As far as I can say, none of these books have been recommended by media darling billionaires like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or Warren Buffet. Then why should you read these books? It’s because they can change your life.
First, let me ask you something.
How do you know you are not living up to your potential or your own expectations?
You know it when you dread waking up in the morning! And then the feeling decides to latch on and keep you company all day long.
You try to numb it with coffee, smoke, and booze.
But it doesn’t work — not for long.
You wish for things to get better.
And the next thing you know, you keep on going through the motion, living the same day over and over — till it’s too late.
It might sound like I’m blaming it all on you.
Trust me. I’m not!
I won’t take that route because (first) it’s not true. It’s not really your fault. At least, not entirely. And (second) I’m not a self-help guru, and I’ve nothing to sell you — yet.
All I’m saying is this. You are in a place you don’t want to be because you were never taught the things you needed to learn to win in the real world.
So if you want to create more opportunities, enjoy peace of mind, and live an overall better life, you have to break free from your default beliefs.
Here are some books that have helped me do just that. Give them a shot. They might just do the same for you.
1. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
by David Epstein
Goodreads Score: 4.1/5
If we treated careers more like dating, nobody would settle down so quickly.― David Epstein, Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
Raise your hand if you feel you are falling behind in life.
Guess what! You are not.
Sure, when you look at your friends doing well, getting settled, and taking vacations, it might look that way.
You might think that everyone else, even people younger than you, have already figured out what to do with their lives, whereas you have wasted precious years of your life messing around and trying different options.
Again, that’s not the case.
As Epstein mentions:
Compare yourself to yourself yesterday, not to younger people who aren’t you. Everyone progresses at a different rate, so don’t let anyone else make you feel behind.
No. It’s not just fluffy pep talk. Here’s the science behind it.
Contrary to popular belief, early starters don’t always get the best results.
In many fields, the top gainers often start a little later in life after spending their earlier years exploring and trying tons of different things.
And all the other little experiments, successful or not, often come back and help them perform even better than those specializing in one thing from very early on.
- Two times NBA MVP Steve Nash grew up playing soccer and not basketball.
- Tom Brady was drafted for professional baseball before football. And he went on to win six Super Bowl titles later in his career.
- Also, Roger Federer played several sports before switching to tennis.
Even I wouldn’t be able to make a full-time living blogging had I not failed so astonishingly at so many different things.
So even if you think you are behind in the race, in reality, you have a higher chance to turn it around and take the lead. As you will find in this book:
One study showed that early career specializers jumped out to an earnings lead after college, but that later specializers made up for the head start by finding work that better fit their skills and personalities.
2. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
by James C. Collins
Goodreads Score: 4.13/5
What separates people, Stockdale taught me, is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life.― James C. Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t
The author, James Collins, along with his team, spent 10+ years researching 11 publicly traded companies.
What was so special about those companies?
Each went from trading at or below the market average to 3X above the average in 15 years.
Although, other companies in the same industry with similar sizes, resources, and market shares failed to beat the market average.
It begs the question. What did these companies do right that the others got wrong? That’s (exactly) what you would find in this research-heavy book.
As you might have sensed by now, this book analyses enterprises more than individuals. So why should you read it? You might have missed it, but you either run a business or work for one.
Also, if you are into investing like me, being able to separate undervalued yet profitable companies from overpriced yet unprofitable enterprises can (literally) make your life.
3. Reasons to Stay Alive
by Matt Haig
Goodreads Score: 4.10/5
If you are the type of person who thinks too much about stuff then there is nothing lonelier in the world than being surrounded by a load of people on a different wavelength.― Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
We gossip, complain, and speculate. In short, we love to talk about other people. But when it comes to our own mental state, we leave it to heal on its own. Well. That’s not a good strategy, as even Wolverine had PTSD.
So, yeah. Sometimes we need a helping hand. Sometimes we need to hear from someone else that it is okay to be not okay. It’s because you can’t solve a problem if you refuse to admit its existence.
That’s where this book comes in.
Matt Haig, the author of this book, was 24 by the time he had his first panic attack, chaining him down to his bed for three whole days. However, looking back, he could tell there were early signs peppered around from ever since he could remember.
And then, as he tried to get out of his head and look around for possible solutions, he found the odds to be stacked against him. In his own words:
THE WORLD IS increasingly designed to depress us.
Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?How do you sell an anti-aging moisturizer? You make someone worry about aging. How do you get people to vote for a political party? You make them worry about immigration. How do you get them to buy insurance? By making them worry about everything.
And with the advent of ad-centric social media platforms, things are crazier than ever. 90% of millennials say social media provokes them to actively compare their worth, and their lifestyle with others.
A majority of them admitted to making unplanned purchases to compensate for their feeling of inadequacy. Even 71% of Generation X and 54% of Baby Boomers have shared the same sentiment.
So the idea of filling the gap with external pleasures is more broken than McDonald’s ice cream machines. On the contrary, you might want to look inside.
The goal is to solve the problem, not to find distractions. As Haig puts it:
They key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them. Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person.
4. TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
by Chris J. Anderson
Goodreads Score: 4.04/5
Go and work on that dream as long as it takes to achieve something worthwhile. And then humbly come and share what you’ve learned. Inspiration can’t be performed.― Chris J. Anderson, TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking
In a perfect world, being good at something would be enough to get you what you deserve, but we don’t live in that world, do we?
Here, you have to (also) know how to market yourself.
That’s why communication is the one thing that can make or break you.
But not many people are good at it. Nor do they make any efforts to get better. And even if they do, they are sold vague pieces of advice like “be confident,” “maintain eye contact,” and “speak loud!”
And when these suggestions fail you, you feel like you have failed. “It’s not for me.” You say to yourself, implying that you cannot be taught how to present your ideas coherently.
That’s not true.
You don’t fail at communicating, public speaking, or presenting because there’s something wrong with you. You fail because you are yet to learn the art behind storytelling.
Once you learn and practice it well, casting spells with your words will come naturally. And to help you do so, Chris Anderson, the head of TED, is at your service with this book.
5. How to Not Die Alone: The Surprising Science That Will Help You Find Love
by Logan Ury
Goodreads Score: 4.05/5
Great relationships are created, not discovered.― Logan Ury, How to Not Die Alone: The Surprising Science That Will Help You Find Love
Former doctor and self-improvement vlogger Ali Abdaal famously credits this book for changing his approach toward his love life.
Let’s admit it. Dating can get pretty damn complicated.
Also, we never learn anything about maintaining a healthy relationship.
And that corners us to adopt the will-make-it-up-as-I-go-along approach.
Now, throw in three tablespoons of identity crisis before sprinkling in some self-brewed insecurity fresh from jealousy-inducing couple vlogs, and you have a disaster in the making.
Still, you will hear people casually dropping off golden nuggets of wisdom like, “Love is to be experienced and not to be read about.”
Here’s what they fail to realize. Love (alone) isn’t enough to save a relationship. And acknowledging this simple fact can be the first step to creating something really special for yourself.
There are other areas of your life, personality, and expectations that you can calibrate to be a far better catch than you are right now.
And this book by Logan Ury, the director of the relationship scientist department at Hinge, lets you do just that.
I understand. It’s not easy to change your old ways — especially when you need immediate results. But the results won’t come if you make the same mistakes.
Also, you don’t die because of the lack of results. You die because of the lack of effort, keeping you away from the rewards. In James Clear’s words: