The Only 10 Books Needed to Unlock Success: Handpicked by the CEO

October 20, 2023


Todd Watson

How many have typed “how to unlock success” in the search bar and scrolled for answers? Maybe that very same query has brought you here. Welcome. It’s time to finally get some answers. 

First, a warning. If you are searching for success in one very small portion of your life, this could be the very stumbling block you have run up against. Laser focus on one area of success in your life will only lead to failure in most other areas of your life. In order to truly unlock success you must look at more than one area of your life. 

Second, you want first-hand experience. A person writing a parenting book without any kids makes no sense. A business book from an author who has never started and run their own business (small business or large) is nearly pointless. The same goes for advice to unlock success. There is a lot of advice to weed through. Luckily, we have a CEO with first-hand experience in unlocking success, who has also sifted through a lot of advice over the years. Without further delay, here is the CEO of Showit in his own words.

How to Unlock Succes with Showit CEO Todd Watson

Over the last few years I listened to over 70 books while training for an IRONMAN and driving our RV all over the country. Many of these books I have hard copies of, that I have read or referenced, but the following are the ten books that stood out to me and a few of the concepts that continue to shape my thinking. In addition, I looked up a few of the stand-out quotes from each book and I hope they give you a taste for the concepts within. I would recommend each of these books, the first three for business, the next three for leadership, the next three for parenting, and the last one for finance.

small business owner reading a book

Small Giants by Bo Burlingham

I received this book as a gift years ago and really enjoyed it then, but after big transitions within my company, I really came to lean on it as the path toward where I want to go. It's so encouraging to see other companies that chose a path that didn't just go build a company to be big and sell, but instead focused on being a great company for their community and employees. (Definitely, a way to unlock success in your business.) I re-read it again this year and still continue to be inspired by the stories that Bo shares in this book.

The shareholders who own the businesses in this book have other, nonfinancial priorities in addition to their financial objectives. Not that they don't want to earn a good return on their investment, but it's not their only goal, or even necessarily their paramount goal. They're also interested in being great at what they do, creating a great place to work, providing great service to customers, having great relationships with their suppliers, making great contributions to the communities they live and work in, and finding great ways to lead their lives. They've learned, moreover, that to excel in all those things, they have to keep ownership and control inside the company and, in many cases, place significant limits on how much and how fast they grow. The wealth they've created, though substantial, has been a byproduct of success in these other areas. I call them small giants.

– Bo Burlingham, Small Giants

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

This is my business Bible, the source I go back to for guidance in so many areas of how to run a company. When anyone asks me how to build a company, I tell them to start here. I make it a practice to listen to it each year and my leadership team has all read it. I use many of the rhythms from this book and I can't thank Dave enough for the encouragement and challenge this book has been to our business.

The problem with your company is not the economy, it is not the lack of opportunity, it is not your team. The problem is you. That is the bad news. The good news is, if you're the problem, you're also the solution. You're the one person you can change the easiest. You can decide to grow. Grow your abilities, your character, your education, and your capacity. You can decide who you want to be and get about the business of becoming that person.

Dave Ramsey, EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches
a ceo and his books

The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni

After EntreLeadership, “The Advantage” is next on my most influential books on how to operate a company. He cites “organizational health” as the key to success in a business and then works through the areas that create this health. Lencioni's six critical questions are the foundation of how we structure our leadership and vision communication, and what we come back to over and over in our team. Its simplicity breathes life into what could be a stale process and is also a strong reminder in the importance of communicating things over and over again. This is the third book that I “re-read” this past year but just like good communication, it takes multiple times to really sink in.

There cannot be alignment deeper in the organization, even when employees want to cooperate, if the leaders at the top aren't in lockstep with one another.

The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health.

Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

So much has been said about the topic of leadership, but I loved this book for its insight on creating the type of vulnerability that creates influence. I definitely struggle in that area, so this book has been a good challenge and one I keep coming back to and thinking through the concepts. (Several ways to unlock success in Dare to Lead!) Brené includes great research and stories that help inspire change, and this was one of my favorite books of the year.

I define a leader as anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.

Our ability to be daring leaders will never be greater than our capacity for vulnerability.

Brené Brown, Dare to Lead
Books about running small businesses, money, parenting, and leadership.

The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud

While the concept of this book is common sense, this book put into words something that can easily be taken for granted, and then encourages you to address it and work to make a change. Simply put, other people in your life matter. It's not just about a few close friends, it's about being intentional about people in your life that are looking at areas of your life. It inspired me to get a coach to train for the IRONMAN and I experienced first hand the power of the other in the way Gabe pushed me through this year. It's worth everyone reading just to cement in our brains that we shouldn't try to go it alone, we need others in every area of our lives.

