A common question ambitious men in their 20’s ask me is, “What life-changing books should I read?”
Asking any question about books, especially life-changing books, is a tough one to answer.
That’s because I read a lot more books than the average person. Therefore, it can be like asking a musician what their favorite song is. But here are my top ten suggestions for now. If you in your 20’s these are a must-read:
Listen to the audio podcast version of this post here:
Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify
Note: The links are affiliate. This means I will get a commission if you purchase through the link at no extra cost to you.
1.Top 5 Regrets of the Dying
Life is more than about just making money. In fact, I have found a lot of rich people are still unhappy or unfulfilled. Therefore, this book does a great job addressing other life concerns.
The author saw hundreds of people pass because she worked in a retirement home.
I have definitely changed how I live my life and what I want to do because of the book. My priorities have shifted.
Biggest takeaways: Do more things that you wouldn’t do out of fear of failure. Our biggest regrets are often out of fear or trying to please others. Don’t live someone’s dream life or job if it’s not your own. You can be happy in the most mundane or simple times.
The author of the book has some great stories that taught me about life as well.
She was quite happy despite living a modest life. She was thankful for every moment because she survived cancer. She counseled many elderly men and women, some rich, some poor, some bitter at the world, some angry, and some depressed. One of my favorite stories was one where a rich but bitter woman was angry and confused as to how she could be so happy all the time.
One of my favorite stories was one where a rich but bitter woman was angry and confused as to how she could be so happy all the time.
2. The Millionaire Next Door
Want to get the surprise of your life? This book unveils some common trends of millionaires after studying thousands that go against the stereotype. For example, the most common car they own is a pick-up truck and they usually live modest lives.
I still remember this book after many years! I listened to it on audiobook while playing Batman Arkham City and Battlefield.
Nonetheless, it left a deep impression on me about personal finance and wealth creation. It lead me down a whirlwind path of improving my finances and understanding how wealth is made.
Biggest takeaway: you can get rich slowly over time even with a modest salary if you budget, save, and invest. Most millionaires live very modestly and have modest cars/houses/items. They spend on what they enjoy on and got there through being frugal and smart. They’re not like stereotypical millionaires you would image with fancy mansions.
Having said that, there’re tons of takeaways and I will be reading this again.
3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The biggest lesson from this one was that IQ and natural genetic intelligence definitely don’t guarantee success. And if you’re good enough, what matters a lot is how much more time you put into practicing compared to the next guy, not how much more naturally gifted you are.
In the book, there was a reference to a study that tracked thousands of the nation’s highest IQ children over their lifetime. As adults, they were shockingly no more successful than a randomly selected control group. Some were garbage men!
How did this occur? Clearly, there’s more to success than just IQ. Social and emotional intelligence are big players in a world that where you have to deal with politics, social interaction, managing people, leading people, and other obstacles.
Another huge take-away was that I should always pay respect and be thankful for the luck I have. Every successful person has some element of luck at play even if you do all the right things. Even if you don’t think you have any luck, you do. I thought I didn’t have much, but I was lucky enough to be born in the U.S. out of all the countries in the world.
4.Made In America by Sam Walton
One of my first cases of deeply peering into the thought process and lifestyle of one of the richest men in the entire world.
I was quite shocked: He lived very modestly. Talked and treated others as equals. He was always a charismatic, people’s man. He cared more about his company than spending that money all the way until he died.
Sam taught me the power of humbleness and eagerness to learn.
Let me paint the story: this man had built one store into a billion dollar empire. He was the richest man in the U.S. Was he sailing around on yachts? No. He decided to spend an entire day driving with his truck drivers to see how their lives were like to remove inefficiencies. It wasn’t beneath him.
Another time, he and one of his top executives went into a smaller competitor’s store. The whole store was a mess and horrible in almost every way: messy aisles, disorganized products, bad product positioning and so on. The executive came out of the store talking about how bad the store was in every way. What Sam said next stopped him in his tracks and taught him a lesson he would remember for the rest of his life.
Sam simply mentioned the one tiny detail he found in the store that they were doing better than Walmart’s store. And he asked for his executive to immediately work on it.
This man was always looking to improve and never too humble to learn from others. There’s plenty of other stories like this in the book. Some involving him crawling on all fours measuring aisle lengths in his competitors stores.
He taught me some great lessons on social skills, respect, leading a team, learning from others, and transparency.
It was a great book with many business and life lessons.
5. Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins
The biggest lesson in Anthony Robbin’s classic, best-known book is his introductory chapter. He tells the story of how he flies over a building in his personal helicopter and realizes it was the building he used to work in as a janitor.
