I Read 600 Life Changing Books
I’ve read over 600 books. And they weren’t all worth it. For example, The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński was pure World War 2 nightmare fuel I will never forget. It’s even banned in Poland. But many books that I’ve read gave me insights that genuinely changed my life, and now I want to share some of those insights with you. This article would be a mile long if I mentioned every single book, so instead, I’m going to share with you the best lessons I learned. Let’s get into it.
Lesson #7 – Becoming your own best friend is the best cure for procrastination
According to a survey in the US, 88% of pet owners are more likely to give high-quality nutrition and medicine to their dogs than they are to take it themselves. That’s right. Most of us value the health and well-being of our dogs more than our own. Now, I don’t own a dog. But I did struggle to be kind to myself for a long time. That was until I read a book called Radical-Acceptance by Buddhist teacher Tara Brach.
It’s basically a book that teaches you how to fully accept the whole spectrum of being human so you can be more at peace with yourself. There’s a section where she talks about the art of being your own best friend. When I read it, I realized at the time that I was probably the furthest thing I could be from my own best friend. I was always judging myself and holding myself to impossible work standards. I’ve always been ambitious, but at the time, perfectionism was really dragging me down.
But in the book, Tara Brach talks about how you can be there for yourself like an amazing friend you want to be around all the time. It sounds a bit cheesy, but you can be someone who encourages you and comforts you when you really need it.
Now, that might sound a bit weird, and I get it. Most of us struggle to comfort ourselves because when we do that, it kinda splits us in two. Instead of just taking on the role of caregiver or care-receiver, we’re performing both at once, which can be pretty confusing.
It’s weird, but it also works, especially with practice. When you tell yourself that you’ll do better next time after you fail, you separate yourself from your suffering. You’re showing yourself that you’re more than just the victim who’s in pain. You step out of the victim role for a moment, which calms you down and allows you to choose a better response.
There are tons of benefits to being a better friend to yourself. The biggest one, if you want to succeed, is that it has the power to basically end procrastination. That’s because, according to Professor Fuschia Sirois, a professor of Psychology at Durham University, procrastination is not only an emotional regulation problem. It’s a self-compassion problem. Chronic procrastinators are usually their own harshest critics. And according to Sirois, this is what keeps the cycle of procrastination going for years or even decades.
Becoming your own best friend means you will more easily get through the hard times and dust yourself off when you fall. You’ll get back in the ring and start crushing it again. If you’re a perfectionist who never gives himself a break, maybe you need to rethink this.
Lesson #6 – In failure, there is gold … if you know how to find it.
There are 3 golden opportunities hidden in each failure.
Rick Rubin, author of a great little book called The Creative Act, is a legend in the music business. The gray-haired music producer, who looks a bit like Santa Claus, has worked with artists from every genre under the sun, from Linkin Park to Johnny Cash, Shakira, and Eminem.
After a bunch of award-winning albums, Rubin has learned one thing. You can’t control the audience. Great records might flop, and bad ones can take off. All you can do is set yourself the highest standard possible and stick to it. If you do that, you can let the idea of failure go.
Another person to mention is Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art. He likes to use failure as a teacher. He says that if you continue to fail, maybe it’s time to change the plan and work on a new aspect of your craft. And he’s familiar with failure. He was rejected by publishers for 15 years. He then decided to stop writing for a bit, move to Hollywood, and learn screenwriting. Doing this helped him write way better novels. Eventually, he got published and became a big success. If he had never moved to Hollywood, maybe he’d still be failing today.
Another useful example happened to the Beastie Boys when their second album tanked. It gave them the freedom to try new things. Once you’ve hit rock bottom, you’re free to be as creative as you want because no one expects great things from you anyway. With success comes pressure to deliver, and that can constrict you. With failure comes a kind of weird freedom.
Failure is a blessing in disguise. The most successful people are often the ones who dared to fail the most. With each failure come three great opportunities. To learn to see what you control. To figure out where you need to improve. To freely express your ideas. Remember these three things: when you’re so afraid to fail you don’t even start.
Lesson #5 – A proven formula you can follow to find health, wealth or wisdom doesn’t exist.
