Category: Book Reviews (page 1 of 4)

The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs

The best are the best for a reason. The most wealthy, most ambitious, most successful entrepreneurs in the world—Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, Sara Blakely from Spanx, Mark Pincus from Zynga, Kevin Plank from Under Armour—have all oriented their perception in order to be as successful as possible. They have changed their very way of thinking; they have developed The Entrepreneur Mind.

The author, Kevin D. Johnson, of The Entrepreneur Mind: 100 Essential Beliefs, Characteristics, and Habits of Elite Entrepreneurs has boiled down these characteristics to their very essence in his insightful landmark novel. After running his own multi-million dollar corporation, Johnson Media Inc. in addition to founding and investing in a host of other entrepreneurial ventures, Kevin Johnson has developed the wherewithal, the resilience, and the motivation that has driven the planet’s most successful capitalists over the course of history.

Written specifically for both emerging and established entrepreneurs, the book concisely articulates one hundred key lessons that aid the new and the experienced alike. Restricted to seven categories, Strategy, Education, People, Finance, Marketing and Sales, Leadership, and Motivation, this valuable advice makes the bumpy road to true fiscal freedom a smooth path free from hiccups. Relying on his own experience, Johnson delves into detail on several particular points in his life, potentially the most captivating of which is a life-changing visit to Harvard Business School.

Yet, these life experiences merely support his main points and illustrate how to change, and the value of changing, your perception of the contemporary economic climate. Some of his tremendous tidbits of advice include but are not limited to: learning to think big, understanding who makes the best business partners, knowing what captivates investors, comprehending when to let go of an idea, and figuring out where to avoid opening a business bank account. Perhaps one of his most engaging ideas is his belief that too much formal education can actually hinder your entrepreneurial growth, a seemingly paradoxical idea that, in reality, largely rings true.

For those looking to dip their toes in the water of entrepreneurial instability, The Entrepreneur Mind is a wonderful introduction to the groundwork of capitalism.

Hashmi’s Innovation Thinking Methods

People usually think that world-changing ideas are rare and can only come about like a lightning bolt of inspiration or a stroke of genius. However, according to Osama A. Hashmi’s “Innovation Thinking Methods,” that’s not the case at all. According to Hashmi and his book, finding or creating ground-breaking solutions is something that anyone can do.

Hashmi’s entrepreneurial career spans over 15 years. Currently he’s the CEO and Product Architect of the revolutionary CDF Software. He’s helped build numerous product-based companies, startup communities in emerging markets, and enterprise companies on product strategy. His aim has always been the same: try to solve some of the big problems of the world. Here’s where “innovative-thinking,” as he likes to call it, comes in very handy.

In his book, Hashmi explains that being a true innovator and a product visionary is all about adopting a simple thinking discipline he calls “innovative-thinking.” He defines this discipline based on the different methods and techniques he’s used throughout his career to build strong innovation cultures and help entrepreneurs refocus their company goals on more impactful endeavors.

The problem with today’s entrepreneurs is that more and more we see how startups and larger companies are pressured by investors and founders to innovate while maintaining the level of risk involved as minimal as possible. This pressure becomes very stifling for companies that have the ability to reach new heights and ultimately leads them to create mediocre improvements to already existing solutions, rather than creating something people don’t even know they need yet. To make things worse, with the world becoming increasingly interconnected, innovators are required to act fast; the goal is always to be the first, not necessarily the best.

After presenting the issues that are currently limiting everyday-people from creating transformative things, Hashmi presents a series of suggestions on simple ways people can use innovative-thinking to their advantage. One of the methods he mentions is thinking, talking, and essentially behaving like a human. According to Hashmi, often times when we focus on product or service development delivery we think and act like a business to a business, instead of a customer to another customer. According to Hashmi, the simple act of putting ourselves in the shoes of a customer can bring about innovation in ways you wouldn’t expect. It allows you to genuinely approach a problem as a human looking for a solution, not at a company looking for success. When you do this you open yourself to truly understanding the needs that must be solved and become more creative in your solution search.

Another great thing about Hashmi’s book is that it’s an easy read. It’s written in a conversational style with no technical jargon that may discourage a wider audience from reading it. It’s full of sustained examples, powerful questions, and realistic criticism of today’s entrepreneurial industry. If you’re looking for a good guide on how to be substantially innovative, this is a good place to start.

Misbehaving, The Making of Behavioral Economics

Richard H. Thaler has brought humanity back to economics with his wonderfully entertaining novel, Misbehaving, The Making of Behavioral Economics. In the academia of economics, humans are perceived as rational individuals, making proper decisions founded on logic. Yet, as we all know, human beings are hardly perfect.

