I consider all of these top 25 success books because they each helped me with the three most critical areas of my life.
- Being a better husband, family member, and friend.
- Successfully growing my online business.
- Improving my health through more exercise, less drinking, and a better understanding of myself.
Thank you for reading this list of top 25 success books and I hope you find it useful!
- While each of these books are good individually, the huge lift to my personal happiness and success that came from reading more than twenty of them is what I hope you can experience.
- Each book review begins with a one sentence summary and concludes with detailed paragraph sharing exactly how I found that book to apply to my life which might help you decide what to read first. I listened to 23 of these books completely on Audible. My wife read several books from this list and reviewed the two books I have not read yet.
Top 25 Success Books to Read in 2014
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life by Scott Adams.
- I got a concrete system for learning success in this book that helped me make improvements across the board..
- This book is loaded with useful tips in this book across the board from how to maintain healthy eating to landing your dream job. For example, goals are for losers. Systems are for winners. Passion is bullshit. Personal energy is what you need. Being well rounded might provide more exceptional opportunities than specialization. Failure is your friend and you want to learn from it. Fail enough times, learn each time, and your success will look like luck to others. All along you will know it was skill and effort. These ideas matched perfectly with my own which is probably why this book is number one.
The Power of Vulnerability: Teachings of Authenticity, Connection, and Courage by Brené Brown.
- For accepting my alcoholism, sharing my shame, and stopping self destructive behavior, this series of lectures rolled into an audio book was absolutely amazing for introducing more emotional health into my life.
- Brené Brown is a speaker I love listening to. She shares her six part lecture series on vulnerability in both a funny and powerful way that I loved. I spent hours in bed in the morning listening to this as I could not even get out of bed I was so riveted by what she was saying. I looked back at my life and understood that my excessive drinking was related strongly to shame, anger, and self hating thinking. This knowledge led me to try Alcoholics Anonymous which proved to be an exceptional place to connect with other people experiencing the same emotions and same struggles as me. This book opened my mind to the idea that showing my weakness as a man was the key to what had already been making a happy marriage with my wife and the key to taking the next big step to a better life. After reading this book, I realized that my drinking was often triggered by shame and negative thoughts about myself. Now I minimize any negative thoughts I have about myself and share my shame with people that are interested in sharing theirs. One of the best gifts I got from this book was the ability to better relate to my Mom after my Dad went to be with God earlier this year. I know now when she is sad, she needs me to be sad with her rather than try to protect myself emotionally. When she is angry, I know she needs me to be loving and understanding until she can reach being sad where I can then be sad with her. I used to get angry when she got angry but this book helped me see what I could do different.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
- I saw how looking at life through a basic sense of fairness, integrity, honesty, and human dignity gives me the power to live the best life I can.
- I loved Stephen Covey’s voice of love and understanding combined with his life experiences related to his following of the habits. Picturing the end of my life and looking back now with the goal of filling my memorial with the most people that love me possible gave me clear instructions as to what I should aim to accomplish in my life. Every day I work to share the most love, hope, and faith with the world. Reading this book was a huge part forming the mission I have for my life now.
In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives by Steven Levy.
- In learning how Google was founded while I was in graduate school, this book liberated me from thinking all I had a limited amount that I could accomplish in life.
- Google is one of the most successful companies in the history of the world. Learning about Google inspired me to realize I could be much more than I was trying to be. This was the first book of the kind you see on this list I read in my adult life and it opened my eyes to a world where I could accomplish whatever I decided I could. The founders of Google were just a couple graduate students trying to make a better search engine. I left grad school to start my own company less than a year after reading this.
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) by Timothy Ferriss
- I went from fifty hour work weeks where I tried to work like an hourly worker to twenty hour work weeks where I planned better for the future within a month of reading this book.
- If I seem to change everything in my life easily, this book would make a great point to that. I used to run my company like a business and run my life like a rat race. Once I read this book, I understood that to achieve what I had set out to after learning about Google’s startup nearly a year before, I would have to stop working like an hourly worker and start building passive income streams. It took me a year to better incorporate this into my life. The resources I found in The 4-Hour Workweek for outsourcing my life continue to be helpful!
