Tag: Book Review (page 1 of 3)

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.

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.

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.

The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz

Des Hague, Thinking Big, Motivation

Written by David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big is a motivational self-help book that proposes a carefully designed program that can help you get the most out of your professional and personal endeavors. Schwartz emphasizes that you don’t have to be the smartest, most talented, or the most connected person in order to succeed in life. The key to success according to this book is spelled out in its own title: the magic of thinking big. When you create a habit of thinking big you will automatically motivate yourself to improve in different aspects of your life such as having a better work life, earning more money, creating better, more satisfying relationships, etc.

The Magic of Thinking Big emphasizes four key points that further prove his thesis about thinking big:

“Think positively toward oneself”

The first thing Schwartz explains is that one of the main factors that tend to hold people back is that they think too small. In order to succeed it is important that you think positively towards yourself. He uses a story of a salesman who sells significantly more products than his colleagues and he is in fact not smarter, more educated, or better than them. He simply sells more because he expects himself to sell more.

“See what can be, not just what is”

Schwartz also stresses the importance of visualization. Thinking big is not just about thoughts and ideas. You actually need to train yourself to see not just the present, but the future possibilities that lie ahead.

“Broadcast good news”

Another great point that the book explains is how transmitting good news is a win/win situation, not only for the people surrounding you, but also for yourself. When you broadcast good news, you and the people around you will feel better, lighter, and more motivated to conquer bigger things.

“Make your attitudes your allies”

Lastly, Schwartz makes a valid point about attitude. Similar to point number three, your overall attitude about things will affect your emotions, your productivity, and your overall stamina. Make it a habit to make your attitudes your allies; have these feelings work for you and not against you.  If you maintain a bad attitude about your job, for example, your success will become stagnant.

Aside from these four key points, The Magic of Thinking Big also describes three failure “diseases”: excuse-itis, detail-itis and procrastination. These are very common factors that will not help you succeed and will definitely not allow you to think big. For example, having excuses for everything will not help you grow and succeed, micromanaging will exhaust you and you will lose vision of the big picture, and procrastination prevents you from being productive, hence getting one step closer to success.

All in all, The Magic of Thinking Big is a very useful book that undoubtedly resonates with many of us, as we all have individual goals we would like to achieve in life. It helped me refocus on the big picture vision I have for myself, and I guarantee it can help you too.

Finding Your Strengths

There is no question that the ability to find and be secure in your strengths is an incredibly difficult task that is becoming increasingly hard to deconstruct. Insecurity about strengths or weaknesses in the workplace is something everyone feels from their day to day lives, which the author of “Standout” examines with the release of his most recent book. Marcus Buckingham, who many people believe is a prominent presence in what is called the strengths movement, has been a leading voice in rethinking how we can uniquely succeed in the workplace through the process of specific online tests.

people at work

 

 

Different from his previous books that have focused on the first two steps of finding your strengths, his latest book titled Standout: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution, emphasizes the last step of the process is utilizing the online assessment to discover what your two primary strength areas are to essentially excel in the workplace.Instead of taking the approach to improve your certain weaknesses, Buckingham supports the evidence used in his book on thorough behavioral and statistical research which he used to analyze some of the world’s top business leaders. In terms of the exam itself, below are the twenty strengths that are in the assessment crafted to find areas in which you stand out and should further capitalize on in the workplace.

 

Connector

Charismatic people that have the innate ability to connect and interact with people on a high energy level very different from the average person. They value collaboration and better understanding people through interaction.

 

Provider

This role depicts someone who essentially values the community around them and does their best to support their environment in any way they can. Some forms of this include knowledge or other intellectual resources.

 

Advisor

The person who is constantly guiding others either on your team or others in the office who are willing to learn.

 

Creator

You create and are constantly coming up with new ways to approach a certain process or idea. Generating interesting ways to tackle a specific situation is something you love to do.

 

Equalizer

These types of individuals strongly feel as though everyone’s work should be at an equal level as their own. They strive to be better, while expecting the same strong work ethic in return.

 

Influencer

Based on very clear verbal directness, influencers are keen on finding ways to achieve a goal in various circumstances by capitalizing on charm or other enticing means of communication.

 

Pioneer

Intrigued by the spontaneous or exciting experiences, these individuals love to constantly challenge themselves by trying to break out of their comfort zones.

 

Stimulator

A nature leader, your high energy influences other to engage what you have to say or do at a level very different from the other strength areas.


Unlike other books that have a clear focus on improving or finding your strengths, Buckingham does not use excessive theoretical jargon or complex language to effectively achieve his message to his readers. More than anything, he holistically explains the highlights of his research so that you, the reader can find success in your respective career path full of skills that are waiting to be tapped into.

The Zigzag Principle

In the startup industry, there is a widespread ‘get it done’ mentality, through which entrepreneurs are urged to push forward to their goal at all costs. Rich Christiansen challenges this mentality in The ZIgzag Principle, in which he postulates that forging a straight path toward a goal does not produce lasting results. Instead, Christiansen advocates for taking time to raise money, acquire resources, scale, and learn to fail. By following a select set of ‘zigzag’ principles, he asserts that a business will become profitable and surpass its initial startup stage.

The Zigzag principleThe zigzag principle stemmed from a skiing session that Christiansen had one winter with his son. The two were beginners, and accidentally ended up on the most difficult slope. Instead of attempting to ski straight down the hill, which was very dangerous at their level, Christiansen decided he and his son should zigzag down the hill until they reached the bottom. This allowed them to get safely off of the slope without injury. Christiansen says the same mentality should be applied to life and business – while shooting straight toward a goal may get you to that goal faster, there is more chance of sustaining lasting repercussions along the way.

The zigzag principle starts at the very beginning of forming a business. Christiansen challenges his readers to look at their internal motivation, rather than focus on mission statements. He believes that the motivation behind beginning a company will help determine if the company is sustainable to its founder, and therefore if the mission statement should even be written.

The first ‘zig’ principle focuses on making money. The book guides its reader through a process to determine how to make a business profitable. Far too many startups do not focus on profitability at the beginning, which increases their chance of failing. The second ‘zag’ principle is all about additional resources. Once a new business becomes profitable, it can focus on adding more people and capital to expand. The third and final ‘zag’ principle involves scaling in a big way. Christiansen guides readers through deciding how large they want to make their business, and through determining how they will get there.

The rest of the book helps its readers navigate how to deal with a creative team and how to track progress. Christiansen also includes demonstrative success stories from himself and other companies.

This book is a must-read resource for all people looking to start a new business. Christiansen’s zigzag principle is a revolutionary approach to starting a business that can guarantee lasting success.