolf; Relationship Builder; Problem Solver; Challenger), and shows that the top performers were overwhelmingly situated in the Challenger category. (Not the Relationship Builders, as was supposed.) What do Challengers do that sets them apart? In a nutshell, they teach, tailor, and take control. If you want to learn how to do that, read this book.
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
It’s not a business book per se, but a it’s a good reminder about how business is part of the larger ecosystem that is our world. The book reads a lot like a biography, but in many ways it is a biography of Yvon’s company, Patagonia. It reveals the company’s values and how dedication to such values can turn a company into so much more for its employees – a cause they can believe in.
Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi and Robert John Rose
Marketing doesn’t have to be a cost; it should be viewed as an investment. But brands are now taking it a step further and using marketing as its own revenue generator as they embrace providing valuable content and not just widgets. Whereas traditional marketing was about describing value, today’s content marketing is about creating value. Successful business is largely about building an audience and then consistently creating value for that audience. That’s what content marketing is all about.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
Here’s another book about focus. It’s about doing less, but better. We do so many things each day, but how many of those things would you deem really and truly important? Not many. Ultimately in life, you get to choose what you want to expend your time and energy on. So you might as well spend it on things that are important to you. Of course, there are problems associated with every choice you make. But the real question is: Which problems do you want?
Building a Storybrand by Donald Miller
People are drawn to story. It’s how we make sense of the world and our place in it. That’s a powerful thing. But most brands aren’t thinking about that. And if they are, they are too wrapped up in being the hero. But customers don’t want a hero; they want to be the hero! Don’s book shows brands how to connect with that desire in a way that translates into huge returns.
The Effective Manager by Mark Horstman
There’s no shortage of management books, but what I like about this one is that it is simple and practical. It’s based on the claim that managers are responsible for two main things: results and retention. It then describes 4 basic behaviors (one-on-one meetings; feedback; coaching; and delegation) that managers should perform with their direct reports to these ends. The book has some good instruction on how to start implementing these tools, and is a good starting place for aspiring managers.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
This book hinges on the idea that you are what you do, and if you want a better life, you need better behaviors. About 40% of what you do is on autopilot. These are your habits, and they are made of 3 things: cue, routine, and reward. The book shows us that we can replace ‘bad’ habits with ‘good’ ones by simply changing the routine. In other words, the same cue, plus a different routine, can still give us the same mental reward. Yeah, but what about willpower? You can build that as a habit as well. You’ll have to read the book and try it out to be sure.
So there you have it, a little taste of the best business books I’ve read this year. Pick one, read it closely, and apply what you’ve learned before you even think of picking up another one.