9 Books to Help Entrepreneurs Develop the Resilience They Need

There are many definitions of “resilience.” Personally, I like this one by Neil Pasricha:

“Resilience is the capacity to get back up.”

You see, Neil is convinced that resilience is something you learn. In his case, the model of resilience came from his parents who taught him he could add a “yet” at the end of any sentence, as in “you haven’t succeeded yet.” Source: Neil Pasricha: Happy Habits (Farnam Street’s podcast with Shane Parrish).

Entrepreneurs, by definition, are used to overcoming hurdles. Those who weathered the storm of the 2008 crisis and managed to thrive for the following 10-plus years know that everything is impermanent. Nevertheless, the level of uncertainty created by this crisis is unprecedented.

As an entrepreneur, you may not have control over your environment, but if you’re looking for a way to take control of your mindset, the following books may help.

#1 – Permission to Feel, by Dr. Mark Brackett

A book about emotions to get my business back on track? Are you serious? Yes, because as evidenced by Daniel Goleman in his best-selling book, emotional intelligence plays a huge role in our executive functioning.

Goleman told us why it was important. Dr. Brackett goes one step further and tells you how to process your emotions. The first step consists of recognizing the right emotion (i.e. do not confuse anger with disappointment), then understanding it, labeling it, and expressing it so that we can find the best strategy to regulate it. To learn more about this framework called the RULER, listen to the podcast with Brené Brown.

#2 – Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, by Dr. Rick Hanson

Unbeknownst to most of us, the brain has a negative bias that causes us to focus on bad things. Back in the Stone Age, this enabled us to have lunch as opposed to becoming lunch. It was a matter of survival.

Today, however, this natural tendency feeds a vicious circle where negativity leads to more negativity. So, how do you get out of it?

By making a deliberate effort to register positive experiences to “rewire” our brain and grow inner strengths such as compassion, mindfulness, learning, grit, gratitude, and courage. This may sound very academic, but the book is actually very pleasant to read and full of practical exercises.

#3 – Self-Compassion, by Dr. Kristin Neff

Don’t let the title put you off. You may think that the only way to overcome difficulties is to push yourself harder. But there is an ever-increasing body of research that shows that self-compassion can help you thrive while suffering less along the way.

That’s not to say you’ll get the benefits of self-compassion just by reading a book. It takes practice. You can start with the exercises suggested in the book such as role plays, letter writing, mindfulness and lovingkindness meditations, or take a self-compassion course online.

#4 – Reboot: Leadership and the Art of Growing Up, by Jerry Colona

Way before COVID-19, Jerry Colona’s message to leaders was that at one point they will inevitably feel like the world is falling apart. When that happens, it is tempting to look for a quick fix.

This book won’t give you one. It’s not about the “how” of leadership. It’s an invitation to radical self-inquiry so we can become more ourselves. Because if there is one thing Jerry Colona has learned through years of coaching CEOs around the world it is that to become better leaders, we must first become better humans.

Short on time? Then consider listening to Jerry Colona on the B-Well Together podcast by Salesforce.

#5 – Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Dr. Brené Brown

The rising-strong process starts with the ability to reckon with your emotions and get curious about why they’re happening.

The second step entails that you rumble—meaning get honest—about the stories you’ve made up and be willing to reality-check these narratives.

The third step—the revolution—is about writing a new ending based on what you’ve learned through the rumbling process.

What makes this book particularly interesting for entrepreneurs is that the same process can be used to help organizations develop cultures that encourage continuous adaptation.

#6 The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph, by Ryan Holiday

This book is highly recommended for people who love history and philosophy.

Obstacles are inevitable in life. And if there is one thing the pandemic has taught us, it is that no matter how much planning you do, there will always be something outside of your control.

When you approach business setbacks with equanimity, you can, like many historical figures before you, see obstacles more objectively and uncover hidden opportunities. In this view, obstacles are a blessing, because they make you and your business better than if you had never faced adversity. 

#7 The Dip, by Seth Godin

In this book, Seth Godin talks about common struggles we all face as we pursue our goals. The keyword here is “common.” A pandemic doesn’t exactly fall in that category.

And yet, there is one fundamental question entrepreneurs should consider no matter how dire their circumstances: Is this a dip or a cul de sac?

Perseverance is critical in entrepreneurship. So is the wisdom to know when to keep going and when to cut your losses.

Otherwise, you may just burden yourself with more debts and more stress. But it’s only something you should do once you’ve considered all your options.

#8 Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, by James Clear

As much as it is necessary to pause and reflect, nothing happens without action. Things change when you change yourself. That’s what this book is about.

James Clear speaks from experience. A devastating baseball incident left him with major head trauma. He had to relearn basic skills from the ground up. That’s when he discovered the compound effect of tiny habits.

The book expands on Charles Duhigg’s theory behind the formation of habits. But it also provides many real-life examples to help you come up with a clear—no pun intended—plan of action.

#9 Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude

This book may sound at bit corny at times, but it is a good reminder that you’re in charge of your attitude.

Now, to be honest, changing one’s attitude doesn’t happen overnight. But this book may inspire you to take small actions to at least improve your attitude.

You want to feel more energized and positive? Then, maybe don’t start your day with the news. Listen to a podcast or read a book, preferably written by a positive person. Deliberately work on your “attitude weaknesses” and surround yourself with positive people.

Honorable mentions

Whether you’re looking for inspiration or practical advice, there are many books that can help you grow your inner resilience. Entrepreneurs may also enjoy Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, which was on our list of best books for entrepreneurs, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödron and You Are Awesome by Neil Pasricha.

If you’ve read any of these books or would like to recommend others, feel free to share your comments in the section below.

Happy reading!

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