The most important trait of successful people is their ability to make long-term plans and execute them. Over time luck becomes less of a factor and differences and work ethic start to differentiate people’s level of success. This is the reason strategy is so important. Strategy is the high level plan people make to achieve one or more goals under conditions of uncertainty. One half of the battle is planning and goal setting, and the other half is execution. Reading books about strategy will reveal patterns of success and failure that you can apply to your own life and experiences.
The 9 Strategy Books Every Ambitious Person Needs To Read
Most book lists about strategy books will only include conventional books like Machiavelli’s The Prince and Dale Carnegies’ How To Win Friends And Influence People. These are great books, but strategy also necessitates thinking outside the box. The last 3 books in this list are extremely unorthodox, but my explanations for them will help you understand how reading them will help you succeed in this world.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.
Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. by Ron Chernow (Amazon). John D. Rockefeller built his business with cut-throat tactics and relentless long-term planning. He was history’s first billionaire and the creator of the all-powerful Standard Oil monopoly. At present, he is seen as an archetypal cold-blooded predatory capitalist. Ron Chernow’s biography paints a more complete picture of the man – a devout baptist and a generous philanthropist. The true story of John D. Rockefeller Sr. is complex and shows his strategic thinking and genius business tactics. My favorite business biography of all time.
The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
The Power Broker is the biography of the greatest urban planner in history, Robert Moses. In reality, it is the study of the most meticulous and structured acquisition of power in modern political history. His time in the New York state government in the 1920s allowed him to learn bill drafting, the skill that allowed him to understand the political system as an insider. He used this knowledge as a builder to grow his public authorities into an unstoppable force that was at times more powerful than governors or mayors. Politicians have learned form his methods, including Barack Obama, who waxed lyrical about it’s influence on his thought: “I’m sure it helped to shape how I think about politics.”
The Art Of War
This ancient Chinese military strategy book from Sun Tzu (translation – Master Sun) is a masterpiece on war on strategy. This book has had an incredible influence on both Eastern and Western military thinking, and business tactics. “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” This book has developed a cult following for good reason – it blends ancient Eastern wisdom with timeless strategy and reflections on human nature.
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Machiavelli has been incredibly unfairly judged by history – his bodies of work are far greater than simply politics. However The Prince is his Magnus Opus, and he was the first intellectual thinker to divide politics from ethics. The Prince, his Magnus Opus describes princehood and reflects the ruthless tactics that a prince needed to use to maintain and increase his power. His observations about human nature are blood-curdlingly accurate and reflect a side of human nature that people often choose to pretend doesn’t exist. This is willful ignorance – you need to understand the true nature of people.
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The 48 Laws of Power
With The 48 Laws of Power, Robert Greene has created an anthology of power. This book is without a doubt the purest strategy book on this list. The cynicism surrounding this work is incredible, but I am firmly of the belief that you should understand the world completely and willful ignorance should be avoided, I think Robert Greene would agree. The fact that this book has been read by millions of people and banned by several U.S. prisons is testament to how powerful the material is.
The 50th Law
If you want to learn about the power of fearlessness and instinct, this is the book to read. The 50th Law is a collaboration by Robert Greene and 50 Cent that tells the rags to riches story of the notorious rapper and entrepreneur. According to Greene, 50 Cent is what Niccolo Machiavelli referred to as a New Prince. The type of leader who emerges in a period of chaos and turmoil and rewrites the rules. 50 Cent succeeded by establishing himself in defiance of custom, and becoming a master of shaping his own image and creating controversy.
McMafia: A Journey Through the Global Crime Underworld
Studying organized crime allows you to understand the hidden side of human nature, and the shadow industries that influence everything around us. Misha Glenny’s McMafia is a global study in organized crime. The book specifically focuses on the spread of transnational crime since the end of the Soviet Union. The vast share of wealth that moved from government to criminal hands after the fall of communism, as well as the liberalization of markets has led to a shadow economy that accounts for 20% of world GDP. A study of markets in the absence of regulation is a purist study in strategy.
The Oligarchs: Wealth And Power In The New Russia
The fall of the Soviet Union left a power vacuum through Russia and the former Soviet provinces. This led to some men accumulating an incredible amount of wealth and power. Their strategies were Machiavellian and cunning, it is incredibly important to understand the tactics people will use to exploit a power vacuum. The Oligarchs is both a study in the strategy and personalities of the individuals closest to the action after the fall of the Soviet Union. These men go from ordinary citizens stuck in a broken system to business magnates absorbing wealth and natural resources at astonishing rates, and then facing their fall from grace.
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History Of The World
The Ascent of Money details the long history of money, credit, and banking. As a student of finance and the economy this book astonished me with its simultaneous depth and breadth of information. All history is tightly linked to the financial history of that specific period. It tackles the progress and effects of finance on society into the 21st century. This is essential reading for anyone interested in strategy because of the intrinsically tight link between finance and power.