1) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
This is the longest but also one of the most influential books I have ever read at over 1000 pages. I have read it cover to cover 2 times and each time it was life changing. This book epitomizes Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. While I do not agree with everything she writes about, it has shaped most of the major decisions in my life. It has taught me to live my life congruently with my highest values. It has taught me be a producer rather than taker. It has taught me to create more value than I ask for in return. It has taught me that living my life differently and going against the grain is all right. A more detailed summary of the specific details and storyline of what the book is about can be found anywhere on the internet, but the bottom line is this is an absolute must-read!
2) The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck
I read this book at a major transitional and challenging point in my life. I was making some serious life changes and was really struggling emotionally to “keep it together.” I was struggling with staying positive through the adversity I was going through. I was thinking back to all the “positive” self-help stuff I read where the focus was always on just thinking positive and everything would work out. The problem was that I could not think positive and when I found myself struggling to do so, I would beat myself up for not being able to think positive which in turn would cause me feel even worse and this vicious feedback cycle continued. Then I picked up this book and the first sentence changed my life. It said, “Life is difficult.” This was huge for me. It gave me permission to be upset. It let me know that life was not supposed to be easy. It was supposed to be meaningful and full of growth and challenge as well as joy and passion. It made it all right for me experience and learn to appreciate the struggles and challenges in life because that is what created the possibility for joy and enthusiasm on the other side of it. There is no meaningful experience in a world of absolutes. There are only meaningful experiences in a world of relativity. And relativity all comes down to perspective. Are you ready to grow? This is your book.
3) The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
The first time I found out about this book was from the author himself when I attending a live seminar he was presenting at. I was blown away by his presence and his authenticity. On top of that, I totally connected with his story. The story is about a young college student who had everything he could ever want – except one thing, happiness. He had all the girls, the grades, was a star gymnast, and well liked among all of his peers. On “paper,” everything in his life was perfect yet happiness was elusive to him. There was something missing. That something was presence, gratitude, and appreciation. It is about making life about the journey, not the destination. This book creates an amazing and new perspective on life. It turns everything upside down compared to what we have grown up believing about what it takes to be happy according to our current societal models. It shows the key to life is not achievement and accomplishments but presence, joy, and gratitude.
4) Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza
Left to Tell is the true story of a woman who lived and kept her faith and love for God and God’s people amidst the brutal and heart wrenching period of the Rwandan holocaust. The Rwandan holocaust is one of the most tragic events in the history of mankind where one million Tutsis were hunted and slaughtered with guns, grenades, and machetes in an effort to annihilate and erase an entire group of people from history in just three short months. She survived while hiding in a three foot by four foot bathroom for 3 months with 7 other women on barely enough food to survive. She was hunted daily and many times found the killers just an arms length away on the other side of the wall she was hiding behind ready to discover her at any moment. Both of her parents as well as all of her siblings were brutally murdered by the Hutu extremists, yet she still maintained her faith and love for God and even found forgiveness in her heart for the people who murdered her family. Left to Tell is her story.
I was moved beyond words at the beauty and amazing heart that was so palpable it practically reached off the page and touched me. She found a sense of peace and love in her heart through such great atrocities that many people can't even begin to fathom. It is through our darkest hour and our greatest struggles that our faith, heart, and love is challenged. It is through our trials and tribulations that we have the opportunity to give in to doubt, hate, and fear, or we can work on centering ourselves and connecting with a higher power.
I hope that we never have to go through or experience anything even close to what Immaculee had to endure to test our faith, power to forgive, and love. However, we all have our own trials and tribulations to endure. We all have things in our life that we need to put our faith in and trust that life is going to unfold exactly the way it is supposed to. I firmly believe that we have the capacity to live our life as though everything is a miracle or nothing is a miracle. I firmly believe that it is possible to believe and be grateful that literally everything in our life happens for a reason. Everything serves us in strengthening our capacity to be grateful and to love. I am no where near the level of faith that I so admire in Immaculee but I commit myself to strengthening my resolve every single day.
