While I certainly picked up a lot of my best business lessons through both personal experience and my coursework at the Argyros School of Business, I’ve always gotten so much out of books that are written by seasoned entrepreneurs.
These books are a glimpse inside the minds of the people who’ve been through it all and persevered. They went on to accomplish exactly what I wanted to do after graduating from college. For that reason, these books can massively enhance your learning curve while making progress towards becoming an entrepreneur.
Today, I put together my picks for the seven top business books every college entrepreneur needs to read before starting up. You can also check out my more than seventy other recommendations for the best business books right here.
Here are my picks for the 7 must-read business books for every college entrepreneur.
1. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss.
I’ve read this entire 650 page long beast that dives into everything Tim Ferriss, the multi-New York Times Bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, has learned—tactics, routines and habits—from interviewing more than 200 of the world’s most recognizable figures in business, sports, academia, the military and just about every other imaginable industry on The Tim Ferriss Show, which now has 100 million+ downloads.
Tools of Titans wins my #1 pick because it so naturally captures the best business advice, productivity tips, life lessons and so much more from all the guests of Tim’s podcast ranging from Tony Robbins, to Derek Sivers, Daymond John and many more. Reading this business book is one of the most affordable investments you can make in your future as an entrepreneur.
2. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.
The title alone sold me on this book, but it’s been recommended to me by several friends. This New York Times Bestseller is built around the core argument, backed by academic research, that improving our lives hinges not on our ability to turn “lemons into lemonade,” but on learning to stomach the lemons better. It’s about setting realistic expectations for ourselves. Embracing our fears, faults and uncertainties to begin finding the courage, honesty, responsibility we seek. I can’t wait to dive into this one.
One of the things I like most about this book is how the author, Mark Manson‘s personal w
riting style truly reflects the title of the book. What reads as 2 parts deep life advice and 1 part comedy, keeps you engaged and anxiously anticipating what comes next.
3. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport.
A Wall Street Journal Bestseller, this book argues that one of the most valuable skills in the world is quickly becoming rare—the ability to focus without distraction on a demanding task. Author Cal Newport explains that by mastering this skill, you’ll be able to more effectively process complicated information and deliver better results in less time as a result.
This is one of those books I picked up and started reading because I needed to reaffirm my commitment to not allowing myself to get distracted by chasing the wrong opportunities and spending time in other ways that don’t help me achieve my most meaningful goals. Many of the principles covered in this book helped me refine my opportunity management system for being more productive while wearing the many different hats it takes to be a content marketer, blogger and course creator on a daily basis. So, if you’re spreading yourself too thin, want to learn how to eliminate (and stay away from) distractions and get back to doing only what you do best—Deep Work is guaranteed to help you accomplish that.
4. The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget and a Hunger for Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage by Daymond John.
I’m a huge fan of great stories about how entrepreneurs have risen from humble beginning to start a business from scratch and rise to fame. Shark Tank star and Fubu Founder, Daymond John embodies this in true form through his origin story within The Power of Broke. In this book, he discusses how to get scrappy and how to leverage the tools, relationships and resources at your disposal to build a successful business on a small budget.
He emphasizes how starting a business when you’re broke forces you to think creatively and use your limited resources efficiently. It forces you to be innovative. Even more importantly, he explains how he’s intentionally placed resources constraints on himself over the years & how that’s helped him make the most of what he’s had. The Power of Broke is just as applicable to first-time entrepreneurs as it is seasons veterans.
5. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.
This book takes a close look at the power of innovation. PayPal founder and first Facebook investor, Peter Thiel shows how we can still go about creating new things. Which I completely agree with—we haven’t invented everything yet. In Thiel’s opinion, we are actually living in an age of technological stagnation because everybody is blinded by shiny objects and new gadgets. There’s more to innovation and progress than what computers and Silicon Valley have to offer—and many of the best business ideas are still out there waiting to be built.
The key to progress, according to Thiel, is learning to think for yourself. When you do something new, you are moving from 0 to 1 (hence, the title). His thesis in the book is that the next generation of successful entrepreneurs will make completely new things—not just updates of our existing products. In this business book, Zero to One, he lays out how to train yourself to be an innovator.
6. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek.
Start with Why grew out of a TED talk delivered by the author, Simon Sinek, which has become the third most popular TED Talk ever. It’s built around the question, “Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential and more profitable than others?” This book’s basic premise is that the leaders who have had the greatest influence, act and communicate in the same way—which is the opposite of how most people function.
Sinek calls this idea, “The Golden Circle,” and it all begin with the question, “Why?” Interestingly, the reviews for this business book are very polarizing. Readers either love it or hate it. Personally, I love it. I think the harshest reactions and reviews come from readers who have difficulty viewing themselves objectively, taking in critical feedback and translating it into positive changes in leadership. It’s much easier to blindly continue on down the same path… What do you think?
7. The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.
In this book, author and entrepreneur Eric Ries takes us through the lean startup approach, which has changed the way that many startup founders seek to build companies and launch new products—largely based around the principle of rapid idea validation before investing heavily into an idea. His definition of a startup is broad, any business from a solopreneur, blogger or freelancer operating out of their garage to a venture-backed project within a Fortune 500 company, as long as you’re determined to discover a successful path to building a sustainable business.
The Lean Startup offers entrepreneurs a way to validate business ideas, test their visions continuously, to adapt and modify before any real damage is done. This business book provides a new approach to successfully managing a startup and also talks through some of the innovative online business tools that can help you accelerate your path towards validation along the way.
What’d I miss?