Top 10 Books to Read
Below I share with you the Top 10 books that have most positively impacted my life. In 2011, I read Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Workweek and quickly realized that traveling, pursuing my passions and becoming an entrepreneur were for me. I then progressed to deeper and more emotional reads like Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning. These books gave me the tools I needed to develop more fully as a person. The list below spans a variety of genres that have all deeply contributed to my success and personal and emotional growth. They have allowed me to make drastic improvements to my wealth, career, relationships, and happiness.
I also have to make a quick plug for audiobooks. Listening to audiobooks has completely revolutionized my ability to read much more quickly and easily. Whenever I tell someone that I now principally read via audio (given how easy it is for me plug in while traveling, commuting or simply going for a walk), people are understandably skeptical. However, about 2 to 3 weeks later I almost always hear back from that same person thanking me profusely for how audiobooks have changed their life too.
And now, without further adieu, here are the Top 10 books that have most influenced my life!
by Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Work Week is where it all began for me. I was on vacation during law school and my friend Jason had recommended I check it out. I put a copy on my iPad and while everybody was at the beach I was glued to this book and couldn’t put it down. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tim Ferriss, the best way to describe him is as a traveling and money-making life hacker. I grew up in a community where it was very important to fit in and have a “normal” job, so after reading Ferriss’ stories about making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year while tango dancing in Argentina, Sumo wrestling in Japan, and mastering the 80/20 rule to achieve financial freedom and location independence, I immediately knew this was the life I wanted.
During my junior year of college, I spent a semester living in Barcelona, Spain. It was an extremely eye-opening experience and one of my biggest takeaways was how in America many of us live to work, whereas in Europe and other countries across the globe they work to live. I witnessed the Spaniards putting a much larger emphasis on family time, taking vacation, and making sure that they had balance in their lives. This was all very new to someone who grew up in and around the New York City work culture. As Ferriss told stories about working remotely and traveling the world as his own boss, I was hooked.
This book helped me define the vision for what I wanted in my career and my life. It took me several years to leave the boilerplate model of law school and corporate America, but now I can happily say that I am my own boss working on a business that I love thanks to following the model Ferriss laid out in this book to achieve personal and professional success and financial freedom.
by Dale Carnegie
It was the winter of 2011 and I had just finished interning in the NFL’s legal department. (It was pretty awesome getting to meet Chad “Ochocinco” and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell!). The internship had just ended and I was celebrating my upcoming break before my final semester of law school with my friend Adi, who had just invited me to join him and his friends for a month-long trip to his home country India. I emphatically accepted. When I asked what to pack, he said make sure to pick up a copy of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. “You’re going to meet hundreds, if not thousands, of people in India, and I want you to maximize your experience, friendships, and connections that you make while there”. I would have 22 hours over the course of my three flights to get to his hometown Visakhapatnam, so I’d have plenty of time to read it.
While published in October 1936, How to Win Friends and Influence People is as applicable today as ever. Carnegie teaches you how to quickly and easily increase your influence, ability to get things done, raise your earnings power, improve your speaking skills and more. His principles such as complete and total open-mindedness, making people feel significant, and taking a genuine interest in others all stood out to me.
My biggest takeaway, however, was learning how to communicate with others in a much more meaningful and deeper way. I used to think that it was important to do all the talking and try to show people how smart and special I was. Carnegie taught me how to shift from talking to listening, interjecting at times to ask very genuine and deep questions and then sitting back to listen and learn. This fosters an environment of giving others respect as well as significance. You also learn much more when you listen rather than speak. Overall, this book was extremely influential in my life and the principles are applicable to achieving success in many different areas.
Check out this video summarizing How to Win Friends and Influence People:
by George Collins
Earlier this year, the finance firm I was working for hired one of the nicest, most compassionate people I have ever met. His name was Anand and we immediately became good friends. We’d go to the gym together every day, go for walks, grab lunch, and talk about our grand plans to leave finance and pursue our dreams. As far as I could tell, Anand was a perfectly healthy person who seemed to drink socially but didn’t seem to go much further beyond that. After not showing up to work a few days in a row, it was discovered that Anand had been found dead in his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I had no idea at the time, but in the coming weeks, I would learn that my good friend had lost a long battle with drug addiction.
I began studying addiction and realized that while fortunately I was not abusing drugs, there were several areas of my life that had become compulsive. Among these were alcohol, food (especially fine dining), traveling (as a form of escapism), and pornography. I was extremely fortunate to find George Collins’s Breaking the Cycle, which is one of the most powerful books I have ever read in my life.
While the book is focused on helping those who struggle most with relationships and porn addiction, it is applicable to helping you reclaim any area of your life. Collins draws on extremely powerful concepts related to our thoughts and our mind, and he has taught me critical concepts to help me accept myself, let go of past shame, and convert my unhealthy “subpersonalities” into healthy and productive energy. He also taught me the critical difference between sex and intimacy. This is an extremely important concept that many people in our society, including my former self, did not understand.
