Since I'm always talking about the books I'm reading, I'm often asked for recommendations. And like many others, I've been reading even more since we've been sheltering at home. Here are five books that have inspired and motivated me during this time.
1. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Izhar Armony, who is a friend, an investor, and a general partner at CRV, recently sent this to me. It's about the history of humankind, how our species has survived, how history has shaped society and more. There's a line in chapter 16 of the book that says, "What enables banks -- and the entire economy -- to survive and flourish is our trust in the future. The trust is the sole backing for most of the money in the world." I have long said that as leaders and business owners, we aren't selling products, we are selling trust, so this line resonated with me in particular. This concept isn't new, and neither is the book (it was published in 2011) -- but it seems even more relevant right now as we all navigate this new world and think about adjusting to our "new normal."
2. How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life by John C. Maxwell
The more we automate, the more we need creativity from humans. In fact, I'd argue that is one of the best parts of automation -- it allows the computers to do what they do the best and take over mundane tasks, enabling humans to focus on what they do best, like thinking creatively. But we need to take the time to think and to learn from other great thinkers. This book is a great reminder of that. It's also a reminder of what kills creativity -- by thinking things like "it's not practical," "we don't have the time," "yes, but" and "it's never been done." There is always time to be intentional about what new things you can try or change to be more successful.
3. Minecraft: Guide to Exploration by Mojang Ab
I know this seems like a bit of an outlier here -- and it's definitely an unusual choice for me. But my son is obsessed with Minecraft and I've been trying to get decent enough so I can play with him. I think reading books about psychology, leadership, creativity, and more can be one of the best things you can do for your career. But you also need to make sure you're taking time to read something totally unrelated to work. This time, when we're all home with our families, roommates, or even just ourselves, will not last forever, so it's important to find time to take a break and reset. And, you never know what you might learn or take away from it all.
It's no secret that things are hard right now, with so many outside forces affecting your business and your employees. The author of this book, Bobby Herrera, is co-founder and CEO of Populus Group, and he says that 1) We all struggle; 2) inside every struggle is a gift, and 3) leaders share their gifts with others. I loved this book because one of the things that's helped me the most as an entrepreneur is talking with and learning from others who have been through similar things.
5. Mastering the Market Cycle: Getting the Odds on Your Side by Howard Marks
One of our enterprise sales reps tweeted the other day, "what's the best finance/wealth-building book you've ever read?" Three came to mind immediately: Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, Warren Buffett's annual shareholder letters (which have also been published as a book), and Mastering the Market Cycle by Howard Marks. My thought is that with Ramsey you get the tactical advice, with Buffett you get timeless wisdom, and with Marks you get strategic advice. Most people are feeling anxious about the current financial landscape and it's important to understand and be prepared, but it's also important to get perspective from people who have seen and experienced economic downturns and uncertainty before -- and that's what I think you get with Mastering the Market Cycle. What we're seeing right now isn't normal and it isn't predictable, but I think it is reassuring to understand what has happened in the past, how it's shaped investing behaviors, and what it means for the future.
Like most of the books I've recommended in the past, these aren't all about entrepreneurship or marketing or software. But they all have lessons about leadership, psychology, and learning from others. People are all juggling many different things right now. But if you have a moment or can take a quick break from endless video calls and Slack messages, pick up a book. If you get even one idea from it, it was worth it.