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My Top 17 Business Books of All Time

People often ask me, “Hey, did you go to Harvard or Stanford?” They assume I went to an Ivy League school. But the truth is I’m self taught and most of what I’ve learned, I either learned hands on, from taking courses, or reading books.

Today, I’ve put together my 17 top business books. One of them really isn’t a business book, and probably isn’t even a book you’d want your spouse to know you’re reading. It’s maybe a little controversial, but I’m sharing everything with you and the book had a huge impact on me, so I’m going to tell you all about that. These are the top 17 business books that I think you should read. These have all impacted me in different ways, and I’m just going to randomly pull these out:

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. Two big takeaways from this book. One was that he learned time management from dealing with this billionaire boss. It’s a fascinating story. He talks about how you had to have everything down on one piece of paper. It had to make sense, be concise, and you had 20 minutes to review it with them and that was it. He describes how he learned to make people do that to him. And secondly, he gets into how he hires salespeople. He’s genius there. The Ultimate Sales Machine.

The Culture Code by Clotaire Rapaille. The Culture Code is genius because this guy Clotaire was a marketing guy, but he started off as a doctor helping kids with autism, and he learned how to get deep into the subconscious. He ended up being hired by different brands to figure out what motivates people. 

There’s a fascinating story about Chrysler coming to him and saying, “Hey, we want you to help us design a car. We know what our clients want. They want safety, reliability, and gas mileage.” He ended up helping Chrysler develop the Prowler as an Al Capone getaway car, because deep in the subconscious of mostly my generation – I don’t think millennials are the same – but cars represented to us freedom from our parents. It was freedom. So he designed the car like an Al Capone getaway car. It sold great, and he says in there that it wasn’t safe, reliable, and it didn’t get good gas mileage. It’s a great marketing book.

The Game by Neil Strauss. This is a dangerous one. Neil Strauss is an amazing writer, and it’s about how he learned how to pick up girls. He’s a short, nerdy, bald guy, and he learned how to pick up girls. 

I’m not suggesting this book as a way to pick up girls. It isn’t about that at all. If you’re going to read this book, you need to approach it from the perspective of sales. I think this is the greatest sales book ever written, because it explains his process for learning how to attract the opposite sex was trial and error, practicing, and paying attention to the details in how you looked, how you talked, what you said. Everything mattered, and you could create an outcome that you originally didn’t think you could create.

It’s important to just get past the fear of approaching. I think sometimes in sales there’s a fear of cold calling, approaching, and things like that. If you read this book, take it as the idea of how can you sell more, how can you be a better salesperson, not how can you pick up girls. That’s not really the best use of the book. At the end of the day that part of it strikes me as a little shallow. But he’s a great writer and it’s really well written. A lot of wives don’t like me recommending that book, but I think that everybody has been able to take that in context.

The Great Pain Deception by Steven Ray Ozanich. I had somebody that worked for me that had had back surgery a few times and he always had back pain. I asked in this mastermind I was in, I was like, “Hey, what do I do?” And they said, “Have him go see Dr. Sarno at NYU.” He ended up reading a couple of Dr. Sarno books and going through the process.

So I read the books and what I learned in the process is that a lot of our illnesses, like back pain, come from stress in our mindset. Our body is actually trying to protect us because we’re stressed. We don’t know how to cope with things and our subconscious will put us down.

What I mean by put us down is it will create back pain or some sort of illness to keep us from having to face those things. The pain, or the back pain, ends up being bigger than the stress that we’re facing. It just really represents how mental a lot of things are and how powerful our mind is.

Now this book isn’t by Dr. Sarno, it’s by Steven Ray Ozanich, but Dr. Sarno retired and this is a great book. It’s the same lesson. In the past, every couple of years, I would get back pain and I couldn’t move. I literally couldn’t get off the floor sometimes. Ever since going through this, I haven’t had any back pain since.

Thursday Speeches by Coach Don James. I grew up in Seattle, Washington and Don James was arguably the best coach that Washington State ever had. What’s genius about this is how he came into a culture of losing, and it documents how he turned it around, how he changed the way that the players behaved, how they acted. It’s a great leadership book. It’s an easy read. It’s short. And it really shows how somebody comes in to a bad culture and then turns it around.