Rich Dad Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not by Robert T. Kiyosaki
- After being raised in a loving home by a father that went to Vietnam, saw how the government uses money controls our lives, publicly destroyed the money he had in front of his friends, and finally feel into the savings mindset as a parent, you can believe how powerful this book was in sharing with me the value of loving the positive role money can place in our lives.
- Most of us, including me, are raised with the mindset that we should think of money as a bad thing. We are supposed to work hard for what we get and save. The problem is that most of us also scale our lifestyle to our income and spend money on things that do not make us more money. Rich Dad Poor Dad does an awesome job of explaining how he learned the value of using money to make money and using wealth to build more wealth. This mindset has helped me not to fear spending money on anything that could reasonably be expected to make more money and has encouraged me to avoid spending money on anything that is purely for show or a liability.
The Color of Heaven by Julianne MacLean
- For dealing with grief and strengthening my faith in God as I know Him, this book was invaluable.
- Knowing that other people endure terrible suffering is quite comforting when you are suffering too. I felt not so alone when I listened to this book right after my Dad passed away this year and able to openly accept my grief in the company of others that have shared my pain of losing a loved one. I loved how Julianne MacLean shared her story of how she got her textbook perfect life, watched it all fall apart, and came out stronger than she could have ever imaged. The message I got reading this was that all of the data I have seen on life being a gift, an exceptional experience, and full of 99% mystery for every 1% of what we understand is correct. I found every reason to believe each detail of her incredible story and found myself laying in bed crying for hours while I listened to it. This book has helped shape the most awful experience of my life in losing my Dad into one that is shaping me into the person I have wanted to be my entire life.
The Power by Rhonda Byrne
- The idea that you get what you give was so clearly defined in this book that I could not miss it and always reference the idea in my daily actions.
- I like the idea of the law of attraction that you attract what you think about and what you are. My biggest frustration in my life was dating until I met my wife. I swear I had tried to attract her every day and I finally did. The ideas in this book helped me understand how I had done that and how I had succeeded in also attracting great friends and keeping a loving family. The power I got from this book was understanding that I should always plan in the rest of my life to act with love. In my business, I had often acting out of spite and frustration getting started. Now I understand that I always am taking actions and that the most loving and positive actions I take, the more I get back. While I often was confused as to why people lived and felt the way they did, I often see now that the people who carry the most misery also attract more of it until they change themselves first. For my business, this has helped me understand the power of attracting the right clients and refusing business from everyone else.
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Looking at life as a collection of habits has helped me understand the immense power of focusing my decisions and willpower on developing sustainable positive habits into my daily life.
- I had heard many successful people lived by rigid daily routines allowing them to go through the majority of their day without thinking. The Power of Habit helped me understand why that helps so much. Each day, the more decisions I have to make, the less energy I collectively have to make all of those decisions. Eliminating the stupid decisions with effective habits frees my mind up to focus my brainpower on what I need it to most such as writing this post and listening to what my wife says. Understanding how powerful habits are also helped me to see the power my drinking had over me was mainly in habit and that I had to replace tha that habit effectively to get rid of it. The story about how casinos sucked a normal house mom with a reasonable Friday afternoon gambling schedule into losing every dime she had including her parent’s inheritance, her savings, and her home helped bring the message home.
Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
- Knowing that people breaking away from the norm often have huge random advantages helped me to understand that I should focus on maximizing the advantages I have and looking at even my disadvantages as opportunities.
- Get ready for a barrage of Malcolm Gladwell books. Outliers was the first book I read of his and it was so good I read everything else he has published. What I like is how he looks at the world as a series of small stories with more depth than I had ever imagined. I liked the statistics he shared about most all NHL hockey players being born in the first three months of the year due to the advantages of being near the cutoff date. This small advantage to begin often turns into a giant advantage in the chances of being a professional hockey player. What seems like skill and effort to many of us is often just a series of random advantages. I was even more impressed with the data he offered showing that the NHL hall of fame was filled with people from birthdays throughout the year. Thus, while the artifical advantage of being born in January, February, or March mattered a lot for being an average NHL player, having a birthday in a later month actually seemed to be a huge advantage for the best players. The idea is that struggle and disadvantage can actually present more character building opportunities. I liked how Malcolm Gladwell applied this to growing up poor. For most people, growing up poor is something they never escape. For a few, growing up poor gives them a huge advantage for the rest of their life because of what they learned growing up poor. All of Malcolm Gladwell’s books inspire me to think of life with more of an open mind.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
- After always having what seemed like a sixth sense in my life about everything, reading this book finally helped me understand how to trust my gut feeling especially when my conscious mind disagreed.
