The most important thing that comes from reading is learning to navigate difficult things or times.
That is why a lot of people read before making a career transition- the path ahead is murky, mysterious, and scary as hell. So people read to help ease their transition.
How about when starting something new? It is much more uncommon. People would more than likely walk into something fresh-faced and eager as hell, but woefully unprepared. They might be willing to learn but would have done zero work prior to showing up. This small difference separates the best from the rest.
Starting new things is not easy and it may be more difficult to open up your mind to the idea of reading ahead or preparing before beginning. The difference is in the details, it is a slight edge.
James Altucher posted a list on Instagram that he titled “10 books every intern needs to read” but it could be called, “10 books that every person starting anything should read.”
The list is all inclusive and includes many important aspects of pursuing excellence. Altucher noted, “there’s no formula for success. And everyone finds their own path. But… I still wish I could have read these books when I was 17.”
♦ Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss. The Tim Ferriss Show is where Tim interviews some of the best in the world. Through hundreds of these interviews, Tim has been able to extract the most important lessons (or habits and routines) regarding success and life. He put together these lessons in a way that only Tim Ferriss can; another giant text packed with super high-quality information. He does not call himself the expert, instead, he is the experimenter, the scribe and the guide.
♦ Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk. Vaynerchuck rules over his media empire, VaynerMedia, with a relentless fury. He is the epitome of the serial entrepreneur, starting with baseball cards as a kid before transforming his parent’s wine company before the age of 20. He was an early adopter of the internet and YouTube, starting an online store called WineLibrary, which he promoted through rudimentary YouTube videos. He now continuously writes and promotes, using technology as the vehicle to pioneer his entrepreneurial pursuits. He is also wildly ambitious, openly admitting his desire to one day own the New York Jets. Crush It! is about maximizing passions while fusing work and social life together in a way that is authentic – “there no longer has to be a difference between who you are and what you do.”
♦ Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield. This is nearly an excerpt from Pressfield’s massively influential, The War of Art. Both are about going to war with yourself every day, overcoming the resistance and getting to work. The most devastating enemy of any artist is a blank slate, an empty page, or a white space. Pressfield argues that turning pro is the act of working on your craft, relentlessly, every single day. I like Turning Pro because it is a book of ideas on how to beat the resistance and how to go from amateur to pro. It is not a traditional “how to” or self-help book, with each page a new insight.
♦ The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. There are three books on this list that I have yet to read but I have own physical copies of all of them except for The Four Agreements. I remember scanning over it at a bookstore and it seemed oversimplified for me. For example, the four agreements are: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. I learned these lessons early on in my life simply through living life. However, I’ll reconsider it since it is on this list and it may be a useful book to recommend to others.
♦ Choose Yourself by James Altucher. When you produce tons of content, you realize that there is an information gap that needs to be addressed. That is how Altucher manifested “Choose Yourself,” when he realized the rapid pace of change needed to be articulated in a way that helped people to become less dependent:
New tools and economic forces have emerged to make it possible for individuals to create art, make millions of dollars and change the world without “help.” More and more opportunities are rising out of the ashes of the broken system to generate real inward success (personal happiness and health) and outward success (fulfilling work and wealth).”
The following books are “bonus” books, which imply that they should be read only after the first five. Still, they contain powerful information that anyone looking for success should know, learn, and ultimately master.
♦ The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday. Holiday is one of my all-time favorite authors and I am willing to read anything that he puts out. He is a “stoic master,” in a sense, where he is grounded in the philosophy and is considered a worldwide expert in its teachings. Obstacle is the most practical approach to stoicism that you will find, and one of my favorites from my 2017 Stoicism Summer Reading List.
♦ Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow. Subtitle: conversations about life and comedy. This is a book about passion more than anything else. Apatow is a comedian and writer-producer of some really notable comedy shows and movies such as The 40-Year Old Virgin and Freaks & Geeks. Apatow undertook several interviews with stalwarts in the comedic profession, many of which he did as a high school student. The best of these would be the talk he did with Jerry Seinfeld when he was just 15 years old, where his passion for comedy shines through the pleasure he obviously gets from talking about the craft. Find something that makes you overflow with passion; find something that borders on obsession.
♦ Purple Cow by Seth Godin. Becoming a purple cow means standing out in today’s uber crowded marketplaces. It is about becoming remarkable; transforming your business beyond the standards of marketing norms. Godin’s ideas are powerful and he includes case studies so you visualize how these ideas are already at work. Easily one of the best marketing books you will ever read.
♦ Grit by Angela Duckworth. We all kind of have a vague idea of what grit is. We have images in our mind of what it looks like but Duckworth revolutionizes the term, making it the focal point of success. Duckworth is a serious researcher and her two most prominent ideas about grit is what sticks the most: it predicts success more effectively than talent (or IQ) and that anyone, of any gender, at any age can learn to be gritty. It assumes an even playing field and it gives anyone the opportunity to strive for success: just use grit.
♦ Zero to One by Peter Thiel. This book is about the future. It is especially important for entrepreneurs because it talks about the act of creation in a world obsessed with copying. When you create something new, you go from zero to one. That is the challenge of entrepreneurship and education today: see beyond the tracks laid down by academic specialties to the broader future that is yours to create.
Read More: The Outwork Book Club
Altucher sums up the big ideas at the of end his post:
- Be healthy.
- Be a person people can trust.
- Be creative every day.
- Learn from everyone.
- Be humble.
- Learn from hard times.
- Work hard.
- Over promise and over deliver.
- Take ownership of all difficulties; never blame.
- Read every day.
If you don’t choose your own path in life… Someone else will and the results won’t make you happy.”
Words to live by. Chase your dreams. Outwork.
In Pursuit of Excellence
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