Virginia Munden’s Monthly Mindset Reads

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future

Peter Thiel is an entrepreneur and investor. He started PayPal in 1998, led it as CEO, and took it public in 2002, defining a new era of fast and secure online commerce. In 2004 he made the first outside investment in Facebook, where he serves as a director. The same year he launched Palantir Technologies, a software company that harnesses computers to empower human analysts in fields like national security and global finance. He has provided early funding for LinkedIn, Yelp, and dozens of successful technology startups, many run by former colleagues who have been dubbed the “PayPal Mafia.” He is a partner at Founders Fund, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that has funded companies like SpaceX and Airbnb. He started the Thiel Fellowship, which ignited a national debate by encouraging young people to put learning before schooling, and he leads the Thiel Foundation, which works to advance technological progress and long- term thinking about the future.

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Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

In Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, veteran technology journalist Ashlee Vance provides the first inside look into the extraordinary life and times of Silicon Valley’s most audacious entrepreneur. Written with exclusive access to Musk, his family and friends, the book traces the entrepreneur’s journey from a rough upbringing in South Africa to the pinnacle of the global business world. Vance spent over 40 hours in conversation with Musk and interviewed close to 300 people to tell the tumultuous stories of Musk’s world-changing companies: PayPal, Tesla Motors, SpaceX and SolarCity, and to characterize a man who has renewed American industry and sparked new levels of innovation while making plenty of enemies along the way.

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Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation

You might think the key to innovation is attracting exceptional creative talent. Or making the right investments. Or breaking down organizational silos. All of these things may help-but there’s only one way to ensure sustained innovation: you need to lead it-and with a special kind of leadership. Collective Genius shows you how.

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The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Luis

In The Four Agreements shamanic teacher and healer Don Miguel Ruiz exposes self-limiting beliefs and presents a simple yet effective code of personal conduct learned from his Toltec ancestors. Full of grace and simple truth, this handsomely designed book makes a lovely gift for anyone making an elementary change in life, and it reads in a voice that you would expect from an indigenous shaman.

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Purple Cow by Seth Godin

The world is changing ever more rapidly, and the rules of marketing are no different, writes Godin, the field’s reigning guru. The old ways-run-of-the-mill TV commercials, ads in the Wall Street Journal and so on-don’t work like they used to, because such messages are so plentiful that consumers have tuned them out. This means you have to toss out everything you know and do something “remarkable” (the way a purple cow in a field of Guernseys would be remarkable) to have any effect at all, writes Godin (Permission Marketing; Unleashing the Ideavirus). He cites companies like HBO, Starbucks and JetBlue, all of which created new ways of doing old businesses and saw their brands sizzle as a result. Godin’s style is punchy and irreverent, using short, sharp messages to drive his points home.

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The Little Red Book of Selling  by Jeffrey Gitomer

If salespeople are worried about how to sell, Gitomer (The Sales Bible) believes they are missing out on the more important aspect of sales: why people buy. This, he says, is “all that matters,” and his latest book aims to demystify buying principles for salespeople. From the red cloth cover to the small trim size to the amusing (but not cloying) cartoons on almost every page, this is an appealing and accessible book. The author is obviously enthusiastic, if not manic, about sales, and though some of his mantras verge on hokey, much of his prose is straightforward and realistic. Each chapter includes a mini table of contents, pull quotes and takeaway sound bites, examples of typical whines from salespeople (e.g., “the client said they spent their whole budget”) paired with a positive response (e.g., “Decision makers make the budget. Non-decision makers spend the budget”), and plenty of advice and ideas that can be taken in and studied as a whole or referred to at random for inspiration.

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Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty? In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why. Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire.

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