There are some books that change a person perspective. By changing that perspective, they change a persons life. These 4 books have helped me grow tremendously as an individual and business owner. There’s an old saying that goes something like “Success depends on which books you read and who you surround yourself with”. I agree, somewhat. It’s also a lot of hustle. To put it plainly, these books are awesome.

Atlas Shrugged

atlas shrugged book

A friend recommended this book to me when I was 19. It’s a thick book, 1069 pages to be exact, but well worth the journey. I remember ripping through the pages because the story was so interesting. Who is John Galt? Read Atlas Shrugged to find out!

The Fountainhead

The Fountainhead

This is another amazing novel by Ayn Rand, and also (like Atlas Shrugged) a brick to read. The book will remind you a lot of your life and how some people are “real” and others are just blowing smoke all day. I actually did a review of The Fountainhead earlier this year.

The Way of the Superior Man

The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Although it can be tough to read Deida’s style of poetic writing, the book speaks volume about being on your purpose. Haters will either say this book is new age or mushy, but actually it is neither. The book is sheer amazing-ness. Despite the title, some girls I’ve met really like this book.

REWORK 

REWORK

REWORK by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (the founders of 37Signals) is about new business. It actually really takes down old business tactics, like planning and meetings. I knocked this book out on a 3 hour flight. It’s a page turner and filled with all kinds of information to look back to.

I recently listened to the audio version of what I believe is a foundation investing book. What I mean by that is you should read (or listen to) this book before you read more specific investing books about stocks, options, real estate and so on.

The Richest Man In Babylon

This book is where you should start if you want to take the money that your earning from your normal jobs and really make it work for you. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason is written in such a way that you won’t be able to put it down. It’s story format makes investing interesting and intriguing to the normal person.

“Real savings come first if you want to invest”

 
Recently one of my friends, Kevin Small, sent me a copy of “The Benevolent Dictator” by Michael Feuer. I’ll be honest, before popping this book open I had no idea who Feuer was. Well, back in 1988 he founded a little store we’ve all been to: OfficeMax.
In this book he writes about key things entrepreneurs must deal with when launching a start up. Everything from finding initial investors to managing people can be found in this book. I wish I would have read this as I started my business 3 years ago because…

There is a lot of wisdom in this book.

This book is really a series of 40+ short stories that have very important lessons for entrepreneurs. If you have ever wanted to tap into a CEO’s mind, this book is literally the next best thing. Michael breaks the book up into 4 phases:
  • Start Up 
  • Build Out and Put the Idea to the Test
  • Constant Reinvention
  • The Payday 
Fifteen years after Michael founded OfficeMax he sold it for 1.5 Billion dollars. So before you say OfficeMax sounds boring or you don’t wan’t to read a traditional business book I encourage you to run the numbers!
While everyone’s business situation is different, I’m certain everyone can learn from The Benevolent Dictator.

The Fountainhead

“A Truly Selfish Man Cannot Be Affected By The Approval of Others. He Doesn’t Need It.” – Howard Roark

A few months ago, I was at my office finishing up some last minute work before the weekend. Somehow, before leaving, I ended up on Amazon. One thing led to another and before you know it I purchased a book called The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

Now, I had already been recommended this book by various other business owners so the title wasn’t new to me. I didn’t expect this book to change my life in the way that it did.

“To say ‘I love you’ one must first be able to say the ‘I.’”

The book is broken up into 4 parts:

Part 1 – Peter Keating

Part 2 – Ellsworth M. Toohey

Part 3 – Gail Wynand

Part 4 – Howard Roark

**Warning: Spoilers Ahead**

Peter Keating is a, by the book, average architect. He graduated with honors, but the man who was responsible for all his work is Howard Roark, his classmate. Roarks ideas of architecture are very modern and foreign to the people at the architectural school. Because of his radical and new idea of how buildings should be designed, the dean of the Stanton Institute of Technology expelled him. He basically, in a few word, told him it would be a mistake to let anyone like him graduate.

