The Best Books To Help Improve Your Life
Since Peter and I work full time, we don’t always get to travel everyday. In the down time that we have either by commuting, staying at home, waiting in a queue among others, we find other ways to improve ourselves and occupy our time by reading books.
I used to start out by doing book reviews on my other blog – which involved me writing a review about each and every book I read. However, not all the books I’ve read before are actually helpful to my life – some of them were just read to create a different world for myself or to just take me away to my current reality into a different state of reality. So, I decided to do something more different and attach more meaning to it, by only reviewing the best of the best books and not just every book I read (because let’s face it, that’s rather boring).
So, even though we are not book scholars nor can we claim we have read a lot of books already, below is a list of books that changed our life at one point in another, why it changed it, and how you too can use this book to make changes in your life. I would say this could be part one in a series for non-fiction titles, however, don’t expect another one to come out fairly soon. I’ll only publish something whenever I read at least 5 other books to make it to another post.
1. The Four Hour Work Week – Tim Ferris
This book is one of the first I’ve read when I was getting more into the non-fiction genre. I was unhappy with my location at the time and looking to go abroad and be mobile.
The book changed me in a way that no, I don’t have to quit my job in order to travel and explore new places. I can just find a job that assigns me somewhere or that allows remote work. Once I’m ready to take the plunge of having my own business (which we’re starting right now), we can automate tasks and stabilize it enough to enable it to make more money even though we’re not exactly putting much effort on it. And that’s what makes it passive: putting the work (a lot of it) early on so that it will pay off in the end.
Why You Should Read This Book
Almost every financially independent person or digital nomad out there probably read this book. And there’s good reason why they picked it up. It is actually quite effective and was well-written. It doesn’t give you steps on how to actually reach the four hour work week, rather it guides you through the process.
Remember: You’ll have to figure out your systems first, automate them in such a way that makes it efficient, outsource them, and then enjoy your free time and life as a financially free person.
2. Your Money Or Your Life
A cult favorite by personal finance bloggers, which is how I discovered it in the first place, this book brings a new perspective to saving, spending, and achieving early retirement.
See the pattern here? I am obsessed with early retirement so I don’t mind putting the work in now so I can have more time in the future to pursue my passions and other hobbies. This book guides you to that optimal point where your money is generating enough income for you to survive on. It guides you through your money makeover in just a few steps, so pick up this book and find out yourself!
The newest edition of the book has been updated for the new millennium, as the original printing was done in the 90s- but most of the lessons stay true even until now!
Why You Should Read This Book
While the setting is mostly catered to Americans, it teaches one vital thing: always spend less than you earn, and try to get your expenses to be paid off through investments or other passive income (see Four Hour work Week above).
Passive income can be loosely defined as a way that you can earn money without actively working for it. Those who are self-employed, employed in a cubicle or blogging (like me) are actually considered active income. Passive income comes when you earn money even if you don’t do much (or work for like, a few hours a week as compared to the full 40 minimum we are required at a full time job). While some activities in this book can be quite daunting and even boring to do, most of the content is a good worthwhile exercise for you to look into your finances, and see how healthy they are.
3. The Power of Habit – Charles Duhigg
A book that I picked up mainly because I saw it was recommended on my Goodreads feed and well, a few other friends were reading it. I was starting to get in the non-fiction phase, and needed to read a few more books that will actually enrich my life and learn more rather than just reading fiction (although fiction is good too). Anyway, this book tells you that we as humans are programmed to pick up habits — be it good habits (like becoming productive, exercising, goal-setting, and the like) or bad habits (smoking, procrastinating, being lazy).
Habits are mostly learned, however, it can be unlearned in such a way that you’ll have to reprogram your brain. All it takes is understanding the three things that program habits:
Say you want to do more side hustle tasks while you are working full time but can’t seem to stop watching TV after you come home from work claiming you are tired. Here’s how your brain normally reacts to this habit of watching TV after work:
- Cue – You get home after your full time job on a weekday. Depends what time your shift ends, we will assume you get home around 7PM.
- Routine – You make dinner, and eat your dinner in front of the TV. You clean up after dinner and park yourself back in front of the TV
- Reward – You feel tired and go to bed to prepare for the next day of working (or if it’s the weekend, maybe have an adventure)
By identifying the cue, and your routine, you can actually tweak them a bit to give you a new habit. In the example above, you just sit in front of the TV after dinner. How about to make a change – you actually go and watch TV after dinner for a set period of time, and then do something more productive afterwards like writing, or actually doing your side hustle?
The example above actually opened my eyes to the power of the human brain and yes, how we are just programmed to do certain things again and again and again and again. Because our brain wants to use it’s scarce brainpower to actually do other things (like you know, breathe and function as a human). I’ve actually managed to re-program myself into trying to make more time in my busy schedule in the day. I also identified how to reprogram said habits (i.e the watching TV example below) to give me more time to actually do things like write and learn more about investments and other ways to earn passive income (again, see a pattern here?)
