I have written many articles through the years on the best books I have read — books that have changed me or enhanced me or even pushed me in one way or another. From business to personal, I have read a lot of books! Coming into 2016, though, I wanted a change.
I challenged myself at the end of December to make my reading count for something. To expand beyond the “how to make more money” and “how to be the best version of me” and even push away from the real estate investing-centric topics to really explore how to grow mid-life. I decided to read a new book every two weeks and that I would take on new challenges by reading different topics that would challenge my thinking and maybe even challenge my habits.
What has happened has transformed my daily approach in many areas of life. From family and business to health, wellness and even charity, the books that I have read these first 20 weeks of the year have been nothing short of life-changing!
I decided to share this journey and talk a little about the books themselves. Some may look at this as recommendations; however, this is merely an article about challenging yourself. A new book every two weeks may not be a challenge for some readers, and others may look at that as an impossibility.
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Reading the books themselves led me to new fitness and health challenges and new spiritual habits. The books made me push a little deeper and wider in the subjects I was willing to read. I’ve read about a wide array of subjects, including manifesting thoughts, physics, yoga, death, life, business start-ups, team chemistry, and so on. Hopefully, each of you has the opportunity to maybe pick something from this list or even an idea from the article itself and push for new challenges yourself.
One last thought before the list. Nearly every book came recommended by someone. They either recommended the book directly to me — or as you will see, through social media posts to lots of readers. That is important to me because I am essentially doing the same thing. I am passing it on. I would love it if you did, too. Recommend a great book that you have read this year in the comments. Let other readers and me know what you think will change our thoughts and our directions or even just lighten our moods and make us laugh as we cruise through the rest of the year.
These are the books I have read so far this year in the order that I read them, which means nothing, but it seemed logical to present them that way. First to last, with a little blurb at the end of the books I am currently in the middle of. Hope you enjoy.
The Truth by Neil Strauss
So, anyone who has already read this book may think this was an odd choice to start the New Year off, but it definitely meant I was pushing myself to read in a different direction. This was not an easy book to read, only because the subject matter was a departure for me. However, Neil’s writing is excellent, and the pace of the book helped me to move quickly. In the end, the book made me re-evaluate many relationships in my life and to this day has helped me continue to make progress on finding my life path as opposed to living the one I thought I was supposed to follow. Here is what another reader thought of the book on Amazon reviews:
“The author has the writing ability to take you on a journey with him as he bares the entirely human side of him, flaws and all. He is not always like-able but you stick around to see what happens to him. And sprinkled throughout the book are some interesting situations that you wouldn’t otherwise witness, some thought-provoking questions, and bits and pieces about attachment theory and psychotherapy that the reader can think about and look into while reading this book.”
I will warn you, this book was recommended to me through a mastermind as a fascinating read that would be both entertaining and disturbing at the same time. If you make it through to the end, most likely it will have you doing a lot of introspection.
Living With A Seal by Jesse Itzler
This book could not have been recommended to me at a better time in my life — right off the bat to start the New Year and wake me up from the stupor I had fallen into. No matter which way I look at it, this book is about reawakening the giant within.
It was probably the funniest book I have read in some time, and the stories are so well-paced and timed that I found myself conducting my own mental and physical workouts along with Jesse. I was motivated not by a rah-rah speech, but by a real-life encounter lived through the words of the author himself. This book helped me to refocus my mental energy on the things that mattered most and convinced me to start going after some of the big goals in my life that I had long ago left behind.
Here is a quick excerpt from Amazon reviews:
“Read the book cover to cover in 2 days. Wanted to finish quickly so I could share with my son. The book was both entertaining and inspiring. It also made me question my commitment levels and my own personally set limits. I highly recommend this book.”
Two weeks into the year, and I was already pushing into slightly different territory! More change was still to come, though.
Team Code of Honor by Blair Singer
This book was handed to me one day by a man that I have a great deal of respect and admiration for, Pat Precourt. We’d sat across from one another at a dinner before an event that we were both speaking at, and I guess through the conversation he felt moved to share the book with me.