Outside of Ayn Rands mind, we see this scenario a lot. Someone comes along with an insane new idea which everyone rejects. These types of individuals, especially if introverted, hit a lot of roadblocks – but remain with their views. Consider the case of Tesla and Edison. Most people don’t know that Tesla is responsible for many of Edison’s  inventions. Tesla was the genius and was once quoted saying this about his former employer:

“If Edison had a needle to find in a haystack, he would proceed at once with the diligence of the bee to examine straw after straw until he found the object of his search. I was a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”

Many people mooch off genius.

After graduating from the Stanton Institute of Technology, Peter Keating lands a job at a big architectural firm called Francon and Heyer in New York. He works his way up the ranks to a top level position. During this same period Howard Roark moves to New York as well to work for a worn down, beaten, modernistic  architect: Henry Cameron.

New York in the 1940's

When Roark arrives Cameron sees his genius, but is worried about him because of the stress the press caused him. Throughout this part of the book Keating visits Roark multiple times to check in with him. Keating is very envious of his work, and has Roark do the tough architectural work for all of his most famous buildings. Roark fixes the errors in the sketches, Keating collects the check and gets all the fame. Roark doesn’t mind this.

As the book goes on we meet key characters that work at the biggest newspaper in town, The Banner. On a distribution level, this can be compared to the New York Times at its prime.  There is the shy Dominique Francon,  the socialist Ellsworth Toohey, and the power-obsessed owner of the Banner – Gail Wynand. The Banner was a paper that could make or break anyone. It basically controlled the thoughts of everyone in New York, much like the modern media does to most people today.

Howard Roark didn’t read The Banner.

When Cameron dies, Roark starts his business. After a few projects, the Banner(Dominique and Ellsworth)  is tearing him to pieces. They give him hell for his modern and weird looking buildings. The people who choose Roark as their architect swear by him. Even though he has a loyal few, he ends up going out of business.

Modern Architecture

The reason he goes out of business is an interesting one. He had opportunities, but he also had personal standards. His standards were: after the basics of a project were given (size, place, amount of money to work with) – that he would create the final design. If a client wanted to change the design a little bit after seeing the drawings, he would not work with them. He was an artist and would not accept anything but his own design.

This is the key idea of the book and the one that changed the way I think about everything – It is a choice to business with anyone. Many people feel they must cater to everyone, which even if they are trying to, will not work.

After Roark goes out of business he goes to work at the Francon granite quarry. During his time there he meets Dominique Francon, who is on vacation from her normal job at the Banner in New York. They fall in love instantly from first site. He knows who she is, but during his time here she never finds out who he is. One day he receives a letter from Roger Enright to design his new ‘Enright House’. Seeing this as a huge opportunity, he leaves without telling Dominique. Now, she doesn’t know his name or how to find him ever again.

As you learned earlier, Dominique works for the Banner, a paper that is hellbent on tearing down modern ideas of architecture. As with most great novels, the story and characters all tie together in a way more interesting than I could type here. I highly advise you get a copy of The Fountainhead yourself.

“I don’t make comparisons. I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything. I’m an utter egotist.” – Howard Roark

The book offers tremendous value to anyone, from any walk of life. Intertwined in a masterpiece is the important philosophical idea of individualism. If you want to sum up the brighter parts of Ayn Rands philosophy in 3 minutes, watch the video below.

