Every year around the holidays, I like to review some of the best books I read (or listened to) that year. These books weren't all "new", but they were interesting, highly recommended, and new to me. So maybe this post should have been named "Books I loved in 2020", but that just doesn't sound as good.
Remember that even if you disagree with some chapters, or some parts of a book are later debunked, just one great line or idea is enough to make it a worthy read/listen.
I tend to stick to business books, but I've threw in a few extras. So here are "The best" or "My favorite" books I read in 2020, in no particular order...
18) One to Many
Given I'm preparing a new webinar right now, I thought I should brush up on presentation strategies, which led me to Jason Fladlein's One to Many. Basically, he has sold over $100 million from webinars, and this book teaches you how to structure and sell with webinars, yourself. I rate 8/10.
The best things about webinars, YouTube, and any [other] kind of video marketing, are that 1) it's growing and super-effective, and 2) your competitors are too shy to use it. I rate 8/10 in marketing.
For most businesses, simply having a semi-cohesive webinar in place will put you leagues ahead of the competition who don't use webinars at all.
17) Extreme Ownership
This book takes lessons from the Navy SEAL battlefield into the boardroom. They make great points related to leadership and management, and they tell many battlefield stories.
More than anything else, I love the idea behind the title which is that you should take "extreme ownership" of EVERY situation you find yourself in. That means anything good or bad that happens to you is within your power to change, and so, your "fault". No victimhood. I rate 8/10 for leadership.
16) Sex at Dawn
Sex at Dawn takes an inquisitive look at the origins of human sexual nature and history. I often compare it to the (also great) book Sapiens, in that it is very scientific, interesting, and thorough/long.
It evaluates many modern/western ideas about sensuality and relationships, such as monogamy, marriage, and the nuclear family. Some religious and marriage-obsessed people don't like that the author isn't exactly on Team Monogamy, so read it with an open mind. I rate it 8/10 for scientific history.
I walked into this one not knowing anything about it, but then I learned why I saw it everywhere. It's basically the auto-biography of a Mormon girl who grew up home-schooled and devoutly religious.
I don't want to ruin the story, but it's basically the story of her escaping (or trying to) the cult-like world of her hyper-religious family. It's good, check it out. I rate it an 8/10 for auto-biographies.
I am not the child my father raised, but he is [still] the father who raised her.
For the past few decades, universities and workplaces have championed the idea of specialization, also known as "knowing more and more, about less and less." In a world that endlessly glorifies "niching down", the author argues that in the modern world, a wide range of experience is much more valuable.
To be clear, niching down DOES have a place, and benefits of its own. It's just not the dream it is sold as, so read this one if you're even slightly questioning the idea of doing the same thing forever.
I rate 9/10 for mindset-changing.
If we treated careers more like dating, nobody would settle down so quickly.
13) The Courage to be Disliked
This one also takes a bit of open-mindedness, which is funny because this one is also scientific. It starts out discussing how Freud was ok, but Adler was way better at psychology. He explains how Freud believed our actions today depend on our past, while Adler proposed that our future is what matters.
It discusses how the human mind works (psychology), and the keys to being confident, fulfilled, happy, and all that jazz. Even though this book is based on science, it does discuss topics such as happiness, regret, forgiveness, confidence, and more, that also make it feel somewhat spiritual.
It reads as a dialogue between a bitter young man and a wise teacher of Adlerian psychology. I'd call it a more scientific version of The Power of Now. I rate it 9/10 for fulfillment and happiness.
No matter what has occurred in your life up to this point, it should have no bearing at all on how you live from now on. That you, living in the here and now, is the one who determines your own life.
12) Bad Blood
This is the very interesting story about the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. If you've never heard of her, she was the wonderkid (the new Zuckerberg) in silicon valley not too long ago. To quote Wikipedia, "By 2015, Forbes had named Holmes the youngest and wealthiest self-made female billionaire in America, on the basis of a $9-billion valuation of her company."
However, all that glittered wasn't actually gold in the wonderkid's shiny new venture. Today, she awaits trial for multiple felony counts of fraud, and more. I rate 8/10 for biographies.
11) Shoe Dog
Maybe the most commercially successful title on this list, Shoe Dog is a memoir from Nike founder Phil Knight. It tells a story of how a determined young man pivoted several times, but always "kept his feet moving", and never lost enthusiasm toward pursuing his goals.
Those pivots came as a result of ruthless competitors, hostile bankers, constant setbacks, and more. It shows his chaotic journey as he persevered his way to success. I rate 8/10 for auto-biographies.
The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.
