10 Books That Have Had A Big Influence On My Life

People often ask me what books have impacted me the most throughout my life. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. I’ve included some classics as well as some newer ones.

After I finished writing this, I realized there were some glaring omissions, such as The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and pretty much all of Eckhart Tolle’s writings, which have profoundly influenced the way I think and act. I’ll suppose I’ll have to create another list at some point.

So, here's my short list of influential books (in no particular order):


#1. Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

This is one of the first personal development books I ever read when I was just 18 years old. It was definitely the first book about wealth creation I ever read and it completely blew my mind. I kept wondering, “Why didn’t I learn any of this in school?”

Napoleon Hill wrote this book by studying the wealthiest and most successful individuals of his era over the course of 20 years. He observed people like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford, interviewed them and distilled the wisdom he gained into 16 timeless principles.

I credit this book with teaching me how powerful our minds are. It was the first book I read on the power of the mind and it opened me up to to the idea of the subconscious mind and autosuggestion (self-talk), especially as it relates to money.

Favorite quotes:

Here are just are a few quotes (out of dozens) that I have highlighted in my personal copy:

“When one is truly ready for a thing, it puts in its appearance.”

“The majority of people who fail to accumulate money sufficient for their needs are, generally, easily influenced by the opinions of others.”

“Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune or temporary defeat. Perhaps this is why so many fail to recognize it.”

“One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat.”

“One sound idea is all you need to achieve success.”

“Both success and failure are largely the result of habit.”

“Money is shy and elusive. It must be wooed and won by methods not unlike those used by a determined lover in pursuit of a mate.”

NOTE: There are several different printings of this book, but the one I like most is this one from Tarcher/Penguin because it sprinkles in modern day examples throughout the book to help clarify and support different concepts.

Fun fact: This book was the original inspiration for my Instagram page @ThinkGrowPropser.

#2. Blink by Malcom Gladwell

This book explores the topic of what contributes to good judgement, especially when there are many factors or variables involved. This book is based largely on research done by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. (Kahneman’s book Thinking, Fast and Slow gives a much more comprehensive account of these concepts, but I read it much later in my life.)

Most influential part:

I was surprised to learn that research shows that decisions which involve many complex factors -- like choosing a life partner -- are best made instinctively and intuitively, while decisions that involve just a few straightforward variables -- like deciding what car to buy -- are best made rationally and through deliberation.

Fun fact: there was a case study in this book that sparked me to quit my corporate job in 2011 and go into sales on a whim.

#3. Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry & Jean Greaves

This book is all about becoming more emotionally self-aware and learning how to use your emotions productively, rather than be controlled by them. Lots of practical strategies and tips.

Most influential part:

The chart that lists all the different emotions. Before reading this, I didn’t realize all our emotions stemmed from five basic, core emotions. This chart made it easier for me to identify specific emotions in myself and others, although this is still a challenging area for me sometimes.

#4. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Stoic wisdom at its finest. This is the personal diary of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. It contains notes to himself about how to deal with difficult people, success, failure and a whole bunch of other real life stuff.

Most influential part:

There’s a part where he talks about dealing with difficult people and it’s a mindset that I’ve found super helpful to adopt. At its core, it is basically the idea that you need to mentally prepare yourself for difficult people so that they are not a surprise. Secondly, it’s the realization that you can choose to not be affected by them because you know who you are and what you value.

“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother...therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.” --Marcus Aurelius

#5. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

One of the most fascinating and thought provoking books I've ever read. I love learning about the origins of the human species and the remarkable events surrounding our “rise to the top.” I also think that when we look at the subject of personal development against the backdrop of evolutionary biology, it can give us a better understanding of how to work with our hardwired brains, rather than against them.

Most influential part:

One of the main takeaways for me from this book is that humans have a unique ability to essentially make stuff up that is not part of objective reality. The creation of these imagined realities (think: laws, business entities, religions, money, etc) has been a big reason why we’ve been able to dominate this planet, mainly because it has enabled us to operate in extremely flexible ways with countless numbers of strangers, unlike any other species in the animal kingdom.

