Ten Books for Young Entrepreneurs

So you’re young and either have your own start-up, or are aspiring to start your own business or company.  Or you’re just looking for ideas that you could implement – perhaps you want to travel around the world and work on other people’s projects, making a bit of money in the process.  Here’s a list of books for you to read, to give you some suggestions and ideas for your ventures or adventures.

The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Feriss

It’s hard to believe that one can become a successful entrepreneur by working merely four hours in a week, but Feriss provides his example of checking his email only once daily and outsourcing most other tasks to virtual assistants.  He chronicles his escape from the idea that one needs to be a workaholic in order to be successful, and propounds his ideas of Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation (DEAL) in the book.  In other words, figure out what you want and get over society’s expectations, manage your time and figure out the difference between efficiency and effectiveness, build a sustainable model for an automatic income, and the successful liberation from having a job in a particular geographic location.  But if you have an ordinary job, Ferris notes that this process becomes DELA, in place of DEAL.  It’s a highly appealing model, and one that sparks widespread interest, but not a particularly workable one if you’re not already rich.  In other words, if your startup makes it big, then Feriss’ advice is something you really should ponder; but if you’re just starting up, there’s much less he can offer.

The $100 Startup – Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau has visited nearly 175 countries in the world, and has never had a “real” job – rather, he has a knack for turning ideas into income which he uses to fund his travels and to give back.  Guillebeau did case studies of 1500 individuals who had started their own ventures with a very modest investment and earn more than $50,000 – of which he’s selected the fifty most interesting cases for his book.  It’s basically all about monetizing your passions, and this book is not to be missed for any aspiring entrepreneur.

The Art of Non-Conformity – Chris Guillebeau

Another volume by Chris Guillebeau, this book is a treatise on exploring creative self-employment, radical goal setting, and being on a constant adventure in life.  Guillebeau brings in analogies and anecdotes about his less-than-conventional life experiences travelling the world and coming up ideas for people as he moves along.  Like Guillebeau’s other book on this list, The $100 Startup, this one goes into how to buck societal conventions and do what you want on your own terms anywhere in the world, but focuses more on the things that you need in order to find yourself in that position, rather than the other book’s focus on case studies.

How I Braved Anu Aunty and Co-Founded a Million Dollar Company – Varun Agarwal

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Varun Agarwal is a first-generation entrepreneur.  He has founded two different companies – Alma Mater, which has become the largest provider of merchandise to students, and Last Minute Films, which produces promotional films and music videos.  He’s also only 27, and thus as a young and successful entrepreneur is highly qualified to give advice to other young aspiring entrepreneurs.  His autobiographical novel has grown to become a bestseller in India – chronicling that well-known path of being cajoled into studying engineering to be followed by an MBA.  It tells how Varun and a school friend co-founded Alma Mater, while constantly being belittled  by one of his mother’s friends for being an under-achiever, demonstrating the fact that you can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Rich Woman – Kim Kiyosaki

Kim Kiyosaki tells women about investing, personal finance, and accepting responsibility for their lifelong stability in this installment in the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series.  This one is meant to be a sort of guide for women to be financially independent, without any outside resources.  It expounds many of the same ideas as found in Rich Dad, Poor Dad with women as a focus audience.

The Lean Startup – Eric Ries

The Lean Startup ideal is to create companies which are both more capital-efficient and which more effectively utilize creativity as a method. This is inspired by similar manufacturing processes, and incorporates things such as scientific experimentation, and a few seemingly counter-intuitive practices that actually shorten product development cycles and measure real progress.  The approach emphasizes ways for entrepreneurs to test their vision, adapt, and adjust before investing too much effort in an idea.  It’s a scientific approach to startups in a time when innovation is ever more essential to the health of a company.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things – Ben Horowitz

Ben Horowitz gives us a discussion on how difficult it can be to run a business, and he shares the insights that he had gained through personal experience.  It’s a valuable book for both young entrepreneurs as well as veterans in the field, and its interspersed with rap lyrics and humor.

The Alchemist – Paul Coelho

Everyone has something that they always want to accomplish – that’s termed as a “Personal Legend” in Coehlo’s allegorical novel about a young shepherd who travels to Egypt after having recurring dreams of finding treasure in the pyramids.  The book is basically about the idea that if you really want something sincerely enough, the entire universe will conspire to help you achieve that – a thought that should be on the mind of anyone starting a business.  Coehlo’s alchemist tells the story’s protagonist that everyone will seek out the treasure of their Personal Legend, but rarely the truth of the legend itself, and that “those who don’t understand their Personal Legends will fail to comprehend its teachings” – providing valuable lessons about goals and aspirations, as well as implementing your dreams.

Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life – Spencer Johnson

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You don’t like change, or the idea that things will always remain the same? Then you won’t get far at all with your own business – adaptation is the key to success both in the real world and in evolutionary biology.  Who Moved My Cheese is an allegory involving two tiny humans and two mice trapped in a sort of maze, who one day chance upon a “cheese station” (they had previously all gathered bits of cheese from the corridors of the maze), which they treat as an unending supply of cheese upon which to feast.  One day, the cheese runs out, and the two mice go off to continue searching for cheese, while the two humans sit and lament about their fate.  Eventually one of them decides to conquer his fears and sets off to find a new cheese station, while the other sits thinking wishfully that maybe everything will return to what it was.  It’s about changes and adaptations, yes, but also about limited resources and changing market dynamics.  In other words, you should read this book simply to understand the necessity in accepting change as it comes, and embracing it rather than fighting against something just because it goes against previous patterns and habits.

The White Tiger – Aravind Adiga

Balaram, Aravind Adiga’s protagonist, eventually shifts to Bangalore and starts a successful cab business.  If that were the basis of this novel alone, it would be the archetypal success story, a how-to of how to arise from poverty and start a successful business.  Indeed, ignoring morality, it does exactly that.  Balaram is born into a poor, low-caste family in Bihar, eventually becoming a personal driver for a wealthy local family before shifting to Delhi with his master.  Eventually, however, Balaram kills his employer and runs away to Bangalore with his money to start up a cab business – which, though a successful model, is an ill-advised practice for any aspiring entrepreneur who doesn’t want to end up in prison.  Adiga’s book examines poverty, caste, class, and many other things, but it also demonstrates that even lofty aspirations can and do come true if you’re determined enough.

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