I’ve Read Dozens of Business and Self Help Books Here are My Biggest Lessons

By Liz Froment •  Updated: 08/17/18 •  16 min read

Ive Read Dozens of Business and Self Help Books Here are my Biggest LessonsIn the last few years, I’ve read over 50 business and self help books.

Yea, I counted.

And no matter what I read, I always try to find some sort of takeaway or lesson.

With some books it’s easy, I’ll have full pages highlighted in my Kindle. With others, well not so much.

But even one single lesson from a book is always worth the read, in my opinion. It’s one of the reasons why I love reading so much.

Most people don’t have extra time to read with families, jobs, and all those other life responsibilities. So, it’s easy to miss out on some key pieces of insight when you look at lists of all those books you ‘should be’ reading.

I’m hoping to counteract that in this post.

I’ve gone through a bunch of the popular business and self-help books that I’ve read (or re-read) the last three years and reviewed my notes to see what big takeaways or quotes I jotted down.

I wanted to share them. Here, I’m going to keep it really simple and share one quote and one lesson I’ve learned from each of these.

This is like a mini-MBA in one post. 😉

Class is in session!

Lessons Learned From Some of the Best Business and Self Help Books Out There

Note the books aren’t in any particular order.

self help books business books 1 page marketing plan1. The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd by Alan Dib

Being all things to all people leads to marketing failure. This doesn’t mean you can’t offer a broad range of services, but understand that each category of service is a separate campaign.

Lesson: Never underestimate the power of niching. Get a high level of expertise in whatever you offer and it can be your unique selling proposition. From there, expand out into related segments to offer more value to customers.

Learn More: Stop Random Acts Of Marketing: 9 Lessons From The 1 Page Marketing Plan

Get The 1 Page Marketing Plan.

2. 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall

Selling to the right person is more important than all the sales methods, copywriting techniques, and negotiation tactics in the world. Because the wrong person doesn’t have the money. Or the wrong person doesn’t care. The wrong person won’t be persuaded by anything.

Lesson: It’s all about “racking the shotgun” in marketing. Get people to raise their hands that they are interested in you and forget about everyone else.

Learn More: 4 Takeaways from Perry Marshall’s 80/20 Sales and Marketing

Get 80/20 Sales and Marketing.

3. University of Berkshire Hathaway: 30 Years of Lessons Learned from Warren Buffett & Charlie Munger at the Annual Shareholders Meeting by Daniel Pecaut and Corey Wrenn 

[Munger] got the idea to add a mental compound interest as well. So he decided he would sell himself the best hour of the day to improving his own mind, and the world could buy the rest of his time. 

Lesson: Both Buffett and Munger love to read and cite how important it is to devote time every single day to learning. Investing in your mind is the best investment you can make.

Learn More: 7 Life Lessons from “The University of Berkshire Hathaway”

Get University of Berkshire Hathaway.

4. Double Your Freelancing Rate by Brennan Dunn

It’s critical that you focus on becoming an investment vessel, an asset in the pocket of your client, instead of an expense.

Lesson: Whatever you do, focus on how you can position yourself as an asset to your client, someone that is valuable and adds money to their business’s bottom line versus thinking of you as an expense, something they have to pay for.

Learn More: Double your rate with this simple mindset shift with Brennan Dunn

Double Your Freelancing Rate is Currently Not in Production.

four tendencies business book self help book5. The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better by Gretchen Rubin

The happiest, healthiest, most productive people aren’t those from a particular Tendency, but rather they’re the people who have figured out how to harness the strengths of their Tendency, counteract the weaknesses, and build the lives that work for them.

Lesson: One of the most powerful things you can do is deeply understand your motivations, your strengths, and your weaknesses. Then you can find the best ways to keep yourself motivated so you actually see success and not get bogged down in your weaknesses.

Learn More: Gretchen Rubin: How To Use The Four Tendencies To Improve Our Lives

Get The Four Tendencies.

6. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works

Our entire lives, he argued, are governed by a voice in our heads. This voice is engaged in a ceaseless stream of thinking—most of it negative, repetitive, and self-referential. It squawks away at us from the minute we open our eyes in the morning until the minute we fall asleep at night, if it allows us to sleep at all. Talk, talk, talk: the voice is constantly judging and labeling everything in its field of vision.

Lesson: Mindfulness isn’t about sitting silently for hours. It’s about learning how to take even a few minutes every day when you’re feeling overwhelmed to calmly respond to problems, instead of viscerally reacting to them.

Learn More: The Long Journey to Becoming ‘10% Happier’

Get 10% Happier.

8. Perennial Seller: The Art of Making and Marketing Work That Lasts by Ryan Holiday

People claim to want to do something that matters, yet they measure themselves against things that don’t, and track their progress not in years but in microseconds. They want to make something timeless, but they focus instead on immediate payoffs and instant gratification.

Lesson: Society today is all about instant gratification, rather than thinking about the long term. Take the time to think before you produce in order to make something that lasts the test of time.

