What makes successful people successful? The world’s top entrepreneurs, chief executives and entertainment elite come from all walks of life, so perhaps – good fortune aside – it’s the way they think which propels them above the competition and to the top of their respective fields.
The books high achievers choose to read can offer the rest of us an insight into their thought processes, so Sage has compiled a list of books which some of today’s pioneers would recommend.
Jack Dorsey implores every employee of his mobile payment company, Square, to read the The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande, which advocates the importance of splitting complex tasks into more manageable segments.
A passage which Dorsey particularly likes is focused on investing in startups. Atul says that venture capitalists should consider good ideas as secondary to impressive personnel who possess the drive and know-how to execute with aplomb.
As the brainchild behind Amazon, which started out as an online book store, it’s no surprise that Jeff Bezos has a voracious appetite for reading.
In the biography of the Albuquerque native, author Brad Stone explains how the lessons learned from Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma underpinned Bezos’s approach to the invention of the Kindle. Principally, he was inspired by the notion that failing to embrace disruptive technology can be more harmful than refusing to acknowledge its merits.
Arianna Huffington’s reading habits reflect her belief that mental burnout and sleep deprivation are impediments to success. Indeed, she discovered this first hand when, during the early years of the Huffington Post, she collapsed from the exhaustion of working 18 hour shifts.
The Greek writer recommends Mindfulness by Mark Williams and Danny Penman as a guide to minimising stress in the workplace, and Search Inside Yourself, which sees former Google engineer and personal growth guru Chade-Meng Tan outline the tricks to establishing a healthy relationship with work.
Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou certainly lives by the adage: “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”, naming the autobiography of his rival Richard Branson, Losing My Virginity, one of his most treasured reads.
Haji-Ioannou has spoken about how Branson’s book delivers a masterclass on branding, describing the Virgin mogul’s flair for expanding into fiercely competitive sectors. He also has a soft spot for Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, which showed him how behavioural patterns are rooted in the economics of everyday life.
Read more: I-Office: The brave new world of work
Having read The Road to Character by David Brooks – which casts an introspective eye over the often precarious work-life balance – Indra Nooyi, chief executive of PepsiCo, developed a greater appreciation for the role that work plays in character development.
Chief among Brooks’ teachings is the idea that we need to be self-critical and identify our limitations before we can begin to eliminate our shortcomings. Nooyi’s most important takeaway is that we shouldn’t treat our careers and lives as separate entities – both should reconcile with one another.
Elon Musk’s library is delightfully eclectic. Beyond traditional business classics like Peter Thiel’s Zero to One – which provided the Tesla founder with fresh insight on the creation and maintenance of top-tier companies – Musk drew inspiration from Walter Isaacson’s biographies of Einstein and Benjamin Franklin. He gives special mention to Franklin’s humble origins and entrepreneurial spirit – he launched the first German language newspaper in the US.
However, it was The Lord of the Rings that really stoked the fires of his ambition from an early age, instilling a sense of wonder and duty that mirrors Frodo’s journey to Middle Earth.