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18 Great Reads That Changed My Life

by Willie

It’s fairly easy to find a well written book or online article.  But it’s not always easy to find one with genuine value that you connect with.

That’s because, these days, books and online articles are a dime a dozen.  There are literally thousands of them written on the same topic every year.  So deciphering the ‘good’ from the ‘great’ can prove to be quite a challenge.

But if you look hard enough, in the right places, you’ll find a few gems containing life-altering advice that can be immediately implemented and used as an instrument for self-improvement.

For this reason, I’ve compiled the following list of books and online articles containing value so profound that each of them literally changed my life.

I therefore extend my gratitude to the authors and pass them along to you with the simple hope that they will provide value to you as well.

Happy reading…

  1. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle – Tolle’s message is clear: living in the now is the truest path to happiness and enlightenment.  This book is carefully, thoughtfully and beautifully written.  Not only does it illuminate the fundamental, slippery, destructive patterns of the mind or ego which confound one’s spiritual and even physical well-being, but it also provides a variety of simple and practical techniques for breaking down and dissolving these various forms of mental pollution.  I use Tolle’s calming, contemplative techniques almost every day and they work wonderfully for me.
  2. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck– Pretty much the granddaddy of all self-improvement books, it’s easily one of the best nonfiction works I’ve ever read.  By melding love, science, and spirituality into a primer for personal growth, Peck guides the reader through lessons on delaying gratification, accepting responsibility for decisions, dedicating oneself to truth and reality, and creating a balanced lifestyle.
  3. “Find what you love.” – 2005 Stanford Commencement Address by Steve Jobs – In his 2005 Stanford University commencement address Steve Jobs discussed three personal stories from his life.  The advice he delivered was clear: find what you love, trust in your instincts, and follow your heart.  Before reading Jobs’ speech back in 2005, I was struggling with a job I didn’t love because it was really the only thing I had ever tried.  It was all I knew. Jobs says, “You’ve got to find what you love.” And his article helped me do just that.  I finally realized that I was wasting my life living someone else’s dream.  If I settled for someone else’s dream, I’d grow old and die without ever seeking my own.
  4. Getting Things Done by David Allen – The ultimate ‘organize your life’ book.  Allen’s ideas and processes are for all those people who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed.  The primary goal of this book is to teach you how to effectively get your ‘to-do inbox’ to empty.
  5. Advice, Like Youth, Probably Just Wasted on the Young by Mary Schmich – While the advice here is a bit more inspirational than it is practical, I have always enjoyed this short piece of literature.  In the late 1990’s when I was in high school it became an international phenomenon when it was turned into a slow rock song by Baz Luhrmann (director of the 1996 movie Romeo and Juliet) that jumped to #1 on the U.S. and U.K. pop charts.  The song was played at my high school’s class of 1999 graduation commencement ceremony.  It eventually became famously known as “Wear Sunscreen.”  Details aside, I still re-read it in it’s entirety from time to time when I need a quick dose of inspiration.
  6. Don’t Die With Your Music Still In You by Steve Pavlina– Above all, this short read taught me that “to abandon a comfortable lifestyle that isn’t deeply fulfilling is to abandon nothing at all.”  It helped me understand that I was defending a comfortable, unfulfilling career without good reason.  At the start of each workday, I was reluctant to get out of bed.  At the end of each workday, the amount of satisfaction I received from the work I was doing was insignificant.  Which in turn caused me to ask myself: Why should I stay loyal to such a meaningless job?  So I switched it up and never looked back.
  7. Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath – A super great psychology book about real, concrete ways to make lasting change in both your personal and professional life.  So many powerful insights, based on fact not theory.  Inspiring counter-intuitive stories of huge organizational change against all odds.  As they explain in the first chapter, “All successful changes share a common pattern.”  I highly recommended this read for everyone.
  8. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – The best book on money management ever written.  Although only 145 pages, this book is packed to the brim with powerful, life changing information.  I’ve read it three times and I still pull new pearls of wisdom out of it.  Babylon should be mandatory reading beginning at the grade school level, then again in college, and should be given as a gift right along with a college diploma.
