Five Books That Have Changed My Life

I love to read. I read a fair amount of fiction but I mostly read non-fiction. I enjoy reading that makes me think and challenges me to take action or meaningfully examine my life. In no particular order, five books that have changed my life:

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Book #1: The Power of Less – Leo Babauta

What it is about:
The book focuses on the idea that we have more stuff in our life than we have time. To be effective in our lives we need to step back, determine what is truly important to us, and get rid of the rest. If we do not, we will find ourselves overwhelmed with junk (both physical and commitments) that doesn’t leave time for the truly important things.
How it changed me:
To start, it made me realize I have way too many possessions and I was spending a lot of time, money and energy acquiring things to try and make myself happy or to impress other people. Things will never make you happy but quality relationships, a happy wife and wonderful experiences are way more important than trying to acquire more. Secondly, it is better to concentrate on a few commitments and do them well than to try and be everything to everyone. By cutting back my commitments, I am now able to concentrate on the ones that are most impactful and give them sufficient time and effort without being constantly exhausted. Lastly, when I changed my lifestyle and quit spending so much money on things I didn’t need, I had a lot more to give away to church, people and missions that are actually important to me.
Why you should read it:
If you finish this book, you will not be able to look at your stuff, possession and time the same. Reflecting on what is really most important to you is an exercise that very few people spend the time to do. Without clear priorities, you will end up spending your time, money and energy on things that may not be that important.

Book #2: 4-Hour Workweek – Tim Ferriss

What it is about:
The 4HWW is a book about lifestyle design. The core message is being efficient and learning to manage your time and money to maximize enjoyment for your life. It has several concepts that were relevant in my life even though my position is slightly different than Ferriss’.  The book tends to err on the side of hyperbole, but that is what also makes for an interesting and inspirational read.  I think the core of the book is  defining what you want in life, then figuring out how to achieve it. It gives a lot of tips, tricks, and hacks to building efficiencies into your lifestyle.
How it changed me:
I think it made me start to analyze what I wanted to get out of “work” and life.  It translates everyday desires into a formidable action plan. I think the book also provides inspiration for valuing traveling and new experiences. The book was a catalysis for me to get out and see the world, but also to approach my life by defining what is of value to me and working everything else, like work and school, around it. It also provides plenty of step by step instructions on how to become effective at what you do and tips on dealing with inefficient individuals.
Why you should read it:
Again, this book will challenge you to think outside the box. It forces you to examine what you want and to brainstorm how it might be possible to get there. The basic concept of defining what it is you want to have, be, and do are simple things many people never take the time to think about. What makes this unique is that it is actually a fun read and motivates you to action.

Book #3: The Principle of the Path – Andy Stanley

What it is about:
The book examines the principle that directions, not intentions, determine where you end up. It is an excellent read that explains how the choices you make today will impact your life. It also helps refine the path you want to take if being happily married, financially fit and being emotionally fulfilled are priorities in your life.
How it changed me:
It had a lot of good ideas about defining what I thought was important to me. But this book made me realize that, while my intentions were good, I was on a path that did not lead to where I wanted to be. Specifically, I wanted to be a good husband, a role model to my daughter and an example to my friends. Many of my activities and actions were not really pushing me to the place I knew I wanted to be. And I think focusing on the path it takes to get where I wanted to go was a great step for me.
Why you should read it:
I think it is extremely impactful and will force you to be honest with yourself. It will ask hard questions about how the activities and action you spend your time on are influencing who you want to become.

Book #4: Your Money or Your Life – Joe Dominquez & Vicki Robin

What it is about:
Caution: Wait a year to read this one. It is advanced reading. It is typically referred to as one of the most influential personal finance books of all time. The basic concept is simple, you must decide how much life you are willing to give up to make money. And how to use money as a tool to give you time. It also gives the ultimatum that you must learn how to control your life and spending so that you do not spend the rest of your life working for things that are not important to you.
How it changed me:
This book is almost like a reference book. I plan on reading it, or parts of it, at least once a year. The concepts are timeless and help give focus to why you earn a living and what you are giving up every time you go to work. It talks about the full concepts of retirement, what it means to stop working when you are in your 30s (for money), and start living a fulfilling life now. It made me realize that if I can control my desires, expenses and manage my expectations now, I don’t have to make millions to live a comfortable and fulling life. In fact, if properly controlled, I can obtain financial freedom in less than ten years. I can cross over to where I have enough money invested that the interest and returns will cover all my living expenses for the rest of my life.
Why you should read it:
It gives the true ‘how-to’ on the ideas of building the financial side of your ideal life. It is the ‘nuts and bolts’ on how to make wise choices and utilize investments to achieve specific goals. Again, this book is a paradigm shift of what people talk about in terms of living the “American Dream.” It challenges the idea of working 60 hours a week until you are 65 so you can “retire.” It suggest changing your mindset and priorities now so you can have the things you want and the time to enjoy them. It will change how you view money.

Book #5: Kick The Drink Easily – Jason Vale

What it is about:
On the surface the book is about alcohol. But honestly, the book is much more than that. It really delves into many of the concepts of marketing, peer pressure, and health surrounding alcohol; then challenges our assumptions. The book is based on an analysis of the alcohol industry and makes the case that marketing is a huge part of why we do what we do and buy what we buy. The book is in and out of print so finding a physical copy can be difficult but the kindle version is readily available.
How it changed me:
This book made me reevaluate a lot of areas in my life through the lense: ‘Is this product/service/activity providing me with value relative to its cost?’ It has truly changed how I value my time, and made me realize many of the activities I had previously pursued were not creating the value that I once perceived they would. It also gave me clarification and an eloquent way to put into words many of the concepts that were trapped in my head regarding alcohol. The books will probably save me $1000s over the course of my life and prevent lots of headache and stress in the future.
Why you should read it:
I think it will begin the process of challenging assumptions. It will force you to think about why you participate in all the activities you do. The most important concept in the book is raising the question, ‘How will you value life’s activities?’. If you are trying to find words to describe why you don’t do something, this book offers a lot of insight into the argument against massive media marketing.  And finally, if you are interested in exploring your own relationship with alcohol then it provides context for that. Lastly, the book is a bit repetitive (at the author’s acknowledgement) but it makes for a good read.

Bonus: Financial Peace & Financial Peace University – Dave Ramsey
This book & class has probably had the biggest impact on my life but much of it was due to the fact that my wife also read/attended and implemented many of the principles of the book. Getting her on board and discussing our futures was more important than most of the individual change in all the rest of the books.

4 thoughts on “Five Books That Have Changed My Life

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  3. Financial Peace by Dave Ramsey is also one of my favorites. Although not life changing (but pertinent to finance), “Fooling Some People All of the Time” by David Einhorn is a great read.

  4. Pingback: My Favorite Books | Simple Economist