5 must-read books successful founders say helped them get ahead in life

The Oracles

Need advice on how to succeed? Turn off the computer and start reading. A good book can be informative, entertaining, inspiring and in some cases, life-changing.

These business leaders and advisors from The Oracles say the lessons they learned from the following five books helped helped them get ahead in life:

1. "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten"

By Robert Fulghum

"Sometimes we make things complicated when they're actually quite simple. This book made me realize how many lessons that I learned in school apply to work.

I'll never forget my sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Schleyer. He named his children Rainbow and Love, so you can imagine how inspirational he was to me. He would have the class sit in a circle and share things that were bothering us.

For example, someone might've been mad at Billy because he didn't invite her to sit at his lunch table, or upset with Sally because she didn't pick him for her team. The lesson: People often aren't aware that they hurt your feelings; so, why not tell them and give them the opportunity to be better? That's how we grow.

When Elon Musk had an existential crisis at age 14, he read this book
When Elon Musk had an existential crisis at age 14, he read this book

Having a sense of belonging is so important, not just in school, but in life. Being surrounded by people who truly hear you and see you builds confidence. It's the same in business; we're stronger together. Fulghum said it well: 'It is still true, no matter how old you are — when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.'"

—Shelley Zalis, CEO of The Female Quotient, an organization committed to advancing gender equality in business, and founder of the FQ Lounge, a pop-up gathering place for women at conferences and on college campuses; follow Shelley on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

2. "Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder"

By Nassim Nicholas Taleb

"No one can predict the future. The world is too chaotic, random, and complicated. That's why it's so important to seek asymmetric risk — the kind that maximizes potential gain and minimizes potential loss.

'Antifragile' taught me to make better decisions. I learned to stop foolishly trying to predict the future and focus on understanding the past instead. It taught me to invest my time and money into opportunities where a loss wouldn't be catastrophic but a win would catapult me to a new stratosphere.

Learn marketing and sales, write a book, start a blog, exercise every day, maximize sleep quality, study yourself objectively, and learn the art of asking good questions. Those are some of the top asymmetric risk opportunities I follow and recommend that aspiring business founders pursue."

—Jonathan Goodman, founder of the Personal Trainer Development Center and the first-ever certification for online fitness training, the Online Trainer Academy; connect with Jonathan on Facebook and Instagram

3. "The 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure"

By Grant Cardone

"Cardone's book opened my eyes to how simple yet very hard it is to become wealthy. As children, we are trained to complete tasks that we know how to do and can do with relative ease.

But the things in life that have the most reward generally take 10 times more effort to achieve than you expect. So after exerting only two or three times what we expected, most of us give up. Don't give up just because it's harder than you thought it would be. The best things in life are more difficult, but they're worth it."

—Josh Steinberger, founder and CEO of NextGen Restoration; principal in Driven Acquisitions, a holding company that owns and operates apartment buildings in Ohio; connect with Josh on Facebook

4. "Win Your Case"

By Gerry Spence

"This book is about the power of persuasion through authenticity. It helped me dig deep and discover the courage that comes from truly being myself. As a result, I've taken risks that paid off for my clients where other lawyers wouldn't. In law and business, put the tricks and techniques aside and get to know your client, business, case, and most importantly, yourself.

Spence shows you just how to do that. He writes about his uncle Slim, a real-life cowboy, who once told him, 'You can't get nowhere with a $1,000 saddle on a $10 horse.' Spence says you can dress yourself up and learn all the tricks of the trade, but they're like fancy saddles.

That won't work in the long run unless you take time to discover the power that comes from being the unique, authentic, and perfectly imperfect human that you truly are."

—Nafisé Nina Hodjat, founder and managing attorney of The SLS Firm

5. "The Success Principles: How to Get From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be:

By Jack Canfield

"I used to hang out with people going nowhere, and at the end of high school I wasn't going anywhere either. But by my sophomore year of college, I was getting straight As, building a network of mentors, and moving forward with relentless drive — all because of this book.

Reading it, I had an epiphany every five pages, and several lessons still stand out to me. I learned not to blame others or the world, and to take responsibility for where and who I was. Only then did I have the power to change my situation.

Other takeaways: Decide what you want. There's no perfect path; so pick a direction, get moving, and adjust as you go. Finally, don't spend time with negative, unmotivated people, because they'll drag you down with them. If you want to be successful, spend time around ambitious, positive, successful people.

Matt Clark, co-founder and chairman of and co-creator of Amazing Selling Machine; connect with Matt on Instagram

The Oracles is a mastermind group of the world's leading entrepreneurs who share their success strategies to help others grow their businesses and build better lives. Want to share your insights in a future article? Apply here. For more, follow The Oracles on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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