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The 15 Most Influential Books on Business We Finally Have the Time to Read

How to use the pandemic downtime to better your mind, lift your spirits, and skill-up for success.

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is arguably one of the busiest and most successful people on the planet, yet he still makes time to read 50 books a year.

Billionaire business tycoon Warren Buffett credits reading 500 pages a day as being the root to his distinguished panel of achievements. “That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest.”

Now, most of us will not have the wherewithal to plow through so many pages in a week. But the lockdown has afforded us more downtime than usual. So why not use this period to better our brains?

“Reading is a way for me to expand my mind, open my eyes, and fill up my heart.” Oprah Winfrey

By exposing yourself to new ideas and ways of thinking, you will find that reading can boost your career and self-confidence. But more vitally, you will see that it is also a powerful motivational tool. Picking up a book is an effective way of finding both solace and stimulus during these uncertain and stressful times. 

Here are 15 timeless bestsellers everyone should read:

1. “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu

Written in the 6th century BC, Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” is still used as a book of military strategy today. Napoleon, Mae Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, and General Douglas MacArthur all drew inspiration from it. And beyond the world of war, business and management gurus have also applied Sun Tzu’s ideas to office politics and corporate tactics.

2. “Think and Grow Rich!” by Napoleon Hill

“Think and Grow Rich” has been called the “Granddaddy of All Motivational Literature.” 

BusinessWeek magazine’s Best-Seller List ranked it the sixth best-selling paperback business book 70 years after it was published. Think and Grow Rich is listed in John C. Maxwell‘s A Lifetime “Must Read” Books List.

Hill draws on stories of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other millionaires of his generation to illustrate his principles. While the book’s title, and much of the writing, concerns increasing income, his philosophy can help everyone succeed in any line of work, inspiring people to do anything they can imagine.

3.  “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey

Recognized as one of TIME magazine’s twenty-five most influential Americans, Stephen Covey was an internationally respected leadership authority, family expert, teacher, organizational consultant, and author. His books have sold more than 40 million copies in 50 plus languages. “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” was named the #1 Most Influential Business Book of the Twentieth Century. 

It has transformed the lives of Presidents and CEOs, educators, and parents — and is considered, by many, to be one of the most inspiring and impactful books ever written.

4. “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”  by Daniel Goleman.

Does our IQ determine our potential for success? Not nearly as much as we think.

Through vivid examples, Goleman delineates the five crucial skills of emotional intelligence and shows how they determine our success in relationships, work, and our physical well-being.

5. “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie

One of the most groundbreaking and ageless bestsellers, “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” provides readers with time-tested strategies enabling you to manage relationships more effectively, build friendships, and to encourage people to agree with your way of thinking.

Dale Carnegie’s indisputable advice has carried countless people up the ladder of success in both their business and personal lives.

6. “Good to Great” by Jim Collins

The findings of the “Good to Great” study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice.

Author Jim Collins describes how companies transition from being just good companies into truly great companies. Explaining how to shake up entire industries for the better, and the reasons behind why most companies fail to ever make that transition happen.

7. “Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

A Wall Street and BusinessWeek Bestseller, “Blue Ocean Strategy” is recognized as one of the most iconic and impactful strategy books ever written.

Based on a study of 150 tactical moves (spanning more than 100 years across 30 industries), the authors argue that lasting success comes, not from battling competitors, but from creating “blue oceans”— untapped new market spaces ripe for growth.

8. “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek

“Start with Why” grew out of a TED talk delivered by the author Simon Sinek. It is now the third most popular TED Talk ever. The premise is built around the question, “Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others?”

In this fundamental business book, Sinek explains that the most impactful and successful leaders in the world all act and communicate in the same way. Describing how this is the opposite of the way most people function and offering insights into using this model to uncover your own achievements.

9. “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Brené Brown (PhD, LMSW) dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage. “Daring Greatly” presents a transformative new vision for the way we lead, love, work, parent, and educate that teaches us the power of vulnerability.

Melinda Gates named “Daring Greatly” as well as Dr. Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” as two of her favorite books of all time.

I highly recommend checking out her hourlong Netflix special Brené Brown: The Call to Courage!  as well.

10. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki

Author Robert’s Kiyosaki tells the story of growing up with two dads. His real father and the father of his best friend (“his rich dad”), and how both men shaped his thoughts about money and investing.

The book explodes the myth that you need to earn a high income to be rich and explains the difference between working for money and having your money work for you. It advocates increasing one’s financial intelligence (financial IQ) to improve one’s business and financial aptitude.

11. “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss

Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, experiencing high-end world travel, or earning a monthly five-figure income with zero management, Author Timothy Ferriss shows readers how to live more and work less.

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts globally, with over 500 million downloads. It has been selected for “Best of Apple Podcasts” three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it’s been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

12. “Never Split the Difference” by Chris Voss

Author Chris Voss is a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI. He faced-off against bank robbers and terrorists, then ultimately became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. In “Never Split the Difference,” he shares the skills that helped him succeed—and how those strategies can be used to become more persuasive as an entrepreneur.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, parleying a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, “Never Split the Difference” gives you a competitive edge in any discussion.

13. “Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success. Discussing how cultural differences play a large part in perceived intelligence and rational decision making and how two people with exceptional intelligence can end up with vastly different fortunes.

Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule.” He claims that the key to achieving world-class expertise in any skill, to a large extent, is a matter of practicing the correct way for a total of 10,000 hours.

14. “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life” by Dr. Daniel G. Amen

Author Dr. Daniel Amen is a clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist, and brain imaging expert who heads the world-renowned Amen Clinics. The Washington Post called Dr. Amen, the most popular psychiatrist in America.

In “Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,” he shares his breakthrough program for conquering anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, lack of focus, anger, and memory problems.

15. The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz 

Running your own business is hard, and Horowitz doesn’t shy away from this fact. To help other entrepreneurs through their journey, he shares the story of when his business nearly failed, how he staved off defeat, and how you can do hard things too.

Now you might be thinking to yourself, that is a lot of white authors, and I couldn’t agree more! Here is Oprah’s list of the 43 Best Books by Black Authors You Should Read in Your Lifetime. It is high time we diversify everything in our lives, especially the words we read.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss

Some of the most successful people in the world shape themselves into high achievers by continually challenging their status-quo, consistently quenching their thirst to learn, and endlessly improving their lives.

So, turn off Netflix and switch on your mind. I promise you won’t be sorry.

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