I’ve often said that there’s an abundance of free resources available: Articles, blog posts, eBooks, physical books, events, conferences, trade shows, magazines, newsletters, podcasts, videos. And what I’m starting to discover for myself is that there are some learning methods that are disproportionately better than others.
Number one for me is newsletters. Newsletters contain very specific targeted information. The one that I subscribe to is Dan Kennedy’s No B.S. Letter. It contains information on marketing and sales and copywriting.
And whenever I read these newsletters, I come away feeling inspired, with great information in hand. Ready to act on a few things I’ve learned in the newsletter and get into action in my business.
Number two is books. Books go very deep into a singular subject. It’s like downloading the author’s brain into your own, adopting their mental frameworks, their methodologies, their thought processes. You get to try them on for yourself.
And I think there’s really something to sustaining your thinking on a singular subject for a certain amount of time. There’s something magical about it.
Just like reading newsletters, the information is super targeted, but it’s also deep, it’s going very, very deep into a singular subject. And that has a way of getting me into flow and inspiring me because I’m making new connections.
3. Video Courses
Number three is video courses or home study courses or whatever you want to call them. These are excellent sources of information as well.
Typically, they’re even more focused than let’s say a newsletter or a book. You might be learning specific aspects of digital marketing like email, or how to use Facebook or things like that.
And while I have not always found them to be the most inspirational sources, certainly not as inspiring as a newsletter or a book, in some cases, I have come away from courses feeling lit up with the actionable insights I could now take to my own business.
And then number four for me is audiobooks.
Now in a way this goes hand in hand with books. The difference I suppose is that you can listen to podcasts or audio programs or audiobooks in your car as you’re driving about.
Over the years, that’s really been the number one place for me to listen to these. But at one point, I was so obsessed that I even listened to them in the bathroom.
But compared to something like a podcast, which I don’t always find inspiring. I don’t always find new information to act on. And the subject matter being covered may not always be relevant to me right now. I can intentionally go out and find audiobooks that are relevant to me and are speaking to my situation and are sure to leave me with insights I can use in my business.
So, while there are a lot of great resources out there, the point is to invest in your education. You’re going to value these resources more. I pay for newsletters, I pay for books, I pay for video courses, I pay for audiobooks. Whichjust goes to show that I am more heavily invested in those than a blog post I read online.
What learning methods inspire you most? I know a lot of people say they like to watch videos. And there are certain visual things like how to tie a tie. That’s better suited to the video medium than say the audio or written word. But with a lot of how-to information, I’ve personally found that video is often unnecessary.
Either way, I would love to hear which sources of information and which learning methods work best for you.
These books are helpful. Are any of these on your website? Can people find them somewhere?
Why, yes. But you won’t necessarily be able to find them, unless you go looking for them, and to be fair, the list continues to evolve.
So, in no specific order, here are 14 of my favorite books on business, marketing, lifestyle, spirituality, and personal development.
Double Double by Cameron Herold
Cameron Herold’s Double Double relays the story of how 1-800-GOT-JUNK? got off the ground, quickly created a massive, palpable presence everywhere they went, and used vision boarding with their entire staff to focus on their goals and translate them into material reality.
As an entrepreneur, you can’t read a book like Double Double and not come away feeling inspired. It will not give you all the answers as to the pathway you need to follow for your achievement, but it will leave you with more than a few ideas of how to construct the reality you wish to create.
To that end, the concluding section, containing Herold’s succinct reflections about startups and businesses will surely leave you with a few steps you’ll feel excited to action immediately.
Just as there is fluff and hot air in creativity and business, spirituality is no less a fighting concern. There are few books that aren’t built on at least some degree of woo-woo, mysticism, or wishing and hoping.
Wayne Dyer’s The Power of Intention, though, is refreshing in that regard, and when I recommend it, I typically recommend a yearly regimen of picking up and reading from cover to cover with pen and notebook in hand.
Be reminded of the gentle power of intention, of being more than your physical body, and of discovering your personal spiritual path.
With a title like Work Less, Make More, you would likely assume author James Schramko to be a) a scammer, or b) a peddler of inflated value $997 programs containing Googleable information. Of which he is neither.