People trying to reach goals succeed at a much greater rate if they are connected to a strong human support system.

Your own performance is either improved or diminished by the other people in your scenario.

Dr. Henry Cloud, The Power of the Other

Can I Have Your Attention by Curt Steinhorst

I met Curt years ago when he spoke about this concept of attention and he speaks about this for huge companies across the globe. It's a major problem in a culture that has become wired for distraction and this book gives practical steps to tune things out and become Focus Wise.

To be focus-wise is to effectively allocate our attention at a particular moment in a particular context. It's an art that emerges through careful practice, a right understanding of how our brains work, and sensitivity to the professional and personal worlds around us.

Curt Steinhorst, Can I Have Your Attention

The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch

Families today face raising children in an environment that didn't exist when most parents were growing up. Technology is everywhere in smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs and while it seems super easy to let children use these devices, what is the long term effect? What is our role as parents in raising our children and how do we navigate this new connected world? Andy Crouch sets out to demonstrate a path that his family has taken to these challenges and address the questions parents have with an intentional approach to raising kids. (Intentioality in parenting is a key way to unlock success in your family life.) While at times I can't say that our family will be exactly like his or quite as strict as he recommends, it definitely pushed me to re-evaluate the decisions we have made and be more intentional with the technology we allow in our home and how we use it.

I've come to the conclusion that the more you entertain children, the more bored they will get.

We only get one life to live. Wouldn't it be better spent enjoying and serving the world God made rather than a glowing screen?

So here's where we have to start if we are going to live as flourishing families in an age of easy everywhere: we are going to have to decide, together, that nothing is more important than becoming people of wisdom and courage.

Andy Crouch, The Tech-Wise Family

Mindset:The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

This book hits head on with a binary concept of a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset. Once you understand this, you'll hear people speaking from one of these two every day. For me the understanding of the fixed mindset helps me understand the root cause of comments or thoughts that feel stuck, and how I can coach others or myself out of these contexts. Every parent should read this book simply for an understanding of how to praise children. (AKA How to help you and your kids unlock success.) While this book isn't new, I've heard a lot about it and the impact it has had on so many school systems.

No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.

If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don't have to be slaves of praise. They will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.

Carol Dweck, Mindset:The New Psychology of Success
small business book recommendations

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Parenting has shifted so much in the last century and often times it doesn't feel like it's for the good of our children. This book challenges the modern parent race to get kids ahead and into the “right” college and instead focuses on what makes for a successful life for a child and how do we prepare for that. One section is on things kids she be able to do by certain ages and gives practical things we can be working on to prepare our children. Kids may not be born with an owners manual, but this is a great jump start to help parents with their role.

Why did parenting change from preparing our kids for life to protecting them from life, which means they're not prepared to live life on their own?

Not only does overparenting hurt our children; it harms us, too. Parents today are scared, not to mention exhausted, anxious, and depressed.

Juli Lythcott-Haims, How to Raise an Adult

Everyday Millionaire by Chris Hogan

While this book just came out, it's an expanded follow up to the book “The Millionaire Next Door” and it studied over 10 thousand net worth millionaires to trace their trends. There are so many myths around net worth and this book just helps shatter so many of those. While this book has way more words than necessary, the idea is so important and all boils down to spending less than you make. It challenged me to be more disciplined and really work hard at taking control of my financial picture.

Belief is key. If you believe you can do it, you eventually will. If you believe you can't, then you definitely won't.

Chris Hogan, Everyday Millionaire

So there's my summary of my favorite books to unlock success in all areas of your life. Let me know your thoughts and I'd love some more recommendations as I get my reading on for my next Ironman. Just kidding. I will most likely never do that again! But I will always be wanting to learn more ways to unlock success.

Oh, and if you are looking for more ways to unlock success without reading a book, we have plenty of webinars to help grow your online business. Also, if your business does not have an amazing website, go here now. An amazing online presence is just the most basic way to unlock success in your business. No book reading required. Just tell em I sent you to get your two-week trial for free. Can't wait to see what you create!

Showit is a drag and drop website platform with a free trial at

Todd Watson is the co-founder and CEO of Showit. He started his first business in high school video taping weddings and has been an entrepreneur ever since. David Jay and Todd founded Showit with the goal of helping photographers create their own unique businesses and they have been building software tools and communities around this since 2006. Todd is married to his stunningly beautiful wife Elisa and they have four boys, Kiefer, Cooper, Foss and Will.