What’s most interesting to me from a personal development standpoint is that this same ability that we use on a collective level, we also use on a personal level. We tell ourselves stories about our abilities, our circumstances and the world around us. These “stories” are just another word for our beliefs. And our beliefs and belief systems are the filter through which we experience the world around us.

#6. Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

One of my all-time favorite books on the entrepreneur mindset. I guarantee it will change the way you think about owning and running a business. So much simple yet powerful wisdom packed into 84 short pages.

Most influential part:

Derek’s framework for how he makes many of his decisions is awesome. It is basically this: If it’s not a “Hell yes!” then it’s a “No.” I'll let him explain in his own words:

"When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than: ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ — then say ‘no.’ When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say ‘HELL YEAH!’"

#7. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

This is one of those timeless stories whose life lessons will stay with you forever. It resonated with me on such a deep level the first time I read it. To this day, it still gives me goosebumps when I reread this magical fable.

Most influential part:

There are so many insights I’ve picked up throughout this book. One of them that stands out is this quote:

“The soul of the world is nourished by people’s happiness...to realize one’s Personal Legend is a person’s only real obligation.”

The way I interpret this message is that when each of us find what excites us and follows it, the end result is that we make the world a better place. Imagine if everyone in the world was actually doing what made them happy, sparked joy, or excited them

#8. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This book will always hold a special place in my heart because it inspired me to start my first real business. No other book has moved me to action more quickly or effectively than this one. It resonated with me so much, I finished reading most of it before I even left the bookstore back in 2008.

This book is a practical and actionable guide to creating a business that allows you to live life on your own terms. It will help you see entrepreneurship and lifestyle design from a completely new and empowering perspective.

Tim Ferriss is one of my all-time favorite teachers and a true master at reverse engineering success in many different fields. He's been a source of inspiration for me for many years. He also hosts one of my favorite podcasts, The Tim Ferriss Show.

Most influential ideas & concepts:

The difference between being efficient versus being effective. Being efficient is doing things well, regardless if they are important or not. Being effective is doing important things well.

Parkinson's Law: A task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.

Pareto's Law: 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.

Fear-setting: Clearly defining your worst case scenario if your venture doesn't work out, then preemptively figuring out solutions in order to help you see that failure is not that scary.

Favorite quotes:

"The blind quest for cash is a fools errand."

"Being financially rich and having the ability to live like a millionaire are fundamentally two very different things."

"Learn to ask: 'If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?'"

"Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for 'realistic' goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming."

"A person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have."

"Life is neither a problem to be solved nor a game to be won. If you are too intent on making the pieces of a nonexistent puzzle fit, you miss out on all the real fun."

"What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do."

(Fun fact: I have a version of this last quote tattooed on my arm, though I often forget it's there).

#9. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

Don't let the title fool you, it's actually a really insightful read. Main idea of the book is that you need to decide what is truly important to you and stop giving your precious energy and time to everything that isn't.

Most influential part:

One of the best ideas I got from this book is actually a derivation of a Buddhist concept: the idea that suffering is unavoidable. This isn’t depressing, it’s actually empowering if you apply it practically. In the case of this book, it’s that everyone -- regardless how successful they are -- has problems. The solution of one problem is the creation of another. Life isn’t about not having problems or avoiding problems. It’s about choosing problems you enjoy dealing with. (e.g. the problems that come with exercising versus the problems that come with being out of shape).

#10. The Power of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy

This book explores a principle that helps all other self-development tools work better: The idea that our experiences, actions, and circumstances are produced by our subconscious minds in response to the information we feed our conscious minds and what we focus on.

Most influential part:

I love the part on “autosuggestion” and have used this principle in my own life for many years. It’s also known as "affirmations" or "self-talk." Although there may be slight variations among these, it’s essentially the idea that you can reprogram your subconscious mind by intentionally and repeatedly feeding your conscious mind specific messages. Since your subconscious mind has a lot to do with your behavior and perception, this practice has the power to create change in your life.