The 20 Books That Coloured my Year — From Business to Life via the Future

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Originals — Adam Grant: Concise and clear, originals change the world but they aren’t the people we think they are. Destroys conventional wisdom; if you are trying to start a business don’t go all in or quit your job, just ask the guys at Warby Parker. Originals procrastinate, they aren’t always on top of things. Give it a read and destroy your misconceptions.

When breath becomes air — Paul Kalanithi: Haunting, beautiful, moving and perfect. Life is surprising and we can’t legislate for the things that are thrust upon us. Having planned everything out the game changed; death called. Simultaneously heartbreaking and warming, you owe it to yourself to experience the human condition, the internal disarray brought forth by love knowing expiration is close. Biggest takeaway, we all live and all die we just don’t know when it will come. Even with cancer we still don’t know when. So live life as if you are terminal always.

Shoe dog — Phil Knight: Priceless. How a gang of misfits can change the world. We are sold the story of oddball entrepreneurs today but few would guess that the fortunes of nike were shaped by an encyclopedia salesman, a wheelchair bound ex-athlete, an obsessive social worker, a 340lb accountant and an untested lawyer and a mad scientist atheltics coach. Phil might have his detractors but as a business book it is stuffed with gems.

Sapiens — Yuval Harari: Wow, there really is nothing else to say. Where did we come from, why are we here, why do we believe the things we do. Sapiens is spellbinding, and unquestionably the most important text I read this year. Try this on for size: The most important things in the world exist only in our imaginations.

The Future of the Proffesions — Richard & Daniel Susskind: This is a tough read, it was a slog, but it was worth it. The world is changing before our eyes. Professions will die, not just entry level labour intensive jobs. Doctors role in our health lives will change as will lawyers and every other professional you can imagine. We all suspect our industry will remain unchanged but things like Watson and automation are going to alter the paradigm. Prepare yourself for the revolution.

Contagious — Jonah Berger: If you own a business you want things to go viral, Jonah enlightens you to the possibilities of how. He refers to old products and how they surprised and delighted users to win market share. Short and concise but full of knowledge.

Platform Scale — Sangeet Paul Choudary: Excellent and rigorously supported. An infusion of practicality and academia. Sangeet is a magician, he enlivens the processes of platforms and conveys them in layman terms without leaving out and of the punch. Platform businesses are the present and future because they are so effective. Facebook, airbnb, uber, everywhere you look the companies revolutionising our world simply provide the platform for everything else to occur above it. Platform scale teaches you how it works.

The Third Wave — Steve Case: Steve isn’t just one of the most important entrepreneurs of the 21st century, he got america online, he is an oracle. He painted the future and then led a march into a bold new world. The third wave is his foresight of what is to come. And I can’t argue with it. The low hanging fruits have been picked, now its about real change through partnership which means negotiating the barriers of legislation. The internet of things is coming, but what does that mean? Find out.

The Sharing Economy — Arun Sundararajan: I’m a believer in the sharing/collaborative economy but i’m worried. Regulation is no joke, the way people are being treated is deplorable. Things have to change and if they don’t the industry will die. First we must dispose of the disingenuous moniker, its not collaborative or sharing it is exploitative. Arun understands this. He identifies the issues and explores them. But he is hopeful that the world is a better place with these businesses.

Grit — Angela Duckworth: Why do some people succeed and others don’t? Why did the child prodigy fail? Why do some people drop out of school and others thrive? Why can’t we predict who those people will be? Grit is a fascinating book that elaborates on the things that enable us to achieve; passion and perseverance. They are everything and nothing. Unless you have them the likelihood of you achieving significant success is reduced. But you can cultivate those things. Find out how.

Black Box Thinking — Matthew Syed: Cognitive dissonance, why do we think the way we do. Why can’t we change our minds even when we are wrong. The difference between cultures are what enable success. Look at doctors in post mortem and air crash investigations. One seeks to avoid blame the other unmercifully pursues cause in order to eradicate it. Syed writes excellently in plain english and expands your mind. He lets you think more clearly and understand. That is no mean feat.

Clay Water Brick — Jessica Jackley: Want to know how to change the world? Read, it’s an education. From humble beginnings to the heart of africa through to business school, Jessica has changed the world. Establishing a whole network of micro-finance iniatives that enabled entrepreneurs on the continent in unimaginable ways. I admire few people more than i admire Jessica. Oh and she founded Kiva.

Behind the Cloud — Marc Benioff: Marc Benioff is a genius. Salesforce is a triumph of human endeavour. Reading this alone to laugh at how the hijacked his competitors biggest events is worth it. But the tit bits of advice throughout is incredible. How to build a billion dollar company, how to run people and how to mkae a difference while doing it, it’s all here.

Postcapitalism — Paul Mason: Does capitalism work? This seems even more pertinent following recent political upheaval. First Brexit now Trump, this gravitas of what this book conveyed wasn’t really certain until those moments occurred. The world is changing, brought forth by massive economic migration and the erosion of borders. Can we stay the same or must we evolve to survive?

Zero to One — Peter Thiel: He’s taking a kick in, he might even have deserved it, but barking to the mantra of the book, what is the contrarian truth you know that nobody else does? He knows and he won. Thiel might be the most astute entrepreneurial mind of our generation, sure i’ll bite that he isn’t Elon Musk, but look at what he has done. Zero to one identifies the process for greatness. This might be the book with the most knowledge in the fewest pages on the list. He wastes no time, there is no bullshit, only thoughts and teachings. He leaves you to decide if and how to use them.

Presence — Amy Cuddy: I was going to omit this from the list on account of the fact some of the science of the book being flawed. I couldn’t, I loved it. It spoke to me about my own issues facing impostor syndrome. Taught me how most people feel it. I’ve always been young in comparison to my peers. I started university early, I progressed to management early but I’ve never felt like i belonged. Faking it until you become it often sounds like terrible advice, until it isn’t. We all have to fake it until we become it because if we stretch ourselves and take risks we wont be what we are hoping to become. This book was an education and a joy. I love her candidness about her own issues and I love how freely she gives herself to other people. This book bares her soul and my life is all the richer for having consumed it.

Delivering Happiness — Tony Hsieh: Tony is my mentor, he just doesn’t know it, yet. Delivering happiness is a triumph. It shows that corporate monoliths don’t have to be bloodsucking thieves who ruin your life. Companies should enrich our personal experience and enable us to grow. Zappos do and Tony has. Delivering happiness touches on the experience that shaped Tony, from his early life, to school, through to his first company which went stale. All those lessons enables Zappos to keep it’s culture, and in business culture is everything.

Peers Inc. — Robin Chase: Was Zipcar uber before uber or was it the previous iteration? It doesn’t matter, but reading this I felt like I was learning about a secret nobody knew. Chase was ahead of her time, probably too far, but the book is gold.

Things a Little Bird Told me — Biz Stone: Sometimes billion dollar ideas are about luck arising from failure. I love this story, perhaps more than anyones entrepreneurial journey ever. I guarantee if you have entrepreneurial thoughts in your head you can learn something from Biz. I don’t know how he did it, I don’t know all of what he did, but what I do know is that he has it. The story of twitter and how it started is an inspiration but not because of how you may think. Twitter might be the greatest lucky product in the world. Born when the startup he was working at was on the brink of collapse in a two week window, it has taught me that ideas are worth pursuing, dreams are worth having and if you believe in yourself you have a chance.

Business For Punks — James Watt: The first book I read this year stuck with me. Do things your way or fail trying to please other people. Business for punks is brash, unapologetic and sure of itself. It doesn’t apologise instead it forces it down your throat. Like Brewdog are a business like no other so is this book. It’s irreverent and certain. It’s the best business book i read this year, without question.

Written by

CEO / Founder / Coach @FirstbaseHQ Empowering people to work in their lives not live at work ✌️✌

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