Oh my goodness, has it really been two years since I shared a list of the books that changed my life?
You know that feeling when you read something that stops you in your tracks and makes the hair stand up on your neck? It’s like suddenly everything else blurs and even though your feet are on the ground, your body seems like it has floated to somewhere else. These ‘aha!’ moments really inspire and motivate me and since we last talked about it, I’ve been searching for more.
I love asking people whom I respect and admire which books have changed their lives. A couple of years ago, I shared a list that you guys seemed to really connect with (and I have gone back and reread a few of those, and somehow they were completely different books the second time around!). So here’s another list of books that changed how I think about things, caused me to pause and reflect a bit more often, and helped me approach business in new and exciting ways:
Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
By Cheryl Strayed
Most people know Cheryl Strayed from the book and subsequent movie, Wild. Though I haven’t read that book nor watched the movie, I did at least know a bit about her from all of the hype surrounding it when I picked up Tiny Beautiful Things.
Strayed was once an advice columnist writing under the pseudonym, Sugar. It was an unpaid gig that she did so brilliantly, drawing from her own difficult experience and being so raw and vulnerable in her responses, I couldn’t put it down. I cried a lot, I laughed a lot, I saw myself in so many of the pages, both in the question askers and in some of her answers. Sugar isn’t your typical advice columnist, she just might change your life with her tough love and no-b.s. answers that so clearly come from a life overflowing with richness in experiencing the tough things, and the tiny, beautiful things.
I suppose this is what I mean when I say we cannot possibly know what will manifest in our lives. We live and have experiences and leave people we love and get left by them. People we thought would be with us forever aren’t and people we didn’t know would come into our lives do. Our work here is to keep faith with that, to put it in a box and wait. To trust that someday we will know what it means, so that when the ordinary miraculous is revealed to us we will be there, standing before the baby girl in the pretty dress, grateful for the smallest things.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
by Charles Duhigg
This book came up on my Kindle recommendations list and I knew I had seen the title over and over, and that it had been recommended to me once or twice, so I bought it.
This book is not just eye-opening, it’s incredibly engaging and well-written.
It mostly focuses on individual stories while continuously driving the point home that we are creatures of habit and at some point our habits just take over and become our lives, like something as small as biting our nails or something as damaging as smoking cigarettes or gambling. However by being mindful and identifying said habits, we have the power to change them by replacing certain actions at the right point in the habit loop. I read this in January and every now and then I catch myself in a habit and try to come up with ways to change it. Maybe old dogs can learn new tricks.
The way we habitually think of our surroundings and ourselves create the worlds that each of us inhabit. “There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says ‘Morning, boys. How’s the water?’ ” the writer David Foster Wallace told a class of graduating college students in 2005. “And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes ‘What the hell is water?’ ” The water is habits, the unthinking choices and invisible decisions that surround us every day—and which, just by looking at them, become visible again.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
by Mark Manson
I reference Mark a lot on this blog, and he was the one who led me to Tiny Beautiful Things as well. I don’t agree with absolutely everything he says but I connect with most of it, particularly this book. It’s a much-expanded version of one of his most popular blog posts by the same title.
This book reminds us that feeling bad sometimes is part of the human experience, and that by always seeking happiness or pleasure, we are dissatisfied with anything else. Yet life does not exist in the extremes, but rather in the middle. By giving too many fucks about the wrong things, we make ourselves miserable. This book goes through all the ways in which we take ourselves on emotional rollercoasters, incorporating ideas from Buddhism, modern philosophers like Alan Watts, and psychology as well. Mark knows his stuff, and he really shows it in this book while making complex topics relatable and funny at times.
Predictably, it also has the word ‘fuck’ in it constantly.
We suffer for the simple reason that suffering is biologically useful. It is nature’s preferred agent for inspiring change. We have evolved to always live with a certain degree of dissatisfaction and insecurity, because it’s the mildly dissatisfied and insecure creature that’s going to do the most work to innovate and survive. We are wired to become dissatisfied with whatever we have and satisfied by only what we do not have.
You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
By Jen Sincero
I saw this book on a friend’s coffee table and when Audible was all, “hey, you’d like this based on the other stuff you read” I was all, cool sounds like the perfect road trip companion. And since I was by myself and feeling particularly empowered out in the desert on those backcountry roads, listening to this book narrated by Jen Sincero herself felt particularly poignant.