Eleven Rings by Phil Jackson. Phil Jackson has a few books, and this is my favorite of all of them. It really gets into how he managed Michael Jordan, Kobe, and Shaq, who are extremely high performing athletes. I think a lot of times in our industry guys will say, “Well, the high performers are the biggest pain in the butt and they’re the hardest to manage.”

There are some great insights in here, leadership lessons on practice and how you approach teams. There’s a lot of Zen in there, meditation, things like that, that I believe in and I’ve had success with. It’s interesting he used to make his teams practice in the dark, which is crazy. Amazing book. Eleven Rings.

The Little Stuff Matters Most, which is so, so true, by Bernie Brillstein. Great book. Lots of nuggets in there. It’s broken up into 50 chapters and it’s an easy read.

Principles by Ray Dalio. This is a meaty book. The audio book is really good. That’s how I ingested this, with the audio book. There’s a quote on the front by Bill Gates, “Ray Dalio has provided me with invaluable guidance, insights that are now available to you in Principles.”

There are so many things in this book. Ray Dalio arguably ran, I think, the biggest investment company fund that there was. He created a system for it. At one point he literally lost everything, and he created this system that is infamous to this day.

A lot of people didn’t like working within the system because he recorded every meeting. There were no politics whatsoever in his company, everything was out in the open. He had this way of measuring people’s success against their opinion and their value. Everybody’s opinion was tracked and measured, but it gave the biggest weight to the people that had a track record of results. It’s genius. His philosophies, his approach, are just genius. I think this should be a must read for anybody.

Winning Through Intimidation by Robert Ringer. I love this book. When most people go on vacation, they go scuba diving, fishing, and rock climbing. Not me. I lay by the pool and read books. I read this book on the beach in Cabo on a vacation. 

There are a couple of things you should know about this book. One is, I would buy an old one. If you buy the really old ones, the original printing of them, they’re expensive. I don’t know, they can be 120 bucks, but I would buy those. The new ones that have been rewritten and reprinted in paperback lose a little something to me.

I love the old ones. I love how they smell like old books, like an old library. Basically what he’s talking about in this book is he was in real estate investing and he was buying apartment buildings and different things and he just kept getting his butt kicked in business.

People were telling him one thing but doing something else, and he really was struggling. So, he created a system how to deal with that, how to hedge his bets, how to have an impact on the opposition, or the seller when he was buying apartments, by the way he looked and the way he showed up.

I learned a lot about lawyers in here. Since reading this book, I’ve never lost a lawsuit by using his strategies and understanding that lawyers in private have their own language. It really helped me manage lawyers and understand that when they go into the judges chambers, or when they’re talking to each other, they’re feeling each other out and where’s your client at, where’s mine at, and they’re not always representing us in the way that we want.

It helped me be a lot more aggressive in business dealings and things like that, to coach lawyers and control that outcome in business. It’s a great book. But like I said, buy the old one, not the new one.

Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization. This is a must read too. There’s a lot of books by Wooden, but this one is my favorite one. It’s a snack. It’s really easy to read. But there are a few things in here that you take away.

One is that new players coming to play at UCLA, he discovered he couldn’t take it for granted that they even knew their shoe size. He said a lot of players would come to UCLA and they didn’t actually know how to fit shoes, or what their shoe size was. He shares his attention to detail, how to onboard people into your company or into your sports team, and some great stories about how he handled difficult players. One time Bill Russell came back after a break and showed up with a beard and long hair. He was the star of the team and Wooden was like, “Bill, I love you, but we’re going to miss you, because you can’t play on the team with the beard and long hair.” Bill went and cut his hair. It was funny.

The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz and Dan Kennedy. Amazing. I really like this one. There are a couple versions of Psycho-Cybernetics. This is the newer one when Dan Kennedy bought the rights to it and redid it. He added some things to it. But the thing with Dr. Maltz, was he was a plastic surgeon and he couldn’t understand that patients would come to him and they would think, “Hey, if I fix this scar on my face, or I fix my nose, my life will get better, I’ll have more confidence.”

They felt like whatever it was in their looks that they needed to fix would fix their life. And oftentimes not only would it not fix their life when they got their nose done or the scar removed, it actually got worse. It’s all about your internal dialogue, and you’ll see tons of pro golfers, NFL players will attribute this as being one of their favorite books about performance.

