Becoming and entrepreneur could be a tricky task as many do not understand the sacrifices and long hours necessary to achieve the particular goals they set out for themselves. Wouldn’t it be best if there were a set of guidelines and habits an aspiring entrepreneur should follow to better understand their future journey?

While not every entrepreneur’s story is the same they all share similar traits which have given them the tools to endure troubling and unproductive times to see the end result of their sacrifices. Many entrepreneurs credit some of these works of literature as essential to their success and recommend they be added to the aspiring entrepreneur’s library. Submitted for the approval of the millennial society, I call this article, “7 Must Read Books for the Beginner Entrepreneur.”

1] Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – Angela Duckworth

entrepreneur Grit

Grit and self-control, as described by Angela Duckworth, is the tendency to sustain interest in an effort toward very long-term goals despite the presence of short term gratification from temptations or diversions. Her development of grit began during her tenure as a seventh grade math teacher in the New York City public school systems. After years analyzing test results versus actual aptitude she began to notice that some of her brightest students were not the ones to get the best grades.

Duckworth realized that we needed to alter our perceptions of our students and focus on what fosters learning from a motivational and psychological perspective. Now while we are not here to talk about high school students, the fundamentals are all relevant. Her studies focused on all ranges of age, social class, and demographic and found that grit is the greatest predictor of success beating out both talent and IQ.

Her belief in the Growth Mindset verse Fixed Mindset, which was developed by Dr. Carol Dweck of Standford University, examples the way the mind alters in response to accepting challenges. People who are taught to persevere and maintain through adversity are more likely to succeed because failure is not part of the human condition.

As mentioned in our article “10 Traits Highly Successful People Share, failure does not exist and that mindset is a valuable trait to understand when starting your empire. Any entrepreneur to grow their brand will face set backs that will discourage them in their endeavors. Nonetheless they must possess the fortitude and motivation to commit to the long term goal that is their brands future.

How gritty are you? Find out now!

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2] The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand

entrepreneur the fountainhead

Controversial for its time, and even garnishing contrasting reviews today, The Fountainhead is a 750+ page book that centers around gifted architect Howard Roark, Rand’s perception of the “ideal man”. Roark is immersed in a lifelong battle of his individualism verses the comfortably of conformity. Early on, Roark’ architectural mind aligns him with his “mentor” Henry Cameron, an elderly grouch whose designs were ahead of their time.

Like Henry’s career, Roark a man filled with integrity, is often rejected for his innovations. Roark’s talent is so incredible that his contemporary, the less gifted Peter Keating,  commissions him to design The Cosmo-Slotnick Building. This propels Keating to a partnership position in the company leaving Roark to experience relative obscurity until the climax of the novel.

While this post is not a summary of the Fountainhead but more of a recognition for its underlying theme of risk taking and individualism. It’s addition into the personal library of the budding entrepreneur is unmistakable. The Fountainhead displays Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism which urges people to hold themselves accountable, living by the code of self-reliance and integrity,

Let us compare a real life example of Rand’s philosophy as it ties to successful entrepreneurs and their methods of long term success. Steve Job’s along with Steve Wozniak created Apple computers in 1976. After the release of the Macintosh in 1984, personal computers with graphical user interfaces were starting to gain prominence. Enter in the competition, Bill Gates.

Microsoft began to release more products stealing away market share from Apple. This forced then President and CEO of Apple John Sculley to reassign Jobs to new product development. This move, directed by the board, was in favor of a more conformity driven model. The move was to render Jobs obscure in the company stopping his forays into untested technologies. In a failed coup, he resigned from Apple to start NeXT computer.

It was not until 1997 that Jobs would return to Apple computers and totally change the way the company operated. Over the next few years Apple would develop new products, partner with Microsoft and return to levels of profitability which set the stage for the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad.

As you can see it was Apple’s divergence from conformity and willingness to take risk’s under Steve Jobs leadership that gave the world one of the most innovative masterpieces of all time. Honestly you are probably reading this on your iPhone or iPad now.

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3] The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change) – Clayton M. Christensen

entrepreneur the innovator's dilemma

As in life, businesses go through cycles. Innovation comes in waves as frequently as the remnants they leave behind collect dust in your closet. It is the companies that do not keep up with the changes that get left behind to become an unfortunate statistic.

The Innovator’s Dilemma focuses on how even the top companies who have done all the right things can lose market share to fresh startups. These startups with less to lose,  innovate in niche markets while stealing away the incumbents clientele. Christensen offers insight for the aspiring entrepreneur on how to avoid similar fates.

A big focus is on “Disruptive Innovations”, which Christensen classifies as an innovation that creates a brand new market by disrupting an existing market, typically under the direction of an outsider or entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur it is important to understand that many top competing companies are resource dependent on their customer base’s needs. This dependency can hamstring them from testing newer, more profitable ideas that satisfy the greater number of people.

One great example of disruptive technology would be Netflix’s original request by mail rentals which transformed, with the trends in technology, into the online streaming service, and its affect on Blockbuster video rentals future. Kids these days may not even recognize Blockbuster, but at one time they reigned supreme in your Friday night movie rental ritual.

Unfortunately they were unable to take notice of the changes in technology, evolving customer trends, and financial feasibilities and in September of 2010, they filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Netflix now has over 105 million subscribers worldwide all because they took advantage of upcoming technologies and innovative concepts to sweep away the old guard.