When we put our faith in higher power, we are never alone on this journey. When we forgive people who have wronged us in any way, we free ourselves from the shackles of hatred that block us from being our best. When we open our heart to all that life offers us with gratitude, we discover that every situation, painful and pleasurable, is serving us. When we seek answers to life's most challenging questions with an open mind as well as an open heart, we can communicate with the part of us that is all knowing and all powerful. We begin to communicate with God.
5) The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
This book came to me at a perfect (no pun intended LOL) time. My whole life I always tried to be perfect – perfect student, perfect athlete, perfect friend, and just plain perfect at everything in life. I actually defined a failure as being less than perfect. Boy was that a recipe for disaster and unhappiness. The reality I had to face is that no one is perfect. And I certainly was no exception to that rule. The idea of perfection, however, in life served me in some very powerful ways. I believe it contributed to a lot of the outward success I have experienced over the years but was the culprit in a lot of unhappiness, stress, and loneliness in my life as well.
When this book first appeared in my life, I was really living with a lot of self doubt and very little self-love and self-acceptance. This book ripped me open and gave me permission to be vulnerable. It actually taught me to view vulnerability as a gift rather than a curse. It taught me to connect more with my self, break down some of the masculine walls and barriers I have erected over the years, and cultivate a more sensitive side. It taught me to love and accept myself with my flaws and all. It taught me to view my insecurities as gifts that served me rather than disadvantages that held me back. This book took a very different approach and a very different perspective than most of the books in the personal development genre out on the market. This book is real and touches the very essence of what life is supposed to be about.
6) Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler
This book is absolutely brilliant. The title captures the bulk of the content perfectly. It is about how to communicate effectively when the stakes are high. High stakes can be anything that is important to you, your relationship with your significant other, friends, or family, as well as your workplace. High stakes conversations can be around money, emotions, or even something that appears to be as innocuous about deciding with your partner where to eat dinner. If you are anything like me, I wish I had this book in the past when we were deciding on dinner plans! This book really teaches you how to create powerful and positive conversations around the most challenging of topics and circumstances. It has helped me with some very challenging situations with some very challenging people. It is amazing what can be accomplished and resolved through effective communication. People open up their hearts and minds and everyone wins. This book is not about how to manipulate people. It is about how to find a mutual purpose and align the conversation so everyone wins. This book will change your life and the life of your relationships. I guarantee it.
7) Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
This book is one of the deepest and most philosophically profound books I have read. It is one of those manuscripts where each paragraph or each page must be read over and over again to extract the true meaning of what the author is trying to express. It is essentially a manual on how to deal with every aspect of life from challenges to victories to relationships to breakups and everything in between. This book was especially meaningful to me because it reminded me that all we have is the present moment. Everything disappears when we live in the moment: fear, worry, regret, sadness. It is only when we live outside of what is real such as the past or the future that we experience anything other than our true self.
This was powerful for me because I am someone who has a tendency to live a lot in the past and the future. There are times where I have regrets or second guesses about choices I have made in the past or I worry about what my future is going to look like. If I remember correctly, I started to save up for a car and my future when I was about 6 or 7 years old. That was truly a prelude for things to come in my life! This shook the very foundation for which I was living and most of us as a society live.
If you can hang in there, and really study, contemplate, and engage with the information in this book, I guarantee it will change your life. Give it a shot and let me know your thoughts. What do you have to lose?
8) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
This book will touch you down to the very core of your being. It is about an incredibly impressive man, Viktor Frankl, who was a psychiatrist in the 1930s during the time of the tragedy of the Holocaust. He was captured and imprisoned in the concentration camps where his sustenance consisted of dirty water with an occasional fish head. They were deprived of proper nutrition and were forced to live in filth. They had to sleep among their own feces and excrement and during the frigid cold of the European winter were barely clothed enough if it was a cool fall day. They were forced to work past periods of exhaustion and march for hours and hours across the snow. If they showed fatigue, they would be beaten and killed. It is during this tragic period of human history where 11 million people died and 6 million of them being Jews.
