In writing AIMbitious: A Life of Enlightened Self-Leadership over the last year and a half, there were numerous books that I read that added great value to my work and life. In a blog post called The 5 Books that Will Change Your Life I catalogue some of the best and most enlightening books I’ve read over the last eighteen months and highlight some of the key principles that make these books as powerful as they are. I’m confident that reading even one of them will give you new insights for all the creative ways to create more excitement and enhance the results in your life.
1) Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl
A story about a PHD psychologist who uses the power of his mind to find meaning in his life and ultimately survive Nazi Germany. It is a harrowing account of survival and mental perseverance. Frankl, who had a chance to flee Nazi Germany for the U.S. to pursue his psychiatric work, chose to remain with his parents and family amidst the backdrop of one of the most repressive and destructive regimes in human history. This book made me feel as though if a human can withstand years of unprecedented suppression and create conditions within his mind of optimism and opportunity, then there’s no reason that any of us can’t find optimism in our lives too.
Frankl’s psychology is called logotherapy – the importance of finding meaning in one’s life. So much of our quality of life depends far more on where we live mentally than physically. It is not the reality of the external world that determines the value we give to our lives, but the reality we create from an empowering internal psychology. The capstone quotation in the book, which Frankl borrows from Nietsche, is, “He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.” When we search for the Why in life – that is, when we understand what our purpose is – life becomes meaningful beyond measure, and physical circumstances – however difficult – prove inadequate contenders of the mind.
2) Success Built to Last – Porras, Emery, Thomson
Success Built to Last captures the essence of what it takes to create an enduring successful business and teaches how to practice rituals of meaningful entrepreneurship and creativity. The bottom line: love what you do and do what you love with passion and intensity. In interviewing hundreds of successful business owners, from billionaire CEOs to small business execs, the authors concluded that, “although popularity and affluence, for example, are nice outcomes, people prefer to define success as the ability to make a difference, create lasting impact, and being engaged in a life of personal fulfillment.”
We are at a clear turning point in the economy and our business lives where we need different and more enlightened standards and definitions of success. It is not enough anymore to merely create profit. Creating bottom-line wealth at the expense of social well-being undermines the purpose of an economy and capitalism. We are not always meant to live at the irreversible edge of avarice and greed. Success Built to Last shows how you can turn your passion and vision into a business and lucrative career that not only allows you to make a good profit, but that creates a positive contribution to the economy and society. Business at its core is about relationships and serving others. When you can focus on those two principles as the core of your business, the profit will follow. For anyone looking to start a business the right way – to ensure that your business lasts and makes a positive impact – this book is a must read.
3) Four Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss
Tim’s book reminds us that we have to take risks in our lives and that very few things are as irreversible or permanent as we believe. If you leave your job to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity, chances are you’ll be able to get another one. The leading ambassador of lifestyle design, Tim offers practical guidance for how to start a business that allows you to travel six months out of the year, outsource most of your responsibilities, and focus on enjoying life rather than living in a hamster wheel of success.
Life is short – but working only 4 hours a week is shorter. There’s no longer a need to put your dreams on layaway for “someday” to arrive. That day is now. Tim teaches you to be the master architect and sculptor of your own life and through his insights and experiences is able to condense into days what took others decades to achieve. Lifestyle design allows every one to become their own Picasso of the moment while living with passion, and where everyday can be a new, interesting adventure rather than mere routine. If you want to become fluent in a language in three months, create automatic cash flow through internet and outsourcing techniques, or are someone who has a dream life waiting to be created, this book gives you the tools – and the reason – to get started today.
While I always knew intellectually it was acceptable to take time off and pursue my own lifestyle, 4 Hour Work Week provides the mental and physical template to go out and experience the world and understand that your lifestyle and business need not be a mutually exclusive partnership.
4) The Art of Loving – Erich Fromm
Fromm’s Art of Loving provides keen insight into relationships and loving as an art. For a book written almost sixty years ago, it is extremely prescient and effectual in addressing contemporary issues of love and how we can all create more meaningful relationships with others and with ourselves. One of Fromm’s most poignant remarks is found in his commentary on love not receiving proper respect in the society’s hierarchy of values. “And, maybe, here lies the answer to the question of why people in our culture try so rarely to learn this art [of love], in spite of their obvious failures: in spite of the deep-seated craving for love, almost everything else is considered to be more important than love: success, prestige, money, power—almost all our energy is used for the learning of how to achieve these aims, and almost none to learn the art of loving.”
There is a balance. We clearly have to pursue financial success, but we can do it with a more open heart and mind. Fromm shows us how – philosophically, emotionally, and practically. Love is one of those spiritual currencies that is at the root of so many issues in society – both good and bad. If we can learn to love others more openly and honestly, and start to use love not as something that is shared abstemiously based on condition, but rather as a reflection of the celebration of life and the human spirit, then perhaps love is something that will command greater value in the social economy. Either way Fromm provides a guide to understanding love, what true love is, and how to incorporate it healthfully into your life to create increasingly holistic and meaningful experiences.
5) What If? & Why Not? – Jen Groover
Groover’s book is the complete underdog in this category. I had never heard of her before I picked up her book, but I was perhaps most impressed with her message. She provides sound advice for how to start a business and how to get yourself over those mental hurdles that prevent you from getting what you really want in business – and from your life. As Jen says, “Remember that a business is nothing less than a reflection of you. The company’s development will follow the same arc as your personal growth.” One of the greatest elements of starting a business is that as much as you’re building a company, you’re also building yourself. When you’re in charge of your business, the success you achieve is a direct reflection of your input and how you grow with the company – because the company is you.
Jen also debunks many myths about the fail rate of starting a business, explaining that far more than 20% of companies that launch succeed and last beyond the five-year mark. By focusing on the realities of starting a business, and the potential rewards, she helps us discover that it is perhaps riskier – financially and emotionally – not to start a business than to take the risk and start the company of your dreams. Following Jen’s methodology will help any aspiring entrepreneur position a business for success. She also provides a detailed roadmap of emotions that entrepreneurs inevitably face in starting a company so that you not only know when to expect them, but also know how to handle them and move forwards.