Working less and making more is counterintuitive, but that is admitted in the book’s subtitle. To have something others don’t have, it stands to scrutiny that you would need to think and act differently.
In this book, Schramko guides us on the often-narrow corridor to reducing your work hours while squeezing ever more out of your daily efforts. And while much of it isn’t easy, and Schramko doesn’t claims that it is, it is the panacea to the overworked, over exhausted, over encumbered entrepreneur.
Quality, serial content accomplishes many things at once – it educates, entertains, and inspires audiences. It builds authority, trust, and credibility. Perhaps most importantly, it helps you grow your email list and turn prospects into customers.
Demand Metric says content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates roughly three times as many leads as traditional marketing. These and other impressive stats demonstrate that content marketing is a force.
At the heart of every YouTuber is content, and though for many the content is the product, smart YouTubers are growing their list while actively promoting new offers to maximize revenue from their reach.
Content Inc. is the definitive playbook for using content to build an audience and profit from it.
How do you ensure a steady flow of new customers and clients? How can you book yourself solid, and stay booked, as the title of this book suggests?
In this volume, author Michael Port sets forth, in detail, a viable plan for attracting and serving an ever-expanding client base. And he does it all while demystifying and simplifying the entire process and setting warning signs in your path to help steer you clear of common but grievous mistakes.
If you have a business, and it’s working, but not working as well as you would like, you would benefit from a read through Port’s Book Yourself Solid.
The 4-Hour Workweek may be controversial. But it has been my observation that – beyond all the hype and criticism – exists a playbook that lays out, step by step, the process to follow if you’ve ever thought about living life on your own terms.
Do you have a job? Great, author Tim Ferriss will show you how to have a better work life. Do you have a business? Great, Ferriss will explain how you can create more freedom for yourself.
The book certainly glosses over what Ferriss perhaps deemed easy, but others find difficult – namely setting up a business vehicle for freedom (does this even exist anymore?) – but it is a thoroughly inspirational read with some solid takeaways regardless.
What if marketing and selling your product or service online were simple? What if there were only a few ways to accomplish these ends, and what if it was all laid out for you in rich clarity in a succinct volume?
Russell Brunson’s Traffic Secrets is exactly that, and it will equip you with all the essentials you need to master traffic. It’s not intended to be read in isolation – especially if you have yet to establish your authority and already have a business vehicle in motion. But if you have that, this book offers the keys to the kingdom.
Traffic is work. Of that there is no doubt. But it’s not complicated, nor does it need to be. Identify the traffic sources available to you, uncover the steps to domination, execute even when uncomfortable, and you will have a horse in the race.
Is there a specific way to run your career or business? Many would argue that there is. Anything You Want author Derek Sivers, though, argues that you can do things the way you want to do them, simply because you want to do them that way. Subscribing to the methodologies created by others, merely because they sound or feel right, ultimately, may cause more harm than good.
Relieve yourself of the dogmatic pressures of doing things “by the books,” “the right way,” “the way they’ve always been done,” or otherwise. Conventional wisdom sometimes isn’t wisdom at all, and there’s nothing conventional about an entrepreneur’s life to begin with.
No B.S. Business Success in The New Economy by Dan Kennedy
To create structures and systems that serve you in business, you first need to navigate through a minefield of shills and charlatans, lofty but ultimately disappointing promises, emotional vampires and timewasters, and perhaps even financial ruin.
With author Dan Kennedy at your side, you can develop the mindset necessary to bypassing the distractions and noise, while developing ideas that work, maximizing business results, finding the right people to work with (and how to manage them), achieve peak productivity, and more.
The economy is always changing. And there will be another new economy to come. But rest assured Kennedy doesn’t subscribe to any rosy pictures of the future, and only deals in concrete facts that will show you how to elevate your performance while circumventing the untested and unproven drivel that gurus spout.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
The shlock that airport newsstands peddle is typically of minimal interest to me. The latest romance novel about some shiny zombies, or charming werewolves, or some other kinky nonsense that serves as little more than momentary escapism and fantasy for the mind that cannot possibly enhance your life.
Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck was different from the outset. The introduction, calling out personal development for all its errors, instantly had me hooked, and carried me rapidly from cover to cover. And it did enhance my life.
The title is to get you to open and read, not what the book is about. The book is about starting from the premise that you are perfect as you are, even if you aren’t a world-renowned guitarist, beloved social media influencer, or even a local cat-saving fireman. And that leaves room for you to live into a space of curiosity and allowing, from which the world can unfold, surprise, and delight.
What is your purpose in life? Your spiritual path? What’s the point of it all, and what are you ultimately working towards? Will your hard work really pay off?
Existential quandaries aren’t anything new, and questions concerning one’s purpose and destiny are certainly as old as language itself.
But what if you could connect to your higher self? What if the path you’re on is perfect, no matter how imperfect it now appears? What if you could get a glimpse into a future where dreams are, in fact, fulfilled?
All this would sound like B.S. and nonsense to me if it wasn’t coming from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist. Even celebrity actors like Will Smith claim to have seen a reflection of themselves in The Alchemist.
Everything in life is a financial decision, including marriage. To think any less of it is to arrive at key life decisions naively, purposely leaving a drain unplugged when it is preventable.
Gene Simmons’ Sex Money Kiss is instructive. Not necessarily because it highlights the philosophy of the eccentric (although there is that), but because Simmons’ tone in this book is surprisingly humble and fatherly. He is sincere, if controversial.
Those easily offended by misogyny or what they might perceive at that should steer clear of this book. But those who are willing to read with an open mind, especially artists, will discover a viable pathway to getting what they want in life in this astonishingly rich volume.
What if reality wasn’t set it stone? What if the path you’re on was just the path you wound up on, and at any moment, you had the ability to transfer over to a more positive lifeline, while avoiding a more negative one?
Russian mystic Vadim Zeland surprises and astonishes with his deep knowledge of the topic. He explains the iceberg, not just the portion that’s visible (like in The Secret), but everything beneath the surface that’s affecting the direction you’re headed down, and the lifeline you’re headed towards.
No description of this book, though, would ultimately suffice, as it needs to be read to be experienced. And while the setup itself is lengthy, never mind its chapters, if you read with an open mind and stay the course, much will be revealed to you about creating the life you’ve always wanted.
Marketer Russell Brunson’s recently revised DotCom Secrets has the potential to transform how you approach business, how you communicate with your audience, and even shift your priorities. I know because that’s how it impacted me.
Brunson doesn’t shy away from sharing his failures or painting a rosier picture than reality dictates. He’s quick to admit that most sales funnels fail, and he’s never had a funnel that was fully optimized or “working” out of the gate. That honesty is refreshing amid the palpable hype surrounding the funnel hacker culture, of which I do not claim to be a proponent. This read will benefit your artistry or business regardless.
Brunson’s in-between volume, Expert Secrets, did not make this list, but perhaps by the time I’ve completed my re-read of the latest revision, I will have changed my mind.
I remember putting together a video ad promoting a new product and it talked about how I’d spent well over $100,000 on my business, marketing, and personal development education. And someone responded with, “bull crap” (I cleaned that up for you).
If I’m being totally honest – not like I wasn’t before – that number climbs higher each year. I don’t know if I’m at $200,000 yet, because I haven’t sat down and done the math, but every year I buy multiple Kindles, take multiple courses, and pay for coaching. So, it’s not like that figure has ever stayed stationary.
You can call me out on that, that’s fine. Because this isn’t about me. I think the issue is really that artists don’t see themselves investing that amount in their own growth, so they think it’s strange when someone else does.
And yeah, it is a different way of looking at things. But if you hadn’t figured this out already, I’m kind of a different guy. And the thing I know about artists is we’re all a little eccentric. It’s why we do what we do, and at the end of the day, I think it’s beautiful that we’re so expressive with our thoughts and emotions. That’s what makes us great artists.
But so long as there’s a price that’s too high, or a workload that’s too great, or a discomfort threshold we can’t overcome, we can never overcome ourselves, you see. We might still make progress in the world, but at every turn we will still be hindered by ourselves. Because there’s an arbitrary threshold, we’re not willing to cross.
At some point, it’s just too much money, too much work, or too much discomfort. We want to turn and hide.
And the thing you need to understand is that this is what it means to be human. Trust me – everyone has times when they want to run.
One day, we’re walking along as adults, everything is going fine, and suddenly, we’re triggered and revert to little whiny kids. I’ve watched this happen in some of the programs I’ve taken – programs where some of the sharpest, most ambitious people gather.
So, what’s crucial to know is that while it’s not all about some arbitrary monetary figure, if you think any price is too high, you’re going to put a ceiling on your growth and success.
“I’m willing to do that, but I will never do this.”
We can measure money. We can measure workloads in the number of to-do items and projects you’re tackling, although I would still argue this is a little elusive. We can’t measure discomfort at all. It’s just something you feel internally, and no one else can feel exactly what you’re feeling.
The thing I want you to see is that you might be trying to put a quantity to things that no one can really measure. And if you’re in that realm, trust me, you’re not going to go the distance, because at some point, the price will just be too high.
Right now, I’m standing in the outcome that I can invest in courses and programs costing $2,000. Because I am just that excited about what more I can learn and discover, and what I can bring back to you as a nugget of insight.
And while I could probably find those programs as torrent files somewhere, I know I’m not going to value it as much. Because I haven’t invested in it.
We don’t value what we don’t pay for, at least not to the same extent we value what we do pay for.
If you’re getting stuck in your career, or if you’re bargaining with the price, do some looking. Take some time to journal. What are you unwilling to do? Because whatever you are unwilling to do, chances are you will end up having to do it to get to where you want to go.
For a proven, step-by-step framework in cracking the code to independent music career success, and additional in-depth insights into making your passion sustainable and profitable, be sure to pick up my best-selling guide, The Music Entrepreneur Code.
I can accept that not everyone will support me. But it would be nice if you peeked at my work before passing judgment. You might learn a thing or two.
I’m not lazy and I don’t spend all day doing nothing, pursuing nothing. Honestly, I have never worked harder in my life.
I don’t pay attention to my “passive” personality. That’s not a hindrance to what I want in life. It’s only a hindrance to the people who don’t take the time to get to know me. Their loss, not mine.
I don’t always know how to communicate that to you (I’m usually busy working on my next lucrative contract and a myriad of staff writing duties and products), but if you need me to be straight with you, as I’ve done here, then so be it.
I’m not interested in working with idiots who don’t value my time. While we’re here, let’s make that amply clear.
If there’s something you want to learn, there are few activities as valuable as reading books.
Authors often share their best ideas and tips in their books. And considering you can get most books for about $20; you’d be hard pressed to find a more valuable resource.
Here I share five books that made a difference for me in 2020.
Killing Marketing by Joe Pulizzi & Robert Rose
Joe Pulizzi is the author of Content Inc., one of my favorite business books. And Robert Rose, of course, has a long history with Joe Pulizzi, especially at Content Marketing Institute and with the PNR with This Old Marketing podcast.
And then you have the two teaming up to write a book. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, as I shared in my book notes on Killing Marketing about a year ago, the first few chapters seem to waffle endlessly on what is bound to be a forgone conclusion for forward thinking marketers. Pulizzi and Rose were clearly writing to traditional marketers who have yet to understand or embrace digital best practices.
The middle chapters are where the book delivered a goldmine of proven strategies, tactics, and ideas one could apply to their enterprise, or even their small independent business. From revenue streams to qualities that make an e-newsletter successful, there were multiple gems worth mining for. I just wish the book focused primarily on these, but as they say, the best part of a book is usually about an hour into it.
Killing Marketing(affiliate link) alerted me to aspects of digital monetization and marketing best practices I wasn’t even aware of. And it reminded me of key takeaways I already knew. I experimented with an e-newsletter in 2020, and my discoveries in this book served as the guiding light.
No B.S. Business Success in the New Economy by Dan S. Kennedy
It’s because of No B.S. Business Success in the New Economy that I no longer judge Dan Kennedy books by their title or cover. This book is a veritable goldmine for entrepreneurs and independent creators, even though Kennedy’s target audience is primarily professionals.
