Pat Walls, Founder of StarterStory, About the Books that Transformed His Relationships
Pat Walls is the founder of Starter Story – a website where he interviews entrepreneurs who created successful e-commerce businesses and share the inspiring stories behind their business.
Pat started this as a side project to help him get closer to his own goal: to design for himself a life of freedom, that will allow him to work from anywhere in the world (he currently has a full-time job working as a software engineer in New York City).
He created Starter Story inspired by the Indie Hackers blog on how entrepreneurs got started, but with a spin-off on e-commerce and consumer products.
Find out more about Pat’s favorite books, the ones that helped him rethink and improve his financial situation, transformed his relationships with people, and also his reading habits.
What’s your favorite book and why? Business and non-business, if possible.
Honestly, I’ll start this off by saying I’m not the most avid reader. I do try to read books, but rarely finish any of them. So, I hope I don’t sound too uneducated.
Favorite business book: Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth – I love this book because of the problems it solved at the time that I read it. I think my favorite business book changes over time, and this book is very new and “with the times”.
The motto of the book:
“Most startups don’t fail because they can’t build a product. Most startups fail because they can’t get traction.”
I read this book when I was desperately trying to get traction a past startup venture.
The book takes home the idea that you should be spending as much time building your product as you are trying to market it, and you should split that 50/50. The book also goes into detail about 25 different types of marketing you can try for your business.
Favorite non-business book: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson – if that counts as non-business.
Was there a moment, specifically, when something you read in a book helped you? Can you tell me about it?
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.
A few months ago, I came to the realization that I was in a pretty bad financial situation. I had racked up a bunch of credit card debt and had not been saving any money for years.
The main idea behind this book is to imagine your future self in the financial position you intend to be in. These are the three questions they ask:
1. How much money you will have.
2. When you will have it.
3. What you will do in return for this money.
Then, you must write that statement down on a piece of paper, and read it once in the morning, and once at night – every day.
I have it hung up on my wall right next to me as I’m typing this.
I have tried a lot of things to save money over the years – none of them have worked too well. But these past few months have been some of the best for me financially. So far, this method has worked OK.
I’m curious to find out more about your actions after reading Napoleon Hill’s book. What decisions did you make? What was your thinking process?
It was pretty simple, I just wrote down my financial “manifesto” and hung it up on my wall. Reading it every morning/night helped build up the idea over time that this was a long-term decision – not something I could only do for a few months. When it comes to financial stuff, I think it’s more about building habits than coming up with band-aid solutions.
What books had the biggest impact on you? Perhaps changed the way you see things or dramatically changed your career path.
I have two for this:
1. The Mousedriver Chronicles – John Lusk & Kyle Harrison
This book is about two friends that graduated from Wharton business school and instead of getting corporate jobs, they moved to San Francisco and started a company selling a computer mouse shaped like a golf club head.
Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but the book is CAPTIVATING. I read the entire thing in one day.
At the time, I was working a really shitty job in corporate America. Now looking back, I think this book helped me to quit that job to work at a startup, which changed the course of the rest of my career.
2. Models – Mark Manson
Yes, this is a dating book, and it’s really good for that.
But there is a really important concept that transcends all personal relationships – family, friends, etc:
And that is the concept of non-neediness and true confidence.
Reading this book transformed my relationships with people.
What books would you recommend to youngsters interested in your professional path? Why? (no number limit here)
Not really sure what my career path is, so I will just recommend the most valuable books I can think of right now.
All of the books I mentioned above.
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser – Read this if you want to become a better writer.
- One Up on Wall Street – Read this if you want to learn more about the stock market.
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom – My favorite “self-help” book.
- Guerrilla Marketing Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business – One of the best marketing books out there, and looking back – it was way before it’s time.
I’m interested in finding out more about your reading habits. How often do you read? In what format?
I can barely get myself to finish a book. I usually read books when I have a problem I need to solve, or I become interested in a new topic and want to learn more.
I listen to audiobooks sometimes too.
How do you make time for reading?
At this point, I feel like I’ll never be able to “make time” to read… I wish I was disciplined enough to do that.
But when I get my hands on a good book, I will simply make time for it.
Do you take notes or have any other technique for conquering the torrent of information?
No. I think that you’ll remember the important information and ideas without writing things down.
How do you choose what books to read next?
If a book will solve a particular problem I’m having, then I’ll check it out. Or, if I keep seeing the book more and more, I’ll probably look into it and see what it’s about.
Do you prioritize the books recommended by certain people? Is there anyone that you consider a book-recommendations guru?
Tell me more about how you started Starter Story? How did your life look like? Where did you get the idea?
Yeah! I created Starter Story – a place to discover the stories behind successful e-commerce businesses.
I started this because I wanted to create something in my spare time, and I wanted to get closer to my big goal: to work for myself comfortably anywhere in the world.
I’m not sure when that will be (I have a full-time job right now), but the only way I can make that happen is by trying ideas, starting new things, and keeping an eye out for the right opportunity.
Links where you can follow Patrick Swalls or find out more about his projects:
All books mentioned by Patrick Swalls in this interview:
- Traction: A Startup Guide to Getting Customers by Gabriel Weinberg, Justin Mares
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
- Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
- The MouseDriver Chronicles: The True-Life Adventures of Two First-Time Entrepreneurs by John Lusk, Kyle Harrison
- Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson
- On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
- One Up On Wall Street: How To Use What You Already Know To Make Money In The Market by Peter Lynch
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz
- Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson