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10 successful entrepreneurs reveal the books that changed their lives

The best founders read, and here are the lessons they’ve learned
By Nina Zipkin |



Good ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. Getting a chance to learn about other people’s lives and points of view, whether from a novel or autobiography, can help people, including entrepreneurs, change their perspective and lead to unexpected opportunities. Everything from being inspired, to launching a startup, to pivoting a business model and altering how to approach life can come from reading books.  



Check out the books and authors these entrepreneurs say truly made them change the way they think about the world.


1. On giving back

Name: Gavin Armstrong
Company: Lucky Iron Fish
Book: Conscious Capitalism: Liberating the Heroic Spirit of Business Book by John Mackey and Rajendra Sisodia. It raises interesting questions about how the private sector should be spending their money and how they should be earning their money. It all depends on the age and stage of your company and what commitment and obligation you should have to giving back. Because we started from day one with the objective to have a social impact embedded throughout our supply chain, we were able to weave that into all of our actions and our entire process. And as we grow, that culture and value grows with us.



2. On overcoming obstacles

Name: Ryan Holmes
Company: Hootsuite
Book: The Long Walk: The True Story Of A Trek To Freedom is one of the most amazing, heroic stories of this or any other time. It tells the story of author Slavomir Rawicz, a Polish soldier who is imprisoned by the Soviets after World War II. To gain his freedom, Rawicz goes on a remarkable journey through the frozen Siberian tundra, the Gobi desert, the Himalayan Mountains and to India. The Long Walk is about everyday human struggle, overcoming obstacles and achieving the impossible. That’s why I keep 10 copies on my desk to give away at any moment.



3. On work-life balance

Name: Julia Hartz
Company: Eventbrite
Book: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time by Brigid Schulte. It outlines the current issues around self-worth and approach to time, but also gender roles and pursuit of work-life balance. I was so moved by the book which is chock-full of supporting data points and useful reflections, that we had the author join the company to talk about her book via Google Hangout.



4. On unexpected beauty

Name: Jeff Chapin
Company: Casper 
Book: The Tower and the Bridge. A professor of mine in college wrote it, David P. Billington. When I started college, I was headed down the path of becoming a chemist. I'd always wanted to wear a lab coat and work in a lab. But when I read this book in my first year of college for a class about structural art – essentially, the beauty found in architecture and engineering – it was so captivating I switched majors and pursued a civil engineering degree focused on structures. To this day, it's still a reference for me in my work, even though I've switched from structures to products and work on a much smaller physical scale.



5. On positive thinking

Name: Jessica Dilullo Herrin
Company: Stella & Dot 
Book: Positive Intelligence by Shirzad Chamine. It’s one of the knowledge sources that affirmed for me that a positive mind is a powerful thing – not just for yourself but for your team and the people around you. A positive mind isn’t something where you figure out how to have it and you’re set for good. It’s like personal hygiene; you’ve got to keep it up every day.




6. On perspective and perception

Name: Melissa Ben-Ishay
Company: Baked by Melissa
Book: I recently read Keith Richards’ biography, followed by Mick Jagger’s. I found them interesting, because it's like I read the same story from different perspectives. It was great to see how two people experienced the same exact thing and still have different perspectives – and they’re both right. It was an eye-opening thing for me. In life, there are things you know and things you don’t know and for everything else, there are the doors of perception.



7. On managing a team

Name: Dave Rusenko
Company: Weebly
Book: My recent favorite book is The Rickover Effect by Theodore Rockwell about the nuclear bomb. He’s a very controversial personality. He was ahead of his time as far as management goes, and he had some really interesting thoughts on how to run an effective organization. It's more than a story. He provides compelling anecdotes and thoughts on how to get the best out of people.




8. On living your best life

Name: Josh Reeves
Company: Gusto
Book: The Monk and The Riddle by Randy Komisar, a professor of mine at Stanford. The book is about the purpose of life through his own experience. He brings up the idea of an extended life plan – the concept that somehow people think we’re going to do something now that might not be good but will enable us to do what we want in the future. But that mindset replicated over time means you never get to living the life you want. The main message is the journey itself matters. It’s the best way to build the best future.



9. On human nature

Name: Jack Groetzinger
Company: SeatGeek
Book: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, which talks about the way human beings are influenced in sort of non-logical or non-rational ways. It seems a little Machiavellian. It's the way you use sell tactics to get people to comply with you, but I think that it can also be used for good. In the case of SeatGeek, figuring out how we can harness social psychology, human psychology, to allow people to do more stuff, have more fun and go to more events.



10. On human flaws

Name: Aaron Hirschhorn
Company: DogVacay 
Book: I love books that help you understand or change your perspective on life, on humanity, on what it means to be a person, on what it means to be an animal. There are two books that I love. Life of Pi, where the main character grows up in a zoo and talks about what it means to be an animal in the wild and an animal in the zoo, and then he sort of experiences it on a journey. I just love the perspective on humanity there. The other one is The Art of Racing in the Rain, which is a book written from the perspective of a dog. And it's just so pure and beautiful about how this dog views his owner. You get that the owner is a flawed human, but the dog doesn't see any of that.







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