Her message is clear: Dream so big that it scares your friends and makes people uncomfortable. Then take the actions to make that dream come true. Trust. Trust in the path you’re on, make your relationship with money a good, healthy one, and know that you are, as the title suggests, a badass.
I implore you to listen to rather than read this one. I love when authors narrate their own books and Jen does a fantastic job of really driving the point home. She’s not just an author but a motivational speaker. Listen to it in transit. Make that time work for you.
You are perfect. To think anything less is as pointless as a river thinking that it’s got too many curves or that it moves too slowly or that its rapids are too rapid. Says who? You’re on a journey with no defined beginning, middle or end. There are no wrong twists and turns. There is just being. And your job is to be as you as you can be. This is why you’re here. To shy away from who you truly are would leave the world you-less. You are the only you there is and ever will be. I repeat, you are the only you there is and ever will be. Do not deny the world its one and only chance to bask in your brilliance
The Power of Now
How did it take me so long to discover this? I was familiar with impermanence and the importance of focusing on the now rather than worrying about the past, which is over, or the future, which has not yet arrived but I didn’t really get it. Really, all we have is right now. Easier said than fully followed and believed, right?
If you only pick one book from this list, make it this one. I also highly suggest listening to it as opposed to reading it, as there’s a bit more to this version than in the book version – like some questions and answers. I think it really adds an element to it that helps us to understand Tolle’s point, especially when some of the advice is hard to swallow.
Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.
Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
by Timothy Ferriss
Most people would probably fangirl if they saw Tom Hanks, but I would fangirl much harder if I met Tim Ferriss. His writing has changed my life, starting with the Four Hour Workweek. Based on his podcast, Tools of Titans is an even heavier hitter with the daily habits and most-recommended books and suggestions from professional athletes like Shaun White, spiritual gurus like Tony Robbins, and like everyone else you’ve ever wanted to hear from. Tim manages to get almost everyone to talk to him and spill the beans.
What amazes me is how much of what works for one person is the opposite from another, like people who swear by waking up early and people who admit to being night owls. Yet some tools almost seem universal, like meditation. What will you pick out of it that helps you lead a more impactful and meaningful life? This is one I’ll read again and again.
Powerful quote (from Tony Robbins paraphrasing Warren Buffett):
Investing in yourself is the most important investment you’ll ever make in your life. . . . There’s no financial investment that’ll ever match it, because if you develop more skill, more ability, more insight, more capacity, that’s what’s going to really provide economic freedom. . . . It’s those skill sets that really make that happen.
The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art has been going around the entrepreneur and creative professional circles for some time now and when the same friend who had recommended Essentialism (from the last list) to me suggested this book, I picked it up without questioning it.
This book is fantastic for those of us who do creative work. How often have you hesitated to do something because you were afraid it wouldn’t be good enough, or wouldn’t be received with the glory we artists tend to crave? It’s a short but powerful read, and helped me to identify areas where I had resistance towards reaching goals. In many cases, I hadn’t realized it was there until I read this.
The professional keeps his eye on the doughnut and not on the hole. He reminds himself it’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.
Conquering Mountains: How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly
by Kristin Addis
Is it okay if I list my own book? Maybe it seems strange to do so, but this book quite literally has changed my life, and the lives of so many women who have read it. I’m so humbled by how it has taken off and helped women to build up the courage, savings, and skills to get out there and take on the world solo. I love that when nobody in a woman’s immediate circle is supporting her, she can find encouragement in this book.
And by the time I finished, I realized that while the formula changes a bit from person to person and region to region, everyone basically has the same fears and comes up against similar opposition before our travels. All we have to do is just muster up the courage and go. That is the most important step.
While I’m still far (far, far, far) from perfect, those are some of the books that have changed me for the better recently. Learning and growing is a lifelong practice, and that’s why it has been so good to go back and re-read some of the books I connected with in the past as well, as the new person I am today.
I hope that somewhere in there, you find something that you connect with. I’d also love to hear from you about what books, podcasts, or websites have changed your life.
We’re on this journey together, after all!
*By the way, some of these links are affiliate links, and if you purchase through said link, I will get a tiny (like honestly minuscule barely perceptible) small kickback at no extra cost to you. This list is mainly here because these authors are awesome, and you are also awesome, and because a penny saved is a penny earned. Thanks, as always, for your support.
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