Before I started my own business and was using my abilities to make other people rich, I was that person who tried to find the one "Get Rich" book for entrepreneurs that would change my life. Here's a little secret, that book does not exist. The entrepreneurial drive, inspiration, and determination to create something of your own cannot be instilled in you from reading a book.
However there are books that can guide you and your entrepreneurial drive in the right direction, and keep you on the path to success once you have your business up and running. These books provide proven strategies that have stood the test of time. The reason they work so well is that they tap into the way we as people are programmed. You will not only learn what your next move should be, but why it should be your next move as well.
It was hard for me to narrow the list down to just three books. I have read many books that could have made this list, but I wanted to list the three here that I read at least once a year. Yes, I read them over and over, and once you have these books, you will see why. It is impossible to learn and digest every valuable principle from these books in one reading.
After I list these three books and explain to you their value, I have a list of honorable mentions that are great to read for people with the entrepreneurial drive. I'll also talk about why the authors of these books are fantastic to follow. So keep reading!!
"The 48 Laws of Power"
by Robert Greene
I have listed this book number one because of it's overall value in business and life. However it also happens to be one of my favorite books of all time. You wouldn't expect a book like this to read so easily, but it does, and is very well written.
In "The 48 Laws of Power", Robert Greene puts together an incredible list of skills and principles that will help anyone who can master them gain an advantage over their foes and/or competition. The easy part is reading them, but the hard part is mastering them, and that is why I continue to re-read this book.
Instead of summarizing the whole book here for you (that would take days), I'm going to give you some of the principles that I feel are most important to an entrepreneur, or someoneone trying to climb to the business ladder, who are looking for some guidance.
Never Outshine the Master
Hey business majors, I hate to break this to you but your business degree alone is not going to get you ready to build your own business. That is unless your idea just so happens to be world changing and revolutionary like Bill Gates of course. When you are building a brand that needs to compete, your most valuable experience will come from working for others. Always make your teacher feel important and appreciated until you are sure you have learned everything you can from them. If you outshine them, they will stop being so forthright with knowledge that could have been valuable to you. Or worse, they can use their position to put a stop to your progress altogether.
Learn to Keep People Dependent on You
This should be obvious to everyone, but for some reason it is not, including to me before I read this book. It's such a simple concept! If you have a job, and everyone there (collegues, bosses, customers, clients, etc.) depends on you, that is the ultimate job security and can be created all on your own. This is much harder than it sounds however. I love the way this skill is described in the book, and how it's not about just helping out, but developing ways to provide what can't be provided by anyone else. The same goes for entrepreneurs, especially if what you provide is a service.
Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
People commonly make the mistake of thinking they need to highlight how hard they worked to accomplish something positive. I understand where people might get the impression that showing off your hard work is important, but there are much better ways to prove your work ethic. When accomplishing impressive tasks in any situation, the easy you make it seem, the better. Conceal how hard you worked to make it happen. In the end, when it comes time for promotions or new responsibilities, they will go to the person who is completing their current tasks the most easily.
Just providing these brief descriptions makes me want to talk about them more and more. However to get the full concept and points of mastery there is no better source than the book itself. I'd love to include more of these principles here, but for the right person, these three should be enough to get you excited.
"The Art of War"
by Sun Tzu
This is a book that has truly stood the test of time. These principles and tactics were written 2500 years ago in ancient China, and are still used today by politicians, atheletes, and of course businesses to beat their opponents and competition.
Much like the first book we discussed, in "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, you will learn tactics that require the mastery of planning and strategic action. Of course while the principles were originally derived for military battle, that does not have to be their sole function.
There are 13 chapters in this book, each laying out a different strategy and why it is important. Keeping with the theme of this post, in my opinion here are my three favorites:
Know Your Enemy - Sun Tzu places a premium on knowing everything about your enemy and any potential battles. Do your homework because the winner will be the one most prepared. "Every Battle is Won Before It's Fought."
Weak Points and Strong - This does not only apply to your forces and your enemies forces, it goes for everything that could play a role in a battle. Know your surroundings, what points do the terrain dictate as likely attack points, etc. This principle always makes me think of a saying I always heard a long time ago as an athlete, "keep your head on a swivel."
Variation in Tactics, Flexibility & Deception - It is crucial to always keep your enemy guessing and off guard. This principle is explained excellently in the book, and will give you ideas for this that you have not thought of. "Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak."
Here is something for you to think about
Most of the entrepreneurs I have talked to about this have heard of "The Art of War". Most of those same entrepreneurs who haven't read it cite that they aren't interested in military style tactics. BUT heres a challenge for you: Try to find an entrepreneur that YOU view as successful who HASN'T read it. It will take you a while.
