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The 7 Most Influential Books to Impact Your Life

In the pursuit of Kaizen, reading has became a cornerstone for learning the necessary skills and thoughts to reach the next level. To date, I’ve read over 100 nonfiction books on self-improvement, business, finance, leadership, fitness, nutrition, and economics. There have been many books that have influenced me one way or another. Each book I’ve read has taught me something of value. Coming up with a list of the most influential was not an easy task, but nonetheless, here are the 7 most influential books on my life:

 

4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss


Easily one of the most thought provoking and influential books on my life (No, that doesn’t mean my desire in life is to work 4 hour weeks, although that would be nice). I was raised to work my tail off day after day. Don’t make excuses, just work harder. While work ethic is vastly important, the key is working on the right things. Ferriss does a fantastic job of putting the time value of money into perspective and living life on your own terms. So often we follow this dead-end trap of working meaningless J-O-Bs because of what we feel is security. If you’re not passionate about your current employment, find something new or create something! Why put off enjoying your life until retirement when you could do it now? Now is the time to follow that passion you have and this book is a fantastic resource for how to do it.

Takeaways:

Learn to Say No – There’s no reason to say yes to everything and everyone. It will always be at your own expense. Define your time and focus on the most important tasks. If you will be upset or it detracts you from reaching your goals, delegate or delete. The more accessible you are, the more others will come to expect it.

Build Multiple Sources of Income – The main reason you get stuck in dead-end jobs is financial stability. You become reliant on the income provided solely from your current employment. By having multiple sources of income, you have options (like deciding to take a six-month hiatus from working to travel the world). Besides, the average millionaire has 7 sources of income.

Don’t Put Off Life Experiences Until Retirement – This is a “typical millennial” thing to say, but it still holds true. Life is WAY too short to not experience all there is to offer. Maybe you want to learn a second language, play the guitar, or obtain a black belt in a martial arts form (all goals of mine). Don’t wait. Make the time for your passions and learnings.


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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey


This classic book has so many valuable insights. Early on in my journey of self-improvement, I was focused on how I could squeeze more out of every day (become more effective). I was recommended this book, and the rest is history. Covey’s 7 habits are simple, yet incredibly important for success. One of the first habits I put into action was Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Active listening is one of the most vital skills for all communication. Whether it’s negotiating in the board room for a multimillion dollar contract, or with your four year old on eating their vegetables. Understanding the other person’s view point is a skill we can all work on.

Takeaways:

Seek First to Understand, then be Understood – Active listening is key to communication. So often, we hear the words others say and listen for our turn to speak. What happens is we end up missing vital pieces of information because we are so focused on getting our point across. Some pointers on being an active listener include restating what the other person said but in your own words, ask more probing questions to what they said, and, as Covey puts it, diagnosing before prescribing.

Sharpen the Saw – I was raised that work ethic is one of the most important characteristics someone could possess. Unfortunately, I’ve tended to take that to the extreme. I have sacrificed many relationships at the expense of my career and have pushed myself to the brink of suicide on more than one occasion. I didn’t fully embrace this habit when I first read the book and shrugged it off as if it didn’t matter. But in 2015, my world came crashing down. It was shortly after this, that I realized how important it was to take care of myself. Take those vacations. Enjoy time with your friends and family. Because working harder doesn’t fix a dull saw; it only makes it worse.

Begin with the End in Mind – How do you know which direction to head, if you don’t know where you are going? When you reach the time of your expiration, will you have reached the right destination? One of the last things my grandmother told me before she passed was to live every day like it’s the only day you’ve been given. Sure, it may sound cliché, but coming from her made it stick. She battled cancer for 20+ years and I barely knew that. My grandmother focused her time and what little energy she had on my siblings and me. She was known for putting everyone else first. So the next time that you’re starting something new, think about what the end looks like. Visualize the finish line. Then develop the roadmap of how to get there.


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The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach


Let’s face it, I’m not a budget person. Maybe it’s the feeling of being constrained or maybe it’s just pure laziness, budgeting is not something I enjoy. I needed a system that could prevent me from having to spend mental energy on, yet meet my financial goals with my financial habits. Bach’s concept of automating your finances was exactly what I needed. With a finite amount of time on this planet, anything that would maximize my efficiency I had a thorough interest in. These simple concepts helped to keep me on track financially, while removing the thought of finances day after day.

