There’s always something to howl about

The Reading List: 8 “No BS” Books to Make You Better

Get tactical.  Everyone wants some “grand strategy” or “new initiative.  But mastering tactics at the battlefield level is how 90% of us can earn money faster than the government steal it.  It’s all about Tactics, not Strategy.  Mastering tactics means that you are doing something towards a goal.  Something, anything that’s reasonable is better than fine tuning a meticulous plan.  I fell into the planning trap.   Loads of people have.  Doing something right now, fast, and done is the way to win.

Since making the switch from Stephen Covey to David Allen, I’ve paid off most of my IRS debt, I’ve built a business that works, and I’ve become better at living life on earth.   Stephen Covey principles work, no doubt, but rejiggering some life plan isn’t meaningful until you can make the pile of paperwork on your desk your bitch. That is practical, real and doable.

When Phil said “I hate coaching,” what I really hate is some notion of a program that isn’t held accountable to specific results.  Buying a marketing widget that “costs less than a closing?” Everything you do has to be held accountable to a result.  When Greg talked about A/B Testing, that was the expression of an idea: observe stuff with your own eyes.  Create an OODA loop.

Getting on the path to be an automatically improving being required that I go grab some knowledge.

1.) Getting Things Done, David Allen: The most important book on this list, by far.  Read, pracitce, understand fully GTD principles.  Make the papers and endles op

2.) On War: Von Clausewitz: Great book about going all in when you find yourself in conflict.  There are no half measures, if you don’t have passion behind the stuff you’re doing, simply don’t do it.

3.) Tested advertising methods: John Caples/etc.  This is about writing copy that works, that isn’t necessarily “clever” and that performs.  The book is solid and you can see that people don’t follow it much.  Copy that tells you what to expect and produces no “WTF” type responses is the goal.  And it’s easier to write than the nuanced cleverness that people go for.

4.) Boyd: The Fighter Pilot That Changed The Art of War: I’m a fan of OODA.  It’s a way to always be gathering info.  It’s a set of habits that guide next actions, and it’s a better way to think and act than the bloated mission/vision statements of the Covey/Anthony Robbins crowd.  You have a set of goals, and a set of circumstances.  Go after it.  Find the trends and be first to the punch.

5.) Always Be Testing: The Compete Guide To Google Website Optimizer.  Holy hell, what a good book.  It’s probably dated by now, but the gist of actually having experiments as part of your web life is mission critical.  WP and everything else can serve to run experiments.  You can easily have 2-5 pages to test and stuff.

6.) It’s Not The Big That Eat The Small, It’s The Fast that Eat The Slow: Poorly written, dated, but really good concepts.  Be fast, be first, beat the other guy to the punch.  Hit hard, hit again, be relentless, and then adapt and do it again.  The writing in this book is poor to the point of distraction, but the book itself is fabulous.

7.) The Artist’s Way: Julia Cameron. The second most important book on this list, truly.  You have this thing called “morning pages,” a cathartic way of making your mind clear and free.  Can’t say enough about this book, honestly, it’s the “fluffiest” on the list, but it’s got specifics for staying sharp.  Habits here rule the world.

8.) Philosophy: Who Needs It. Ayn Rand.  She can be shrill, sure.  But, this book is succinct and deliberate as anything else.  I don’t follow her metaphysics–but I do think that to live on earth, her ideas are practical and you can quiet your mind.

The only other thing that I’d say is that meticulous accounting has been a way to build your life.  Being honest with yourself, your numbers and all else is the way to undo whatever damage sloth and sloppiness have done.

What has been a guidepost for you?  What have you read that you can share with me?  I read damn near everything that someone recommends, so recommend away.

Finally, and utterly unrelatedly, “The Break Up” by Pete Yorn & Scarlet Johansson is fabulous.


4 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Brown September 30th, 2009 9:55 am

    Like I didn’t have enough to read. Thanks for nothin’. 🙂

  2. Rob September 30th, 2009 8:05 pm

    Just bought Always B Testing from Amazon for $5.00

    Even if it is outdated a tick, it’s still no doubt worth the $5.

    Thanks for the list,


  3. Nick Johnson October 1st, 2009 11:05 am

    Thanks for a great post! I’m going to get the David Allen, it seems to be the most interesting to me. I recently read a book called ‘Conversations with Millionaires’ by Mike Litman, great book! The book is the transcripts of Millionaires he’s interviewed on his radio program, guys like Jim Rohn, Robert Allen, Sharon Letcher and the list goes on! I picked up from for $3 in used condition and well worth it.

  4. James Boyer October 7th, 2009 8:10 am

    Great list Chris, I am currently reading “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” by T. Harv Eker. I like it so far.

    Going to check out your top 3 as well.