As also explained in Tara Brach’s podcast episode “The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Working with Attachments and Addictions,” most of us have something (or in my case, multiple things) in our life that are compulsive and harmful to us. Things that we use to feel better in the short term, rather than face and move through the pain in our life, often triggered by our careers, relationships, families or other stressors.
I highly encourage you to read George’s book and be honest with yourself about what behaviors you could be letting go of so that you can start living the life that you deserve.
by Jack Canfield
It was the summer of 2014 and I had just returned from a two-week trip to the Middle East. Having done some serious soul-searching, I realized I was unfulfilled both professionally and personally and was in need of some serious guidance for the next steps in my life. When I got back to New York, I was extremely fortunate to stumble across Jack Canfield’s Breakthrough to Success home study program. For those not familiar with Jack Canfield, he is the best-selling author of the Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul book series, which has sold more than 500 million copies worldwide! During the program, I learned how to actually feel my emotions, conquer my limiting beliefs, pursue my passions as a career, improve my relationships and more. However, I needed a game plan to execute on my new goals and that’s where The Success Principles came in.
The Success Principles is a collection of 64 principles that Canfield uses to show you how to take 100% responsibility for your life, achieve your goals in life, and much more. Using these principles, I was able to get really clear on what I am actually passionate about in life, and that it was time for me to make a transition professionally. One of Canfield’s exercises required me to make a list on my iPhone called “Things I Love.” Every time I did something that lit a fire inside of me or got me really pumped up and excited about life I would add it to the list. Over time I got really clear about how much I enjoyed traveling and helping people, and I have since made a career shift to work in these areas. However, Canfield’s principles are broad reaching and can benefit everything from your relationships to physical wellness and beyond.
Check out the below interview of Jack Canfield. Taking his Breakthrough to Success course in 2014 changed my life.
by Victor E. Frankl
Victor Frankl published Man’s Search for Meaning in 1946 to share his experience as a concentration camp inmate during World War II. Between 1942 and 1945, Frankl lived in four different concentration camps including the notorious Auschwitz Camp in Oświęcim, Poland. During his time in these camps, Frankl made several key psychological findings related to life and happiness. One such finding was that he and his fellow inmates were actually able to experience feelings happiness during one of the darkest and most difficult life situations: suffering in a Nazi-occupied concentration camp. But how could this be? On one especially difficult evening where he and his inmates were forced to perform manual labor outdoors in freezing cold weather, he began thinking of his wife. As his thoughts shifted from anger triggered by his current life situation to loving experiences with his wife, he began to feel and experience joy and positivity.
Drawing on similar principles as Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, Frankl observed that our happiness is not the result of our life situation, but rather the result of our thoughts about it. He saw that we can all step into this moment right now and find a deep meaning worth living for even during what may seem like the most difficult of times.
This message resonated very strongly with me as someone who has witnessed Frankl’s findings in reverse. During my upbringing and especially during my time working on Wall Street, I observed many people living in what would seem like the most envious of life situations. I met people who had their health, loving spouses and even millions of dollars in the bank, yet they were completely miserable. If Frankl and his fellow inmates were able to find happiness in a concentration camp, why couldn’t these people? It was because these people were stuck in negative thoughts and letting their minds control them. By letting their thoughts stay negative and control them, their feelings of work stress, materialistic envy, fear, anger and greed blocked them from experiencing joy.
I highly encourage you to read Frankl’s masterpiece and employ his findings. It will help you practice gratitude, present moment connectedness, and give you the ability and power to control your response to any situation in life.
by Tara Brach
Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance is another fantastic read related to improving our experience of life. Very often we remain disconnected from our body and our emotions using a host of strategies that we think is helping keep us safe. On a subconscious level, we think we’re protecting ourselves from pain by staying out of touch with our emotions, but this is actually very detrimental. If someone asks how we’re doing, we often just say “I’m fine,” but we’re not really in touch what’s actually going on inside of us. And when we can’t face or move through our painful feelings, they often build up deep down and then manifest in other unhealthy ways.
In addition to trying to avoid painful feelings, we also subconsciously stay disconnected based on a fear that by facing the truth and even accepting ourselves as we are, that we’ll stay stuck where we are. However, as Carl Jung famously said, it is only when we learn to accept ourselves exactly as we are that we are able to change.
Brach also draws on important concepts of self-compassion as a way to feel your feelings in a safe way as you accept yourself without judgment. Practicing techniques from Radical Acceptance has allowed me to accept who I really am. For a long time, I lived in a state of unhappiness where I would tell myself that “once I have my own successful business” or “once I have a certain amount of money” then I’ll be happy. And for a long time, I did not accept my current situation and felt very incomplete.
