As you’ve learned in some of my earlier blog posts, I have created a book club called “Lit Lovers.” In general, this has led to increasing value in people’s lives in unexpected ways (you can read about that particular moment here). Recently, a friend wanted me to recommend to her some self-help books that I have found personally useful in my life. This was a very cool request as it suggests she considers my advice valuable, and also, this is another added value of Lit Lovers—gathering good book recommendations.
To be honest, throughout my whole life, up until this year, I hadn’t read a self-help book. Instead, I preferred to dive into imaginary worlds like Alagaësia in Eragon or Westeros and Essos in Game of Thrones. This is because I am a fantasy writer and I have a series called The Guardian of the Core. You can learn more about that on any of my pages here and even follow my Instagram or Facebook account if you are looking for a new fiction book to read.
The reason I started reading self-help books, though, was undoubtedly due to my last relationship with the Filipina and the issues we had in communication. I took it upon myself to learn how to communicate better and increase my worth in hopes of saving the relationship. It worked to some extent, but ultimately, the relationship was not meant to be.
For me, the year of 2019 has been one of self-fulfillment, unimaginable growth, and determination and achievement. It is no doubt due, in part, to some of the books that I have listed below. Combined with the intrinsic motivation that I already have, they have definitely helped me define me more as a person and have helped increase my drive and my purpose even more. And as the year closes out, I feel it’s only right to share with you via a blog post about the books that have been so influential to me this year so that you may consider putting them on your Christmas wish-list this year and your to-read shelf next year. I hope that these self-help books lead you to discover yourself as well because as Ralph Waldo-Emerson once wrote: “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
Top 5 Self-Help Books
1) 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
by Steven Covey
Without a doubt, this book by Steven Covey is a game-changer for anyone who is looking to be more productive in life, for those looking to change their life for the better, or for those who want to view their life from a different perspective. Covey offers a great, logical approach to reshaping our lives by first focusing on within, and finding what it is we want most, to then focusing on the public victories that we can obtain by combining all of these little habits.
My favorite idea in this book is the idea of “responsibility” or as Covey puts it “response-ability”—the ability to choose our response. Things that upset us in life don’t have to upset us. We can choose to let them make us have a bad day, or we can roll with it and continue being productive despite the setback. He mentions a man who came to him about a lack of love in his marriage. The man says to Covey, “My marriage is bad. I just don’t have love for my wife anymore.” Covey mentions to this man he should “love her.” The man tries to reiterate again his lack of love. Covey, again, mentions to love his wife and that love is also a verb, and that you can always choose to love someone. Brilliant.
In a similar fashion, I learned this firsthand while in my first year in China (years before I read the book) when I had issues with my S1 (grade 10) students. For some reason, I couldn’t get through to them.
I knew I was a good teacher (I had a certification, after all, I had passed a nationally recognized exam with higher-than-average marks, and I’d like to say I have a good personality), but for some reason, there was a disconnect. Soon, I realized, it wasn’t me, it was the students. The type of students we select in the program I have are less-than-average students who are used to living on “easy street” because their parents come from wealth. After realizing this, and after realizing the futility of my grading actually meaning anything (for in China they fabricate all the grades before sending it off to the States), I’ve learned to just accept it and I don’t let teaching, or the inability to reach the masses and help them, affect me any longer.
Moreover, this year, this book has been fundamental in the idea of shaping my goals in life and how I look at my ordinary day. Starting with the “End in Mind” as Covey puts it is a very practical tool that we can utilize every day in our decisions to either do something or not to do something. The way he breaks down quadrants of activity is also very useful.
In summary, this self-help book is a game-changer and there is a reason why it has been translated into thirty-four languages. In fact, it is so influential that people are hired to give seminars on it. I, myself, gave a seminar on the first three habits here in China and how we can work on inner, personal victories, all with a little self-control and time management.
2) Atomic Habit
by James Clear
Recommended to me by a friend, Atomic Habit by James Clear is another game-changing, self-help book that really takes a step-by-step approach in how habits are formed and how we can create little changes to make a big impact.
He first utilizes this concept with the idea of smoking. Smoking is, of course, a bad habit. It is something that we would want to change. So, many times when people are trying to quit smoking and someone asks them if they’d like a cigarette they respond: “No thanks, I’m trying to quit.” In reality, although this conveys the truth, it doesn’t shape our identity. He mentions that, instead of saying that, we should learn to say, “No thanks, I don’t smoke.” Or “No thanks. I’m not a smoker.” Either of these responses clearly identifies us as a non-smoker, and thus, changes our identity. This is just one little change we can make in our daily lives to help reinforce habits, change habits, and create new habits.
Clear goes through a whole step-by-step process, though, of how to do this. Each chapter is laid out relatively simple with advice on how to create a good habit and how to stop a bad habit. If you click here you can go to his website and download a “Habit Cheat Sheet” which summarizes all of the information in his book into the step-by-step process. I caution you, though, to only do that. This is a book worth reading so take some time and actually read it. I guarantee it will make a difference in your life.
3) The 3% Man
by Corey Wayne
This book by Corey Wayne is a must for any male out there. Also recommended to me by a friend, this is the second self-help book that I’ve ever read. Actually, I read this simultaneously as I was reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This book, as well as that one, was read in an attempt to save the relationship that I was in and, to be honest, it succeeded. The reason we broke up was not due to my lack of understanding this material or my inability to change the way I presented myself, rather, it was a past issue that shouldn’t have been taken into account, but I digress.