We’re prone to mistakes, to misperceptions, to mishaps. Thaler, a distinguished economist himself, has recognized this fallacy and is seeking to change that perception in his field, thus bringing economics back down to Earth. His clear and often comedic prose breathes life into the pages, engaging readers’ interest while teaching them at the same time.

By identifying with human nature through our universal inclination toward mistakes, Thaler touches upon something many educational novels miss, humanity. He realizes that the standards of rationality which have characterized economics through the centuries is not fool-proof, and he is exploring an oft-neglected though necessary facet of market behavior.

Incorporating recent psychological discoveries with a clear comprehension of broad economic behavior, Thaler is able to shed light on how we, as individuals, should behave in the current marketplace. He offers insight into how to make smarter economic decisions despite our natural predisposition for impulsive, irrational, emotional behaviors. However, his advice is not merely limited to personal finance, for it also encompasses general trends in commercial building, in the NFL draft, and even in current ride-sharing behemoth Uber.

What’s more is that this book could, quite frankly, indicate a paradigm shift in economic theory. His findings pose interesting possibilities for the science, potentially bringing it roaring back to life in academic circles. By acknowledging the very real possibility of human foible in economic discretion, Thaler is being a realist. The fact that he is able to introduce such an intriguing and innovative perspective with such a candid tone is merely an added benefit.

While I’m not saying this book is entirely comprehensive, or even entirely accurate, I am saying it poses questions that need to be asked, that need to addressed. All science should reflect contemporary thought, and contemporary evidence. Thaler does just that with a gusto that simply cannot be ignored.

By combining anecdotal evidence with market theory, Richard Thaler remarkably brings economics to life. His engaging prose, direct manner of speaking, and outright hilarious memories offer any reader a memorable and valuable literary experience.

Leadership is an Art

Inspiring others, stoking a fire of passion in others, is an art that cannot be understated. To inspire others to follow you, embrace your dream as their own, and work towards making that dream come true, is a phenomenal though poorly understood concept that paradoxically remains of the utmost significance in the professional world, yet fails to be taught. How does an entrepreneur teach others to be the best of themselves? How does a leader cultivate ambition while retaining top talent? How does a CEO gain the loyalty of his/her workers and not encourage stagnancy?

Such are but a few of the many questions that Max Depree’s Leadership is an Art explores with versatile accuracy. Acknowledging the multitude of prevailing beliefs that currently characterize the ‘right way’ to lead, Depree concisely but comprehensively answers many of the questions that plague modern leadership. He teaches many lessons, and so I have chosen to list a few of my favorite just below:

“The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say ‘Thank you.’ In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor.

In developing any capitalistic enterprise, the leader must understand expectation and articulate what is considered success and what is failure. In achieving such, the leader must do whatever they can to produce what he or she said would be produced, be that a product or service. Yet, even when acting as a “servant,” the leader must understand they are always doing so for a price, thus acting as a “debtor.”

“Leaders don’t inflict pain; they bear pain.”

The harsh reality of running a business is that there is sacrifice. There is burden. There is pain. However, even in the face of difficulty, a leader cannot bend to the stress. To bend to the stress, to take your stress and displace it onto others, namely other employees, is to discourage those you’re supposed to encourage. In order to secure the best possible productivity from your workers, you must set a stellar example they can model. While it is hard to not internalize stress, leaders must strive to remain relaxed. Otherwise, said internalized stress will manifest in other ways, hurtful ways.

“Participative management is not democratic. Having a say differs from having a vote.”

An important though subjective distinction, it is significant to let your employees know they have a voice in the organization and where it’s going. However, an effective leader must also realize that, ultimately, the final decision is up to him or her. Moreover, employees themselves must realize this. They must understand that while their input is appreciated, it is not necessarily, or by any means really, the end all be all. Depree delves into detail on this vague idea and provides insightful advice on how to approach and implement this philosophy.

The truth is that leadership is a dynamic skill, changing with the tides and altering with the current state of the company. What leadership requires a year ago may be different today. What leadership requires at one company may differ considerably from what leadership requires at a different company. Leadership is malleable, flexible, but strong. It is an art top business executives must learn and must always continue to learn; and Depree helps do just that.

