I’m dissatisfied with the current online content that list the “best” books on finding your passion and purpose. That’s because these authors clearly didn’t read these books and choose mediocre choices to fill out a list.
Having been a fan of the personal development industry for years, I’m aware of many of the best books on this topic. Here’s a brief list of what I believe to be some of most impactful books to find your passion and get paid handsomely for it.
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- Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – This book gives the most comprehensive analysis of finding your passion in the modern age. It covers various angles, including a historic, scientific, and psychological perspective. Most people don’t realize that until very recently in human history, there was no choice. Your father’s job determined your job in the town. The author is one of the most qualified people to discuss this topic since he’s researched what brings fulfillment for years. You’ll uncover many surprising discoveries. One of my favorites is that people feel most unhappy and unfulfilled during free time rather than at work. Mihaly’s two other books, Finding Flow and Creativity, are almost just as impressive.
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport – This book brings up various points to consider when finding your passion that you may not have considered. These points are often backed up with real stories, statistics, or psychology. Regardless of whether you agree, it brings up good discussion. For example, maybe you shouldn’t have to completely enjoy your work. Maybe you just focus mostly on a job that has high demand and income. That’s because you learn to love what you’re good at and the chances of landing that dream job as a gamer are one million to one. Also, maybe that successful person’s advice is actually bad because 10,000 other people just like him did the same thing and failed but those people get swept under the rug (survivorship bias / graveyard effect). I recommend Cal’s other book Deep Work if you care about how to improve your skills and stay productive and focused.
- Side Hustle by Chris Guillebeau – The last couple centuries houses various examples of successful people that had a base, backup source of income and explored their passions on the side until it took off to replace their full income. Think Ken Jeong doing stand-up comedy and acting for fun while working as a doctor until it took off. This book is a great exploration of how you can do that. Once again, read this with an open mind rather than of the mind of a fanatic who accepts these principles as gospel. Another school of thought that is the opposite of this book is the whole “have no plan B because it distracts from plan a” philosophy. That is a more high commitment, high-stakes philosophy that works for some people like Arnold Schwarzenneger and other billionaires. Chris has written other books that are equally useful for finding your passion, including The Happiness of Pursuit.
- Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss – thousands of people swear by this book. Many say that it is the book that has unlocked their ability to make a lot of money from nothing by starting businesses. I personally found this a hard book to actually model when you’re starting from scratch. It’s great for someone who already has a business to run, as was the case with Tim in the story that said, he has a lot of fantastic, shocking philosophies on essentialist business management, productivity, and life hacking that will bring you the joy you have to remind for much less effort.
- Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Thriving in the New Creative Age by Jeff Goins – Many of the other books by Jeff are fantastic for identifying your passion and becoming competent at your chosen skill, such as Finding Your Calling and the Art of Work. Jeff tells great stories of people who have found their passion and made a living from it, while outlining clear principles to achieve that goal.
- Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl, William J. Winslade, Harold S. Kushner – This book is more philosophical and explores how you can choose to find meaning in anything, even the mundane. Read this if you want to dive deep into general life purpose. It can open your eyes to just finding happiness in just existence. More importantly, it can remove any entitlement you have around
- Getting There by Zoe Gillian Segal – Want a quick, coffee shop book that profiles dozens of the world’s most successful CEOs, musicians, artists, scientists, reporters, film producers, and more? We’re talking people like Warren Buffett, Anderson Cooper, Hans Zimmer, Sara Blakely, and more. This book will inspire you beyond anything else since you get three or four pages of details on someone’s life and their advice. Some stories surprised me because I discovered that it’s normal to go through various different jobs or to create your own “life resume” and portfolio when no one will give you a job. See my interview with the author.
- Screw It, Let’s Do It by Richard Branson – Richard Branson is one Billy Nanda has the most books. And most of them are fantastic. Easily readable and digestible. They’re packed with real-world experience and tips. This book is a great starting point, but definitely check out some of his other books. Each book covers something different. Some cover leadership tips, and others cover his whole life.
- Mastery by Robert Greene – This book is an extensive account of successful people’s pursuit of mastery and guide to identifyin and honing your own mastery at a skill. It’s a solid book on various measures. I’d caution that it suffers from cherry-picking examples to support its points. And by definition, the book focuses on how to become world-class at a skill. But some people just want to be above average or good enough, which may require a different blue print. Check out my summary of the book.
- The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware – Do you want to look back at your life with fondness or disappointment? As Oprah says, a life well lived is a life with few regrets. This book will hammer home the importance of living a life true to yourself rather than one governed by the approval of others. Sure, both are important but if you lean too much to getting what your family or friends want without caring what you want, you’re in for a sad moment on your death bed.
The Alchemist – I felt compelled to include this book because it has changed so many people’s lives and sold so many copies. That said, it’s vague, symbolic, and “spiritual” rather than concrete, evidence-backed, or practical. Personally, I found the fable over the top. You must read between the lines so much, and you could interpret it any which way. And of course, there is no science backing up. However, it has helped musicians like Mike Posner and Big Sean succeed. If you’re into the whole spiritual, law of attraction side of things, it’s worth a try.
Made In America by Sam Walton – I wanted to throw a business-themed biography into the mix. It’s a breathe of fresh air from your standing “how to find your passion” books. I believe actual real world stories can make a much bigger impact sometimes and just a book intended to help you map out your journey. Sam Walton’s journey will give you a lot of business and career to how he builds Walmart. Along the way, you learned something important which is exactly what it means to really love your job 10 times more than the money you make from it.
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