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I took a film class in college that had a very unusual rule. We were not allowed to talk about any film that had come out in the last 3 years. The professor’s reasoning for this was simple: We needed some time to go by before we could accurately critique a film. When a film is new there is so much hype and excitement related to the entire experience of seeing the film. Who you were with, etc. warps our view and prevents an accurate assessment. After a few years, a good film will remain a good film and other films that seemed exciting at the time may have lost their ‘new car smell’.
I believe the same applies to books. Whatever book I am currently reading–almost always at some point–I think that this book is the greatest book ever. But after I finish and some time goes by, I often forget most of what was even in the book. There are a handful of exceptions, however. And these exceptional books I have found myself continuing to think about years and years later, and even reading them again.
Here are the 5 self-help books that have made the biggest impression on me and why:
First of all, don’t be scared off by the cheesy sounding title. Most self help books have embarrassing titles, because they declare to the world an area where you need help. Tear off the cover if you need to or find some other way to read it, because this book completely changed my life.
I used to be absolutely petrified of public speaking. When I was almost 18 years-old I was going to be presented with an award that I had spent years earning. But before the day of the presentation, I heard that they were going to ask me to speak to the small audience that would be in attendance. I freaked out. I was so scared that I told the people in charge of giving out the award, that I would rather not receive the hard earned award than have to speak. Graciously, they decided they would change the normal custom and allow me to just sit there awkwardly while they talked about my achievements. Even though I knew this, I was still scared the entire time that someone was going to change their mind and ask me to speak.
I was that bad.
Less than a year later, I discovered and read this book by Dale Carnegie, the famed author of How to Win Friends & Influence People (another book I love and considered for this article). This public speaking book showed me how to prepare and present in such a way that speaking in front of people turned into something that not only I enjoy, but I thrive at. Dale Carnegie’s books have withstood the test of time and the information is still relevant and very powerful.
This is an amazing book. It looks at people from the past and present who have accomplished great things and asks what makes them so special. And over and over it answers that question. For example, “All of these people from history have discovered one thing: circumstances alone do not control your fate; choices do.” And later, “They drank from a well that would fill them up and flow through to others. You see, we often ask life what it has to offer us, when it’s really life that asks what we have to offer the world. What difficulties are knocking at your door and asking what you have to offer the world right now?”
Just learning the stories of Colonel Sanders and Soichiro Honda made this book worth reading to me, but there are so many other powerful stories as well.
When 7 Habits was released in 1989, I was too young to understand or appreciate Stephen Covey’s message. But I remember someone showing me the optical illusion printed in the book and hearing adults talking about some of the principles of it. Eventually, after a couple of failed attempts, I was mature enough to grasp the content, and it has stayed with me ever since. To this day, I think about the 4 quadrants and which one I am currently in, and about the way we each view the world around us. This book is so full of useful life changing information.
I don’t remember where I first heard about this oddly named book, but I can still picture where I was as I read about the basketball free throw experiment and other fascinating ways that our brains work.
The “self-image” sets the boundaries of individual accomplishment. It defines what you can and cannot do. Expand the self-image and you expand the “area of the possible.” The development of an adequate, realistic self-image will seem to imbue the individual with new capabilities, new talents and literally turn failure into success.
What if conflicts at home, conflicts at work, and conflicts in the world stem from the same root cause?
This is actually a story. Which may make it more powerful because you get sucked into the narrative as you are learning unforgettable principles.
In summary, these books may not look like much from their covers. But you know how the saying goes… I highly recommend each of them with a warning that they very well may change your life.