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The seven books that helped me on my entrepreneurial journey

If you take a look at any of my businesses, and you know what my influences in business are, you’ll see how much I’ve taken from the world around me and used it as an inspiration to build.

I still do today. See, we, humans, don’t create anything original; we only build on what’s been built before. We built on ideas and inventions alike. That’s how life works. That’s how the universe works.

So, it’s only fair for me to give back credit to the people and things that have helped me create the things I’ve made. From FantasticServices.com to a diving centre in Mexico — I’ve built them, taking inspiration from everywhere.

Let’s dive a bit deeper.

Inspiration on focus and purpose

When do you come up with your greatest ideas?

Let me answer that for you — it’s usually when you’re doing something that has nothing to do with work or actively thinking about something. That’s why shower thoughts and breakthroughs are so common. Our subconscious mind does the work while the conscious relaxes.

Meditation can do the same thing

But in order to get those breakthroughs, you need to know where to focus your efforts and what your purpose is.

Let’s begin with focus, as it tends to be the predecessor to purpose. Before you achieve anything grand, you have to mindfully focus on it — whether it’s your daily to-do, your career, your relationship, or even a business. You have to make a conscious decision that you’ll be focusing on that particular thing.

A book that played a major role for me as an entrepreneur was “The Pumpkin Plan” by Mike Michalowicz. The book’s message is simple, and it takes a closer look at pumpkin growers and how they grow competition-ready squash.

See, pumpkin growers start every season with a handful of plants. Once they start growing, all smaller vegetables are discarded, and the growers focus all their time, efforts, resources, and skills on the biggest pumpkin.

This is a simple premise but a vital one in the world of business — focus on what works and don’t be afraid to cut off the resource-draining tasks.

Purpose will help you decide exactly where to focus your time and resources. Now, I tend to look at purpose through the prism of success. What success really is?

To me, for a long time, success represented growing as a professional. Nowadays, a different kind of shift is happening where I’m focusing more on my family.

Robert Holden’s book “Success Intelligence” was vital in understanding what success is to my business partners and me. It’s also one of the main reasons why we focused our efforts on the people, planet, and profits, in that particular order.

We built a company that cares for the people and planet, leaving profits as a product of doing great work. That’s called finding a purpose.

On going through hard times

Every business is bound to hit a roadblock or two… or three. It’s only natural because if you don’t, you’re most likely not having an impact on the world. But, hustle culture rarely talks about the hard times of running a business. It’s all sunshine and rainbows, mansions and Lambo’s.

“The Hard Thing About Hard Things” by Ben Horrowitz came as a natural successor to “Success Intelligence”. It taught me that, when in hard times, businesses should think about their employees first, product second, and finally about profits.

It also highlights the fact that if you’re never alone in business. You have your team, but you also have access to an unlimited pool of information on how to deal with any problem.

Then, as I got older in my entrepreneurship life, I came about “Business Nightmares” by Rachel Elnaugh. Rachel argues that success is making it through the hard times and not the good times. I can’t agree more, but it’s also a point for every entrepreneur to experience for themselves.

I used to think my company was successful, but it was only when Covid hit, and we saw first-hand how quickly the whole world stopped to a halt did my business partners and I realise what success really is. It’s not about growth, t’s about sustainability when everything else around you falls apart.

Success and creativity go hand in hand

The business landscape is quickly changing into a world where ‘data’ is worth everything, and invention and innovation are quickly fading into the background.
I get that. After all, people want 100% security in their investment and data kind of gives them that feeling of control, however vague it may be. However, if you take a look at the world of data analysis and market trends and what people are buying, you could easily see products with no particular purpose thrive.

Gary Dahl invented Pet Rocks. It was a rock, sold in a box, marketed as a pet. Funny enough, he walked away with $15 million in profit six months after starting the company. We had fidget spinners a few years ago. No market analyst ever predicted the need for any of those products, yet they were raving success.

That’s because data is only valuable if you know how to use it. Yes, you can improve your product by analysing what customers think about your products. Yes, you can base decisions on expanding business operations, but don’t let data create your products. John Doerr’s “Measure What Matters” taught me that.

And when it comes to invention and innovation, “Steal Like an Artist” by Austin Kleon is by far the best 160 pages you will ever read in your life. The book goes through the real truth that there’s nothing truly original ever created. Everything is an amalgamation of previous human inventions mixed with creativity and the willingness to take, mix, and see what happens.

And if you feel like you’re stealing (ideas, I mean), and it’s below you, I strongly encourage you to watch “Everything’s a Remix“. You might find your favourite author or musician or director is a master in stealing like an artist.

On building for the future

Since antiquity, people have been fascinated by what we now call “memento mori”. Literally translated, it means “remember death”.

Philosophically, it stands for remembering that whatever you do in life will be the only thing that survives after you’re gone. When you look through that prism, your actions start to change, and you really start looking for positive ways to leave an imprint on this world.

“21 Assets” by my friend Daniel Priestley follows the same logic, although not to the extreme of death. The book shares his views on creating in business. Way too often, founders and CEOs focus on creating things that increase revenue. But true growth happens when you’re building assets.

Read more:
The seven books that helped me on my entrepreneurial journey

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