Top 5 Things I Learned from this Book

  1. Don’t Deal with Parasites. Ayn Rand describes the character Peter Keating  as someone who always is counting on the ideas and opinions of others instead of having his own. He uses Roark multiple time, and Roark struggles with his decision, but always helps him out free of charge (even though Keating offers to pay him). Many of us have encountered moochers like this in our life.
  2. Take Pride in your Work. When Howard Roark was drawing a sketch, it wasn’t work to him – it was love. It’s important to love our work, in the sense that it is not even work, but another form of romance.
  3. Make Sure Every Part of your Life is Consistent. The power-driven character Gail Wynand is torn when he admits to himself that key parts of his life are inconsistent with his values. It’s enough to make him do something shocking in the end.
  4. Have Standards. Many people in the world don’t think that their life is in their hands. Even if they think it, they don’t act like it. It is really shocking when you think about it. As a business owner, this book has re-assured me what I have already known. That is – to only do business with people who respect me enough to know that I take my work very seriously and it is my own. Make no mistake about it, your work is another form of art. Live up to what is on the canvas.
  5. Respect & Achieve Greatness.

A smaller, but still important, tidbit I learned from Gail Wynands character is to not be power hungry. When many people negatively portray Ayn Rands work they talk about how bad the ego is. If they read and understood Wynands character, they would know that only when you are power hungry can the ego work negatively. The way Rand describes Howard Roark during his work is similar to the idea of being in a State of Presence, from Eckart Tolles anti-ego book The Power of Now. It is interesting how an ideology and a spiritual book book can tie together so well with one character – Howard Roark.

 

I was one of the lucky ones who got to read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh before it hit mass market. This book is excellent whether you own a business, plan on owning a business, or work under someone else. It has some valuable lessons in it that I want to share with you.

The book is broken up into three sections: Profits, Profits and Passion, and Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

The book starts off talking about Tony’s childhood and how he’s always wanted to be in business. It goes through a series of different business failures and then some successes. This section is actually pretty humorous and reminds me a lot of my childhood. As the book goes on it gets a little more serious into talking about Hseih’s days in Silicon Valley and his former company Link Exchange, which was purchased by Microsoft for $265 million in 1998.

The most valuable part to me was when Tony explained how Zappos got started and how it almost failed multiple times before getting to where it now is. He talks about how at times they had to choose to pay employees or vendors. I won’t say too much but it is interesting to know that if Hsieh hadn’t sold his party loft at the last second then Zappos.com might be out of business.I think many people only see the good side of business, they don’t understand how hard it is, and how sometimes you must risk it all.

My Favorite Parts:

  • When talking about Financials Hseih says “Remember that it’s a long term game. You will win or lose individual hands or sessions, but it’s what happens in the long term that matters.”
  • On Poker and Business relation – “It was easy to get caught up and engrossed in what i was currently doing, and that made it easy to forget that i always had the option to change tables.”
  • On Business Culture – “I made a not to myself to make sure I never lost sight of the value of a tribe where people truly felt connected and cared about the well-being of one another. To me, connectedness – the number and depth of my relationships – was an important element of my happiness, and I was grateful for our tribe.”

This book is excellent and not to mention an easy read. Most people can probably knock it out in a sitting. It keeps your attention the whole way through. Buy Delivering Happiness with the link below.

Buy Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
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I recently read two great books on investments. One from a billionaire everyone knows, Warren Buffett, titled “Essays of Warren Buffett” and the other from rising economist Peter Schiff titled “The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets“.

Both of these investors are fairly conservative (depending on your views). I’ll go through what I learned from each of them separately and then present a case on how to combine both schools of thought to succeed in the markets.

Highlights from the Warren Buffett Essay’s

  • Before investing in a stock know that you are about to become the owner and treat your decision that way.
  • Look at management inside a company. It is far more important then any type of computer generated trend.
  • Only invest in 2 or 3 businesses that you consider great (don’t diversify too much).
  • “Put all your eggs in one basket…and watch it”
  • Only invest in businesses and people you trust.
  • Invest in companies that deliver consistent results.
  • Make sure management “think like owners” and exude integrity and ability.
  • Do not invest without doing heavy, consistent research.
  • Invest only in businesses that you understand.