Once I put Radical Acceptance to the test and fully accepted who I was in that moment, I realized that these goals were actually fun opportunities to work towards, not things that I needed to achieve in order to be complete. I highly encourage you to both check out this book and her talks and guided meditations available for free here or on the Tara Brach Podcast.
by Beverly Engel
If Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Work Week is where it all began for me professionally, Beverly Engel’s The Emotionally Abusive Relationship is where it all began for me personally. After being faced with a series of challenging life events in early 2013, I didn’t know where to go for answers. While searching on Google, I came across the term “emotional abuse” and I then went on Amazon and started reading the related books. Almost every book was directed towards women and helping them leave an abusive man. That was until I stumbled upon Engel’s masterpiece, which is directed to both parties in the couple, teaching abusees how to build the strength to leave unhealthy relationships, and also teaching abusers how to stop abusing.
Reading this book was a defining moment in my life. It enabled me to come to terms with the fact that I was both an abusee (I was abused as a child growing up) and an abuser (I was emotionally abusive as an adult). Then, after reading the book, I stumbled upon the author’s website where there was a message offering telephone counseling if you mail a check to a certain address in Texas. While skeptical, I was willing to try anything, Mailing that check turned into me personally working with Beverly 1-on-1 for years.
While my first read of this book was focused on relationships and emotional abuse, it served as a launch pad for my entire journey, which has grown to enhance every single area of my life. It allowed me to admit who I was and it began my path towards personal growth and self-improvement that I have applied to all of the aspects of my life.
by Robert Greene
Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power provides an excellent collection of tools that you can add to your success toolkit. One law in particular that stuck out to me was Number 13: “When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest never to their mercy or gratitude.” This is an extremely powerful concept that you can apply to work, friendships, or even relationships. Many of us stay focused only on our own wants and needs. We focus on ourselves and when we ask for support or favors from others we get angry or complain when our requests are not met.
The solution to this, and one of the most important lessons in life that you can learn, is learning how to put yourself in the shoes of others to first understand what their self-interests are. And then secondly, meet those needs of others. If you can develop the ability to perceive what others want and then meet those needs, you will get what you want in return. You can check out this law and 47 more in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power.
by Tony Robbins
Tony Robbins’ Awaken the Giant Within is a must-read for anyone looking to break through and make positive changes to their life. The first lesson is that our decisions determine our destiny, not our conditions. As I learned during my experience at Tony Robbins’ Unleash the Power Within event in San Jose, California earlier this year, our background does not determine our destiny. Rather, the decisions that we make about who we are and what we want in life shape our thoughts, feelings and actions, and ultimately, our destiny.
Another invaluable lesson that Robbins teaches is that we must take happiness into our own hands. So many of us rely on external events, situations or people in order to feel fulfilled. “If only my friend does this for me” or “if only my boss would give me a raise” or “if only the weather is nice tomorrow” then I’ll be happy. The core error here is that we are placing our happiness in the hands of others. When things don’t go according to plan, we play the role of a victim and blame the other person, event or situation for our unhappiness.
You want your friend to do something for you? Find out what his or her needs are and go do 10 great things for them first, and I guarantee you they will return the favor. Or you can just do whatever you wanted him or her to do yourself. Do you want a raise from your boss? Figure out exactly what your boss wants from you in the workplace, crush it and meet all of those needs, and you’ll get that raise. If you don’t, you’re not working for the right person and you can go find a manager who will see your true value. Want better weather? Great, move to California, Florida, Australia, Southeast Asia, South America, or get a heavier coat!
So many people waste their energy complaining or blaming people or outside events for their own suffering. Once you realize that you are are in complete and total control of your life, you get to choose your happiness and destiny.
by Eckhart Tolle
Reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now was a complete game changer for me. I first read this book in mid-2015 during a trip to Singapore and have since re-read and listened to the audiobook at least 10 more times! I’ve also read and highly recommend Tolle’s Practicing the Power of Now (this was actually required reading by George Collins, author of Breaking the Cycle, before he would work with me). Tolle found that most, if not all suffering comes from excessive human thought and our focus on the past or the future. He explains that the only moment we ever have is the now, and teaches us how to truly step into the present.
One concept that I’ve found to be particularly helpful and implement regularly is playing the role of “The Watcher.” Tolle teaches us how harmful our racing minds can be. By disconnecting from our thoughts and simply watching them as they rise and fall, we can notice what comes up impartially and then let them fall away. Closing my eyes, taking a couple deep breaths, and disconnecting from my thoughts as “The Watcher” goes a long way to grounding myself and coming out of any pain.
I highly encourage you to read this modern classic, which also comes available in audiobook format where Tolle reads the book himself.
Check out this video on The Power of Now and disconnecting from thought:
Grab your copy today!
The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Breaking the Cycle by George Collins
The Success Principles by Jack Canfield
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
The Emotionally Abusive Relationship by Beverly Engel
The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Awaken the Giant Within by Tony Robbins
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle