Prior to working at Drift, I was the farthest thing from a “reader.”
Not that I thought it was a waste of time or anything like. I just didn’t have the right perspective about learning.
Then I met DC.
There’s a quote from Charlie Munger that sums up how DC feels about books:
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none, zero.”
It’s a strong statement, yeah. But take a moment and think about the people in your life you’d label “wise.” Are they avid readers?
So now, I read books. Lots of them. Swing by Drift HQ and you’ll see a pile on my desk at any given moment.
And it’s not only marketing books or even just business books. This summer I’ve been reading a book about a rock-and-roll manager (who also happened to be a PR genius) named Shep Gordon.
So this week on Seeking Wisdom, DC and I decided to share the books we’ve been reading this summer.
If you’re interested in getting any of these books, I included links to where you can buy them. Enjoy.
If you didn’t know, DC has a huge man-crush on Charlie Munger, partner of Warren Buffett. And for good reason.
Both Buffett and Bill Gates have, in so many words, called Munger the smartest man they have both met. So that’s saying something.
The format of David Clark’s book is engaging. Each chapter focuses on one point or quotation from Munger. Chapters are sometimes as short as a single paragraph.
At Drift, we have our favorite books in the lobby. Recently, I needed a book and saw a stack of these, so I grabbed one and read it. So glad I did.
Admittedly, there’s plenty of financial stuff in the book that’s over my head (again, we’re talking about a genius here). But there’s also some brilliant thoughts on cognitive biases, which Munger is obsessed with.
Some of the best quotes in the book:
“I constantly see people rise in life who are not the smartest, sometimes not even the most diligent, but they are learning machines. They go to bed every night a little wiser than they were when they got up and boy does that help, particularly when you have a long run ahead of you.”
(Side note: That’s DC’s favorite quote of all time. He’s toyed around with the idea of tattooing it across his chest.)
“In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter area) who didn’t read all the time—none, zero. You’d be amazed at how much Warren reads–and at how much I read. My children laugh at me. They think I’m a book with a couple of legs sticking out.”
All in all, this is one of those books that doesn’t necessarily teach you anything new, but it reinforces some of the best things you’ve learned—in highly quotable language.
I absolutely love David Ogilvy’s work, but amazingly, I had never read this book before this summer. I got addicted to Ogilvy on Advertising, a collection of his “greatest hits,” but Confessions was actually published first—and it’s even better.
Unlike Ogilvy on Advertising, which is more visual, this book is full of playbooks you can use right now. It’s got chapters like “How to Manage an Agency,” “How to Get Clients,” “How to Keep Clients,” “How to Be A Good Client,” and “How to Write Potent Copy.” If you’re interested in copywriting at all, you should definitely pick this one up.
Some nuggets I love:
“Any damn fool can put on a price reduction, but it takes brains and perseverance to create a brand.”
“Every copywriter should start his or her career by spending two years in direct response. One glance at any advertisement tells me whether the copywriter has ever had experience.”
You can replace “copywriter” with “marketer” here. There is no marketing without knowing about cognitive biases and social psychology. All marketers should become students of human response.
“I admire people who hire subordinates who are good enough to succeed them. I pity people who are so insecure that they feel compelled to hire inferiors as their subordinates.”
One amazing thing about reading the greats (like Ogilvy) is that the same patterns come up over and over again. Because they come up so often, it’s easy for us to overlook them.
But you’ve got to invert that. The reason these patterns are coming up so often is because they are core truths. The fact that this book was published in 1963 should even help you believe it more, because it’s still true today.
Because of the size and design quality of this book, I expected it to cost $40. I was wrong. You can get it for less than half that price.
The High Growth Handbook was published by Stripe. If you don’t know them, they’re a company revolutionizing payments. Most of the things you pay for online are probably going them, whether you realize it or not.
Rather than putting together a form, a whitepaper, or some other run-of-the-mill resource, the people at Stripe have invested in putting together a truly valuable book. They ran marketing laps around other companies by publishing this. You’ll have to check out the video to see it, but the quality of the book is mind-blowing.
The author of the book is well-known technology executive and angel investor Elad Gil. Gil has worked with high-growth tech companies like Airbnb, Twitter, Google, Instacart, Coinbase, Stripe, and Square as they’ve grown from small companies into global brands. Across all of these breakout companies, a set of common patterns has evolved into a repeatable playbook that Gil has codified in the High Growth Handbook.
The format is a series of interviews with the best and brightest out there. It’s not intended to be read through, but rather referenced in different parts. So naturally, I skipped to the marketing section of the book, where I read an interview with Shannon Brayton, the CMO of LinkedIn.
I love what Shannon had to say in the book. Here are some of her thoughts:
- The role of a CMO is to be good at 100+ different things, but not great at all of them. CMOs can come from a number of different backgrounds. For example, she’s a CMO, but her expertise is in communications. For other areas, like demand-gen and branding, she hires strong. Anybody in any department anywhere thinks they have to know everything. But she made it clear: you’ve got to build a team.
- She also had this quote: “I always tell my teams: if you were to start with a blank slate, what would that team look like? Don’t optimize for one person. It’s very easy to say well we have X person who is great at Y. But you need to think about what moves make sense for the WHOLE company, then figure out if you have the right people.”
I might just be reading that quote every single day.
You might not expect a book like this to be on a list of marketing and business books, but honestly, it’s just the best.
Shep Gordon is an older rock-and-roll manager who worked with Alice Cooper, Teddy Pendergrass, Emeril Lagasse (and other famous chefs), Gipsy Kings, and plenty of others.
The amazing thing is that you can learn so much about marketing from him. In my opinion, the best lessons about marketing don’t come from people who say they do marketing. Gordon, for example, was a PR genius.
One of his stories illustrates this well. While he was trying to make Alice Cooper famous, they were in London in the busiest traffic circle in the city. He bought a massive truck and put a poster of Alice Cooper basically naked on it. Then he told the driver to go and break down in the middle of traffic during rush hour, promising to bail him out if he got in trouble.
Massive chaos ensued. The driver went to jail (Gordon followed through on his promise to bail him out), and they sold out the Alice Cooper show. Everyone wanted to know who this guy was.
That’s just one story among a bunch of others that have changed the way I do my job. I’m honestly so grateful I read this one.
3 Daniel Coyle Books
DC’s three favorite books from the summer were all from the same author: Daniel Coyle.
That last one in particular is a short read with some great stuff about practice. Coyle studied successful musicians, athletes, and business people and came to one conclusion: deep practice was the differentiator in their success. The amount of hours of practice didn’t matter as much as the depth of practice.
I’ll leave you with this quote from the book:
“The key to deep practice is to reach. This means to stretch yourself slightly beyond your current ability, spending time in the zone of difficulty called the sweet spot. It means embracing the power of repetition, so the action becomes fast and automatic. It means creating a practice space that enables you to reach and repeat, stay engaged, and improve your skills over time.”
Check out all seven books at the links below:
- The Tao of Charlie Munger – David Clark
- Confessions of An Advertising Man – David Ogilvy
- High Growth Handbook – Elad Gil
- Supermensch – Shep Gordon
- The Culture Code – Daniel Coyle
- The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle
- The Little Book of Talent – Daniel Coyle