5 Powerful Business Books That Changed the Direction of My Life

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(I wrote this post originally for Entrepreneur.com, and they have been gracious enough to let me repost it here for the BiggerPockets audience. Here’s the original.) 

Quiz time: Can you name Newton’s first law of motion?

No? (Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up, too.)

Newton declared, “Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.”

In other words, if you are flying in the International Space Station and toss an apple out the window (come on, use your imagination), it will keep going in that same direction forever, unless something stops it (like a planet, gravity or alien life form).

Although Newton was talking about physics, little did he know he was also describing life.

People tend to move in the same direction as they always have unless some external force is applied. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my life to be lived in a straight line. I want to change, to improve, to crush it.

This is why I read.

A book is a powerful external force that can completely knock your life off its mundane straight line and change everything about who you are. The following are five books that did just that in my life.

1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Something was eating me alive inside. (No, it wasn’t a parasite.) It was an idea.

Something about work, life, money, wealth and freedom — but I couldn’t quite say what that idea was. For months it weighed on me, but I couldn’t find words to express it.

Then came Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.

Related: The 21 Best Real Estate Books Ever!

Finally, there were words for the internal dialog that was taking place every minute of my life. I could finally form my abstract thoughts about money into actual speech — and it changed my life forever.

It’s hard to say exactly what Rich Dad, Poor Dad is because it means so many different things to so many different people. But the gist of it is this: The poor work for their money, but the rich make their money work for them. It’s a mindset book more than anything, but with enough stories and examples to keep you captivated. It’s no wonder this book is hands down the most popular book recommended by guests on The BiggerPockets Podcast that I co-host each week.

Kiyosaki taught me to stop saying, “It can’t be done,” and start asking, “How can it be done?” in every area of life. He started me on a journey that led me to buy my first rental property, followed by dozens of other investment properties that got me out of the “rat race” by the time I was 27.

For the first time, I began to see that wealth is not an accident, but an action. (Yes, I expect you to tweet that! I worked hard on that line!)

Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of Rich Dad, Poor Dad this week.

2. The Total Money Makeover

A year after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad, a friend from church recommended I read through Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover, and once again, my life took a turn for the better after a rude awakening: my spending was out of control!

I was spending $1,000 a month more than I was making. How did I not realize this?

The Total Money Makeover helped me to look at my personal finances with more seriousness and gave me a passion to pay off debt, live more frugally, and save more money.

Suddenly, having a budget didn’t seem like a chore, it felt like I finally had a reign on my wallet. I was in control of my spending. My spending was not in control of me.

As an entrepreneur, some months are financially better than others. However, because of the lessons I learned from The Total Money Makeover, I’m better prepared to handle the difficult times because I have a strong personal finance foundation.

3. The 4-Hour Workweek
4 hour workweek

No, I don’t work four hours a week. No, I don’t travel to exotic countries to salsa dance. I don’t even know what Chinese kickboxing is.

But Tim Ferriss’ story and philosophy about business and life resonated with me in a powerful way that altered my life, my relationships, my free time and my purpose.

Whereas Rich Dad, Poor Dad taught me that wealth was mine for the taking, The 4-Hour Workweek taught me that life was mine for the taking.

I don’t need to wait until I’m 62 to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I don’t need to have $1,000,000 in the bank to achieve the life that millionaires brag about. I don’t need to slave away at a job I hate just to pay the bills.

There is another way.

Part productivity handbook, part inspirational and part lesson in entrepreneurship, The 4-Hour Workweek refuses to be classified as anything but what it truly is: life-changing.

I think critics of The 4-Hour Workweek tend to focus too much on the specifics of the book. “I can’t do that in my job” or “I don’t want to travel the world like Ferriss.” They are missing the point and can’t see the forest for the trees.

You don’t need to hire a virtual assistant for $2 an hour to change your life (though, I did). You don’t need to start an online business that generates passive income (though, I did). You don’t even need to backpack Europe like a hippy (though, I did). However, there are ways you can improve your business and life through efficiency and optimization.

For example, I hate talking on the phone with tenants, so after reading The 4-Hour Workweek, I hired someone part time to answer phones for me and show vacant units. The cost to me is tiny compared the amount of mental space it cleared up in my life, time that I could spend doing business activities I actually enjoy doing.

To sum up The 4-Hour Workweek: Find things in life that make you passionate, pursue them with all your soul, and enjoy a glass of red wine while you are at it.

Click here to pick up a copy of The Four Hour Workweek on Amazon.

4. The Lean Startup

The fourth book to cross my path at just the right time was The Lean Startup by Eric Ries.

I had used real estate investing to get out of the rat race and was able to jump into my passion: teaching real estate to others. BiggerPockets was a small company at the time, with just the CEO (Josh Dorkin) and one developer. When I came on board, suddenly I was over my head in a world I knew nothing about: startup culture.

This is when The Lean Startup changed everything for me. No doubt, you’ve heard of this book, as the entire startup world has been transformed by lean methodology. Rather than building something that I want, why not build something everyone will want?

The Lean Startup got me excited about building a business that mattered, not just a business that made some money.

5. The One Thing

Life gets hectic, does it not?

I was working 100 hours a week between managing my rental properties, flipping houses, working at BiggerPockets and working on side projects as well. And I was burning out.

That’s when this final book book took me by the shoulders and gave me a good, hard shake. The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is an easy to read but profound book that helped me to focus on keeping the main thing the main thing in all areas of my life.

The One Thing asks, “What’s the one thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

By asking this question a dozen times a day, I am finding more time in my day to work calmly, taking less work home with me at night, fielding fewer emails and producing more income each month. It’s like magic.

Are you ready to escape the “straight-line life” and allow books to change who you are? If so, I highly recommend starting with these five books.

Now it’s your turn! I’d love if you let me (and the rest of the community) know what books have had the biggest impact on your life. Leave your comments below!

Image credit: rafaelsoares | Flickr

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on BiggerPockets.com. Like... seriously... a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of "The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down", and "The Book on Rental Property Investing" which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.

37 Comments

      • Brad Lohnes

        Wholeheartedly agree! Audiobooks have helped me read through a virtual library full of these types of books. I don’t even mind sitting in a bit of traffic anymore, and certainly don’t race through an intersection with an amber light – just stop and get a little more listening in! Audiobooks have revolutionized time management. 🙂

        • Brad Lohnes

          Yes, if you’re in the car or at the gym, it’s not very handy to write things down. This is the main drawback. I find that I overcome it in three ways:

          1. Listen multiple times. I usually only add 1 book to my audiobook collection per month, but I often go back and listen to books 2, 3, 4 or more times! At least the really good ones. Each time I get a little more out of it.

          2. Write down the key points that you do remember when you get to your destination. I use Google docs, and that way no matter where I am I can add/update notes.

          3. Focused study. If there’s an important section that I really want to get written down, particularly if I need word-for-word notes, then I’ll try to find some time to sit down in front of my computer, find the spot and re-listen, pausing, backing up, and taking notes as I go.

          Certainly, this latter part would be way easier with a physical book. If you have lots of time to read and really like physical books, do it! I just have 3 little kids at home, and not much free time. But I spend 40-60 minutes a day in the car, and I’m even excited to go to the gym because I get another hour to listen to a book. In this way, I’ve consumed 55 books in a little over 3 years, when I wouldn’t have otherwise had much time for 2 or 3 at home.

  1. Noel John Cabrigas

    The timing for this blog is perfect! I’ve been searching for a new book or books to read. I read anything I can get my hands on relating to REI and personal development. Thanks again!

    Looking forward to the new podcast this Thursday!!

  2. John Conway

    Just ordered “The One Thing” based on your recommendation. I have enjoyed all of Gary Keller’s books. One of my favorite is the Millionaire Real Estate Investor. I re-read it often, and I think it is a must-read for anyone taking this business seriously. Thanks for sharing your list!

  3. issa rice

    I am currently reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. A friend and I went to their three day seminar. “You don’t know, what you don’t know” is the phrase that stuck in my mind after the seminar and I realize that there was a lot about finances that I didn’t know. There was a lot about wealth that I didn’t know and I was mad that no one ever thought me a better way of life.

  4. Natasha Keck

    Great list of books! I’d add these as books that will provide that shove to change your straight line thinking.

    – One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer. The concept of sneaking around your lizard brain (fear) with tiny steps has been life changing. Also the concept of gaining momentum, in any direction.

