I don’t quite recall when I discovered that I had aspirations of running my own business. Certainly I never did have much of a fancy for the expected 9 to 5 work-week, nor did the idea of sitting at a desk all day drive me wild with anticipation…
I have no aversion to hard work however, in fact I truly love being challenged in most avenues of life. Whether it be that pesky customer with a project whose scope appears to grow by the second, or that last exhaust manifold bolt which appears to have been magicked into place by the vehicle manufacturer – there is little as rewarding as that final moment when you realise that the problem is solved and that you played a role (sometimes the lead) in achieving its solution.
The idea of working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year, 50 years a lifetime however… well honest to goodness that sounds truly awful.
So where does that leave this poor, confused graduate engineer? It leaves him where it leaves most people I guess – that is to say working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 48 weeks a year… It seems remarkable in contemplation that time can pass so quickly when it appears that you are not taking one single forward step.
Okay I admit it: I’m dramatising. I think my creative writing has been quashed beneath the polite practicalities of customer interaction just a little too long – hell a moment ago this article was about books that made me want to become an entrepreneur and now its… well I’m not totally sure what it is.
Onward and upward I guess – let’s get cracking!
Book #1: Rich Dad Poor Dad
by Robert Kiyosaki
It may not technically be an entrepreneur book as such, but this seminal work of personal finance managed to spark a pivotal thought-shift in me. It helped me realise that a lot of people do not even consider that they may be living a life formatted purely out of social habit – that the way they think about work, money and their very expectations from life are most often a consequence of their upbringing. In short it became apparent to me that those who have not been directly exposed to the possibility of exiting the “daily grind” are likely to believe that it is simply an option reserved for the elite upper class.
Rich Dad Poor Dad gave me almost a guilty rush when I first began to read it, as if I was covertly peeking into a room I’d been told to stay out of. I found that I was quickly fond of the concept of “financial literacy” and came to the conclusion that understanding key concepts like assets and cash flow were imperative to my personal economic development. It suddenly seemed all so simple and more importantly urgent that I felt I should run out my front door and begin furiously accumulating assets and reinvesting their earnings. That sort of excited energy is precisely what I hope to find in these sorts of books!
Intelligence solves problems and produces money. Money without financial intelligence is money soon gone.
While not without its own controversies regarding a somewhat disparaging view of the working class, I thoroughly recommend this book for a thought-provoking, eye-opening narrative that truly made me believe that I too could be rich if I would only take the time to educate myself.
Book #2: Winning Without Losing
by Martin Bjergegaard & Jordan Milne
I came across this book at a little budget store that seems to specialise in piles of disorganised books that have suffered a little bit of shelf damage. At the time I was in the midst of one of my frequent bouts of guilty cramming (borne of a sense of apathy) and was therefore desperately hoarding all manner of books on entrepreneurship, starting businesses and autobiographies of the rich and successful. As a result when I came across this lovely cheerful cover with a little discounted price sticker in the corner I immediately snatched it up and took it home with me (via the counter to pay of course).
I am so very glad that I did. To this day the practices and case studies in this book make me so bubbly and excited at the prospect of starting my own business that in writing this I think I may have convinced myself to read it all over again. The overarching message in this book is, “Yes you can start a successful business” and “No you do not have to give up the next few decades of your life to do so.”
It is now possible to optimise our business success and personal happiness at the same time. We call it The New Dual Optimum.
The book is full of time-saving practices, tools to increase efficiency, and processes to approach the truly difficult issues of starting a new enterprise – all posed in an easy-to-read sequence of 66 succinct yet uplifting essays.
I can not recommend this book enough for any aspiring entrepreneur, or for those perhaps harbouring doubts that the terms ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘work-life balance’ could/should ever be used in a sentence together!
Book #3: Choose Yourself
by James Altucher
James is a very raw author and his book is consequently not the most refined piece of literature you are likely to lay eyes on. It can be quite a laugh at times though as a result!
For every Mark Zuckerberg there are 1,000 Jack Zuckermans. Who is Jack Zuckerman? I have no idea. That’s my point.
