Do me a favor! And answer me this. What does it mean to live a better life? Is it about a better payday? Bigger car? Or being in better shape?
Let me tell you something. Whatever it is, it’s a lot harder to get it if you are an Indian living with your parents.
On the one hand, they will spoil you by not letting you clean after yourself, and then when they grow old, you are suddenly on your own to lift all the weight.
Yet, at the end of the day, it’s really really worth it.
After all, a meal tastes better when you have some people to share it with.
Here’s what growing up in my mid-size joint family has taught me about having a better life.
It isn’t all about your own individual desires. It’s more about being consistently reliable at your job, to the people you love, and, most importantly, to yourself and your dreams.
Yes. You heard me just right.
Being responsible is the easiest way to make your life meaningful and give it some purpose. However, being responsible itself is far from easy. Not when you lack the proper knowledge to make it happen.
The fact that we don’t get to learn subjects like financial literacy, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness during our schooling makes it all the more difficult.
I lost four years of my life, roughly $4000, friends, and loved ones simply because I didn’t know any better.
And even though now I’m in a much much better place, I’m not going to get any of them back.
Chances are, you don’t want to end up there. If that’s the case, here are some criminally underrated books I wish I read a lot sooner.
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business
by Josh Kaufman
Goodreads Score: 4.1/5
Business schools don’t create successful people. They simply accept them, then take credit for their success.― Josh Kaufman, The Personal MBA: A World-Class Business Education in a Single Volume
It’s not that complicated.
You either own a business, or you work for one. That’s why (regardless of whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee) learning how it really works can do wonders for your wealth creation.
Yet, unfortunately, most people lack this basic knowledge. And it can significantly limit your chances of making out of the rat race.
Don’t worry! You don’t need to spend a fortune or come under a mounting student loan to get what you need.
Back when Kaufman was working as a newbie assistant brand manager at Procter and Gamble he was competing against MBAs who graduated from the top Universities.
So to keep up with his colleagues, he started reading — a lot!
And the more he read, the more things started to fall in their places.
He realized that there are five building blocks behind any sustainable business, stacked one on top of another.
Every successful business (1) creates or provides something of value that (2) other people want or need (3) at a price they’re willing to pay, in a way that (4) satisfies the purchaser’s needs and expectations and (5) provides the business sufficient revenue to make it worthwhile for the owners to continue operation.
If you topple any of those building blocks off balance, your venture fails, and you lose money.
➊ If your work isn’t providing any real value to the market, it’s nothing but a glorified hobby.
➋ If you put together a killer product that can fill a wide market gap; but fail to market it effectively, it will fly under the radar.
➌ If people aren’t buying your thing, there will be no revenue.
➍ If your product fails to deliver on its promise after the purchase, your business becomes a scam.
➎ And lastly, when you fail to make more money than you spend, you lose the battle.
On the contrary, if you get them right, you can make the big bucks. Don’t worry. You can pull it off even on a tight budget.
Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling
by Matthew Dicks
Goodreads Score: 4.30/5
Make it your mission to find, see, remember, and identify stories, and you will begin to see your life in a new and more compelling light.― Matthew Dicks, Storyworthy: Engage, Teach, Persuade, and Change Your Life through the Power of Storytelling
It might not sound super obvious at first. But your level of success and growth is often determined by how well you write. No. I’m not talking about just writers and bloggers.
Jason Fried, the CEO of the software company Basecamp, mentions in his book Rework
If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position hire the best writer. it doesn’t matter if the person is marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever, their writing skills will pay off.
But why so?
Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. great writers know how to communicate. they make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
Again, it’s not about writing itself. It’s about the stories you can tell. More so, how you tell them.
And if you want to get better at it, if you want to engage people with your words and cut in front of a line, I recommend this book by Matthew Dicks.
Have you ever been in front of an interview panel and asked to perform the most dreadful task of all, “Tell us something about yourself?”
Or have you been on a Tinder date when the person on the other end casually asks you, “What do you do for fun?”
Now, tell me something.
Why do questions like these make us so uncomfortable?
It’s because they demand us to know, learn, and possibly be comfortable with ourselves, our journey, and our emotions.
But, unfortunately, that’s not what we are good at.
We would rather drown ourselves in instant gratification than sit with ourselves and see ourselves for who we really are.
So when we are asked such questions that will require us to explain ourselves in any manner, we feel unprepared and embarrassed.
That’s a shame, especially considering, in Matthew Dicks words:
Telling stories about your life lets people know they’re not alone; and it lets some of the people closest to you — like family and loved ones — see your life apart from the context of family and without the kind of revisionist hindsight we can sometimes fall into concerning the ones we love most.
In this book, there’s a simple exercise. It can help you reconnect with yourself and find the perfect story-worthy moments from your life. It’s called “homework for life.”
You do this exercise before bedtime. How to do it? Simple. Ask yourself, “What makes this day different from the previous day?” “What is the one five-minute story that you can get out of this day?”
Don’t worry. You don’t have to write the whole thing down. Just write a single sentence. Or a few of them.
Not only will this ritual help you come up with new story ideas and find meaning in your day-to-day life, but it will also slow down the passage of time.
