Reading 52 Life-Changing Books in 52 Weeks: Here’s Where to Start

These books changed my life.

These books changed my life. Pexels

This article originally appeared on Quora: I want to read 52 books in 52 weeks. Which books changed your life?

There’s a podcast episode that answers this question: Blubrry PowerPress Player

Other than that, here are mine:

1. Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

Life is more than about just making money. In fact, I have found a lot of rich people are still unhappy or unfulfilled. Therefore, this book does a great job addressing other life concerns.

The author saw hundreds of people pass because she worked in a retirement home.

I have definitely changed how I live my life and what I want to do because of the book. My priorities have shifted.

Biggest takeaways: Do more things that you wouldn’t do out of fear of failure. Our biggest regrets are often out of fear or trying to please others. Don’t live someone’s dream life or job if it’s not your own. You can be happy in the most mundane or simple times.

The author of the book has some great stories that taught me about life as well.

She was quite happy despite living a modest life. She was thankful for every moment because she survived cancer. She counseled many elderly men and women, some rich, some poor, some bitter at the world, some angry, and some depressed. One of my favorite stories was one where a rich but bitter woman was angry and confused as to how she could be so happy all the time.

One of my favorite stories was one where a rich but bitter woman was angry and confused as to how she could be so happy all the time.

2. The Millionaire Next Door

Want to get the surprise of your life? This book unveils some common trends of millionaires after studying thousands that go against the stereotype. For example, the most common car they own is a pick-up truck and they usually live modest lives.

I still remember this book after many years! I listened to it on audiobook while playing Batman Arkham City and Battlefield.

Nonetheless, it left a deep impression on me about personal finance and wealth creation. It lead me down a whirlwind path of improving my finances and understanding how wealth is made.

Biggest takeaway: you can get rich slowly over time even with a modest salary if you budget, save, and invest. Most millionaires live very modestly and have modest cars/houses/items. They spend on what they enjoy on and got there through being frugal and smart. They’re not like stereotypical millionaires you would image with fancy mansions.

Having said that, there’re tons of takeaways and I will be reading this again.

3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

The biggest lesson from this one was that IQ and natural genetic intelligence definitely don’t guarantee success. And if you’re good enough, what matters a lot is how much more time you put into practicing compared to the next guy, not how much more naturally gifted you are.

In the book, there was a reference to a study that tracked thousands of the nation’s highest IQ children over their lifetime. As adults, they were shockingly no more successful than a randomly selected control group. Some were garbage men!

How did this occur? Clearly, there’s more to success than just IQ. Social and emotional intelligence are big players in a world that where you have to deal with politics, social interaction, managing people, leading people, and other obstacles.

Another huge take-away was that I should always pay respect and be thankful for the luck I have. Every successful person has some element of luck at play even if you do all the right things. Even if you don’t think you have any luck, you do. I thought I didn’t have much, but I was lucky enough to be born in the U.S. out of all the countries in the world.

4. Made In America by Sam Walton

One of my first cases of deeply peering into the thought process and lifestyle of one of the richest men in the entire world.

I was quite shocked: He lived very modestly. Talked and treated others as equals. He was always a charismatic, people’s man. He cared more about his company than spending that money all the way until he died.

Sam taught me the power of humbleness and eagerness to learn.

Let me paint the story: this man had built one store into a billion dollar empire. He was the richest man in the U.S. Was he sailing around on yachts? No. He decided to spend an entire day driving with his truck drivers to see how their lives were like to remove inefficiencies. It wasn’t beneath him.

Another time, he and one of his top executives went into a smaller competitor’s store. The whole store was a mess and horrible in almost every way: messy aisles, disorganized products, bad product positioning and so on. The executive came out of the store talking about how bad the store was in every way. What Sam said next stopped him in his tracks and taught him a lesson he would remember for the rest of his life.

Sam simply mentioned the one tiny detail he found in the store that they were doing better than Walmart’s store. And he asked for his executive to immediately work on it.