- For all of my adult life, I had a hard time understanding why I could spot a pedophile when I was a kid or how I could know with nearly perfect accuracy who was trustworthy. I started consciously understanding this a bit to the point where I would tell my wife that I never needed to remember where the car was consciously because I always knew where it was uncouiously. After all, I would tell her, I had to walk away from it to come back right? My brain has to know where it is because it took every step away from it. I always said that this worked by not allowing my conscious mind to interfere with where the car was and to just somewhat “auto walk” back to where I felt like the car was. So far this has always worked and Blink helped me understand why. We only use a small percentage of our brain and we are armed with a lot more intelligence than we would ever believe. When we get the feeling something is not right, we usually are right. I think the difference between me and many people is that I always trusted those thoughts when I got them and I learned that from my parents. My Mom went to the parent teacher conference with me where we both thought my ninth grade history teacher was creepy. It turned out the next year when my brother was in his class we were right when he got arrested. My brother said he was his favorite teacher. I would have to think my brother and every other student at some level knew the truth but most people would dismiss a thought like that. Blink encouraged me to always listen to those thoughts and to maximize my strength of relying on my smart unconscious brain to guide me through life.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell.
- Viral content, trends, and Disney always fascinated and frustrated me for my lack of understanding prior to understanding the power of the aggregation of many details into one bigger picture.
- My wife and I love Disney. What always frustrated me was why we loved Disney so much more than Universal Studios. The two parks objectively were nearly the same. The difference became clear to me in the context of The Tipping Point. The details make a huge difference and often set the tone for the big picture. With a masters in criminlogy, the majority of experts in my field thought broken windows theory was crap. After reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, I wholeheartedly disagree with them. What they could not see in the form of data was the clear evidence in New York’s crime wave ending that city’s transportation system set a tone for the entire rest of the city. Stopping people for minor violations at the entrances to the subway was one of the easiest actions the police could take and one that led to huge change. What I got out of this book was that focusing on the details you can do is the best way to make a huge difference. There are a lot of things I can’t do but I do have the ability to write this post in a way that is helpful for you based on sharing what I have learned. What makes my post different from most of these is the real down to earth personal feel. I looked at some other posts prior to making mine to see what others were doing right. What I discovered is that what others were doing wrong was making their posts boring in that they were not relatable. What I could not figure out was why I would read their post instead of just searching on Audible like I have been doing. The only answer I could see was to personally share how each book made a difference in my life. By sharing more intimately with you, I am applying what I learned in the tipping point.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell.
- In rethinking the story of David and Goliath, I see opportunity everywhere in life now and truth in every story having many sides.
- I love how Malcolm Gladwell turns the story of David and Goliath from one of a brave shepard boy defeating an overpower opponent into one of an agile infantryman armed with a ranged weapon predictably beating a heavily armored slow infantryman prepared for the wrong type of battle. So many people I see go through life as if they know how they are supposed to fight each battle and applying a hundred rules onto their life for every one that is real. Before reading this book, I thought of established companies as giants I could never hope to compete with. David and Goliath helped me see that I needed to push the advantages I had such as deciding on a different game to play and taking an overly personal approach that companies often are limited from. While my brother works as an engineer with General Electric and sees an established way to do nearly everything, I see a life full of games I can choose to play with very few rules I need to know. Combine this book with all of the books above and you can imagine how I can feel great about changing the rules of my business to charging hourly rates my brother thinks I am crazy to expect people to pay and focusing the majority of my energy on creating what you are reading!
How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
- Just focusing on making people want to do anything rather than using any other method was a huge positive step in my relationships.
- As a person that had always been a bit too honest and used overpowering mental force to get whatever I wanted, I had tried to read this book when I was younger out of frustration at what I was not able to accomplish. I got this book on Audible for a second try and loved it! The concrete tips on what you can do to be more likeable and effectively communicate with people are easy to apply and help get me in the right mindset to think about other people.
The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric.
Read and reviewed for you by my wife Laura Banfield.
- We have a lot to learn from others.
- I read this book when I was not happy about where I was career-wise. I felt like I wasn’t at the right job, but I didn’t know where else to go; a kind of career purgatory. What I needed was some perspective! One of the best ways I have found to get perspective is to take a step back and listen to some of the things that other people have learned in their own trials and tribulations. This book did exactly that! Katie Couric asked people excelling in a wide range of fields from sports, entertainment, politics, business, and more to write about the valuable lessons they have learned, the best advice they have been given, and the best advice they have to give to others. I find most self-help and motivational books to be incredibly monotonous. This book refreshes itself every chapter with a new voice and a new viewpoint. There are not only some really wonderful pieces of advice in this book, they are told in entertaining and often stories I can relate to.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg
- In your life and your career, you must be your own best advocate.
- In law school, I was taught how to advocate for my clients and represent their best interests. Until I entered the job market, however, I never fully realized that I would also need to be a strong advocate for myself. In my first job as an attorney, I found a lurking sense of self-doubt holding me back in my career. Don’t get me wrong, I know myself to be a strong, intelligent woman who would make a great contribution to any job. Despite this, however, I would keep thinking that I was just lucky to be employed in a bad job market, constantly reducing myself to base value. I would hesitate in talking about why I deserved a promotion or in pitching business ideas I knew to be good. I didn’t want to be viewed as arrogant or as someone who was not a “team player.” I loved this book for letting me know that I wasn’t alone this book and for telling me that I needed to “lean in.” To “lean in” means to make yourself be heard. Speak up for yourself and your ideas. This book was a solid reminder that confidence in myself includes the ability to convey that confidence to others. It is a lifelong lesson and one that I strive toward every day.
The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries.
- You and I can get started on our hopes and dreams for much less than we ever imagined.
- I remember listening to this book at a conference in New York and feeling inspired to start my original company website. The Lean Startup helped me to know that I could begin on a small budget and still be successful. The detailed accounts of what Eric Ries did starting his companies and the knowledge that I could avoid failure by minimizing my expenses getting started allowed me to take my new company website in two years from brand new to one that had grabbed hundreds of customers from more than thirty countries. Taking the first step in actually building something new was and still is scary to me. The Lead Startup helped me feel like it was a task I could handle.
The Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business by Josh Kaufman
- I got an overview of most of what I could have learned getting an MBA reading this book without having to go to school or spend any more money.
- If you want to learn the information included with getting an MBA but do not want to spend the time or the money doing it, you might love this book as much as I did. Josh Kaufman does a great job covering the fundamentals of what you get out of an MBA and shares further learning resources in every section. I found myself grabbing every minute I could to listen to this book and learn fundamentals of subjects like accounting that I had forgotten from high school and somehow had managed to muddle through without in getting my online business started successfully. What I found most amazing was Josh Kaufman’s account of how getting an MBA most of the time leads to a net loss in lifetime earnings. The amount of time and money people spend on an MBA could usually better be spent on learning the information itself and advancing in your career. I thought The Personal MBA offered the ideal solution for me in getting the information without spending the time and money for school.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael E. Gerber
- The mindset of building a business system helped me stop trading my time for money and combined powerfully with The 4 Hour Workweek.
- Jesse Biter gave me a great recommendation to read this book when I asked him about what book had helped him scale his business successfully. When I listened to Michael Gerber’s conversations with the owner of a bakery in his book where he showed her that her employees were working less than her and bringing home a larger paycheck, I was shocked at the value this had for me in looking at my own business. I realized that I often worked like I was a paid employee except that I often worked for free to try to get opportunities to work for pay without any of the added benefits that come with full time employment. As I tried to make my business system better, I realized I had everything setup wrong. The E Myth Revisited helped me see I needed a better long term solution in the form of this website which is both personal and for business.
Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen
- While most people and companies are good, I like the idea I can choose to be great and get some ideas of what great companies do differently.
- In understanding the language Jim Collins uses to describe “10x” companies that perform more than ten times better than average companies, I felt inspired to continue with what I was doing that already worked, clearly define my business objectives, and continue to build my business for a great future rather than hope for a good one. Jim Collins does a great job showing exactly what the successful companies do in making the most of good and bad luck as well as keeping much more cash on hand to prepare for hard times ahead. I was amazed to see how he showed companies having the same good opportunity and the different results companies got based on their principles. I like the idea that I can choose to be great and should plan to be great instead of good.
