Have you ever experienced a coveted “aha moment” when the answers to your life’s most pressing questions seem to come out of nowhere?
Today, our perspective changes at a much faster rate than that of our ancestors. Our most fundamental morals and convictions may stay the same, but our brains are constantly adjusting to the massive amount of information that we consume.
As our thoughts are refined and shaped, we learn to take advantage of new opportunities and make better decisions. This is precisely why the smartest minds say that living life to the fullest is about continuously learning.
It’s not always easy to trace these lessons back to the source, but I’ve been fortunate enough to come across three profound books at different points in my life. These books have impacted every important decision that I ever had to make.
It all started with…
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
This is the only book that I’ve read cover to cover at least three times.
The first time was in college, right as I was learning to interact with a completely new set of people from varying backgrounds.
At 18 years old, I was mostly concerned with myself. What do others think about me? Do I sound confident enough when I speak? Does everyone agree with my opinions?
Dale Carnegie snapped me out of this line of thinking. Through detailed examples of his interactions with some of the most important people of our time and anecdotes from his renowned seminars, he helped me see what was right in front of me.
Everyone else lives in their own head, just like me. The key to really connecting with others is to work towards truly understanding them instead of worrying about yourself.
This stuck with me and completely changed the way I behaved in my personal and work relationships.
I learned that convincing others of your point of view isn’t a matter of winning an argument, but rather showing the other side that you empathize with their beliefs.
When I took on new career challenges, like deciding to work in sales or building my own company, I continued to reference this book and found that it took on a new meaning every time I read it.
It’s no wonder that it has withstood the test of time since originally being published in 1936. I still recommend it to almost everyone I meet.
Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson
Autobiographies can be a hit or miss, but Richard Branson’s story is so unique and incredible that it reads like a piece of fiction.
While running his first business — a student magazine — at only 15 years old, he already had the confidence to call executives at Coke and Pepsi and compete for their advertising dollars.
Reading through his story, I understood how he became the eccentric mega-success that we know today — by always saying yes.
Yes to starting a record label with no experience in the music industry, yes to building a new airline when many others were failing, and yes to starting a spaceflight company so that one day we will be able to book a trip to space like we book a weekend getaway to Mexico.
The impact from each of these decisions was global, and Richard could have never predicted any of it — he simply had to start from somewhere.
It’s easy to come up with excuses for why something can’t work, but if you truly want to be a creator you have to ignore your impulse to avoid risk and just jump in.
This doesn’t mean that you have to quit your job and drop everything to pursue your passion.
But do take the time out of your busy life to say yes to new experiences and learn the rest along the way.
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
I don’t usually take notes while I’m reading — for me, it takes away from the experience — but every few chapters of this book, I found myself taking out my phone and snapping a picture of a paragraph or a quote.
Maybe it’s because I was approaching 30 and increasingly felt like I needed more direction in my life.
I thought it was ironic that a friend recommended a book titled Man’s Search for Meaning to me, a man searching for meaning, but the book came with high praise so I gave it a shot.
In it, Dr. Frankl introduces us to logotherapy, a concept based on the idea that happiness and fulfillment in life can only come from identifying and pursuing your life’s purpose.
He attributes his ability to survive the Auschwitz concentration camp to two things: the thought of one day seeing his wife again, and the goal of rewriting the manuscripts that were stolen from him by the Nazis.
Finding purpose gave him the hope that he needed to endure the daily torture and horrors of the concentration camp, even as fellow inmates were giving up on life all around him.
As I lay on the beach finishing the last page of this book, I feel lucky to be able to see the world in a new light through Dr. Frankl’s first-hand experience with sacrifice and struggle.
This book made me realize that perspective is everything, and that reading allows us to briefly occupy other brilliant minds while hopefully enhancing our own.