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Every year, I set a goal for how many books I want to read. This year my goal is to read 52 books—or one book a week.
So you could say I’m a sucker for any lists suggesting books to read.
For this post, I collaborated with Heath to list out the top six books we recommend for creative entrepreneurs. There are a lot of great business books out there, but as a blogger, videographer, and sometimes-people-like-my-Instagrams photographer, business books feel a little…dry.
So the books on this list are great for creative entrepreneurs who are building a business pursuing passions like writing, photography, crafting, video, music, etc.
Basically, these are great business books that aren’t boring books about finances and markets and stocks and <insert business word that I don’t understand here>.
Let’s kick off with my new all-time favorite book:
1. Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
I just read Steal Like An Artist for the first time and it won’t be the last. This book changed my life. I hate when people say that, but it’s really true! It opened my eyes to stop being so self-conscious about my work and start focusing on creating, regardless of my own insecurities. It’s all about this idea that while there is nothing new under the sun, that shouldn’t keep you from learning from the greats and creating your own work.
The whole book takes a little over an hour to read and despite being such a small book, it’s filled with quotes that spoke directly to me, especially this one, on a topic I’ve been talking about a lot lately.
“You might be scared to start. That’s natural. There’s this very real thing that runs rampant in educated people. It’s called ‘imposter syndrome.’
The clinical definition is a “psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments.’ It means that you feel like a phony, like you’re just winging it, that you really don’t have any idea what you’re doing.
Guess what: None of us do. Ask anybody doing truly creative work, and they’ll tell you the truth: They don’t know where the good stuff comes from. They just show up to do their thing. Every day.”
Yeah I know that is 100% true, because I really have NO idea what I’m doing over here. I’m just making it up every day, and apparently, I’m in good company. Everywhere I go lately this is message has stuck with me. None of us know what we’re doing. We’re all just making it up as we go along.
The book also has TONS of inspirational quotes from artists, writers, and creatives like:
“Art is theft.” – Pablo Picasso or
“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.” – Salvador Dali
Salvador really got me with that thought. Sometimes I try so hard to do something no one’s ever done before…and then I end up getting disheartened and creating nothing! This book really opened my mind and gave me the confidence and inspiration to pursue creative work, like our Youtube videos that we’re reviving while we’re here in New Zealand.
2. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
This is my favorite book of all time. I’ve probably read it six times since a friend recommended it to me back in college. And every time I read it, I come away with something new. It’s that good!
Don wrote a NYT best-selling book called Blue Like Jazz that you may have heard of. In this follow-up book, Don is working with screenwriters to turn his book into a movie and realizes that the transition isn’t as easy as he thought. The book shares so much insight into the art of telling your story (which is incidentally what Don is an expert in now, some eight years later). Plus he goes on some epic adventures that remind me that all your crazy dreams are possible, if you’re willing to work for them.
I’ve read almost all of his books (one of which inspired our RV lifestyle) and this one is my absolute favorite!
If you want to dive deeper into the art and science of storytelling, I highly recommend reading Donald Miller’s latest book, StoryBrand.
3. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
This is the single most common book Heath recommends people read. In case you hadn’t noticed, Heath has a lot of ideas and the energy to chase them all, a trait I’ve noticed many entrepreneurs have in common.
But you can’t simultaneously start 17 businesses (ahem, Heath, you can’t simultaneously start 17 businesses!!!).
In this book, Gary Keller, the co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, shares how to focus on what really matters.
“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – work, family, health, friends and spirit – and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for balance in your life.” —Bryan Dyson
Whenever we get too stressed or overwhelmed with work, we remind ourselves that work is the rubber ball. It can bounce back, but others can’t. It’s the perfect reminder to focus on what matters.
4. The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is Heath’s favorite author right now. I think he’s read all of his books at this point.
In this book Ryan draws insight from Stoicism (interestingly Heath has read a lot of books by Stoics), namely the principle to focus on what you can control and not what you can’t. In that way, you turn your obstacles into opportunities to grow.
The big thing that’s in front of you—the big obstacle keeping you from whatever dream you’re chasing or whatever company you’re building—that’s what you have to go through the gain the experience that you need to succeed. The only way out is through, as they say.
It’s the perfect book if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed and need encouragement to keep pushing on.
5. Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
Another by Ryan Holiday! (Heath also recommends Ego is the Enemy but I told him he could only add three books to the list.)
When we first were married, we couldn’t think much past six months. We had no clue what life would look like in a year or two years or five years. We were always thinking in short-term goals, like getting on TV or posting on social media.
But we knew if we wanted to be successful, we needed to play the long game and learn how to focus on long-term growth and success.
Perennial Seller looks at how some people and products continue to be successful years after production (think Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week, which was published almost a decade ago and continues to be one of the most influential books on business). If you’re creating a product and want to learn how it can withstand the test of time, this is a must-read.
6. Choose Yourself by James Altucher
This was hands down the best book I read last year, but I almost didn’t read it based on the title.
I mean really, Choose Yourself, sounded a little too rah-rah for me. But I’m so glad I gave it a chance.
It made me realize how often I put others before me—and I don’t mean in a kind, selfless way. I mean in an not believing I’m capable of doing it way. Back when Heath and I had two separate blogs, I remember him chiding me for always putting our client work before my website, even though writing was what I loved most. I thought that was the wise thing to do—considering our clients were our only income at the time.
But years later after reading this book, I could see what Heath was pointing out. I was avoiding my own work because I was scared of chasing after my dreams. Because what if I failed? What if it didn’t work out? Then I’d have to go back to freelance work, so I might as well hang out here where it’s safe for a little while longer.
There’s a lot of quotes from this book that I love, but this one stuck with me for a while:
“No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter who your audience is: 30 percent will love it, 30 percent will hate it, and 30 percent won’t care. Stick with the people who love you and don’t spend a single second on the rest. Life will be better that way.”
That was exactly what I needed to hear. (And since reading this book I’ve not only published a book of my own, but I’ve also quit client work altogether and am currently working on teaching my first course!)
Plus in the book, Altucher gives a TON of tactical advice on everything from how to start your own agency to how to rule the morning to investing to how many hours a day you should work.
If you need an encouraging kick in the pants to chase after the life you want, I can’t recommend this book enough.
I’m not going to tell you the title of this book, because if you’re a man, you’ll write it off immediately. But trust me—this is the most detailed guide on starting a business I’ve ever seen. It blew me away with how it walked through building a business from establishing your mission statement to preparing yourself mentally for the challenges ahead.
If you want someone to walk you step-by-step through how to start your business, this is the book you need to read.
Like I said, I love to read and my goal is to finish 52 books this year. What’s the best book you’ve read for entrepreneurs? Drop the title in the comments!