Daymond John’s parents taught him that a day job was never going to make him rich. He was in charge of his own destiny and could accomplish what he wanted if he put the work in.
When he was 16, he tells us, he read Napoleon Hill’s classic business book “Think and Grow Rich,” and it changed his life. It reinforced what his parents taught him and inspired him to set lofty goals.
In 1992, at the age of 23, he and his mum mortgaged their house in Hollis, Queens, for $US100,000 so that he could start a clothing business. The company, FUBU, was a pioneer in the streetwear fashion movement and made John millions.
Today, he is best known as an investor on ABC’s hit pitch show “Shark Tank,” and FUBU is now a much smaller part of John’s business, which consists of brand consulting and management mainly in the apparel industry.
We recently spoke with John and asked him about the business books that changed his life. Here are his all-time favourites.
“Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill
When the legendary businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie met Hill as a young journalist in 1908, Carnegie decided he liked Hill so much that he would use Hill as a vehicle for distributing the strategies he considered responsible for his success. This meeting essentially launched Hill’s career as one of the founders of the personal success genre.
Hill’s greatest work, “Think and Grow Rich,” was first published in 1937 and became one of the top-selling books of all time. It’s a collection of insights derived from interviews with Carnegie, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford that teaches readers how to develop the drive and habits necessary to maximise one’s potential.
“Think and Grow Rich” had a huge impact on John’s life.
“The main takeaway from that was goal-setting,” John says. “It was the fact that if you don’t set a specific goal, then how can you expect to hit it?” One of the fundamental ideas in the book is determining your purpose in life and working toward concrete milestones.
John tells us that “Think and Grow Rich” made him realise that when he didn’t set very specific goals for himself, he could find himself making excuses for why he wasn’t working as hard as he could.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie
John says that he’s a fan of all of Carnegie’s books. Carnegie was a contemporary of Hill’s, and his writings on how to maximise one’s success have had just as much longevity.
Carnegie’s most widely read book is “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” first published in 1936. It’s a collection of advice on self-promotion, and describes how the most influential people listen more than they speak.
Warren Buffett famously took Carnegie’s class on the subject when he was 20 years old and still has the diploma he received for it in his office.
“Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson
Johnson’s parable has been a consistently best-selling business book since it was released in 1998. It tells the story of two mice and two sprite-like people living in a maze where the location of cheese suddenly starts changing every day.
When Johnson wrote the book, companies around the world were adapting to the rise of a more accessible internet and new ways of doing business. Its lessons on how to let go of a fear of change, however, are timeless.
John tells us that he used to think that throwing money at a failing business would somehow save it, but at this point in his career he understands that he needs to take a more measured approach.
“Money’s not going to make it any better. It may make the opportunity come faster, but it also can hurt you if you think that money’s going to solve it,” John says.
“Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert T. Kiyosaki
This book, a collection of parables about how two different fathers approach life, counts Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump among its biggest fans. Supporters praise it for the same reason its detractors have critiqued it: The message is simple and non-technical. It focuses on breaking a mindset that limits you to the lower or middle class you were born into.
According to Kiyosaki, the rich don’t work for money, they make their money work for them.
John tells us that aspiring to be rich didn’t work for him, but thinking like a rich person did.
“I think that in the earlier days, when I was a ‘wantrepreneur,’ I was really doing things because I thought what I wanted was to be rich. For the most part, those businesses failed, and then later when I started doing something casually because I loved it, that business burst,” John says.
“Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne
Kim and Mauborgne are INSEAD professors who studied 150 strategic business moves across 30 industries over a century. Their 2005 book declares that the world’s most successful new companies don’t directly compete with competitors but rather create their own “oceans” of opportunity in a new market.
Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Peter Thiel expressed a similar idea in his new book “Zero to One,” in which he declares that the most successful companies are actually monopolies.
“The One Minute Manager” by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
This book from 1982 is a guide to effective communication between bosses and their employees. The “one minute manager” that Blanchard and Johnson describe can explain a task for his or her employee within a minute, as well as take just a minute to give motivational praise or necessary criticism.
It’s all about lowering barriers between managers and their teams and being as direct as possible.
“Freakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
John tells us that he’s enjoyed all three books in the “Freakonomics” series.
The original book from 2005 is essentially a celebration of not being afraid to explore concepts that people may initially find absurd, including a study of how a person’s name affects lifelong success and if legalized abortion has had a role in reducing crime.
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