There was a significant period of my life after college where I thought my education and development had ended. I literally thought since my years of formal education were over so was my time for learning.
I stopped reading books. I remained stagnant in life. No general curiosity about the world or the human condition. I can attest ignorance is not bliss, though.
My unfortunate and prolonged literary draught thankfully came to an end when I was laid off from banking back at the onset of the financial crisis in early 2008.
Being laid off was a shock to me. It forced me into taking deliberate steps to try and grow and evolve not only as a professional but as a person as well.
One of the very first books I picked up and read at that time was A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. It unlocked a grand curiosity about the human experience that was tucked away somewhere deep inside of my being.
Around this time, after a drawn-out and demoralizing job search, I also accepted a commission only sales position. No base salary. No benefits. No nothing. You got paid if and only if you closed a sale. It was also in the collections industry, so it was a brutal sales process involving frustrated business owners.
The culture of this company, though, placed a premium on self-development within their sales force. They constantly pushed their team to consume books and audio content that could help inspire and educate.
My desire for reading books increased dramatically around this time and it has not slowed up since. I am incredibly thankful to have been exposed to that company’s culture that emphasized self-education.
Since that time, I have tried my best to be the ultimate metaphorical sponge soaking in as many nuggets, tips, and bits of information as possible. Just about every single book I have read in the past decade has added some sort of contribution to my growth.
While the impact of some may have been minimal, there are 5 books in particular that left major imprints on my being.
These are 5 books that will profoundly change your life:
1. A New Earth
"You are not your thoughts". When I read that in A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle I remember putting the book down for a moment. I had to pause. For the very first time in my life a brief period of stillness set in.
I finally became an observer of my thoughts as opposed to being lost in identifying with them. This was so powerful to me.
Those familiar with Eckhart Tolle and his work may have had the pleasure and more importantly relief in discovering this concept in his prior work The Power Of Now. I came to know Tolle’s work through A New Earth.
A New Earth was my very first introduction to consciousness. It was the first time learning to cultivate stillness and the freedom and relief that can be found in simply being present. Total game changer in life for me.
A New Earth set off in me a further awakening towards a spiritual journey. It placed me on the path of wanting to explore what consciousness and spirituality are all about.
2. The War Of Art
I first heard of this book through a referral from a podcast I often listen to called Smart Passive Income by Pat Flynn.
The War Of Art succinctly lays out a potentially harmful phenomenon that has affected me quite often, but I had no awareness that it was invading my life. I certainly had not put a name to this dastardly impediment like Pressfield had. I am referring to “resistance”, as Pressfield so brilliantly coined the concept.
Resistance can take shape in a multitude of fashions, like the subtle waywardness of procrastination or as a more overtly destructive form like self-sabotage.
Pressfield believes the higher the potential payoff a venture has in store for you personally the more resistance one is likely to encounter.
Pressfield goes about describing the many forms of resistance and does so in such an easy to digest manner. Each chapter is just about a page or two, with each page containing just a few lines of bite-sized nuggets of wisdom. It was one of the easiest reads I had ever encountered.
I have felt resistance many times in my life and on a smaller and more frequent scale I feel it every single time I am going to write an article. The resistance typically kicks in the evening prior to my morning writing session and then ramps up again just moments prior to actually typing on the computer.
Self-doubt, critical self-talk, and all sorts of subtle, yet subversive thoughts come washing over me in anticipation of my writing session. Sometimes, most times, the resistance towards my writing is so understated and sneaky, I may not even be consciously paying attention to it.
Pressfield and The War Of Art have thankfully shined a much-needed light for me on this potentially life crippling condition that is so pervasive to the human experience.
It was such a relief to know that my faint pangs of angst that seemed to swirl around the notion of writing are not actually aligned with my true core desire to be a writer. I am now better off and better equipped in my daily pursuits of a more enriching life, thanks in part to reading this book.
3. 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People
7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is a classic and mainstay amongst the litany of self-empowerment and business books that have been released over the past decades. It is acclaimed as a classic for good reason and has certainly earned that esteemed tag.
