My younger brother called me the other day with a Big Idea—an invention that came to him when he was homebound due to a knee injury. His creative and entrepreneurial energy was infectious and reminded me of so many of the books I’ve read over the years. I knew by the steps he was taking already that he was on to something.
And while starting the process of bringing forth a new big idea is one of the most exhilarating things in the world, I also knew how lonely stepping out on a big idea can feel—how the inevitable setbacks and rejections can turn the exhilaration into terror. How the roadblocks can make you wonder if going for a big idea was the stupidest thing you’ve ever done, if maybe you should have just kept your head down.
Reading books by and about people who believed in and went for big ideas made all the difference for me. They gave me hope, and provided me with actionable strategies that brought some of my biggest and most difficult ideas to reality.
Related: 25 Books for Success
Below are the books I shared with my brother—some of my favorite books of all time—and I hope they give you an extra boost to make your next big idea a reality, too. At the very least, I hope they serve as reminder and proof that your ambition and audacity are beautiful things, and that your ideas are worth pursuing.
The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy
Darren gave me the confidence to devote more of my time to the skills, projects and tasks where I add the most value, and the courage say no to everything else.
Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield
Steven helped me understand that the “trough of sorrow” talked about in entrepreneurship circles or the “belly of the whale” as he calls it—this time period in the creation of a big idea where you’re in too deep to turn back but feel like nothing is working out like you’d hoped—is normal and conquerable.
How to Be Like Walt by Pat Williams
Pat gave me a framework to understand how to look at someone’s story of achievement and pull out lessons that can apply to your own big ideas—a framework I now use in most of my writing; it’s also a fascinating look at a man who successfully executed a lot of big ideas.
Brain Storm by Don Hahn
Don is a very successful producer of films like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast, as well as amazing documentaries. Brain Storm is the first book that that gave me permission to consider myself creative—no small feat.
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
Sophia’s journey to building her very successful online retail company not only offers important insights into the nitty gritty of growing a business through engaging storytelling, but it also made me feel like Anne Hathaway’s character did in the movie The Intern—that “young woman” and leader are not antonyms.
Get Big Fast and Do More Good by Ido Leffler and Lance Kalish
I listened to the audio version of this book and at times it felt like a stand-up comedy routine—in the best sense. This book reveals the qualities of Ido and Lance that led to some of their incredible big idea business successes (for example, Yes To and Yoobi)—qualities and habits that you can actually replicate.
Making Good by Dev Aujla and Billy Parish
This book is full of incredible stories of people making their big ideas come to life, especially ones that generate both income and goodwill.
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
Ed revealed something in this book that I will never forget—that Pixar makes bad movies. Ed explains that what makes a Pixar film great is a long and intense process of feedback and editing. This process gave me ideas for applying a similar feedback loop to my own work, and most of all, it helped normalize and alleviate the pain of feedback—a reminder that receiving feedback that requires you to change things does not mean that your idea is bad.
Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland
There is nothing better to fuel a big idea than reading about a trailblazer. Misty’s dedication to her craft and the practice of ballet offers an incredible metaphor for the kind of commitment it takes to bring a new idea forth.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
In addition to being inspired by this allegory about going for a dream, simply getting lost in a fiction world helped my mind take the rest it needed to generate my next big idea.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
Sometimes my biggest hurdle to implementing my big ideas is not believing that I belong in whatever world that big idea would launch me into. This book gave me courage to see myself in a new light, and understand that if you feel like you don’t belong it might mean your big idea is that much more important—that its implementation could create space for so many more people to be welcome into a space where up until now they’ve been left out.
The Creator’s Code by Amy Wilkinson
Amy does a stellar job of unlocking how some of the top entrepreneurs of our time think, act and create. If you aren’t sure if you are a creative or entrepreneurial type of person, after reading this book you’ll know for sure, because, if you are, you’ll recognize so much of yourself in the ways these people think and act—even if, like me, your aspiration is very very far from creating a company.
What to Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin
This book lit a fire under me to go for my big ideas, and took the pressure off with this mantra: “This might not work.” Being OK with it not working can make the trying of the big idea that much more fun. Godin helped me see why the mentality “This has to work” was stifling me, and how the opposite would ironically give my big idea an even better chance of succeeding—as well as giving myself a better chance of coming up with another big idea if it didn’t.
The Intelligent Entrepreneur by Bill Murphy
Bill takes you through the stories of three successful entrepreneurs and exactly how they built their companies—the nuance offers a true glimpse into what it takes to bring a big idea to life day to day, and I especially appreciated the real understanding of the hard times and how these people navigated through them.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
I’ve learned that one of the best ways to bring a big idea to life is to carve out time to concentrate deeply and devote your full brainpower to your idea. Cal shares research for why deep concentration is so effective in helping you reach your goals, and offers concrete strategies—some of the best straight from his own life as a Georgetown professor, computer scientist, author, blogger and father—for how to make time to concentrate on your most important projects in a hyper distracted world. If you only ever read one book on productivity in your life, I hope it’s this one.
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