Highlights from Bull Moves in Bear Markets

  • America is not a good place to invest in.
  • The American government has been overspending and raising taxes the past 20 years, making it a bad investing environment.
  • Invest in commodities.
  • Invest in Gold and Silver.
  • Invest in foreign countries that are growing (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).
  • Don’t invest in factories overseas that only work with the United States because they will suffer over the years.
  • Invest in foreign companies that have domestic appeal, meaning their people love them.
  • Save money but don’t sit on it too long, invest it in foreign countries.
  • The American economy consumes way more then it produces.
  • The American economy will go through a dip, but with the right federal changes things may be back to normal within 15-20 years.

Combine Strategies?

I’m just starting to get into investing. I turned 21 a few weeks ago and i figured it’s about time to make some smart decisions with my money. Please feel free to give me advice or comment.

That being said what I recommend to you (and what i plan to do) is taking Warren Buffett’s philosophy and Peter Schiff’s strategies and combining them to make some great investments.

Take Buffett’s idea of looking into a company’s management and doing heavy research before you invest in them, got it?, good. Then combine that with Schiff’s idea’s to invest in companies in foreign countries because of American uncertainty.

Now, instead of wasting Buffett’s great philosophy’s on a very volatile American market, I’m going to apply them to growing foreign companies. You should do the same.

Peter Schiff’s company is Euro Pacific Capital. Warren Buffet’s company is Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

When one thinks of Peter Drucker in a business setting they have one of two stereotypes: old school outdated management dude OR The Rule when it comes to business effectiveness.

I’m somewhere in the middle. I just read the late Peter Drucker’s “The Effective Executive“. It’s a great book, but it is step backward from more recent business books that build off of this base. I did take some very important lessons from the book. Some of the most important are:

  • Eliminate time wasters
  • Ask: What can be outsourced?
  • How do people waste your time, how do you waste theirs? How can you stop?
  • Work in 1 and a half hour blocks with no distractions.
  • Being well-rounded is a sign of mediocrity
  • Effective people play strength, and look for strengths in others
  • Know weaknesses but don’t exploit them
  • Create well designed systems for efficiency
  • Put First things First. Ask: What is most important?

Those are just a few of the principles that I found most useful. Drucker also talks about decision making and developing action plans, which is an essential part of being a “effective executive”. This book is great for people who are part of a corporation or own a business. Given that the book is less than 200 pages and is the foundation for almost every management book today, I say read it!

For more recent titles that skip and build off the basics I liked Tribal Leadership by David Logan and of course The Seven Habits by Stephen Covey.

Last week was my 21st birthday, which gave me a week of complete fun and partying. I needed it. My friends surprised me by showing up two days early. I’ll be posting some pictures and you can friend me on facebook if you want to see the video I put together.

Aside from the crazy birthday week of non-stop glorious partying and fun, I’ve been reading a lot. Here are the books I’m reading and hope to review soon on this blog.

Currently Reading:

The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker
The Essays of Warren Buffett by Warren Buffett

On Deck:

The Levity Effect by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher
The Little Book of Bull Moves in Bear Markets by Peter Schiff
Full of Bull: Do what Wall Street does not what it says by Stephen McCellan

Until next time…

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I just read The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho the other week. I heard Will Smith saying something about it in a video and I decided to head to the library.

This book is a story about following your dreams. It’s very much at the grade school / high school level reading, but the message in it should be read by all people. The Alchemist is not one of those cheesy stories that make you feel all dreamy. It opens your eyes on how the things you learn and the people you network with along the way can make a huge impact on your life.

The book is about a young boy named Santiago who decided to go against the norms of his family and become a shepherd. He then meets a bunch of people, some strange, that help him find his path in life. Santiago is on a mission to find a treasure, but there will be a whole host of obstacles he must overcome.

The main thing that I took from this book is that once you know your lives purpose, you should not be discouraged by set-backs, as these are what makes the journey so much more rich in learning. Embrace set-backs by looking for solutions instead of complaining about what happened to you.

This is a great book and i definitely recommend you read it. I knocked it out in a day (very easy reading).

Favorite Quote – “When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”

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