If I tell you a secret, do you promise not to tell on me? In high school, I only read one book from cover to cover: Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck). I kept the same pace in college, and crushed one whole book there, too: 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace (Dr. Wayne W. Dyer). Needless to say, reading wasn't necessarily "my thing."
So, if you're not an avid reader, but someone has been pleading with you for quite some time now, saying, "Man, you have got to read this book..." I'm telling you there's hope. I went from thinking that reading is for the birds to eating books for breakfast. Personal growth and development has become a passion of mine. It's like second nature these days. But, the sad truth is that most people don't change until they have to. That's exactly what to happened for me.
I looked up one day in my mid-20s and I was running in place--spinning my wheels; going nowhere fast. I realized that for many years I was aiming at nothing and I kept hitting it right smack dead on the head! I realized that if I didn't decide where I was going, any road was going to take me there. Thankfully, someone came alongside me and taught me how to start working on me by investing in my mind.
Several years later, you would probably be impressed by my library. You might even call me a nerd, but I'm cool with that. Here's a list of great reads (in no particular order, with a link to each book, and each author's Twitter handle, for your convenience) that have rocked my world and and helped me in every aspect of my life.
The Dream Giver (Bruce Wilkinson: @Bruce_Wilkinson) -- The classic tale of Ordinary leaving his Comfort Zone in order to pursue his Big Dream resonated with me in every way possible when I picked it up. It was my first introduction to the notion that if I wanted to live my dream instead of just living my life, I was going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. This book encouraged me to step out of the boat.
How to Win Friends & Influence People (Dale Carnegie: @DaleCarnegie) -- If I could go back and start my teaching career over again, regardless of the fact that I taught Social Studies, reading this book would be a requirement in each of my classes for every single one of my students. This book taught me one of life greatest lessons: we are all in the people business. How you manage your relationships is key to any level of success and a life of significance.
The 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman: @DrGaryChapman) -- A staple in the wide world of relationship books. But, here's why I appreciate it so much: it not only helped me appreciate various expressions of love from a holy matrimony standpoint (and learning how to be a student of my wife), but it also brought some clarity on how to communicate affection and admiration to other people in my life; family, friends, colleagues, etc.
The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth (John C. Maxwell: @JohnCMaxwell) -- The book that taught me how to focus on self-development instead of self-fulfillment. A true game changer. I realized after reading this book that if I wanted to continue giving, I had to continue growing. In my opinion, Maxwell drops timeless wisdom in this read through a blueprint that anyone can follow.
In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day (Mark Batterson: @MarkBatterson) -- Batterson quickly became one of my mentors after reading this for the very first time. My younger brother, Michael, gifted me a copy, warning me not to partake of it until I was ready for it to change my life. It did just that. This book smacked me around and challenged me to face my fears with the notion that my biggest obstacles could be my greatest opportunities.
Three Feet from Gold (Sharon L. Letcher & Greg S. Reid: Sharon? & @GregReid) -- Thanks to this piece of literature, I've been able to keep two things in perspective: (1) you can't win if you don't play the game, and (2) winners never quit and quitters never win. It's one of those books that you can read just a couple pages of and chew on for days.
Lead... for God's Sake! (Todd G. Gongwer: @ToddGongwer) -- Probably one of the top three most influential books I've ever read on leadership. Which is why Jason West--a dear friend whom I greatly admire--told me that I needed to stop reading what I was currently reading, and dive into this book immediately, when he shared it with me. It gets right down to the main thing and teaches you how to keep the main thing the main thing. It's all about why... Not the how or the what. The why. I highly recommend this book for every coach on the planet, no matter what age group or sport you coach!
The Slight Edge (Jeff Olson: @JeffOlson_) -- The Slight Edge Principle became a staple philosophy for me as I began working from home as an entrepreneur. A mentor, Chris Estes, told me that it was a must read and that I should share it with everyone in my business. It taught me that massive results come from a combination of daily (seemingly insignificant) decisions over a period of time. Consistency of applied action is key to any great endeavor. I realized I had been failing miserably in life because I was allowing The Slight Edge Principle to work against me.
The Prayer of Jabez (Bruce Wilkinson again...) -- It's short and sweet, but it's powerful and it taught me a huge lesson on prayer and what it means to ask for God's blessing and protection. So often we throw around the word blessed (as I will admit I have been a fault for in the past), without truly considering what it means: to receive supernatural favor from God. In other words, God doing in your life what only He can do. When I read this book, I knew I needed more of God in my life. I was reminded that He was, is and always will be readily available.
The Traveler's Gift (Andy Andrews: @AndyAndrews) -- I'm honestly not big on fiction books. They never have been my cup of tea, so to speak, but this read is a happy marriage of self-help and fiction. Plus, I read anything Jason West tells me to read. It's a personal growth jewel! This book forced me to draw a line in the sand (on a number of things in my life) and decide to make the most of this side of eternity.
The ONE Thing (Gary Keller: @garykeller) -- Gifted to me by a friend, Martha Carpenter, who shares this same book with practically everyone she meets and respects as she expands her network of contacts, The ONE Thing helped me narrow the focus. In a world full of distractions, shiny objects and dozens of demands, it's easy to wear yourself out trying to do everything. Before reading this book, I was trying to be everything for everybody. I found out that I was on my way of being a nothing to nobody.
Eat That Frog! (Brian Tracy: @BrianTracy) -- A book that I have to revisit often, because truth be told, I stink it up in the procrastination department. I always have... So, this book was crucial for me, showing me the importance of having a do it now initiative about things. There is no substitute for urgency. This read will help you remember that when it's all said and done, make sure more is done than said.
Follow Me (David Platt: @plattdavid) -- Talk about a call to action in regards to what we are commanded to do as Christians! Platt busted my head with this no-nonsense application of what the Great Commission should look like in the life of the Church. It's spoken to me, revealing that we are fulfilling our calling (and only doing so) when we are actively pursuing others for Christ by sharing the Gospel and making disciples.
I hope this list of reads serves you well. I'm a changed man because of them; literally. It's getting late, so I need to crash. Jaala gets on me all the time about not getting enough rest. And, with snow in the forecast, I'll probably get started on the next book that I'll soon be referring you to. Until then, remember: we have access to some of the most brilliant minds that ever roamed the earth. Pick up a book, pick their brain, and learn from those who have gone before you. The book you don't read won't help you and it's not about what the book costs, but rather what it will cost you if you don't buy the book. Invest in you. It's the best investment you will ever make, because it will allow you to invest more in others.
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