His writing style does, on-occasion, bear more than a passing resemblance to the rantings of an excitable man on the train but these rants, however, are just chock full of the kind of inspirational calls to action that left me furiously typing ideas into a tiny phone touch screen at 2.00am (Often contorting myself in order to tilt the phone in such a way as to avoid waking my sleeping partner.)
James’ philosophy is perfectly described in the title of his book: he calls out against the futility of begging for a safe job in an economy which is quickly rendering the very concept extinct, begging his audience to choose themselves instead. He suggests that I exercise my “idea muscle” and fortify my body, mind and soul with a “daily practice” that includes taking the time to appreciate all the good things in life. I would lie in bed each night after work and fill a page with random ideas – many of which were utter nonsense – in order to tire out my brain, even after the slowest of days in the office. Those ideas are still sitting there of course, no doubt anxiously awaiting the day I choose to bring them to life.
It is hard not to respect James’ utter honesty when it comes to sharing the trials he has faced in his life; not shying from talk of failed businesses, bankruptcy and even suicide.
I would look at my daughters and cry because I felt like I had ruined their lives.
I recall the powerful emotions erupting from those first few pages, empathy for the raw panic he felt as the weight of failure and debt began to crush him alive. I admit that I almost put the book down there and then, considering finding a more cheerful leisure activity. I am of course glad, however, that I soldiered on because it later proved to be an enthusiastic book full of interesting concepts, a few obvious (though often neglected) healthy habits, and a whole mess of personal anecdotes from his life that will have you either laughing or crying with each chapter.
As an interesting aside: when he first released the book, James offered a money back guarantee like no other. If you were to purchase and read the book, then you needed only to share your experiences on the book (positive or negative) and in return he would send you your money back. He explained that he did not need the income from the book but felt that people did not place value on a product that they had received for free. In essence he claimed that the purchase price was a psychological device designed to make his audience more receptive to his teachings, rather than being a source of income.
This has expired I believe, but since the e-book is now available for the whopping investment of $1.00 USD… well I for one am inclined to believe him.
Book #4: The 4 Hour Work Week
by Timothy Ferriss
Look at that cheerful cover! Palm trees, a hammock, cheerful yellow font promising all manner of wild fantasies… while no doubt a charming departure from reality, what practical information could this book possibly offer to an aspiring businessperson?
The answer is “a heck of a lot”.
Timothy’s book has achieved almost cult status within the world of online entrepreneurship due to its formulaic, practical and actionable methodology for one trying to achieve true freedom and enter the ranks of the “New Rich”.
I am actually three-quarters through reading this at the moment, so perhaps I have jumped the gun a little – but very rarely have I felt so compelled to take notes while reading a book (that didn’t result in a university grade anyhow).
How is it possible that all the people in the world need exactly 8 hours to accomplish their work? It isn’t. 9-5 is arbitrary.
A key lesson for me thus far has been to recognise and observe the Pareto Principle (commonly known as the “80-20 Rule”) as it affects my life. Examples include:
- 80% of the results come from 20% of the work,
- 80% of the issues come from 20% of the clients,
- 80% of the comments come from 20% of your reader, the list is truly endless
The reason this principle resonates so strongly for me is because it is actually something I had often preached in the past when it came to university assignments – something many of my fellow graduates could attest. It is also apparent in my current employment, where it often appears that we spend the vast majority of our time dealing with customers and processes which are only responsible for an infinitesimal share of the monthly revenue.
I have always been a firm advocate of working smart (hard too if it is truly unavoidable) and I strongly believe that recognising these relationships is a core requirement in doing so. Knowing where to direct my efforts is often half the battle, keeping myself from wandering off to a bar somewhere is the rest.
I’m sure I’ll have much more to add in short time, especially once I finish this bloody post but for now I can easily recommend this book for the budding adventurer and seasoned veteran alike.
That’s it folks!
To all who have made it this far I would like to thank you so very much for taking the time to read my post and I would now really love to hear from you! Please chuck any thoughts you may have on the list in the comments below – I promise I will read each and every one!