This man was always looking to improve and never too humble to learn from others. There’s plenty of other stories like this in the book. Some involving him crawling on all fours measuring aisle lengths in his competitors stores.

He taught me some great lessons on social skills, respect, leading a team, learning from others, and transparency.

It was a great book with many business and life lessons.

5. Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins

The biggest lesson in Anthony Robbin’s classic, best-known book is his introductory chapter. He tells the story of how he flies over a building in his personal helicopter and realizes it was the building he used to work in as a janitor.

He was flying to a place to speak (he’s a well-known motivational speaker) and so many people had signed up to attend that traffic had blocked up all the streets leading up to the area. Now, Tony Robbins is worth over 500 million and runs a multi-billion dollar set of companies.

Why did this story emotionally evoke me so much? Because I had big dreams to and was doubtful as to how I could possibly get there.

For Tony Robbins to have little education as a janitor and get to where he is in 10 years really inspired me.

6. Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success by Steve Harvey

Steve’s story really spoke to me in a similar way that Tony Robbins did.

He came from a place much worse than me and rose to a place much better. What spoke to me even more than that was how he began his journey.

He dropped out of school and worked at a factory while his friend Arsenio Hall went to chase his dream of being a comedian (a dream Steve wanted himself). Steve and his friends laughed at Arsenio for being impractical.

6 years later, Steve was hating his job at the factory. He saw Arsenio on TV, having achieved his dream, and called all his friends in shock. Later he broke down crying because Arsenio achieved his dream.

Steve realized Arsenio exercised some laws of success and created what he wanted. He did the same thing and achieved multi-million dollar success himself.

Steve goes into detail about his journey in his book. There’s a lot of great lessons about how you can’t let other people’s belief become your own and how you focus on being the best rather than on making more money.

His story was not an overnight success one. I didn’t even know for the longest time! For years, I thought he was just another overnight success comedian I always saw on TV until I found out about his book. Steve struggled for a long time against many doubters including many of his previous bosses. He even was homeless.

One of my favorite lessons of his is to always be thankful for what you have. You can be rich but ungrateful and everything you get doesn’t affect you. You don’t want to live like that.

Other similar stories that spoke to me in tough times where I thought there was little hope were from billionaire John Paul DeJoria and Chris Gardner, both of who went through homelessness as well.

This is an economy that allows for great upside potential no matter your past or present situation.

I would say the biggest emotionally driven movie scene that also spoke to me in this way was from Rocky Balboa when he talked to his son. I thought he was speaking straight to me when he screamed:

“But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you’re no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow.

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

The way Sylvester Stallone acted out this scene was so emotionally evoking for me that I almost started crying and I almost never ever cry at all. When he talked about blaming others, I related to that. When he said, “You’re better than that!”, I felt like he was speaking right to me through the screen.

The message is clear: stop making excuses or blaming someone else. It’s not about how tough life gets, it’s about how you keep moving forward. Cowards blame others and that isn’t you.

7. Success Through Stillness by Russell Simmons

I accidentally found this book and read it on a whim. It really added incredible insights.

This man was a hard-drug addict, hip-hop mogul, and multi-millionaire. He dramatically increased his success, saved his own life, and changed it for the better through meditation.

In the book, he goes into great detail about:

  • how meditation isn’t a religion
  • how it’s the key to his success and 10xing his success
  • how it allowed him to become present in the moment and save his life from the brain damage from crack and other hard drugs.

He tells it in a very easy-to-understand way since he’s a hip hop guy. Even to this day, he has very deep connections with some of the best in the modern hip hop scene. You’ll see him in a lot of Paparazzi photos with some of the world’s most connected actors and musicians.

It was also interesting reading one quick story about how his friend spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get with a Victoria Secret model and still failed. It’s a lesson that attests to the fact that just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re good with girls.

8. The How of Happiness

Most of what we do is to be happier. So it would make sense to learn what makes us happy and what doesn’t. In fact, a lot of successful entrepreneurs chase what they “think” will bring them happiness, only to find out that it doesn’t.

