This post was originally published on October 10, 2016.
Some of you may know that I’ve recently moved! Not out of Asheville, thankfully, just into a slightly different part of town. A few days into the move, my friend and studio-mate, Ellen (check out her stunning abstracts here) came over to help me unpack and organize. As most artists do, Ellen has a keen eye for design, both in her paintings and in interior design. I’d like to think I have a pretty good eye for interiors as well (mostly thanks to the tips my sister has taught me), but styling a bookcase has never been my strong suit. So, with Ellen’s help, we got the only thing in my new apartment organized on day 2 of the move - the living room bookshelf. As she was unpacking book after book, she looked at me and said, “I don’t think I‘ve ever met someone who has so many books about other people.” It's true, I love reading other people’s stories. Not necessarily biographies or autobiographies of historical figures, more so real people, entrepreneurs mostly, telling the story of how they got to where they are today - through the good and the bad.
Before I began this entrepreneurial journey a few years ago, I scoured bookstores and the internet for stories about people who have started great things. I wanted to learn from those who have come before me and find ways to incorporate their ideals into the values of my own business. (Ever since I discovered the brand Everlane, I’ve been enamored with their Radical Transparency philosophy.) This, of course, sparked my desire to read about other companies and their values. So, if you’ve ever considered starting something yourself or if you just need some assurances that there are people in this world doing real, actual good - read these books. (PS-click the title to go directly to its Amazon listing)
Start Something That Matters By Blake Mycoskie
Now, you may already know this, but Blake is the founder and “Chief Shoe Giver” of Toms Shoes. He started his journey in his late twenties after a trip to Argentina. I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but I will tell you this - he is honest and real about his struggles and the disappointments he’s faced in his life. This is one of the greatest attributes I admire in someone - when they are vulnerable enough to share their struggles. Hearing people’s success stories is all fine and well, but truthfully, it doesn’t teach me much. Where I really learn and feel invested in what you’re sharing is when you tell me how you picked yourself back up when you got pushed to your lowest point. Also, this book is a quick read - pretty sure I finished it in two days.
Fun Fact: Toms is short for “Shoes of Tomorrow.”
This is the most business-y books of the ones on my shelf. I learned about IPOs, venture capitalists, SWOT, and many of those other business terms that I had written down from my entrepreneurship class in college but kind of forgot what they were. However, it was also very relatable. Tony gave his real life story of how everything began and his failures along the way, but, as he points out in the foreward, the book is not about his story. It’s about how he found happiness in his business. Because honestly, if it doesn't make you happy then what’s the point?
Favorite Part: His in-depth look at the company culture at Zappos and how important it was to him. His core values list started with 37 values (highlights include: Developing Your Gut and A Little Weird) and was narrowed down to ten very specific and effective core values.
I do want to preface this by saying that Adam is not necessarily an ordinary person - his brother is the manager and close friend of Justin Bieber. However, that doesn't take away from his success, simply adds to it. Adam still accomplished a great deal on his own - if hadn’t then he never would’ve published this book. Though, It never hurts to know a super star like Justin. His story about the day he met a child that only ever wanted a pencil is heartbreakingly beautiful. Adam has a gift for connecting with people, whether they are the ones he’s directly helping or the ones he recruited to work alongside him in his journey.
I highlighted: “Your twenties are the time to both accept and fight your way into the person you’re destined to become.”
Yes Please By Amy Poehler
Okay, okay, this is a pretty pop culture choice. Guess what? I don't care. Amy Poehler is my best friend, and that’s that. She also makes some incredible points about womanhood in her book, so read it.
My favorite part: When she openly admits how much she very much did not want to finish this book. Because hey, haven’t we all been there? It’s hard and I quit. Yep, I’ve had that go through my head a time or two…
#Girlboss By Sophia Amoruso
Again, another pop-hit book. Whatever. Sophia genuinely started from nothing and built her company into an empire. It wasn’t by chance and it wasn’t by knowing famous people - it was the proof of hard work and endurance. She never gave up, and look where it got her.
Favorite part: The advice she gives at the beginning of each chapter. Sometimes she's quoting wise, old dead guys, sometimes she's giving you hilariously real, modern day advice from her own experiences.
Conversations By Blue Carreon
Not so much a story in a novel as it is a beautiful coffee table book. Nonetheless, this book I found at my local bookshop has inspired me more than I can admit over the past two years. Like, I’ve said, I love hearing the little details of a person’s life - it makes me feel like I know them, like we’re friends and that I can ask them anything. This book does just that. The author asked the same questions to each artist, entrepreneur, maker and the responses are captivating. Keep it on your coffee table and flip to a page when you need a little pick me up
A Very Similar Concept But More Recently Released-
In The Company Of Women: Inspiration And Advice From Over 100 Makers, Artists, And Entrepreneurs By Grace Bonney
Seeing as I just got this book on Friday, I haven’t finished reading each interview quite yet. But, with the hype it’s gotten and the realness of its players, I can’t see how I could love it any less than the others on this list.
Notable Mentions: Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington, Bossypants by Tina Fey, and Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over a Beer or Two by Jim Koch
So, I just realized that at the end of 2014, I made some goals for 2015, which included more reading! I didn't exactly read one book a month, but I did check a few of those books off my list, so I'm calling it a win.
FYI- Yes, I own all of these books, and you will find them all sitting on my bookshelf - well worn and loved.
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