My Top Ten Books of 2017

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a goal oriented person. I always have a million things on my bucket list, and if there’s something I hadn’t ever thought about but the opportunity presents itself, I’ll do that too.

For 2017, I decided that one of those goals would be to read 40 books.  I finished the year off strong by reading a total of 52.

Now, how would I go about choosing them?

When I decide on which books to read, they must do one of three things:

1. Make me a better business person;

2. Make me a better citizen; or

3. Make me a better human

I learned so much during this quest, I decided to make a list of my Top 10 books of 2017, to share the knowledge. Be aware that you can click on all the book titles to purchase them from Amazon. So grab a cup of tea (this is a long blog), and enjoy:

#10 – Unoffendable
Author: Brant Hansen

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Two important things to know before you read this book: Hansen uses the word offended to encompass anything that makes us angry. It’s a catch-all phrase. If you remember this while reading it, you’ll get much more out of the book.

Second (and this is a big one that I didn’t realize until I bought the book), it is written by a Christian for Christians. The book consistently cites biblical scripture, and it’s wonderfully written for the traditional Christian who finds him or herself being offended by many social topics of today. That’s not me. Not by a long shot. Christian? Yes. Offendable Christian? Hell no! – Just ask my gay, Muslim, Mormon, Jewish, Hindu, traditional Christian, and atheist friends.  I wrote a full review of this book in 2017 and you can read the entire review by clicking here.

#9 – Predictably Irrational
Author: Dr. Dan Ariely

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If you want to appreciate just how weird you are (and the entire world, actually) this book is one you won’t be able to put down.   Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. From drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner, we consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They’re systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.

This book will give you great insight as to how to structure pricing in your company and move people into decision-making, much easier and more efficiently, by knowing the difference between market norms and social norms.  I highlighted so many parts of the book, I couldn’t post them here, but this was one of my favorites:

“America’s top killer isn’t cancer or heart disease, nor is it smoking or obesity. It’s our inability to make smart choices and overcome our own self-destructive behaviors.“

#8 – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
Author: Marshall Goldsmith

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This was recommended my friend and client, Lauren Davenport, CEO of The Symphony Agency. She’s one of my book buddies.  We are constantly recommending books to one another.  I initially resisted because it sounded very self-helpy and really didn’t want to read any more of those books;  but I’m glad I trusted her endorsement.  It was great.  It’s not about self help; it’s about being a better leader.

The first few chapters punch you right in the gut and make you realize all the leadership flaws present in your life. Once you’ve identified all your flaws, the rest of the book gives you great strategies to overcome them.   One of my favorite lines from the book is:

In soliciting feedback for yourself, the only question that works—the only one!—must be phrased like this: “How can I do better?”

#7 – Deep Work
Author: Cal Newport

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This book is the one responsible for me becoming much more productive in the last quarter of the year than during the first 9 months.   The concept is simple:  You can do one of two things in life and business.  Deep work or shallow work.

Deep Work: Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that pushes your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skills, and are hard to replicate.  The largest culprit when it comes to distractions being your smart phone and all the social media apps; so put silence it and put it away.

Shallow Work: Noncognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.  This biggest culprit being your smart phone and all the social media apps installed on it. (See a trend here?)

Deep work and shallow work use different parts of the brain.  And if you repeatedly and consistently do shallow work, you strengthen the neurons in your brain to do shallow work even more; while the neurons in your brain responsible for deep work weaken and make it harder to actually focus on the real work that needs to be done.

Here’s an example of how that shows up:  You sit down at your laptop committed to getting a project finished.  You know your phone will distract you, so you set it face down and turn it to silent.  As you begin doing the project, without even realizing it, your hand reaches out, grabs the phone, you turn it on to see if anyone has sent you a message. Bam! You’re back into shallow work and the deep work died.

Since reading this book, I’ve turned off every notification on my phone, even the little red visual numbers on the apps that tell me how many messages I have.  I’ve deleted the social media apps from my phone, so if I want to access Facebook or anything else, I have to log into it using the web browser.  The only time my phone makes a noise or vibrates is when I get an actual phone call.  Novel idea that a phone is used for phone calls, I know.

The dangers of shallow work is that it makes you feel like you got stuff done at the end of the day because you were active.  But you probably weren’t productive.  To quote Cal,

“Hearing a succession of mediocre singers does not add up to a single outstanding performance.”

#6 – Play Bigger
Author: Dave Peterson, Al Ramadan, Mary Forman, Naomi Allen, and Jennifer Johnson

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This should be a must read for any innovative company that is trying to describe what they do, but has a hard time finding a category of business that describes what they do.

I found this one personally intriguing, as I don’t want my political campaign this year to fit into the traditional role.  I want to redefine what it means to run for office, and this book gave me endless ideas.

The theory is simple: Winning today isn’t about beating the competition at the old game. It’s about inventing a whole new game—defining a new market category, developing it, and dominating it over time. You can’t build a legendary company without building a legendary category. If you think that having the best product is all it takes to win, you’re going to lose.

