The 25 Most Influential Books of My Life & Career





People often ask me about the books that have had the biggest impact on my life and career, so I thought that I would share the list with you. Her are 25 books that have given me some type of insight that I use often in my business and in life. Five of the books are a step above the others for me, so I will include them in a separate list as well.

This list is only of books that I have personally read over the past 5 years. In that time, I’ve probably read over 100 books on the subject of motivation, leadership, and business. If you have any books that you want to recommend, please do so in the comments section.

My Top 5 Favorite Books of All Time

Four Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferris

Anyone who has even met me for five minutes will discover that this is my favorite book of all time. This book has had the biggest influence over the way that I think about my life and how I want my career to be structured. Tim Ferris talks about “Lifestyle design.” He says that “people do not want to be millionaires. They want to have the type of lifestyles that millionaires have.” A way to do that is to separate money from the time that you need to put in to make that extra dough. Whenever I am feeling down about life or unsure why I made a decision to become an entrepreneur, I read the first 3 – 4 chapters of this book.

New Rules to Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott

This is my guidebook for online marketing and was the first book that taught me about the importance of content creation for a company in the internet age. The most important concept for me from this book is developing buyer personas for all of the different segments of customers that you serve.

Influence by Robert Cialdini

This book is all about the science of persuasion. It lays out all of the strategies and tactics that people use to persuade a person to do a desired action. According to the book, there are four main weapons of persuasion: Reciprocation, Commitment and Consistency, Social Proof, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity. Every marketer needs to read this book.

The Goal by Eli Goldratt

This book was required reading for business school and I’m glad that they made me read it. It is a business novel set in a factory that is going through many changes and process improvements. The premise may not seem fun, but I REALLY enjoyed listening to the audio version of this book and kept me really engaged. The biggest lesson from this book was learning how to manage the bottlenecks of your company. Also, having a greater focus on three financial measures: net profit, ROI, and cash flow.

The Knack by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham

This is a good book and a guide for all aspects of entrepreneurship. The book is very practical and is also an easy read. The authors give a lot of stories to illustrate their points. The best part of this book is the simplicity and application of concepts.

Inspirational Books

Success Built to Last by Jerry Porras

“Success Built to Last” is like “Built to Last” self-development style. This book reinforced my decisions to redefine my goals on my own terms and not the terms of my peers or family members. It helped me to develop my personal and professional calling as well. The biggest thing that I learned from this book is how to develop my “Portfolio of Passions.” I have many interests and this book gave me advice on how to organize them in my life.

The 50th Law by 50 Cent and Robert Greene

This is a joint project between rapper 50 Cent and the author of “48 Laws of Power,” Robert Greene. Most people would automatically write off any book by 50 Cent as unreadable, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I feel like this book is the book version of the HBO show, “The Wire.” That show taught me as much about business as business school did. Check out this book.

Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston

This book is a series of 33 interviews from different tech entrepreneurs throughout the years. I like this book because it gave me something to aspire to when I started my company as well as listen to others who have gone through what I was going through. When the sky was falling sometimes in the past, this book calmed me down and inspired me at the same time. The author of the book is actually the owner of Y Combinator, which is an incubator for high tech startups.

Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton’s writing style may be hard to follow in this book, but if you concentrate you can get a lot from this book. He takes ideas from different philosophers and shows you how different people have applied those philosophies to their lives. The two chapters that really helped me are the ones on dealing with frustrations and not having enough money. Also, the first chapter on unpopularity was good too.

What do you Care What Other People Think? by Richard P. Feynman

This biographical book was written by renowned physicist, Richard P. Feynman. The lesson that I took away from this book is that people often think that they know more about a subject than they actually do. Many people know the names of different concepts, but they may not actually KNOW how the concept works in reality. It taught me (even made me skeptical) not to believe someone just because they use complicated words and phrases. Now, if people don’t explain things to me simply, I tune out and assume that they don’t really know what they are talking about.

The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh

This book was written by legendary San Francisco 49ers coach, Bill Walsh. This is the latest book that I’ve read and is the perfect leadership book for my personality type as a strategist/thinker. This book and “Success Built to Last” complement each other well.