One of the things I like most about Pat is that he always has a backpack full of books. I have never seen him travel without three or four books in his backpack, and they are usually dog-eared and marked-up from front to back. He reads great and meaningful books over and over again. Now, he was sharing one of those books with me, and I was ready to start something new. I read the book in two days and then found myself reading back over the parts that Pat had already highlighted.
This book is all about how an individual, an entrepreneur in business or a family man or woman at home, develops that simple, powerful set of rules that govern behavior and attitude of any team, organization, family, and even individual. It is what allows a team to do what they once thought was impossible. With unwavering discipline, anything is possible.
Zero to One by Peter Theil
You had to know that there would be a big business book in here sooner or later! This was a book I picked up on a whim at a bookstore in an airport because I needed something to read. There is something about holding a bound cover in my hands full of little pieces of typed paper that still feels energetic.
The book itself was straight forward, and I realized I was going back to lecture in college. That makes sense considering the book grew out of the copious notes of Blake Masters when he took a course on business start-ups taught by none other than Peter Theil. Could there be a better book to read for an entrepreneur with designs on being remarkably uncommon?
The premise behind the book is that all of us can be game-changers. Not game-enhancers nor game-improvers. We can all be game-changers in business if we focus on how to create new products, new systems, new opportunities to change the way we currently operate. To maybe even offer something that no one else is doing. The world is full of new ideas that are half-spun and that crash and burn. But they were new and innovative, just maybe a bit untimely.
The point is, when we create something new and take it from inception to reality, we have gone from zero to one. There is only one moment in time for a business, and Peter Theil has created more than one breakthrough company that created something where nothing existed before. Many have copied, and the method on how to copy is a well-documented practice. How to innovate and create is not. That is where this book comes in. I would highly recommend this book to true entrepreneurs who want to create something that is entirely different.
Make It Big by Frank McKinney
I have recommended this book on every list I have ever published about business and/or real estate. It is an excellent book! I try to read this book every year, and this time, I had the unique perspective of having already started challenging myself with some new thoughts.
What I have always liked about Frank’s book is that it’s an easy-to-follow guide of the 49 tips that Frank gives to create a life of extreme success. Each time I have read it, I have enjoyed the stories and found myself paying attention to the glamor and the success of his real estate business. This time around, I found myself digging out more nuanced tips and ideas. One idea that I have known and never practiced was taking time alone, away from business and family, and using that time to focus in on myself. Another was the idea that no amount of money in the world can define success. I had to define myself outside of monetary terms.
Reading this book again from a new perspective was huge!
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
It’s difficult for me to even start to write the name of this book and to describe why it mattered for me to read it. I am not sure where I first heard about it or even why I decided to add it to my list. All I know is that the book gets to me. Each time I have recommended it, I have choked up trying to describe it. I was not fully aware of what it was about, and then I realized as I dug in that it was about time. How the greatest fallacy we have convinced ourselves of as humans is that we have all the time in the world.
It is the story of a man who knows that he is dying and his race against a ticking clock to find and deliver upon his promise and purpose. A profound closing was written by his widow as she finished the book after his death. Part of it reads, “He wanted people to understand death and face their own mortality. Dying in one’s fourth decade is unusual now, but dying is not.”
I assure you this is less a story about dying and more one about living. One day he thought he had time, and why not? And yet now time was the very thing he had so little of.” This was an outstanding book, and it can have a profound effect on anyone who really spends time digging into its lessons.
Remember, time IS our most precious resource. We cannot get more of it. It cannot be produced nor can it be bought. Yesterday is gone. At some point, maybe we will realize that if we want something badly enough, whatever it is, we have to do it today!
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
One day I noticed a social media post by a runner that I admire and follow, Robyn Arzon. She posted about a book she was reading that was motivating her, and she highlighted some pretty epic words from the book. So, being true to my intentions for the year, I downloaded it a few minutes later and started into the book.
I blew through this book in a matter of days.
When I reached the page of her social media post, I was hooked on the book. “We must risk delight. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.” Those words affected me and helped me as I started into three new habits. One was nightly saying thank you for the things that mattered to me in that day. Big and small. The little victories were offered up as big thanks, and it helped me to close my day out with a smile.