  9. How To Become A Millionaire In Three Years by Jason L. Baptiste – Every once in a while I come across an online article I wish I had read ten years ago.  This is one of them.  It contains timeless advice on making money by building something of your own.  Every wannabe entrepreneur should print this out, hang it on their refrigerator, and read it every morning.  That’s what I did with it.
  10. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – Easily one of the best and most popular books on people-skills ever written. Carnegie uses his adept storytelling skills to illustrate how to be successful by making the most of human relations.
  11. How to Find What You Love to Do by Brian Kim – For me, this short read was a wake-up call.  It’s basically a how-to guide based on the ideas Steve Jobs presented in his 2005 commencement address.  Kim emphasizes the importance of self-assessment and made me take a long hard look at myself to figure out what it is that makes me happy.  What’s more, his article discusses how uncertainty and fear are the most common obstacles preventing people from doing what they love to do.  His solution involves self-analysis: identify your skills and interests, then use your strengths to live your passion.  In Kim’s words, “conquer indecision and ACT, and you will most definitely conquer all fear.”
  12. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz – This is another classic self-improvement book.  Schwartz gives the reader useful, proactive steps for achieving success.  He presents a clear-cut program for getting the most out of your job, marriage, family life, and other relationships.  In doing so, he proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction in life.
  13. Everything You Wanted to Know About Simplifying Your Life by Leo Babauta – This compilation of online articles has truly helped me simplify my life.  Together, they cover everything from appreciating simple pleasures to decluttering your work space.  These articles are about creating a simple life for yourself, which means getting rid of many of the things you do so you can spend time with people you love and do the things you love and value.  If you’re looking to simplify your life, look no further.
  14. Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi – Ferrazzi explains the guiding principles he has mastered over a lifetime of personal and professional networking and describes what it takes to build the kind of lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that lead to professional and personal success.  Most of this book is fantastic – you learn how to relate to people, how to establish contacts and maintain connections, and how to create a social network.  If you interact with a lot of people on a regular basis, it’s a great read.
  15. The Most Important Blog Post You’ll Probably Never Read by Glen AllSopp – If you’re even slightly interested in making money online as a blogger, website owner, etc., then this article is for you.  It provides a short, insightful, bullsh**t free look at how to do just that.  It really opened my eyes to perspectives on success that I wasn’t seeing clearly beforehand.
  16. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? by Seth Godin – A linchpin, as Seth describes it, is somebody in an organization who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced—her role is just far too unique and valuable.  And then he goes on to say, well, seriously folks, you need to be one of these people, you really do.  To not be one is economic and career suicide.  It is a book that reveals the truth about working for a boss, fitting in and following the rules.  The only way to create a good life for yourself is to become indispensable and stand out.
  17. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – More parable than novel, “The Alchemist” uses the story of young shepherd Santiago’s search for his personal legend as an allegory for everyman’s struggle to break from the comfortable confines of conformity and pursue his life dreams.  Along the way, of course, our young everyman is beset by numerous setbacks, testing his resolve and forcing him to become attuned to the Soul of the World in order to survive.  By paying attention to the details in the world around him, which serve as omens guiding him towards his goal, young Santiago becomes an alchemist in his own right, spinning unfavorable circumstances into riches.  I’ve read this tale a few times now, and it always provides priceless inspiration.
  18. 18 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 18 by me – I know what you’re thinking.  How did an article I personally wrote change my life?  Well, it’s all about the soul searching that went into writing it.  I had to dig deep within myself and seriously contemplate all the important lessons I’ve learned over the last ten years.  In doing so, I noticed a few things that were out of place in my life, and I adjusted them.  I can already directly attribute a few of my recent successes to the actions I took after I wrote this article.

Can you think of a book or online article that changed your life?  Please share it with us in the comments.

This article was co-written by Marc and Angel and Shaun Boyd.
Photo by: Éole

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