The Shoulders of Giants - Top 10 Must Read Books With John Ndege

The Shoulders of Giants – Top 10 Must Read Books

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John Ndege joined me recently to chat about books and reading habits. Although we’re both prolific readers, John admitted spending $1,100 on books in 2016. His aim was to master what other people have experienced, so he could learn from their successes and failures and apply that to his own life.

The Books

John and I picked our top five books, which was harder to do than we thought! I’d also recommend a resource to you: Derek Sivers’ online book list (find it at, where he ranks hundreds of titles to highlight the best reads for his audience.

Books That Didn’t Make the Cut

We had a lot of discussion around what we wanted to include on the list, and because there were some great titles you should read, they’re listed below.

The first three are similar, as they look at doing ‘proper’ work and removing distractions from your life.

·      Essentialism - Greg McKeown

·      Deep Work - Cal Newport

·      The One Thing - Gary Keller. This is about focusing on the big domino – when you topple that, everything else will fall in line.

·      How to be Rich - John Paul Getty. John’s honourable mention was Getty’s story of becoming a billionaire through oil.

·      Rich Dad, Poor Dad - Robert Kiyosaki. This is often the only personal finance book people have read. In it, Kiyosaki recommends setting up a business, having ‘breakout’ income to invest in property, collect assets that bring in income and reduce bad debts.

·      Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future – Johan Norberg’s book is all about being an optimist rather than a pessimist, because pessimism is an illness we should avoid.

·      Outsiders – William N. Thorndike documents eight unconventional CEOs who’ve had great success in business.

·      Tribe/The Dip – Seth Godin

·      Lessons of History – Will and Ariel Durant. It looks at what we can learn from history and human existence.

·      Blink/Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell. His podcast Revisionist History is also highly recommended.

·      The Behaviour Gap – Carl Richards

·      The Number: What do You Need for the Rest of Your Life and What Will it Cost? – Lee Eisenberg. I’ve probably gifted this to more clients than any other book.

·      Story of an American Capitalist – Roger Lowenstein’s biography of Warren Buffet

·      Made in America – Sam Walton’s history of Walmart

John’s Top Five

5. Fooled by Randomness - Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is about how so many factors in life are random, and how we ascribe too much human action to the cause of our successes or failures. As a civilisation, we have to accept that much of what happens in our lives is completely by chance, which is not something that most people want to understand.

John took from this that there are certain things in life we just can’t control, and the sooner you admit that, the happier you’ll be. There is a focus on investments, and how people think that successful investing is due to skill rather than randomness and luck.  

4. The 10x Rule – Grant Cardone. Cardone’s philosophy is that it’s often harder to achieve what you want in life than it looks. When you estimate what you need to do to reach your goals, 10x it. So, instead of thinking you need to make three calls to make a sale, assume you need to make 30. You need to work harder, do more and take massive action – pull your finger out and don’t overthink things.

3. Smart Couples Finish Rich – David Bach. This powerful book is about having values behind your money, why they matter to you. Couples should sit down and write what those are for each saving they make. John and his wife found the process transformational, because they could build a financial plan based on their values. Each of their savings has one, so there’s no arguing about where money is spent or saved, and any potential money issues are prevented.

2. Simple Wealth, Inevitable Wealth – Nick Murray. Now a coach, Murray was a financial adviser for many decades. John said that it wasn’t the tips on financial success that caught his interest, helpful as they were, but the emphasis on the importance of sticking with the plan and not giving up on things too early.

I recommend Nick’s other books, especially for financial advisors: Behavioral Investment Counselling, The Excellent Investment Advisor and Around the Year.

1. A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy – William Braxton Irvine. The idea of Stoic philosophy is that the world is unpredictable and humans can’t control the outward circumstances of their life. Instead, they should focus on their internal journey and reflections on the world.

Happiness and satisfaction can be gained by looking internally and considering what you think about the world, rather than being a victim to what’s going on around you. Stoics use a lot of techniques to help them cope, succeed and be happy in their lives.

While we were going through our lists, John identified some key themes, such as thinking independently, behaviour control, taking action and being different. Books allow you to collate other people’s ideas to create your own philosophy, which will lead you to success.

Andy’s Top Five

5. The Automatic Millionaire – David Bach. A powerful one-step plan to live and finish rich, I chose this because I believe the number one behaviour trait that ensures long-term financial success is automating your savings. Getting into the habit of investing and forgetting about that money is essential, and my unconventional tip is that you should start to automate your savings before you’re even out of debt, no matter how small the amount.

4. Freakonomics – Stephen J. Dubner & Steven Levitt. This is an exploration of the hidden side of everything from a rogue economist (Levitt). The authors have produced so much content, and as well as their books they have a podcast about. The book has had a big impact on me, and inspired me to think differently about my life and business.

3. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini. This book is a beast! Many people have read it, so if you haven’t, you need to get a copy as soon as possible. It explains the tricks that are played on people, so it’s important to be aware of them when they happen to you.

‘Tricks’ can be good and bad, because often people are persuaded to do things that are good for them, but like any great power, persuasion can be used for bad. The book outlines six types of persuasion and the consequences of their application.

His new book, ‘Presuasion’, is about the stage before a persuasive interaction and also recommended. 

2. Purple Cow – Seth Godin. If I could only consume one person’s content for the rest of my life, it would be Godin’s. The premise of the book is this: If you’re driving down a long road with cows on both sides, brown, black or white, and you suddenly see a purple cow, it stands out.

The idea is to do the same with your business: make it remarkable, create a ruckus, build tribes and try new things. I’m a big fan of these types of books and I love ‘purple cow’ inspired businesses.

1. The War of Art – Steven Pressfield. The book is all about delivering, being creative and fighting ‘resistance’. Resistance is everything that hold you back from moving forward and achieving your real life goals.

Whatever industry you’re in, you need to be shipping work and delivering, and you need to be aware of the resistance around and within you. It encourages you to do more in every area of your life, and it’s inspired me to create more, including my podcast series. It helps you to focus on what’s important and move away from the little things.