The Books to Help You Hack 2017

You have already decided that 2017 will be a great year.

This is your conclusion after you took the time to reflect, to be brutally honest with yourself about your goals, and you allowed yourself to think big and dream like a kid to achieve great things next year.

The strategy is clear. Now it’s time to get tactical.

Using the right tools and resources, for a given task, can make it easier and more efficient.

It is never going to be easy to reach large goals, but we can definitely make it easier by having a laser focus on what the key steps are.

You already know you have to consume to create. To be able to create value, you have to be constantly learning new things. Some things you can do to consume are read books, listen to podcasts, and watch movies (yes, we admit that sometimes we do watch movies and allow ourselves to have fun).

Let’s start with books.

Which Books?


I have always loved to read, and even kept some of my childhood books that have now been passed to my son. Interestingly, The Little Engine that Could is one of my all time favorites, now when I read it to my him . . . it explains a lot about my personality.

Even with my love of reading, there have been points where I did not read as much as I should have, specifically, during both of my Master’s Programs. The thing is, while in graduate school you are constantly told what to read to the point of never wanting to look at another book again! Yet, something magical happens upon graduation. It is possible to choose the books you want to read and set your own pace.

In 2016, since graduation in May, I have finished close to 25 and will knock out one more by Jan 1. The great books change my life, they make me think differently, provide new skills, and teach me to be a better writer. It is fascinating how a $10 purchase and a week commitment can positively alter our lives. With all that said, I will sprint through the top books I recommend for professional development.

Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday: The best book I have read in years! The lessons are endless as each chapter will teach you how to release stress and reduce your overall ego.  It is so good that I listened to the audiobook once and immediately started it again.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni: Lencioni takes a unique approach as he writes a story about a CEO taking over a company and how she overcomes challenges in bringing her new team together. This is one of the easiest books to read and might be one of the most important for teams.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown: One of my great weaknesses is doing too much and saying yes too often. In Essentialism, I felt I was reading a book written for me as the author spoke about the need to take away unnecessary projects from life. This book has helped me say “no” to meeting requests, limit my e-mail responses, and realize there are only a few things in life that I truly care about - and those are the aspects I focus on each day.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy: This book should be mandatory for all marketing professionals because the author describes what true marketing is and what it is not. True marketing is a complicated dance between qualitative and quantitative data, with a skill for listening to others in order to create proper campaigns. If you are in marketing and haven’t read this book, stop everything and read now.

Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t and Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek: Sinek’s ability to weave anthropology, business, and leadership is second to none. Both books are on leadership yet take different approaches. How Great Leaders Inspire is more about the core of “why we do what we do,” and once you realize that, people will be more inclined to listen to you and follow your leadership. Leaders Eat Last builds on the idea of leadership and provides principles to what it means to be a great leader.

Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters: Wow!  What can you say about Peter Thiel?  Genius, visionary, contrarian, all of the above?  Zero to One completely shook my views on business. One paragraph will not do the book justice. Thiel explains how capitalism and competition are opposing forces, building a monopolistic company is the key to success, our education system is failing, and to really be innovative we must provide 10x the experience as established brands. If you are an entrepreneur this should be on your "must-read list." 

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your Live Depended on it by Chris Voss and Tah Raz: The best book on sales I have ever read. Period. End of Story. The book is based on Voss' decades of experiences as an FBI negotiator.  He provides a roadmap of how he negotiates. There is little theory, instead, the techniques are based on what works in real life. Buy this book when it is time to elevate your negotiation tactics.

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin: News alert: life is stressful! The stress of school, work, and family can become overwhelming. When I was a teenager I was diagnosed with a chemical imbalance which sends me into days, weeks, and months of depression. It is a battle I have dealt with for most of my life and shows up in times of high stress. Waitzkin’s book was a surprising relief to help me cope with depression during my final semester of my MBA. His book is half autobiography and half instructional on how to perform at a world-class level. He is the real life chess prodigy from Searching for Bobby Fischer and describes what it took to compete at the highest levels. I highly recommend this book while you are going through stressful periods in your program.