    – Energy Addict or The Power of Full Engagement. I didn’t find either book well written, but the concept was an “a ha”. Managing energy, not time, is the key to success. Figure out how to maximize my energy and selecting my activities based on my energy level was a game changer.

    – Poor Charlie’s Almanack. A collection of quips, speeches, and advice from Charlie Munger (lesser known partner of Warren Buffet). So many good nuggets of wisdom, but notably, figuring what what is stupid and avoiding that is far easier than being brilliant, and often gets your farther.

    – The Luck Factor: this totally changed how I view luck and how I spend time making sure I’m in the right position to be lucky all the time.

    Happy Reading! Thanks for the post, Brandon.

  5. Michael Woodward

    Excellent article Brandon!! Reading books about other people’s experiences, businesses, and lives in general is incredibly important for everyone. In my opinion, this is the most powerful path toward improvement in every area of life. Thanks for sharing!

    A thought…… I don’t know if BP has a formal book club or recommended reading section but that would be a great thing to have. Every time I hear someone on BP recommend a book, I go look it up to see if it’s something that I could benefit from.

  6. Bruce M.

    I’ve read all of these books except The Lean Startup. I’ll have to review that one and see if it’s one I would benefit from. One of the best books I’ve read is Invest In Debt by Jimmy Napier. It hasn’t changed my life but it has drastically changed my thinking about buying and creating notes. It’s a quick read and has simple concepts everyone can benefit from.

  7. Great list. I have read the first 2 and they really did change my way of life. I am working through the debt free goal. Love Jon Acuff’s books, Quitter, Start and his newest, Do Over. I also love Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Great book about what your life is about. Thanks – Wendy

  8. Jeff Deville

    I’ve read all but Ramsey’s so I started it today and am curious how you reconcile Ramsey with Ferris. They are really not saying the same thing. Actually, Ramsey seems to be the odd man out on Rich Dad and The One Thing to lesser degrees. (I’m admittedly only a few chapters to Ramsey’s book )

  9. John Yanko

    Rich Dad Poor Dad, truly opened my eyes. And I have never read a book ( for personal measures) and finished reading in 3 days. I know that’s horrible, but that says a lot about this book.
    Looking forward to reading “The 4-Hour Workweek”.

  10. Andrew Syrios

    Good list (except I’m not a big fan of Rich Dad, Poor Dad). My list would be:

    1. The Millionaire Real Estate Investor
    2. Getting Things Done
    3. How to Win Friends and Influence People
    4. Thinking Fast and Slow
    5. The Four Hour Work Week

  11. Mark Armstrong

    In this order

    1) How to Win Friends and Influence people (Warren Buffet’s top favorite too!!)
    2) The Four Hour Work Week
    3) The One Thing
    4) The E Myth

    Spend a large part of my day driving in traffic and a big proponent of Audible. My current audible purchase list (approx 20 books) for the most part have been really enjoyable. Well all but one was enjoyable. One of them I called Amazon and asked for a credit due to the reader forcing flashbacks to Margaritaville where I nearly ended up in a fight standing my ground with two over “passionate” gorilla’s who loved pushing and pushing and pushing. But I digress. Of my current library, the above 4 I found, for me personally to be seriously life changing. I have leveraged the above books towards meeting my real estate goals, but as well with my current business of equipment repair, and these four have been almost a lightning bolt of good stuff when it comes to improving quality of life, income, being with the kids, etc… The list of benefits is long, but the instruction from the above books concerning utilizing tools like Virtual assistants, defusing agitated customers, orchestrating profitable strategies, big picture thinking etc… has caused our income to more than double and hopefully we will have more good news to report in the future.

    Dave Ramsey was a good read for me but if your finances aren’t a total train wreck or you have moved on from newbie status you might end up feeling the read was needed twenty years earlier, and your wasting precious time reading it. Really depends where you are in your journey.

