Top 10 Books for Creative Entrepreneurs

Art Is Being Photography Books Reading


This blog post has me excited. So much so that I could barely sleep last night in anticipation of waking up this morning to write it. I'm excited for what it means for me. And I'm even more excited for what it means for you, the reader. It is the sum of a learning experience far greater than any lesson plan a school could outline, greater than any in office meeting you will attend. It is the result of acting on a dream.

Over the last year, I have done everything in my power to prepare and equip myself both as a photographer and professor by seeking as much knowledge as I possibly could. This meant attending every artist or entrepreneur event that I could like Creative Mornings San Diego, speaking with all of my past and present mentors while building relationships with new ones, listening to podcasts in ear at the gym or during commutes, and reading every piece of relevant literature I could get my hands on. I became increasingly more dedicated to my craft, allowing me improve my work flow, diversify, and grow my business steadily over the course of the year. Not only did the result make me a better photographer, but a better teacher in the process. I became the type of professor I always wanted. I became dedicated to The Now rather than regurgitating and recycling old lectures. I learned every students' best way to learn and emphasized their strengths. I led with a guiding hand in the pursuit of their unique passion. I sought relevant information and applied it to offer better, stronger, and resonating advice.  

This past year has been one of the biggest learning experiences for me resulting in an explosion of knowledge, confidence, and experience. Through my pursuit, I have devoured over 40+ books and pulled out a selection of them for you here.

The following reads are my top selection of books read during the course of 2016, how they have helped me, and why I am recommending them to you. All links to purchase the books are provided at the end of the blog via

And for those of you who feel like there is no way I have the time to finish all these books I have one word for you. Audible.

1. How to Win at the Sport of Business, by Mark Cuban

"Success is about making your life a special version of unique that fits who you are, not what other people want you to be"
-  Mark Cuban 

How it helped me: Watching Cuban on Shark Tank, I have always admired his business savviness and confidence. In reading his book, we learn that both of these traits were not inherent and through learning and applying himself, Cuban has made it to where he is today. I listen to it often--before interviews or when I am feeling overwhelmed to remember if Mark Cuban did it, then so can I! 

Why you should read it: This book is the shortest read on the list (which is why I started with it for those who claim they do not have the time to read) and packs a huge punch! Cuban is full of one liners and quotes that are sure to pep you up as he recalls the days of sleeping on a buddy's couch and drinking cheap liquor to creating habit forming steps towards success (such as reading more than his opponents) each day to give himself the edge. 

2. Content Inc., by Joe Pulizzi 

“Today’s availability of technology means that any business in any industry can develop an audience through consistent storytelling.” 
- Joe Pulizzi

How it helped me: As a creative professional, I have always been enamored by the creative process and less enthused with the marketing standpoint. Content Inc. has changed this perception for me and speaks in a straight forward manner that tells you both WHY your content is so important, and that HOW you sell it matters. 

Why you should read it: If you are starting a business, this book is imperative. If focuses on a current business model (the Content Inc. Strategy) that many startups and even celebrities are applying to their work to generate an audience. This book serves as the step by step playbook.

3. Eleven Rings, by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

Eleven Rings Phil Jackson Art Is Being book photography


“When the mind is allowed to relax, inspiration often follows.”
- Phil Jackson

How it helped me: The game of basketball has always spoke. I recognize it is a combination of skill, leadership, and teamwork. When all three principles are applied, the results are unstoppable. There is no better person to articulate this concept than the "zen master" himself, Phil Jackson, who describes his analysis of key players like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. He gives insight on principles he used to coach players in the game, and the importance of applying these principles directly to life, relationships, and business.

Why you should read it: If you are a basketball fan, it's a no brainer. Phil Jackson is arguably the greatest coach of all time. But for non-basketball fans, you will go on a journey with a leader who didn't always know he was going to become one, and through learning more about himself, his surroundings, and his connection to others, he was able to create a system that generated the strongest and most determined players in NBA history.

4. Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight 

Let everyone else call your idea crazy . . . just keep going. Don’t stop. Don’t even think about stopping until you get there, and don’t give much thought to where 'there' is. Whatever comes, just don’t stop.”
- Phil Knight

How it helped me: Like Mark Cuban's book listed above, Shoe Dog, tells the story of the seemingly ordinary, middle class, Oregon grown, Phil Knight and how he challenged the societal norms to reach for the stars. I pull this book out every time I am feeling overwhelmed and am soothed by the notion that the journey is the destination.

Why you should read it: Two words: purpose and idea. First off, Phil Knight speaks consistently on this concept of finding and creating a company based on purpose. Seeking this through his studies, his travels, and his day-to-day connections, we see Knight is on a mission and allowing the mission to write the path for his purpose. Second, the big idea we entrepreneurs have may seem crazy to others. Knight's book is living testament that your crazy idea (coupled with research and passion) has the potential to move mountains. 

5. SEO 2016: Learn Search Engine Optimization, by R.L Adams 

"We all want to get the greatest value for our dollar. Of course that value can be a perceived value and not just a real value. But in order to have perceived value it must have real value first."
- R.L. Adams 

How it helped me: In the process of pushing forward with my own business related goals and numbers whilst teaching E-Portfolio at the Art Institute of California San Diego, I wanted to make sure the information I am churning out is relevant, fresh, and easily applicable to my students. This book helped me break the class down in bite size portions, allowing me to elaborate on noteworthy topics in SEO such as using keyword planner and authority site content to generate a higher yield to their websites performance. 

Why you should read it: This book will provide you a solid strategy to understand and apply solid SEO strategy to the current marketplace. It is a necessity to understand SEO and will save you money thrown at ad dollars by giving you a plan to put your money where your mouth is. 

6. Creativity Inc., by Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull


“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.” 
- Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull

How it helped me:  Creativity Inc. helped me in two ways. It provided me the backstory as to how Pixar was built and founded creating a diverse team of scientists and artists to envision the future of the company. Also, this book helped me as a Professor to learn and understand each of my classes, allowing me to determine the personalities and environment in order to create a workplace culture that ensures maximum productivity while still having fun, and allowing for creative freedom within certain parameters I set.

Why you should read it: Creativity Inc. expands on the ups and downs of Pixar and how it learns from those experiences to propel to the next goal. Always setting the bar higher, you quickly learn the value of a strong team and a good idea. The result is nothing short of magic.

7. The Virgin Way, by Richard Branson

“Listen – it makes you sound smarter” 
- Richard Branson

How it helped me: This book constantly reminds me to enjoy the process. We are able to grow with Richard Branson in his book, as he shares his follies and success. 

Why you should read it: This book is funny as hell and comes packed with the zingers we have come to expect from Richard Branson. Branson outlines his process of leadership to a tee showcasing that it is possible to become incredibly successful and wealthy and still have fun. Advice we all need to be reminded from time to time! 

8. The School of Greatness, by Lewis Howes  

“Greatness is the result of visionaries who persevere, focus, believe, and prepare. It is a habit, not a birthright.”
- Lewis Howes

How it helped me: Lewis Howes has been a major reason for my own propulsion into my dreams. While I do not know Lewis personally, I feel like he is a mentor that keeps me on track as he shares what he learned through his own endeavors. If you are unfamiliar with his work, visit to find the enterprise he is building complete with this New York Times bestselling book, a podcast, and tons of other inspirational goodies. Lewis grew up in my home state of Ohio and shares his story of an injured athlete who took lemons and made them into lemonade. Don't just pick up the book, download the podcast or head over to his website to find out how you can train with him on his Summit of Greatness tour! 

Why you should read it: This book is a pick-me-up through all of the hurdles we struggle to leap over during our race. It couples concepts such as cultivating a mindset, mastering your body, giving back, and many more and details who each step is necessary to make you the greatest version of yourself. 

