Marissa Levin
CEO, speaker and writer

Marissa Levin

Founder and CEO of Information Experts, a 15-year-old strategic communications, human capital, and training consulting firm. Nationally known speaker and writer, and an expert on how to build a successful business while building a fulfilling life.


My Business Bibles

Q: We all need advice as we seek success in our careers and lives. What are your five favorite business books, and why? What advice wasn't so helpful?

I read a lot of business books. (I also read a lot of trashy books, but i don't think I'm supposed to tell you about those).

There are a few business books that have strongly impacted my leadership.

1. "Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant" by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

Blue Ocean Strategy doesn't tell you how to compete. It tells you how to make your competition irrelevant. A "red ocean'' strategy tells you how to position yourself competitively. A "blue ocean" strategy tells you how to carve out a space in the market where no other competition exists. These strategies are very different. The book is full of examples of organizations that have turned themselves around using the blue ocean strategy -- including the New York City Police Department. It's an amazing book to help you shift your perspective, and see your company in an entirely different light.

2: "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell.

What I loved about "Outliers" is that it emphasizes the need for mastery -- 10,000 hours of practice for anything to achieve mastery. Whether it's sports, music or technology, it is proved that all mastery requires a minimum of 10,000 hours. Skills don't make you successful. Practice makes you successful. By the time Bill Gates had graduated high school, he had already spent more than 10,000 hours programming.

I also like that it emphasizes the importance of opportunity in success. It compares the paths of Bill Gates (who everyone knows) and Christopher Langan (who many people don't know even though he is one of the only people alive with an IQ of 200).

Bill Gates was presented with opportunity his entire life, and therefore was able to tap into his intellect, his passion, and skill set to change the world. Christopher Langan grew up in an abusive household (when he wasn't homeless), had an alcoholic mother and several fathers, and even though he was initially given a college scholarship, never graduated college because his mother forgot to complete the paperwork. He lives on a farm, and has never lived up to his potential -- or the good he could have done for others.

This book is a constant reminder that we can always be better. It isn't our potential that makes us successful; it's our opportunities. So as a CEO, it's important to me to constantly look for ways to help my employees achieve mastery in their areas of expertise, and provide them opportunities to realize their potential.

3: "Creating Your Best Life" by Caroline Adams Miller.

While this is technically not a business book, it is one of the most important books in my business library. Caroline Miller outlines a research-based program for bringing happiness into your life. Success follows happiness; happiness does not follow success. This is proven to be true.

We are the average of the 10 people that most closely surround us. We usually let people who are negative and even toxic come too close to us ... people who are pessimists, people who are not happy for our success, people who generally fail to take responsibility for their own happiness, and therefore can't accept the happiness of others. we make it too easy for others to get into our inner circle. For some reason, many people believe that we "have" to let certain people into our lives, and be close to us, even if they are detrimental to us. This is not the case.

Caroline gives all of us a roadmap to happiness. She provides tools and worksheets on how to make the changes we need to make in order to live the lives we want. She also teaches us how to identify the different types of negative people in our environment, and how to react to them.

In both business and in life, we will encounter negative, difficult, and toxic people every day. It's unavoidable. However, we can control how we react to them, and what impact they will make on our lives. We control who is close to us. And in shaping my company, I specifically weed out the negative energy. There's just no room for it in a company that is defined by success.

So these are my three that immediately came to mind.

I also strongly recommend Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich"" and Sharon Lechter and Greg Reid's "Three Feet From Gold." Often success is just outside our reach or around the corner. If we dig just a little deeper, we will get to it. These books provide strategies for embracing the right mindset to find success.

And you can't ever go wrong with Stephen Covey.

By Marissa Levin  |  June 24, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Aura of Success , Careers and success , Defining success , coaching Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I don't know if I'm allowed to post links in these comments - I tried to find the comments guidance, but ever since I logged in, I can't seem to find it...

In any case, I agree whole-heartedly with your recommendations above Marissa, other books I've found really useful are listed in an Amazon widget on my site:
if you would like to have a look.

Posted by: AndriesSmit | July 2, 2010 3:55 AM
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Regarding Covey's "7 Habits": I'm still waiting for the English version to come out.

Posted by: dcjacobson | June 28, 2010 9:40 AM
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NN Taleb's "Fooled by Randomness".

Posted by: DrRP1 | June 28, 2010 8:36 AM
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