The Five Business Books That Permanently Changed My Life

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We buy a lot of books. Many of them don’t get read. Sadly.

I’m just as guilty as the next person of picking up the latest and greatest business book, with every intention of devouring every page. I fail at this with a spectacular flair. Over time, I’ve become the prototypical "get off my lawn" grumpy old man with business books that don’t grab the reader from the get-go, or the ones that regurgitate the same brand stories. It’s easy to be dismissive of the business book genre. Still over time – as more and more content gets created and shared online – there is something magical about spending a significant amount of time with a book and, actually learning from it. As I look across at the bookshelves that line my office and home studio, there are only a handful that I believe have fundamentally shaped the way that I think about business and marketing.

The Five Business Books That Permanently Changed My Life: 

  1. The Cluetrain Manifesto – The End of Business As Usual. Written by Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls and David Weinberger. This is the book that was able to verbalize everything that I was feeling (during the later eighties and onwards) about how technology – but more importantly, the Internet – was going to change everything about marketing, communications, media and advertising. When we talk about businesses becoming more human, The Cluetrain Manifesto, was truly able to create a vision for how brands and human beings would become ever-closely connected. To this day, you can read this book and still see how much further we will still go. Listen to my conversation with David Weinberger right here.
  2. Made To Stick – Why Some Ideas Survive And Other Dies. Written by Chip and Dan Heath (yes, they’re brothers). We talk a lot about what makes a video on YouTube go viral or how a brand can get more consumers to like them on Facebook. What we’re really asking is this: how do we get people to care about us? This is a book that many people read (or bought and claimed to read), but few took the time to go back to (for shame). Like a textbook. Because Made To Stick answers the question above. It’s one of the best books ever written on how to create a compelling story. A story that people will actually care about. If you want people to care, you have to tell them great stories. This is the seminal book on how a great story gets created, told and sold.
  3. Permission Marketing – Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. Written by Seth Godin. The truth is that Seth has written so many important books, that this list could be stacked with just a handful from his immensely rich business book catalog. I chose Permission Marketing, because what Seth asks of us business leaders in the book is still as relevant today, as it was when he first published this book in 1999. Here’s what Seth wrote about permission marketing on his blog: "Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them. It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention." Yes, this book calls for the end of pounding consumers with spammy messages. Listen to my conversation with Seth Godin right here.
  4. Re-Imagine! – Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age. Written by Tom Peters. While most people will think of In Search Of Excellence when they think of Tom Peters, I think of Re-Imagine! It may be a generational thing, but Tom Peters’ writing is the reason that I became such a voracious business book reader/fanatic. I feel in love with his direct, snappy and funny writing while reading The Project 50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Every "Task" into a Project That Matters! But, it was Re-Imagine! that really blew my mind. The book is super visual and filled with nuggets about how to be a leader in a world that continues to evolve. It covers everything from brands and technology to people, value and context. This book is permanently placed in the upper right corner on the top shelf of my collection… this way, I can always grab it. Listen to my conversation with Tom Peters right here.
  5. The Sales Bible – The Ultimate Sales Resource. Written by Jeffrey Gitomer. Many people turn their heads as sales books. Big mistake. Especially, when it’s a book written by Jeffrey Gitomer. I would argue that The Sales Bible should really be called, The Business Bible. First, this book is written in a friendly, smart and fun way. His big lesson? Stop trying to close a sale and start trying to build a lifelong relationship with people, so that they will always want to buy from you. Jeffrey once brilliantly stated this: "All things being equal, people like to do business with those that they know like and trust… but, all things being unequal, people still like to do business with those that they know like and trust." This book is filled with sales and business lessons. More importantly, this book is filled with life lessons. Listen to my conversation with Jeffrey Gitomer right here

What are the five business books that permanently changed your life?