Iloved college. The only way I was able to finish my degrees while working full-time, supporting a growing family and nurturing a growing side business was because it was essentially “me time.”
I am a learning junkie who is probably compensating for a lack of God-given intelligence.
This article is not my attack on college (although I am not above that) and I don't intend to say that there is necessarily more information in these books than in the hours of lectures and readings involved with earning a degree.
However, the books I am about to mention may prove more valuable to the reader than a full college education if they are implemented properly and at the right time.
The books in this list are an incredibly efficient way to gather much of the same information I learned in 7 years of college in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost.
If you read these critically and with conviction, you can gain a huge boost in your overall effectiveness as an entrepreneur.
Focused intensity is more valuable than a vague, high rep approach.
You can't teach a love for learning. If you have it, this will be a breeze and enjoyable for you.
The reading list for self-education
So here are the books that I think anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship should consider reading before spending thousands of dollars (that they likely don't have) and years of their life (that aren't guaranteed) in college. If you are already in school, that is alright, read these anyway. If you already graduated, that is ok, read these anyway!
Ok, let's get into the reading list for self-education!
The most highly talked about book in the entrepreneurship/lifestyle design arena since its release in 2009. There are certain aspects that I disagree with, but this is by far the most original, game-changing book I have ever read on lifestyle design. This is one of the books that I reread over and over because I learn something new each time.
This book is full of motivational insights from one of the most interesting men in the world. James Altucher has made and lost millions of dollars several times in his life and discloses what he has learned about life, business, and even personal relationships. This is a very powerful book for anyone interested in improving their lives, but particularly for the 9-5 escapee.
This book sparks the debate of which method is most conducive to success, formal schooling or something else. Michael Ellsberg sides with the “something else” and lays out what he believes it to be in this book through a series of interviews and research-dense insights.
Small Time Operator: How to Start Your Own Business, Keep Your Books, Pay Your Taxes, and Stay Out of Trouble by Bernard B. Kamoroff C.P.A.
I do not recommend attempting professional services like accounting on your own without professional assistance, but it is in your best interest to brush up on current practices so you can better discuss with whoever you work with.
This book is not intended to replace a CPA! That is the best source of tax/accounting related information. Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.
This is not your typical finance book. Ramit has great insight into saving money without losing your mind. His approach focuses on cutting expenses on the things you don't care about (for instance premium cable) and then going all out on the things that you love like your hobbies and passions.
Get to the heart of economic principles without spending hours in lectures. We read this book my senior year of college and I remember being genuinely excited to get to class to discuss it. Nerdy? Yes.
This book changed the way that I look at outsourcing and building a team around my businesses. There are many highly actionable takeaways in this book and it is impossible to not get something out of it.
At the heart of every lasting, successful business is fantastic customer service. This book is a must-read for anyone who works with customers in anyway (hint: everyone does!)
This book nails what being a great leader is all about.
Dave Ramsey is a financial guru and personal idol of mine. He is eccentric, but I enjoy that. This book draws on his years of experience building and nurturing highly effective teams and growing leaders beneath him.
Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion by Jay Heinrichs
Sales and Marketing
There are few people on this planet that understand marketing and customer service like Gary Vaynerchuk. This book shows how to give value to the point that selling something is welcomed full-heartedly. I know that this works because I will buy just about anything that Gary puts his name on.
Check out 7 of my other recommended books on digital marketing.
Productivity and Time Management
The recent update to his popular release in 2001. David Allen puts the process of human achievement and productivity into easy to understand steps.
Real estate guru Gary Keller shares the principles that make him and those who work for him so successful. Warning, if you're a multi-tasker, this book will hurt your feelings!
Just reading the following books means nothing.
Have you ever found yourself just going through the motions on a book? You're turning pages but nothing seems to be registering? Trust me, I do this constantly. What I do though is different: I go back and start over from where I lost focus. It sucks, but doing this helps prevent me from doing it often.
You need to read critically, apply regularly and revisit frequently.
Success in entrepreneurship (online and off) requires hundreds of hours of real world experience and selective, targeted learning. In my opinion, college is about over-learning, entrepreneurship, on the other hand, is about precision learning and developing the mindset and habits that are conducive to success.
Note: I recommend re-reading good books before reading new ones if you aren't sure what to read next.
When you’re an entrepreneur your learning power is truly your earning power.
Remember, there is no alternative to application and practice. Brush up on the basics a business owner should know (mentioned above) but don’t waste too much time avoiding real world application. Focus most of your attention on your craft and how you can improve it, but these books will get you headed in the right direction.