How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery

Des Hague, Pegasus, Book ReviewIt would seem that in today’s popular culture creativity is often associated with some sort of innate ability or inherited trait. Yet, such is not only misinformation, it’s nonsense. Each and every one of us holds the ability to make things better, to improve our lives, to innovate. I think that perhaps the reason so many do not believe themselves to be creative is because of this ridiculous notion that only those who are born with “it” can be creative. The fact is that creativity, like anything else, is the product of effort, of trying to be successful. When entrepreneurs create a product, it did not simply spring to mind in its entirety. Rather, said entrepreneur had an idea, an idea others have likely had, to be honest, and then he/she acted on it. It is the action here that distinguishes the would-be entrepreneur from the million dollar man. The million dollar man tried, failed, tried and failed again, and then tried again and again until they triumphed.

My preface aside, this is largely what How to Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery concerns. The author, Kevin Ashton, does a brilliant job of illustrating an abundance of man’s major breakthroughs and backing up said breakthroughs with the facts that led up to it. Spoiler alert: they were not spontaneous. They took years and years of effort from seemingly “average” individuals who displayed resilience, not genius.

In describing these various stories, Ashton exposes the facts behind the fiction, the truth behind the legends. Beginning his book with a tale of Mozart composing entirely in his head, as though his masterpieces are some sort of spontaneous creation and his committing notes to paper a mere record of what has already occurred, Ashton soon proves that creativity is the product of time and effort. Creation is work and Ashton manages to elaborate upon this fact with meticulous attention to detail, narrating with to-the-point prose and an engaging voice.

Yet, while the book is certainly worth reading, you could also just read the first chapter and understand the entire point. In fact, Ashton’s plot structure of moving from story-to-story to merely articulate the same exact message over and over again can be a bit tedious; and to be frank, I kept hoping the book would develop into something more. It didn’t.

Regardless, ultimately, I recommend it. How To Fly a Horse: The Secret History of Creation, Invention, and Discovery is certainly inspiring, and does a wonderful job of bringing a very real, tangible, measurable dimension to creativity. We are all “ordinary,” but with one extraordinary accomplishment, we become a legend.

Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck

Des Hague, Book Reviews, BusinessIn today’s incredibly competitive marketplace, it is commonplace for us to become too comfortable with our current positions. Spending 40+ hours a week doing something we don’t like is not only irrational, it’s hurtful for your mental health. You deserve to do something you enjoy for a living. Just because you may have to branch out from the security of a stable job is no excuse to deny yourself happiness. Jon Acuff’s “Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work, and Never Get Stuck” does a fantastic job of illustrating just how to accomplish taking back control over your job.

Utilizing his own experience, the author ensures that it’s not something you need to start a new career, it’s merely putting what you already have to use. He claims that each and every one of us has what it takes to succeed in any profession (minus the obvious educational requirements for higher tier executive positions). Essentially, he claims that four aspects of character we develop in every job from scooping ice cream to evaluating astrophysics are responsible for our success or for our failure. By building upon our relationships, skills, character, and hustle, we are able to overcome any professional obstacles that may hold us back. Such professional obstacles include but are not limited to: Career Ceilings, Career Bumps, Career Jumps, and Career Opportunities.

In regards to Career Ceilings, Acuff speaks to the possibility of getting stuck at your current company. At times, we ascend to what we think is the highest position we can reach in a company, yet with sharp skills, we should be able to ascend past that seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

Career Bumps refer to an unexpected change of events, like losing your job for instance. While these events may at the time seem to be tragic, the truth is they can in fact be turned into very lucrative opportunities. By developing relationships as mentioned previously, you will be able to rely on the professional business connections you have already made.

Career Jumps describe when we jump to a different role. While chaos and uncertainty will undoubtedly characterize any such transitions, we will be able to emerge unscathed so long as we develop the proper character. Remember the resilience that allowed you ignite your career in the first place in order to overcome any unforeseen circumstances.

Career Opportunities are a bit more self-explanatory; they’re career opportunities. At times, when opportunity meets preparation, we are lucky enough to be offered a chance to take advantage of an upcoming job position that will further cultivate our professional lives.

While it may have taken Jon Acuff sixteen years to realize how to “do over” his career, it only has to take you however much time it takes you to read his book. Even if you’re not interested in changing careers or reorienting your professional track, the book is still worth a read for the insightful advice, if nothing else. Ultimately, I would not say it’s the best book out there, but it’s certainly beneficial for perspective. Remember the character, the relationships, the skills, and the hustle that has gotten you to where you are today. Never stop developing your core skills. Never stop innovating.

