Originally Published: June 27, 2016
Life is noisy. Blaring news stations, cars honking their horns, your kids pulling at your pant leg, conversations happening here, there, and everywhere. In the silence, you may find that even your mind gets a little loud from time to time. That being said, it’s not only okay to accept constant solitude, but I encourage everyone to carve designated time out of their lives to talk to themselves, create a bit of comfort, and enjoy a little quiet in this whizzing world.
One of the best ways I find to get connected with myself is through reading. There’s a spectacular Churchill quote that comes to mind when I think about how books enrich my life.
“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.” – Winston Churchill
I have always felt it true that well-rounded people start as well-rounded readers. The life we live today is built on both our lived experiences as well as what we have come to understand about the lives of others. Books, the collective sharing of knowledge, are a fast pass to gaining the broadest insight a person can possess. They are a pillar of our understanding of the world, as well as ourselves.
I am a voracious reader. I always have been, and I always will be. I am an active reader, meaning I like to evaluate, dissect, and take something of value away from everything I read. I think that is why biographies and personal development books have long been my genres of choice. They provide a wealth of life-changing, motivational material that is timeless and that you can refer to over and over again.
So before you start your next Hulu marathon, set down the remote and pick up a book.
Need some tried and true suggestions? I’ve rounded up six personal development books you should read in 2021. These are books that have been the most influential in my success and that I return to time and again for inspiration.
1. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952)
This is my favorite personal development book and has been very influential on my choice to have a positive attitude. I know people constantly telling you to be positive can start to sound like a bunch of lip service after a while, but Norman Vincent Peale focuses on real-life examples and the correlation between a positive mental attitude and the results you get in your life. If you’re serious about changing your outcomes, this book is a must read.
2. The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor (2010)
In much the same way Norman Vincent Peale talks about a positive attitude, this book talks about the effects of having a happy core on your health, relationships, success—you know, all the important things in life. It also discusses something else I strongly believe: Circumstances aren’t going to make you happy. You need to learn to be happy in your circumstances and make them better.
3. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen (1903)
The analogy I often use about weeding the garden in your mind comes from this book.
“A man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.”
Written at the beginning of the 20th century, it is a true personal development classic full of ideas and wisdom that still ring true today.
4. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill (1937)
Yet another book that focuses on the power of your thoughts. Are you starting to detect a theme? Hill spent years studying incredibly rich people like Andrew Carnegie and determined their success was a result of how they think. My favorite line from this book is, “Thoughts are things.” That’s powerful stuff.
This is probably the most well-known book in the personal development genre. Even though it was written a little over 30 years after As a Man Thinketh, I actually consider it a next chapter to Allen’s book and highly recommend reading both for the full impact.
5. The Churchill Factor by Boris Johnson (2014)
Anyone who has heard me speak or reads my work knows I greatly admire Winston Churchill.
He was truly an amazing leader, and I think this book is an excellent recent assessment of him. Instead of being just a biography, the book focuses on his attributes—his strength, courage and tenacity—that make up the “Churchill Factor” and the role they played in so many events that shaped Western civilization. It’s a very eye-opening book about the lasting effect one great leader can have on history.
6. Pushing Up People by Art Williams (1985)
Of course, this book is near and dear to my heart because it was written by Primerica’s founder at the peak of his career and near the beginning of mine with the company. But it’s also an important book because it shares a philosophy I think a lot of people in business need to take to heart: You personally get ahead in life by pushing people up instead of pushing people down. These days I see a lot of the opposite happening, so I think this is a book everyone trying to build a business needs to read if they want to be successful as well as respected. It wouldn’t be a bad refresher for some established businesspeople, either.
All of these books are available online, and I encourage you to pick one up soon. Whether you’re seeking knowledge or searching for solitude, books are a haven that will offer more than stories to your life. Books add value. Books open your mind. Books allow you to understand things outside of your realm of lived experience, helping you become a more considerate, altruistic, and well-rounded leader.
Looking to improve your focus and become a stronger leader? Check out some of my tips for decluttering your mind.