Person does stuff – someone writes it down – others read it. It’s as simple as that.
Every significant event in the history of mankind has been recorded for the benefit of those who follow. Every little detail of this planet we call Earth is contained within a book somewhere.
Standing on the shoulders of giants – the idea that we use what has come before as a shortcut to our own success. Books make this possible. We don’t have to figure out how to start a business because countless entrepreneurs have already revealed their secrets. If we’re struggling to lose weight or pack on muscle then we can just pick up a book that contains all the information we need to achieve our goal.
It’s amazing, really.
100 years ago, most of you reading this now wouldn’t have the skills to do so.
Until the internet era, most people had to rely on using a library card or had to physically go to a book store.
Now we can download a file to our smartphones or kindle and read pretty much anything we want, wherever we want, when we want.
Yet, most people still choose to watch reality television – and here’s me thinking we had zoos for that kind of thing.
Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction for now.
Here is a list of the 7 books which literally changed my life. Some gave me the confidence to quit my job. Others inspired me to try new things and one in particular is simply the most inspiring all-round self-help book I have ever laid my eyes upon.
At the end of this article I’ve also asked for your advice on an upcoming 30 day challenge – and I would be very grateful for your input.
In descending order, and starting with number 7, we have…
7. Bounce – Matthew Syed
Have you ever wondered what makes an elite athlete choke in a high pressure situation? Or whether the very best tennis players have better natural reflexes than those further down the rankings? This book will answer both and Matthew (a former British number 1 table tennis player) explores these questions and many similar with an interesting mix of science, research and anecdotal evidence.
Among the topics contained within include insight into how Laszlo Polgar and his wife had three daughters with the sole aim of creating future chess grandmasters (they succeeded), the myth of the child prodigy and the story of how Matthew played Roger Federer in a game of ‘real tennis’ which is an ancient style of the game, and noted how they were both equally useless at even hitting the ball.
I recall watching a television documentary a few years back on Jamaican sprinting success and how their elite sprinters seem to have a higher proportion of fast twitch muscle fibres via a specific gene (ACTN3) than the rest of the world. This definitely helps to explain why Usain Bolt has time to showboat as he crosses the finish line; however as this book explains, further research has since shown that this gene is present in Caucasians too. In fact, every person on earth has virtually the same genetic make-up and the reason why Jamaica produces so many elite sprinters is simple…
It’s their national sport – hence Jamaicans sprint more than any other nation. No talent, just hard graft.
6. Tricks of the Mind – Derren Brown
When you think of illusion or mentalism you probably conjure up an image of David Blaine but Derren is on another level completely. See what I did there… conjure… (shh)
The reason why I have chosen this book is purely down to the man himself. The amount of training and dedication that goes into being able to do the things he does, is astounding. From Jedi level cold reading, hypnotism and illusion all the way to incredible memory feats, photo-reading a book in 15 minutes and being able to win every time at the blackjack table.
Tricks of the mind explores many of his methods, philosophies and dives into a lot of the psychological thinking traps that many of us fall into in our day to day lives. Possibly the most interesting chapter concerns confirmation bias and how people unwittingly use this to reinforce their belief in the supernatural.
Derren also has a very funny and self-deprecating writing style. If you haven’t heard of him yet – YouTube will astound you.
5. Shape shifter – Geoff Thompson
This book had a huge impact on me following a challenging period in which I allowed depression to take a firm grip on my life. In essence, it is a book on personal transformation – that within all of us is the ability to change who we are for the better.
He begins by discussing the ‘us and them’ mentality and how many people use it as an excuse for failure. Using examples from the world of entertainment and sport, Geoff explains that the only difference between high achievers and the mediocre is simply how many hours they put into their craft. The following chapters can meander around a bit – dipping into many areas such as diet, false beliefs, philosophy and the odd mention of religion, but fortunately Geoff’s writing style ensures that nothing ever comes across as preachy or cliché.
This is the book that first turned me on to the idea that talent doesn’t really exist, and I’m not afraid to admit that this website probably wouldn’t exist either if I hadn’t read Shape shifter.
