1) Mindset - Carole Dweck
I read this book at the beginning of the year and it has changed the way I think about my own skills and ability, and made me challenge the EF cohort in the way they think about theirs. Dweck identifies two mindsets that we all have to some extent — a growth mindset where you believe you can impact and change your own ability and outcomes, and a fixed mindset where you believe the opposite. There are many ways this apply to founding a startup and you can read my thoughts on this here.
2) Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our Future - Ashlee Vance
This felt like one of the most talked about books of the year —you can read my cofounder’s review of it here. What really struck me is Musk’s relentlessness. His level of ambition is relentless, he took on the largest and most complicated industries in the world; His ability to get stuff done is relentless, regardless of whether incompetent suppliers or regulation get in his way.
We used to ask applicants to Entrepreneur First which entrepreneur they most admired — 80% said Elon Musk. Having read this book, I’ve now joined that fan club.
3) Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose — Tony Hsieh
Not a new one from this year, but from a founder I really admire. Delivering Happiness is part memoir, part management handbook. What I really love about this book is the memoir of how Hsieh went from a disgruntled graduate employee to a 25 year old multi-millionaire. That’s impressive, but even more so is his determination to turn Zappos into a billion dollar company. He poured every penny of his fortune into Zappos, even when no-one else would fund it.
It’s an interesting contrast from the Elon Musk biography. Tony Hsieh is not your typical ‘war time’ CEO. He made a tonne of tough decisions, and was highly focused, but understood the importance of taking his workforce on the journey with him.
4) Hedy’s Folly: The Life and Breakthrough Inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the Most Beautiful Woman in the World - Richard Rhodes
This short book follows the life of Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr who was crowned ‘the most beautiful woman in the world’ in the 1940s.
Eschewing the parties and glamour of Hollywood, she would spend her evenings inventing anything from a stock cube that would create a glass of cola, to the invention that won her a place in the US National Inventors Hall of Fame and that is now the basis for Wifi and Bluetooth. The story tracks her role developing spread spectrum and frequency hopping technology during WWII and touches on her movie star lifestyle (including her 6 marriages). I love her no nonsense attitude and complete focus on progressing her professional career at a time when this wasn’t the norm.
5) Fierce Leadership: A Bold Alternative to the Worst “Best” Practices of Business Today — Susan Scott
Do not be fooled by the Microsoft Publisher style cover, or by the sometimes overly chatty narrative, this book is a gem. It’s a management book and some of what it says is common sense (it’s just hard to do!), but there are some real insights into how to give feedback effectively, how to really communicate with your team and how to be a better leader. She has a series of mantras that have already become part of our team language— "what are you practicing?" "what do you win if this is true?" "what’s the most important thing we have to talk about today?"