5 Books that Changed My Life

Mindset is the key ingredient to success.

Think about it: you can have all the raw talent in the world and know exactly how to achieve your primary aim, but still come up short. Without the right mindset, you will never reach your full potential.

It took me quite some time to realize this. After college, I started my first full-time job and hated it. Each day, I wondered if there was more to life. In fact, I was positive that there was more to life, I just didn’t know who to ask for advice. Honestly, I didn’t even know what I was looking for. That’s when a friend recommended I start reading self-improvement books. Slowly, but surely, I began to change my mindset and noticed better results in my personal and financial life as a result.

Reading self-improvement books has totally transformed my worldview and challenged me to keep learning. Below, you’ll see 5 books that changed my life. For each book please know that there’s far more to learn than just 1 thing you can learn–each time I read one of these books, I learn something new. Hopefully they do the same for you.

1. The Alchemist

Choosing one lesson from this book was extremely difficult. It seems like every sentence written by Paulo Coelho is transformative and quote worthy. The book is about a young shepherd named Santiago who travels in search of one thing and finds another (I would be more specific, but I want to avoid spoilers). This book taught me that life is not a destination, it’s a journey.

When things don’t go according to plan, the natural reaction of most people is to look at all the negatives. At times when unplanned things happened in my life, I used to say “why me” or “this isn’t fair.” Reading the Alchemist made me realize that detours in life teach the greatest lessons and mold you into a better person if you “follow the omens.”

Every event is just a matter of perspective. The year I got my first full-time job, I felt rich. I’d never made a salary before, so I lived excessively. I went out to eat, bars, vacations, you name it. A good friend of mine, seeing the path I was on, pulled me aside and told me that I was on the path to financial disaster if I kept it up. I ignored him for a few more months until I realized I’d worked for a year with nothing to show for it.

At that point, I remember freaking out about money. Then, when I had to pay back money in taxes I began blaming everyone but myself for barely having enough money in the bank to cover it– I had to use savings bonds intended to pay for college loans. Needless to say that was not my best moment, it seemed like I was at a dead end.

After that experience, I got very serious about finances and learned about investing. I read tons of financial books and self-improvement books. I began saving money, investing in various accounts, and was the first person my age I knew to buy a home. Although it sucks that I had to suffer initially, life was teaching me an extremely important lesson. Now, I’ve learned to embrace detours and take something meaningful from each pivotal moment in life.

2. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

As the title implies, this book by Robin Sharma is about a “successful” lawyer who sells his Ferrari along with other material possessions in search of a deeper meaning in life. It taught me that money by itself does not bring happiness. First, you need to first be satisfied with yourself.

In a previous post, I’ve discussed my struggles with the concept of “success.” When I thought of successful people, I always thought of people with money. Having that as my basis led me to seek financial gains without purpose. Not surprisingly, all of these ventures failed. It wasn’t that I lacked ability, it was that I didn’t believe in myself.

When I began to self examine, I realized that money was actually secondary to me. Having a great impact on people was my primary purpose and something I truly love. Since coming to this realization, I’ve started doing things that add value to other people such as writing, teaching, and coaching. It makes waking up in the morning worthwhile knowing that I can help others. What’s interesting is that since making this shift, my net worth has gone from a negative number to upwards of six figures. I’m certainly not rich, but if it went away, I would still be happy with what I’m doing in life.

Look within yourself and you will find your true purpose.

3. A New Earth

The entire book feels like an out of body experience. As you read it, you will begin to notice that Eckhart Tolle truly is helping you awaken something within. One major question that arose as I was reading his book was: are you just existing or being?

Existing implies that you are going with the ebbs and flows of life, not really thinking about them. Being, on the other hand, requires a presence of mind. This allows you to awaken your true purpose in life.

As an adolescent through college, I always thought deeply about life. My perspective shifted when I joined the workforce and became disillusioned by many of my ideas. Gradually, I became a cog in the machine just living for the weekend, not really appreciating life. I was existing.

Then, one day on the phone, I had a conversation with a friend from college about this book and our dreams. The more I talked about what I wanted in life, the more I began to realize how possible it was and how much more fun it would be if I did something I enjoyed. I switched careers and also began doing fun activities like hiking I had always enjoyed, but stopped for some reason. This transformation was gradual, but I can say that I’ve finally started “existing” again because of this book.

4. The Law of Success

Napoleon Hill starts every chapter of this book with the same quote, “you can do it if you believe you can.” This message is woven into everything discussed in The Law of Success.

It is a fundamental belief, dare I say fact, that self-belief and the power of the mind are required if you hope to achieve anything noteworthy. Influential thinkers, politicians, and industrialists often cite the power of the mind as being critical to their success. Nelson Mandela envisioned a “rainbow nation” and made it a reality when he ended apartheid in South Africa. Henry Ford conceived the first affordable car for the general population in his mind, the end result was the Model-T. Many people viewed these men as dreamers, yet they believed so strongly in their ideas that they made dreams into reality.

I landed my first teaching job around the same time as I read this book. Most teachers struggle in their first year teaching, but my experience was to the contraire. On the ride to work, I would envision myself having a great lesson that got my students excited about the given topic. Most of the time, student participation was very high and I would hear kids talk about my class in the hall. This, in turn, gave me confidence to plan great lessons, and repeat the process. By the end of my first year teaching, I won the district-wide Teacher of the Year Award.

Seeing is believing. Once you visualize it, you can manifest anything you set your mind on.

5. How to Win Friends and Influence People

The way that an author organizes chapters is very telling. Usually information in the first few chapters lays the groundwork for the remainder of the book. In this respect, Dale Carnegie’s classic book is no exception. For this reason, it’s no wonder that one of the biggest takeaways for me came in the second chapter. I learned that the key to knowing other people is to know yourself.

Although it doesn’t directly state this lesson, it is implied throughout the book. Carnegie uses examples of infamous people who are viewed by society as terrible people and those considered great people. In all the examples given, the individuals involved viewed themselves as inherently good–even murderers. As such, we all justify our behaviors in accordance with this doctrine. Knowing that our perception of self is always biased allows us to take a step back and reflect on actions objectively.

For the longest time, I could only see things from my perspective. When talking with a friend about a problem I was having with my girlfriend at the time, he simply said “what if the roles were reversed?”

Putting myself in her shoes helped me understand why she would get mad at me. A silly example of this is when she wanted me to hang up pictures at our house, but I put it off for weeks because I wanted to use that time to study real estate. The logic from my perspective made perfect sense: learn about real estate, invest, live a better life. Had I looked at the situation from her perspective, I would have seen that she was short and needed a hand because she couldn’t reach. It could have been done in 20 minutes, then I could have studied real estate uninterrupted– instead, I ignored it until it became a fight. These little things are detrimental over time if not addressed.

Now, whenever I’m dealing with another person, regardless of the circumstance, I think about what I would want from the interaction if I were in their shoes. It’s so simple, yet incredibly profound once you start doing it. The way that you phrase things changes and even if your intention remains the same, you appear more amicable. Shifting my perspective has totally changed my life. This is how you Win Friends and Influence People.

Final Thoughts

Regardless of what you hope to achieve, mindset is the glue that puts together all the other pieces of the puzzle. By reading these books, you will have the tools to change your life for the better.