Apparently I’ve consumed more than 100 books in 2020. Wasn’t my goal. Didn’t try hard to. It just happened. This is almost twice as many as last year. I previously shared my top 10 business books from 2019.
Excited to share with you my top 10 picks for this year.
1. Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies
For some readers, it might seem confusing what a physicist’s book has to do with marketing and business at all. But the main idea of Geoffrey West’s book is that laws in completely different fields are interrelated and living organisms are governed by the same universal rules.
The author compares plants, animals, companies and even cities, identifying similarities and parallels and makes a point that they all have a natural limit to growth. The more an organism grows, the more energy it has to invest into maintaining its size and further growth becomes harder.
This principle applies to companies as well. When resources aren’t allocated to scaling a company in later stages, all existing resources and energy goes into maintaining an existing structure and operations and so growth stalls.
2. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
One of the most cited books for me this year, something that can be applied in business, personal life and something to teach your kids.
Angela Duckworth, the author of the book talks about her perceptions and findings on how success happens and what leads to its achievement.
After teaching math at school, comparing her students, and studying psychology, she came to the conclusion that IQ tests and quizzes aren’t the best way to measure a student’s success. People succeed not when it’s easy for them to learn (high IQ) but when you are motivated and ready to work hard, even if IQ is lower.
(Grit + Average IQ) > (No Grit and Highest IQ)
“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals”, says Duckwoth. When you fail, you shouldn’t think that it’s because of lack of talent or luck, it’s because of lack of hard work and grit.
Fixed mindset vs growth mindset. Reminds me of another book by Carol Dweck called Mindset.
3. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen
With so many ads and promotions, your company’s brand message probably gets lost in email boxes and social media feeds. These days businesses are fighting for people’s attention first and only then for making a sale.
Donald Miller says that a storytelling formula can help businesses stand out and make customers listen to their message. Storytelling doesn’t mean describing how and when your company was founded or why it’s the best among all alternatives. I never really understood why people would brag that their company was founded 30 or 40 years ago – who cares!
A selling story is one that is centered around your customers and invites them into the story.
Your product or company is not the hero of the story. Your customer should be the hero.
The role of a brand is to be a guide. Choose a hero for your story, describe the hero’s problem, and guide him/her towards the goal. Simple. Brilliant.
4. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts
I recommend this book a lot. To struggling spouses, to parents and especially to company leaders. While there’s another version of this book meant just for companies, this one is good enough to understand how to apply it in different settings.
The author claims that in order to have a happy, long-lasting relationship you should understand which love language your partner expects from you.
According to Gary Chapman, 5 love languages include words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.
The idea of 5 love languages can be easily translated into the business world. Employees aren’t happy at work because they don’t feel appreciated at all or don’t feel appreciated the way they want.
I often see companies give monetary bonuses for a job well done. There’s a salary threshold beyond which monetary bonuses aren’t as important (similar to the Maslow’s pyramid) and other ways of appreciation are much more valuable.
For example, I recently observed how a founder praised a developer with a $2000 bonus. And the founder was slightly discouraged because he didn’t see excitement in the recipient’s eyes. While that employee is spending his own money buying a mug or a tshirt with the company’s logo. Would a more thoughtful, non monetary gift make more sense? You bet!
For some employees, a thank you letter (love language – words of affirmation) will be enough to feel motivated. Others might be unhappy with their salaries and expect rewards or higher compensation from the company (love language – receiving gifts). Others want to be praised publicly.
To make your team a better place to work, try to identify or just ask what “love language” your employees speak and what makes them feel appreciated.
5. Creating a Done Done Culture: The 12 Habits of High Performers & What it Means for You as a Leader
Gathering and maintaining a team of high performers isn’t easy. You should learn how to avoid losing your valuable employees, how to help them work together and accomplish the goals.
According to Chris Lema, there are 12 habits that will help businesses create a strong culture and grow the company. Habits include making decisions and taking actions, doing only one thing at a time, having a clear purpose, valuing time, developing their communications skills, etc.
In the end of the book, the author explains what’s the leader’s role in creating those 12 habits and what steps they should take. Chris Lema recommends 7 steps that include discussing failure, destroying toxic situations, delegating decision making.
6. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
You probably heard about this book as well. Highly recommended.
Small habits that don’t seem significant at first can change the outcomes and the way we operate. The problem is that most people give up when they don’t see remarkable results after a short time. They think that success will happen overnight and if it doesn’t, then grinding to achieve it doesn’t make sense.
In reality, we can achieve our goals by breaking them down into steps and introducing habits that will help achieve them. When the habits can’t be broken down any further, they become atomic. And that’s why the author has chosen this title for the book.
7. The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success
Every month thousands of people are searching for keywords “get rich quick”, “get rich quick schemes”, etc. We love quick results and success with no efforts.
However, success is only the combination of our decisions, actions, habits, and time we invest. And “compound effect” is only a principle that promises rewards after small yet meaningful choices. Think 1% daily improvement.
“It’s the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.”
The secret isn’t in lifehacks, shortcuts or luck, it’s about how you get organized and what you do every day to achieve success.
8. To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others
We sell every day even if we are not a salesperson. We sell our idea when we hire a new employee, offer our spouse to go out, when we decide what to eat for dinner, etc.
When it comes to selling products and services, Daniel Pink argues that traditional sales methods don’t work. “People learn about your company from the internet and the salesperson’s role is to “move” them and encourage them to follow a CTA”.
As consumers are informed like never before, salespeople should skip aggressive selling methods and focus on asking relevant questions, standing out with service quality, and looking at things from the consumer’s perspective.
9. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done
A great read for early 2021.
Jon Acuff has dedicated his book to speaking about why people don’t finish things they started and what they can do about it.
The first step is acknowledging that no plan is perfect and if something goes wrong you shouldn’t feel depressed. You should acknowledge from the start that things might not work exactly the way you planned.
Perfectionism and “all or nothing” mentality can ruin your goals. It’s ok to be bad at certain things, fail at some point, and move forward.
To help you stay productive and continue working to reach your goal, Acuff suggests cutting your goals in half, setting rewards and penalties, lowering your standards for a while is what will help.
10. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less"
Another great read to start a new year. Being busy doesn’t mean that we are productive or completing the most essential tasks. Sometimes we are just filling our schedule with more and more things but they are not necessarily the most important ones.
We avoid saying “no” because we feel obligated. By knowing our goals and prioritizing our lives, evaluating all the incoming opportunities, and getting involved only in those projects that will really bring value to us is at the core of essentialism.