#1)‘Mindset: The New Psychology’ by Carol Dweck
If you only read one book on this list, let it be this one.
Dweck’s work is absolutely foundational. It brings to light the most important realization anyone can have — your talent and intelligence are NOT fixed traits. They can be developed at any age and in any direction. Where people once believed that their genetics were their fate, Dweck uses scientific research to show that that simply is not true. What matters far more than whether or not you won the genetic lottery is the state of your mindset.
She makes clear that to be successful at anything, the first thing you must believe is that you can get better. This concept of leading with belief is the most fundamental shift you can make in your own belief system — and the one with the most far-reaching consequences. Simply changing your thought process from “I can’t do that” to “I can’t do that yet” changes everything.
#2)‘Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win’ by Jocko Willink (Author) and Leif Babin
At the core of Willink and Babin’s book is the idea that you must own all your mistakes. There is no one to blame but yourself. This goes for everything in your life — even in areas most people would never think to look inward for answers.
“Extreme ownership” is a no-excuses mentality where you recognize that your life is an exact reflection of the choices you have made. If you aren’t happy with the state of your life and success, it’s not the government, your parents, the economy or society at large that’s to blame. It’s your fault, plain and simple.
There is so much power and clarity in taking this position in your life, and Willink’s lessons from his deployment in Iraq will force you to start looking at all the things you can control. The process of change begins with looking inward, and this book is crucial in helping you to begin that process.
#3)‘Man’s Search For Meaning’ by Viktor Frankl
Man’s Search For Meaning is psychiatrist Viktor Frankl’s memoir of his of life in the Nazi death camps. Equal parts gripping and terrifying, this book makes it clear that if you have meaning in your life, you can survive anything. And without it, no matter how good your life, you’ll never have the kind of deep fulfillment that we all hunger for.
It was Frankl who popularized the notion that between stimulus and response, there is an opportunity to insert our volition and decide how to act. This choice is what makes us human and gives us power.
Additionally, this story is a powerful example that you get what you focus on. Frankl survived Auschwitz by focusing on the deep meaning of his suffering. It’s not that his suffering had intrinsic meaning, it’s that he focused on why he was willing to suffer, and that decision imbued his suffering with meaning. And that meaning allowed him to focus on something beautiful, even in the midst of his unimaginably horrific surroundings.
#4)‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ by Angela Duckworth
If you asked me, “What is the one fundamental trait that any entrepreneur has to have?” First, I would tell you to go back to the first book on this list and work on adopting a growth mindset.
Next, I would tell you that you must develop grit — an insane amount of grit. You’ve got to be legendary on this one. To put a fine point on it, grit is the willingness and ability to push through toward your goal even when it’s hard and/or boring.
Achieving success at the highest level takes work, but it also requires you to meet with failure over and over and over without a loss of enthusiasm. That takes grit. The people that end up winning are the ones who keep at it long after it’s no longer fun. To Duckworth, this quality is 10x more valuable than talent. I have to agree. That’s why in the hiring process, I’m not only trying to figure out who you are, I’m trying to figure out who you want to become and the price you’re willing to pay to get there.
#5)‘The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art Of Turning Trials Into Triumph’ by Ryan Holiday
Holiday starts his book with this proposal: What you think is stopping you is the thing that will propel you forward.
If this is hard to believe, consider the Wright Brothers. Underfunded and overlooked, the Wright brothers were originally underdogs in the race to take flight. So, how did two brothers who owned a bicycle shop take to the sky? Their limitations forced them to innovate.
When you are hungry, when you have something to prove, when your journey is riddled with roadblocks, you will either turn around, or you will be forced to break through. This breakthrough is what allows you to succeed.
This is also something that plays out in film all the time. Take Star Wars — the original trilogy was hampered by the limitations of special effects. That forced them to create a “lived-in universe” that was largely made of practical sets, props, puppets, etc. As evidenced by the backlash over the abusive use of computer generated imagery in the prequels, the “limitations” that the initial three films struggled with actually ended up defining the look of the film that the most recent films in the Star Wars universe have taken great pains to replicate. Literally, the obstacle became the way.
How You Can Use These Good Books to Grow
If you don’t act on what you learn, none of these books can help you. Before you read any book, you need to open yourself up to being changed forever by what you read. And wherever humanly possible, you need to put what you’re learning to immediate use. I’m talking about using it within hours of reading it. If you do that, every book you read will further empower you and allow you to push yourself ever forward. They will allow you to take conscious control of your own evolution, and you’ll be able to become whatever you want.