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Back To School For Entrepreneurs

Steve and Lee Milteer, co-authors of "Ultimate Entrepreneur Success Secrets: Inspiring Stories Of Triumph by Chicagoland's Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Steve and Lee Milteer, co-authors of “Ultimate Entrepreneur Success Secrets: Inspiring Stories Of Triumph by Chicagoland’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Labor Day has passed, and for millions of young Americans, another school year has begun. For many, after a summer break, it’s time once again to “hit the books.”

However, that’s not necessarily the case with most American adults.

According to a 2002 presentation by Jerrold R. Jenkins, Chairman and CEO of The Jenkins Group, in which he cited statistics from various sources…

  • One-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
  • 42% of college graduates never read another book after college.
  • 80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book in the past year.
  • 70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 57% of new books are not read to completion.

More recent research has painted a similarly bleak picture of our collective intellectual laziness.

I come into contact with thousands of entrepreneurs every year when I host my own events, speak at others and attend still more. Many of the most successful business owners I meet are voracious readers and consumers of information. I tend to gravitate toward this more interesting, upbeat, positive minority. And so does prosperity.

As legendary basketball coach John Wooden famously said, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

I have a simple test for whether someone is a good fit for my group, “Chicagoland’s Sharpest Entrepreneurs”: I offer prospective new members over $600 worth of small business marketing materials, delivered over a free two-month trial period, and all they have to cover is just the shipping and handling. The right person responds with an enthusiastic, “Wow! I can’t wait to get all that great information!” The wrong person reacts with some sad excuse such as, “That’s too much information. I don’t have time to deal with it all.”

Such excuse-makers are not only not right for our group; they are a big reason more than 90% of businesses fail in their first five years.

Until recently, I had made it a point to read about a book a week. Then, just a couple of months ago, I completed a speed learning course by Guinness Book of World Records “World’s Fastest Reader,” Howard Berg, in which I tripled my reading speed (and also improved my comprehension). Now I routinely read four or five books in a weekend afternoon.

So for me, fall doesn’t mean “back to school” – because I make it a point never to stop learning. I have my own saying: “Lifetime learners are lifetime earners.”

If you’re the type of person who is always looking to improve yourself and your business, here’s a partial list of my favorite “personal development” books. I’ve read every one of these multiple times over the years, until virtually every page has a highlight, underline or dog-ear:

Dr. Maxwell Maltz, “The New Psycho-Cybernetics” First published over 50 years ago, this ground-breaking work is appropriately sub-titled, “The Original Science of Self-Improvement and Success That Has Changed the Lives of 30 Million People.” Fans of Tony Robbins and other “self-help gurus” will recognize in the pages of this book many of the principles and techniques they teach as their own.

Napoleon Hill, “The Law Of Success” If you’re one of the millions of entrepreneurs who has read Mr. Hill’s classic “Think And Grow Rich,” you may want to tackle this MUCH more comprehensive, 16-lesson manifesto upon which the more famous book was based.

Dale Carnegie, “How To Stop Worrying And Start Living”
Not nearly as well-known as his also-a-must-read “How To Win Friends And Influence People,” this book helped me get through an extremely difficult time in my life just after I had mismanaged a multimillion-dollar business into oblivion. Chapter 2: “A Magic Formula for Solving Worry Situations” instantly and profoundly changed my life.

Wallace Wattles, “The Science of Getting Rich” An easy, quick read that Rhonda Byrne credits with her discovery of “The Secret” nearly a century after its publication. You may not agree with everything Mr. Wattles writes, but you practically can’t help but be inspired.

Dr. David J. Schwartz, “The Magic of Thinking Big” When I first read the part where the author explains that “important people” are only bothered by important things, I wanted to throw the book across the room in disgust and shout “Who are you calling an unimportant person?” Profoundly practical, thoroughly thought-provoking and consistently compelling, this book taught me specific strategies that have made me happier, healthier and wealthier.

Robert Collier, “The Secret of the Ages”
One of the greatest copywriters of all time published this seven-volume masterpiece 85 years ago, and it’s still transforming lives today. Contrary to those who believe that the “Law of Attraction” means all you have to do is think about something and the universe will bring it to you, Mr. Collier explains that only those who follow thought with action can experience success.

Dr. Denis Waitley, “The Psychology Of Winning” A practical, step-by-step guide to creating winning thoughts, taking winning actions, forming winning habits and developing winning character traits. In the final paragraph, the author urges the reader to take action on ANY self-improvement book or course – if not his own, than any of the “literally thousands” of others out there. Powerful, caring advice.

Lee Milteer, “Success is An Inside Job” Well-written, thought-provoking book by a personal mentor, friend and co-author of mine. With Lee’s help, I learned to put more trust in my intuition and gut feelings and rely less on what I “know,” which has led to monumental improvements in my entrepreneurial success and quality of life.

What about you? Do you have a favorite “personal development” book that’s changed your life? Have any I’ve listed here had a positive effect on you and/or your business?

And do you want me to list some more of my “recommended reading materials” in future posts?

Please let me know in a comment below.

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