20 Brain Expanding Books That Altered the Course of my Life Forever

You shouldn’t treat reading books like a sport.

Saying you read 100 books in a year doesn’t mean anything. Saying you learned something that gave you a crucial insight, altered the way you think about the world, or made you better at your business or profession means everything.

I read because there’s a lot to know. Once you get into the habit of reading you’ll realize you’ll never learn everything you want to learn or read everything you want to read.

The point of reading — for me at least — is to absorb the energy of the authors and use it to make my life better.

I found reading at a point where my life wasn’t going well. In either a direct or indirect way, books helped lift me out of depression and laziness, gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams, and helped me reach more people with my work.

Out of all the books I’ve read, these are the ones that stuck with me or benefited my life most. If you have any recommendations please send them my way, because I believing in buying any book worth buying.

Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder  by Nicholas Nassim Taleb

Top lesson learned: Set your life up in a way that benefits from the world’s ever-changing nature, instead of trying to fit an imperfect world into your cookie cutter of belief.

Favorite quote: “The irony of the process of thought control: the more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you.”

Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger by Charlie Munger & edited by Peter Kauffman

Top lesson learned: Learn your way to the top. You can overcompensate for being less talented than others by becoming a learning machine. Learn from multiple disciplines to avoid “domain dependence,” which is the inability to recognize the way different disciplines are woven into one another, e.g., sexual relationships and economics.

Favorite quote: “Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up. Day by day, and at the end of the day-if you live long enough-like most people, you will get out of life what you deserve.”

Zero to One by Peter Thiel & Blake Masters

Top lesson learned: Have the courage to think for yourself, and the balls to make long-term plans and follow them.

Favorite quote: “Higher education is the place where people who had big plans in high school get stuck in fierce rivalries with equally smart peers over conventional careers like management consulting and investment banking. For the privilege of being turned into conformists, students (or their families) pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in skyrocketing tuition that continues to outpace inflation. Why are we doing this to ourselves?”

The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield

Top lesson learned: The only way to defeat resistance is doing the work. You have to do the work every day to “turn pro.” Switching from amateur to pro happens when you switch your mindset — nothing else determines that transition.

Favorite quote: “Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki

Top lesson learned: An asset is something that puts money in your pocket consistently. Anything else is an expense or a liability.

Favorite quote: “If you’re the kind of person who has no guts, you just give up every time life pushes you. If you’re that kind of person, you’ll live all your life playing it safe, doing the right things, saving yourself for something that never happens. Then, you die a boring old man.”

The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Top lesson learned: Live in reality. Stop getting mad at the world and other people for the way they are — you can’t change those things. You can only change your perception.

Favorite quote: “Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.”

The Lessons of History by Will & Ariel Durant

Top lesson learned: History repeats itself. Look to the past to see what’s going to happen in the future, because the same cycles occur over and over again.

Favorite quote: “History reports that the men who can manage men manage the men who can manage only things, and the men who can manage money manage all.”

Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Top lesson learned: Every pursuit in life is like lifting weights. Reps. Reps. Reps. The more you practice the better you get, regardless of the skill or venture.

Favorite quote: “What is the point of being on this Earth if you are going to be like everyone else?”

Civilization and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

Top lesson learned: Individual freedom and the goals of society are antithetical to one another.

Favorite quote: “Civilized man has exchanged some part of his chances of happiness for a measure of security.”

When I Stop Talking, You’ll Know I’m Dead by Jerry Weintraub

Top lesson learned: You need to be brash — even a bit delusional — to achieve extraordinary outcomes.

Favorite quote: “When people say no to me I just act like I didn’t hear them.”

Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini

Top lesson learned: We’re all controlled by our own biases to a certain degree. Knowing this will not only help you be more persuasive, but it will help you understand the world around you.

Favorite quote: “The idea of potential loss plays a large role in human decision making. In fact, people seem to be more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something of equal value.”

Contagious by Jonah Berger

Top lesson learned: People share stuff that makes them look good. Social currency drives word of mouth.

Favorite quote: “When we care, we share.”

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Top lesson learned: Correcting people because you think it makes you look smart actually makes you look arrogant and makes the other people feel bad. If you’re truly clever, you don’t have to show off how clever you are.

Favorite quote: “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”

The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Top lesson learned: You can cultivate the ability to stay level-headed under pressure, and it might be the most important skill you can possess.

Favorite quote: “It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit.”

Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker

Top lesson learned: Until you’re able to manage yourself, you won’t be able to manage other people or projects well. Self-awareness and inner game are the true keys to success.

Favorite quote: “Successful careers are not planned. They develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work, and their values.”

The One Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

Top lesson learned: Being great at one thing is better than being poor/mediocre at several. You shouldn’t wear multitasking as a badge of honor because it’s a sign of poor focus and low-quality output.

Favorite quote: “When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time. The key is over time.”

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Top lesson learned: Your tastes, goals, and options will change in the future. Trying to predict them exactly is futile. Instead, work on finding meaning in what you do right now, and talk to people who are where you want to be and ask them what it’s like.

Favorite Quote:  “Thinking about the future is so pleasurable that sometimes we’d rather think about it than get there.

The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

Top lesson learned: Focus on gradual happiness by celebrating the progress you make during the journey, instead of focusing on the end result.

Favorite quote: “We get more pleasure from making progress toward our goals than we do from achieving them because, as Shakespeare said, “Joy’s soul lies in the doing.”

Relentless by Tim Grover

Top lesson learned: To become the best at what you do, you have to be willing to go there when others won’t — in your training, your learning, your discipline, and your commitment.

Favorite quote: “Talk never goes up in price, it’s always free, and you usually get what you pay for.”

The Everything Store by Brad Stone (Jeff Bezos biography)

Top lesson learned: Your imagination (or lack thereof) determines your future — nothing else. To succeed, you have to unlock the door of possibility in your own mind.

Favorite quote:

“Jeff does a couple of things better than anyone I’ve ever worked for,” one executive told Stone. “He embraces the truth. A lot of people talk about the truth, but they don’t engage their decision-making around [it] … The second thing is that he is not tethered by conventional thinking … he is bound only by the laws of physics. He can’t change those. Everything else, he views as open to discussion.”

 

 Leaders Are Readers

What are some of the most inspiring, insightful, and life-changing books you’ve ever read?

Let me know in the comments below.

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