In recent years I haven’t read many books, some years none. I’m ashamed to admit that because they’re powerful tools that can have a big impact on our lives.
Over the last year I made it a priority to read more books by allocating one hour for it into my bedtime routine. I discovered an additional benefit to this practice – forcing myself to transition from screens and clicks to the printed page made it easier to fall asleep, and I had more energy when I woke up.
When I found a book I could get concrete results from, I’d read it again and take notes in my Moleskine notebook – I’m maniacal about always carrying one with me – for future reference.
Here’s a list of five books that I read more than once in 2014. Some of them I re-read immediately, others I came back to.
LETTERS FROM A STOIC, BY SENECA
(I got Letters From a Stoic from the library so this is my aforementioned Moleskine notebook.)
As a college freshmen I took a philosophy class. We discussed complicated abstract theories written by philosophers none of us had ever heard of. I’m sure the professor gave me a grade of B- because he knew I hated it. But over the last couple years I’ve begun to explore one philosophical system in particular – Stoicism – that offers simple principles and rules I can actually put into practice.
Along with Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, Seneca is one of the most famous Stoics. When I’m in my lowest moments and struggling I turn to quotes I pulled from this collection of his essays. Here’s one I might read to help me reset and re-calibrate:
“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”
Applying Stoicism to my life has made me more appreciative, and happier.
THE SEVEN STAGES OF MONEY MATURITY, BY GEORGE KINDER
Understanding the Spirit and Value of Money in Your Life
Growing up I learned how to handle money by watching what my parents did. My beliefs about money became deeply ingrained, and I never thought to question them even though they would critically impact me. In my 20s why did I spend hundreds of dollars a month drinking? Why did I never allow myself to buy a new car? Why did I always save for retirement?
I’m an analytical guy, hence the personal finance books I read are filled with tactics I can implement to get an edge with investing or taxes. This wasn’t like any of those technical books, it was part therapy and part spiritual guidance, infused with Kinder’s Buddhist background.
I strive to have healthy and functional relationships with everyone in my life, similarly this book helps me to understand and improve the emotional ties that I have to money.
THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK, BY TIM FERRISS
Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
I hate this book. When I read this before bed it would make my mind race with the changes that I wanted to implement right now, and then I couldn’t fall asleep. Here are some of those key insights:
- Limit email: Check email 2-3 times a day; the first time not before 10 in the morning.
- Low-information diet: Perform a week-long information fast to refocus and reclaim attention, then one day per week for maintenance.
- Take mini-retirements: Stop deferring life; don’t spend 40+ continuous years in a cubicle for a vision of retirement that might never materialize.
- Effective meetings: Every meeting needs a clear objective, and an agenda with topics or questions; don’t agree to it otherwise.
- Increase productivity: Each morning write down 2-3 things that you’ll commit to getting done that day.
Parts of this book are gimmicky – like hiring a low-cost virtual assistant from overseas – but overall it’s fun, and the optimizations make me more efficient and effective in life.
HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE, BY DALE CARNEGIE
The Only Book You Need to Lead You to Success
This one is a classic, the copy I have came from my grandmother’s bookcase. For years it sat unread on my shelf until I tucked it into my carry-on bag before heading to a conference by myself. It turned out to be a fun experiment – I read it on the flight and was able to test the material against people I would never see again.
It’s amazing what can happen when you focus on improving your people skills. Before I read this, I would be at an event standing alone with a beer, pretending like I was closing some important deal from my smartphone.
Nowadays I can introduce myself to a stranger, keep the conversation going, and know how to bail. That’s a huge breakthrough for me because growing up I was socially anxious and awkward. Sure, I might never get to the level of Bill Clinton’s charisma, but I can successfully navigate social situations when I’m alone, and even find it fun.
The most profound takeaway from this book also might be the simplest – smile!
THE UNTETHERED SOUL, BY MICHAEL SINGER
The Journey Beyond Yourself
Do you ever notice the voice in your head? Don’t worry, we all have it.
“Ugh, I really need to get in shape. Yesterday I said I’d go for a run today. I really don’t feel like it though, and I just got home from work. How about I just watch a little Netflix? Okay, one hour and that’s it! Then I’ll go.”
That voice – my “inner roommate” as Singer calls it – narrates the world for us, and is also responsible for sustaining our self-image. I learned that by working to disengage from this voice, or at least to quiet it down, I can unlock my potential. That’s helped me push aside my self-limiting beliefs, and to grow in ways I thought were impossible.
The Untethered Soul also helped me to understand how my reactions to the world can affect my energy. If I react to something I don’t like by pushing it away, I use energy. The same case if I pull it close. The reward for not resisting or clinging is the ability to let go, which is liberating.
This is one I keep re-reading to gain further insight.
I’M GIVING AWAY A SET OF THESE 5 BOOKS!
When it comes to success I think books alone can get us pretty far, and I’m happy I get to share with you the ones that had the biggest impact on my life.
Since we’re heading into the summer, I want to give away a brand-new set of the five books above that you can enjoy throughout the year.
Just enter a comment below with your favorite book that you read in 2014, and a sentence or two about why you chose that one. The book doesn’t have to be about personal finance, or even non-fiction. Fair enough?
I’ll choose the winner by the end of Sunday, April 19th, and I’ll email them to let them know. It’ll be a completely random selection, all you need to do is leave a comment below to enter. Only one entry per person.
Congratulations to the random winner “SayWhat?” from the giveaway mentioned above, which has now officially ended. The email was sent to the winner on April 19th, 2015.
Thank you all for the amazing book recommendations – I have a lot more reading to do now! Please feel free to continue sharing your recommendations, although realize the giveaway has ended.
P.S. I just finished reading The One-Page Financial Plan by Carl Richards. I’m excited because I’ll be interviewing Carl for the blog, so look for that soon!