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There is something about the promise of a clean slate that a new year brings that motivates me to take a step back and look at my life, my business, and my goals objectively. This allows me to step into the new year with a focused mind and a clear direction. For me, books are what help me with this. As an avid reader, when the end of the year looms near I’m always trying to wrap up my annual reading list while simultaneously filling my reading calendar for the coming year.
I usually write a lengthy Facebook post to summarize my year’s best reads, but I thought this year I’d do it a little differently and provide a more in-depth summary as well as ask you to contribute to my list for 2021! My list contains 10 must-reads that I think every small-business owner-- heck, every adult-- should read. Whether you like to listen to your books or you prefer classic paper and ink, these effortless reads will help you slough off the soot of 2020 and tap into your best self.
If I’m being perfectly frank, (and I know I’m not alone) there are a million things I wish I was doing better at in my life. While this book was nothing groundbreaking, James Clear has a way with words that makes you realize that you can change your life slowly but surely with a series of small tweaks. We know biting off more than we can handle is the surest way to see failure, but how the book contextualizes incremental change really got me excited about making the changes I’ve been wanting to make but didn’t know HOW to make.
The first thing many people look to change in the new year is their bad habits. They’re tangible, they’re persistent, and they annoy us. Clear is one of the world's leading experts on habit formation and he lets his readers in on the secret of forming good habits and breaking bad ones. Clear offers proven, practical strategies on how to compound tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.
The E-Myth, or “the entrepreneurial myth” is the assumption that every small business owner is an entrepreneur who can successfully run a business simply because they understand the technical work of their business. To put it another way, a chef may make delicious meals, but this does not mean they will be a successful restaurant owner. Michael E. Gerber is a small business consultant and in his book, The E-Myth, he illustrates the distinction between working on your business and working in your business. Gerber distills his keen insight gained from years of experience and demonstrates how common assumptions and unrealistic expectations can get in the way of running a successful business.
The E-Myth is one of the best business books of all time. While slightly hokey in its unfolding, it hits home on the well-roundedness and vision needed to start and grow a business. Chock-full of great reminders that you need to continue to evolve, the E-Myth is a great read for a scratch practice owner, but also a great read for an experienced business owner’s fine-tuning.
I loved the concept of Profit First, though I picked it up a little later in my entrepreneurial journey than I should have. I didn’t glean as much from it as I had hoped I would and, if I’m being honest, it sounded a little overcomplicated, but if you’re just starting out, this is a great read.
You have probably seen the common formula of “Sales - Expenses = Profit.” There’s nothing wrong with using this budgeting method, but Mike Michalowicz offers a different approach that allows for more profit. His inversed formula is this: Sales - Profit = Expenses. The thought process behind this is simple. If you’re trying to cut down calories, you’ll likely limit yourself to smaller portions. The same logic can be applied to portioning your own business’s budget. This book provides practical advice on how you can make your business more profitable than ever by simply flipping your formula.
This was hands-down my favorite read of 2020. As a small business owner, you likely know the value of a steadfast team. (You also probably know how hard it is to create this dream team!) If you’re looking for expert insight on how you can cultivate a culture that your team is proud to be a part of, take a cue from Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last. During a conversation with a Marine Corps general, Sinek realized the key to successful leadership is the willingness to sacrifice one’s own comfort for the good of their team. Sinek watched as the junior Marines ate their meals first while the Officers with more seniority waited in the back of the line. The logic is simply to look after those in your care first. This creates a sense of safety, camaraderie, and mutual respect that will help any team thrive, no matter what industry you are in.
Process, process, process. If you don’t have enough of it in your business - pick up this book today. Nowadays our lives are busier than ever. Our fast-paced, high-tech world simultaneously makes it easier for us to get more done in a day and allows the small tasks to fall through the cracks. However, checklists can help keep us juggling the balls of our personal and professional life. Atul Gawande maintains that the simple idea of the checklist still has value in modern society and in Checklist Manifesto, he reveals how making checklists can help even the busiest, most scatter-brained people navigate the complexity of daily life.
If you have watched Simon Sinek’s wildly popular TED talk, “Start With Why,” you know that he’s got powerful insight on leadership. Regardless of whether you’ve watched the TED talk or not, this book is a valuable resource for leaders in all fields. Sinek illustrates what makes leaders magnetic and how finding the “why” behind your idea or vision will make you more successful. When you love what you do and feel that your work is meaningful and makes a difference in some way, you feel rewarded and valued. That is exactly how I feel about Wonderist. It is so magical to see our practices grow and flourish. Finding our “why” certainly has helped us grow Wonderist to be what it is today.
The full title of this book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, says it all. In order to streamline your life and be able to focus on what truly matters in a world where we are all constantly spread too thin, one must be disciplined. It takes effort to focus your energy on what needs to be done when there is an endless number of side-projects that can pull you away at any given moment. As a mother and a co-founder of a company, I know this feeling well. My days seem to be constantly filled to the brim and have me jumping from task to task. If you can relate to that at all, you should pick up a copy of Greg McKeown’s Essentialism. It will give you the tools to take back control of your invaluable time by keenly discerning what is actually essential in your life.
Psychologist Angela Duckworth did not have a straight path to success in her career. Despite being the daughter of a brilliant scientist, she felt she lacked “the smarts” that her parents seemed to be naturally imbued with. However, through dedication and determination, she was able to become a successful psychologist. Her journey taught her that pure talent does not equal success. Instead, it is a combination of passion, determination, and focused persistence which she calls “grit” that will get you to where you want to be.
I definitely found myself relating my experiences to Duckworth’s struggles. People sometimes automatically assume Michael and I just woke up one morning and had a solid business, but we actually started Wonderist with a $100 bill at a kitchen table! Business ownership is not for the faint of heart and it’s getting up every morning and repeatedly getting punched in the gut and continuing on. It ain’t pretty. It ain’t fun. But GRIT is 1000% what it takes. It is finding a way to pick yourself up, no matter the loss, and move forward through it- flexing the muscles that hurt over and over again until you become strong.
I can’t lie. I almost put this one down during the first chapter because it’s basically Phil Knight talking about how amazing he is. But when I realized that Phil Knight had a tie to Japan, I was hooked. (Japan lover over here!) If you love origin stories, this one’s for you. Phil Knight, the founder of Nike (a.k.a. “The Man Behind the Swoosh”), gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how his company began and how it got to be the iconic brand it is today. Shoe Dog will satisfy your curiosity as well as provide compelling examples of how business owners can compose themselves in the face of adversity.
No matter where you are in life, this book is for you. I’ve read it at least three times and it’s a great reminder that you are in charge of your destiny. For investors big and small, this book has applications for you. It offers simple, easy-to-read advice on personal finances that your parents probably didn’t teach you. Robert Kiyosaki shares his story of growing up and navigating the advice of two father figures in his life- his father and his best friend’s rich dad. Kiyosaki also offers advice on making your money work for you, which is more pertinent than ever these days, despite the trite nature of the phrase. Even though this book was written about two decades ago, it stands the test of time and provides candid insights that are still applicable today.
Many things are still uncertain in our ever-shifting world, but one thing remains constant. We will always have the ability to better ourselves, our lives, and our careers through education and collaboration. At Wonderist, we love to chat and bounce ideas off each other because we recognize that every Bud is a unique source of knowledge and wisdom. I think sharing resources and creating sincere discussions is incredibly valuable and can lead you to discoveries you would have never thought of alone. That’s why I want to know: Do you have any books you think I should add to my 2021 reading list? Also, are you going to be adding any of my recommendations to your list? Want to talk books? Connect with me here or find me on Instagram at lauraamaly (note the double a's).
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