As a kid, I remember libraries and bookstores representing a sense of infinite possibility, and I still get a rush when I walk into one today. Books have played an instrumental role in my development as a creative, entrepreneur, business owner and lifelong learner by forcing me to reimagine what I previously believed to be possible.
This series will catalog the books that have moved me more than others and I hope they provide you with the push you’re looking for. I’ve stayed away from the typical business/self-awareness books that many of us are used to hearing about. These are in no particular order. Enjoy.
Contagious by Jonah Berger — I talk about this book a fair amount. Remember when Nipsey Hussle released his $100 album, “Crenshaw,” a few years ago? He got that idea from this book, after reading about how a restaurant in Philadelphia went viral after creating a $100 philly cheesesteak which was topped with truffles and lobster tail. ‘Contagious’ is about the science of social transmission and the factors behind making things popular. To quote, “People don’t listen to advertisements, they listen to their peers.”
This book influenced my approach to marketing by making me realize that regardless of technology and innovation, at the end of the day you are marketing to other human beings. Humans are complicated, layered creatures, and therefore you need to create strategies that are responsive to these truths. Most importantly, I learned the value of narrative and how using stories as vessels is the key when trying to connect people with your brand, product, or service. There are many more gems within the pages, but those are two that I still carry with me after reading this a few years ago.
Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares — There’s nothing more satisfying than growing an idea from zero to 1. Whether it’s in music, fashion or tech, I’m always excited by opportunity to do something for the first time.
When my biz partner and I started GRC, this book helped validate and expound upon the ideas that we built our business around. Outside of tactics, this book does a great job of describing the approach to thinking and testing which needs to be a part of any company that’s looking to scale.
The thing about traction is: it’s obvious when you have it and painfully obvious when you don’t. What we often forget is that none of this happens overnight, and it’s usually a process of repeated tweaking and iterating that finally gets the gears moving. A highly recommended read for any founder trying to get an idea off the ground in a digital-first environment.
Losing the Signal by Sean Silcoff & Jacquie McNish—I’ve always been obsessed with learning about why giants fail. Whether it’s Enron or the Mafia, there are always lessons buried in their stories about what (not) to do. Given that, this book did not disappoint.
I grew up in the Blackberry era — I watched it singlehandedly transform how people communicated and did business. It’s easy to overlook the level of innovation that came from RIM/Blackberry but that would be foolish. Between BBM, the QWERTY keyboard and push email, it was in a league of its own. They literally changed the culture of work around the world.
The biggest takeaways from this book were on leadership, management and the dangers of losing focus. Ultimately, they company crashed and burned due to the shortsighted nature of it’s leadership team. The inability of its senior management to accept the fact that the iPhone had changed the game led to an endless string of failures, missed opportunities and chances to learn.
If you’re building a team, make sure everyone has a shared focus and no one is afraid to adapt when necessary. Otherwise, like Blackberry proved, anybody can catch the fade.
Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity by Hugh Macleod — This is an easy read that you can probably get through in one session. Creativity is something that needs to be nurtured and cultivated and Macleod breaks down efficient ways to cut through the noise. My favorite quote from this one is:
“Good ideas alter the power balance in relationships. That is why good ideas are always initially resisted.”
There’s a lot of wisdom in here for artists, entrepreneurs and everyone in between.
Unlabel by Marc Ecko — The Ecko/Complex Media brand has grown into something much bigger than most of us could’ve imagined. The thing I enjoyed the most from this book was hearing about Marc Ecko’s endless failures and his resilience to get back up and try something else. Whether it was airbrushing tees in a garage or a thousand other schemes, he never let failure define him. He’s also really honest about some of the traps he fell into due to his ego or circumstance and strips away the glamour that usually gets associated with success stories.