11 Business Books that Have Stirred Up My Thinking

The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.” Maya Angelou

Bulldozer plowing down middle of road.  For the last year I’ve been reading business books to shake up my understanding of:

  1. What a successful business is these days,
  2. How you run a successful business these days, and
  3. How you market a successful business these days.

In the process, I ended up rethinking what I want out of life as well as business and have changed nearly everything I was doing as a result.

While this reading adventure hasn’t been directly related to online course creation, the activities of writing, teaching, and producing a course equate to merely a fraction of what you have to think about in the world of online education. The business end is, regretfully, a much bigger component of making online courses than we might like. Hence my diving into this particular segment of books and sharing them with you today.

The biggest surprise to me has been that so many of the books examine how you are living your life as well as “living” your business. The two are no longer separated in my mind the way they were just a couple of years ago.

I’ve included a quotation or two from each to give you some flavor of the content and style.

Here is a round-up of the most influential business books I’ve read this year, in the order I read them.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau.

  • “If you make your business about helping others, you’ll always have plenty of work.”
  • “The more you can market a core benefit instead of a list of features, the easier it will be to profit from your idea.”
  • “Always focus on what you can add or take away to improve someone’s life….”

The 4-Hour-Work-Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss.

  • “Learn to ask: ‘If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?’”

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath.

  • “…a little focused effort can make almost any idea sticker, and a sticky idea is an idea that is more likely to make a difference.”
  • The Heath brothers’ “checklist for creating a successful idea: a Simple Unexpected Concrete Credentialed Emotional Story.” (SUCCESs)

The Lean Start-up: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, by Eric Ries.

  • “As you consider building your own minimum viable product, let this simple rule suffice: remove any feature, process, or effort that does not contribute directly to the learning you seek.”
  • The “Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model.”

The Lean Turnaround: How Business Leaders Use Lean Principles to Create Value and Transform Their Company, by Art Byrne.

  • “In any business, the only element that is capable of true transformation is people.”
  • “To remove all the waste from all our processes and improve the way your company adds value, you first must be able to see and understand just how much waste exists.”

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan.

  • “Ask yourself, ‘What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?’”
  • “Productive people get more done, achieve better results, and earn far more in their hours than the rest of us. They do so because they devote maximum time to being productive on their top priority, their ONE thing.”

The EMyth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do about It by Michael E. Gerber.

  • “The key to success in starting a new business is recognizing that you will grow.”
  • “…the key is to plan, envision, and articulate what you see in the future both for yourself and your employees. … It’s about building a business that works not because of you but without you.”

Small Giants: Companies that Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham.

  • “It’s a widely accepted axiom of business that great companies grow their revenues and profits year after year. Yet quietly, under the radar, some entrepreneurs have rejected the pressure of endless growth to focus on more satisfying business goals. Goals like being great at what they do…creating a great place to work…providing great customer service…making great contributions to their communities…and finding great ways to lead their lives.”

The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your   Success by Darren Hardy.

  • “The Compound Effect is the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. …even though the results are massive, the steps, in the moment, don’t feel significant.”
  • “Your biggest challenge isn’t that you’ve intentionally been making bad choices. … Your biggest challenge is that you’ve been sleepwalking through your choices.”

Hello My Name is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names that Stick by Alexandra Watkins.

  • “SMILE: The 5 Qualities of a Super-sticky Name:
    • Suggestive—evokes something about your brand
    • Meaningful—resonates with your audience
    • Imagery—is visually evocative to aid in memory
    • Legs—lends itself to a theme for extended mileage
    • Emotional—moves people”

Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry.

  • “…when you stop growing, you start dying. In much the same way that an organization needs to be persistently innovative in order to maintain market share, individuals must make a personal commitment to lifelong personal innovation through skill development, risk-taking, and experimentation in order to avoid stagnation. The seeds of tomorrow’s brilliance are planted in the soil of today’s activity.”

And that last quotation explains quite well why I have been reading so intensively throughout the last year, in addition to why I’ve taken so many risks in my career recently. 

Besides learning about entrepreneurship and marketing, probably the most important lesson I’ve learned is to build my business around my personal values and passions. As Chris Guillebeau put it:

“Don’t waste time living someone else’s life.”

What have you gotten out of the books you’ve read in the last year? Please share your best reads in the comments post. I’ll add them to my book list for the coming year.

Did you enjoy this post? Share on LinkedIn.

Please send me your questions for future issues, and tune in next Friday for Issue #29 of “Everything You Need to Know to Create Outstanding Online Courses.” We’ll be talking about some of the elements of great teaching.

Marcy McDonald is an Online Course Producer. She helps Subject Matter Experts and Professors create online courses with better content, delivery, and production, for better teaching. She’s developed ~450 online courses for lifelong learners, worked in video and audio studios, and filmed in the field (literally).

Contact Marcy for help crafting your online course: https://www.marcymcdonald.com/contact.html

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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