In this day and age there’s an overload of information available to us without much effort to get it. If you’re not careful you can spend all day reading books and magazines and blogs, or watching YouTube, DVDs, and TV. Pretty soon the only thing you DO is consume and you forget to actually do anything yourself.
The answer is certainly not to cut yourself off from the world. Business owner or not, the information available to us you can help improve the quality of your life. And as a budding entrepreneur, the information available to you can give your business the competitive advantages that it needs to thrive. That’s why Mark Cuban professes to read three hours a day. That one great idea he gets from a magazine he spends hours reading will pay off a thousand times over for his business.
The challenge then is to limit the crap you consume and focus on what’s actually going to help you. You know, so you can actually make progress with your company. I might not spend three hours a day like Mark Cuban, but I’d say I read close to two a day if you factor in the non-business stuff. I don’t think most people will care too much that I read Fire Joe Morgan for my daily baseball fix, but here’s a list of the business-related media that has made it through my crap filter:
I read blogs for two reasons: to stay up to date with the latest tech news, and to follow small niche entrepreneur blogs of people I think are in the same boat as myself. I add all of my RSS feeds to Google Reader, which I check once or twice a day. Here are my favorites:
- SEO Book Blog – Aaron Wall is the best SEO writer out there in my opinion, and his blog offers tremendous insight into the latest search engine optimization and web marketing trends
- Blog Maverick – the aforementioned Mark Cuban shares his insights into the tech industry, the entertainment industry, and being an entrepreneur in general. The most down-to-earth and accessible billionaire that I know of.
- Guru Gilbert – the blog of fellow young entrepreneur Adam Gilbert. He and I have a ton of stuff in common, and I’ve gotten to know him a lot better recently after he hired us to program his blog design into WordPress. He has the extreme fire and passion that differentiates entrepreneurs from everyone else, and it’s reflected in the quality of his posts.
- James Hong – founder of HOTorNOT.com, he only posts once every few months, but his opinions on business and technology are priceless.
- Lifehacker – all sorts of interesting tech-savvy productivity tips. I’m also partial to them because they – unlike let’s say TechCrunch – covered iPrioritize and Music-Alerts, thus passing my sites a ton of traffic and new users.
- NevBlog – another young entrepreneur who is my age. The blog originally caught my attention because Nev posted every single cent he made online publicly on his sidebar (now gone), but I’ve continued to read because his unique business insights – particularly his e-commerce posts related to his sites – are extremely honest and helpful. Just the fact that he was willing to post his financials online shows me he’s got balls that most people my age don’t.
- Guy Kawasaki – much like Mark Cuban, Guy is one of the uber-successful entrepreneur role models that I really look up to. Famous for evangelizing Apple, he’s now a VC who is brutally honest about what it takes to run a tech startup. He also has a great balance of posts: one day he’ll talk about a VC pitch, the next it’ll be about human happiness, and the next about social entrepreneurship.
- Trizoko – the owners of Trizle have the most unique writing style of anything I’ve ever read. They also have a brilliant philosophy about business success. A must read for any business owner.
- Webware – a great Web2.0 blog….much preferred over TechCrunch in my world.
- E-Commerce Times – tech news that’s geared toward e-commerce.
- SitePoint Newsletters – OK, can’t add these to my RSS reader. The only email newsletters I still read, they offer great insight into running a web design business – including programming tips, design tips, and business strategies.
After a long day, one of my favorite things to do is shut down my computer, throw on some baseball/basketball/football/hockey, and pick up a good business magazine. My mind is relaxed and free so this is when I usually let my mind wander, and consequently this is when I usually get my best ideas.
Entrepreneur Magazine is now officially off this list – a good resource for entrepreneurs when they’re just getting started, but unless you own a franchise or sell on eBay there isn’t much recurring info worth reading (except Guy Kawasaki’s column).
- Inc. – hands down the best business magazine. Their cover stories are great, but recurring columns like Street Smarts, Case Study, How I Did It, Business for Sale, and Elevator Pitch are absolutely brilliantly written.
- Fast Company – you’ll never get more information from a magazine than you do from Fast Company. Their cover stories are ridiculously in-depth and well written, and there are four or five of these stories every magazine. It’s like reading five mini-business books every issue.
- Fortune – the latest addition to the group, I find it extraordinarily well written and filled with interviews that Inc. or Fast Company probably couldn’t get (case in point: the first issue had that fantastic Melinda Gates story and also has an exclusive with the new CEO of GM).
I’ve been reading less and less business books. Most of the ones I have read were advanced copies sent to me for free that I review on this blog. I just don’t need the ‘rah-rah’ kick in the ass that most entrepreneur related books provide. I’ve already started my company. We understand how to be efficient with our business processes. We understand the sacrifices involved in the whole matter. Those books were useful a few years ago, but not so much anymore.
However, there are a few great books that I read this year that I’d recommend to any business owner or aspiring business owner:
- Good to Great by Jim Collins – the most exhaustive study ever performed on what makes a company great…and a lot of the conclusions are counter-intuitive to what you’d initially think.
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss – an extremely unique look at business and life that blows away any pre-conceived notions that you have about either. You probably won’t follow the step-by-step guide outlined in the book, but even adopting a few techniques from the book will drastically improve your life and your business.
- Getting Real by 37 Signals – available online for free (or in paperback for $25), this book is the definitive guide to web software development. 37 Signals has mastered the art of what’s important in a business and what isn’t, and this book will challenge your conventional thoughts about what is really necessary.
Hope that my list gives your reading routine a much needed kick in the butt!