10) Start With Why
I had heard about this book SO much, and now I can say that is was...ok. The author argues that "why" you do something matters much more than whatever it is you "do", in just about every area of life.
He discusses how in "real life", a strong "why" can be your fuel in an unforgiving world, and how in business, consumers now demand to know your "why" and will reward you for the privilege. He makes a convincing argument that your "why" is your best market differentiator. I rate it 7.5/10 in marketing.
9) No Rules: 21 Giant Lies
If you aren't familiar with Dan Kennedy, then bless yourself with one of the world's best fountains of marketing and business knowledge. He sprinkles an annoying amount of his opinions into his books, but if you can look past that, then he can teach you everything you need to know about business.
This particular title is more of a classic (1998), and challenges popular business myths at the time, many of which surprisingly still live on today. A few of those myths-to-debunk include: be modest, life is fair, be meek, be original, work hard, never quit, get a degree, and many more. I rate 9/10 for life advice.
8) The Challenger Sale
The Challenger Sale fancies itself "SPIN Selling for the Modern Age", which means it analyzes tons of sales data to uncover what works and what doesn't in today's sales environment.
One of his main arguments is that contrary to popular belief, customers now appreciate, and even want you to stand your ground and be helpful, yet firm in sales situations. I rate 8/10 in sales.
[Customers] put the highest value on salespeople who make them think, who bring new ideas, who find creative and innovative ways to help the customer's business.
7) No BS: Trust Marketing
The importance of trust in sales cannot be overstated. That being said, consumers are becoming less and less trusting every day, and who can blame them?
Dan Kennedy can always be trusted to deliver market-tested tactics and strategies, and this is no exception, as he teaches how to develop the most important step in sales. I rate 9/10 in marketing.
You can get laid with lust. But you get and stay married with trust.
6) The Science of Selling
While you could say every book about selling is based on science and data, The Science of Selling seeks to take that to another level, and discusses buying-behavior, involving emotions, asking questions, handling objections, closing, creating commitments, and more.
He includes a lot about neuroscience, and he argues that most salespeople sell in a way that contradicts how people buy. It's always good to keep up with sales tactics, so I rate this 7.5/10 in sales.
85-90% of all sales training has no positive impact after the training.
Even if you've already read The Everything Store, Bezonomics is the newer, updated version of everything going on in Amazon- and Jeff Bezos-land. The author explains how Bezos got to where he is today (richest in the world), what Amazon is/has been up to, and what's next for all things Bezos.
Even if you aren't involved with e-commerce, it's a great examination of one of the biggest companies of our time, and one of our greatest entrepreneurs. I rate it 8/10 for business strategy.
This book delves into a branch of social science that is often overlooked, but extremely important, which is demographics. Demographics are generally defined as definite facts about people, such as their location, height, occupation, age, and so forth. Yes, it sounds boring but it's actually very interesting.
The author argues that demographic changes play a much bigger role in shaping business and society than we give them credit for. No matter what kind of business you're in, you'd benefit from knowing more about the huge societal changes on the way. I rate 8/10 in social science and trends.
“Tsunami” perfectly describes the power of large growing shifts in population: These shifts are immensely powerful, hard to see, and incredibly challenging because the power is not really recognized until, like a tsunami, the shift actually hits.
3) Book Yourself Solid
Book Yourself Solid is marketed as a an A-Z guide to filling up your schedule with leads and clients, so that you can find yourself "booked solid". However, he makes sure to clarify that "busy-ness" and "effectiveness" are two completely different things.
He thoroughly explains self-promotion tactics and strategies, and he also discusses topics such as reputation management, goal-setting, building credibility, pricing and more. I rate 8/10 for consulting.
I listened to this recently, but it was so good that I also bought it on Kindle and will be re-"reading" it soon. Although it's very readable, I consider it an advanced course in business positioning.
It's about getting customers to come to you, and about developing demand for your offer. Check it out for more on how to raise your prices, and design your offers. While supply and demand seem easy enough to understand, the author puts them to real use for your business. I rate it 9/10 in marketing.
If your capacity number is 100, you're slightly oversubscribed at 101. Being slightly oversubscribed isn't good enough though. You'll need to have several units of signalled interest for every unit of capacity you want to sell.
1) Expert Secrets
This is the only re-read on this list, but it's the new edition which is double the size, so it can count. Russell Brunson is simply the man and you can trust him to deliver hard-hitting marketing knowledge.
This book is #2 of the trilogy, and this one is about how to grow an expert-based business, be seen as a leader, and inspire a tribe to follow (and buy from) you. I rate 10/10 in every category.
People will spend more money for the exact same content (or framework) packaged in a different way.
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