The most important thing I've learned as a naturally impatient person is that sometimes you have to slow down to speed up.

But for a CEO, founder, entrepreneur, and leader, finding the free time to focus on something other than your business or your family is difficult. So I tend to sprint through books, usually with audio files, on car rides and airplanes or while hitting the treadmill. If I have the luxury of a full attention span, I pick a paperback, so I can take notes in the margins. I have many of my favorite books on my office shelves right now, and notes help me quickly reference the most inspirational passages whenever I need them.

My advice to every entrepreneur is to make time to step back, reach for a book, and incorporate reading into your values and your everyday work. Before you know it, the company will be five and then 10 years old, and if you haven't grown personally, you've missed an incredible opportunity to grow your business, too. Imagine making it to the 10-year mark without having adopted a new negotiating strategy, or taken a hard look at your own areas of weakness. Personally, I've had to grow a lot, and books have provided those moments of epiphany.

Here are seven innovation books that have kept me -- and my team -- growing together all these years.

by Patrick Lencioni

Lencioni writes these amazing fables -- fictional stories about corporate scenarios that use this really engaging medium to deliver business advice. These three tackle teamwork, the importance of making the most of meetings, and how to keep your organization healthy from the inside out.

by Charles Duhigg

I know Charles personally, and I'm huge fan of his. Remember the New York Times story about how marketers for Target tracked major life events such as a family having a baby and used the information to grow sales? That was him, and his book is fascinating. It inspires you to implement productive behaviors into your everyday life, little by little, and recognize that it's not about perfection; it's about progress. That has become an internal motto at LearnVest.

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by Chris Voss

This is a negotiating book by a former FBI hostage negotiator, so needless to say, this guy knows what he's talking about. One of my favorites of his tips is using open-ended questions to make the person you're negotiating with feel in control and create a sense of collaboration. You're much more likely to get a better deal that way.

by Seth Godin

When I needed to zag left while everyone was zigging right in the early days of LearnVest, this book taught me how. The takeaway is, if you aren't doing something that is wildly different, you should go back to bed. I love it and reread it once a year.

by Kevin Kelly

This is my latest and my absolute favorite book. It simply tells you what the future is going to look like in 10 years and reminds you that we are actually in the most creative decade of world history. That gives me a spring in my step every day when I come to work. I gave this to my entire leadership team. I forced everyone in my life to read it. I put it in everyone's stockings. You get the idea.

 

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by Ben Horowitz

One of my favorite employees once said, "Alexa, people ask me a lot what it's like to work with you, and I tell them, 'Alexa gets punched in the face every day and gets right back up.'" It's all hard. Losing a great employee or trying to make a product work or not hitting gross numbers, or trying to fundraise, or trying to do it while your personal life is moving at 7,000 miles per hour, or your health isn't great or your family is going through something. This book really affirmed for me that sometimes being the leader means that you get punched in the face and you have to get Right. Back. Up.

7. Who

by Geoff Smart and Randy Street

This is the how-to-hire manual. From the promo blurb: "Geoff Smart and Randy Street provide a simple, practical, and effective solution to what The Economist calls 'the single biggest problem in business today'": unsuccessful hiring. The average hiring mistake costs a company $1.5 million or more a year and countless wasted hours. Hiring and how to hire should be about one thing: the people. The people. The people. And let me remind you once again. It's about the people.

Now that I've shared some of my life-changing reads, I'm ready for some new ones. What are your inspirational business books? Please share, as I am always looking to grow myself.

Published on: May 4, 2017