The 8 Cylinders of Success by Jullien Gordon

This was written by Great Black Speaker, Jullien Gordon. He uses an analogy of a vehicle to describe the things you need to do to move forward and be successful in life, however you may define it. This book had a big impact on my mentality of entrepreneurship.

Strategy/Mental Models

The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

This book was written by MIT professor, Peter Senge. He talks about creating an organization that is organic and keeps learning and adapting throughout the years. The reason why GBS was able to come into the speaking industry is because other organizations were not able to adapt to change. This allowed us to come in almost immediately and become successful.

The goal of this book is to teach a person how to think as whole systems and not just a small picture of a large framework. I highly recommend reading this book close to the time that you read “The Goal.”

The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky

Another business novel that takes you through the different business models out there to build a company. This book gave me a lot of ideas and we have implemented concepts from this book into my current business model.

Marketing

The Referral Engine by John Jantsch

The Referral Engine is the most recent book that I’ve completed and is the inspiration to many strategy improvements within Great Black Speakers. This book has provided me a roadmap to generate more referrals and partnerships with like minded companies. A good example of this is our recent speaker’s bureau partnership with dangerousNegro clothing line where they host many of our speakers on their website: http://www.dangerousnegro.com/collections/public-speakers. Also, it teaches you systematic approaches to follow up with clients at different key points in the sales process.

Smart Pricing by Jagmohan Raju and Z. John Zhang

Pricing is my favorite part of marketing mainly because it has the biggest impact on the profitability of a company. It is the cross section of business and psychology. People often overlook how innovative different pricing plans can be. One of the best things that I have done is switch Great Black Speakers to a subscription model. Smart Pricing was written by a Wharton Business School professor and he goes through many different pricing models that are out there and the reasoning why you would use each one.

Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath

Every self-development article that I write is created using the model from this book. Widely used in business schools, this book is written by a Stanford professor and his consultant brother. The book states that to fully make a message stick with a consumer, you need to condense your entire message into one sentence (core message) and use the SUCCES (Simple Unexpected Concrete Credible Emotional Stories) acronym to be persuasive. For someone like me who feels slight discomfort with writing, this book made the process a lot simpler for me.

Professional Services Marketing by Mike Shultz and John Doerr

Professional Services Marketing is more of a guide book when I need to refer to different marketing topics. My favorite chapter of this book is Chapter 4, where the author talks about the 7 levers of profitability. This concept helped me better manage the customer pipeline within my company.

E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

A classic book in the field of entrepreneurship. This book along with The Four Hour Workweek helped me to learn how to work on my business instead of in it. The point of the book that really resonated with me is how Gerber talked about creating an organizational framework for your company with different job descriptions. You may be doing all of the jobs that makes your company run in the beginning, but that won’t always be the case. You need to be aware of what aspects of the company you can delegate over time.

Operations

Getting Real by 37 Signals

This book is very similar to “The Goal,” but its focus is on the development of web applications and websites. It was developed by 37Signals, a company that is famous for their project management and contact management solutions for small business. The best thing about it is that is free to read online.

Sales

Mastering Your Sales Process by David Masover

If you could not tell by now, I’m all about the development of good systems to run your business instead of you having to do every single thing. Creating a good sales process is essential to your business, especially as it grows and expands. This book lays out the entire process from start to finish and he includes his personalized plan at the end of the book.

The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

Brian Tracy really delivered with this book. This is my go to resource if I am feeling down and not motivated about making

that next call. Also, it reinforces the value in being a good salesperson and what that characteristic can mean to the bottom line of your company.

Negotiation Bootcamp by Ed Brodow

Negotiation is one of the areas in which I have developed more slowly. Thankfully, I have great people around me who are great at that type of thing. This book helped me go from being a poor negotiator, to becoming an average one. That is saying a lot considering where I came from.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

I read this book immediately after I graduated from college in 2006. It is the best book that I know of about networking. I liked what Ferrazzi talked about regarding focusing on health, wealth, and children and the importance those items are to people that we meet.

Psychology

Yes! 50 Scientifically Ways to be Persuasive by Bob Cialdini & Co

If “Influence” is the strategy book about business influence, then Yes! is the tactical guide to being more persuasive with your audience. This book and The New Rules of Marketing & PR are the two books I read first anytime I work on a new website. I would read Influence 1st followed by this book.