Let me quote millionaire YouTuber Ali Abdaal on this one:
Actually, now that I look back through my spreadsheet on notion where I was like tracking my story-worthy moments of each day, I can remember those few months between May and July…a lot better than the last three months…where I have not been doing this…Moving forward, I really want to keep on trying to do this homework for life every night.
Homework for Life is only the first element of the three-part system, the other two being Crash & Burn & First Last Best Worst. Pick this book up to know all about them.
Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
by Oliver Burkeman
Goodreads Score: 4.27/5
Convenience culture seduces us into imagining that we might find room for everything important by eliminating only life’s tedious tasks. But it’s a lie. You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.― Oliver Burkeman, Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals
Money is not the biggest asset you will ever have. It’s time.
You can earn back your money.
But you can’t buy back your time.
So we buy time management books in an attempt to get more things done at the same time. We try doing things faster, limiting distractions, and even cutting off our sleep time. Yet, none of it seems enough.
The more we get done, the more we have on our plates.
Now, why do you think that is the case?
It’s because your expectation is unrealistic.
You think to do everything you want by managing your time well. But, in reality, time management is a scam. And you simply don’t have enough time to get everything done.
As Burkeman rightly points out:
Nobody in the history of humanity has ever achieved “work-life balance,” whatever that might be, and you certainly won’t get there by copying the “six things successful people do before 7:00 a.m.” The day will never arrive when you finally have everything under control
What more? The amount of time and life force you have is very limited.
Supposing you will live out till you are 80 years old, you have four thousand weeks to live. Also, you don’t really know when your clock runs out.
When motivated by the radical productivity perspective, getting a limit on your time and lifespan might seem unfair.
But when you accept the defeat — when you make amends that you can’t possibly get all the things done that you perceive as necessary, it can be a liberating experience.
There is a very down-to-earth kind of liberation in grasping that there are certain truths about being a limited human from which you’ll never be liberated.
So is it all about just peace of mind? Not really. Accepting your limitations and being in the moment helps you focus on what matters and make your life more meaningful.
I recommend this one because, unlike other books on the same topic, this one makes your to-do list lighter and adds more sincerity to what you are doing at the moment — instead of setting unrealistic standards that are guaranteed to make you more miserable.
what you pay attention to will define, for you, what reality is.
Models: Attract Women Through Honesty
by Mark Manson
Goodreads Score: 4.29/5
Challenge yourself to find the good and beautiful thing inside of everyone. It’s there. It’s your job to find it. Not their job to show you.― Mark Manson, Models: Attract Women Through Honesty
Before publishing his infamous The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and collaborating with Will Smith to work on his memoir, Mark Manson used to be a dating coach for men.
And in this book, published in 2011, he teaches young men to fare better in dating without having to change who they are as a person.
Now when it comes to dating, we rarely have any options other than following some vague advice and relying upon our instincts.
And sure, you do get better with trials and errors. But the whole ordeal can get quite painful as well as embarrassing. So it’s a far better alternative to do your homework beforehand.
Knowing simple things like who you are, what you want, and most importantly, what you can offer helps you to be more honest with your potential dates and yourself.
Here, instead of trying to trick women by pretending to be someone else, you be who you are and strive to know the other person for who she is.
In Manson’s words:
Instead of thinking, “I wonder if she’ll like me,” think, “I wonder what she’s like?
In this framework, rejection is nothing to be ashamed of, instead, it is a natural process of elimination of potential incompatibilities.
The first step to being more attractive is to see rejection as a means to eliminate women who won’t make you happy from your life. It’s a blessing, not a curse.
Of course, being an Indian, not every piece of advice from this book would have worked well for me.
Yet, the overall approach of being more authentic and vulnerable while trying to find a partner worked wonders for me.
Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It
by Chris Voss
Goodreads Score: 4.37/5
He who has learned to disagree without being disagreeable has discovered the most valuable secret of negotiation.― Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference
If you want to read only one book on negotiation, read this book.
Yes. I hear you. You must be thinking, “how can a book in negotiation help me live a better life.”
Apart from shaping your business or career into a different beast, it can also help you socialize better.
Just think for a moment.
Every person you meet, whether at work, a pub, a family function, or a college get-together, has their own perceptions, principles, and interests.
So whenever you talk to them, you are, in fact, engaging in a negotiation.
Push too hard, and you will gain the reputation of a stubborn son of a b*tch. Come across as submissive, and they will walk all over you.
A few months earlier, I published an article on How to Win an Argument With an Idiot. It performed exceptionally well — both here and on my Medium profile.
The tricks I discussed in this article are based on this book — and they work!
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering the author, Chris Voss, was the lead hostage negotiator in the FBI. And he has casually outclassed Harvard students who knew every cutting-edge negotiation technique.
Voss managed to do it because he knew something that these students didn’t. He knew that the decisions people make are based more on emotions and less on their logic. In his own words:
Know the emotional drivers and you can frame the benefits of any deal in language that will resonate.
In this book, he explores several clever ways to bypass someone’s critical thinking by appealing to their emotional sides.
The better you understand them, the more you will be able to make people connect to your views.
Knowing right beats knowing more.
When you read a lot of junk that sounds good but doesn’t add anything of meaning, you find yourself in a loop of mediocrity.
On the other hand, when you find fewer gems containing life-changing wisdom, it’s nothing less than getting a superpower.
But, of course, with great power comes great responsibilities. And now, when you have these books, I know you will do just fine.