Anyway, the reason why this book is in third place is that it is more gender-specific towards males. The first two books any gender will find it useful. This book is for men who want to understand women.
In Wayne’s eyes, only 3% of men truly understand women and how they act and once you find out how they act and how to deal with them they are, in his words, “as predictable as salmon going upstream.” Women may also find this book interesting and can find out what Corey Wayne has to say. For the most part, though, he makes great arguments and is really good at helping men to be more self-confident in how they approach women, how to stand out from the crowd, and how to, ultimately, get the women of his dreams.
I have two favorite takeaways from this book. First, he goes through a date-like scenario from a male perspective and a female perspective. Images below.
Second, is when Wayne refers to women as cats. You can see how he talks about this in the images below. What’s even greater is that this self-help book comes with related content that you can find online on YouTube under Corey Wayne’s channel. Look here if you want that link.
This book did wonders for me in how to look at relationships that I’m in, the ones I want to be in, and how to act with women that I’m generally interested in.
4) The Psychology of Persuasion
by Robert Cialdini
Although not a conventional “self-help book” in the sense that it helps you change something, this non-fiction book by Robert Cialdini takes a look at multiple modes of persuasion and the psychology behind them. In a sense, this is a self-help book because once we realize how we are being manipulated by others, we can take proactive measures to prevent that manipulation. Moreover, this book provides some interesting insights into how China persuaded POWs during the Korean War to release information, why the rate of suicide happens after a death of a celebrity, and how our role (or position ourselves) can influence others.
For example, when it comes to jaywalking, more people will tend to jaywalk if a man dressed in a business suit walks by them and starts to jaywalk himself versus the same scenario but an ordinary person dressed in casual clothes. This business man’s appearance: his suit jacket, his briefcase by his side, and his determined stride, all extol a sense of confidence to others that allow them to jaywalk as well (or, at the very least, assume that he is making a good decision and that they, too, should follow suit—pun intended).
Another great takeaway from this book is the idea of reciprocity. When we are given something, we feel the need to return that favor by buying something for them. People don’t want to feel like they owe someone something. They don’t want to appear rude. When we think about this, it makes sense, then, that most timeshares offer a free stay and the only thing you need to do is go to a business presentation about the timeshare. They are already taking advantage of you by imploring this tactic; furthermore, they have trained sales representatives there that know how to manipulate you even more into buying their product.
What is cool about this book is that by understanding these techniques, we can, in turn, use them to our own advantage. For example, my friend who recommended me this book was at a bar one time and got introduced to the owner somehow. My friend bought the owner a shot of liquor or some sort of drink. Usually, it goes the other way around (the owner will buy the customer something in good faith). By reversing this trend, he placed the responsibility to reciprocate on the owner and thus ended up drinking free the whole night. Interesting, right?
5) Where Good Ideas Come From
by Steven Johnson
Last but not least, the fifth book on the list is “Where Good Ideas Come From” by Steven Johnson. Recently, it has been adopted as the book-of-the-month for Lit Lovers. Inside, Steven Johnson breaks down how good ideas form withy 7 fundamental principles.
There are a few reasons I haven’t rated this book higher. First and foremost, I have not finished this book yet. Secondly, I found it rather precarious that a nonfiction book such as this should lack citations. Within the first three chapters, there are less than a handful of footnotes that help readers understand where this author is getting his information from. Furthermore, when researched, it is apparent that this is because there is a lack of validity in his illustrations. For example, he makes a point about baby incubators and their role in keeping babies alive during the first stages of infancy. Not only are these 40,000 dollar machines, but also, he claims that if given to a third-world country it would stop working a year or two after being there. The reason? Firstly, they don’t have the technical support to fix such a device. Secondly, even if they did have the technical know-how, they don’t have the resources (the tools or the money to buy the replacement parts).
Johnson then talks about the NeoNurture which makes the baby incubator and constructs it out of car parts. Needless to say, this is an ingenious invention and I can see why Johnson highlights this specific piece of innovativeness. However, what Johnson neglects to mention in his book is that the NeoNurture device was a complete flop. It never actually became a product. If you want to read more on why that is, look here. However, the way Johnson displays this device leads the reader to assume that this innovative machine was, indeed, as much of a success as it was an innovation. Proper citing and explanation of the whole truth would have been greatly appreciated (and expected).
So far, I have only read the first half of the book, but Johnson does a good job in setting out principles that lead to innovative ideas. He actually has a TedTalk about this very same topic that you can look at below.
Otherwise, ideas like “the adjacent possible” or making sure we are living in a “liquid network” are great takeaways that stay with the reader after he or she reads. I’m looking forward to continuing to discuss this book in the weeks to come with more of the Lit Lovers members. Also, it has given me some insight and perspective on my own ideas that I have in mind and how to go about approaching the fulfillment of those ideas.
So, there’s the list. With that being said, are there other self-help books that you would recommend to be added to the list? Like many others, I am always in search of a good book, so please feel free to share any recommendations you have in the comments below.
As we transition from 2019 – 2020, I hope everyone reading this takes some time to reflect on where they are in life and where they want to be and start to envision their “perfect” life because that is what our 2020 vision should be, perfect, yeah?