Further Reading

These are the books and ideas that influenced the systems and thought you find in How to Get Ahead

Chapter 1

  • Branden, Nathaniel. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem. New York: Bantam, 1994.
  • Branden, Nathaniel. Self-Esteem at Work: How Confident People Make Powerful Companies. San Francisco, CA: Jossey- Bass, 1998.
  • Branden, Nathaniel. Honoring the Self: Self-Esteem and Personal Transformation. New York: Bantam, 2004.

Nathaniel Branden’s work is some of the most influential on my way of understanding work, the world, and psychology. People are inherently self-aware creatures. How we view and understand ourselves largely defines the extent to which we can push ourselves and how we treat ourselves. Most work problems are really self-esteem, self-efficacy, or self-respect problems at their cores.

In addition to generally influencing the way I view work and meaning, Branden provided the analytical structure for an introspection tool: sentence completion exercises. While the stems I reference in my book are original, the exercise is entirely Branden’s and I am grateful for being introduced to it.

  • Girard, René. I See Satan Fall Like Lightning. Ossining, NY: Orbis Books, 2001.

While I was first introduced to Rene Girard’s work via Peter Thiel’s work, this book is by far the best explanation of mimetic theory in Girard’s own words that I have come across. While his book, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is better known, this is the book that I suggest people start with.

  • Newport, Cal. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. London: Piatkus Books, 2016.

Cal Newport’s excellent book here makes a strong case against what I call “passion-porn.” Ambitious people get so caught up in finding their “passion” or doing what they’re “passionate about” that they can never settle on one area of work. Don’t focus on finding your passion. Focus on finding your focus instead and not doing work that you absolutely hate.

  • Peterson, Jordan B. Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief. New York: Routledge, 1999.

Along with Branden, Peterson provides a lot of the foundation behind the idea that what matters in finding meaningful work is not achieving goals but seeing yourself progress towards the achievement of meaningful goals. 

  • Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder. New York: Random House, 2016.

I was first introduced to the idea of via negativa through Taleb’s book. It’s a useful mental model in general. 

  • Tavris, Carol, and Elliot Aronson. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. London: Pinter & Martin, 2016.

This is an excellent look at different cognitive biases and where they stem from. 

  • Thiel, Peter, and Masters, Blake. Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future. New York: Currency, 2014.

This is the book that helped me understand why, exactly, I started seeing so many ambitious people tracking towards the same institutions and the same jobs and the same aspirations. The idea of “definite optimism” is borrowed from this book and, while Thiel applies it as a social system, I believe it can be applied to the individual’s life as well. If there is one message of my book, it’s that you need to develop definite optimism and build a path to your future. This is the higher-level theory book that I would suggest for further reading.

Chapter 2

  • Beck, Molly. Reach Out: The Simple Strategy You Need to Expand Your Network and Increase Your Influence. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2018.

This book is a tactical guide to reaching out to new people and adding them to your network as mentors, advisors, or teachers. It’s my go-to recommendation for anybody who wants to know where they can get started in reaching out to others.

Chapter 3

The ROK system is almost entirely an amalgam and application of elements from other systems and tools I have come across in my research. I suggest these books for digging deeper into the psychology of productivity systems.

  • Allen, David. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Pro- ductivity. New York: Viking, 2001.

This is the closest thing to a Productivity Bible. It’s the book I suggest anybody dig into if they want to go deep in this subject matter.

  • Clear, James. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, New York: Avery, 2018.

This is the closest thing to a Habits Bible. I suggest reading this if you have destructive habits that are preventing you from being productive with the work you have to get done.

  • Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. London: Piatkus, 2016.

Alongside Paul Graham’s excellent “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule” essay, this is the book I recommend you jump into to see the benefits of long periods of focused, hard, complex work. 

  • Selk, Jason, Tom Bartow, and Matthew Rudy. Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life. Boston, MA: Da Capo, 2016.

The idea that the most effective people don’t get everything done, they get the most important things done, is largely borrowed from this book. It’s a good, tactical, quick read and the book I would suggest digging into if you don’t want to dig deep into Getting Things Done. 

Chapter 4

  • Abraham, Jay. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001.

This is THE book on marketing and direct response. I would suggest this to anybody building out a business, interested in marketing, or just interested in knowing more about how people respond to different incentives. Abraham was Ramit Sethi’s coach, and I discovered Abraham through Sethi’s teachings and advice. 

  • Ferriss, Timothy. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. New York: Harmony Books, 2012.

This is the book on understanding positioning and the systems you need to run a brand, even your own personal brand, without being pulled in a thousand different directions. 

  • Holiday, Ryan. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. New York: Profile Books. 2018.

This book teaches some of the fundamentals of public relations and media management. The idea of Trading Up the Chain comes from Holiday’s works.

Chapter 5

  • Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends & Influence People. New York: Pocket Books, 2007.
  • Ferrazzi, Keith, and Tahl Raz. Never Eat Alone, Expanded and Updated: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time. Crown Business, 2014.

Building a network should never look like “networking,” that’s something that both of these books teach well. 

Chapter 6

  • Abraham, Jay. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You’ve Got: 21 Ways You Can Out-Think, Out-Perform, and Out-Earn the Competition, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2001.

Some of the concepts in Abraham’s book can be applied well to understanding incentives, copywriting, and asking for what people actually want you to ask them for. 

  • Adams, Scott. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life. New York: Portfolio/Penguin, 2014.

The concept of a Talent Stack first appears in Adams’ book. Adams is a great example of talent stacking. He’s neither the best artist nor the funniest person nor the most knowledgeable on office politics, but he’s one of a very few who is good enough in each of these areas, allowing him to create Dilbert.

  • Bell, Macalester. Hard Feelings: The Moral Psychology of Con- tempt. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

A significant chunk of the pitch systems I’ve experimented with and built are are grounded in moral psychology. While there are books upon books upon books available for this subject, this is one of the most accessible that I’ve had the fortune to study. Read this if you want to learn more about the structure and purpose of emotions and reactive attitudes. 

  • Dawson, Roger. Secrets of Power Negotiating, 15th Anniversary Edition: Inside Secrets from a Master Negotiator. Newburyport: Weiser, 2010.

This is the best, most tactical book I have read on negotiating. Buy this book and you’ll almost immediately earn back the principal plus more on money you gain or save.

  • Klaff, Oren. Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading and Winning the Deal. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

While this is mostly written from the perspective of doing formal pitches, the frame-based model for pitching is useful. Klaff narrates the audiobook and it is quite good. 

  • Ury, William. Getting Past No: Negotiating in Difficult Situations. New York: Bantam Books, 2007.

This is one of the famous MBA-type negotiating books — it’s useful to know and be aware of because a lot of the people you’ll talk to use it as their foundation. 

  • Voss, Chris. Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as If Your Life Depended on It. New York: Random House Business, 2017.

This is the anti-MBA negotiation book, also useful to have in your toolset.