Learn More: 17 Ideas To Improve Your Creative Work From The Book “Perennial Seller”

Get Perennial Seller.

9. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine

People are unhappy, the Stoics argue, in large part because they are confused about what is valuable. Because of their confusion, they spend their days pursuing things that, rather than making them happy, make them anxious and miserable.

Lesson: Life is short. Stop focusing on attaining things or wealth and start realizing how lucky you are to be alive and do more of the things that bring you joy.

Learn More: A Guide To The Good Life: An Interview With William B. Irvine

Get A Guide to the Good Life.

10. The Well-Fed Writer: Financial Self-Sufficiency as a Commercial Freelancer in Six Months or Less by Peter Bowerman

Many average writers make good livings because they’re easy-going and accommodating, while talented scribes often struggle for work because they’re such arrogant pains in the butt.

Lesson: Never underestimate the power of being easy to work with and delivering projects on time. Having those skills plus being a pretty good (not amazing) writer can get you a ton of work. Focus on how you can be someone who makes other people’s jobs easier.

Learn More: Intro to the Well Fed Writer

Get The Well Fed Writer.

11. The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success by Darren Hardy

I want you to know in your bones that your only path to success is through a continuum of mundane, unsexy, unexciting, and sometimes difficult daily disciplines compounded over time.

Lesson: There is no ‘get ___ quick’ in life. You have to put in the work, doing all the boring stuff over a long period of time, to really see success. All those tiny steps can add up over time to big positive changes.

Learn More: How To Finally Take Action: The 30 Day Challenge

Get The Compound Effect.

the subtle art12. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

There is a premise that underlies a lot of our assumptions and beliefs. The premise is that happiness is algorithmic, that it can be worked for and earned and achieved as if it were getting accepted to law school or building a really complicated Lego set. This premise, though, is the problem. Happiness is not a solvable equation.

Lesson: Stop chasing happiness and caring about things that don’t really matter. Instead, understand the things that are deeply important to you and align with your values. Then focus on those, let the rest fall away and stop expending your energy on them.

Learn More: Mark Manson: Embracing The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

Get The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*uck.

13. Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

If I don’t poke my head out of my shell and show people who I am, all anyone will ever think I am is my shell.

Lesson: It’s easy to get comfortable and not show the best parts of ourselves to the outside world because of fear. Instead, find the courage step out into things that force you to expose yourself and be vulnerable so people can meet the real you.

Learn More: For A Year, Shonda Rhimes Said ‘Yes’ To All The Things That Scared Her

Get Year of Yes.

14. The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird

The next time you face a daunting challenge, think to yourself, “In order for me to resolve this issue, I will have to fail nine times, but on the tenth attempt, I will be successful.”

Lesson: We’re conditioned to see mistakes as bad things. Instead, give yourself the freedom to make mistakes because that’s truly where you learn. The more you fail the closer you are to getting it right.

Learn More: The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking Summary (Plus How to Apply it to Your Business)

Get The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking.

15. The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy by Lewis Howes

There is a reward for good habits (growth), and there is a reward for bad ones (instant gratification).

Lesson: Everyone is born with the tools to be great, but it takes consistently building and performing successful habits with a vision in mind over and over again to move past everyone else. Most people aren’t willing to do it.

Learn More: How Lewis Howes Turned a Football Injury Into the School of Greatness

Get The School of Greatness.

16. The End of Jobs: Money, Meaning and Freedom Without the 9-to-5 by Taylor Pearson

The problem both for us as a society and as individuals is that we’re asking the wrong question: “How do I get a job doing that?” What if the better question is: “How do I create a job doing that?” 

Lesson: Today we’re presented with an incredible opportunity, to create our own careers that are more successful and meaningful than ever. Don’t fall into the trap that a 9-5 job provides security in an uncertain world.

Learn More: The Return of Apprenticeships (And How to Land One)

Get The End of Jobs.

big magic17. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

You made it; you get to put it out there. Never apologize for it, never explain it away, never be ashamed of it. You did your best with what you knew, and you worked with what you had, in the time that you were given. You were invited, and you showed up, and you simply cannot do more than that.

Lesson: It takes courage to put things out there. Stop waiting for the permission from someone else to tell you it’s ok to try to do what you want to do. Worrying about what people think about your work isn’t worth it, instead create things for yourself.

Learn More: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (5 Big Lessons) Creative Living Beyond Fear

Get Big Magic.

18. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.

Lesson: Bad habits can’t just be extinguished, they have to be transformed into good habits over time.

Learn More: The Power of Habit: 4 Steps to Creating Good Habits

Get The Powe of Habit.

19. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller

Here’s the truth about telling stories with your life. It’s going to sound like a great idea, and you’re going to get excited about it, and then when it comes time to do the work, you’re not going to want to do it. It’s like that with writing books, and it’s like that with life. People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.

Lesson: You have the power to write the story of your life but most people are afraid to create a good story because it will involve all those emotions people like to avoid, pain and fear, so instead they settle for safe and boring. If you want to make a better and more meaningful story, start doing it right now.