7 Habits Of Highly Effective People was the very first book I read that introduced to me the notion that life, relationships, and fulfillment need to be consciously strived for, with thoughtfulness in a proactively forged manner.
Prior to reading this book, I just drifted unconsciously through my career and relationships. I was considered successful and an above average achiever out of college and in the early stages of my career, but there was no plan or conscious thought given to my effectiveness at my job, my contributions to relationships in the office, or the mark I was making on the culture of my employer.
I was so caught off guard and immediately intrigued by the concepts laid out by Covey in the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People.
I first opened the book and expected to see a list of 7 habits like waking up prior to 6:00 a.m., eating lots of protein and keeping good to-do lists, but It was nothing of the sort.
A habit like “Begin With The End In Mind” was so foreign to me and upon reading made an instant shift in my perspective and approach towards life and achievement. Prior to learning of the “Begin With The End In Mind” concept, I was never thinking past my immediate day, if not even my immediate moment.
This concept is not contrary or divisive to the positive benefits of staying present. This is more about envisioning your goal or objective, crafting your plan and strategy, and working towards your desired outcome with thoughtfulness and prudent action.
Another concept, “Seek First to Understand, Then To Be Understood”, was helpful guidance for both the workplace and the homefront. I had never put much thought into the psychology behind cultivating and improving relationships.
These are not Jedi Mind Tricks or ways to manipulate co-workers, but actionable concepts that put you in a better position to enrich collaborative efforts, become more productive and enjoy a more rewarding career. Much of the wisdom and concepts put forth by Covey apply to family dynamics too.
4. Think And Grow Rich
Think And Grow Rich, originally released way back in 1937, still holds significant matter and meaning for the world today. Some of the tone and verbiage is reflective of some of the bizarre and regretful values society held back then, but the overall philosophy is sound and applicable to this day.
This is another book that forced me to undertake a paradigm shift when it came to approaching my career and chasing down my dreams. Much like my mindset prior to reading 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, I was going about my work and my career without much conscious focus or clearly defined goals until I picked up a copy of Think And Grow Rich.
The theme that is recurring throughout the entirety of Think And Grow Rich is that success is first born in the thoughts of an individual and that obtaining success occurs through the obsessive focus on a clearly defined set of written goals.
With written goals and obsessive daily thought about them, you will then take correlating action towards these goals and eventually the universe will also align to help make these dreams come true as well.
The latter part, the universe aligning, may not always be to the timing you are desperately wanting and seeking, but if you stick with your plan, obsess on your goals, and take correlating daily actions you can achieve anything you set out to do.
Prior to reading this book, I had certainly been aware of goal setting, although on a cursory level. It had never dawned on me, though, the significant power and might with which goals can carry someone forth through struggle and uncertainty.
5. Success Through Stillness
Russell Simmons and his book Success Through Stillness is the direct reason I began a meditation practice. It has been close to 4 years since picking up this book and my meditation practice is steadier and more consistent than ever.
With Success Through Stillness Simmons relays the concept and power of meditation while also allaying any hesitations or objections that could potentially keep you from undertaking your own practice.
It is a purposely simple read, yet powerful in conveying the message that seeking stillness through meditation can change your life and lead to greater fulfillment in all that you do.
I do not know where I would be or what I would be doing if it were not for my meditation practice that began because of this book. I am not being dramatic, my life has charted an entirely different course because of my meditation practice.
I have a deeper and more connected marriage because of meditation. I am a more patient parent because of my practice. I have reached higher levels of success in my career because of meditation. I launched this content platform and have taken a 2-year break from booze all in part because of ideas and subsequent actions that arose through the stillness of meditation.
The Power Of The Written Word
I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to shake off my self-induced, developmental malaise that occurred for years after college. Since reawakening, I have been on a quest to consume as many books as possible.
As a parent, I hope I can instill in my son the desire and curiosity to seek knowledge, joy, and a more enriched life through the endless gifts found on the written pages of the countless books we are so blessed to have in this world.
Books can change a life in the instant of a single sentence on a page. That is not being overstated. I have felt that kind of transformation and power from the page of a book. What book has changed your life? Please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear.
***Amazon Links to the books are only provided for convenience. Those are not sponsored or affiliate program links.