Executive Book Club

9 books written by self-made billionaires to help you succeed in business and in life

In this screengrab, Bill Gates speaks during All In WA: A Concert For COVID-19 Relief on June 24, 2020 in Washington.
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Whether it's building a successful business or climbing the career ladder, you can find inspiration from people who have done the seemingly impossible: Change the world and become a billionaire.

It's unlikely that you'll be able to have a conversation over dinner with Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey, but you can still learn their secrets and advice from the books they've written.

Below are nine must-reads by some of the world's most influential billionaires:

1.  "The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life's Direction and Purpose"

By Oprah Winfrey

Committing to a life of purpose takes courage. "There was a time when I felt torn between who the world was telling me I should be, and what I felt to be the truth of myself," media mogul Oprah Winfrey writes in the introduction of her 2019 book "The Path Made Clear."

The chapters are organized to help you recognize your most important accomplishments along the road to self-discovery, laying out what you really need in order to achieve a life of happiness, significance and success.

2. "Principles: Life and Work"

By Ray Dalio

Investor and entrepreneur Ray Dalio shares the principles he developed while running Bridgewater Associates, which manages about $160 billion — making it the largest hedge fund firm in the world. The book offers hundreds of practical lessons that can help individuals and organizations make smarter decisions and build stronger teams.

3. "Shoe Dog: A Memoir By the Creator of Nike"

By Phil Knight

In "Shoe Dog," Nike founder Phil Knight offers a refreshingly honest memoir about how he built a shoe empire that earned him the nickname "the man behind swoosh."

Bill Gates named it one of his five favorite books of 2016, calling it a "reminder of what the path to business success really looks like. It's a messy, perilous, and chaotic journey, riddled with mistakes, endless struggles, and sacrifice."

4. "Losing My Virginity: How I Survived, Had Fun, and Made a Fortune Doing Business My Way"

By Richard Branson

"Losing My Virginity" is an autobiography of how Virgin Group founder Richard Branson found success by doing things his own way. The internationally best-selling book describes the many life events that shaped Branson's character — his naivety, his sense of adventure and steely resolve — and led him to revolutionize the music and airline industries.

5. "Business @ the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy"

By Bill Gates

Although published more than two decades ago, the Microsoft co-founder's examples about how to use information flow to gain a competitive edge are still relevant today.

If you run your own business, Gates' book will prompt you to think about how you can improve your company's work process and whether your managers have the right tools to get the information they need to make smart decisions.

6. "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead"

By Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In" became a massive cultural phenomenon when it released in 2013, sparking conversations about women and ambition in the workplace.

Inspiring and well-researched, the Facebook COO offers advice on how to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment, as well as how men can benefit by supporting women both in the workplace and at home.

7. "How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It"

By Mark Cuban

Incorporating some of his best advice from his popular Blog Maverick, "Shark Tank" investor and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban gives readers some insider knowledge on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.

If you haven't heard Cuban's rags-to-riches story (he was selling powdered milk and sleeping on friends' couches before reaching billionaire status), this book will be the inspiration you need to push forward during hard times.

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

By Peter Thiel

Peter Thiel has a history of building and investing in breakthrough companies. A co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, Thiel was the first investor in Facebook.

In "Zero to One," he explains the philosophy he used along his path to financial success and offers a new way of thinking about innovation: It starts by learning to ask the questions that lead you to find value in unexpected places.

9. "The Power of Many: Values for Success in Business and in Life"

By Meg Whitman

Meg Whitman, former president and CEO of eBay, writes about the core values — such as trust, authenticity, courage and validation — that steered her to success without ethical compromise. 

One of my favorite lines from the book: "The difference between a competent executive and a superstar often boils down to the willingness to decide to move forward, even when the path is not crystal clear.

Tom Popomaronis is a leadership expert and vice president of innovation at Massive Alliance. His work has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, Inc., and The Washington Post. In 2014, Tom was named one of the "40 Under 40" by the Baltimore Business Journal. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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