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Startup books and podcasts: making the most of a longer commute

5 min read | November 29th 2017

(image by Viktor Forgacs via Unsplash)

When I moved to New York, my 15-minute bike commute to work turned into a 30-minute subway ride. While the change seemed negative at first, I realized it was an opportunity to put time into the reading and learning that I otherwise wouldn't have made time for. Below are the books and podcasts that have kept me entertained in the New York subway. I love startups and personal development so that's what these books and podcasts are about.


The books that interest me most are the ones that make me reflect on my own life. I've been lucky since all of the books I've read this year have provided useful insight in how to improve either me or my startup.

Side note: If you are going to purchase any of the following books, please support my blog by purchasing through my Amazon affiliate link. Alternatively, I read all my books on Kindle, and I'm happy to lend any of these books to you. Just email or tweet at me!

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

The Four Steps to the Epiphany

This book was recommended to me by a founder at a previous startup I worked at. The focus of the book is the customer development process, as it's difficult to know if you're on the right business path if you don't know your customer well. I thought the book was a good reminder of the value of rapid iteration and customer feedback.

Cold Calling Techniques (That Really Work!)

Cold Calling Techniques

This book was great for me given that I literally had zero cold calling experience when I started cold calling schools for my startup. As a result of reading this book, I put processes into place that helped me measure whether or not my calling was effective. I started tracking every call I made, which helped me see where in the sales funnel I was losing potential customers. My confidence in my calling has grown tremendously and most of my sales have originated from cold calls!

The Founder's Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup

Founder's Dilemmas

A founder friend recommended this book when I told him I was struggling to decide whether to commit to being a solo founder vs switch my focus to finding a co-founder. The book did a great job of using real case studies to explain the possible dilemmas that arise in a startup's journey (whether to start a company, how to split equity, whether to raise money, etc.).

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future

Elon Musk book

I love reading about people that have made a huge societal impact. It's interesting to learn about how these people perceive the world and how they can change it. This is especially relevant in Elon Musks's case given that he helped revolutionize multiple industries through Tesla and SpaceX. My biggest takeaway from this book was about how important it is to figure out how you think the world should change. Once you figure that out, go and make that change happen!

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This book has been on my radar for a while now given that it's a highly recommended self-help book. I agree with the main tenets of the book (e.g. figure out what matters, prioritize, think win-win) and it's great that the author lays out how to use these tenets to improve both your personal and professional life.


Podcasts are a great way for me to let my mind relax and immerse myself in a story. These podcasts are about startups; it's inspiring to hear founders share how they reached success despite their struggles and it keeps me going when I feel down about my startup.

How I Built This

How I Built This

I love this podcast because the format is perfect for my commute. Each episode is self-contained and also happens to be around the length of my commute (30-40 minutes long). Each episode features a different founder, who talks about he or she persisted through early struggles to build a successful company.

If you're looking for a place to start, my favorite episodes are Spanx (Sara Blakely), Airbnb (Joe Gebbia), and Zumba (Beto Perez & Alberto Perlman).


StartUp podcast

I've gone through Seasons 1-4 of StartUp and I would highly recommend Season 1 to any aspiring founder. Season 1 details the formation of Gimlet Media from the perspective of its founder, Alex Blumberg. The episodes not only provide insight into venture funding, hiring, and finding a co-founder, but also give a first-hand account of how the stress of running a startup can affect your personal life.

Thanks for reading about how I made my commute more productive. Like my collection of books and podcasts? Let me know via email or Twitter, or feel free to share your favorites!