As the year 2021 draws to a close, I look back on another year of amazing reads. This year, my reading journey lead me to captivating page-turners on subjects such as meditation, company culture, company success, and the delicate balance between democracy and dictatorship in the modern era.

These books provide new perspectives on financial landscapes, tools to help maintain a healthy work/life balance, and encouraging insights on how to navigate big changes as a company.

So without further ado, here is a list of amazing reads I was once again fortunate to come across this year.

7. Big Money in Curaçao: Farewell to a Tax Haven* (2018)

by Ton de Jong

Ever since the post-World War II era, the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao has been a tax haven for thousands of companies that are registered but not actually established there. Corporations such as PepsiCo, Ahold, Robeco, and Heineken, as well as highly influential individuals such as Donald Trump, George Soros, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Freddy Heineken, have all had a postal address on the island at some point due to Curaçao’s tax haven status.

In addition, at one point 180 large American companies were based in Curaçao for tax purposes. However, on December 31st, 2019, this old regime that made Curaçao so attractive for offshore came to an end. Big Money in Curaçao came out in 2018 and in it, the author shines a light on the complicated international financial world of Curaçao. He examines what the island may have to look forward to after the end of this tax haven regime through 25 compelling cases. A very interesting read, especially when taking the ensuing financial effects of the COVID crisis into account.

6. The Headspace Guide to Meditation & Mindfulness (2011)

by Andy Puddicombe

Quiet the mind, feel less stressed and less tired, and achieve a new level of calm and fulfillment in just ten minutes a day. Andy Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk, the Voice of Headspace, and the UK’s foremost mindfulness expert, has designed a program of mindfulness and guided meditation that fits neatly into a jam-packed daily routine. I myself couldn’t believe how just 10 minutes a day can make such a world of difference.

This book offers simple but powerful meditation techniques that positively impact every area of physical and mental health: from productivity and focus to stress and anxiety relief, sleep, weight loss, and personal relationships.

5. Own Your Culture: How to Define, Embed and Manage your Company Culture (2020)

by Bretton Putter

In Own Your Culture, culture expert Bretton Putter teaches the importance of company culture and offers leaders clarity on how to identify and manage it. Having a strong, functional company culture is important. So why don’t more leaders invest in it? Simple: they don’t know where to start.

This book teaches readers things such as techniques to manage company cultures, activities that will strengthen their company culture and their business, and how to prepare for the inevitable changes in how we build companies and adapt to remote/hybrid work. This read was especially relevant to Profound as we strive to build a strong company culture as well.

4. Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t (Rockefeller Habits 2.0) (2014)

by Verne Harnish

In Scaling Up, Verne Harnish and his team share practical tools and techniques for building an industry-dominating business. They further give practical methods for creating a company where the team is engaged, the customers are doing your marketing, and everyone is making money. They do this by focusing on the four major decision areas every company must get right: People, Strategy, Execution, and Cash.

This was an especially enlightening read for me considering the transitionary phase Profound is in. The advice and tools this book gives have been honed from over three decades of advising tens of thousands of CEOs and executives and helping them navigate the increasing complexities (and weight) that come with scaling up a company. And it has been crowned with several international non-fiction business book awards.

3. Dictators: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century (2020)

by Frank Dikötter

No dictator can rule through fear and violence alone. Naked power can be grabbed and held temporarily, but it never lasts in the long term. A tyrant who can compel his own people to acclaim him will last longer.

In Dictators, the author returns to eight of the most chillingly effective personality cults of the twentieth century. The list includes figures such as Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong. These dictators worked non-stop on their own image and encouraged the population at large to glorify them. And it worked. But this book makes you wonder how much progress we have seen since when democracy appears to be under threat in many places around the world today. Are we seeing a reemergence of the same techniques among some of today’s world leaders without even realizing it?

2. Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds (2018)

by David Goggins

Childhood was a nightmare for David Goggins. His days were tinged by poverty, discrimination, and physical assault, and his nights were haunted by them. But Goggins turned it all around and went from a miserable, overweight young man with no future to a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s best endurance athletes through self-discipline, mental tenacity, and hard work. In fact, his tenacity was so well-known that he was dubbed “the toughest motherfucker on earth” at one point.

In Can’t Hurt Me, he shares his amazing life story and, with it, he shines a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, crush their fears, and reach their full potential. I couldn’t put this book down and highly recommended it to many of my friends.

1. Only the Paranoid Survive. Lessons from the CEO of INTEL Corporation (1988)

by Andrew S. Grove

In Only the Paranoid Survive, Andrew Grove, the President and CEO of Intel, the world’s largest chipmaker, reveals how to identify and exploit the key moments of change in any industry. Under Grove’s leadership, Intel has become the world’s largest computer chipmaker, the 5th most admired company in the US, and the 7th most profitable company among the country’s Fortune 500 companies. Few CEOs can claim this level of success.

Grove attributes much of his success to the philosophy and strategy he has learned the hard way as he steered Intel through a series of potential major disasters. He recounts strategies from other companies and examines his own record of success and failure. Only the Paranoid Survive is a classic lesson in leadership skills that every manager in every industry will benefit from.

I consider this the best book I read all year because it relates to my own experience with Profound, and we are on the verge of momentous expansion ourselves. It also provided me with particularly valuable insights into how to hone my own skills as a managing director and how to be constantly on the lookout for and adaptable to the next big change in our industry. This is especially important in the COVID era we are living in.