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t delves into several fascinating facets of business that all-too-often go neglected. While Collins’ former book focused on establishing greatness in a company at its conception, Good to Great emphasizes the transformation. Can a company turn over a new leaf? Can a company transform a legacy of mediocrity into a legend of greatness?

Collins chose to answer this timeless question through a meticulous structure that is inherent in his novel. Using rigid benchmarks, Collins and his team organized companies by good and great, and then looked at their inner workings, examining what exactly separated the average from the spectacular.

Collins split his findings into several sections including but not limited to:

Level Five Leaders: The leadership required to achieve a level of greatness was stunning. Meticulous, inspirational, and empathetic, these leaders provide a stellar example in all that they do.

The Hedgehog Concept: Companies must exceed expectations and mere competence. They must strive for perfection. As they say, “Shoot for the moon and you may land among the stars.” One must raise the bar in order to transcend average limitations. What was average before is less than average now. As human beings, we continually improve upon ourselves in an effort to not just better ourselves, but to better the world around as well. Yet, it all starts with expectation and the mental limits we set for ourselves. We should set high expectations and not just set those expectations, but strive to exceed them. It is only by force of will that a company can become better than good, and that company must believe it will be better than good in order for that dream to come to fruition.

-A Culture of Discipline: Discipline is absolutely required for any company to transcend the mere boundaries of competence. Yet, capitalistic ventures must be sure to not fall victim to the boredom inherent in routine also. While discipline is certainly a pillar of success, so is innovation and entrepreneurship. A schedule should be maintained, but said schedule should also allot time for creativity and encourage innovation. By balancing these two integral facets of business, leaders will foster a culture of capitalistic excellence that never becomes entrenched in stagnation.

The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: If something is at fault with the system, CEO’s must be careful to not impulsively enact a massive restructuring program within the company. In fact, those enterprises that do so are almost guaranteed to never make the leap from good to great. Rather, company leaders should identify the issue and instead formulate a more appropriate, less extreme solution. Through compromise, a company can rectify issues and proceed to greatness despite any initial setbacks.

All in all, I’d recommend thumbing through Good to Great. Although not entirely comprehensive, it is certainly worth the read.

How to Rectify Flaws in the Creative Process

While creative thinking and problem solving are both key concepts that are interconnected with the notion of business, entrepreneurship, there comes a time when these strongly ingrained ideas can hinder any sort of innovative process moving forward in your brand.

The inspirational book titled ‘Winning the Brain Game; Fixing the 7 Fatal Flaws of Thinking,” by Matthew May provides readers useful insight to tackle managing and developing your creative side once challenges in your business seem out of your reach.

Known as a very prolific author, May has crafted a myriad of books that include “The Elegant Solution”, “In Pursuit of Elegance”, “The Shibumi Strategy” and “The Law of Subtraction” that all collectively examine different strategies from design thinking to lean thinking. In terms of “Winning the Brain Game,” May gives advice to his readers so they can utilize their minds in ways to more effectively produce complex solutions to issues or problems that you previously felt were impossible to successfully approach.

winning the brain game

Although May discusses business related issues when it comes to approaching a new business plan, he also takes a step back to access how the various flaws of our educational system. He finds the root of our incapability to brainstorm from the ingrained mentality from school to never question or create new ways to approach a problem, but rather find the correct answer through a standardized exam.

In turn, May notes the fact that this does not only obstruct the problem solving process from an early age, but also conditions us to think very narrow-mindedly in a stage of our lives when innovation should be maximized in every way possible. Throughout the book, the author makes it clear that to advance the creative side of your brain, the first step is to come up with various questions as a means to address the problem instead of forming solutions.

The logic is that these questions have the potential to initiate new ideas or ways to approach the problem instead of immediately conjuring up solutions with a limited originality.

As doubt is one of the many fundamental hindrances that negatively affect the creative process, May makes it known that censoring this is essential not only for your sanity, but also in terms of bettering yourself in your respective field. He then claims that in order to muster up the courage or bravery to improve creatively, we need to return to a mental state similar to how children act upon their curiosity or desire to experiment without concern of the outcome.

Also, he finds that this “ideacide” is rooted from fear, which allows us to engage in self-censoring to a point when we become completely incapable of producing anything that challenges normalcy or the situation’s conformed state. Thus, May argues that among all of the fatal flaws, self-doubt is by far the most dangerous any form of innovation.

To better respond to the self-doubt fatal-thinking flaw, the author makes an interesting point to undertake new scenarios or situations with a mindful framework as a means to better approach the matter at hand with active thinking, instead of indifference or perhaps rejection. The act of questioning or taking other perspectives into account is highly important when it comes to any sort of professional, personal or academic growth as you move forward in your path.

