This Marketer’s Favorite Books (& Podcasts)
If you can believe it, I’ve read (listened to, in reality) more books in these last 6 months than I have in my entire life—about 3 times as many. I had an excuse. I argued that you just couldn’t learn the type of stuff I was doing in books, and that ‘doing’ was better. Perhaps that’s just being ignorant, but I’ve heard some pretty good arguments for not reading much, from (ironically) authors like Gary Vaynerchuk.
For me however, I feel a bit ashamed and all around disappointed for not getting into ‘reading’ sooner. After polishing off a good book I often think of all the time I wasted doing mindless crap, when I could have been learning. That really frustrates me. All the TV I used to watch, specifically.
Anyways, I think the turning point was when I happened upon an app called Audible. I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but if you haven’t, it’s by far the best of the audiobook apps I’ve tried. You must download it, you just must. You get a free book when you sign up, if you need some extra incentive.
Since discovering Audible, I have listened to 8 days, 23 hours and 13 minutes of recorded books (on this app alone). Roughly 20-25 books I’d say. So far this month, I’ve listened to about 40 hours. How do I find all the time you are probably asking? Any moment my brainpower isn’t otherwise required. I let it seep into everything from buying groceries to cooking to brushing my teeth, to the moments before I fall asleep. I am constantly either listening to an audiobook, podcast or documentary. It’s amazing. All the books that previously collected dust on my shelves, I have now read. Reading books is painful for me, but listening on the other hand…love it.
Anyways, I thought I’d share some of the books I have recently read that have made the most impact, both personally and in business.
If you keep up with my writings, then you knew this one was coming. Scrum: the Art of Doing Twice in Half the Time. The name says it all. I’ve learned techniques that have enabled my team to get more done, more quickly, and best of all, measure that speed so that we can continue to speed up. It’s number one on my list because it’s changed our game, and is going to enable us to compete, and perform at a level I only previously dreamt of. I’ve written about how to employ Scrum here.
This next one is a bit of a curve ball. Like so many, I had a pretty turbulent childhood. Single mother raising two kids, runaway father…you know the story. Anyways, in this book the author tells a story of a very relatable (to many I am sure) family where the father just couldn’t help himself. He just was who he was, and his family sort of hated him for it. But as the main character, the eldest son came to understand, he was imposing his own expectations of what a father should be, or how he’d be if he was a father on someone else. He learned that if he was going to have any sort of relationship with his father, he needed to drop those expectations, and just accept his father at face value.
This resonated with me personally, and it changed the way I manage my people. It’s not fair to hold my team to the same standards I hold myself. They don’t have the same stake I have. Most haven’t been here from day one. It’s not their ‘child.’ So how unfair it would be to expect them to treat it the same way, and work with the same fervor that I do. It’s not realistic. And if I intend to keep this wonderful, amazing, talented group I’ve been so lucky to accumulate, I need to be realistic. Otherwise I will lose them, and I will be constantly disappointed. No way to live. No way to run a business.
The Alliance was a killer read. They argue that the current relationship between employer and employee is broken. They cite a lot of reasons, but chiefly it seems to be trust. They give one example that struck a chord where when we hire people we often put them on probation for 3 months or something. So it’s like…I trust you enough to hire you, but then I don’t. Right from the get-go, you’re choosing not to trust them.
They talk a lot about hiring entrepreneurial minded folks, and how to get these free spirited, often-sporadic people on your side, and aligned with your goals. In a business like mine, where a lot of the people that work with me have other hustles and/or work remotely, this can be a real hurdle. They are entrepreneurs themselves, and getting and keeping their attention can be very tricky.
And finally, one of my favorite parts is where they talk about treating your team as family vs a team. They present of their teams as sports teams. People get traded, teams change. There is no such thing as lifetime employment. And so, if only for a short time, you hire people to help you reach certain goals, in exchange for helping them meet their own. A tour of duty it’s called. You create an alliance with this member. A deal if you will.