The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander: You might wonder why I listed this book for professionals. However, a book like this is exactly what professionals require as the authors take the reader on a path of thinking creatively to solve problems and to not take work too seriously. It is one of the most interesting books I have ever read and difficult to describe as each chapter could be read as a standalone section with advice on how to really push your limits and change how you view the world. This book will give you a head start on what it truly means to be a creative thinker in any profession.

There they are! I could have gone on with more choices, but those will give you a great beginning point. Try to pick at least one book to read in January and see where it takes you.


If you are reading this it means you are curious and you dedicate time to learn and grow. This means you are probably not part of the 25% of American adults that didn’t read a book this year.

You already understand the value of reading books, so I will go straight to the point.

The first obstacle is building the habit of reading. Once you are past that the obstacle is deciding which books to read, because there are only 24 hours in a day.

I have read many books on different topics this year. And of course I would recommend you read all of them, but we have to be strategic.

There will be books that can help you with a specific obstacle you are facing. Those are great ones because you can, and should, put the in action right away. Very valuable and efficient.

Today I want to focus on books that will give you fundamentals and principles so you can be great at everything else you do. I want to give you a recommendation of books that will be like glasses that will change the way you see the world, instead of books that will be like hammers or shovels that may help you with specific challenges.

The first book is one that I had been avoiding for years. The title sounded fake and manipulative to me. Also, it is an old book. I thought it would be outdated.

And I was so wrong!

How to Win Friends and Influence Peopleby Dale Carnegie, is a life changer.

This book is all about principles. Principles that are timeless and that will allow you to live a life of meaningful connections. Carnegie does a great job of teaching you principles through very captivating stories. Stories you will remember and that will help you apply these principles every day.

Most are common sense, but we know that common sense is the least common of senses.

Now I use these principles for my weekly challenges. And I’ve also used them when conducting the Networking Boot Camp (more about this coming soon).

Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Make the other person feel important - and do it sincerely

These are just some of the nuggets of wisdom that you will learn from Carnegie. It seems simple but we tend to forget them.

Try it this December, don’t write empty holiday cards. Don’t write the same card multiple times. Pay attention, think about the other person. What connects you? What do you appreciate about them? Make sure you highlight that in your card.

These are just a couple of the many valuable principles you will learn.

This book will allow you to be a better human being in general. You can apply these principles to become a better networker and find the job of your dreams, or finally get that promotion. You can apply these principles to build better relationships with your significant other, with your family and with your friends.

This book, if you read it and apply at least 10% of it, will allow you to become a source of meaning and value in every ecosystem that you are part of.

The second book is another life changing one!

It will help you understand that being vulnerable and showing the cracks in your armor is actually the most courageous and strongest action you can take.

Dare to be in the arena.

Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown,  is about embracing uncomfortable situations. Because if you don't decide to go out of your comfort zone, then life will make you uncomfortable anyway.

You will get fired, relationships will end, you will have to move, your loved ones will die. So you might as well get used to being uncomfortable on your own terms.

Daring Greatly is about being vulnerable because being vulnerable is actually being strong. Being vulnerable is going into "fights" that you know you might lose. You might get punched in your mouth, get a broken nose, and even get knocked down. But this pain is what creates the way to meaning. To being fulfilled and enjoy life to the fullest.

Daring Greatly is about being better every day, and not necessarily focusing on being the best. Most of the times if you think "good enough" is not enough is because you are focusing on being the best and not on being better.

Daring Greatly is about embracing every uncomfortable conversation that shows up. Owning those situations, and getting better and dealing with them.


You have to own your growth and development. Sometimes you may not be in the mood for reading, we struggle with the same thing too.

Yet, we were able to read more than 50 books combined. Some of the things we do to achieve this are:

  • Temptation Bundling

Make it a goal to read every day. A small goal, maybe 10-20 pages. Afterward, allow yourself to do something else, that may not be as productive, but only after you achieve your reading goal. It may be spending some time on social media or watching a TV show.

  • Audiobooks

When you are driving, doing exercise, or maybe even when you are working. Specifically, if you are doing a task that is more mechanic, you might be able to listen to an audiobook while you do so. This is how you maximize the hours of your day.

Now the ball is in your court.

We would love to hear from You. What are the books that made 2016 a better year for you? Leave a comment, you might bring value and change a life by doing so.

This is a series of articles by Alejandro I. Sanoja and Matt Avery