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The Few That Matter

A hypocrite is a person who—but who isn’t?


I know, I know. I said not to read too much. Hence, the recommendations here are restricted to the best of the best this book’s interviewees and I have used and named when asked, “What is the one book that changed your life the most?” None of them are required to do what we’ve talked about in this book. That said, consider them if you get stuck on a particular point. The page counts are listed, and if you practice the exercises in “How to Read 200% Faster in 10 Minutes” in Chapter 6, you should be able to read at least 2.5 pages per minute (100 pages thus equals 40 minutes).

For additional categories, including practical philosophy, licensing, and language learning, be sure to visit our comprehensive companion site.

The Fundamental Four: Let Me Explain

The Fundamental Four are so named because they are the four books I recommended to aspiring lifestyle designers prior to writing The 4-Hour Workweek. Still well worth reading, here is the sequence I suggest: The Magic of Thinking Big (192 pages)


This book was first recommended to me by Stephen Key, an ultrasuccessful inventor who has made millions licensing products to companies, including Disney, Nestlé, and Coca-Cola. It is the favorite book of many superperformers worldwide, ranging from legendary football coaches to famous CEOs, and has more than 100 5-star ratings on Amazon. The main message is don’t overestimate others and underestimate yourself. I still read the first two chapters of this book whenever doubt creeps in.

How to Make Millions with Your Ideas:

An Entrepreneur’s Guide (272 pages)


This is a menu of options for converting ideas into millions. I read this when I was in high school and have read it five times since. It is like steroids for your entrepreneurship cortex. The case studies, from Domino’s Pizza to casinos and mail-order products, are outstanding, even if outdated in a few instances.

The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It (288 pages)


Gerber is a masterful storyteller and his classic of automation discusses how to use a franchise mind-set to create scalable businesses that are based on rules and not outstanding employees. It is an excellent road map—told in parable—for becoming an owner instead of constant micromanager. If you’re stuck in your own business, this book will get you unstuck in no time.

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel (224 pages)


Rolf is the man. This is the book that got me to stop making excuses and pack for an extended hiatus. It covers bits of everything but is particularly helpful for determining your destination, adjusting to life on the road, and re-assimilating back into ordinary life. It includes great little excerpts from famous vagabonds, philosophers, and explorers, as well as anecdotes from ordinary travelers. This is the first of two books (the other was Walden, below) that I took with me on my first 15-month mini-retirement.

Reducing Emotional and Material Baggage

Walden (384 pages)


This is considered by many to be the masterpiece of reflective simple living. Thoreau lived on the edge of a small lake in rural Massachusetts for two years, building his own shelter and living alone, as an experiment in self-reliance and minimalism. It was both a huge success and a failure, which is what makes this book such a compelling read.

Less Is More: The Art of Voluntary Poverty—An Anthology of Ancient and Modern Voices in Praise of Simplicity (336 pages)


This is a collection of bite-sized philosophies on simple living. I read it to learn how to do the most with the least and eliminate artificial needs, not live like a monk—big difference. It incorporates actionable principles and short stories ranging from Socrates to Benjamin Franklin and the Bhagavad Gita to modern economists.

The Monk and the Riddle: The Education of a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur (192 pages)


This great book was given to me by Professor Zschau as a graduation gift and introduced me to the phrase “deferred-life plan.” Randy, a virtual CEO and partner at the legendary Kleiner Perkins, has been described as a “combined professional mentor, minister without portfolio, in-your-face investor, trouble-shooter and door opener.” Let a true Silicon Valley wizard show you how he created his ideal life using razor-sharp thinking and Buddhist-like philosophies. I’ve met him—he’s the real deal.

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Success by Achieving More with Less (288 pages)


This book explores the “nonlinear” world, discusses the mathematical and historical support for the 80/20 Principle, and offers practical applications of the same.

Muse Creation and Related Skills

Harvard Business School Case Studies www.hbsp.harvard.edu (click on “school cases”)

One of the secrets behind Harvard Business School’s teaching success is the case method—using real-life case studies for discussion. These cases take you inside the marketing and operational plans of 24-Hour Fitness, Southwest Airlines, Timberland, and hundreds of other companies. Few people realize that you can purchase these case studies for less than $10 apiece instead of spending more than $100,000 to go to Harvard (not that the latter isn’t worth it). There is a case study for every situation, problem, and business model.

“This business has legs”: How I Used Infomercial Marketing to Create the $100,000,000 Thighmaster Craze: An Entrepreneurial Adventure Story (206 pages) BY PETER BIELER

This is the story of how a naïve (in the best sense of the word) Peter Bieler started from scratch—no product, no experience, no cash—and created a $100-million merchandising empire in less than two years. It is a mind-expanding and often hysterical case study that uses real numbers to discuss the fine points of everything from dealing with celebrities to marketing, production, legal, and retail. Peter can now finance the media purchases for your product: www.mediafunding.com.

Secrets of Power Negotiating: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator (256 pages)


This is the one negotiating book that really opened my eyes and gave me practical tools I could use immediately. I used the audio adaptation. If you’re hungry for more, William Ury’s Getting Past No and G. Richard Shell’s Bargaining for Advantage: Negotiation Strategies for Reasonable People are outstanding. These are the only negotiating books you’ll ever need.

Response Magazine (www.responsemagazine.com)

This magazine is dedicated to the multibillion-dollar direct response (DR) industry, with a focus on television, radio, and Internet marketing. How-to articles (increasing sales per call, lowering media costs, improving fulfillment, etc.) are interspersed with case studies of successful campaigns (George Foreman Grill, Girls Gone Wild, etc.). The best outsourcers in the business also advertise in this magazine. This is an excellent resource at an excellent price—free.

Jordan Whitney Greensheet (www.jwgreensheet.com)

This is an insider secret of the DR world. Jordan Whitney’s weekly and monthly reports dissect the most successful product campaigns, including offers, pricing, guarantees, and ad frequencies (indicative of spending and, thus, profitability). The publication also maintains an up-to-date tape library from which infomercials and spot commercials can be purchased for competitive research. Highly recommended.

Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big (256 pages)


Longtime Inc. magazine editor-at-large Bo Burlingham crafts a beautiful collage and analysis of companies that focus on being the best instead of growing like cancer into huge corporations. Companies include Clif Bar Inc., Anchor Stream Microbrewery, rock star Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records, and a dozen more from different industries. Bigger is not better, and this book proves it.

Negotiating World Travel and Preparing for Escape

Six Months Off: How to Plan, Negotiate, and Take the Break You Need Without Burning Bridges or Going Broke (252 pages)


This was the first book to make me step back and say, “Holy sh t. I can actually do this!” It steamrolls over most fear factors related to long-term travel and offers a step-by-step guide to taking time off to travel or pursue other goals without giving up your career. Full of case studies and useful checklists.

Verge Magazine (http://vergemagazine.com)

This magazine, formerly known as Transitions Abroad, is the central hub of alternative travel and offers dozens of incredible options for the non-tourist. Both the print and online versions are great starting points for brainstorming how you will spend your time overseas. How about excavating in Jordan or eco-volunteering in the Caribbean? It’s all here.

From the website: “Each issue takes you around the world with people who are doing something different and making a difference doing it. This is the magazine resource for those wanting to volunteer, work, study, or adventure overseas.”

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