Books, Gear and Reviews: The Top 5 Books I’ve Read in 2018 (and my Biggest Takeaways)
The 4 Hour Work Week gave me the motivation to start my own business one day.
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win taught me how to think in systems.
Tested Advertising Methods introduced me to the concept of split-testing.
It’s crazy to think where my life would be if I didn’t develop the reading habit.
I truly believe that it’s the biggest success hack that exists. I’m not smart enough to figure out all the business lessons out myself, and I just don’t have the time.
I’ve gone through a lot of books this year. Some life-changing ones, some that were straight up horrible.
As we come to the end of the year, I wanted to share the five best books I’ve read this year and some of the lessons I’ve taken from them.
Book #1: The Everything Store by Brad Stone
Hands down, one of the best books on business I’ve ever read. Jeff Bezos is an absolute genius, and as I read The Everything Store, started to understand how he was able to turn Amazon into only the second company in history to reach a trillion dollar evaluation.
A few key things I learned:
1. Frugality is a good thing. Even though Amazon is worth over a trillion dollars, Bezos emphasizes frugality. Why? So that they can spend more money on making customers happy. When you focus on making the customer happy, you’ll make a lot more money.
2. Strategize around what WON’T in the long term. Instead of trying to figure out what things will look like ten years from now, Bezos focuses on things that won’t change. He knows customers will always want low prices and fast shipping, so he’s always pushing the envelope in these areas.
3. Study others who have succeeded. It’s no secret that Bezos has been hugely influenced by other companies. Amazon Prime is based on the Costco model. His pursuit of low prices was inspired by Wal-Mart. Bezos knows that if you want to succeed, you need to study others who have succeeded.
Book #2: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
One of the happiest days of my life happened when I was 12 years old.
Up until then, I didn’t care about brands or fashion. I wore whatever my mom bought on sale at Marshall’s.
But things change when you become a teenager. I noticed that all my friends were obsessed with Nike. Wearing Nike shoes meant you were cool.
Me? I wasn’t cool. I wore whatever was on sale at Payless.
My birthday was coming up and I begged her for a new pair of Nikes.
We walked into footlocker and I knew I wanted the Black and White cortez’es.
She was shocked at the price…
“OMG $50!!! I can buy you three pairs of shoes at Payless.”
I told her..”I understand mom” and pouted. And waited…
“Okkkkk laa…don’t get them dirty.”
I got so many props from my friends at school the next day.
In a way, this was one of my first introductions to marketing.
This leads us to Shoe Dog…the story of how Nike was founded.
If I had to pick a book that captures the feeling of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur, it would be Shoe Dog.
The book tells the story of Nike – both the good and the bad. It’s every entrepreneur’s journey…
- A trusted partner backstabbing you? Check.
- Not being able to meet payroll? Check.
- Coming up with a business idea? Check.
- Competitor doing dirty shit to you? Check.
- Employees doing you dirty? Check.
- Scaling a company? Check.
I have a habit of reading 25 minutes a day, but were some days I ignored the timer and kept reading…it’s that entertaining.
My biggest takeaway? It’s easy to look at the success of someone else or another company and think…”I could never do what they did.”
Hearing Phil’s story made me realize he had no idea what he was doing. He didn’t set out to build a billion-dollar company. Every day was a new problem and they just winged it.
And you don’t have to figure everything out on your own. Phil didn’t like the swoosh logo or the name Nike for the company. They were suggestions from other people, and he didn’t have enough time to come up with better names.
Book #3: Atomic Habits by James Clear
I believe that habits are the key to success in life.
I’ve pretty much read everything major habit book out there including The Power of Habit and the works of BJ Fogg.
Atomic Habits is the BEST book out there, in my opinion.
If you’ve read Clear’s blog, I’d say 50% of the ideas are from the blog, but the other 50% are new stories and ideas.
The biggest takeaway from the book is his ideas on breaking bad habits.
One example really stood out to me.
James likes to use social media like the rest of us. Every Sunday night his assistant changes all the passwords to his social media accounts so he doesn’t have access to them. He can’t even do an email reset if he wanted to. This makes it harder for him to be distracted, and he focuses on work instead. And on Friday, he gets an email with his social media passwords so he can browse on the weekends.
Make it difficult for you to do bad behaviors.
Here’s an example of how I can implement this idea.
I like to play my Playstation 4. If I’m particularly stressed out that day, instead of spending thinking time solving the problem, I’ll start the PlayStation 4 and start playing it.
I live with my girlfriend and she goes to work every morning. I can easily ask her to put the PS4 power cord in her purse and take it to work.
Sounds extreme? Sure.
But the point is to change the environment so you don’t have to use your willpower.
