My Self-Taught MBA: The Books

I love to read.  For most of my life, I listed “reading”  as my favorite hobby. Nerdy? Yes. Academic? Yes.  Many happy afternoons eating moon pies and reading library books? Definitely.  Although I haven’t finished reading all the books on my Self-Taught MBA list, the ones I have read have each made it’s own unique impact on my life.  Oh wait, that’s all books everywhere.

Good to Great by Jim Collins

In Good to Great, Mr. Collins is studying the difference between good companies (and their leaders) and the great companies.  With a scientific, empirical approach, this book is not a quick-and-easy pick-me-up business read but it’s filled with incredible wisdom ready to digest.

Collins introduces the hedgehogs and foxes contrast, leading the reader to ask: “Am I a fox or a hedgehog?”

“A hedgehog concept is not a goal to be the best, a strategy to be the best, an intention to be the best, a plan to be the best. It is an understanding of what you can be the best at. . . . Foxes pursue many ends at the same time and see the world in all its complexity. They are scattered or diffused, moving on many levels. . . Hedgehogs, on the other hand, simplify a complex world into a single organizing idea, a basic principle or concept that unifies and guides everything.”

I enjoyed this book for it’s academic approach, even though it’s principles were sometimes hard to cross-apply to my small business.

However, Mr. Collins identified the Level Five Leader who “blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will” in a way that challenged me deeply:  “I never stopped trying to be qualified for my job,”  said Darwin Smith (one of the book’s case studies).

Do I live every day trying to be qualified for my job?


The Entrepreneur Mind by Kevin D. Johnson

In stark contrast to the science of Good to Great, reading The Entrepreneur Mind is practically chick lit.  I didn’t necessarily learn anything new from reading Mr. Johnson’s book, but I did walk away refreshed in my entrepreneurial spirit.

“People too often focus on the benefits of the undertaking rather than the true purpose.”

(Am I focusing on the purpose of a project, rather than the benefits?)

“Entrepreneurs love Mondays. Why? Several reasons, but here are two of my favorites:

  1. Mondays represent a rebirth. Working on a Monday represents a time to restart and refocus.
  2. Mondays are business as usual. You can’t stop the world if it stops for two days.”

(Am I focusing on the joy of a renewed week, or do I fall into the rut of dreading Mondays?)

“You never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.” (George Clooney)

(Do I listen more than I talk?)

“Failure is inevitable in entrepreneurship, but how you deal with failure determines whether you are ultimately a winner.”

(Oh boy, this one hurts.)


How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Easily, definitely hands-down my favorite of my self-imposed reading list; I’m not sure how I missed out on this in my first twenty years as an entrepreneur, but I’m definitely going to recommend it to everyone to read. Professionals, friendships, marriages, families: we could all benefit from utilizing Mr. Carnegie’s principles.

Operating on the idea that “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated,” Mr. Carnegie provides page after page of relevant, timely, practical input into life’s relationship.   “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

Mr. Carnegie reminds the read to ask questions, remember names, to smile, to appreciate, to avoid being overly critical. How much of this did we learn in elementary school and promptly forget upon entering the workforce?

The principles in this book have helped to revolutionize my marriage, continue to impact my daily interactions with humans, and will be read and re-read until I can fully live out the truths.

Business Model You by Tim Clark, in collaboration with Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

When I started reading Business Model You, I wasn’t expecting to be led into a shrink’s office, chewed up, spit out, and walking away stronger than ever. Okay, so that sounds ridiculously hoity toity and more than a little heeby jeeby, doesn’t it?  But it’s true!

I was skeptical of this rainbow-and-pictures book (something that looks this good can’t be helpful, can’t it?) but made it to page 93 where the exercise hit hard, made me stop and think, and taught me about myself as a businesswoman.

Take ten blank sheets of paper.  At the top of each, write “Who am I?”  then, on each sheet, write one answer to that question.

First, have you ever tried picking ten answers to that question?  Then, have you expanded on that to explain why you said it and what excites you about that answer? Oh! And have you ranked them in order of importance to you?


You should.  Right now.

And then you should go read Business Model You to finish the exercise and take that one step closer to finding your dream job, career, or mission.

Business Model You is fun and easy to read, very interactive, requires lots of thought.  Its impact on your life will be directly related to how much thought and effort you put into the activities.  No pressure, of course.


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