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4] Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

entrepreneur think and grow rich

Napoleon Hill studied over 500 highly successful people over a 20 year period documenting their successes and outlining commonalties that they shared. Some of the notables Hill was involved with, such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and Theodore Roosevelt, were all masters of their own industry and destiny, giving the aspiring entrepreneur a great frame of reference from some of the most successful people in American history.

Written in 1937 at the bidding of steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, “Think and Grow Rich” remains a must read for any and all entrepreneurs. Napoleon Hill’s masterpiece is a code of 13 principles for personal development often considered the “granddaddy” of motivational literature.

Hill displays factors such as desire, and faith as integral to the development of ones subconscious to work in conjunction with the conscious mind to move forward with actions to achieve defined goals. Affirmations, or auto-suggestions as Hill clarifies them, are used to train our subconscious that we will reach those goals.

Why is this important to the entrepreneur? Well if you have not figured it out, entrepreneurs will absolutely go through tumultuous times in order to achieve a set of defined goals. Having the passion and faith in your own abilities will make it more likely to achieve results than someone who does not believe in themselves, or the industry they are working.

Successful entrepreneurs need to use their imaginations to think of ways to better existing conditions while being decisive in their actions to deliver an answer to whichever problem their existence in the market solves. Think and Grow Rich is the perfect insight on how the mind of a successful entrepreneur should operate.

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5] As a Man Thinketh — 21st Century Edition – James Allen

entrepreneur as a man thinketh

“They themselves are makers of themselves.” – James Allen

We have all heard the saying you get out of life what you put in. As a Man Thinketh’s central theme is that our circumstances are the result of our own thoughts in both positive and negative alliances.

Allen begins his premise explaining that in the theatre of our mind it is our thoughts and conclusions that build the weapons that destroy us, and conversely the tools that help us build strong foundations of prosperity and joy. He likens the connection between thought and circumstance to that of an active versus inept gardener. The former cultivates his thought and his garden is bountiful in doing so, whereas the latter is overcome with an untamed wasteland of weeds.

“A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts” – James Allen

There is an obvious rejection that one positive thought will define one “positive” result so Allen with soul searching dialogue on virtue and vice, lays the fabric for an ethical code of integrity and the guidelines of what constitutes a positive result with all things considered.

In summary its a thought provoking comparison between the cause and effect of both positive and negative mindsets. Worth the read for any entrepreneur as it teaches to train your thoughts and reap the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

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6] Meditations – Marcus Aurelius

entrepreneur meditations

Reigning as the Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD, Marcus Aurelius, the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, wrote a series of articles as a blueprint for his own guidance and self-improvement. As a stoic practitioner, Aurelius reveled in the idea that certain circumstances may be out of our control.

The path to true happiness was in accepting the moments as they were presented without succumbing to the fear of insecurities or the pleasures of our desires. This as a far contrast from the Epicurean school of thought that pleasure was the greatest good. Aurelius suggests that those things, in which we desire that do not make us a better person, should be avoided.

While “Meditations” is another excellent foray into personal improvement and the code of conduct for a truly good man to live by, it still holds its relevance for the successful entrepreneur. As people we are meant to live our lives and work for the requests of our livelihood. However people do not achieve success in that endeavor because their brilliance is shackled by the opinions of their contemporaries.

“It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinion than our own.”  – Marcus Aurelius [Book 12]

The most important take from this reflection on a great man’s life that an entrepreneur should consider, is that Aurelius was at the zenith of power in an age where Rome’s influence spanned the globe. Yet he held so strongly onto his convictions of virtue and  stoic philosophy that he was able to rule as a beloved incorruptible ruler without selling himself short for conformity and establishment expectations. We, the masters of our creation can be what we choose to be through the extension of our virtuous contemplations.

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7] Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future – Peter Thiel

entrepreneur zero to one

What uncharted frontiers are left for start ups to make a splash and become the next Google? Well as Peter Thiel says, the next big invention will not be another Facebook or another Google, but something new all together. “Zero to One” is an exploration into innovation and the need for fresh minds to create ideas as the best paths in businesses are the ones untraveled.

In another explanation that the folks at Four Minute Books summarized best, the biggest growths in the industry will not be horizontal by copying another giant, but to grow vertically and create an unheard of solution that the aforementioned giant was too complacent to accomplish. The courage to innovate and stand out is in short supply in contrast to the ”genius” to copy.

Zero to one as a concept is more important in Thiel’s philosophy than the one to many. To explain, zero to one is the formation of the initial idea to tangible product, the vertical growth. One to many is the horizontal growth of an idea by adding improvements to an existing solution. The Apple iPhone was a zero to one concept as it was the first of it’s kind. Each subsequent iPhone has been a one to many as they are just improvements to a now common technology.

The reason entrepreneurs become successful is because they understand that niche markets are where they will begin their growth. They must target untapped potential when creating their brand by taking risks and investing their time and resources into themselves and their imagination.

How does one tackle, or even identify untapped markets? We must start by asking questions people are unprepared to answer. These questions can range from life without cars, to life on the moon. The individuals who ask those questions and find solutions to their begging will become the next Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerbergs, Henry Fords and so on.

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So there you have it. Each piece of literary work was selected for its underlying message and relation to the traits that highly successful people all share. Throughout this reading we have covered the many different traits. Most notably were grit and perseverance, working outside of our comfort zone, risk taking through innovation, self discipline, and positive thinking. These are the building blocks to a successful career.

If you enjoyed this article please check out 10 Character Traits Highly Successful People Share. Thank you for taking the time to check us out. Please comment your thoughts or opinions on any book that may have been left out or should not have been included and don’t forget to share with all your friends!