He was flying to a place to speak (he’s a well-known motivational speaker) and so many people had signed up to attend that traffic had blocked up all the streets leading up to the area.
Why did is story so emotionally to me and how can it inspire you? Because it shows you that in 10 short years, a broke, dropout janitor became a wealthy speaker that inspired tens of thousands. And now, Tony Robbins is worth over 500 million and runs a multi-billion dollar set of companies.
It is a short read but well worth it.
6. Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success by Steve Harvey
Steve’s story really spoke to me in a similar way that Tony Robbins did.
He came from a place much worse than me and rose to a place much better. What spoke to me even more than that was how he began his journey.
He dropped out of school and worked at a factory while his friend Arsenio Hall went to chase his dream of being a comedian (a dream Steve wanted himself). Steve and his friends laughed at Arsenio for being impractical.
6 years later, Steve was hating his job at the factory. He saw Arsenio on TV, having achieved his dream, and called all his friends in shock. Later he broke down crying because Arsenio achieved his dream.
Steve realized Arsenio exercised some laws of success and created what he wanted. He did the same thing and achieved multi-million dollar success himself.
Steve goes into detail about his journey in his book. There’s a lot of great lessons about how you can’t let other people’s belief become your own and how you focus on being the best rather than on making more money.
His story was not an overnight success one. I didn’t even know for the longest time! For years, I thought he was just another overnight success comedian I always saw on TV until I found out about his book. Steve struggled for a long time against many doubters including many of his previous bosses. He even was homeless.
One of my favorite lessons of his is to always be thankful for what you have. You can be rich but ungrateful and everything you get doesn’t affect you. You don’t want to live like that.
Other similar stories that spoke to me in tough times where I thought there was little hope were from billionaire John Paul DeJoria and Chris Gardner, both of who went through homelessness as well.
This is an economy that allows for great upside potential no matter your past or present situation.
I would say the biggest emotionally driven movie scene that also spoke to me in this way was from Rocky Balboa when he talked to his son. I thought he was speaking straight to me when he screamed:
“But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow.
Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!“
The way Sylvester Stallone acted out this scene was so emotionally evoking for me that I almost started crying and I almost never ever cry at all. When he talked about blaming others, I related to that. When he said, “You’re better than that!”, I felt like he was speaking right to me through the screen.
The message is clear: stop making excuses or blaming someone else. It’s not about how tough life gets, it’s about how you keep moving forward. Cowards blame others and that isn’t you.
7. Success Through Stillness by Russell Simmons
I accidentally found this book and read it on a whim. It really added incredible insights.
This man was a hard-drug addict, hip-hop mogul, and multi-millionaire. He dramatically increased his success, saved his own life, and changed it for the better through meditation.
In the book, he goes into great detail about:
- how meditation isn’t a religion
- how it’s the key to his success and 10xing his success
- how it allowed him to become present in the moment and save his life from the brain damage from crack and other hard drugs.
He tells it in a very easy-to-understand way since he’s a hip hop guy. Even to this day, he has very deep connections with some of the best in the modern hip hop scene. You’ll see him in a lot of Paparazzi photos with some of the world’s most connected actors and musicians.
It was also interesting reading one quick story about how his friend spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get with a Victoria Secret model and still failed. It’s a lesson that attests to the fact that just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re good with girls.
8. The How of Happiness
Most of what we do is to be happier. So it would make sense to learn what makes us happy and what doesn’t. In fact, a lot of successful entrepreneurs chase what they “think” will bring them happiness, only to find out that it doesn’t.
I really struggled with happiness and was confused with all the advice I got from people. These were opinions and who knew if they were true. Even if the advice on happiness came from established people from church or wealthy millionaires, I wasn’t sure if the advice was the real truth. I didn’t want opinions anymore; I wanted the science of happiness.
I wanted the complete A to Z book on happiness based on extensive scientific testing. Surely, someone had written something on this, right?
After going through many bad books on happiness that claimed to have science but did it in a messy manner, I found this book, which was almost everything I asked for. It was also not too long or boring to read.
It did a great job of covering all the bases and since using its principles, I am in a much happier place that sustainable.
I walk through life having a much clearer understanding of happiness than 99% of the world based on decades of experimental testing and research.
One of my big missions on my blog is to share with the world that more money, fame, wealth, cars, mansions, clothing, women, or materialistic possessions will not increase your happiness. You will get used to it very quickly. Studies have been well documented that track and prove this.
What actually increases our happiness are things like savoring the moment, relationships, social circles, gratefulness, and a variety of other activities mentioned in the book. Becoming happier is partially genetic and partially a difficult but worthy habit to obtain.
