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The One Book Every Entrepreneur Should Read

We asked three entrepreneurs in very different industries which one book they'd recommend. Here's what they said.
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If you could only recommend one book to another entrepreneur--just one book about business, entrepreneurship, personal success--which book would you choose?

It's a great question, because the book you choose says as much about what you value as it does about the person you recommend that book to.

So I asked three successful entrepreneurs from very different fields for the one book they would recommend. It's no surprise their choices reflect not only the way they look at business but also the way they achieve success.

Check out their selections, then let the rest of us know the one book you would recommend in the comment section.

1. Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life -- by Shantideva

Eric Ripert, chef and co-owner of New York City restaurant Le Bernardin, explains why he picked it:

"I came across this book during a teaching that His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave at Radio City Music Hall a few years ago.

Shantideva, a student of the great master Nagarjuna, is a great scholar and highly influential master in Mahayana Buddhism. The book, written in the style of poetry with each thinking documented into short stanzas, is broken down into chapters dealing with different themes: Conscientiousness, Guarding Alertness, Patience, Wisdom, Enthusiasm, and Meditation, just to name a few.

It is considered to be one of the major and most comprehensive works of Shantideva and encapsulates some of his most important teachings.

The book can be read as books traditionally are--from beginning to end, front to back--but I read it non-sequentially. It can be picked up at any time and turned to any page, making it the kind of book you 'live' with.

From "Patience" (#90:)

The honor of praise and fame

Will not turn into merit or life;

It will give me neither strength nor freedom from sickness,

And will not provide any physical happiness

When I read this passage, it's both encouraging and it puts everything into perspective. I find it a great inspiration to try and stay humble and look at success from a different point of view.

This book is an everyday guide for me and I am grateful for having the advantage of the experience and commentaries of His Holiness to go with it. The wonderful thing about this book is that it is not just for Buddhists. It can be read and applied by anyone from all walks of life, making it a true reference for reflection."

2. So Good They Can't Ignore You -- by Cal Newport

Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby and HostBaby, explains why he picked it:

"Shockingly smart thoughts about your career. It's a must read for anyone who is not loving their work, wanting to quit their job, and follow their passion, or not sure what to do next.

I recommend this many times a week to people who email me with these kinds of questions. Best book I've ever read on the subject."

3. Good to Great -- by Jim Collins

Edward Wimmer, co-founder of Road ID, explains why he picked it:

"Good to Great is our business bible at Road ID. Some of this book's lessons, like the "bus analogy," have become central to the way we run our company.

In fact, we dedicate an entire section of our self-assessment and review process to identifying whether or not we have the right people on the Road ID bus.

We are very transparent on this topic. "The bus" is talked about regularly. Every member of our team knows that their managers are required to determine whether or not they belong on our bus. They know the decision is made by applying Collin's simple litmus test.

How do you know you have the wrong person on the bus? Ask yourself these questions:

1. Would you hire this person again?

2. If this person told you they were leaving to pursue another opportunity, would you feel terribly disappointed or secretly relieved?

3. Do you invest too much time managing, and giving third and fourth chances or building little systems, to compensate for an employee's shortcomings?

Steadfast dedication to this principle is not easy as it forces you to make difficult decisions. But it has been pivotal to our success and has helped us stay clear of the distractions, speed bumps, and U-turns that 'wrong' team members can create."

Now: If you can only recommend one, which book would you recommend?

IMAGE: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia
Last updated: Aug 8, 2013

JEFF HADEN | Columnist

Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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