In today’s world where people use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to put so much of their day to day lives on display, it makes studies of great men who have lived very private lives like John D. Rockefeller and Elon Musk, even that more intriguing.
This is no boilerplate list of top best-sellers. There’s one or two books you probably didn’t even know existed. But each one is worth reading.
1. Phil Knight
Shoe Dog Ι $20
Founder and and Former Ceo of Nike, Phil Knight remained largely mysterious for most of his time as helm of one of the most recognizeable brands on earth. In his memoir Shoe Dog, Phil unveils the riveting history of Nike from the very event’s that led up to the startup to what is now a company with annual revenues of over $36 Billion.
Big Takeaway Themes: As you journey thru the superbly written chronicles of his ups and downs starting Nike, there are so many lessons regarding loans, family, placing people in the right positions, weaknesses, and traveling to be learned, that it’s hard to put down.
If you are the founder of a startup or growing a company, this is a must read for not only you… but also your team.
Most Shocking- The massive risk’s the legendary founder took early on, and how close to collapse the company came to on multiple occasions.
Side Note: Netflix acquired the movie rights to this book in July 2018, which will no doubt be a huge hit when it comes out.
2. John D. Rockefeller
Titan Ι $16
The first American billionaire and considered the wealthiest American to have ever lived, John D. Rockefeller’s business and personal life is one of much debate. A major philanthropist who gave away more than $530 Million over ($5 Billion in today’s dollars) the generous tycoon was considered a patron saint by many. And a hated villian to others who believed he was the personification of the evils of capitalism, utterly ruthless in his tactics.
In Titan, Ron Chernow masterfully examines the complexities of a man who is responsible for so much of life as we know it today. Readers will appreciate the depth of Chernow’s research and his writing style. Although I must say, three quarters of the way thru the book, I felt that I had read the important parts, and all the details started getting to be a little too much. But it’s still an unbelievable account of the legendary Titan.
Big Takeaway Themes: Borrowing to grow, efficiencies and attention to details, employing people, history of trusts and monopolies, and being humble with wealth.
Most Shocking: Just how frugal and efficient Rockefeller remained, even after his insurmountable rise to the largest fortune in history.
3. Elon Musk
Elon Musk Ι $17
Elon Musk is a polarizing figure. Driven people are drawn like a magnet to him. Workaholics reference the man who is known to work 23 hour days whenever someone suggest they call it a day. Investors can stop reading about his his companies. Hell, every space guru is enamored with his quest to outer-space.
The thing about Elon Musk is- Elon Musk get’s shit done.
And who isn’t attracted to that?
From Elon’s part in X.com as it merged with Paypal and sold for $1.5 Billion to the eye-popping details of Tesla and SpaceX, Ashlee Vance tells this captivating story brilliantly.
Big Takeaway Themes: Determination, failing with people, managing the right people, creativity.
Most Shocking: Elon’s ability to learn and understand complex projects freakishly fast.
Empire State Of Mind Ι $17
Jay-Z is one of the most recognized names on the planet. He’s graced the over of Time, GQ, Rolling Stones, Vanity Fair, and Forbes (alongside his pal Warren Buffet). He’s a 21 time Grammy winner. His business interest in Live Nation, Rocawear, streaming music service Tidal, and his part ownership in the New York Knicks have all been highly publicized. Yet somehow there still maintains a certain mysterious presence about him. Famously protective of his private life, maintaining such a mysterious aura is an accomplishment in and of itself.
So much so, when the music mogul was approached by Forbes Senior Editor Zack O’Malley Greenburg, seeking access to his inner circle for a “business-focused biography that would put him in the upper pantheons with Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs, and other brilliant minds”, he shocked the esteemed magazine’s writer when he declined.
Lucky for us Greenburg wrote the book anyway, without Jay-Z’s cooperation. Giving us an inside look into his rise from poverty and drugs to an accomplished businessman with a net worth over $900 million.
Big Takeaway Theme’s- Humble beginnings, failure, confidence in oneself.
Most Shocking – Carter’s uncanny ability to realize and cash out when an investment has peaked, regardless of investment type.
5. P.T. Barnum
The Life Of P.T. Barnum Ι $17
Most people know P.T. Barnum as one of the partners of Barnum and Bailey Circus, aka the “Greatest Show On Earth”. However, very few people know the whole story of this fascinating 19th century businessman.
A born entrepenuer, Phineas Taylor Barnum by the age of 21, owned a general store, small lottery, and his own newspaper company. His business acumen led to brilliant and created ways to attract masses to public museums, musical concerts, the three-ring circus. One of the wealthiest of his time, by the time Barnum passed away in 1891, he had met with Queen Victoria and President Abraham Lincoln. Barnum American Museum had roughly 38 Million visitors. An amazing feat considering that was more than the population of the entire United States at the time.
In his autobiography (which more than 1 million copies sold before he died), the master storyteller recalls his seemingly endless struggles and triumphs, providing a perfect example to never give up no matter what problems you face.
Big Takeaway Themes: Attracting people, bouncing back, creativity.
Most Shocking: Well this a tough one since there are so many shocking moments in Barnum’s life and business. But one that really stands out is that he withstood 5 fires! Two of them were at his famed American Museum. Four years after the death of the American Museum his next venture, the Hippotheatron burned down.
6. Jacob Fugger
The Richest Man Who Ever Lived Ι $13
In the days when Columbus sailed the ocean and Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, a German banker named Jacob Fugger became one of the most influential and richest businessmen in history.
Since his is arguably the richest private individual who ever lived and remains unknown to all but the most dedicated history buffs, I’ll give a quick recap of his accomplishments:
- Created the world’s first news service and used it find out about market-moving events before others.
- Financed the rise of Maximilian I and made considerable contributions to secure the election of the Spanish king Charles V to become Holy Roman Emperor.
- Was creator of the Fuggerei, the world’s first affordable housing project.
- Was worth about $400 billion in current dollars at the time of his death in 1525.
Roger Lowenstein, author of When Genius Failed and Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist), tells an absorbing story about the man who virtually wrote the playbook for anyone who keeps score with money. Although very little is still unknown about Fugger’s personal life, Lowenstein does uncover a great deal regarding his business life.
Big Takeaway Themes: Importance of Information, being indispensable, investing when other’s are fearful, money and politics.
Most Shocking: Fugger’s ability to move Pope’s to change cannon law. Notably eliminating the usury prohibition in order to satisfy his interest.
7. Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos And The Age Of Amazon Ι $20
Until his recent highly publicized divorce with wife McKenzie, Jeff Bezo’s has kept a very private life, compared to his cohorts- Gates, Jobs, and Zuckerberg. At least as best as you can when you own one of the largest companies in the world.
Until author Brad Stone gained unprecedented accesses to the visionary founder, his family members, and top liutenants at Amazon. Giving readers our first real look inside the man who has single-handedly changed the way we shop and consequently has seen his net worth sky-rocket to $148 Billion!
Big Takeaway Theme’s: Discipline, ambition, adaptability, thinking outside the box.
Most Shocking: Bezos’ ability to see and challenge things that have always been done a certain way. Then find a way to improve it.
Anyone want to guess where you can buy this book?