This book can give you the step-by-step process to become a category king.  But conditioning the market is only half the process, and it’s the second half.  In the words of the author:

”Before you can condition a market, you first have to condition your company.”

#5 – Principles
Author: Ray Dalio

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This book is actually 3 books in one, so it’s a long read; but worth every hour you invest in it.  If you’ve never heard the name Ray Dalio, I’ll just say this.  He’s the guy all the entrepreneurs you probably worship go to for advice.  Ray was the one who went to the government and predicted the economic downfall of 2007, and provided a strategy for how to minimize the impact.  Had it not been for Ray, we most likely would have plummeted into a depression.  So yeah, the guy’s kind of smart.

The first 3rd of the book is an autobiography that chronicles how Ray took his company from working out of their garage in 1975 to staffing over 1,700 employees and being the most successful investment firm in history.  His company manages over $150 billion in assets and his personal net worth is somewhere in the area of $17 billion.  During the global financial crisis in 2007, his clients managed an average 14% increase in wealth.

The second 3rd of the book focuses on his life principles and how he’s developed algorithms for making educated decisions.  If you want to learn how to scale your business, but don’t think it’s possible because “you are the business”, this book can show you how.

The last 3rd of the book shows how he has taken his life principles and applied them to business.  If you read this book, have a fresh highlighter, because you will most likely be marking something on every page.

Ray doesn’t care about being right; he cares about getting it right.  So he has a 4 step approach to succeeding and finding truth in every situation:

1. Seek out the smartest people who disagreed with me so I could try to understand their reasoning.

2. Know when not to have an opinion.

3. Develop, test, and systemize timeless and universal principles.

4. Balance risks in ways that keep the big upside, while reducing the downside.

#4 – Abundance
Author: Peter Diamandis

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I read this one after reading my #2 book, Bold.  If you plan on reading both, I’d recommend starting with Abundance and then reading Bold.  It’s the order in which they were written, and the author references Abundance in Bold. So if you read them in the correct order, it will help you to integrate the lessons more deeply.

In Abundance, space entrepreneur turned innovation pioneer, Peter H. Diamandis, and award-winning science writer, Steven Kotler, document how progress in artificial intelligence, robotics, digital manufacturing synthetic biology, and other exponentially growing technologies will enable us to make greater gains in the next two decades than we have in the previous 200 years. We will soon have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every person on the planet. Abundance for all is within our grasp.

This book will shake your foundation in how you think; especially if you are a “doom and gloomer” who thinks the world is falling apart and going to hell.  You can’t not think bigger after reading this book.  They address how social entrepreneurship and those who run their companies will be the change makers of the future.  There were way too many quotes to highlight, but the one that stands out to me the most (probably because most ‘experts’ say winning the election for Mayor of Tampa will be impossible for me), was this:

“… social entrepreneurs, I believe, have a genetic deficiency. Somehow, the gene that helps them look past the impossible is missing … By nature, entrepreneurs aren’t satisfied until they do change the world, and let nothing get in their way.”

#3 – For the Love of Cities
Author: Peter Kageyama

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I get it.  Urban planning may not seem like a book most people would enjoy reading.  But this book goes way beyond urban planning.  It reveals what makes people fall in love with the city that they live in. This book is a must read for anyone wanting to make impact where they live by making it a better place to live, work, and play.

It’s also the only book on my top 10 list that was written by a local.  Peter is a St. Pete resident and I’ll admit it:  As a guy who loves reading books on how to make cities better, I’m totally man-crushing on Peter.  His fiancé, Michelle Royal, is a good friend, and I repeatedly remind her that I’m only using her to get to him. 🙂

I’m not going to limit this book to just one quote.  Peter has way too many brilliant statements.  Here are some of my favorite:

“When we start including the higher aspirations of community into the mix; comfort, conviviality, beauty and fun, we begin to make places that are beyond merely livable and may ultimately be lovable.”

”When success is measured in getting cars from point A to point B as quickly as possible and traffic engineers have more say in how our cities look and feel, we know we have lost our way.”

”… [T]here’s no better way to market a city than to brand it from the inside out and have the people who live there and who are from there be the ultimate ambassadors of the city.”

”You know people are engaged, she explains, when they start using first-person pronouns about the city, saying “we need to do something” rather than “they need to do something” about a problem.”

I believe that every person who lives in a city has a duty to be an active part in solving its problems, inspiring great solutions, and taking care of those outside of their own home.  If you think back to why cities came into existence, it’s because living as “an island” was too dangerous.  So people came together and formed villages.  In a village, everyone took care of their neighbors as if they were family.  Somehow, as villages turned into cities, we forgot the basic tenet of why we came together in the first place.  For the Love of Cities will help you to reconnect with that reason.

#2 – Bold
Author: Peter Diamandis

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Holy crap! Just go buy it and read it!!!

As a book that is described as a radical, how-to guide for using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking, and crowd-powered tools, Bold unfolds in three parts:

Part One focuses on the exponential technologies that are disrupting today’s Fortune 500 companies and enabling upstart entrepreneurs to go from “I’ve got an idea” to “I run a billion-dollar company” much faster than ever before. The authors provide exceptional insight into the power of 3D printing, artificial intelligence, robotics, networks and sensors, and synthetic biology.

