Both Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk share some things in common. For example, they are two of the youngest billionaires in the world. Both started their careers with relatively nothing, and created two of the products that revolutionized the way we do Business (Facebook and PayPal).
As you would expect, both of them have a ridiculously busy schedule. Musk is reported to sleep exactly 6 hours each day, rising at 7am and going to bed at 1am.
But they also have another thing in common: they are book fans. A good book is their go-to resource to find inspiration for running their businesses.
Despite his busy schedule, Zuckerberg decided to launch a Facebook-based book club in 2015. For a year, he made a book recommendation every two weeks to his millions of Facebook followers.
“Books allow you to fully explore a topic and immerse yourself in a deeper way than most media today,” Zuckerberg said once. “I’m looking forward to shifting more of my media diet towards reading books.”
On the other side, When a young Elon Musk was asked how he developed an interest in rockets, he simply answered “I read books”. The 45-year-old multibillionaire credits the most of his infinite success to the simple act of just picking up a book.
“I think we have a duty to maintain the light of consciousness to make sure it continues into the future,” Musk often said.
But what have been the most influential books in both entrepreneurs lives? The two of them have choices that they swear by on a recurrent basis, and we list them bellow:
Mark Zuckerberg’s Picks:
As US Secretary of State, Kissinger had front-row seats to a series of global conflicts that threatened to shift the balance of world order.
In his book, he discusses how nations perceive the idea of empires and political power through the centuries of social evolution. Also, he explores how a changing global economy has often brought nations into conflict with one another.
According to Zuckerberg, the book offers an inside view about the various power-structures of the world. It also shows the solutions to when relations begin to erode, hoping to save the world from another man-made catastrophe:
“It’s about foreign relations and how we can build peaceful relationships throughout the world. This is important for creating the world we all want for our children, and that’s what I’m thinking about these days.”
Written in 1377, The Muqqadimah (which roughly translates to “The Introduction”), is considered a heritage book of history.
Its author, the Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun, presented a series of radical and revolutionary ideas to both scientific progress and human evolution. This earned him recognition as one of the fathers of modern sociology and historiography.
Zuckerberg’s interest in the book stemmed from it being a source of historical innovation:
“While much of what was believed then is now disproven after 700 more years of progress, it’s still very interesting to see what was understood at this time and the overall worldview when it’s all considered together.”
Catmull’s story of how Pixar was created from ground-up is a perfect literary blend for the motivated entrepreneur looking to combine his or her creative and management skills to run a company.
To Catmull, power struggles, failed risks, and multiple pitfalls are a part and parcel of a journey to imminent success, positive exposure, and credibility.
Zuckerberg, who led a parallel journey with Facebook, seems to whole-heartedly agree with Catmull:
“I love reading first-hand accounts about how people build great companies like Pixar and nurture innovation and creativity.”
The book is the result of 15 years of research by MIT economist Daren Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson. In it, the authors address the problem of power being limited to the hands of a select few.
Studying the dynamic nature of the global markets, they suggest that economic growth may not always be profitable for the long-term gains of certain countries.
This resonated with Zuckerberg, which contributes to a significant portion of the American economy. We can see why this book, with its uniquely interesting solutions, features on his list.
“This book explores the different kinds of social institutions and incentives that nations have applied to encourage prosperity, economic development and elimination of poverty.”
It’s incredible that almost half the world — almost 3 billion people — live on $2.50 a day or less. More than one billion people live with $1 a day or less.
The authors conducted year-long interviews with impoverished villagers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa. They tracked penny by penny how specific households manage their money.
The stories of these families are often surprising and inspiring. Most poor households do not live hand to mouth, spending what they earn in a desperate bid to keep afloat. Instead, they employ financial tools, many linked to informal networks and family ties.
Their experiences reveal new methods to fight poverty, envisioning the next generation of banks for the “bottom billion.”
The book provided Zuckerberg with an insight into the lives of those living below the poverty line and how to help them on a larger scale.
“I hope reading this provides some insight into ways we can all work to support them better as well.”
Elon Musk’s Picks
We will always remember Benjamin Franklin as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America. However, few have shed light on his inspiring journey as one of the earliest entrepreneurs in history.
In this engaging biography, Franklin is viewed as an urban entrepreneur who climbed the social business ladder from the bottom.
His scientific discoveries, practical persona, and constant desire to reinvent reached out on a personal level to Musk, who said:
You can see how [Franklin] was an entrepreneur. He was an entrepreneur that started from nothing. Franklin was just a runaway kid.
Everyone who has read this bestselling sci-fi story enjoyed its humorous dialogues and vivid imagination. Elon Musk was no exception.
Musk confessed that he was going through an existential crisis in his early adolescence. Finding no comfort to his questions after reading Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, Musk encountered “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.
He found resonance in the fact that not all questions of life are answered, while in the greater scale, the answer to everything lay in the number 42.
“If you can properly phrase the question, then the answer is the easy part. So, to the degree that we can better understand the universe, then we can better know what questions to ask,” he said.
Musk’s preference for former business Peter Thiel’s work goes beyond their shared history. He admires the infinite amount of useful knowledge he has penned down in this book.
As Thiel explains in his book, every correct answer is necessarily a secret; something important and unknown, something hard to do but doable. If there are many secrets left in the world, there are probably many world‐changing companies yet to be started.
This in-depth story of innovation, passion, and the desire to make something different is an optimistic read for any young entrepreneur. As Elon Musk himself put it:
Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how.
The premise of the series is that mathematician Hari Seldon spent his life developing a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory.
Using the law of mass action, it can predict the future, but only on a large scale; it is error-prone for anything smaller than a planet or an empire. It works on the principle that the behavior of a mass of people is predictable if the quantity of this mass is very large (equal to the population of the galaxy). The larger the mass, the more predictable is the future.
For Musk, the book showed him that civilizations move in cycles. Exploring this theme helped and encouraged him to pursue his entrepreneurial passions.
“Given that this is the first time in 4.5 billion years where it’s been possible for humanity to extend life beyond Earth, it seems like we’d be wise to act while the window was open and not count on the fact it will be open a long time”
Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of English schoolboys left on a tropical island after their plane is shot down during a war.
Focusing on the concept of the survival of the fittest, the story revolves around the lives of a few children and their attempt to survive on an abandoned island. Its powerful theme is a lesson to readers of all ages.
To Musk, the book speaks volumes about the three characteristics making up the life of an entrepreneur: survival, competition, and greed.
What can this books tell us about Zuckerberg and Musk?
Many times you can understand a person’s mind knowing what they read.
Zuckerberg’s choices explore the structures of society, politics, and global economy; three factors that affect any business and shape their structures.
Musk’s choices point to the same idea: the creation of something new, the belief that there is magic in the different and the willpower to remain standing in the battle for the survival of the fittest.
Pick your Favorite and Start Reading!
A busy schedule is no excuse to skip your daily reading, and this two successful entrepreneurs are the example of this.
You can buy copies any of this choices very easily in Amazon Books, or by clicking the name of the one you like the most. You can choose between Hardcover, Kindle E-book or Audio-book version of your favorite book.