9. Elon Musk: Tesla, Spacex, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, by Ashlee Vance

“Good ideas are always crazy until they’re not.” 
-Ashlee Vance

How it helped me: This book makes you reflect on your own mission and routes the vision in purpose. While Elon made a vast amount of money creating Paypal, he has taken a major gamble with SpaceX, one that has often times cost him dearly. But did that stop his pursuit? Not one bit. He is on a mission that far exceeds a financial gain. Elon wants to change the world.

Why you should read it: For those of us who remember Walter Issacson's book, "Steve Jobs," we can see the comparisons and difference between the two men and learn from them. Undoubtedly, what we find at the core of both Jobs and Musk is an unfathomable amount of determination and vision that is takes the industry by storm. 

10. Be Our Guest: Perfecting the Art of Customer Service, by Theodore Kinni 

“From our earliest days, education has been a hallmark of our company. It was Walt himself who said, “We have always tried to be guided by the basic idea that, in the discovery of knowledge, there is great entertainment—as, conversely, in all good entertainment, there is always some grain of wisdom, humanity, or enlightenment to be gained.”  
- Theodore Kinni

How it helped me: Walt Disney has always been a subject of fascination to me for his grand scale dreams. "In 1966, the year Walt died, the company's entire profit was less than $12 million." Today it is valued at over $10 billion dollars in annual revenue. Walt was laying the foundation for something great and humbles me in remembering that growing a business is a slow process for everyone and that the fruits of your labor come in time when all the foundations and groundwork has been paved accurately and effectively. 

Why you should read it: Have you ever went to Disney and wondered how and why the employees seem so impossibly happy? Read this book to find out the Disney Recipe. 

Honorable Mention

Retire Inspired, by Chris Hogan

Retire Inspired Chris Hogan Inspiration Art Is Being

This book is honorable mention because we have not finished it yet (about half way through) but makes for a great read not only for oneself, but also to read with your friends or spouse so that you can align your goals and figure out how to make your dreams a reality! 

How it helped me: As my wife-to-be and I are both big dreamers for our relationship, family, and careers we have began to look forward to the years ahead and decided to take a stand together to see to it that those dreams are in reach. Goals like traveling the world together, giving back, and having children are all addressed in the book. Author Chris Hogan provides real world examples to detail how these goals are not only possible, but critical. It has lead to a greater understanding of what we want, why we do what we do, and how we give back in the process. 

Why you should read it: Have you ever felt like retirement was only meant for someone of a certain age? That living paycheck to paycheck is just the way things are and there is nothing you can do? I recommend pick up Chris Hogan's book to whip you into shape today. Hogan is no stranger to these feelings; he comes from a financial consultancy background and has experience coaching folks who continue to perpetuate such a mindset that your dream is possible. Pick up Retire Inspired to find valuable tools that assist you in reaching financial freedom.

As a matter of fact, visit EntreLeadership to find even more resources from the Dave Ramsey crew!

Books Art Is Being Photography Book

My hope is that this blog inspires you to pick up one or all of these reads and find out how you can apply them to your own creative pursuits!

Remember as Mark Cuban cleverly says in How to Win at Business, "Most people won't put in the time to get a knowledge advantage." Use this as fuel for your next business endeavor--in your classes, or in your growth as a person in the vast world. Reading allows you to get inside the head of some of the greatest minds on this earth. It allows your to have a direct line to the mentor you have been seeking, to gain the answers to the questions you have asked that went unanswered, to walk the path with someone who has been in your shoes and is now able to show you the light at the end of the tunnel. 

Stay hungry, stay foolish.

Alex Ingram Art Is Being Photography Dreams



If you like the blog and want to share it through Instagram or Facebook, feel free to copy the URL and share with your friends. Tag us with #artisbeing #tocreateistobe and @artisbeing. 

Leave a comment below and let me know some of your favorite reads this year and why they are important to you! 


Purchase each of the books listed above at your local bookstore or on Amazon at the following links

1. How to Win at the Sport of Business

2. Content Inc. 

3. Eleven Rings

4. Shoe Dog

5. SEO 2016

6. Creativity Inc.

7. The Virgin Way 

8. The School of Greatness

9. Elon Musk

10. Be Our Guest

11. Retire Inspired 

Art Is Being Photography Logo