Part Two draws on insights from billionaires such as Larry Page, Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos, and reveals their entrepreneurial secrets.

In Part Three, Bold closes with a look at the best practices that allow anyone to leverage today’s hyper-connected crowd like never before.

The authors teach how to design and use incentive competitions, launch million-dollar crowdfunding campaigns to tap into tens of billions of dollars of capital, and how to build communities—armies of exponentially enabled individuals willing and able to help today’s entrepreneurs make their boldest dreams come true.

After you read this book, thinking small will no longer be an option; but more importantly, thinking big will be backed up with grounded strategies to help you make an impact.

Here are some of my favorite thoughts from the book:

“Today, in America, 80 percent of jobs revolve around the service industry, 30 which in turn can be broken down into four fundamental skills: looking, reading, writing, and integrating knowledge. How far has AI progressed? Computers can now perform all four of these skills and in many cases, better than humans.”

Here’s the takeaway I got from that statement:  It is more important than ever to be a Key Person of Influence in your industry because AI is quickly going to be better at your job than you are. But AI is still a long way from being a better “person” than you. Your personality, your sphere of influence, and the trust that other humans have toward you are the biggest and most valuable assets you have today to remain relevant tomorrow. We have already reached the age where the information you have is commoditized. And very soon, AI will also have your wisdom, which is currently where service driven enterprise has it’s value. That lifeline is becoming increasingly shortened. It’s time to focus on your personality, your brand image, and become a better person, not just a smarter one.

“The day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”

I can’t tell you how many people have told me that my vision for Tampa is a crazy idea, along with running for Mayor.  But crazy outperforms realistic every single day.  And my crazy vision for Tampa is already happening thanks to some well-funded, innovative and bold thinking visionaries in Tampa. Stay tuned for more…

“Who will be the Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mahatma Gandhi of the exponential age? Our history tells us that this breed of leaders is extremely rare and often underappreciated at first glance.”

This makes me look to everyone I meet and wonder if they are the next global though leader.  I don’t discount crazy ideas or see people as wild-eyed dreamers anymore.  Including me.  I don’t know if I’ll be the next global thought leader, nor do I have the desire to be.  But I know this for sure, if I’m not willing to think bold, it will damn sure wont’ happen.

#1 – Profit First
Author: Mike Michalowicz

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And finally, we reach #1.  Not only was this my #1 book of the year, it was also voted the #1 business book of the year as well.   I don’t think I can praise it enough.  The concept of the book is remarkably simple, but its premises have astonishingly profound effects.

Here’s the gist:

The traditional concept of how profit is determined in business is flawed.  Sales – expenses = profit.

This rarely, if ever, works because if a business isn’t profitable, they just try making more sales or reduce their expenses, but they are still left with little to no profit.  Instead, Michael takes a different approach to determine your profit.

Sales – profit – taxes – owner’s compensation = the money left over to pay your expenses.

I won’t take the time in this review to answer all the skeptical questions that you might be thinking, because I want you to read the book.  Instead, I will just share that since reading this book, my business has been profitable every single month.  I’ve paid myself a higher salary than I have in over a decade, and I’m sleeping better, I’m more focused in my business on what matters, and I can honestly say that not only is my business better because of this book, my life is better because of it, too.

Here are some of my favorite gems from its pages:

“Profit is not an event. Profit is not something that happens at year-end or at the end of your five-year plan or someday. Profit isn’t even something that waits until tomorrow. Profit must happen now and always. Profit must be baked into your business. Every day, every transaction, every moment. Profit is not an event. Profit is a habit.”

“Working on the business does not mean hiring a bunch of people to do the work and then spending all the livelong day answering their never-ending questions about how to do the job (the job you used to do).”

”Working on your business is about building systems. Period.”

”Your martyr syndrome is not doing anyone any favors; making yourself the sacrificial lamb does not promote efficiency; it hinders it.”

In fact, I was so impacted by the book, I’ve used my profits to fly the author down to Tampa, and I’m featuring him as a guest speaker on our next Profitable CEO series on February 16th.  If you would like to meet him, pick up a free copy of his book at the event, and learn directly from him how to implement the process into your business, you can learn about the event by clicking here.

Now, because I’m an overachiever, I don’t feel like just ending this blog with my Top 10 list; so here’s also a list my top 5 books in each of those 3 categories I mentioned above:

The top 5 books in 2017 that made me a better business person are:

#5 – 24 Assets

#4 – Play Bigger

#3 – Principles

#2 – What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

#1 – Profit First

The top 5 books in 2017 that made me a better citizen are:

#5 – Audacity

#4 – The Death & Life of Great American Cities

#3 – Two Paths – America Divided or United

#2 –Climate of Hope

#1 – For the Love of Cities

The top 5 books in 2017 that made me a better human are:

#5 – Predictably Irrational

#4 –Unoffendable

#3 – Abundance

#2 – Deep Work

#1 – Bold


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