This article originally appeared on Quora: What 10 books would you recommend for an adult who hasn’t accomplished anything yet but wants to start trying to live a successful life?
When I was a kid, at least 10 girls rejected me because of ugliness when I asked them out.
I was also caught shoplifting by the police and had to go to court.
My parents occasionally hit me. And I don’t think they did the wrong thing.
And then I was an adult. I SURVIVED.
Had I accomplished anything? Yes. I survived childhood.
Since then, I’ve changed careers 15 times. I’ve changed entirely my sets of friends. I have very good friends. I always hope to keep meeting new people.
I’ve started 20 businesses, failed at 17. Written 18 books. 12 of them were horrible. 2 of them were ok. Four of them were good I think. I hope.
I’ve made and lost millions. And then made and lost millions. It was horrible. I wanted to kill myself.
I googled more than once, “How can I kill myself without anyone knowing”.
I was so depressed I would stay in bed 23 hours a day. No medicine would help. I didn’t know what to do.
Reading is a good guide to what makes a good day.
Here are some books that are my go-to books if I need that extra shot of knowledge, wisdom, experience, help, and finally, HOPE.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl
He was in Auschwitz. His friends and family were dying all around him. He was tortured both physically and psychologically.
But he found the vein of meaning deep inside of him to keep going. And not only to keep going, to actually hope, and be excited about a future he didn’t even know if he would live for.
Read that one book alone. Read it over and over.
Tools of the Titans by Tim Ferriss
It only came out recently. I had so many questions about it that I flew to California and interviewed him about it for my podcast.
It’s the collection of all the knowledge and wisdom he gained from the 100s of people he interviewed.
I leave it out on my floor and read a page or two whenever I pass it.
It’s already filled with 100s of my notes (see below). It’s maybe the one physical book I keep around. The rest, including my own books, I keep on my kindle.
Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
Cheryl had an advice column called “Dear Sugar”.
I was reading the column long before Oprah recommended “Wild” by Cheryl and then Wild became a movie and “Tiny Beautiful Things” (the collection of her advice column) became a book.
She is so wise and compassionate. A modern saint. I used to do Q&A sessions on Twitter. I’d read her book beforehand to get inspiration about what true advice is
Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach (author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull)
What would a messiah be like if he lived now. Would he care about politics? Would he care about the constant things people scream about on social media?
Or would he care about peace in the heart. And peace in our every day activities. And beauty. And being calm. And trusting the universe around us.
I go with the latter and so does this book.
Antifragile by Nassim Taleb
You ask about success.
To be successful you have to avoid being “fragile” – the idea that if something hurts you, you let collapse completely.
You also have to avoid simply being resilient. Bouncing back is not enough.
Antifragile is when something tries to hurt you and you come back stronger. That is real life business. That is real life success.
Naseem focuses on the economy. But when I read the book I kept asking myself, “how can I apply this to the areas of my life where I feel most fragile?”
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
Michael moved to an empty patch of forest, set up his trailer, and started to meditate in the early 70s.
He surrendered to whatever happened in his life.
Well…what ended up happening is that he created a multi-billion dollar company.
His book is about the spiritual beauty of surrender. And how that can go hand in hand with financial success.
I was so astonished by the book that I contacted him and flew down to Florida and stayed several days in his “compound” and interviewed him about his success. I re-read the book at least once every few months.
The Dip by Seth Godin
Meeting Seth is like meeting a modern day sage. He made a lot of money in the 90s when he sold his marketing company, YoYoDyne to Yahoo.
But his books are how I know him. And he came and visited me one day.
We did a podcast. Before it started he stopped anything and asked me, “Would you like some water?” And he went and got his me water.
He is truly graceful and giving and the way to receive is to give. That is the key to his success.
Start with “The Dip”. It’s about how every path in life has it’s up points and it’s down points. It’s a guide to getting through the down points.
This and “Graceful” are not his most well-known books but I think the are starting points for success.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
When a writer or an entrepreneur, or a manager, or an employee, or a…whatever…sits down to get to work, he or she is often met by “the resistance”.
The excuses that come up: I can’t do this. I am too old. I don’t have enough money. I’m scared.
“The War of Art” is the guide to getting through that block. The comfort zone is papered up and cemented shut by our excuses.
Learn to blast through that wall. Because on the other side of the comfort zone are all the tools of success.
Mastery by Robert Greene
What better way to learn about success then the minute paths taken by 100s or 1000s of successful people.
It feels like Robert takes everyone in history and dissects the exact moments and decisions that led to their great success.
Reinvent Yourself by ME
I don’t like to recommend my own books. It’s egotistical and promotional.
But out of 18 books, this is the one I am most proud of. I did it!
I spoke to 100s of my heroes. I researched 100s more. I wanted to learn how to reinvent myself. So I learned it by talking to and studying many others who have.
Plus documenting my own story of how I’ve tried so hard to reinvent myself. To accomplish something I am proud of. To be someone I hope my daughters can look up to.
That’s really what that book is about.
And these books, this post, is also what it’s about.