Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decision by Dan Ariely
The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Confidence: How Winning and Losing Streaks Begin and End by Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Zero to One by Peter Thiel
As an entrepreneur, I’ve made it a point to use all resources available to me to make sure I’m running my company to the best of my ability and considering all perspectives. Of course, this includes talking with my mentors and teammates, as well as getting consistent feedback from my customers. What I’ve also found extremely valuable is taking the time (which I know is hard to find) to sit down and read.
Everyone knows reading is an important source of knowledge, but I don’t think people understand how much you can actually learn by hitting the pause button, sitting down and picking up a book. Here are the top four books I think every CEO should read this year, and why each of them has had a strong impact on my skills as an entrepreneur and leader.
As CEO, I’m responsible for overseeing every aspect of the business and juggling many different moving parts. With that, of course comes the responsibility of interacting with many different types of people with varying personalities. I’ve found it beneficial as I run my company to understand the psychology behind how different people think, and why they behave the way they do.
In his book Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decision, MIT professor Ariely discusses why humans behave irrationally and how, though it seems backwards, to predict when they’ll do so. The phrase, “there’s a method to the madness,” rings true: There’s always a reason why someone behaves the way they do and knowing that makes running a company much easier.
It’s important to pay attention to the perspective of entrepreneurs and investors of varying levels of experience. Ben Horowitz has been doing this forever and knows the ins and outs of business unlike most. Combined with the fresh perspectives of newer entrepreneurs, Horowitz’s viewpoints have been the backbone of my values as a startup CEO. Not only was his book The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers an important and valuable read, but his blog also offers timely, fresh and current advice that’s extremely useful to check out on a daily basis.
Related: 8 Books to Read Now and Why
My team and I moved across the world to start our business in Boston. That decision, alone, proved that we have a lot of confidence in our product, ourselves and each other. In her book Confidence: How Winning and Losing Streaks Begin and End, Kanter explains that successes and failures are actually self-fulfilling prophecies, and if you have the confidence that you will succeed, it’s more likely that you actually will.
Using the example of professional sports players rallying together and envisioning a big win, Kanter illustrates that positive thinking is a powerful tool. This mindset has rung true for me in the early years of my business. Like a series-winning sports team, we have never second guessed ourselves and our company, which has resulted in an upward trajectory of success.
I haven’t been doing this as long as many others, but one thing I’ve already learned and understand is that you’re not going to be a successful entrepreneur unless you find something people need that doesn’t already exist, and then go after creating that service or product with an intensely creative spirit. In Zero to One, Thiel explains that many people fail because they try to compete against other companies that are already doing a decent job at what they do. When your business enters the market, it has to be even better than what already exists, which is a tough way to start out. In this book, you’ll learn about the power of uniqueness and originality, and how to change your mindset when it comes to thinking about innovation.
These books, of course, are not the only ones a budding entrepreneur should get their hands on, but for me, they have been the building blocks to a lifelong commitment to reading. You can never know too much or consider too many other people’s perspectives. Every day is a day to learn.