"How to Win Friends & Influence People"
by Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie lived in a much different time than we are in now, as he was born in 1888 and passed away in 1955. That being said, his principles, his books, and especially one book in particular, are still the gold standard for establishing relationships and positively influencing outcomes.
While the book, "How to Win Friends & Influence People" was written in 1936, Carnegie developed his world famous Dale Carnegie Course was developed all the way back in 1912! Just as the book is a top seller amoungst entrepreneurs, executives, and managers, the course has been going strong for 107 years now. It has evolved and many things have been added since 2012, but to date there are over 8 million graduates of the programs and it's as popular as ever. Click the link to go check out the website. As a personal graduate from the management program, I highly recommend any of their courses.
As far as the book goes, there are so many summaries out there that you can google. I understand why people have put these out there, but having read the book 7 times now (and referenced it many more) I can assure you that you are not getting the same amount out of them as if you actually read the book, not even close. Therefore, I'm not going to just give you another summary, I'm going to give you the most important lessons to be learned, in my opinion.
There are eight major sections covered in the book. They are all valuable, but here are my favorite for entrepreneurs.
Techniques in Handling People - It's no secret that if you want to build your own business you better be great at dealing with people. While most people know this is important, very few people take the time to master the skill. If you do, you will have a leg up on most of the competitors in your industry.
Win People to Your Way of Thinking - The disclaimer on this skill is that you better be sure that your way of thinking is the right way before you do this, or it will make you look bad when your way fails. That being said, those that master this skill will get their way more often than not, and those that they have persuaded won't even realize that THEY HAVE BEEN PERSUADED!
Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment - This skill is invaluable! Not just in business, but in life. The ability to get people to drop their agenda and follow you without having to assert any authority will all but guarantee your cause is successful. In one of my more popular posts, "Are You A Leader or Just A Boss" I go into this skill in much more detail. And as a Carnegie graduate like I mentioned before, you will see a lot of similarities in my piece and this section of the book.
There is so much more to this book than even what I have dubbed the most important. And I implore you to actually read it, and read it often. When you master the skills in this book things will just start to happen more easily for you. There is no way to completely eliminate hurdles and problems that you'll need to overcome in your journey through entrepreneurship, but why not make the path as smooth as possible?
*Honorable Mention List*
"The 33 Laws of War" by Robert Greene
"The Art of Seduction" by Robert Greene
"Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell
"Rich Dad Poor Dad: What The Rich Teach Their Kids About Money That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!" by Robert T. Kyosaki
"Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill
I think it's pretty clear that I am a Robert Greene fan. While the common criticism of him and his work is that he is teaching people how to be manipulative, some go as far as calling him evil. I can see where their argument comes from, but it doesn't mean that you are evil just because you understand the way humans are programmed, and what to look for to give yourself an advantage. Here is what a few others had to say about the issue:
"I read 'The 48 Laws of Power' when I was a teenager. I liked it very much, and it was very clear to me that the author is impeccably literate. My brother too read it, but he didn’t like it. He considered it evil. I think a lot of people consider it evil because it is very honest about the dark side of human nature." - Shanu Athiparambath
"His first book has been called a 'psychopath's bible', and its fans include Will Smith and Jay-Z. So is the author actually some sort of malevolent mastermind?" - Dorian Lynskey
"We’re taught that fairness and equality are the ways in which we should live our lives but this book almost debunks those ideals. A lot of manipulation concepts and getting one up on someone else are taught. However if you’re a realist then sometimes these things need to be done." - Calvin Torra
If you look closely though, and compare the other authors on my list, including the ones in the honorable mentions section, you will find plenty in common. The central theme in all of these books is to understand human nature. It's all about being able to recognize the best path in any situation.
Analyze Dale Carnegie for example. In "How to Win Friends & Influence people" he is basically teaching the same principles as Robert Greene, he's just doing it in a much nicer, politically correct way. There is a very very fine line between the words "influence" and "manipulate". Dale Carnegie understood this the same way Robert Greene does:
"When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion." - Dale Carnegie
Sun Tzu was a Chinese general and philosopher who lived in ancient China from 545 BC to 496 BC. So while Greene and Carnegie are from different generations, Sun Tzu is a whole different ball game seperated by 2500 years. That being said, "The Art of War" shows that he understood the psyche of people and human nature as well.
The truth of the matter is that none of these principles needs to be used for evil, and every person is individually responsible for what they take from these books. You can use them to manipulate your way into power, or to recognize someone trying to manipulate YOU. Ultimately these books teach you how to take your ambition, determination, and drive and use them to WIN.
Regardless of whether you end up taking my word for it and reading these books or not, you should be reading something. It has become a lost tool in this fast paced crazy world we live in now, but Seth Godin is absolutely right even today. "It's not an accident that successful people read more books."