Five books every bootstrapped founder should read

Reading has the power to alter your perceptions, shape your thoughts and forever change your direction in life.

As a founder, it’s by far the simplest way to learn from the mistakes of others, be inspired by other’s successes and then go on to refactor or remix ideas to create ‘new’ thoughts and ideas. In effect, it allow us to stand upon the shoulders of of those who have come before us.

“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

Take Elon Musk for example: an entrepreneur, billionaire and startup founder who has an insatiable hunger for knowledge. Ask any of his staff or friends and family about how he is able learn so much and understand such complex and wide reaching concepts such as rocket science, economics and manufacturing, and they will tell you that he loves to read. In fact, he attributes much of his success to his ability to consume and then apply what he has read.

“He would go through two books in one day” — Elon’s brother, Kimbal.

If you feel you need to upskill yourself, be inspired or learn something new, then take a look at the following shortlist of a few books I’ve read recently. I found them to be insightful, inspirational and instructive (wow that’s quite a bunch of I’s there…). I’ll let you decide for yourself which is which.

I loved this book. It’s just packed full of little gems. Stuff you would never have thought about, stuff that makes you rethink the way you work (hence the title I guess). If you’re working on / in a startup or are thinking about it, I would highly recommend you pick up this book.

“Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is home because she figured out a faster way” ― Jason Fried

A must in in any entrepreneur or founder’s intellectual arsenal. This book is revolutionary, it will change the way you think about starting, owning and running your company. Don’t read it at your peril.

“Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop is at the core of the Lean Startup model.” ― Eric Ries

This is a fun, entertaining read with some great practical applications. If found this book so easy to read, and Chris does a great job of simplifying some pretty in depth topics. This is an excellent place to look if you’re just getting starting with your startup or are searching for some inspiration. Give it a shot.

“Value is created when a person makes something useful and shares it with the world.” ― Chris Guillebeau

Short. Concise. Highly valuable. Another must read in this collection. It’s like stepping into the mind of genius, if only I could have listened to his lectures in person (the lectures that this book is based on). This is recommended reading.

“Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.” ― Peter Thiel

This is an interesting and slightly unusual read. The majority of the book is a fictional story, written in such a way that you learn extremely valuable lessons about building a business that can be sold. It’s extremely practical and can easily be read in an evening (and reread for that matter). Pick up a copy as soon as possible.

“Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you’re serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.” ― John Warrillow

A stunning biography of Elon Musk. Vance really puts you in the mind of the genius. I dare you to not be inspired after reading this book. Once you read this book, you will never look at hard work the same way. Try being CEO of two billion dollars companies at once, while constantly having your finger on the pulse. It’s truly remarkable and highly inspirational. MUST READ

“There needs to be a reason for a grade. I’d rather play video games, write software, and read books than try and get an A if there’s no point in getting an A.”
― Ashlee Vance, Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our Future

This list is obviously not exhaustive and is just a few samples of the type of intellectual stimuli we need as entrepreneurs, makers and creators. I’m sure there are hundreds more.

What books have you read lately and would recommend to startup founders and entrepreneurs?

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Sharing insights and lessons about my experience building a self-funded startup.