The Best Books For Solo Founders Building Businesses To Last

The Books I Picked & Why

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

By Mark Goulston

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

Why this book?

I’ve recommended this book to people in sales, marketing, copywriting, and management, even though you’d never see it listed as a book about those topics. That’s because the most universal experience that people crave is feeling understood, and this couldn’t be more true for your customers. 

Successful founders know the importance of listening to and understanding their customers, but very few actually approach the act of listening as a practice. Unlike business books that focus on artificial experiences like interviews and focus groups, Just Listen teaches the reader the power of truly listening as a tool and a skill that can be practiced. 

The source of this expertise? A clinical psychologist who also happens to train FBI hostage negotiators. The same techniques apply across the board, and are shared in the book through interesting and surprisingly relatable stories, paired with specific and concrete exercises and techniques that you can try on yourself before trying on other people. I use many of these techniques on a daily basis running my businesses. 


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Badass: Making Users Awesome

By Kathy Sierra

Badass: Making Users Awesome

Why this book?

Whether you sell products or services, customers don’t really buy either: they buy outcomes. And it’s not enough to understand what people want to accomplish, truly successful businesses deeply understand how customers view their own success, and how to create a path from where they currently are to where they want to be. 

In Badass, Kathy uses her unique and very visual learning style to help you get in the head of your customers and understand the world from their point of view. There’s a shortlist of people who’ve had a huge impact on my career, and Kathy Sierra is at the top of that very shortlist. This book embodies that impact, I consider it required reading.


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The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga

By Lama Christie McNally, Geshe Michael Roach

The Essential Yoga Sutra: Ancient Wisdom for Your Yoga

Why this book?

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is how to manage my own fear and excitement. How we react to the world around us is one of the few things we are truly in control of! This is the book that helped me most to shift the way I perceive and react to things, allowing me to live more calmly in my work and my life even in the face of complexity, fear, even success. 

This book is weirdly simple, almost child-like in its cadence, but don’t let the simplicity fool you. I found it valuable to sit with the short parables and examples especially when I’m having an emotional response surrounding a business decision. 

This was the first book based on Buddhist teachings that I ever read and made sense to me in a practical way. The writing style is strange (and the author has a truly bizarre backstory) but this book taught me a lot about how our perception of reality really works and how it holds us back.


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How to Fight a Hydra: Face Your Fears, Pursue Your Ambitions, and Become the Hero You Are Destined to Be

By Josh Kaufman

How to Fight a Hydra: Face Your Fears, Pursue Your Ambitions, and Become the Hero You Are Destined to Be

Why this book?

This book is not at all what it seems. If you’ve ever struggled with a project or idea, especially as it grows in complexity, the metaphor of the mythical Hydra may have come to mind. In the myths, the Hydra is especially dangerous because every time you cut off one of its heads, two more grow back in its place. 

Kinda like a project or business that seems impossible to finish. 

Unlike most business books that beat you over the head with case studies, this book uses a single short story styled as a fairytale to unlock and teach dozens of valuable business lessons from across dozens of fields of study: psychology, planning, marketing, negotiation, and more. Half of the fun of reading this book is realizing each time the story is teaching you something useful. It’s like a little treasure hunt of business knowledge all on its own!


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Design for Cognitive Bias

By David Dylan Thomas

Design for Cognitive Bias

Why this book?

The most insidious mistakes we make are the ones we didn’t even realize we were making. This short book brilliantly shines a light on the thousands of “invisible” choices that we make in our work and our lives, but more importantly, the author guides us on how to begin correcting them.

Using examples and case studies, author David Dylan Thomas helps you bring awareness to three lenses of bias that are guaranteed to be affecting your work: how biases impact our own individual experiences and choices, how they wiggle their way into our teams and leadership structures, and how they get wired directly into the products and services we deliver. 

If you care about creating long-lasting and equitable results with your work, you need to read this book.


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