What does it take to succeed in business? What is the mindset required? How should you think about relationships and connections as applied to ambition? How do you structure your inner circle? This book will answer every question posed and more.
About the only downside I can think of is that I wish I wrote the book. Because it will leave you feeling empowered and better equipped to handle any challenges that come your way.
If I were to sum up legendary marketer Dan Kennedy’s Speak to Sell in a sentence, the above would be it.
This is not a how-to book. Kennedy doesn’t tell you how you can turn every presentation, radio interview, podcast interview, webinar, or otherwise into a money-making opportunity. But he tells you why you should approach every engagement that way.
When you understand just how disciplined Kennedy is about his work, and the lengths he will go to protect his personal productivity, it shines light on why Kennedy has always approached the opportunity to speak in this manner. He is always looking to maximize results from every effort, and he puts lesser entrepreneurs to shame with his work ethic and vigilance.
From Speak to Sell(affiliate link), I understood that there must be a purpose behind every public message you share. If there isn’t, you’re just speaking. But when you are clear on your intention, you are speaking to sell.
Sex Money Kiss by Gene Simmons
Kennedy’s Speak to Sell soon led me to Gene Simmons’ Sex Money Kiss. And it wasn’t long before I saw just how philosophically aligned the two are.
I don’t think any musician or creative can come away from Sex Money Kiss uninspired. When you understand that Gene Simmons considers himself lucky that he gets to make money at something he loves, and when he was first getting started, he was happy to be able to do it on evenings and weekends, you see that he’s far more pragmatic than he’s often given credit for.
Sex Money Kiss is not in the voice of a Rockstar who has conquered sexual and musical mountains. It’s in the voice of a caring father who wants to pass on his best advice about life. And there is far more content in the book than most readers would even suspect. Simmons puts some professional authors to complete shame (I read my share of awful books this year too, and one specifically was by a well-known marketer).
Simmons’ relationship and marital advice will be shirked by some readers. But Simmons is about the only figure who will help you understand that every decision you make is a monetary decision and that perspective is as valuable as it is rare.
Sex Money Kiss(affiliate link) reignited my passion. And it helped me see the world from a different perspective. It offered practical advice on how to structure my days and weeks. It helped me to see the financial implications of every decision I make, including relationship decisions.
Traffic Secrets by Russell Brunson
Russell Brunson is infamous in the digital marketing world – for good reasons, and for not so good reasons.
But if you had read some of his earlier works, and thought to yourself, as I had, whether this man would ever find his stride as an authority, Traffic Secrets banishes any doubt from your mind.
Brunson makes a bold move here, as he now has in his catalog a book that will need to be updated at least every two to three years, as it specifically mentions platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Google, and so on.
If 2021 so far is any indication, there could be some massive upheaval in the social media space. Though I will withhold any specific comments as to what I see coming.
Regardless, Brunson is smart in clarifying that a) there are many sources of traffic available, b) traffic is platform driven, c) how we use these platforms is based on what’s working now (algorithm dependent), and d) you only need to focus on one channel to make seven-figures in your business. At the end of the book, he notes publishing daily and developing your Dream 100 connections is enough to cross that threshold.
After reading Traffic Secrets, you will get that if you’re engaged in digital marketing, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. You can pick a suitable platform (based on your audience and the type of content you’re creating), learn its ins and outs, emulate people who are more successful than you are, and with persistence find traction on your chosen channel.
If you thought it was all upsides, I will say this – I kind of wish Brunson read my writing tips. There are some things about the way he writes that drives me insane. And that’s coming from someone who also doesn’t follow the rules 100% of the time.
With Traffic Secrets(affiliate link), I’ve been able to take my Medium, Twitter, and YouTube game to the next level. And those are the platforms I intend to focus on in 2021. If anything, I’m doing more with Medium and Twitter than YouTube.
My reading habit was on the uptick in 2020. But I’m looking forward to reading and discovering many more great books in 2021.
What will you be reading in 2021?
Do you have any recommended books?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.