I was recently visited by a good friend I went to university with. He’s still in the field of architecture, and it was the first time we’d seen each other since I’d given up on the industry in favor of entrepreneurship.
During his visit we talked a lot about the Architecture industry as a whole, our biggest problems with it, and why I ultimately decided it wasn’t what I wanted. I described moments at my job when I was working on designs for a high-end luxury apartment in the Lower East Side and thinking, “If I stay in this job, I will never be able to live like this.” Not that I dreamt of luxury penthouses and a $70,000 custom millwork closet (yes, this happened), but I did dream of financial freedom and travel, as well as working for myself.
When I was working at my job in architecture, I started a side project, Calm The Ham, which after 18 months of work was making decent money, especially compared to the $40,000 I was making at my job (which does not stretch far living in New York City). I was only able to work on Calm the Ham on weeknights and weekends, which slowly became harder and harder as I juggled this new life. In the 6 months prior to quitting my more stable job, I kept thinking what if I had the time and resources to make my newer venture full-time. What could I create if it was my only focus?
Then the negative thoughts would kick in. I don’t have an MBA. I never took a business studies class in high school. What do I know about running and growing a business?
I wasn’t about to quit my job, join an MBA program, and then start a business. I didn’t have the time, patience, or money for that.
I needed to learn the basic principles of business, both running and growing one. I made a reading list for myself of all the business books I had heard about from people I admired or that had been recommended to me personally. I spent $237.91 on 22 books, a hefty investment for me at the time and got reading.
The Reading Challenge
I must read my list of 22 books before I was allowed to quit my architecture job.
In January 2013, when I made the list, I was already itching to get out of the corporate world, so it was the perfect fuel for me to consume as many books as possible. Every morning and evening on my subway commute I would consume as much knowledge as possible, knowing that this could be my escape from the 9–5.
I quit my job November 26, 2013.
Here’s the list of books that made it possible to build not just one, but two businesses:
Personal Mindset & Inspiration
1. Awaken The Giant Within — Tony Robbins
An inspirational book by Tony Robbins. Difficult to drill down to one lesson I’ve learned but essentially this book has the potential to change your life.
2. Outliers — Malcolm Gladwell
Understanding the true stories of success and how people have thrived. Malcolm Gladwell presents the idea of it taking 10,000 hours to master a skill. I loved the great anecdotes of how hard work and luck (family background, birthplace, or even birth date) can play equally into success.
3. The Tipping Point — Malcolm Gladwell
Malcolm Gladwell explores the moment when a trend or idea reaches the magic “tipping point” when it spreads like wildfire.
4. The Millionaire Fastlane — MJ DeMarco
Become a producer instead of a consumer to attain wealth, and stop trading your time for money. This book partners well with the concepts from Rich Dad, Poor Dad (in the Finance section below).
5. Good to Great — Jim Collins
A 5 year study on what differentiates good companies from great companies. This is a great book for playing the long-game with your company as opposed to a quick fix.
6. The Four Hour Work Week — Tim Ferris
Takeaway: Making more money by working less — an alien concept, especially coming from architecture where we tend to work many more hours than we’re compensated for. I also learned the power of outsourcing. This alone has has helped my productivity immeasurably. I recommend this book to everyone whether they’re an entrepreneur or not.
7. The Compound Effect — Darren Hardy
Takeaway: I’m using the formula laid out in this book to become the best version of myself. This book is a basic manual for success and living an extraordinary life.
8. The 80/20 Principles — Richard Koch
Takeaway: Focus on critical tasks which require only 20% of efforts and create 80% of results. Hugely powerful concept, and I’ve found it to be generally true with my businesses. I used it with Calm the Ham to define my top customers — the 20% that give me 80% of revenue. Then I asked myself, How can I better serve these people?
9. The Ultimate Sales Machine — Chet Holmes
Takeaway: Stop doing 4,000 different things in my business. Through pigheaded discipline and determination I should do 8 specific tasks perfectly 4,000 times instead.
The time management chapter of The Ultimate Sales Machine was very helpful as I used to struggle with this. I took the advice from Chet Holmes and made an awesome planner to organize according to my most mission-critical tasks which later evolved into the SELF Journal.
10. The Power of Habit — Charles Duhigg
Takeaway: Through learning the science of habits creation, I’ve learned how to break some of my bad ones. There’s also great stories of how corporations have used habits to sell products. (The toothpaste one was my favorite.)
11. The Personal MBA — Josh Kaufman
A great overview of everything I needed to know (and more) about business without any fluff or buzzwords.
12. The Lean Startup — Eric Reis
Allocating resources as efficiently as possible so your business is organized for fast learning. Great book for how to make best use of limited resources.
13. The $100 Startup — Chris Guillebeau
Takeaway: Startup inspiration: You don’t need much money to begin a life of adventure and purpose. Proof: I started Calm The Ham with less than $500.
14. Crush it — Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk wrote this great book on turning passions and interests into real businesses. He explains how he uses passion, social media, and transparency within his businesses to crush his competition.
15. The E-Myth Revisited — Michael E. Gerber
Takeaway: Putting things in place so I’m working on my businesses instead of in them. This has allowed me the freedom to grow revenue and have more free time.
16. Purple Cow — Seth Godin
How the key to success is to stand out among my competition and avoid distinction in today’s economy.
17. ReWork — Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
Short yet impactful read by the thought leaders of 37 Signals. Stay small, embrace constraints, and build less.
18. This Book Will Teach You How To Write Better — Neville Medhora
This short read by Neville Medhora of Appsumo is a great introduction to copywriting and learning how to write better, converting people into customers and mind-hacks that make it easier to simply write.
19. To Sell is Human — Daniel Pink
Takeaway: “Selling” is not a dirty word. This book helped me become comfortable with the idea of selling. This book is great for understanding concepts behind sales and how to approach them.
20. Pitch Anything — Oren Klaf
A great introduction of how to structure sales calls or presentations to ensure prospects are engaged enough to buy in. Coming from a non-sales background, I found this especially interesting.
21. Rich Dad, Poor Dad — Robert T. Kiyosaki
Takeaway: This book really drilled in the concept of wealth, liabilities and assets. I remember sitting on the subway commute and thinking, Why didn’t I read this book 10 years ago? Better late than never.
22. I Will Teach You To Be Rich — Ramit Sethi
Takeaway: Personal Finance doesn’t have to be boring. I applied savings and negotiation tactics from this book to my life which both made and saved me money.