Top 10 philosophical and self-help books for the thinking business person
There’s no shortage of how-to philosophical or spiritual books that probe into every crevice of our psyche.
Yet, there are some deeply moving books that guide our self-perceptions that can encompass our business selves too. In each case, the books on this list earned its place in its capacity to instruct the thinking business mind to create value with honor. A neat feat if one pull it off.
1) Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition Paperback by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield and Ron McMillan Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition Paperback
More than other book that speaks to higher order social principles, this treasure of a book, rolls up its proverbial sleeves and tells us exactly how to influence change. It details step by step processes for affecting specific and lasting change.
First published in 2007, the updated version expands on the core principles identified in the original. My first copy is well worn with notes on many pages highlighting key concepts.
Buy it but spend time with it. It takes time for it percolate to get into you head enough to begin to change how you behave. But once you “get it” – it profoundly changes how you approach affecting change.
2) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: The Alchemist
This is an old friend of a book who, though I may not see for a long time, when we meet again, it feels so comfortable as though I perused the pages of the book daily.
In truth, I wish I dipped my toes more often into its plush carpet of transcendental thinking that is this “simple” book. It languorously tells the story of a journey of discovery. It may feel slow paced to modern readers accustomed to the spoon fed delivery of the internet punch line, yet it is in the reading and the journey is where the richness emerges. So give it the space it needs for the inner truths to reveal themselves and then you will amazed that you lived without its wisdom for so long.
3) The Prince by Machiavelli: The Prince
There is strange juxtaposition between this book and the one above it. While Coehlo is concerned with the prize of human experience, Machiavelli’s cold juxtaposition that "the end justifies the means" whereby "doing the right thing" is when the right thing makes financial sense - is jarring but instructive.
Reading The Prince is a tour de force in the contemporary application of networking. Worth a reread if the last time picked this book was when iPod wasn’t even a twinkle in Apple’s eye.
4) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand: The Fountainhead
Ah - the perennial fiction expression of Frank Sinatra’s more lyrical “I did it my way” ballad explores the demons of sticking to your vision without compromise or remorse.
It is both a hero’s journey and a cautionary tale. There is a razor thin line between the need to stay true to your vision and bending to the will of the masses. The tension between these extremes expresses the angst of every startup CEO I know (present company included). But in the end, this book expresses the conviction that is necessary to pull it off.
5) Night by Elie weasel: Night
This book is not an easy read nor is it meant to be – it is meant to be a testament; an eye witness account to a crime.
But its place on this list is meant to inspire in a different way. It is meant to be a reminder that almost without exception – whatever anguish we may be experiencing in the business of business survival – it is nothing by comparison to the experiences of so many souls so recent within living memory.
In my own case, as the daughter and granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, the challenges of my world today would seem overwhelmed but I strengthened by the real intimate knowledge that whatever my travails, it pales by comparison to what many in my past and many today endure..
In other words – buck up. And when compared to this real world testimony - we must remember - it could always be worse. That is a very reassuring truth.
6) Lives of cells by Lewis Thomas: Lives Of Cells
A recent introduction to me by a 20 something colleague. I marvel that this author was a total mystery to me, writing in 1970’s about our future. If one didn’t know better, you’d think he was a contemporary voice – vital and alive - but he died in 1993.
I wish he were alive today.
He would be delighted at how social media allows us exchange information at a rate that would have been consistent with his understanding that we are the most social species on earth.
I wish I could congratulate him on accurately he predicted everything from Facebook to the medical crisis confronting us today. I wish our society had the benefit of his voice – today.
I miss him already and I just met him.
7) Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield: Chicken Soup For The Soul
One of the paradoxes of life is that one shouldn’t sweat the small stuff and yet everything really does matter. This is seemingly irreconcilable unless ones frames the question differently. This little book helps us navigate this treacherous fine line with an elegant understand that some things can never be resolved but simply managed differently.
That core insight is as applicable to the world of business. More and more, success will be about the capability to adapt intelligently to the interdependent world we live in. Learning what can be controlled versus what can managed are key business survival skills.
8) Something from nothing written and illustrated by Phoebe Gilman: Something From Nothing
An odd choice and one that I am sure no almost no one ever heard of because it is a children’s book. A beautifully illustrated book actually tells the tale of the families – a human family and a mouse family. The story is of a beautiful blanket given to an infant by his Grandfather. Over the years, the blanket is recycled into a vest, a cap and a button. Ultimately there is nothing left to recycle and … well I will you discover the end for yourself.
The business lesson is that value is truly created by the power of the mind’s capacity to conceive of a business vision and breathe life into through sheer power of imagination. An important lesson that gives a new venture its soul.
9) The Universe In A Single Atom by Dalai Lama: The Universe In A Single Atom
There is a deep tranquility in knowing the Dalai Lama embraces technology and science. It is reassuring that we have not already condemned our species to oblivion beyond redemption. But we are pushing our luck and we all know it.
This book is a gentle study of perspective; a sensitivity to the fact that in each moment is opportunity ripe with abundance if one can create the right environment for it to flourish. This is as true in our personal lives as in our business endeavors.
10) The Medusa and the Snail by Lewis Thomas: The Medusa And The Snail
How I lived for over half a century without even knowing about Lewis Thomas represents some monumental and inexcusable gap somewhere in my education. Happily, a secret no more, this author gets two spots in my list because this book profoundly asserts that the greatest leaps in success MUST come by accident. We succeed because we can make mistakes.
In essay after essay, Lewis is happily expressing his amazement that we just don’t overcomes mistakes but we thrive because of them. This idea is just the tip of the thought provoking iceberg.
But like Lives of Cells, these are essays, tasty little tidbits of insights or sparks of prescient thinking so as to be breathtaking. These books stay with you like some dream that comes in snatches throughout the day – stopping us in our tracks and allowing to reframe the questions. Disquieting and yet welcome.