It is always inspiring to read a successful entrepreneur’s biography and to get an insight into their lives. Every successful entrepreneur has a few things in common – they don’t ever give up, they see opportunity in adversity and they are fierce. But in my opinion, the the most important reason for their success is the fact that they just do and don’t worry too much about the outcome. This is synonymous to the teachings of the ancient Hindu scripture, The Bhagavada Gita, which says, ‘Do your work without worrying about the results’. When we tend to work for a reward or longing for the fruits that result from our actions, we are unconsciously, unable to do our best. When our mind is focused on the reward, which is of course in the future, it takes our attention away from the present moment, the moment in which we are actually performing the action. The present moment is the only one in which we perform all actions. This is a quality I have noticed in all successful entrepreneurs. They possess this rare ability to be fully engrossed in the present moment. The ability to live fully in the present moment, without worrying about the future or regretting the past is not as easy as it sounds. Try it for yourself and start paying attention to how much you think about your past and future.
On that note, here are some of my recommendations to read about some of the most interesting entrepreneurs of our time and their journey. These are not just books for people wanting to be entrepreneurs. Instead I would recommend these books to everyone whether you are an employee, an entrepreneur, an artist or unemployed. There are life lessons in these books for everyone.
1) Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
My personal favorite, Shoe Dog is a page turner. In this book, Phil Knight, the founder of Nike, shares his story in an engaging manner. Phil, who is worth $25 Billion today, has a unique management style, which is very hands off and ‘zen’. He is not your typical Silicon Valley entrepreneur raising funds from venture capitalists in the valley to fund their company’s next move. Ever since the inception of Blue Ribbon (company’s name prior to Nike), Phil took on more and more debt every year from banks to expand the company. Phil was personally against taking the company public in order to prevent the company from becoming just another ‘corporation’ until the company grew so big in 1980 that he gave in.
Phil has described in great detail all the challenges he faced at every step of the way while trying to build Nike and how he successfully won every challenge. So pay close attention, this is not your typical entrepreneur’s story.
2) Sam Walton: Made in America
This is another classic story of an entrepreneur who built an empire before the emergence of the Silicon Valley and its venture capitalists. Sam Walton is the founder of Walmart, one of the biggest retail companies in the world today. Sam, while working as a J.C Penny employee, realized that he wanted to devote his life to retail. He then bought a Ben Franklin store and significantly increased the store’s revenue in its first year. He later kept buying more retail stores turning them into highly profitable stores. His groundbreaking strategy was surprisingly simple, sell merchandise at the lowest price and cut competition out of the market. On top of that he guaranteed customer satisfaction i.e. if you’re not satisfied with the product you can return it. These are the two key principles that Walmarts all around the follow to this day.
Sam was an extremely hard working man who knew how to value every dollar and he lived a simple life in spite of his billions in the bank. Sam always insisted on keeping a majority share in the company and made sure that after he was gone, majority of the company was still held by the Walton family. As of 2016, Walton’s collectively own 52 % of the company and have a combined net worth of about $150 billion. Impressive, isn’t it?
3) Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance
Elon Musk, in my opinion, wins the title for the ‘Best Entrepreneur of the 21st Century’. Musk made his fortune in Silicon Valley with his first start up called Zip2 and then X.com which later merged with Confinity to form Paypal. After his success in Silicon Valley, Musk went on to fulfill his wildest of dreams i.e. human colonization on Mars. He founded SpaceX which is the only private company so far to successfully send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX, as we know it today, provides cheap reusable rockets for space transport. According to Musk, the way to colonize Mars is by reducing space transportation costs and sending as many rockets, as frequently possible, to space.
Musk is also the founder of Tesla, the young electric car manufacturer. The company has proven that all-electric cars are feasible and has been working tirelessly to improve the technology and range of its electric car fleet. The company has announced the release of Tesla Model 3 in 2017 for $35,000. The car will have a range of 215 miles on full charge. Not bad! And one more thing, Tesla doesn’t believe in making slow cars. Along with the Tesla supercharging stations all around the world, Tesla, in my opinion, is set for a definite success in the near future.
So read this book to find out how Elon Musk manages these two successful companies, SpaceX and Tesla, and his life, simultaneously.
4) The Third Wave by Steve Case
This book is a must read for all Silicon Valley enthusiasts. Steve Case is the founder of America Online (AOL), Revolution LLC and the Case Foundation. Back in the day, AOL was the granddaddy of the Internet offering services that combined Facebook, Twitter, MSN messenger and Google. The company was valued at over $150 billion at its peak and AOL was the top performing stock of the 1990s. As of 2016, Steve Case is worth US $1.4 Billion. I have discussed this book in detail in another post: The Changing Face of Entrepreneurship.
5) Cold Hard Truth on Business, Money and Life by Kevin O’Leary
Kevin O’Leary is a Canadian entrepreneur and founder of SoftKey International. He appeared on TV shows such as Dragon’s Den (Canada) and Shark Tank and makes regular appearances on BNN. Kevin comes from a middle class family and is an excellent expression of the sage old saying, ‘hard work is the key to success’. In his book, Kevin describes his philosophy on life and how he applies it everyday in business. Kevin is a ‘no BS’ guy and is the most practical businessman I know of. This guy has no tolerance for emotions when it comes to business and money. When Kevin says, ‘it is just business’, he means it.