If there’s one thing I learned from reading so many self-help books, it’s that pretty much everyone who writes a self-help book believes they’ve found the one method that will solve everyone’s problems. But it’s complete garbage. Over the past 100 years, there have been countless self-help gurus, financial experts, and philosophers who have all spoken about formulas for achieving health, wealth, or wisdom. And yet, even today, nobody has agreed on one. If there was a genuinely proven formula, don’t you think it would have been widely accepted and implemented by now?
The truth is, there is no recipe you can just plug and play on your path to a fit body, a jacked-up bank account, or a calm mind. You can read all the books in the world, and yet it’s up to you to pick the advice that you’re going to apply and see if it works for you. Direct experience is absolutely king.
This relates to a lesson I learned from Dr. Justin Mager, a physician to Olympic athletes, health experts, and elite entrepreneurs. Justin says you have to figure out your own approach to health by running experiments. You can read books, educate yourself, and try different diets. But at the end of the day, you still need to eat gluten to find out if you’re gluten-intolerant.
What works for the 9-5 champion might not work for the professional sprinter or the stay-at-home mom. Learning is good. But only through applied learning can you translate those lessons into real results. Advice is overrated, which leads me to this next insight.
Lesson #4 – The wrong advice can destroy you.
Advice can be dangerous. There’s no greater example I can think of than what happened to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte when he took some really bad advice.
In 1812, Napoleon decided to launch a military campaign known as the Russian Campaign. His Foreign Minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (I probably butchered that) and some of his military commanders came up with a really great idea. Invade Russia. They thought it would be a piece of cake. Quick invasion. Back before Christmas. They had no idea what was going to happen when they got there. Napoleon’s closest people also told him that their allies would come to Russia with them.
Napoleon’s decision to listen to this advice was a complete disaster. His army was the largest force anyone had ever gathered in history up to that point. But it didn’t help them. The Russian army went full scorched earth, burning villages and crops as they retreated. This made it almost impossible for the French to feed themselves. Many died due to starvation and exhaustion. And it was only going to get worse.
Winter arrived. Soon the French army was dropping like flies from hunger, disease, and the brutal Russian temperatures. When they finally reached Moscow, the city was abandoned and in flames. With no supplies, Napoleon was forced to get the hell out of there and go home. His army of over 600,000 was reduced to under 200,000 trying to invade Russia. Four hundred thousand men died there. And Napoleon’s reputation as an invincible commander was shattered. All because he decided to listen to terrible advice.
What Napoleon should have known applies to you. Choose your advice carefully. Advice is absolutely everywhere. And most of it isn’t for you. Only a very small amount of tips will have the power to change your life. Some might be helpful. Most don’t apply. Some have the power to bring you down. The key is to learn the difference.
Lesson #3 – “No” is the most important word in the dictionary
Here’s something only successful people will really know. As you dive deeper into your field and start to establish yourself as an expert, people will seek your attention. A lot. It’s like a law of physics that just when a big success is on the horizon and deep thinking is the most important, the world will throw distractions your way. The solution is to say no to pretty much everything. But that’s easier said than done.
Luckily, there’s more than one way to say no to stuff. To consistently manage your commitments, you can explore new ways to say no. Here are some suggestions I got from author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, who’s always practical and helpful:
- Consider hiring someone to handle your emails and appointments, and instruct them to decline 99% of incoming requests.
- If hiring isn’t an option, act as your own gatekeeper and treat your emails as if you need to protect your time.
- Consider whether you’re only thinking of saying yes due to guilt or fear – not valid reasons.
- Picture the event happening early the next morning when you’d be in a rush. Would you still want to say yes?
While “no” is an important word, here’s another perspective: Gary Vaynerchuk, a digital marketing expert, allocates 20% of his time to say yes to opportunities that are a little bit “out there” or unconventional. This allows him to keep an open mind.
No is the most important word in the dictionary. Learn to say it in different ways. But keep that 20% in mind.
Lesson #2 – The power of the mind is the closest thing we have to magic
You might think I’m a bit of a weirdo for saying this, but I think magic exists.
