If you want to start a business, there’s simply no excuse to be clueless anymore. Imagine the fact that a world-class expert can work for 30 years to figure something out, completely devoting her entire life to one particular question — and you can get all of her knowledge on that subject in a 200-page book that can be read in a weekend. Consider the fact that you have access to this information for pennies on the dollar by simply going to Amazon and buying a used copy. There is no excuse anymore. You have access to the information.

Whatever you choose to read is fine. Fiction feeds your creativity nonfiction feeds your knowledge base. Biographies of people you admire give you insight into great minds. It’s all good. Whatever you choose, I recommend sticking to a schedule and committing to feeding your brain at least some sort of written material for 30 minutes a day without fail.

This is especially important for content creators, as the best way to come up with creative ideas is to synthesize them from the ideas of others. I do not view reading as a leisure activity. It’s serious work and it takes effort. I often don’t “feel” like reading — but just like any part of my physical hygiene (brushing my teeth, for instance), this is part of my mental hygiene. It just has to happen every single day. No exceptions.

There are a few books that, among a sea of others, I view as essential “ground zero” books for anyone looking to level themselves up, start a business or change their lives. If you’re new to this whole “serious reading” thing, I suggest you start with one of these.

Do yourself a favor by going on Amazon and picking up a copy of all these. You can get them used. I don’t care. Just do it. Don’t argue with me.

Here they are:

  • Mastery by Robert Greene — Greene is also the author of the bestsellers “48 Laws of Power and “Seduction,” but I think Mastery is by far his best. The book crystallizes lessons from the world’s most prolific artists, scientists, and entrepreneurs, then distills their teachings into actionable insights.
  • SCRUM by Jeff Sutherland — Scrum will completely redesign the way that you look at your life — and more specifically, your to-do lists. This goes way beyond productivity advice and creates a fundamental shift for you to get much more done in much less time. Good for both teams and individuals.
  • The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin — Waitzkin is the chess prodigy about which the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer was created. He’s also a world champion martial artist. In this book, he breaks down everything he’s discovered about how to learn more quickly and how to go from average to elite in any discipline.
  • Deep Work by Cal Newport — Taking all the above books into account, Newport, a Ph.D. professor at Georgetown, synthesizes the concept of focus. Why is it that some creatives and professionals can get volumes of work done at a high level, while others can barely struggle to get anything done at all? Does all of society just need more Adderall, or are we misunderstanding some fundamental ideas about focus? Cal goes deep.
  • The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz — Ben Horowitz is the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, one of the most well-respected venture capital firms in the world. But before that, he was the CEO of Opsware, a software company that was all but doomed to complete and utter devastation. This book details all mindsets he had to adopt and the man he had to become to turn the company around and exit for over $1.6 billion.
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius — Aurelius was one of the great emperors of Rome, known to many as the Philosopher King. But despite being the most powerful man in the known world, he struggled with all the same things you and I do. This book, which was never supposed to be published, is a journal of his thoughts on the struggle, adversity, and dealing with pain. It’s a cornerstone of stoic philosophy and puts all of life into perspective.

I consider these my “ground zero” when it comes to leveling up your psychology, productivity, and hustle.

What are some of your essential, “must-read” books?