Personal Development

The Top 6 Books Everyone Should Read in 2020

6 Articles Written
closeup of man in white shirt and blue jeans sitting and reading a paperback book

Do you ever get the feeling that you aren’t as successful as you could be or aren’t making any traction on your goals? What are your goals for 2020, and how do you plan to accomplish them?

I struggled big time with this when I quit my teaching job to become a full-time real estate investor. There I was, having to be my own boss. No more steady W-2 paychecks.

Some days I would feel like I hadn’t accomplished anything worthwhile, especially in terms of being a real estate investor. The closing process is long, finding the right property can take months on end of underwriting deals that don’t meet your criteria, and owning real estate has its ups and downs, as well.

Do you ever get the feeling that you aren’t as successful as you could be or aren’t making any traction on your goals? What are your goals for 2020, and how do you plan to accomplish them? If you’re struggling with this, here are six books to help you improve your focus, control your day, and plan your long-term vision.

My goal was to find ways to improve my focus, control the day, and plan out my long-term vision. Then, I would set goals backward based on that vision.

I read over 50 books trying to figure out the best way to go bout this. Here are the six that helped me the most and a brief summary of the key takeaway from each:

  1. Vivid Vision by Cameron Herold — Mapping out your vision
  2. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller/Jay Papasan — Narrowing your focus
  3. Getting Things Done by David Allen — Stress-free productivity
  4. The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran/Michael Lennington — Planning your year in a 12-week block
  5. Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier — Managing your day/time
  6. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy — Multiplying success


Let’s start with your vision, the ultimate goal or picture of the person you want to become. I’m going to assume since you’re on BiggerPockets that your ultimate goal is financial freedom. Being financially free means your passive income exceeds your living expenses, so you can do what you want, when you want, and with whom you want.

Related: Forget S.M.A.R.T. Goals—Achieve True Success Like This

Cameron Herold is a phenomenal writer, and his book Vivid Vision will teach you why you need to have one.

I loved the exercise from the beginning of the book:

“Imagine something you want but don’t have. It could be your dream house. It could be a car you’ve loved your whole life… Pretend you have it now. Imagine yourself inside of it, using it, touching it… Describe what it looks like, how it feels. Describe the features, the lighting, the flow, the energy, the feel of it.”

“That’s a pretty clear vision, isn’t it?”

“This is what you need to do for your company.”

The goal is to identify your vision so you can plan your goals around them and work backward to the present. You then block time on your calendar to accomplish the outcomes that will lead you to your vision. This helps you stay focused over the long haul.

I was lucky enough to interview Cameron about Vivid Vision. You can check that out here. We got to dive into some cool topics about his father and how he struggled with learning in school.


Once you create your vision of how you want your life to be, you can read The Compound Effect to learn how small actions lead to big success. You will also learn to measure those actions while taking responsibility for your life. This book also dives into some of the best relationship advice I’ve ever heard (which is on page 27 if it’s on your bookshelf already).

The biggest takeaway for me was his advice on how to accomplish your No. 1 goal:

“I think about my No. 1 goal and decide which three things I’m going to do on this day to move closer toward reaching it.”

Once you learn that compounding has a powerful effect over time, you can create momentum from tiny actions each day.


But where does the focus come from? With all the distractions in the world these days, The ONE Thing does a wonderful job of tying all these together into the NOW and teaching you about time blocking. This book will likely rock your world—it’s certainly in my top 10 favorite books of all time.

Gary and Jay will teach you how to clear out the clutter, relieve stress, gain energy, and stay on track for your goals. By narrowing your focus, you can truly build your success sequentially.

And they created the most amazing question ever to help you: “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”


Thinking About Your Year

Once you have the vision, learn about small actions, and combine that with focus, you’re ready to plan out your year with The 12 Week Year. I still remember when I planned my year out into 90-day chunks—the results were amazing.

The 12 Week Year explains why it’s important to create a sense of urgency and develop clarity. Instead of planning out your entire year, you plan segments. Where most businesses have a push before the end of the calendar year, you now have a push each quarter.

Related: 7 Fiction Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Thinking About Your Day

The next two books are my favorite combinations when it comes to planning your day: Getting Things Done and Getting Results the Agile Way.

Getting Things Done was revolutionary for me. I first heard about the author David Allen on the BiggerPockets Podcast episode 117. I ordered the book soon after, and my life was never the same in terms of organization. I purged my entire home office and closet, getting rid of all the papers and “stuff” that was just taking up space. I bought a label maker, folder files, and organized all my thoughts.


David says that:

“Our mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”

David is combination of a Zen master and mind ninja. The book will bring you to a place where you can create focus and clarity on what you want to accomplish. You will be able to find peace in your life if you haven’t felt like you’ve had a grip on it lately.

It literally changed my life for the better by helping me organize my life and workspace, create systems to process information, and focus on what I needed to get done.

Don’t just take my word for it either, TIME magazine said it was, “[T]he defining self-help business book of its time.”

The goal after reading it is to create a “mind like water.” I was fortunate enough to interview David, as well. You can listen to that here.

The other book that will help you control your day is Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier, who is the director of innovation at Microsoft. This book really helped me pull together all of the above while teaching me to be agile and not so rigid, which is a typical downfall with systems.