    Just downloaded The Lean Startup, can’t wait. Thanks Brandon

  12. Todd Linton

    Thanks for the list. Only one I have read is Rich Dad Poor Dad and like most it changed the way I thought. My 16 year old son just finished reading it and was similarly moved. Next on the list is the 4 hour work week as it has been recommended to me numerous times now.
    I look forward to the read.
    Cheers

  13. Justin Kling

    I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and that book changed my thinking forever! The 4 Hour Workweek is also great in that regard. I’d recommend these books:
    1. Investing in Duplexes, Triplexes, and Quads – Larry Loftis, opened my eyes to how the numbers can get really big, really fast
    2. 177 Mental Toughness Secrets of the World Class – Steve Siebold, great study of the best of the best
    3. anything by Tony Robbins, I listened to Awaken the Giant Within on a road trip and set a bunch of goals
    4. The Prayer of Jabez – Bruce Wilkinson, my daily prayer, just Google it!!!
    5. The Charge – Brendon Burchard, great read for living a charged life
    Also…podcasts! I have listened to well over a 1000 podcasts while commuting to work and back over the last few years. The BP Podcast is outstanding, I also listen to the Real Estate Guys for knowledge on numerous real estate topics and Creating Wealth by Jason Hartman, he gives lots of great info too.

  14. Luke Teson

    Have read number one and many others by Robert Kiyosaki, I love reading anything he writes.

    Other books that have really resonated with me are
    1. How to win friends and influence people
    2. Think and grow rich
    3. Magic of thinking big
    4. The millionaire mind
    5. The millionaire real estate investor
    6. The law of success
    7. The power of positive thinking
    8. 7 habits of highly effective people

    Again very grateful for the recommendations, looking forward to immersing myself in these great reads!

    Leaders are readers!

  15. Chiagozie Fawole

    Glad I found this post. I was running out of ideas for my next book. Just started “Thou shall prosper,” as recommended on the last podcast. I think I’ll finally get Dave Ramsey’s book, then 4-hr work week and lean startup.

  16. Mike McKinzie

    No one has mentioned “The Richest Man in Babylon” or “The Miracle Morning…”. But it also depends on what you are looking for? Motivation? Teaching? Inspiration? Technical Knowledge? Biographies? History? Financial Knowledge? And many more categories! BUT, the main idea here is to ALWAYS BE READING something!

    • Doug Compton

      Mike, I agree that “The Richest Man in Babylon” is certainly in the top 5 if not at #1. It should be required reading of all upon turning 21. I really wish I had read this as a youth. My life would have been vastly different. I am now trying to get my 24 y.o. daughter to read it. If I can get her to do so I hope her mind is open to accepting the truths in that book.

  17. Brad Lohnes

    Agree with many books on this list. I know some people don’t like Robert Kiyosaki, but I have found his insights to be extremely mind expanding and empowering. Besides Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which also changed the course of my life and also inspired me to get into real estate investing, I also rate some of his other books:

    1. Rich Dad, Poor Dad
    2. Rich Dad’s Cash Flow Quadrant
    3. Rich Dad’s Retire Young, Retire Rich

    Having very young kids, I even found Rich Dad’s Rich Kid Smart Kid to have useful information. Surprisingly, Kiyosaki has more to offer than just his first book! 🙂

    Besides this, I highly rate:

    1. Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsay. Yes, if your finances are sorted, then perhaps it’s not for you, but that can be said of any book: if you already know the content of the book and have applied it to your life, it will be less valuable for you. 😉

    However, the program described in this book, stripped right back to it’s essentials, is the framework for how we manage our personal finances. (Note: I don’t agree with the author when it comes to rentals – I absolutely believe in taking on debt to purchase investment real estate – tenants paying off that debt and the tax benefits associated with the debt servicing are two of the four pillars of wealth creation through real estate investment!)

    2. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko. Great for getting grounded on what exactly “getting rich” or becoming a millionaire really means and how it’s achieved. It’s a good counterpoint to Kiyosaki’s stories of buying Porsches and living the high life – helps create a balanced outlook.

    3. Though Shall Prosper and Business Secrets from the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. Extremely well thought out and morality-based discussion of wealth building. If you have any misgivings about the journey to becoming wealthy, this really helps to solidify a positive and moral philosophy for wealth-building.

    4. Jim Rohn – Most of his stuff that I’ve found is based on speeches that he’s done, but The Art of Exceptional Living is a good place to start.

  18. Matthew Hafer

    Richest man in Babylon by classon
    Rules of wealth by templar
    Money master the game by Robbins
    And as far as Mr Jim Rohn is concerned o prefer his seminars to his books. “Best year ever” is on YouTube 4.5 hrs of simple reminders.

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