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5 Non-Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

5 Non-Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

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There’s no shortage of books about how to run your business.

I’ve read hundreds of excellent ‘how-to’ books, from The Ultimate Sales Machine to The Hard Thing About Hard Things. They’ve helped us revolutionize our operations and optimize our growth.

But (and I learned this the hard way), as an entrepreneur, your success depends on more than just happy customers and a solid bottom line.

Your ability to focus, manage time, enjoy the journey and cope with the ups and downs of any growing business, is just as important.

Simply put, your health is crucial to the health of your business.

So, here are five non-business books that helped me get my life in order and, by doing so, had a huge impact on my business.

1. Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less (by Greg McKeown)

1_Flat_Essentialism, the Disciplined Pursuit of Less (by Greg McKeown)

The main premise of this book is that time is by far your most valuable resource. It is finite, and there’s not much you can do to meaningfully extend the time you have on earth. Most people have lots of things they want to do and achieve – way more than is possible in their lifetimes. If you’re one of these people (and I certainly am) and you try to do everything on your wishlist (as I certainly did), you will end up burned out and disappointed (I certainly was).

In Essentialism, Greg McKeown introduces the concept that every decision about how to spend your time is a trade-off. For example, by going to work early, you’re giving up the opportunity to have breakfast with your kids. The book teaches you how to identify the things that are most important to you (the top 5%) and focus your energy on those things. It also, importantly, teaches you how to ‘say no gracefully’ to everything else.

According to McKeown, the most successful people in the world accept that life is a series of perpetual trade-offs. They make sure to focus only on the things that are really important to them, and happily say no to everything else. It’s all about the pursuit of ‘the right thing, in the right way, at the right time’.

This book makes for a more enriching life generally, and this definitely filters through to your business.

2. Doing Good Better (by William MacAskill)

2_Doing Good Better (by William MacAskill)

I loved this easily digestible book, in which the author applies logic, science and data analysis to the notion of altruism. Lots of people want to be charitable and we’re often persuaded into doing things because they are “for a good cause”. But how do we know how good that cause actually is, and how much better it is than other causes? Just because a charity is delivering projects that sound worthwhile doesn’t mean that they actually are worthwhile. Lots of charities are set up with great intentions but fail in their execution, or deliver results that simply aren’t meaningful to the intended recipients.

This guide to effective altruism helps you evaluate charities based on their real-world impact per $ donated. Before you donate a penny or a second of your time, make sure you are using your resources efficiently to really and truly assist others.

Entrepreneurship and philanthropy often go hand in hand, and many entrepreneurs feel pressure to ‘change the world’ with their product or service. However, this book invites the reader to step back and identify how best they can have a real positive impact on the world. The good news is that you don’t need to run a social enterprise, volunteer for a charity or grow dreadlocks to give back. It’s very possible that one of your best options for leaving the world better off for having you is to ‘earn to give’. This means, deliberately pursuing a high-earning career to be able to donate a significant portion of your earned income to a good cause.

This book is therefore essential reading for any altruistically-minded entrepreneur.

3. The Chimp Paradox (by Professor Steve Peters)

3_The Chimp Paradox (by Professor Steve Peters)

According to Steve Peters, we all have an inner chimp. It’s your emotional machine that thinks independently from you – it’s not good or bad, but it is reactive and impulsive and if left unmanaged, it can make you behave in a way that you really will regret later.

This book helps you learn how to identify and live with your chimp – without getting bitten by it. To achieve this, you need to understand how it behaves, why it thinks and acts in the way that it does.

It’s not just a cute metaphor – there’s heaps of science behind the theory. Managing your impulsive, emotional chimp as an adult human is one of the biggest factors in determining how successful you are in life (with success being determined in terms of relationships, business, personal and health achievements). Ultimately, in order to survive and thrive, we need to tame our chimp and keep our emotional reactions in check. The book teaches you how.

4. The Willpower Instinct (by Kelly McGonigal)

4_The Willpower Instinct (by Kelly Mcgonigal)

Kelly McGonigal is a neuroscientist at Stanford and this book is based on her wildly popular course: ‘The Science of Willpower’. It teaches you about self-control and gives you the tools to harness it to improve your health, happiness, and success.

Willpower is about doing the hard thing now for a future payoff. This is not a weight loss book: it’s about how you develop and strengthen your willpower muscle to be better at everything. The writing is witty and easy to read – there’s no psychobabble or incomprehensible jargon.

I’ve found this book truly life-changing, as it’s enabled me to overcome some of my most ingrained behaviors and habits.

5. The Speed Reading Bible (by Susan Norman and Jan Cisek)

5_The Speed Reading Bible (by Susan Norman and Jan Cisek)

Now that I’ve added to the pile of books on your bedside table, here’s one to help you plow through them faster – and remember what you’ve read!

The Speed Reading Bible is a boon for anyone feeling overwhelmed by all the information they need to absorb. It provides 37 solid techniques to help you double your reading speed and includes study skills, memory tricks, and accelerated learning strategies.

The upside of being able to take in more in less time is that you have more time to do other things. So, not only are you more informed – you’re also way more productive.

Guest author: Heather Baker is the CEO and founder of TopLine Comms, an integrated digital marketing agency with offices in Cape Town and London. She still finds time for sleeping and reading.

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