Leadership Development

13 Books Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Read

And how you can find time to read more.

Two book tables at my local library. Some intern deserves a raise.

Two book tables at my local library. Some intern deserves a raise.

It’s been said that leaders are readers, but in truth, great leaders are voracious readers. Reading gives you a competitive advantage, plain and simple.

The two biggest hurdles that people tell me they deal with when it comes to reading are finding time to do so and the price tag that reading a lot can bring with it.

Let’s tackle the time issue first: if you read 20 pages a day, you’ll read around 20 books a year.

In case you think that still isn’t a doable goal, 15 minutes a day is 91 hours per year. Most people spend at least two hours a day scrolling social media – 30 days a year. An entire month! You have more time than you think.

Second, you can cut down on the cost of buying books by signing up for a good, old-fashioned library card.

I have a private list on Amazon called “library” and when a book is recommended to me or I come across one I want to read, I add it to that list. Then, the next time I’m at the library, it’s easy to pull up on my phone and see the list of books I didn’t want to forget about.

While I have created the habit of always checking the library first, if they don’t have the book, I buy it. If it’s a book I want to read again, I buy it. If I know the author, I buy it. Also, almost all libraries these days have the option to download the book to an ebook or audiobook app (like Libby) if you prefer to read books digitally.

I am a believer that the ideas contained within the pages of a book are what truly matter, and that reading a book with paper pages vs digital is simply a matter of preference. I will say though that when kids see me reading on a device, they tend to assume I’m on social media or checking email. Since the importance of reading is something that is both taught and caught, reading physical books while I’m at home is a priority for me in this season of my life. Libraries make this more doable and more affordable.

A Splendid tip: Designate a special shelf or space in your home for everyone’s library books to go. This way you aren’t digging books out from underneath your kids’ beds or searching for where you misplaced them once it’s time to turn them back in.

Below are some of my favorite books related to owning and running a business. I am sure there are several I loved that I am forgetting about at the moment. There are also many I read that are popular but that I felt “meh” about so they’re not listed here.

Also, these are mostly business books or non-fiction, but I make a point to read fiction and poetry as well. I find that well-written fiction gets my creative juices flowing in a way nothing else does. I often end a fictional story that has nothing to do with business brimming with new ideas for my company. If you’re feeling stuck, a cup of chamomile tea and a good fiction book may help you.

13 Books Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Read

1) On public speaking:
Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

(I’ve given this book as a gift so many times. It’s the best one on the subject, hands down.)

2) On entrepreneurship: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

(One of my favorite business quotes comes from this book: “As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried.”)

3) On business strategy: Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Reneé Mauborgne

4) On teams: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

5) On selling a service: You Can’t Teach Hungry: Creating the Multimillion Dollar Law Firm by John Morgan

(If you can read past the attorney-specific advice, there is plenty in here for people who sell creative and intellectual ideas rather than tangible products.)

6) On invisible affluence: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

7) On communication: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

(I also have this as an audio book and re-listen to it once a year.)

8) On business systems: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber

9) On business management: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

10) On leadership: Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden

11) On getting out of your own way: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

12) On decision making: Left Brain, Right Stuff: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions by Phil Rosenzweig

13) On focusing your mind: 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins by Dr. Jason Selk

(I started using methods from this book several years ago while preparing for my speaking engagements and it changed everything for the better, immediately. The author has since released another book called Executive Toughness: The Mental Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance.)

Original post published October 2018

Why People Hire the Mediocre Wedding Pro Instead of You

It has nothing to do with price.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

There is a woman who has written more than 25 books and makes her living as a professional author and as a writing professor at a university. She was up for a prestigious literary award and everyone just knew she was going to win.

The evening of the black-tie awards ceremony came and, while the nominees were being announced, she discreetly pulled her folded acceptance speech out of her purse.

Another woman’s name was announced from the stage. The award was given to a young author who had recently published her very first book.

The veteran author nursed her grudge through the rest of the ceremony, cycling through jealousy, self-pity, and even anger:

That award was rightfully hers!

She had been in the industry for decades!

Who was this nobody who came along and took the award after just one book?

She hadn't yet paid her dues!

After the event, the younger author approached her, stuck out her hand in introduction and asked, "Do you remember me?"

The veteran author confessed that she did not.

The younger author replied, "You were my writing professor in college. In fact, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life until I took your class. You were the one who inspired me to pursue a career as a writer. Thank you so much – I feel alive when I write, I love my life, and I owe that to you."

The veteran author was taken aback and, of course, immediately felt guilty about nursing any animosity towards the younger writer. This person she had felt jealous towards only a few moments before was crediting her for her success.

When it comes to the wedding industry, there’s a lot we can learn from this story.

Yes, in paving a path for others to follow, you may end up losing a wedding, or an award, or a speaking engagement, or a TV spot to someone much newer to the industry than you. Focusing only on these occasional losses is where people miss the forest for the trees.

If you want people to appreciate that what you offer is better, that what you offer is actually good, the market needs to have more actually good businesses in it. It seems like you should be able to stand apart by being good when surrounded by a sea of mediocrity, but real life rarely works that way.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: everyone likes to think of themselves as having exceptional taste, yet mediocrity sells every single day.

Vocalists who have to rely heavily on autotune make the Top 40 all the time.

Mismatched, poorly made leggings were the one of the hottest must-have items of the mid-2010’s.

Millions of people are currently drinking celery juice to cure their diseases because a guy on Instagram with zero medical training said that a ghost told him it was a good idea.

Everyone wants what everyone wants because humans are pack animals and we associate safety with numbers. Mediocrity sells because it’s familiar.

So, if you want more people to want what you offer, at the level of expertise and taste you offer it, then you need to help ensure that the better options are what’s familiar.

You need more legitimately good competitors producing legitimately good work and showing it off. Sharing what you know and working to leave the industry better than you found it will almost always come back to benefit you in the long run.

Generosity wins.

The original version of this post was originally published February 2012.

How To Succeed As A Mentor

Measuring what matters.

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

There are two popular ways to think about mentorship. The first is to go into it intent on turning your mentee into your “mini-me.” The second is to view mentorship as helping your mentee become more of who they are.

While it’s flattering to hear someone say they “want to be just like you,” it’s better to use your strengths to draw out their own.

The people you mentor may not think exactly the way you do and may even disagree with you on key issues. They may look at the way you’ve designed your career or lifestyle and say, “good for you, but not for me” and only want help in certain areas.

Your role as a mentor is to help people think about things from a different angle, to ask smarter questions, to empower them to take risks, to release untapped potential, to allow your perspective to help shape them into a better version of themselves.

Success as a mentor comes not from producing copies of yourself, but in helping people flourish in their own gifts and talents.

Originally published February 2014