In a recent post I wrote about how I significantly reduced how much TV I consume and dramatically increased my reading. A key reason for doing this is because upon reflecting on “activities” that have led to substantial changes in my life, I can’t count one TV show as the catalyst.
I can, however, point to several books. Here are 10 books that have had a profound influence on my life…
1. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Dale Carnegie’s seminal work explores and explains the underlying principles that make up all healthy, mutually beneficial human relationships. First published over 70 years ago, this book continues to stand the test of time with thoroughly researched and tested actionable advice on how to effectively handle people with both finesse and integrity – whether in a personal or professional setting. This is a must read if you want to develop skills necessary to socialize. It’s a key book to growing and nurturing a network. And, it’s a book that has been credited by countless people for their successes because its principles are still relevant to this day. On the low, it’s probably one of the best relationship books ever written.
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” -Dale Carnegie
2. Why Should White Guys Have All the Fun? by Reginald Lewis & Blair S. Walker
This was the first book I read cover to cover. It’s the inspirational story of Reginald Lewis, a lawyer, entrepreneur, Wall Street phenom, and philanthropist. Lewis was the first African-American to purchase a company for a $1 billion. The title of the book may be a little jarring, but it all stems from a question Lewis asked at the tender age of 6 when he heard his grandparents discussing employment discrimination against people of color. This book taught me that despite all the adversity life puts in your way, you can still make it. It’s a good read for everyone, including white guys
3. The Complete Art of War by Sun Tzu
I’ve read this book the most times on the list. This is arguably one of the most influential books ever written about the art of warfare and conflict. It’s a useful guide to understanding how and when to step up to “war.” Don’t let the title fool you, though, this book can be used in any facet of life. Its strategies outlined are integral to helping you win any conflict – even in the boardroom. It’s a critical read to a strategic mind. I love the complete work because it includes work by Sun Zu’s son and expands on his concepts. I strongly believe that this is a must-read for entrepreneurs.
“Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.” – Sun Tzu
4. Evolutionary Psychology by David M. Buss
David Buss’ ground-breaking work chronicles the problems universal to human nature and how humankind has adapted over time. With research explaining intriguing things like: love, sex, mating, getting along, succeeding, and making and managing friends and enemies, I honestly think this should be handbook given to everyone as they enter a career. I must admit it’s a tough read if you’re not a sciences geek, but if you truly want to understand how and why humans interact, this book gives the answer. I keep this book on my desk in my office as a handy reference.
5. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
If you’re in marketing, PR, sales, management, or leadership, this should be the first book you read from my list of 10. This book is a classic. It’s an essential read to understanding the how and why behind what makes people agree to things and say “yes.” I have referenced this book more times in my posts than any other book. It’s an easy read and the 6 principles he outlines are simple to master.
“The truly gifted negotiator, then, is one whose initial position is exaggerated enough to allow for a series of concessions that will yield a desirable final offer from the opponent, yet is not so outlandish as to be seen as illegitimate from the start.” -Robert Cialdini
6. Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
There have been many books written about Abraham Lincoln, but this particular one has impacted my perspective on life tremendously. This book taught me about leadership and self-discipline. I strongly recommend this (outside of the brilliant history of one of America’s greatest presidents) as a motivational book if you feel like your “time is running out” or you haven’t hit your “best achievements of life” yet.
“And in the end it is not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.” ―Abraham Lincoln
7. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
Vulnerability is at the core of everything we have fear of doing and learning how to managing it is an essential life skill. Ever since her popular TED talk on the importance of vulnerability, Brene Brown has become one of the foremost thought leaders and public intellectuals. This book explains the importance of embracing imperfection, conquering our fears of being vulnerable and mustering the courage to live wholeheartedly. I’m so proud of my book labelmate at penguin – her book is always suggested reading to my agency clients.
“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.” -Brene Brown
8. Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuck
This was my boy Gary Vee’s first book, and what else can I say but that he crushed it! in this book. Gary Vee, the creator of Wine Library TV and YouTube sensation discusses how to turn your passion into a real, lucrative modern business using web 2.0 and social media. Vaynerchuk’s unique brand of tell-it-like-it-is advice will draw you into the very actionable principles of branding and business he offers. The book is so good, I bought 12 copies and whenever someone comes over and asks for a good read, I hand it to them. They walk out the house with it because they’re so sucked in (side note: I’m down to only 2 copies. Friends, if you’re reading this post I want my books back!). I point to this book giving me the motivation and insight to enter the matchmaking space in a unique way.
“Live your passion. What does that mean, anyway? It means that when you get up for work every morning, every single morning, you are pumped because you get to talk about or work with or do the thing that interests you the most in the world. You don’t live for vacations because you don’t need a break from what you’re doing—working, playing, and relaxing are one and the same.” -Gary Vaynerchuk
9. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
In my opinion, this motivational classic is THE blueprint to succeed, period. Written by one of the most notable purveyors of success, this book breaks down the principles of achievement using the stories from the lives of key figures like Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. I’m not embarrassed to say I just read this book cover to cover this year. I had long heard it was good, but because it was published so long ago, I just assumed many of the theories were outdated…boy, was I wrong. Written in 1937, this book has served as the catalyst for countless success stories – all these years later. It’s so powerful that I’ve determined that this is the first book I’m going to mandate my boys read before they leave high school.
“Tell the world what you intend to do, but first show it. This is the equivalent of saying ‘deeds, and not words, are what count most.'” -Napoleon Hill
10. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
This critically acclaimed book is considered to be one of the most influential and powerful works on spiritual reflection ever written. It’s full of wisdom and practical guidance for navigating the inevitable ups and downs of life. And, it’s the only book on the list I read every year (I got that idea after finding out that Bill Clinton does the same thing). Each read gives me a new insight about what life is truly about. If you’ve read it, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t yet read it, scoop it up now!
I often talk about the importance of consuming inspirational and uplifting content. One of the best things I could have done was to implement more reading into my life. It truly has been enriching and I’ve learned more than I’ve ever imagined. Even if you don’t think you have the time to read, audiobooks are always a great alternative to turning physical pages. Either way you choose to get it in, I strongly encourage you to explore books that educate and challenge you, change your perspective and entertain or intrigue you.
Which books have changed your life? I’d love to hear your suggestions!