What you learn is how to approach your subconscious, your conscious mind, your self image, and the inner dialogue that’s going on. This is literally a book that you can pick up and just open up anywhere and read it and you’ll get something valuable out of it. It’s amazing. Psycho-Cybernetics, the Dan Kennedy one.

Shut Up, Stop Whining, & Get A Life by Larry Winget. I went through a period where I lost my business, my dog died, and I was going through a divorce. I don’t know why I picked up this book. Why I was attracted to it. I’ve since hung out and became friends with Larry.

His affirmations in here, his approach, it really impacted me. At the time, even though I could have felt sorry for myself, what I took away from this book is not to feel sorry for myself and to get after it. I wasn’t a victim. An opportunity was still there. It’s an amazing book. My favorite Larry Winget book. Shut Up, Stop Whining & Get A Life.

The Psychology Of Influence by Cialdini. This is an amazing book. I know a lot of people in the automotive industry have read this book. It’s about how you can influence people, how through reciprocation and different things you can influence the outcome of a sale, of a transaction, of raising money for a charity. It’s a classic genius book. Influence.

When Violence Is The Answer by Tim Larkin. Our buddy, Tim Larkin. Amazing guy. I know it’s a controversial title, but really my biggest takeaway is not assuming a social contract. I think we want to assume a social contract that isn’t there. It’s an amazing book. Can’t recommend it enough. Get past the title and read it. There’s a lot of lessons in there.

Win Forever by Pete Carroll. Great book. A lot like the Wooden book. He borrows a lot from Wooden and the pyramid that Wooden has in his book, Pete has his own. I like some of the things on Pete’s because it’s like, “if you’re on time, you’re late.” There are a bunch of good lessons in here about culture, and how to find the things that are special about the people on your team and then amplify those things. It’s a great book, and also takes into consideration that I’m a huge Seahawks fan, and he fixed our team for sure.

Maps Of Meaning by Jordan Peterson. Jordan Peterson also has another book that came out recently called 12 Rules For Life. It’s amazing. Maps Of Meaning is a book that I carry around and read all the time. He taught Harvard classes on this, and his classes and lectures on maps of meaning are up online on his YouTube channel. I’ve watched those and read the book.

I’ve never highlighted and written in a book as much as in this one. It’s just unbelievable, the things in here. The takeaways from this book are about behaviors and contexts and why people do things. What’s ingrained in us, our behaviors and approaches to things. I think for any leader, or anybody in marketing or business, which we all are, this is a must read. It’s heady. You can only take a couple pages at a time and then you’ve got to stop and think about it. But I love a book like that. You really get challenged in your thinking and your approach and you have to try to understand it, because there’s layers in here. Like I said, it helps to watch his lectures at Harvard also along with it, but can’t say enough great things about Maps Of Meaning and Jordan Peterson.

Teaching Excellence: The Defining Guide to NLP For Teaching and Learning by Dr. Richard Bandler and Kate Benson. The story behind this book is Kate Benson took a NLP class from Bandler, who is one of the founders of NLP, and during a break she said, “Hey, you’re using NLP to teach us NLP.” And he replied, “Yeah, of course. That’s the quickest way for you to learn it.” And she’s like, “Well, why doesn’t anybody teach teachers how to use NLP?” And he said, “That’s a great idea.” So they co-wrote this book.

There are two things that I think you’ll get from this book. One is you’re going to learn how to train your people, how to teach your people, and understand how they learn, because people learn in different ways. And the second is you actually learn NLP. She does a great job of explaining NLP. I learned more about NLP from this book in the context of how to use it to teach other people than I have ever learned. I actually want to go to a Bandler workshop and learn it from him himself. Because it’s amazing. If you don’t know what NLP is, it’s neuro linguistic programming. Basically, there are certain ways you can phrase things, approach things, do things, that make people understand you and retain things better than they would without it. Definitely look it up. Maybe watch some videos online about it. 

That’s the last book, so there you go. You don’t have to be a service manager or service advisor at a car dealership to appreciate this stuff, but the takeaways will add huge value there. These books have all made a big impact in my life and on Service Drive Revolution, and they are the 17 business books that I think everybody should read.

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