Need a little inspiration? A fire lit under your ass? This is the book that will do it. Elon Musk is a bit of an idol of mine…in business at least. If any of us can accomplish just a tiny percentile of what he has, the world would be a much better place.
Anyways, this book covers everything from childhood to the current. It’s super well written (HT Ashlee Vance), and will keep you listening for hours on end. 13 hours to be exact. The author goes into fantastic detail about each of Musk’s companies from Zip2 to Hyperloop. I’d say my favorite aspect of this biography is the author chose to not just focus on the man, but the products, and innovations Musk has been working on – in impressive detail actually.
If this book doesn’t make you want to accomplish great things, I don’t know what will.
If you are an employee, an employer/manager or an entrepreneur, you must read this. Really, everyone should just read this. Start with Why makes an indisputable, unwavering case for why “Why” really matters. WHY does your organization exist? WHY does it do the things it does? WHY do customers really buy from one company or another?
People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. It was their natural ability to start with why that enabled them to inspire those around them and to achieve remarkable things.
If you can get a group of smart, capable individuals on board with your why, the sky’s the limit. But, you have to start with why. And so we did here at The Magistrate, where the why was previously totally overlooked. Or, we just had our own individual “why”. It got us this far, but I now believe that until we are uniformly aligned in this regard, we’ll never be truly great. We’re not quite there yet, but I think we are starting to understand and get behind our why.
This is the management book for those folks who don’t read management books. Ben Horowitz, entrepreneur turned VC and the author of this book gives a whole new meaning to startup struggle and the trough of sorrow. He details his journey, the wins, the losses and everything in between.
What I most enjoyed about this book was his brutal honesty. It’s super genuine, and while it’s hard to relate to 1 billion dollar exits, I can certainly appreciate his stories of layoffs, poaching, staff training, office politics and more. Non technical, super leisurely, enjoyable read.
I am not actually done this book, I only started a couple days back, but I’ve read enough to know that this is a real game changer for me. It’s a bit like Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, but chooses to look at the other side of things: when you’re being influenced. I prefer this approach because I don’t so much want to manipulate people (certainly not for evil), but as a marketer, I do need to be aware of when it is happening to me. I can tell you, I will never look at landing pages or vacuum salesmen the same way anymore.
What could have been a real technical, and hard-to-follow along book has turned out to be quite the opposite. The author, Robert Cialdini, does a fantastic job of giving real life examples of different types of manipulation that we can all relate to.
One example that really stuck with me was buying a girl a drink at the bar, and the rule of reciprocity. I never really thought of this, but as humans we are hardcoded to expect to receive, or give (depending on what side of the equation you are on) when you give or receive something. So true! And of course, as marketers we do this all the time. Think free e-books in exchange for an email address…or something to that effect.
Other titles of note that I’ve enjoyed this year include:
- The Lean Startup (read 2-3 times now)
- Getting to Yes
- Steve Jobs (24 hours of amazing)
- Zero to One
- 4 Hour Work Week (be careful with this one!)
- Growth Hacker Marketing
- The Pomodoro Technique (very short read)
- Trust Me I’m Lying
- The Power of Habit
- The Thank You Economy
- Crush It
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
I’m also crazy about Podcasts. I quite literally just discovered them. Here are a few I like:
- Longform Podcast (interviews with super interesting people)
- Under the Influence (all about the ad industry)
- Reply All (all kinds of interesting stuff about the internet)
- Mystery Show (my current favorite)
- BBC World Service Documentaries
- Ted Talks Audio (check out the one w/ Jimmy Carter – amazing!)
- Ask Gary Vee Show (social media, marketing, business, etc)
- Startup (follows the stories of startups)
- CBC Spark
So there you have it. 7 months of excellent reading. I hope that you pick up some of these titles and enjoy. Please leave me some of your latest reads & podcasts below. I would appreciate it : )