Takeaways:

Setup Automatic Payments for all Bills – Life happens. Sometimes we forget the due dates of paying bills. By setting up automatic payments, you never have to worry about missing another payment. This takes the mental energy out of having to remember to pay bills and allows you the time to focus on much bigger things (like spending an extra 15-30 minutes with your child). It’s a simple concept, but highly effective.

Setup Automatic Savings – Leverage the benefits of direct deposit from your employer. If your employer offers a 401k plan, take advantage of it. This is automatic savings and free money from your employer. For example, my employer offers an amazing 401k plan that matches 100% up to 4% of contributions. That’s like giving myself a 4% raise for simply trying to obtain my financial goals. Pretty awesome. If your employer doesn’t offer a 401k or 403b plan, setup a traditional or Roth IRA and have it automatically deducted from your checking account on each payday. Do the same with a high-yield savings account that isn’t directly linked to your checking account. This forces you to save, even if it’s only a few dollars per paycheck (all the crumbs add up to a loaf a bread at some point).

Pay Yourself First – This isn’t a new concept and I’m sure we have all heard this over and over. But automating your savings allows you to take advantage of this without thinking about it. Include savings as part of your expenses and make it the top priority. This is where a 401k plan shines, as you pay yourself first even before the government. No matter how you do it, contribute to your savings before all other expenses. Shoot for 10-15% but even if it’s 1% (this is $1 per every $100 earned), it will pay huge dividends in the future.


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Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss


Sales and persuasion are skills that everyone should obtain. And what better person to learn from than a former FBI hostage negotiator, where success is literally a life or death situation. Voss’s concepts and tactics in negotiating are simple and highly effective. This book offers a lot of practical advice and is easy to implement.

Takeaways:

Ask How or What Questions, not Why – This was such an eye-opening concept, yet so simple (and obvious after the fact). Understanding why is so important in persuasion/sales, but asking why isn’t the best tactic. “Why” questions are accusatory and cause the other party to get defensive. However, “how” and “what” questions are inquisitive and are to gain information. The great part is every “why” question can be rephrased as a “how” or “what” question. It’s amazing at how much more open and less defensive people are when you ask questions in this manner.

Be Conscious of the Tone of Your Voice – Not to discredit Voss, but this wasn’t life-altering advice. But the tactic of how to use tones and inflections was. When you are asking questions, use an upward inflection at the end of the sentence, and use downward inflections for statements. By asking questions with an upward inflection, you sound more inviting and less argumentative. When questions are asked with a downward inflection, it gives the other party the feeling that you are attacking them (similar to asking “why” questions).

Get to “That’s Right,” rather than “Yes” – You hear it so many times in negotiating and sales, get the other person to say “yes.” But if you’ve ever been to New York, you know this tactic doesn’t work. A common phrase you’ll hear is “yeah, yeah, yeah…” which is code for “shut up already, I’m not listening.” We use the word “yes” as a way to move a conversation along, even if it means we’re not paying attention. A more effective phrase you want the other party to say is “that’s right.” This is powerful in two ways: one, hearing this shows that the other party is paying attention; and two, it’s confirmation that you understand the other’s point of view. Next time you find the other person “yessing” you, try rephrasing what your asking to gain confirmation that what you are hearing is correct.


Interested in reading this book? Click here:


If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? By Raj Raghunathan


Being a driven person has its fair share of positives and negatives. A lot of the same things that drive us to be successful, can also cause us to not be happy. This was certainly the case with me until I read this book. During my dark days of 2015 and 2016, I searched for books to educate myself back to happiness. This book couldn’t have come at a better time. Raghunathan explains the 7 “deadly sins” of smart, driven people and offers suggestions on how to fix them. If you are someone who struggles with being happy even when you have accomplished more than most, this book is a must read.

Takeaways:

Good Thing, Bad Thing, Who Knows? – This simple phrase has been life-changing for me. Historically, I was a – how would you put this – passionate person. I’m part Italian and shared a lot of the stereotypical hot-headed traits. The good things were out of this world, and the bad things were earth-crushing. But as explained by Raghunathan, the good things are never as positive as they first seem, and the bad things are never as negative as they first seem. No matter what happens to us, if we stop and look at everything as “good thing, bad thing, who knows,” we will end up much happier and take on life’s biggest challenges with ease.

Pursue Flow Rather than Superiority – One of the reasons we are driven to success is to exude our superiority over others. But it is in this pursuit of superiority that we lose happiness. We strive to be the top athlete or top business professional to have the fame and fortune. But striving for materialistic things leads to being unfulfilled and unhappy. On the other hand, pursuing what we love, what we are good at, what the world needs, and what can earn us a living (known as ikigai, in Japanese) will lead to a fulfilled and happy life. This is also known as pursuing flow. Flow is where passion meets skill; it is our reason for being.

