Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021 < Blog Emark

Since I can remember, I have always enjoyed “consuming knowledge” from books into my brain. This thirst to learn stems back to my teenage years, when I started thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. My father had quite an impressive library of “motivational” books to prepare one for the challenges, and ups and downs of this […]

Since I can remember, I have always enjoyed “consuming knowledge” from books into my brain. This thirst to learn stems back to my teenage years, when I started thinking about becoming an entrepreneur. My father had quite an impressive library of “motivational” books to prepare one for the challenges, and ups and downs of this exciting but dangerous and highly responsible journey that I was to embark upon. 

When choosing a new book to read, I’m aiming to either find new theories, ideas, and ways of thinking to enrich my character or to address a particular challenge from a new perspective, on a different level. So, as Einstein says, “No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it.” I truly believe a good set of books can be an amazing guide in one’s life. The extra board member that might make the difference if you are running a business, your private psychologist, entertainer, teacher … whatever your life involves, and interests are. 

And yes, it might be that you will find the critical piece of knowledge or guiding principle in your next book. Information that might mean the difference between the good and great, between victory or loss, between happiness and regret 

I’m particularly grateful to people who recommend books to me. Not that I have time to read everything I get recommended. I honestly believe that every person you meet has qualities that exceed your own and that’s where you can learn from them. As a kind “thank you”, I’m mentioning these people I’m grateful to when a book was recommended to me. 

Actually, to be honest, I usually don’t read a book. Whenever I can, I listen to an audiobook. Why? I read a lot during the day – emails, chat, web sources, all the professional content that one needs to quickly absorb. Listening allows me to relax and gives me the opportunity to enjoy books in situations where it would not be very practical to read. 

So, here are the top 5 books  that influenced my life the most in 2021…. 

Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021, Blog Emark

Surrounded by Idiots
By Thomas Erikson
Recommended to me by my father, and my 12-year-old youngest daughter 

I heard about this book for the first time from my father (who claims to be red – and he probably is). I wasn’t sure at first since I don’t consider people idiots (and I learned why when I read it ;). When my youngest daughter (12 years old) bought it in the local book shop where we had taken her to buy some children’s books to read, it turned serious ;). 

How many “idiots” did you meet last month? Not in the negative sense. People, who you just considered different. People you just could not understand. How can such an interesting person be so different. So weird. And yet, there is an answer. A simple methodology, and a very powerful tool that allows you to quickly assess a persons’ personality type, understand them, and know how to communicate to be understood. I consider this book to be an amazing guide for everyone to understand the people around you. 


Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021, Blog Emark

By Ray Dalio
Recommended to me by: Robert Srotyr 

It is equally difficult to get a company from 6 to 60 employees, as it is to get it beyond 60 employees. To break the 60-employee threshold requires a different management and operations model than anything below. And yes, many fail. Nr. 1 principle is that you can’t lose your spirit, values, and culture. And yet, you must be able to master the growth. Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater Associates is currently the world’s largest hedge fund with USD 223 Bn of assets under management (Nov 2021) and 1500 employees. The book is a look back at the hurdles they had to face. In the second part, Ray discusses the principles stretching across all business areas they developed as they grew, suggesting that every company should develop their own principles. He says his ultimate goal is to search for the truth. Nature gave us pain to alert us. Pain should lead us to reflection. And this leads us to progress. 

What I found to be the most interesting techniques in the book… Having a coach to help people handle the problem. Instant feedback collector – anytime, anyone, anything, being radically open. Baseball cards – making the core strengths and weaknesses of all people transparent across the company, supported by proven personality tests such as Myers-Briggs. Very thorough enablement of people with recorded meetings and sessions. And much more. The idea of continuous setting, adjusting, reviewing of shared guiding principles is just transformative. 


Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021, Blog Emark

Membership Economy
By Robbie Kellman Baxte
Recommended to me by: Audible 

This audiobook was gifted to me by Audible, for free for being a member (thank you Audible!). It is based around developing the idea of treating your customers not just like customers. But like members of a community. Membership is more than “subscription”. It is about attitudes, feelings, sense of connectedness, and value. It also outlines key strategies, how to think to transform the status quo. Leading you to invest in relationship building, customer success. Think about an ongoing value-exchange relationship, rather than individual transactions. 

