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I credit reading with a significant portion of my personal growth over the past few years. I wish I had started reading sooner. In fact, it’s probably one of my biggest regrets.

I didn’t get into reading personal development books, or any books for that matter until I turned about thirty-five years old. I was at a turning point in my life. I had a young son. My business wasn’t progressing as I would have liked. And, most important, I was unhappy.

Desperate for a change, I joined a coaching program for my business. The person that owned the program frequently recommended books that he felt applied to the lesson he was giving. Over time, I began to take his advice and read them.

Since then, my appetite for reading has grown. As I come in contact with more and more successful business-people, I find one of the most common traits is their propensity to read books. Associating with these successful people further encouraged me to grow my library and has exposed me to books I would not have otherwise found.

In my own experience, I have five books that I point to as key influences in my life. When I had no good peer examples to show me the correct way, I found these authors and their books to give me the guidance and perspective I needed to change for the better.

Here are my top five personal development books in order of my importance:

The 10X Rule by Grant Cardone

Grant Cardone is a polarizing figure. People seem to love him or hate him. I don’t know him personally but for a few months, as I listened to the 10X Rule, he was my best friend.

I first downloaded the 10X Rule audiobook in the fall of 2014. I listened to it as I did yard work and found myself finding more and more work to do as I listened. I was enthralled. I also felt very guilty.

This book showed me that I wasn’t doing enough. I was comparing my efforts to the efforts of others. Not others that were highly successful. I was comparing myself to others that weren’t successful at all. I wasn’t reaching up, I was looking around and vindicating myself based on false ideals and a victim mentality.

The 10X Rule started my internal search for the drive and determination that I needed to begin taking my life from “just a bit better than average” to “the sky’s the limit!”

I listened to this book three times in a row. Each time, I came away with new information and motivation. It launched me into personal development obsession and my business in entirely new directions. I certainly lost momentum at times, but I was never the same again.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

It took me awhile to get around to Start with Why. After the 10X Rule, I spent a lot of time reading business books. I learned about business processes, strategies, ethics, and employee issues. What I didn’t spend time learning was myself. If the 10X Rule is the ultimate book on producing action and momentum, Start With Why is the ultimate book in finding your true motivation.

The only reason I place Grant Cardone’s book ahead of this one is that because, without it, I never would have made the effort to read Start With Why. The 10X Rule was the catalyst for a lot of my action afterward but I wasted a lot of energy as I struggled to figure out what I wanted. I knew that I needed to do “more” but didn’t know the direction in which to point my effort. I wish I had read Start With Why much sooner than I did.

Start With Why helped me crystallize what was important to me and it has changed my life. I didn’t have a moment of immediate clarity. Things came into a slow focus but I now had a general direction for my efforts.

It was a hard road. As I sorted out my conflicting priorities, wants, and needs, I lost a few friends. The direction of my business changed, yet again, as I refined our principles and practices. I found that certain personal associations, clients, and even employees did not fit my “why.” As my ethics, morals, and vision for my family’s future came into view, I found that I needed to make hard choices.

Start With Why started me on a journey of self-discovery and personal development. It’s a journey that I now know I will always be on until I pass away.

I cannot wait to read this book in another year or two to see how my perspective has changed.

10% Happier by Dan Harris

I tried to read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and found it nauseating. I felt as if something was wrong with me for feeling that way. That is until I read 10% Happier. In it, Dan Harris struggles to find the cause behind his on-air anxiety attack. He sought out gurus like Tolle and found them missing the mark.

Dan’s constant struggle to become just a bit happier is a point I take seriously. There is no magic pill or bullet. We don’t magically solve our problems. In life, happiness, health, and work, we need to do the small things each day that make us just a bit better… happier.

I still struggle to meditate daily. I know it is good for me but I don’t keep up with it. Am I going to quit trying? No way. I struggled to get physically fit for years. I didn’t quit because I knew that it needed to happen. Eventually, I found a process that worked for me. I intend to do the same with meditation and my happiness.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

Holy f*ck! I’ve read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck twice now. Cardone talks about action, Sinek speaks of reason, Harris teaches patience, and Mark Manson gives the freedom to not give a f*ck.

No matter how much action I took, no matter how I sorted my values, no matter how much grace I afforded myself, the constant need to justify my motives and actions to others was driving me crazy. I was holding my life, my family’s financial security, and every one of my efforts back because I was too distracted by the opinions of others. I needed to stop giving a f*ck.

I was living life with the parking brake half on.

So, I stopped giving a f*ck. Not about everything. Just about the stuff that I could neither control nor afford to care about. I find myself straying a bit, but I’m aware of it now. I have my goals and my vision. I refuse to allow the small f*cks of the world negatively impact my potential.

I also learned to give more of a f*ck about myself and the people I care about. In other words, I now invest my f*cks more wisely. I also try to take more responsibility for the crap that I cause in my life. It’s a key lesson in this book. You may not be to blame for everything in your life, but you are responsible for dealing with it all. Blaming someone else is still dealing with it, just not effectively.

The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

The Compound Effect was not a revelation for me but more of a more concise and well-worded way of putting on paper what I already knew to be true… making good decisions begets making more good decisions.

After reading the book, I began to observe it in my own life. One example I like to use is my decision to being lifting weights at night. That single decision had multiple compounding effects. Naturally, I was building muscle and burning more fat. It also brought my seven-year-old son and I closer together as he began coming downstairs with me and lifting small three-pound dumbbells. He was getting into good habits, we were spending time bonding, and I had extra motivation and positive experiences with my kids. It also prevented me from wasting time as I had less time to watch TV or have a beer at the bar.

There are even more positives that came out of my decision to add weight lifting to my routine that I won’t go into here. My point is, when we make a decision to do something, there are usually additional benefits or negatives that come along with it. I found that the healthier I became, the more I wanted to be healthy. I kept adding more and more positive habits to my daily routine until my results were unstoppable.

We can see the compound effect in every part of our lives. If we treat someone poorly, they respond in kind, causing a downward spiral. Maybe others observe the bad behavior and they respond to us more negatively and the cycle continues.

I found that I need to be aware of compounding actions daily. I need to make an effort to stop negative ones in their tracks while deliberately taking positive actions to set positive momentum.

I’m Looking for Recommendations!

Do you have a book that has changed your life? I’m always looking for more. Please leave a comment below and tell me what you recommend or let me know what you think of this article. I look forward to hearing from you.

Too Busy to Read?

Try Audible. My wife and I both listen to audio books on the regular. Especially because I spend so much time in the car, Audible ensures I’m feeding my brain good stuff when I can’t find time to sit and read.

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