“You’ll be the same in five years as you are today, except
for the people you meet and the books you read.” Charlie
This year I set out to read 30 books. A serious goal–a
book every 2.5 weeks. While I only crossed 17 books off
that list, setting a reading goal really helps me stay
motivated to sit down a crank through the pages. Reading
shouldn’t be a race, nor does it matter how many you read,
but as your typical goal oriented entrepreneur, these types
of personal challenges help me stay motivated.
Reflecting upon the year, it was important for me to be
introspective and see how these books changed the way I see
To recap an incredible 2012… here are 17 lessons from 17
books to kick your New Year off right…
Who’s Got Your Back by Keith Ferrazzi
This is Ferrazzi’s followup to the classic must-read, Never
Eat Alone. Going beyond networking basics and other solid
tips, Who’s Got Your Back is about creating very deep
relationships. Ferrazzi talks about the “long slow dinner”
and how building friendships in business and in life is
more than about just writing on the back of business cards
and pinging your list of “friends” when you get into town.
This year, I hosted a bunch of awesome dinners in my tiny
apartment in New York, and have run three incredible
Under30Experiences to Iceland and Costa Rica. Thanks for
the inspiration Keith.
The Lesson: Relationships should be about quality over
quantity. The goal should not be to “know everyone”.
Build a small group of people that want to go out and
conquer the world together.
Boomerang by Michael Lewis
I had to read about the rise and fall of Iceland during the
global financial crisis before my trip. From the author of
Moneyball, Lewis’ accounts of exploring the world of high
finance are incredibly intriguing and entertaining at the
same time. Learning how Iceland traded derivatives amongst
themselves, drove up the price of their currency until a
beer routinely cost $30USD, and then imploded, causing the
country’s three largest banks to fail was truly mystifying.
The good news is, now Iceland’s economy is ripe for
entrepreneurs to emerge and we’ll be going back this June
for the Startup Iceland Adventure.
The Lesson: Base your economy, your company, and your
income on creating real value for others.
Small Loans Big Dreams by Alex Counts
If you are at all interested in microfinance and how giving
small loans to business owners in impoverished places is
improving their communities, then this is the book to read.
This book follows the story of Nobel Prize Winner Muhammad
Yunus as he builds the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and
across the globe. Armed with this book and lots of other
research on the downsides of microcredit, we built our
Microfinance Surf Camp to Nicaragua, which is coming up
The Lesson: Entrepreneurship knows no borders or social
classes. Coupled with education and accountability, access
to capital can create sustainable micro-businesses.
48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
If 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Will Smith, and Kanye West are talking
about a book, I’m going to have to check it out. What
impressed me most about the book is that Greene not only
recounts classic stories from historical figures like
Machiavelli and Queen Elizabeth, but he also explains the
“transgression of the law”, or how it can come back to bite
you. Laws like “Always Say Less Than Necessary” have very
serious downsides, which Greene explains in nearly as much
detail as the law itself. To me, a good book always
dispels their naysayers ahead of time.
The Lesson: “Disdain things you cannot have: Ignoring them
is the best revenge.”
Startup Nation by Dan Senor and Saul Singer
If you are an entrepreneur, you have to wonder–what makes
the perfect environment for startups to flourish? Israel’s
incredibly resilient, educated population has figured it
out; 63 Israeli companies are listed on the NASDAQ from a
country of just over 7million people. I highly encourage
anyone who wants to help build their local startup
community to give this a read.
The Lesson: “Immigrants are not averse to start from
scratch. They are by definition risk-takers. A nation of
immigrants is a nation of entrepreneurs.”
The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg
In this book, Ellsberg interviews both millionaires and
billionaires who never went to college including Sean Parker,
Marc Ecko, and Matt Mullenweg. This book came out in 2011,
so the stories are very relavant and feature some popular
names in entrepreneurship today. Ellsberg’s popularity
sparked from his article in Forbes, “How I Overcame
Bipolar II (and Saved My Own Life).” Also awesome,
is that Ellsberg has a permanent email auto-responder
that says he would rather have his tombstone say “He Wrote
a Lot of Great Books,” than have it say “He Wrote a Lot
of Great Emails,” thus he will not be writing you back.
The Lesson: “The biggest thing you won’t learn in college
is how to succeed professionally.”
Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie
Despite all the negative press on how jaded a marketing
scheme that gives away a 44 cent pair of shoes every time
you buy a $44 pair of shoes is, the story of TOMS Shoes is
an inspiring one. I commend Blake and his team for
building a company that encourages others to do good in the
world. Blake is a talented entrepreneur, who has built
multiple companies while wearing boardshorts. Start
Something That Matters tells the story of TOMS and runs
through some of the basics on how to get started yourself.
It’s a quick read, worth picking up.
The Lesson: It is truly possible to build a business both
rich in profit and in social good.
The Greatest Salesman In the World by Og Mandino
I’m not into fiction that I’m supposed to translate into
business lessons like The Monk and the Riddle, but I traded
for The Greatest Salesman In The World on the beach in
Costa Rica so I can’t complain. This old school 1968
edition tells stories in the form of ancient scrolls and
explores what it takes to find abundance in your life.