J.D. kept the bug in my head of not trying to be perfect or create perfect and to instead focus on making small improvements on how you live your life.

On page 54 of Getting Results, he says:

“One of the worst pitfalls is to have a rigid system where you can’t respond to change. Another common pitfall is to get bogged down in a system where the tool drives you. With this approach, you’re the driver. You’re in control.” 

One of the biggest lessons I learned is focusing on outcomes instead of just activities or tasks.

Ever felt the need to make a giant list and pick off the easier things first? J.D. will teach you how to plan your day out the agile way.

And even your weeks, too! You’ll learn about the weekly review, planning and vision, daily outcomes, action before motivation, execution checklists, worry breaks, creative hours, and batching and focusing.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

In closing, these six books have overlapping themes, but they truly will help you control your life, your vision, your week, and your day. It is easy to summarize the main lessons of each book, but to truly understand a concept is to hear it from different points of view.

And the No. 1 thing to remember? Don’t focus on perfection or get bogged down in analysis paralysis. Learn, apply, revisit, improve, repeat.

Also from Getting Results:

“Rather than try to perfect things as you go along, try to complete things first. Then go back and improve them. If you try to improve as you go, you often won’t know when to stop. Worse, you won’t complete things.” 

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I am still learning and always love to get a good book recommendation. I have one rule when it comes to books: If someone recommends one, I put it right in my Amazon cart to purchase.


What books do you suggest?

Leave recommendations below in the comment section!

Scott Hollister is a real estate investor, lender, and licensed agent in central Connecticut. He began real estate investing in 2012 with a house hack after his parents lost their home in the reces...
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    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied 8 months ago
    I tell everyone that is interested in personal finance / investing to read "The Richest Man in Babylon". Great book and sets the tone for future success.
    Scott Hollister Rental Property Investor from Connecticut
    Replied 8 months ago
    Another great book!
    Tom Phelan Real Estate Investor from Key West, FL
    Replied 8 months ago
    Speaking of "Finances". There are 45,000,000 IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) in America today. Collectively the IRA investments are valued at $9.9 Trillion. 95% of the $9.9 Trillion is invested in ... Wall Street products. 4% of the $9.9 Trillion is invested in ... investment real estate. This disparity has to raise two questions: Are Wall Street products that Superior to Real Estate? Is Investment Real Estate (rentals) that Inferior to Wall Street products? Wall Street for decades has spend zillions on glib marketing to keep the masses drinking its Kool-aid. NAR (National Associates Of Realtors) with its 1,300,000 Members has spent zippo on why an IRA should own investment real estate. There are 30,000,000 Company 401(k)s in America worth $7.2 Trillion and the majority of funds are invested in ... Wall Street products? Yet an Employee with most 401(k) Plans can borrow 50% of its value up to $50,000 to buy ... rental Real Estate. Kind of makes you wonder whose looking out for whom ...
    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied 8 months ago
    Great point here with where IRA dollars are invested. Lets not forget, the vast majority still look to a financial planner for advice OR their IRA primarily allows investment in Wall Street products exclusively. (Now SDIRAs may be different, but we are talking IRAs here). There are many folks, who "go with the flow" of tradition and invest in paper. They take the advice they are given, dont question it or merely dont put the time into looking at alternative investments. Also compared to Wall Street investment, real estate is more creative and less founded as a place to park your money. And you brought great point, financial institutions and Wall Street spend a quadrillion dollars on marketing (why else would their fees be what they are?!?)
    Scott Hollister Rental Property Investor from Connecticut
    Replied 8 months ago
    Real estate over stock market all day in my experience. But I do try to learn about all types of investing, because if there is a better investment or a better way of doing things, I'm going to go that way. Have you ever read Money Master the Game by Tony Robbins? I thought it gave a pretty good insight on how to invest for the majority of people. But for me, a past school teacher with student debt, I can do some amazing things with just a small amount of funds.
    Dave Van Horn Fund Manager from Berwyn, PA
    Replied 8 months ago
    Thanks for the list Scott!! I loved the "Compound Effect" and "The One Thing" both of which are worth more than one read, and I'll be sure to check out the others. As for a few I'm currently reading: " Extreme Ownership" by Jocko Willink, "Fanocracy" by David Meerman Scott, and "Thinking in Bets" by Annie Duke.
    Ryan Luby Investor from CT
    Replied 8 months ago
    Great article Scott! Dave, Thinking in Bets has to be one of my all-time favorites!! This and Principles by Ray Dalio are the most practical, applicable, and useful books I have ever read. Enjoy!
    Davido Davido Rental Property Investor from Olympia, WA
    Replied 8 months ago
    Thank you Scott. Well done.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied 8 months ago
    Great article Scott! Nice to see you writing for BP!
    Scott Hollister Rental Property Investor from Connecticut
    Replied 7 months ago
    Appreciate the kind words! Always enjoy reading your articles!
    Cahit Karakas from Kansas City / MO
    Replied 8 months ago
    Thanks for the share of the list. Adding to my list to read asap.
    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied 8 months ago
    thanks for the list! I am at the library now and will be looking to see if any of these are on file
    Gail Dudlicek from Surprise, Arizona
    Replied 6 months ago
    The link that says "7 FIction Books that every entrepreneur should read" Actually leads to