As I was reading and learning and weaving all of the lessons together, I realized that I had been hiding my own creativity. So the second habit I started was writing again — and not just for business. I plowed through my first book (literally ready to publish anytime now) and started writing poetry and short stories again. This was a fantastic creative outlet and was re-fueled by reading this book. I have three more book projects now on the board, and I am prioritizing around my position with the real estate company I own with my family. Since they are business books mostly, they fit right in!
Lastly, I began to make morning declarations of a few things I am grateful for. This really helped me to create a great start to my day and quickly became part of my routine. This book is not a step-by-step on how to do things, but rather an inspirational hack to remind readers that there is a lot to be joyful about.
Inner Confirmation for Outer Manifestation by Richard Dotts
This book was recommended to me by a close friend, as most of these have been. But unlike the others, it was through conversation, and it was specifically recommended just for me. It was as if, this exact book had been chosen for me at that exact moment and I had no idea how big an impact this book was going to have on me.
I am one of those people who is constantly on the move. You may not see it above the water, but like a little duck, my legs are kicking like crazy under the surface. That is the way the inside of my brain works. Unfortunately, I found myself unknowingly spending a lot of time needlessly worrying about things that I either could not control or that were so far in front of me that spending any energy on them at all was a complete waste. I guess that was apparent because the book was recommended to me to help get my energy and focus pointed in the right direction.
I could not find the book on iTunes or at any local bookstore, so I bought it on Kindle and downloaded the app to my computer. I stayed glued to my computer for the next few days and read it several times through. I began practicing the technique of just checking in on myself and how I was feeling, making note of what I was thinking and why. I began to get slightly more focused (it happens slowly over time!), and the best way to describe what happened next was I simply felt lighter and happier.
Now, I was never unhappy. I simply was “Mr. Serious” quite often and laser-focused on whatever objective was in front of me. I looked like the essence of calm, cool, collected and focused. But inside, I was a ball of energy all wrapped up and constantly worrying about things that I could not control. One of my favorite highlights from the book and one that I have read almost daily since is this:
“There is no need to force or rush anything. Give up the need to know where you are going and just let everything be. All is well.”
You may think that sounds like philosophical mumbo-jumbo. However, when I realized the meaning of the message, that if I was moving in the right direction with my thoughts and actions, then I would end up exactly where I was supposed to be, it became easy to focus on the most important things in my daily life and let everything else wait until its time. As they say, “Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery, today is a gift.”
As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Here again is another book recommended by someone through social media, Sean Whalen. Only this time, I had already read the book over 20 years ago and was reminded of its importance in a man’s everyday life.
You see, we are all pushing and driving to make something either better, different, or more self-sufficient in our lives. There are very few who read the Biggerpockets.com blog who would not say that they are motivated in some way by one of those three driving forces. They lead us to become better educated. They drive us to seek out voices we can trust. They make us want to consume as much information as possible all in the name of being better, different, or more self-sufficient. That is where this book comes in, and it can be just as powerful for either sex.
It was funny to me that I was led back to this book at this particular time. Going through the natural nuances of a man in his mid-forties and approaching one more birthday, I would say that this reading list was not my only challenge for the year. Each book had changed me in some small and a few in very profound ways Each had a role in leading me to underline twice and even highlight a line from the chapter, “Effect of Thought on Circumstance.”
“A particular train of thought persisted in, be it good or bad, cannot fail to produce its results on the character and circumstance. A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances.”
A Quick Takeaway From Finishing 9 Books So Far This Year
If this endeavor has taught me anything halfway through the year, it is that where we send our thoughts, our actions will surely follow.
These books have been fantastic reads, and I have a daunting line-up to follow for the rest of the year. I have already dug into three other books right now, including Meditations from the Mat, which follows another practice I have recently taken up, yoga, and The Universe in Your Hand, a book on physics that is a wild ride so far through space and time.
I challenge you, especially if you have read all the way to the bottom, to pick something up off your reading list, dig in, and share it with someone who you think might be changed by reading that book. Share it right here in the comments with the other readers.
Passing on great books that will challenge and maybe change us is the least we can do!