No, not in the whole “Expelliarmus”, wand-waving Harry Potter kind of way. But if magic is the ability to shape your reality and change things in ways that can’t be easily explained, then this kind of thing is happening all the time. Through the power of the mind, you can completely change your reality.
A great example of this was when Conor McGregor fought for the UFC Featherweight title in 2015. He was up against an absolute monster. Brazilian featherweight champion Jose Aldo, a guy who hadn’t lost in over 8 years. And never by knockout. But when Conor walked out there and KO’d the man in 13 seconds to capture the title, everyone was asking the same question.
How the hell did he do that? And the response from Conor’s team created more questions than answers. They said that they saw it happen before it happened. Most people called BS on this explanation, thinking it was just fluff for the cameras. That was until they released the footage of Conor’s team in the locker room an hour before the fight. The footage shows Conor practicing the exact sequence. Slipping Aldo’s right-hand punch and countering with a left that ultimately led to the 13-second knockout. Nobody could believe it. Conor and his team used visualization and the power of the mind to bend reality to their will. And since that day, Conor earned the nickname “Mystic Mac” for being able to predict the outcomes of fights before they happened.
And there are ways we can harness the power of the mind through self-awareness, reflection, and visualization to get the outcomes we want.
Let’s say you’ve got a YouTube addiction. Now, you might be struggling like a madman trying to get yourself to stop. But one day, you decide to journal about your addiction for a while until you discover that it’s just a childhood coping mechanism. You recognize it, which straight away makes it easier to spot when it happens. Then, you might write a little bit about other things you could be doing instead and visualize a life where you don’t watch YouTube all the time. You might even create a vision board of images that represent your ideal life. By doing this stuff, you’re using the power of awareness, reflection, and visualization. And soon, you might start to notice yourself watching YouTube less and naturally feeling the desire to work on your side hustle more without really trying. Fast forward a year, and your life looks completely different. You’ve successfully used magic to transform your life.
And what about the emotions that hold you back, like anxiety or boredom? Well, just like Jesus apparently turned water into wine, people with a ton of self-awareness can turn negative emotions into positive ones. They call this emotional alchemy. Awareness and the power of the mind can also give you something I know so many of you are struggling with. A sense of purpose. When you understand your passions, fears, strengths, and weaknesses, you can make choices that are more in alignment with who you really are. And this alignment can feel fulfilling to you in a way that feels like magic.
Lesson #1 – If you have a strong enough WHY … you can endure pretty much anything
Of all the books I’ve read, one book in particular stands out to me when things get really tough. It’s probably one of the most important books you will ever read. That book is called Man’s Search For Meaning, and it’s written by a pretty badass guy called Viktor Frankl. David Goggins is a tough guy, but if both of them were put in a concentration camp, my money would be on Frankl to come through the other side. Why? Because that’s actually what Frankl did.
In 1942, Frankl and his family were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp. It was there that they went through pretty much the worst stuff you can possibly imagine as a human being. Forced labor. Torture. Creepy experiments. Mass executions. Disease. I won’t go on, but you get the point.
But what’s really cool about old Viktor is that he figured out something super important while he was there. He realized that the people who had a sense of purpose or meaning in their lives were more likely to survive. For example, some people find meaning in the desire to see their loved ones again or to just protect and support each other. Some turned the suffering into something creative like music or art. And some even found meaning in making the decision to suffer in a noble way.
So, even in the worst possible situation, he chose to keep a positive mindset. He thought there had to be some reason behind all the suffering. And he wanted to find it. So Viktor chose to help and comfort other inmates, even when he was struggling to survive.
And get this: while he was in the camp, he mentally planned out future lectures and books he was going to write. He used his imagination to escape from the reality of the concentration camp. He even wrote his insights and ideas down on scraps of paper he would find.
It’s pretty sad, but Viktor’s family didn’t make it through. When he got out in 1945, he turned his experiences into a therapy called logotherapy, which is all about finding meaning in life. The basic idea is that no matter what you’re going through, you can always choose how to respond. The things that happen in your life can never stop you from choosing a positive mindset. Honestly, I can’t think of a more profound life lesson than that. If you fully embrace that, you can achieve anything you set your mind to. Nothing can stop you.