Bookshelf: 5 Must-Reads For Growth & Success


Have you ever wished you had the ultimate mentor?

A person who has had incredible success, lived an inspiring life and achieved the things that you wish to achieve? – Chances are that if you’ve thought like this, those people are either really famous, really busy, really hard to reach, or all of the above.

I used to dream, “Man, If I could only have so-and-so mentor me. If I could meet them and have them get a twinkle in their eye when they see me and say, ‘You know what? I don’t normally do this, but I want to teach you everything I know.’, THEN I’d be able to learn and grow like crazy and accomplish everything I dream of."

The reality though is that this is highly unlikely to happen. There are thousands (if not millions) of other people who have the same thoughts, who are waiting for some chance meeting to give them their “Big Shot”, but that’s just not how it works. Those dream mentors simply don’t have the bandwidth or availability to be a sensei to all of the aspiring people in the world. – However, don’t lose hope.

World-class mentors are more accessible than you think: through books.

Books give you access to the deep knowledge of the world’s greatest businesspeople, thinkers, artists, entrepreneurs, marketers, speakers, writers, creators, you-name-it. And the knowledge that these people share in their books is way more in-depth, detailed, and comprehensive than anything you could learn from them giving a speech at an event, or having a conversation with them in person.

Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.
— Eleanor Roosevelt/Sam Levenson/Other Sources

These people have distilled down years, decades even, of experience, knowledge and expertise into the books they have written.

This is one of the most exciting things about learning from books for me: the fact that I can learn in a week or a month something that took someone else 10 or 20 years. Books accelerate your pace to reaching your goals.

It’s said that, “The best teachers are the best students.”

At the heart of this quote is a love for learning, growing and improving, which describes you if you’ve taken the time to visit this blog! – I’ve found that the more I’ve learned, and the more my life/career/relationships/skills have benefitted from learning, the greater my passion for teaching others has grown. I’ve come to care a lot about helping others reach their passions, dreams and goals faster through teaching.

The books I’m sharing in this post are some that have had the greatest impact on my personal, creative, and professional development through the past 15 years. They cover a broad range of topics, but the common thread is they are all focused on growth. Reading any one of these will help you grow immensely and increase your speed forward.


1. How To Win Friends & Influence People – Dale Carnegie

This is the book that started it all for me.

I was a very shy kid growing up. Around close friends I was myself, but publicly I kept to myself and kept quiet most of the time. But I didn’t want to stay that way; I wanted to be a leader, I wanted to be outgoing, I wanted to grow past my insecurities and fears.

This book helped me crack open my shell. I first read it in middle school, and it helped me understand how and why people did what they did, and why I did things the way I did. Many of the principles in this book are shared through stories, which gives real-world examples on how to use them. I’ve gone back to this book countless times and used it as a handbook for specific situations. It covers things like:

  • Three fundamental techniques in handling people

  • The six ways to make people like you

  • The twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking

  • The nine ways to change people without arousing resentment

It’s been a classic read for anyone seeking personal development for over 75 years. There’s a reason that it’s sold over 15 million copies!


2. The Four Hour Workweek - Tim Ferriss

FOR ME, This is probably the second most influential book on this list.

When I read The Four Hour Workweek it changed my perspective on how I work and opened my mind to realize that life not only was about more than building my business, but HOW I built my business matters. At it’s heart, this is a book about designing the life that you want to live. A self-described “human guinea pig”, Tim Ferriss addresses overcoming your fears, is brutally transparent about his own successes and failures, and shares tons of practical, actionable, and unconventional knowledge for living life on your own terms.

He writes with a great sense of humor, and he only shares things that he personally has experience testing out. There’s a lot in here; so rather than this being a step-by-step success book, it’s more of an “open up your mind to all the possibilities” kind of book.

He’s got the only podcast I listen to consistently, The Tim Ferriss Show which is consistently the #1 business podcast on all of iTunes, and it’s been ranked #1 (of all podcasts) on many occasions. Each episode, Tim deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics and tools you can use.

Prior guests include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Foxx, Edward Norton, Ed Catmull (President of Pixar), Tony Robbins, Peter Thiel, Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Jon Favreau (Director/writer), Mike Shinoda (Linkin Park), Neil Strauss (7x NYT bestselling author), and dozens more.

Read Tim's Blog Here

3. Design Is A Job + You’re My Favorite Client - Mike Montiero

(This is a double-whammy)

I’m a nice guy.