Book #4: Primal Leadership by Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis
There’s one skill that I’ve been working hard to develop the past decade…
Maybe I didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, or my Dad didn’t give me enough hugs, but I’m not the most empathetic person out there.
And looking bad this past decade, I could’ve been a much better leader if I had stronger E.I. skills.
Long story short, I’ve read tons of books and haven’t found them useful.
It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Primal Leadership that everything clicked in my head.
The biggest takeaway is that there are several different leadership styles, and they’re best employed at different times.
1. Visionary leadership
It’s all about setting an inspiring vision for the company. The leader gets excited about the new direction, and everyone in the company gets excited too.
2. Coaching leadership
This is where you spend a lot of time mentoring the people under you. There’s a lot of 1-on-1 conversations where the leader helps develop the employee for long-term success.
3. Affiliative leadership
It’s all about relationships. The leader focuses on building strong connections and relationships with his employees, which strengthens loyalty. Whenever there is conflict, the affiliate leader dives in to help ease the tension.
4. Democratic leadership
This leader wants to hear the input and feedback from everyone involved. All the employees feel as if they matter to the team and the decisions.
5. Pace-setting leadership
Everyone’s held to a high standard, with the leader setting the pace for everyone else. Goals are publicly set, and there’s pressure on performance and meeting the goals. If the goals aren’t being met, the leadership will jump into the trenches themselves.
This can lead the team to burnout if this is the 24/7 pace of the company.
6. Commanding leadership
This leader is all about power and confidence. Think almost like a dictator. They have a clear direction and love giving orders.
I definitely feel that my natural leadership styles are pace-setting and commanding (and I think they’re most of yours as well).
However, I’ve learned that different leadership styles work best in different situations. I’ve been doing my best to implement some of the other four.
- Coaching – I’ve added 1-on-1 monthly meetings with employees each month. I also do something called “DNA transfer” which is where they can get personal training from me.
- Democratic – I ask for everyone’s input. We have debates and discussions when it comes to big decisions. I’ll even straight up asking people what they think about a particular idea.
- Affiliative – I try to understand more about what people are going through in their personal lives, and I’ll share some of my struggles too. We also have something we call the weekly gratitude where we thank each other individually for something.
Book #5: Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
Let me ask you a question.
How different would your life be if you could reverse the three worst decisions of your life? Probably a hell of a lot better.
I believe that the quality of your life is determined by the quality of your decisions.
Yet, we’re never taught in school how to make better decisions.
So a few years ago, I started to study decision making. The human brain is full of “bugs”, so I feel like I’m on a quest to continually upgrade my software.
This quest eventually led me to discover this book. I’ve read a lot of books on decision making, but I really like the “angle” of Thinking in Bets.
The author is a world-class poker player named Annie Duke. At one point she was the winningest female poker player in the world.
In addition to being a world-class poker player, she also has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania.
My biggest takeaway from the book is the concept of “resulting”.
Essentially, it means that the quality of the decision is more important than the result.
Most people can’t separate a decision from a result.
Your buddy blows $10,000 (his life savings) on the lottery. He ends up winning a million bucks. Although that was a great result, it was a horrible decision.
You’re playing poker and you go ALL IN with pocket Aces. You have a 90% chance of winning pre-flop, yet end up losing. That was a GREAT decision, but a BAD result. Yet some people will get superstitious and stop playing this winning hand because they got busted that one time.
Another great takeaway is how luck can affect results.
People think that life is like a game of chess. You make a decision and there’s an outcome.
There’s no luck in Chess. You see all the pieces on the board, and you lose because of bad decisions.
But life is more like poker.
1. You can do everything right and still lose because of luck
2. It’s a game of imperfect information. In chess you see every move. In Poker, you can lose due to your assumptions.
For example, let’s say there’s a coin-flipping contest. It can only be heads or tails, right?
Nope. There are no rules in life
- It could have started as a regular coin but then someone cheated and slipped in a two-headed coin.
- The flipper could be very skilled at flipping the coin to land a certain way.
- The coin could be weighted more towards a certain side.
The point is that life is unpredictable and doesn’t follow normal “rules”.
It made me realize that too often we make decisions assuming that we have all the facts.
It reminds of me investing in a certain Cryptocurrency project. I invested in it thinking I had all the right information.
Out of nowhere, I found out that the founder was completely crazy, stole $300k in coins from the project, and sent the price crashing to virtually nothing. Turns out I didn’t have all the info.
One book probably won’t change your life, but the habit of reading 25 minutes a day will.
I don’t have the time to make all the mistakes in the world. Constantly reading allows me to avoid the mistakes others have made and take advantage of opportunities I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
If implement ONE habit in the coming year, make it consistent reading.
What are some of the best books you’ve read this year?