I really struggled with happiness and was confused with all the advice I got from people. These were opinions and who knew if they were true. Even if the advice on happiness came from established people from church or wealthy millionaires, I wasn’t sure if the advice was the real truth. I didn’t want opinions anymore; I wanted the science of happiness.

I wanted the complete A to Z on happiness based on extensive scientific testing.

After going through many bad books on happiness that claimed to have science but did it in a messy manner, I found this book, which was almost everything I asked for. It was also not too long or boring to read.

It did a great job of covering all the bases and since using its principles, I am in a much happier place that sustainable.

I walk through life having a much clearer understanding of happiness than 99% of the world based on decades of experimental testing and research.

One of my big missions on my blog is to share with the world that more money, fame, wealth, cars, mansions, clothing, women, or materialistic possessions will not increase your happiness. You will get used to it very quickly. Studies have been well documented that track and prove this.

What actually increases our happiness are things like savoring the moment, relationships, social circles, gratefulness, and a variety of other activities mentioned in the book. Becoming happier is partially genetic and partially a difficult but worthy habit to obtain.

It’s a huge mission of mine to spread this message because I am well plugged into social media and see thousands of kids chase these things and get depressed through social comparison. Because I watch a lot of speeches and interviews of successful people in my free time, I also observe a lot of successful, wealthy people who finally get there and realize it didn’t make them happier.

Because I watch a lot of speeches and interviews of successful people in my free time, I also observe a lot of successful, wealthy people who finally get there and realize it didn’t make them happier. Almost every year, there are new stories like this.

Most recently, we’ve had celebrities like Cara DeLevigne, Lady Gaga, Russell Brand, and Jay-Z come out and talk about this.

9. Tap Dancing To Work

This one is a profile on Warren Buffett.

I say this because although the book was great, it was really all the things I learned because of the book that I’m thankful for. It really was one of the gateway books that really spurred me into learning as much as I can about Warren Buffett the billionaire.

Because of this, I learned so many life lessons.

The money manager Mohnish Pabrai said it best: “The most amazing things about Warren Buffett have nothing to do with business or money.”

Although I went in to learn about how he made his money, I learned a lot of incredible life lessons:

  • live modestly
  • happiness isn’t tied to money
  • family time is often more important than time at work
  • you should love what you do for a living
  • always be ethical or it’ll come back to bite you
  • you should never be envious or jealous of other people who lucked out

These seem like simple concepts but I see so many people every day who don’t follow them. Also, Buffett illustrates these in very unique ways with how he lives his own life and the mistakes he’s made.

By becoming consistently one of the richest people in the world over the last few decades, he has continued to live in a modest house, driven a modest car, eaten at McDonald’s, given many examples of how being unethical screwed over other companies, and he’s proved how he being patient beat being jealous.

10. The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This book is constantly spoken about in the business and self-help niche.

At first, I was annoyed about it and thought it was overhyped. But then, I realized what a feat that was. Tim literally wrote this book only several years ago and went from being a nobody to a legend in the space. It’s admirable.

There’s a lot of good tips and hacks about business, productivity, and travel in here.

These are the biggest takeaways and warnings I have for you:

  • My only warning: Don’t be fooled by the title. It was split-tested and works the best. However, I don’t even think Tim recommends the 4 hour work week. You still need to work hard for what you want in life.
  • Productivity hack: Only check emails twice a day maximum and only towards the end of the day. They are often not as high priority as other things you can do and it sucks up your time.
  • Travel hacking: Tim opened me up to the world of travel hacking, which I spent a lot more time researching through books and websites. He made me realize that I could travel the world even if I’m not super rich because the cost of living is so much lower in other countries that money goes a longer way and because you can cut unnecessary costs by getting cheaper hotels, use travel credit cards, and cheaper forms of transportation.

Related Links:

How do I become less boring?
What are the best best ways to make yourself happier?
How can one become part of the 1%?

Will Chou is a self development blogger who uses science-backed evidence at willyoulaugh.com. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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