Which is generally a good thing, but in business it can be a bad thing if not balanced out with enough backbone. Some people see that you’re a nice person and view it as a sign on your forehead that reads, “Take advantage of me”.

I came across Mike Montiero at a time when I had been designing for 8 or so years and had hit many of the bumps along the path of learning how to be a self-employed creative entrepreneur. I found a presentation that he did for Creative Mornings called, “F*** You, Pay Me.”, where he proceeds to share about all of the pitfalls, frustrations, and bad decisions that those of us in client services make too often. I felt empowered by his boldness and his passion for people understanding their true worth and standing up for it. I thought to myself,

“If I can take even just a portion of his guts and combine it with how I work, then I will be much better balanced and won’t be a pushover anymore."

Mike’s books do just that. They give you the knowledge, backbone, and foundation you need to discover your value, correct the dysfunctional aspects of how you do business, get paid what you’re worth, and the courage take ownership and stop selling yourself short in life and in your career.

He doesn’t pull any punches, and these books are a sock to the gut (in the best way possible.)

Although his background is in web design, these are primarily business books with principles that translate to anyone who runs their own business or works with clients, self-employed or within a company. They’ve had such an impact on me, I have multiple copies on my shelf that I regularly give to other designers, creatives, and friends who are starting businesses. Design Is A Job is written to designers, You’re My Favorite Client is written to those who work with designers. Both are extremely helpful for understanding both sides of the relationship.


4. Money: Master The Game - Tony Robbins

You may have heard of him, you may have not, but the reality is that Tony Robbins is one of the greatest influencers for maximizing your potential out there.

He coaches world-famous artists, athletes, and world leaders, as well as helping millions of people like you and I grow to be better. By reading his books and hearing his story, you discover that he has a genuine heart for helping people overcome their obstacles and discovering their purpose in life.

Like most of us, I didn’t grow up learning everything about how money worked.

Investing, Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, Diversifying, planning for retirement, etc. were all things that I knew were important to understand, but it was too intimidating to learn the foreign language of financing. I knew that I needed to invest in order to become financially free, but the gap between me and knowing WHERE and HOW to do it couldn’t have been wider. The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t find information about it, it was that I didn’t know where to start or who to trust to learn from.

This is the first book that has helped me feel like I have a comprehensive understanding of money and investing.

It is written with the goal of answering the question, “Is it still possible for the average person to win in the game of making money?” And the thing that gave me confidence in this book over many others were the people Tony reached out to in order to write this guide. He interviewed over 50 of the worlds best financial experts while writing this book, literally the "best of the best”: legendary investors like Warren Buffett, people who manage over a trillion (with a ’T’) dollars in funds, and some of the top financial traders in history.

This is a meaty book.

You’ll be learning a lot of new things about finances in this, so be patient with the process. What helped me stay motivated to finishing it, was knowing that each new concept brought me and my family one step closer toward freedom. – It’s not enough to just make money, it’s just as (if not more) important to know what to do with money once you have it. I have more confidence making financial decisions than I’ve ever had before.


5. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You - John Maxwell

If you want to be a leader you need to learn from John Maxwell.

He literally wrote the book (i.e.: many, many books) on leadership. Whether or not you consider yourself a leader, you are, your life influences others in some way. Success never happens alone, and the most successful people are those who lead others by example. This book taught me that I am the biggest determining factor of success for anything that I pursue; unless I grow, nothing will grow.

Leadership is more than a position or a title, and having “followers” doesn’t necessarily mean that you are leading.

John Maxwell's principles are broken down into easily-digestible and actionable chunks that make it simple for you to tackle each one in your journey of growth. This book will most likely become a reference guide that you will go back to regularly.

– –

There are many more books in addition to this list that I will share in future posts, but beyond all of those, there is one book that I’ve spent more time reading, studying, and revisiting than any other: The Bible. This is just my personal story, but the principles, lessons, morals and guidance that I’ve learned from this book have given me a firm foundation for my life, decisions, and future. Whatever you believe, the qualities demonstrated by Jesus: maturity, compassion, self-awareness, faith, selflessness, wisdom, generosity and humility are almost universally viewed as the best way to live life out as a human being. I’ve made his example my life’s pursuit since I was young.


Do you have any books that have changed your life?

Books that have helped you learn, grow and develop as a leader, creative, entrepreneur, or personally? If so, let me know about them in the comments below!

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