Why You Should Read This Book
If you want to identify habits you have in your daily life in order to change them then by all means pick up this book. It is very useful and eye-opening. I swear, it was one of those books that I can’t put down (but nothing beats the Da Vinci Code when I was in college — I read that book in 40 hours but that’s another story…)
4. The Happiness of Pursuit – Chris Guillebeau
What started out as me reading his famous blog, which made me go fangirly over him and basically tried to devour everything he writes. His blog was mostly about his quest to visit all the countries in the world, which eventually morphed into business, life, work, and travel in general. This is the third book that Chris Guillebeau has written, and while I have read his first book, the Art of Non-Conformity (which wasn’t so good, to be honest), this third one blew me away.
This book is sort of like a case study wherein he interviewed a few people and how every single one of them are following their passions – be it for traveling, cooking a dish from every country in the world, and basically just doing extraordinary things that people normally think is quite a daunting (even impossible task). He writes it in such a way that it’s easy to relate to the people in the book, and it’s meant to inspire, and not to make you feel jealous of the success of said people. Rather, the book encourages you to forge your own path or to get one of the passions from the book and put your own twist on it.
Why You Should Read This Book
This book was inspiring in a sense that you actually look into yourself and see what your passions are in the hope that you can make something out of it and not just keep it repressed within yourself. It shows you that big things can be done, and you don’t have to ask for someone’s help or permission to be successful (or not) in what you are passionate about. Thing is, no dream is too big nor too small!
He actually included me in one of his interview series once upon a time!
5. Smarter Faster Better – Charles Duhigg
The second book by Charles Duhigg which made it to the list. As soon as this book came out, I eagerly awaited for it to become available in the library so I can pick it up. Unlike the other book, which is focused on habits, this book is now focused on productivity – both in your personal life and in your business life (work, or your own business that you’re trying to start or build).
This book has 9 parts: all of which are tied to how you can be more productive.
- Motivation – How making our own decisions and breaking free from the norm actually makes us more productive. The Why’s matter – Why are we doing this? How are we going to do this? You have to make your own decisions and not just go through life like a zombie mindlessly following everything that’s set out for you by other people.
- Teams – Wherein if the team allows every member to speak; no idea is too stupid or shut down; no person talking over one another; no one specialist or authority figure makes teams work better compared to teams that are all specialists and trying to upstage each other.
- Focus – How we should prepare ourselves by picturing a specific scenario to focus on in our brains. Without focusing on a certain problem or a solution, we could actually have disaster (the example was pretty gory: about a plane crash because of a lack of focus — or too focused on one thing that we neglect to see the problem considering all the options)
- Goal Setting – How SMART goals and stretch goals work hand in hand to make you more motivated to succeed at your goal.
- Managing Others – Empower people closest to the problem to make decisions about the topic as an expert. Decentralize decision making from the higher ups, to those who are experts, thus making things more streamlined and would empower employees on how they spend their time.
- Decision Making – Keep adjusting your decisions as more information comes in. Immerse yourself not just with success stories but with failures as well to give you more idea on the various future outcomes can be and create assumptions based on both. That will enable you to make good forecasts about what MAY happen in the future and it will set your expectations according to the future outcomes.
- Innovation – Wherein the creative process can be broken down and explained. Use your own experiences and pay attention to how they make you think and feel. Then recognize the panic and stress you feel as you try to create something isn’t a sign that something’s going wrong. It is in fact pushing us to see old ideas in new ways. Also remember that the relief finding a creative breakthrough can blind us from seeing other alternatives. Make small disturbances to find a different perspective if stuck.
- Absorbing Data
Why You Should Read This Book
If you are looking to become more productive in your life (be it your personal or your professional life), then this book can definitely help guide you through it. Told through real examples, the book is narrated in a way that it’s not too boring for regular folks like us who can feel a bit alienated reading non-fiction books. And yes, the fact that being productive goes a long way now in your professional life helps a lot to get higher in the vertical chain, or gives you more tactics and innovation to work on if you are going for a horizontal move.
If you’ve stuck this far with this article, congratulations! Hopefully you pick up some of these books if you want to change at least some aspect of your life. Continuous improvement is key. We all know that change is hard, but by taking the first step and recognizing goals and things you want out of life and then learning about it is a good change. You’ll just need to find time to actually digest what these books are saying. If you didn’t get it the first time, who’s stopping you from reading it again and again and again?
As I mentioned above, this could be the first out of many books that can help change your life. As I start reading more and more, I’ll probably recommend a few more interesting reads. Trust me, I’ve read a few non-fiction books already and a lot of them don’t even come close to the greatness of the top 5 books above.
Note that with the exception of the Four Hour Work Week, all the books were borrowed from the Jacksonville Public Library (FL) – support your local library if you have them folks! They’re a great wealth of information, and if you return or renew the books on time, you don’t get fined for it, making it completely free! The Four Hour Work Week was bought by myself from a Philippine bookstore, Fully Booked.
*stock photo by Jasmine Star