This is a very subjective list, with my subjective opinions. The books I’ll mention literally changed my life. There is not an ounce of exaggeration here.
I can pinpoint a few moments in my life story that were game-changers. The conversion and joining the church community. Getting married. Getting my first real job after graduation. Reading The Slight Edge. Here is how it changed my life:
Before I read The Slight Edge I was aimless. I lived a life of quiet desperation, like so many of us. And I had no idea how to change it. Jeff Olson told me how: practice small daily disciplines.
The rest is history. I discovered a writing vocation. I got a few professional certificates and got a job with a nice 30% salary raise. I published 16 books. I liberated my wife from her day job. We bought our first house.
I beat over 200 personal fitness records. I created a few income streams from scratch. I doubled my income. I met new friends.
Everything because I dedicated my life to cultivating small daily disciplines.
The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
I re-read 7 Habits… again in 2013 when I restarted my personal development program. This time, I was influenced by this book to create my personal mission statement.
It made a lot of difference in my life. People often asked me how I persisted with my dream of becoming a writer when I had no experience, my wife was against me and my successes were really sparse.
My personal mission statement kept me going. I referred to it every day. One of the first sentences from my mission statements that materialized was: “I’m becoming a writer.”
To give you a clue how unlikely it was to happen, let me just say that it took me almost two months to discover that writers write
I had no idea how to be a writer! Yet, I became one in less than two years.
The first book I published was “A Personal Mission Statement: Your Road Map to Happiness.” The process of hammering out my mission statement was relatively fresh in my mind. I poured this experience onto paper.
My first ever written and published book has already sold over 6,500 copies and earned almost $5,000. Not a bad result for reading one book.
Your Money or Your Life
I consider this book an ultimate guide to financial independence. The first version was written in the dark ages, well before the Internet era. Yet, it was as actual back then as it is now.
This is a very down to earth textbook on how to become financially independent. An ultimate manual for the average person on how to build wealth. It has zero fluffiness of ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad,’ ‘Secrets of Millionaire Minds’ and the like. It’s pure meat.
When I read that book 6.5 years ago I had about $3,000 in savings, an old car and a small flat (and 35-year mortgage). I was spending everything I earned. I had one source of income — my day job.
Today, I have over $20,000 in savings. My income doubled. I own a business. I downsized my day job to 10 hours a week.
We live in a house. The mortgage for our home is three times bigger than was the mortgage for the flat, but we’ve already paid off 8.7% of it. We have two cars and plenty of minor possessions we didn’t have seven years ago (like four bicycles or four computers).
I have four main streams of income (book royalties, coaching, book advertising business and my day job) and a few smaller and erratic ones.
I don’t trade my time for money as heavily as in the past. Book royalties and book advertising business are semi-passive. I can take two weeks off and my income won’t drop by a dollar.
For me, Your Money or Your Life is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.
The Big Potential by Shawn Achor
This book shattered everything I thought I knew about personal development and success. I wasn’t able to implement much of its teaching, but only because of the lifelong indoctrination of the Small Potential.
The premise of the book is: collaboration makes the real success. I could’ve been focusing on my personal development for the next five decades and not reached the heights I could’ve reached if I cooperated with others.
I’m an introvert. I don’t like being with people very much. I take energy from solitude. It doesn’t change the fact that I need others to grow as fast and big as I dream about.
I said I didn’t implement much, but I implemented some. I’m more intentional about my relationships. I reach out to people from time to time. I reply to them when they reach out to me.
And I’m working on upping my game. I want big things in my life. I need The Big Potential. Thus, this book made it to my ultra-short list of my daily lectures. Every morning I read fragments of four books that shaped my philosophy (two of them are spiritual). The Big Potential is one of them.
There are plenty of other great books.
It’s enough to get one golden nugget out of a book to improve your life significantly. I read Start Over, Finish Rich by David Bach and implemented single advice: to pay myself first. It greatly contributed to the financial I described above.
I read The Compound Effect and started a gratitude diary. Wow, it made a difference in my life. Many of the above accomplishments were possible only because I rewired my brain into positivity.
In the last several years I read many true gems. The Power of Habit and The Talent Code were great to popularize some common sense concepts and put them on the map of general public. The Daniel Plan is an excellent resource for Christians who wants to get healthy.
Better Than Before is a great book for learning specific techniques to develop habits and it’s doubly valuable if you are a coach.
Work the System is amazing book about transforming small businesses where an owner is slaved to his venture into a real business that works for him. And the author gives away his book for free, including the audio version.
The Mindful Entrepreneur has a similar theme, but in my opinion it’s even better.
At least half of the S.J. Scott’s small books about developing habits are mind-blowing. This guy can come to the so tiny details and break down everything so well that taking action based on his books is easy.
It’s effective as well. I remember that only after reading only reviews and synopsis of his Writing Habit Mastery I started my writing log.
I don’t recall ever reading the book itself. My writing log made a huge difference in how I approached my writing and converted my feeble writing habit into a world-class habit. I have been writing every single day ever since I started the log on the 23rd of September 2013.
SJ’s stuff is so actionable! He had published several books under the Steve Scott pen name. One of them was 61 Ways to Sell More Nonfiction Kindle Books. I used it as my manual when building my writing business. I read it about the time I started writing my first book.
Fast forward six years and I have 16 books out there, I sold over 50,000 copies of them, gave away over 70,000 free copies and started a successful book advertising business on top of my writing career.
The greatest self-improvement books are not the ones that share profound ideas. They are the ones that you put into action and make a difference in your life. The ones that improve you.
Sometimes it’s just not the right time for you to leverage a book into greatness. When I read “7 Habits…” at the age of 18 I didn’t take much action. It was different 15 years later.
Sometimes you don’t even need to read a book
Starting my writing log provided the ironclad consistency for my writing habit, I gathered plenty of fascinating data about my writing (for example that I type as fast in English as in Polish), was invaluable for revisiting the past to write some introspecting pieces (like income reports that reached one year in the past or reviewing my yearly goals).
It even gave me some bragging rights – I registered over 1,930,000 words in my log!
I transformed and improved my life thanks to the books I’ve read. Especially for the books in that genre it’s important to consider them learning not an entertainment.
Don’t look for profound ideas or beautiful parables in self-improvement books. Apply what they teach. Become the implementer and they will verily improve your life.