It’s a huge mission of mine to spread this message because I am well plugged into social media and see thousands of kids chase these things and get depressed through social comparison. Because I watch a lot of speeches and interviews of successful people in my free time, I also observe a lot of successful, wealthy people who finally get there and realize it didn’t make them happier.
Because I watch a lot of speeches and interviews of successful people in my free time, I also observe a lot of successful, wealthy people who finally get there and realize it didn’t make them happier. Almost every year, there are new stories like this.
Most recently, we’ve had celebrities like Cara DeLevigne, Lady Gaga, Russell Brand, and Jay-Z come out and talk about this.
9. Tap Dancing To Work
This book is a profile on Warren Buffett, one of the wealthiest people in history.
So, why is this book so life changing? Well, you might assume that it just gives you tips on how to make money or succeed in business, but it goes far beyond that, as the title hints at.
The money manager Mohnish Pabrai said it best:
“The most amazing things I learned from Warren Buffett have nothing to do with money.”
Although I went in to learn about how he made his money, I learned a lot of incredible life lessons:
- live modestly.
- happiness isn’t tied to money.
- do not let your possessions own you.
- you should love what you do for a living.
- always be ethical or it’ll come back to bite you.
- family time is often more important than time at work.
- you should never be envious or jealous of other people who lucked out.
It is hard to explain how impactful Warren can be to you until you actually see how he lives. I know for a fact that money cannot change him and he would be doing the same thing whether he was rich or poor.
These seem like simple concepts but I see so many people every day who don’t follow them. Also, Buffett illustrates these in very unique ways with how he lives his own life and the mistakes he’s made.
By becoming consistently one of the richest people in the world over the last few decades, he has continued to live in a modest house, driven a modest car, and eaten at McDonald’s. He has made me into a much more ethical man by giving abunch of business lessons how lack of ethics screwed over other many successful companies. And his philosophy on jealousy has really helped me in times of envy.
10. The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss
This book is constantly spoken about in the business and self-help niche.
At first, I was annoyed about it and thought it was overhyped. But then, I realized what a feat that was. Tim literally wrote this book only several years ago and went from being a nobody to a legend in the space. It’s admirable.
There’s a lot of good tips and hacks about business, productivity, and travel in here.
These are the biggest takeaways and warnings I have for you:
- My only warning: Don’t be fooled by the title. It was split-tested and works the best. However, I don’t even think Tim recommends the 4 hour work week. You still need to work hard for what you want in life.
- Productivity hack: Only check emails twice a day maximum and only towards the end of the day. They are often not as high priority as other things you can do and it sucks up your time.
- Travel hacking: Tim opened me up to the world of travel hacking, which I spent a lot more time researching through books and websites. He made me realize that I could travel the world even if I’m not super rich because the cost of living is so much lower in other countries that money goes a longer way and because you can cut unnecessary costs by getting cheaper hotels, use travel credit cards, and cheaper forms of transportation.
If you have a life-changing book I didn’t mention, let me know in the comments and I will take a look when I have time. Thank you for reading this!
P.S. Listen to my podcast episode for even more bonus recommendations:
Podcast: Play in new window | Download | Embed
Subscribe: Google Podcasts | Spotify
I just finished reading through your list of books and also read your article on depression. It was in a post I read by Michal Stalwicki.
First off I wanted to say thank you for sharing. Coming from someone like myself who also suffers from depression, I understand not only how difficult it can be to go through it. But to write about it, and express it so well is admirable.
Sometimes I myself cannot even clarify exactly WHY I am depressed. I just know that I am. That makes it hard.
I am hoping to share your writings with my oldest son who is 21. He has severe depression and is in a very dark place right now.
Some of the things you said touched a very specific chord with me and reminded me of him. In how he feels about himself and his life in general.
I am happy to hear you have found a way to help yourself find a better path. I know I am starting a “gratitude journal” myself, that was suggested to me by Michal Stalwicki.
I hope I can get my son to read some of your articles and maybe at least realise he is not alone. And that there are other people going through similar things like him that have found their way out to a better place. (He has aspergers, and a processing disorder along with adhd and a few other things. But he is very good and kind man!)
It hurts me tremendously to see him and other people so young in so much pain and experiencing so much saddness. And I feel as if my hands are tied.
With people like you and Michal showing that people have FOUND their way to happiness and beat their depression.. I know it may give him hope! It has for me.
Thank you for sharing and for such a well written article.
Concerned mom and appreciative, new subscriber.
Thanks for writing in, Darla.
I was fortunate to only have mild depression that I have worked through thanks to the scientific books I’ve read on the topic. I suggest my article willyoulaugh.com/happy
I can’t say I can help cure your son. I am just revealing what I have found useful in my journey. Extreme forms of depression will require professional help.