Do you want to start a startup, but you’re afraid of failing? Or are you running a project today that’s just not making progress, no matter how hard you try?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is considered a bible in the tech entrepreneurship community. Out of dozens of business books I’ve read over years, this has had the single largest impact on the way I build my business. Its concepts will help you avoid startup failure.
What is The Lean Startup, in a nutshell? It’s a methodology for creating businesses that focuses you on finding out what customers want as quickly as possible. It uses concepts of scientific experimentation to prove that you’re making progress. It encourages you to launch as early and cheaply as possible so you don’t waste time and money.
Here’s what you’ll learn in this Lean Startup summary:
How to figure out what your customers really want, so you don’t build a product no one wants
Why you’re almost certainly launching your product too late, and wasting money in the process
How focusing on the wrong metrics will deceive you about how your startup is failing
How to decide whether you should keep trying or pivot your startup in a new direction
The common fears that are holding you back and putting you in denial about your startup’s status
Shoe Dog is the story of how Nike was founded, written by Nike’s founder, Phil Knight. Nike is now a global brand – go pretty much anywhere in the world, and you’ll see someone wearing Nikes.
But Shoe Dog starts you over 50 years ago in 1962, when Phil Knight is 24 years old, has just earned an MBA from Stanford, and doesn’t know what to do with his life. You travel the next 18 years with Phil Knight, through continuous adversity, self-doubt, and never-ending financial uncertainty.
Shoe Dog is a refreshingly candid entrepreneurial account. Phil is clear about his shortcomings and about how tough it was to keep Nike running year after year. Shoe Dog is also well-written, with poetic phrasings and philosophical musings, unlike the straightforward clip of most business biographies.
Read the Shoe Dog summary here for the main history of Nike and Phil Knight, but read the real book for a visceral account of how one of the world’s biggest companies got started.
Dropbox is now a technology giant, valued at $10 billion in a 2014 funding round. It’s a very complex product, honed over a decade of development and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment.
But Dropbox didn’t start with the slick, seamless product you use today.
So let’s go back to the beginning, before Dropbox had a polished product and thousands of employees. Back to Dropbox’s original Minimum Viable Product (MVP). If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, be emboldened by the idea that Dropbox started with just about as much as you have right now.
Want to motivate your employees and teammates to do a better job? Does your team seem unhappy, unmotivated, and distrustful of your organization?
In Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, Paul Marciano argues that engagement stems from respect. Employees don’t want to be treated like cogs in a chain. Instead, they want to feel empowered, have autonomy, receive supportive feedback, and be treated considerately. Breaking any of these makes teammates feel disrespected, which causes motivation to plummet.
In this Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work summary, you’ll learn:
the major non-monetary components of what employees want
how to diagnose whether you’re a great or terrible manager
simple actions you can take today to engage your team
People fit into one of three reciprocity styles. Givers like to give more than they get, paying attention to what others need. Takers like to get more than they give, seeing the world as a competitive place and primarily looking out for themselves. And matchers balance and give on a quid pro quo basis, willing to exchange favors but careful about not being exploited.
Of these 3 styles, which do you think tends to be the most successful? When surveyed, most people believe the takers and matchers come out on top. Givers just seem too altruistic to push themselves ahead.
In Give and Take, Wharton professor Adam Grant argues that givers are actually the most successful of the 3 types. Givers build larger, more supportive networks; they inspire the most creativity from their colleagues; and they achieve the most successful negotiations. Givers find ways to grow the pie and take their share of it.
And yet givers also risk becoming spineless doormats. You may know of a pushover who gives in to every demand, at cost to his or her own well-being. There are strong strategies to protect against this.
In this Give and Take summary, you’ll learn why givers are so successful, why takers are punished by society for bad behavior, and how givers can avoid pitfalls that drag them down.
Charlie Munger is Warren Buffett’s long-time partner at Berkshire Hathaway. Bill Gates says that Charlie “is truly the broadest thinker I have ever encountered.”
Poor Charlie’s Almanack is a collection of Charlie Munger’s best advice given over 30 years, in the form of 11 speeches given as commencement addresses and roundtable talks. In all his talks, he shows wit, rationality, and incredible clarity of thought.
In this summary of Poor Charlie’s Almanack, I’ve extracted the most important points and organized them by topic. You’ll learn why Charlie considers multidisciplinary learning vital to success, his checklist when making investments, and how to build a trillion dollar company from scratch.
Feeling stuck in life? Asking extreme questions gets you thinking about your life from a different direction. You might find the solution was obvious all along.
Tim Ferriss’s 17 questions are a great start to questioning what you can improve about your life. These question come from his best-selling book Tools of Titans. I humbly share Tim Ferriss’s questions below, adding my own interpretations and thinking exercises to help you apply them.
Unfortunately, your natural brain’s pretty dumb and easily tricked. To save energy and make faster decisions, it relies on cognitive heuristics to make fast judgments.
In prehistoric days when we had to avoid getting devoured by lions, these fast heuristics worked pretty well. Now that life is more complex, the decisions you need to make are more complex, and your cognitive biases trick you into making bad decisions.
These 25 cognitive biases come from “The Psychology of Human Misjudgment,” a talk by Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett’s partner at Berkshire Hathaway.
By learning these biases, you’ll guard yourself against people trying to exploit you. Even better, you’ll guard against your worst enemy: your own brain.
Do you have problems finishing things? Do new ideas distract you from previous ones? Do you get derailed by setbacks more often than you would like?
Then you could use more grit. In Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance book, Angela Duckworth shows how grit – the combination of passion and perseverance – distinguishes high achievers, and why talent isn’t as important as most people think.
If you’re not as gritty as you like, don’t fret – this book teaches the 4 major components of grit, and how to develop grit in your kids and teammates.
In his epic 707-page Tools of Titans, Tim Ferriss shares the habits and beliefs of 101 people at the top of their game, including tech investors like Chris Sacca and Peter Thiel, entrepreneurs like Linkedin’s Reid Hoffman and Evernote’s Phil Libin, superhuman athletes like Amelia Boone and Wim Hof, media figures like Edward Norton and Whitney Cummings, and more.
These are the principles that successful people use to achieve audacious goals, improve themselves, and be happier. If you can apply the lessons from this book, you can be more effective.
The problem with Tools of Titans is its organization – every titan has a separate chapter, leading to over 140 short chapters over 707 pages. For Tim, this makes sense, as he wants to pay homage to the titans and make it easy to find personalities you care about. But when organized this way, it’s hard to see the bigger picture.
What I really wanted to know were patterns of habits across the titans. What do many successful people do that I don’t currently do? I wanted to see the beliefs of titans organized by theme, like how to define your life goals, how to think of good ideas, how to be happier everyday.
That’s what I’ve done in this summary. I’ve extracted my favorite lessons from the book and reorganized them by theme. This way, you can see how 10 titans focus their lives to cut out the noise, and how 9 titans find time to be grateful every single day.