The first half of the book is a first hand recount of the events that Viktor Frankl experienced in the concentration camps. It is an autobiographical presentation of life during that time as well as powerful observations he made from a professional perspective. He observed that there were many people dying while living in the same conditions. There were some who survived and many who did not. He started asking very powerful questions like, “Why did some survive and others did not even though they were all living in the exact same conditions?” The answer he discovered became the premise to a new form of therapy that he pioneered – logotherapy. He found that the main determining factor in the survival during the Holocaust was the meaning that each individual derived from the same experienced. Those who found no meaning, no hope, and no purpose in the suffering, perished. Those who found meaning, hope, and purpose in the tragic events, survived.
It was a powerful distinction that has changed my life. We can’t control what happens to us but we can control the meaning that we place on what happens to us. The events are not a choice. Our meaning is a choice. We can create empowering meanings or we can create meanings that destroy us.
9) The Places that Scare You by Pema Chodron
This is a beautiful book written by a Tibetan Buddhist named Pema Chodron. I have read four of her books and all have been very meaningful. The best part about her is her authenticity. She is very vulnerable in her writing when it comes to her challenges and lessons she has learned in her life. She applies the art of mindfulness and meditation to normal, everyday life. When most people think of Buddhism or meditation, they think of a monk sitting in solitude or Buddha becoming enlightened under the Bodhi tree. Many people have a hard time seeing how meditation and mindfulness can apply to their own life and their own challenges.
This book will show you how. The author has a gift for drawing you in and really feeling what she has gone through and the challenges she has either overcome or is still working on. This book really helped me in a way that only the principles in this book could have served me. It helped me to sit in the discomfort of my challenges without trying to change it, which was a totally new perspective for me. As human beings, we are always trying to change things. We are always trying to avoid our discomfort or ignore it or block it out or distract ourselves from it. We rarely think of leaving things exactly as they are and sitting, being present, and embracing the discomfort. We never think of sitting in that place until we can feel the pain of the moment and at the same time become grateful and peaceful in that place. These are the places that scare us. But they don’t always have to.
10) Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins
What can I say about Unlimited Power by Tony Robbins? This man has single-handedly had the greatest impact on my life of anybody I have ever read or studied. I have literally listened to hundreds of hours of his material over the last 6 years or so. I have listened to some of his programs a dozen times and I learn and grow from them every single time. From the very first chapter, it will move you and will continue to move you throughout the entire book.
For those who do not know Tony Robbins, he is the largest, literally and figuratively, leader in the world of human performance and peak potential. He started out as a poor kid living in a 400 square foot apartment and transformed into a millionaire living in a castle in about a year and has never looked back. He has transformed millions of lives all around the world and has made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process. Some people pay him over a million dollars a year to coach them personally but you can read his book and explore deep in the mindset of a brilliant man for cost of a lunch. It is a no-brainer. Buy the book and thank me later.
Bonus: Drive by Daniel Pink
In the times of the 21st century, there are few books that are more pertinent and more powerful in the realm of motivation and leadership. If you are in the field of managing people, running a business or an organization, have kids, in a relationship, or just exist on this planet, you need to learn what drives people if you want to influence them.
This book shakes the very foundation by which people have been trying to motivate and lead for hundreds of years. The old model of motivation is the carrot and stick model. This model states that you can motivate anyone to do anything if you give them a big enough reward for doing it or punishment for not doing it. If you want your kids to keep studying and getting straight As, bonus them with money. If you want your spouse to clean the house, punish him if he doesn’t do it. While the carrot and stick model is moderately effective at menial tasks such as data entry or moving boxes, it is terribly ineffective at motivating people in the more complex issues of our current workforce and personal relationships.
If you really want to motivate and move people, you must apply the art of “AMP” – autonomy, mastery, and purpose. People need autonomy. They need to have a sense of independence and a feeling that what they are doing and accomplishing is by their own efforts. People need mastery. People need to grow and feel like they are learning and becoming better at a skill, task, or dealing with life in general. People need a sense of purpose. They need to feel like what they are doing is making a difference in the lives of their company, their family, and in the lives of the people around them.
Learn the art of motivation and you can create an army of people to change the world or use it to create better and more fulfilling relationships. The choice is yours.
The wonderful thing about books is that for just a few dollars, you can have "conversations" with some of the greatest and brilliant minds in the history of humankind. You can get in the mind of world leaders, business experts, and masters of mindset all in the comfort of your own home. Brew up you favorite tea, open that book, and start reading.