Learn More: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: Living a Better Story

Get a Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

20. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

Multitasking is a lie.

Lesson: You have to learn how to focus, and apply that focus to just one thing at a time, with the most important thing you have to do first. We’ve been conditioned to think that multi-tasking makes us more productive and thus more valuable, in fact, the opposite is true.

Learn More: Here’s The One Thing You Need To Stop Doing If You Want To Be Super Successful

Get The One Thing.

21. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown

Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.

Lesson: Perfectionism can destroy you.

Learn More: The Gifts of Imperfection Wants You to Let Go of Who You’re ‘Supposed’ to Be

Get The Gifts of Imperfection.

22. I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

In the end, managing your finances well is a lot like developing a strong personal productivity system: You keep track of everything without making it your full-time job; you set goals; you break them down into small bite-size tasks; you save yourself time by automating manual work; and you spend your time and brainpower focusing on the big picture. That’s what I try to do with my time and money.

Lesson: People don’t understand money and investing so they do nothing. It’s easy to automate your finances so you never have to think about saving and investing which will allow you to spend money on the things you truly love with zero guilt.

Learn More: Lessons from I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi

Get I Will Teach You to be Rich.

23. Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard

The sooner a company tries to be what it is not, the sooner it tries to “have it all,” the sooner it will die.

Lesson: Create a deep understanding of your brand, it’s voice and the things that matter most of all. This should include how you treat your employees. Don’t compromise on those values, they will bother some people but truly inspire others.

Learn More: Outdoor Business Pioneer Yvon Chouinard

Get Let My People Go Surfing.

daily rituals24. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey

But one’s daily routine is also a choice, or a whole series of choices. In the right hands, it can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism.

Lesson: Creative output can actually be enhanced by routine.

Learn More: Daily Rituals: A Guided Tour of Writers’ and Artists’ Creative Habits

Get Daily Rituals.

25. The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

Whatever your income, always live below your means.

Lesson: It’s the most obvious piece of advice ever, but you’d be shocked to find out how many people consistently spend more than they earn and are constantly trying to catch up for the rest of their lives. A lot of rich people live very middle class lifestyles while they grow their net worth.

Learn More: How to Become ‘The Millionaire Next Door’

Get The Millionaire Next Door.

26. To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others by Daniel Pink

The purpose of a pitch isn’t necessarily to move others immediately to adopt your idea. The purpose is to offer something so compelling that it begins a conversation, brings the other person in as a participant, and eventually arrives at an outcome that appeals to both of you.

Lesson: Today, everyone has to sell, even if ‘salesperson’ isn’t your job title. You’ll see the most success if you try to make real connections first and then work on providing lots of value. From there, selling is a lot easier.

Learn More: The 6 New Rules of Sales

Get To Sell is Human.

27. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

In the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.

Lesson: You can change your mindset and move from someone who is focused on perfectionism to someone who accepts making mistakes is part of growth.

Learn More: What You Believe Affects What You Achieve

What’s in your library?

I’d love to know what lessons have stuck out to you from some of the books you’ve read lately. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Liz Froment

Liz Froment is a full-time freelance writer and the one who keeps Location Rebel running like a well-oiled machine. If she's not writing something informative or witty for her clients, she can most likely be found reading a good book.
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4 comments on "I’ve Read Dozens of Business and Self Help Books Here are My Biggest Lessons"

  1. You reap what you sow. Great library.

    1. Liz Froment says:

      Thanks, Stephan.

  2. Garin Etcheberry says:

    Thanks for this list! I just downloaded a bunch of Kindle samples so thanks for the suggestions.

    Two contributions: I’ve read/reread Expert Secrets countless times recently, using it to write a webinar. It’s a step-by-step script for any kind of sales presentation. I highly recommend it.

    It’s a double edged sword though- it’s so step-by-step that I’ve taken forever finishing my webinar because I feel like “I have to have all 66 steps laid out perfectly!” I’ve let it become a monumental task in my brain.

    So on the other end of the book spectrum I read “Lieutenant Nun: Memoir of a Basque Transvestite in the New World.” It’s the insane true story of Catalina de Erauso, a woman who escaped from a convent in Spain in 1600, disguised herself as a man, traveled to the New World, and over the next 20 years she led men in combat, gambled, thieved, and dueled her way across the continent, escaped prison and execution countless times, and much more all without anyone discovering she was a woman. She made Doc Holliday look like Mr. Rogers.

    I’ve spent the summer in her hometown of San Sebastian so I think about her all the time. She didn’t have a script to follow. She just went for it. She threw herself into the unknown, figured it out as she went, and lived one of the most amazing lives as a result.

    Moral of my long comment (sorry!): take advantage of scripts and knowledge that smarter people have left for us, but don’t let that stop you from diving in and taking massive action.

    1. Liz Froment says:

      Thanks, Garin! Two really interesting books!

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