Needless to say there are some good lessons about the
mindset it takes to make your dreams come true.
The Lesson: “You were not created for a life of idleness.”
Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosophy AND The Science of
Breath by Yogi-Ramacharaka
Okay, I know what you’re thinking, what does these two
books have to do with Under30CEO? Well, if you are looking
for an edge in life and in business, I highly recommend
practicing yoga, or at least gaining an understanding of
how to create greater focus in your life. Yoga has done
this for me, and these two classic texts will fill you in
on the basics of yogi philosophy. Take what you like and
leave the rest…
The Lesson: From the beginning of time, many of the world’s
most successful people have taken time to observe the world
differently and see themselves as part of the bigger
Iceland, India, Interstate by Colin Wright
Dude, Iceland again? Yes, as you can see, I’m a bit
obsessed, but this was the most fun I had reading a book
all year. Colin was one of our very first writers at
Under30CEO and I’ve been following his Exile Lifestyle blog
for years. Every three months his followers decide where
he should live next. As you can imagine, Colin has some
pretty ridiculous stories, and some interesting thoughts on
living differently. The e-book is only $5.99 on Amazon
The Lesson: Go out there and LIVE. Life is short, take
advantage of it, and when you get a crazy idea–go for it.
The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
As I embarked on my own journey to go location independent,
I wanted to be sure I checked out other bloggers who are
doing awesome things from abroad. Being unconventional is
something that I pride myself on and Guillebeau is the
leader of the tribe. Hands down, this was the best book I
read all year, and I love what Chris is doing. The guy is
on a mission to visit every country in the world, his book
tour hit every single state, and if anyone can get me a
ticket to his World Domination Summit in 2013, I’ll be
The Lesson: “If something is worth doing, you might as well
do it all the way–so I’ve added ‘radical goalsetting’ to my
own unconventional life planning.”
The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
I clearly couldn’t get enough of Guillebeau, so I
immediately downloaded his next book. This book is much
more basic, and gives you very clear instructions and how-
to’s to get a business off the ground with just $100.
Imagine Tim Ferriss without the fluff, and right into the
nuts and bolts of how to start your lifestyle business. I
read this one quickly since I’ve already been completely
broke and developed a website for $175 in India, but if you
haven’t– get on it.
The Lesson: Passion or Skill + Usefulness = Success
The Power of Less by Leo Babauta
I’m a huge fan of Leo’s Zen Habits blog and find that the
simplest things can make a huge impact in your life. Leo
is no yogi, he’s simply a regular guy who is a master at
cutting out the noise, simplifying life, and focusing on
what is important. I never understood what people meant by
“being present” and thought it was esoteric until I read
this Zen Habits post. Being a minimalist myself, I can
truly attest that you can do more with less.
The Lesson: “Doing more things means you’re likely to do a
lot of unimportant things, and you’ll be overworked and
stressed at the same time.”
Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel
Writer by Chuck Thompson
This isn’t a business book, but if you are into travel, and
want to hear from people who think differently about the
world and have had crazy experiences, Thompson can fill you
in on some of his adventures. This is a book filled with
stuff too graphic and too real for your typical travel
magazine. I’m a big fan of anyone who goes against the
grain, gets fired for standing up for what they believe in,
or exposes the truths about an industry. Thompson writes a
page-turner detailing how jaded the travel journalism
The Lesson: Be bold… And do whatever it takes to get
discounts in the travel industry.
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Zappos was my favorite startup story since reading Losing
My Virginity by Richard Branson. Listening to how Tony
sold his first venture for $245 million, bought a bunch of
San Francisco apartments for him and his friends to work
and party from, went flat broke trying to build Zappos, and
finally was acquired for $1.2 billion by Amazon, is truly
amazing. Hsieh works in a ton of actionable pieces of
advice on how to succeed serving millions of customers in
first-class fashion, and creating a first-class, yet quirky,
place to work.
The Lesson: There will never be another 2013. When Tony
sold his first venture to Microsoft, he said there would
never be another 1999, and went to work on his next act,
passing up millions of guaranteed dollars if he had simply
stayed with the company and let his shares vest… All to
chase his passion.
The 4 Hour Chef by Tim Ferriss
Admittedly, Tim has made a huge impact on my life. I read
the Four Hour Work Week in 2007 and am living the dream to
this day. The Four Hour Body helped cement what I already
practiced in the weight room, so I couldn’t help but pickup
his next book. While I’m not taking up any new adventures
in the kitchen, there is a really good section on how to
learn anything, which has helped me with my pursuits of
both Spanish and French. Even if you could care less about
the kitchen, you should pay attention to the radical ways
Tim gets publicity.
The Lesson: Whatever you want to do in life, think about
how to hack the system, so you can compete with only the
Matt Wilson is co-founder of Under30Media. Join Matt
abroad on his next adventure by clicking here. and sign up for more information on their Microfinance
Surf Camp to Nicaragua and Startup Iceland Adventure.