The 3 must-read books I read in 2020 and I recommend to everyone

Gabriel Fagundez
5 min readDec 20, 2020

It is probably almost impossible to define 2020 in one word. It was definitely the year in which the unexpected happened, the year we always found the lost time we always regret we didn't have, the year in which we were able to stop and think. For me, it was definitely a great year. As a positive mind, I have the ability avoid thinking of the tons of negative things that happened this year, and focus on the few that actually were outstanding.

In this post, I'd like to share the best books I read this year, that I highly recommend to everyone.

#3 — Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight

“Life is growth. You grow or you die.” — Phil Knight, Nike co-founder

We always tend to think that successful people has been successful all life long, from their first decision. Biographies tend to focus on those items that made the story, instead of those hidden details that made a person.

Everyone recognizes the Nike Swoosh, but in his memoir, “Shoe Dog,” Nike co-founder Phil Knight details the turbulent process of developing a multibillion dollar company, from a very transparent and honest standpoint. He's not looking for marketing, focusing on how he reached success. In this book you'll find the workarounds he did to create one of the most successful companies in the world.

Much of the suspense in the book is built by the precarious nature of Knight’s finances. He started his shoe import business, known then as Blue Ribbon Sports, with $50 from his father. It was the beginning of many years of living in debt. Year after year, he goes on his knees to his bankers to beg for more credit so he could import more Japanese shoes. He rarely had any savings in the bank because he would plow all of his profits back into the company to order more shoes from Japan. Even as sales of his shoes took off, his business was constantly on life support

What I liked the most, was that during Nike history, he challenged all the management must-do statements. From financial leverage, cashflow, to how to treat employees, and the culture of the company.

A definitely must-read if you are managing a company, and want to understand the behind of the scenes of one of the most successful companies in the history.

#2 — Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss

The beauty of empathy is that it doesn’t demand that you agree with the other person’s ideas. — Chris Voss, FBI hostage negotiator

Never Split the Difference is the first book I’ve read about the art of negotiation. I don't truly believe in those books that their only mission is to show you how to do something. In my personal and humble opinion, experience is the only thing that matter, which will must be supported by a though theory and learning.

In this book, Chris Voss, a former international hostage negotiator for the FBI, lays out his approach to high-stakes negotiations and offers a few key lessons that you can incorporate in your daily routines. Negotiation is the heart of collaboration, and is what makes conflict potentially meaningful and productive for all parties.

#1–The Ride of a Lifetime, by Robert Iger

“Don’t be in the business of playing it safe. Be in the business of creating possibilities for greatness.” — Bob Iger, Disney's CEO

This was probably one of the best books I read in my life. It's simple to read, honest, transparent, and shows the most internal part of a successful leader. The Ride of a Lifetime is the memoir of Robert Iger, for 15 years CEO of Walt Disney.

This book follows Iger’s journey from small-town Long Island to the high life of Los Angeles. He describes scraping gum from under desks while working his summers as a school janitor, aged 15, his stint as a weatherman after college, buying Listerine for Frank Sinatra as a studio errand boy, listening to David Lynch pitch Twin Peaks at a restaurant, discovering the Jamaican bobsled team at the Calgary Olympics, meeting three presidents of China, haggling with George Lucas for Lucasfilm, and sending Obama an advance copy of Black Panther.

The Ride of a Lifetime covers 45 years of Iger’s successful career in the media and entertainment industries, which gave him the possibility to identify, learn, and develop many valuable leadership principles. In his book, Iger provides a list of the ten principles that he deems leaders need to have. While I think that all of them are important, among the ones that struck me the most are Authenticity and Integrity. To me, being honest and genuine and carrying oneself in an ethical way are so important in leadership and in everyone else — they’re key to being respected and trusted.

Bonus: Skin in the Game: The Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

As a part of Skin in the Game, Taleb explores the idea of disincentive undesirable behavior by enabling decisions makers to be more accountable by exposing them to the negative consequences of their actions. Bankers, bureaucrats, journalists and academicians seem natural examples for such cases, and Taleb seems to have great contempt for these career professionals. Such a tendency, according to Taleb, stems from a natural desire for what is beneficial for society or the public good.

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Gabriel Fagundez

COO and Board Member @ Moove It, worldwide IT consulting firm with business in 4 countries. Blog in English. @gabrielfagundez-es in Spanish.