People often ask what books I recommend for marketers and entrepreneurs. These are 5 unconventional books that will change the way you think about marketing, business, and entrepreneurship.
They are not your usual, flash-in-the-pan tactical types, but rather reference-level materials that can help you build a stronger company, and better relationships with your customers — all on your own terms.
Here are my five picks – as of the fall 2016.
Winning the Story Wars – Jonah Sachs
This book is a great resource for marketers and entrepreneurs who want to build a strong and memorable brand. It focuses on narrative, and using stories to empower your audience by making them the hero. For me, it was incredibly useful to learn about the essential elements of a good story by making it: Tangible, Relatable, Immersive, Memorable, and Emotional.
This book also presented a fresh take on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, and how that idea interlaced with Carl Jung’s archetypes. As much as I like to think of myself as a Rebel, it turns out my personal brand archetype is more The Oracle – which is fine I guess, but not as cool…
Here is a brief video that will walk you through the Hero’s Journey.
For additional story building worksheets and archetypes, click here.
Originals – Adam Grant
It was the subtitle (How Non-Conformists Move The World) that sold this book for me. I bought the audio version, and couldn’t put the headphones down so to speak. It is a deep look into individuals who have redefined industries, technologies, and themselves. Individuals who push the world forward.
Adam covers both entrepreneurs who make ideas into reality, and intrapreneurs who change organizations from within by building alliances, winning support from leadership and navigating office politics.
Another great thing about this book was a section on raising an Original. As a father, I plan to use some of the questions Adam outlined to encourage my daughter to think critically, and take action.
One of my personal favourite takeaways was the notion that “When it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.”
I have spent years trying to figure out The Thing. The one amazing project that would combine all my talents and provide an endless stream of joy and fulfilment. I spent most of that time planning, designing, and questioning — rather than building and shipping. I was procrastinating under the guise of perfectionism.
You can hear all about that on episode #26 of the Creator Podcast.
Life is Good – Bert & John Jacobs
If you don’t own one of their t-shirts, chances are you know someone who does. This is an amazing story of two Boston brothers who built a multi-million dollar company from scratch. The book follows their humble beginnings of travelling between university campuses and peddling t-shirts out of the back of a van, to now donating millions of dollars to Kids In Need every year.
I am not naturally what you would call an optimist… and this book managed to put some chinks in the “realist” armour I wear. The story of their family, and specifically their mom connected with me deeply. She instilled a sense of optimism, and hope in the brothers — which allowed them to power through obstacles and build an amazing company. It inspired me both as a father, and an entrepreneur.
I took many ideas away, but the one we practice every day at our dinner table is to ask ”What is one good thing that happened today?” before we start eating.
Out of all these books, I bought multiple copies of this one and gave it to friends and clients. It is really that good.
War of Art – Steven Pressfield
If you ever felt stuck on a project, or maybe you weren’t sure how to get started — this book will give you a proverbial kick in the ass. It will identify the source of all procrastination, and unfulfilled ideas that never see the light of day, as “The Resistance”. It is your duty to fight against it, and conquer the demon through work.
Steven Pressfield notably wrote “The Legend of Bagger Vance” and “Gates Of Fire”, on top of 14 other fiction and non-fiction books. This one was the breakthrough in business publishing. Even though he uses writing as a theme, it is equally applicable to any entrepreneurial or business venture.
This book will help you face down fears, perfectionism, and inaction. It is full of terse, to-the-point, quotable paragraphs that get to the heart of the issues we all face.
“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
“Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
This is a very short read that you will likely refer back to many times.
Anything You Want – Derek Sivers
Probably the shortest read of the bunch — you can finish it in one afternoon. Written by the entrepreneurship icon, Derek Sivers, it’s a collection of 40 short lessons from launching CD Baby (remember CDs?) and selling it for $22 Million in 2008. He then went on to found a couple of other music and entrepreneurship related companies.
It is an unorthodox look at building a business by accident. The lessons however are applicable to regular people like you and I. This little book has almost half the pages earmarked, and is full of philosophical and practical insights. Here are some of my favourites, as they apply to marketing:
“Any time you think you know what your new business will be doing, remember this quote from Steve Blank: No plan survives first contact with customers.”
“When you make a business, you’re making a little world where you control the laws. It doesn’t matter how things are done everywhere else. In your little world, you can make it like it should be.”
“Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, and quirky as you want. A business is a reflection of the creator.”
And here is a summary of the book:
Those are my 5 picks at this time.What are some books that influenced you, or your thinking? E-mail me (hello [at] ernestbarbaric.com), and let me know!