When I think about which influences have made the biggest positive impact on my life I always point to a few books. The value you can get from a good book is phenomenal: they only cost $20 but the knowledge inside can be worth its weight in gold.
In life, there are simply some books you should read. No question about it.
The ways we think about work and careers are often based on outdated paradigms. If you want to stand out from your peers then you have to be willing to expose yourself to ideas that challenge conventional wisdom.
The books I recommend here have helped me navigate an unconventional career path that has ultimately led to greater satisfaction in my life and work.
These are the 6 books you should read to change your career and your life.
1.Shifting your mindset and learn a skill.
This book was an absolute game changer when I read it at age 20. Tim Ferriss’ message is that working the 9-5 isn’t the only way to have a life of prosperity and happiness. In fact, neither of those are guaranteed with a conventional job and he presents a framework to create an independent life for yourself with greater freedom.
This book is excellent at shifting mindsets, especially when he demonstrates the absurdity of working solid for 40 years and then trying to enjoy your life after you retire and the boundless energy of your youth has faded. He presents the idea of “mini-retirements”, where you spend a month or so pursuing a project you’ve always wanted to do or taking that overseas trip you’ve been putting off for years.
After reading this book I had the courage to turn down a corporate grad job after university and instead moved to the United States to learn how to code.
2. Develop your skills quickly and effectively
Cal Newport busts the conventional wisdom of “follow your passion” and presents an effective solution for finding work you love: develop valuable skills. When you get really good at a skill that is valuable in the marketplace (ie. becoming “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”) then you can leverage that skill to have more autonomy and responsibility, ultimately making your work more attractive.
There are some great lessons in here about how to develop your skills much more quickly like adopting a craftsman mindset and having the dedication to do “deliberate practice”.
In my own life I was able to embody the lessons from this book by learning how to become a web developer, a position which ultimately gave me an incredible work-life balance and location independence. I don’t love every minute of getting paid to program but it has offered me the opportunity to do attractively paid freelance work from anywhere. Now I can use those skills and the money I’ve earned to pursue more of my interests and start my own businesses.
3. More skills… more success.
This is a semi-autobiographical book from the creator of the popular business comic Dilbert. Before he became a cartoonist Scott Adams had a long career working in corporate and along the way discovered what are the “mechanics of success”.
The big takeaway from this book is his success formula: every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success. The reason for this is because it’s much easier to be one of the best in the world at a unique combination of skills than it is to best the absolute best in just one. Scott Adams’ own success with Dilbert was a result of combining skills: he learned how to draw, understood humor and had a background in business. He wasn’t the greatest at any of these, but he was the best at combining them all together and created a incredibly popular comic about an engineer working in a corporate environment.
4. The best career advice you’ll receive is…
This book is a career guide disguised as a comic book. In this story we meet Johnny Bunko, who has just started a new job and is disheartened that all his achievements in school have lead to him working in a cubicle five days a week. With the help of some magic chopsticks a pixie called Diana arrives to offer him 6 critical career lessons:
There is no plan
Think strengths, not weaknesses
It’s not about you
Persistence trumps talent
Make excellent mistakes
Leave an imprint
What makes this book powerful is that it frames important career advice into an easy to follow narrative. The manga style comic makes for a really novel business book that’s especially enjoyable to read. If you want more convincing to read this book go check out its awesome trailer.
5. There is no better time than now to be an entrepreneur.
Now more than any other time in history people have the greatest amount of control deciding what to do with their lives. Taylor Pearson has put together a great thesis to demonstrate that the rise of entrepreneurs has begun and that our society is reaching the end of jobs. One of the big reasons for this are the advances in technology and globalization that lets you start a business today for only a hundred dollars that would have cost tens of thousands only 15 years ago.
If ever you need convincing as to why you should leave your “safe” job to do something that people often perceive as being too risky then this is the book to read. There is no better time than now to be an entrepreneur.
6. How to make an impact in the world.
Mastery is a valuable book to read if you’re working in a creative field or looking to make a big impact in the world. Although it is never too late to begin your pursuit towards mastery I’m glad I read this book in my mid-twenties because it definitely helps to get an early start.
Robert Greene discusses a number of different stages each of us must pass through on the road to mastery but his advice for people at the early stage of their journey is of most value. He suggests that people pass their twenties by moving with trial and error, seeing what kind of work suits you and figuring out what you want to avoid at all costs. Having a wide-ranging apprenticeship in your twenties avoids the trap of following a rigid, singular path that might lead to a career dead end and instead offers expanding possibilities as you get older.
These six books have completely changed how I think about careers. They have made a huge impact on my own career trajectory and I hope they do the same for you too.
Have any other books changed the way you think about work and careers? I would love to hear about them. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org