Although it can be quite straightforward in B2C business with obvious examples such as Netflix, McDonalds, or Apple, it is highly applicable in B2B, too. A nice example of Salesforce who originally bought the product for the individual sales people whom it helped achieve better results. And from these inspired individuals being part of the community, it virally grew to enterprises turning Salesforce into a multibillion-dollar company. 

A highly inspiring reading for everyone searching for a revolutionary step in their product and customer strategy. 


Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021, Blog Emark      Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021, Blog Emark

The Courage to Be Disliked with its second volume The Courage to Be Happy
By Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi
Recommended to me by: Peter Hudec 

The first volume – The Courage to Be Disliked – sets basic guiding principles of Adlerian philosophy. The world is only as simple (or as difficult) as you make it. The true source of happiness is contribution to others. Build horizontal relationships, not vertical. All problems that you solve in your life, are interpersonal problems. Learn to love yourself and avoid the feelings of superiority or inferiority. Admit that life is not a competition. Striving for recognition is a life mistake. Running away from your life tasks is not a solution. Do not rebuke or praise, rather encourage or offer assistance. And, finally, do not postpone life but don’t get too serious. Be prepared for the fact that life has no meaning. You are the only person who can assign meaning to your life. And never lose your guiding start – the goal to contribute to others. 

The second volume – The Courage to Be Happy – deals with practical applications of the principles outlined in the first volume, especially applying them to bringing up children. This itself is a huge topic to write about, far beyond this article. If there is one thing you can take from this book, then it is to understand what it means to truly respect your children the way they are. Do not just react to their behaviour but rather try to understand it in context. And much much more to embrace.  

Alfred Adler, one of the greats of psychology of the 19th century believed his theory would not remain static but be understood, critically approached, and further developed and updated by people. 

I particularly enjoyed the style that it was written in, a dialogue between a philosopher (with British accent 😉 and a youth (with American accent ;). Engaging, addictive, could not stop listening. 


Martin Kostic︱Top 5 books that influenced my life in 2021, Blog Emark

The Infinite Game
By Simon Sinek
Recommended to me by: Linked-in 

I started this book in 2020 but finished it in 2021 so it partially counts 😉 I discovered it as I was browsing Linked-in. In one post Simon Sinek explained the difference between finite and infinite thinking. And it got me. You know this “ahaaaa” moment when you keep on thinking something, believing in something, although you can’t define it, describe it, lay down the principles. Perhaps, you even don’t understand why you think that way but, somehow, it’s natural to you. And suddenly you read a book and you see it. Someone did the job for you, described it, and you know why. 

I was never looking at a business as something I would like to exit in 5 years. Even when starting our latest spin-off from EMARK, a software product company called Inphinity, my plan was not to “exit”. Rather, I was inspired by building something that will keep on influencing the lives of as many people as possible, for generations to come.  

The goal is not to “win” the game. The game is meant to be played to keep on fulfilling the just cause. Companies exist not just to make money but to advance something – technology, knowledge, customer success… And, our mission to “help people get more value from data” is a just cause. 

Good organizations are the ones that survive their leaders. Build flat structures, with all people equal, no internal competition. Help people perform to the best of their potential. And, very important, growth is not a goal. Growth is an outcome of something done right. 


Final considerations 

Technical comment for those of you with prevailing “blue” colour. Yes, I agree that technically I’ve presented 6 books here, not 5 as mentioned in my heading. However, I consider The Courage to be Disliked and The Courage to be Happy as one book with 2 parts, almost as 2 distinct chapters where the second one would make no sense to a reader without reading the first one. And I fully understand this argument is not satisfying for you since it is still 6 books, not 5 😉 I would argue that it’s still 5 since I only touch the essence of The Courage to be Happy and don’t discuss it in detail. And you would still think that I’m an idiot since it is still 6 books, not 5. And that’s all very natural and good and it’s the way it should be. For those of you who completely don’t know what I’m jabbering about in this paragraph, read my first recommendation – Surrounded by Idiots 😉 

I hope you all had fun reading this and hope it was well spent time that helped you to get new ideas. I did it with the key purpose in mind – to share some great inspiration with you. And I also used this exercise to review what I read and include the key messages in my life. 

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