Internal Locus of Control Versus External – We all love to have control. It brings happiness to us and it’s what prevents our lives from going into chaos. But being over-controlling leads to unhappiness. Those who are over-controlling try to control external factors. They blame others when things go wrong and blame skill for when things go right. For example, a salesperson who just closed a large sale might say “I’m a really talented salesperson.” That is an external locus of control since talent is perceived as a born-with trait. If that same salesperson had an internal locus of control, they might say “wow, I worked really hard for that sale.” Hard work is within someone’s control. Focusing on the things that we can control within our lives brings much more success and happiness. So the next time your child gets good grades, refrain from saying “you’re so smart!” Say “wow, look at how hard you worked for those grades!” This teaches your child that they have control of their outcomes.


Interested in reading this book? Click here:


Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki


I love my parents and they did an amazing job raising my siblings and me. But one area I wish they would have done better on is teaching personal finance (I won’t blame them as I was pretty stubborn). Like many college freshmen, I was attacked by credit card companies with a ton of offers. Who wouldn’t want free money when you’re a broke college kid?! Well as it turned out, that money wasn’t nearly as free as I thought. Kiyosaki does a great job of teaching the basics of income statements and balance sheets. Viewing your personal finances in this manner shows how most of us get stuck in a job. We exchange our hard-earned paychecks for liabilities that we think are assets. This prevents us from building our wealth and causes us to exchange time for money. In contrast, spending your money on assets allows your money to work for you and earn more.

Takeaways:

Invest in Assets, Not Liabilities – Do you really own your home or car? Most of the time these large purchases are backed by a loan, meaning the bank actually owns your home or vehicle. Until your home or vehicle are paid off in full, neither are truly assets. In its simplest form, an asset is something that puts cash back in your pocket whereas a liability takes cash out. Spend your hard-earned income on investments or businesses that can put more cash in your pocket. Want that new Apple iPhone? Buy enough Apple stock that the dividend can pay for it.

Treat Personal Finance Like a Business – Publicly traded companies are required to release their balance sheets and income statements each quarter. If large corporations and other businesses use these reports for managing finance, shouldn’t we consider it for personal finance? Businesses leverage their assets to create value and manage debt to invest in assets. The more business-like your finances are, the more financial stability and freedom you’ll have.

Don’t Work to Earn, Work to Learn – How often have you felt stagnant in your current employment and want to move on to something better or more challenging, but end up staying put because you need the income? If you aren’t learning something new or being challenged daily, you’re not going to be fulfilled or happy. Build up enough assets that your job is not mandatory anymore. Work only to learn new skills or hone the ones you possess, not to earn an income. Flip the script on traditional education and get paid to learn on the job. Use that income and skill set to build up more assets. Then do it all over again.


Interested in reading this book? Click here:


How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie


Many consider How to Win Friends and Influence People as one of the most important books to read in self-improvement and success. Everything in life involves communicating with others and managing relationships. This book teaches you the right way to communicate and handle every type of relationship in your life. I have read this book all the way through four times and revisited it countless others. Make this book a staple in your life. We can all use continued improvement in communication and managing relationships.

Takeaways:

The Sweetest Sound to Anyone is Their Own Name – Remember that feeling of the time when someone you met briefly remembered your name even though you hadn’t communicated with them in years? It’s flat out impressive and makes you feel important. Do your best to remember everyone’s name. It’s a powerful communication skill and makes others feel important. If you can remember one other piece of information (like a birthday or child’s name), you will look like a super hero!

No One Wins in an Argument – How did you feel the last time you got in an argument with someone else? Were you right or were they? If they were right, how’d you feel about being wrong? Did it change your opinion on the matter? Chances are, you felt worse and/or embarrassed and dug in more on your opinion. Arguments rarely end up being positive and frequently ruin relationships. Besides, it’s just your opinion on a topic and only affects your ego. Avoid arguments at all costs. No one wins, even if you’re right.

Do Not Criticize or Condemn – This one ties into external locus of control and good thing, bad thing, who knows. Is there any sense in criticizing someone after a deed has been done? Will any amount of yelling or condemning undo the wrong? Doubt it. Criticizing others only benefits our egos and brings down the other party’s. Instead, talk calmly with the other party and ask how the problem can be fixed. We all make mistakes, but it’s not our place to judge others on them.


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