If you’ve ever given up on something because you’ve allowed fear to take control then this should kick your ass into shape.
4. Psycho Cybernetics – Maxwell Maltz
Following on from my early research into NLP (which I found dodgy) and self-hypnosis, I discovered this book and was shocked to discover that the techniques I had heard so much about were actually healthy after all.
I love the concept of visualisation and how we can improve our self-perception with a little effort and determination. The practical exercises that follow the surprisingly easy to digest theory, help cement the techniques within and as a result, I often recommend this book whenever I meet people interested in personal development.
As far as scientific self-help books go – this is as good as it gets. In depth enough to cover all of the fundamentals in detail but accessible enough that even the casual reader can immediately benefit from a quick flick through.
3. Total Recall – Arnold Schwarzenegger
I haven’t even finished the book, but 350 pages in I can safely say my opinion of Arnie has risen considerably. To be fair, it was high already – he is my ‘hero’ after all. But what struck me is his insane work ethic. That it doesn’t matter how many projects he’s working on or how many engagements he has planned, he always finds the time to complete the next item on his ‘to-do’ list.
Perhaps more impressively, he does it with a smile.
It’s impossible not to be inspired by Arnie. I can’t think of another human being who has been as successful in as many different industries as this guy. Bodybuilding, acting, politics, real estate, business and he still found the time to earn a degree and play Mr Freeze.
What a book. What a man.
2. Watch My Back – Geoff Thompson
I credit Geoff for introducing me to the whole concept of personal development with his excellent book, ‘The elephant and the twig’. Inspired by his words, I wanted to learn a bit more about the man behind the curtain – and I wasn’t disappointed.
He was a former nightclub bouncer and a veteran of over 300 (victorious) street fights, a successful author and martial arts expert as well as a BAFTA award winning writer.
This autobiographical story details his rise from a factory floor sweeper to the dangerous Coventry night scene in which he forged his fearsome reputation as a bouncer with a legendary knockout punch. For me, the most inspiring part is how he wrote the first edition while sitting on the toilet at the job he hated. A trick I learnt as a budding songwriter in my early twenties.
You know the book you hold in your hands rocks when a casual look on the back reveals endorsements from legendary gangsters Reggie Kray and Dave Courtney.
Oh, and Chuck Norris regularly calls him for advice.
1. Yes Man – Danny Wallace
To this day I consider this book to be the greatest ‘self-help’ book of all time. Forget the hugely forgettable Jim Carrey abomination that came out a few years ago – the original (as always), is perfect in every possible way.
The story (which is no doubt embellished), the style and humour, the overall concept and the feel-good factor it creates justifies the hype, in my opinion.
I’m in love with this book because it shows what can be achieved with positivity. Accepting every offer that came his way, Danny quickly finds himself in a whole host of crazy situations including a visit to an Amsterdam sex dungeon, presenting a television show about monks and even latching on to a date his ex-girlfriend is having with her new guy because of an innocent offer to ‘join us’.
Every time I find myself saying no, I think back to this book and ask myself, “what am I potentially missing out on here?”
To be perfectly honest, it’s changed my outlook on life.
Now it’s your turn to inspire me
Shortly, I’ll be embarking on a crazy 30 day challenge in which I plan to read 30 books in 30 days. That’s a lot of 30’s.
And no, these aren’t picture books. Thank you.
So I need your help.
I am writing up a list of the books to purchase (or acquire) for this challenge but I’m struggling for ideas. If you’ve read an inspiring or life changing book and you think that I (or anyone else) would benefit then I’m open to all suggestions.
If anyone nominates ‘writing for dummies’ then I will slap you.
Basically, anything related to personal development – including science related stuff, autobiographies, psychology, philosophy, skill acquisition, motivational or anything else that is a damn good read.
Hey, if you’re an author yourself and want your book promoted… I do like a freebie, ahem, cough.
Obviously, I will document this 30 day challenge afterwards and as an added incentive, should I read anything recommended by you, I will link back to your website (or name check if you don’t have one). I’m nice like that.
So what is the most inspiring book you have ever read? Please let me know in the comments below.