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business

Boss Life: Surviving My Own Small Business tells the tale of Paul Downs. Speaking with simplistic but truthful prose, Paul Downs describes the ups and downs of owning his custom furniture business for the last 24 years. This down-to-Earth memoir transcends economic jargon to preach a relatable story of sacrifice, resilience, and eventually, triumph.

Boss Life speaks with a particularly vivacious tone. Written at the hands of a renowned New York Times columnist (Paul Downs), the syntax and sentence structure flow together seamlessly to paint a realistic and inspiring portrait. However, though it is well-written, its real allure lies in the lessons it communicates to all who are lucky enough to read it.

Downs clearly makes it a point to focus on people. Although “he had to learn about management, cash flow, taxes, and so much more,” he was always “keenly aware that every small business…starts with people.” The author offers priceless insight into who to hire and why to hire them. Furthermore, he goes on to detail various motivational strategies each of which likely deserves a book in its own right. However, when said strategies do not necessarily pan out, Down sheds light on how best to let coworkers go.

Des Hague, Book Review, Boss Life

Further attuned to the theme of people, the author delves into client management with adept efficiency. He discusses the ideal purchase, describing with engaging and comprehensive prose, the significance behind a proper initial sales pitch. He pays similar meticulous attention to every step thereafter, all the way until (in his case) the final delivery of the furniture. However, all of this attention paid is not to discredit the story itself.

Forbes, after having ranked it among the best business books of 2015, claims it “is a memoir-not a manual-about life as a small business owner, complete with honest reflections on failures and shortcomings.” Boss Life not only stands on it own as a how-to manual guiding you towards financial success, but as an engaging narrative capable of transcending boundaries set forth by arbitrary genres. It speaks to readers not just in one market, but in nearly every market. It depicts the human condition while simultaneously offering sound financial advice. It offers a beautiful story yet never strays from its distinguished place in the fiscal community.

Truly, and perhaps remarkably, it is the best of both worlds. Downs discusses sales but reflects on hardship. He elaborates on bookkeeping but maintains his literary light. In one fell swoop, Paul Downs has appealed to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company while simultaneously retaining his Pennsylvania custom furniture roots. This memoir is an exercise in universal appeal, and stands to benefit anyone who decides to pick it up.

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Think and Grow Rich is written as straightforward as its title, designating it as an easy to understand and comprehensive guide on how to best attain, retain, and maintain your personal finances. What’s more however, is the lessons of rugged individualism, enlightening wisdom, and inspirational motivation that saturate Mr. Napoleon Hill’s pristine prose.

By depicting the experience of more than 500 innovative and fiscally successful individuals, Hill constructs an enthusiastic script that encapsulates an irreproachable entrepreneurial spirit. The foundation of each man’s wealth in this piece is the idea that they all had nothing to start with except for their ambition and their plan. With meticulous attention to detail, the guts to pursue their dream, and the intelligence to recognize the next step before them, these men are each in their own right the flesh embodiment of the American dream.

Dive into this easy to read classic that describes with simplistic effectiveness “what to do” and “how to do it.” Utilize the system of self-objectivity readily contained between the covers to truly understand what steps you should take next in order to secure a future of wealth. By fusing the famed Andrew Carnegie’s formula for success with real-life experiences, Napoleon Hill has effectively authored not only an inspirational book, but also a step-by-step manual to ascend to fiscal stardom.

Think and Get Rich, Des Hague, Financial

Examine Hills’s thirteen steps to success in order to fully understand exactly what composes a winning philosophy. Each step is simplified to the point of clarity, yet elaborated upon just enough so that they each rightfully remain their own distinct entity. By articulating seemingly abstract principles with precise, comprehensive prose, the author has written a book of truly legendary proportions. Although written in 1937, Think and Grow Rich’s lessons remain to this day as relevant as ever.

Hill also explores the necessity of developing a definite purpose, composing a positive mental attitude, and channeling the power of the subconscious mind, especially in regards to overcoming adversity. These moments of self-reflection are beneficial even for those who decide not to apply the lessons contained herein Think and Grow Rich. Merely by opening your mind to objectively reviewing your own philosophies, you are taking a massive step towards refining your attitude and honing your ambition, towards optimizing your skills and thinking ahead.

You should do yourself a true service and thumb through a copy of Think and Grow Rich  by Napoleon Hill. Take advantage of the wisdom that brought success to so many others.