The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism
- I have always been a charismatic person and this book helped me learn both what I already do that works and how I could be even better.
- If you think charisma is something you are born with, this book might change your mind. I had been blessed with good charisma my entire life because my parents both were charismatic people and I copied most of their communication habits. I had went along thinking charisma was something people were born with. Reading this book changed my mind because Olivia Fox Cabana so clearly defined the art of charisma and the behaviors that people interpret as charismatic. She shows how charisma comes from being comfortable with ourselves and projecting this out into the world. This explained for me why despite having great charisma for interviews and nearly all every day situations, I had struggled a lot with dating when I was younger because I was not comfortable with myself in that context. The Charisma Myth also fueled my already growing focus on making sure I was as comfortable as possible in every situation even if I need to be a bit rude to arrange that. For example, I get really squinty eyed and uncomfortable when I sit looking at or in the direct sunlight as I am sure you probably do too. When I was younger I often would just figure that sometimes this happened and to deal with it. After reading this book, I am totally comfortable all the time doing whatever it takes to make myself comfortable. If that means dressing down so I don’t sweat like crazy in a suit or sitting side by side at a business meeting to avoid looking into the sun, I do it. Whatever makes my body language great will make my communication charismatic.
FREE: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson
- The idea that the power of giving as much away as possible could be a great business model and knowing the difference between free and any price is the largest difference helped me make a huge improvement to my business model.
- I never understood how powerful free is until reading this book. Especially doing digital marketing and online advertising, I am used to seeing “free” in the context of “give me your email and let me spam you to death in exchange for this video or book which may or may not be of any use to you.” I often saw free as a gimmick used by people in the context of a free trial on TV or generally as a manipulative tool. While this is still largely true, Chris Anderson’s book helped me see all of the positives about free included an abundance mindset and the power of making information truly free. After reading this, I tried sharing some of my best information about Facebook ads on my YouTube channel and got exceptional results. People love my videos, share them like crazy, and then want me to do work for them. My fans on YouTube have told me repeatedly they are amazed to see information that is better than what they already paid for available totally for free on YouTube. They keep telling me thank you and to keep giving them more. This connection with free has brought a huge positive upswing to my online business and helped give me the courage to push for a completely free model through my website supported through paid upgrades.
Public Parts: How Sharing in the Digital Age Improves the Way We Work and Live by Jeff Jarvis.
- Seeing Jeff’s case study of his successful sharing on social media helped me see that the power of social media is often in being more personal than we would be in person and connecting with others sharing our struggles.
- Before reading Public Parts, I thought social media was for boring business posts, teen rants, and funny cat pictures. Jeff Jarvis tells the story of how he shared the most intimate personal struggles of his life on Twitter and got a massive following of people struggling with the same issues that were grateful to find another person they could relate to. The benefit of this personal sharing is content that stands out online from the waves of copy and pasted content stripped of authentic human struggles. The effect of sharing our good days and being quiet on bad days leaves most of us feeling isolated and ashamed of our faults. Public Parts shows the power of sharing what you are struggling with and the power of reaching that audience online. This is why I chose to include my alcoholism in this post since these books were exceptionally helpful with overcoming my dependence on alcohol. My brother advised me strongly against this because I might possibly lose an opportunity over it. Jeff Jarvis makes clear that the value of sharing information like this is much more than anything we might lose on account of it.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- I always asked why as a kid and learning to ask why in the context of how people do business has helped me to appeal more directly to the people that get my why and ignore the others.
- Why people were such big fans of Apple always baffled me until I read this book. The commercials they made never resonated with me and now I understand why. The why of their business just did not match with mine even though I consciously would think it should. In Start With Why, I learned a ton about why people behave the way they do and what I can do about it. I understood why I was able to get certain kinds of customers so easily because they were like me and I clearly communicated my why. I also learned the value of learning about psychology in the context of doing business and cannot wait to find a few good books that will help me become more well rounded in this are of success.
Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best… and Learn from the Worst by Robert I. Sutton
- While most of think we are a good boss, knowing that most of those under us do not feel the same way was very helpful for me in understanding how to be a good thought leader.
- While I was in the doctoral leadership institute at the University of South Florida, this book was on our reading list and opened my eyes to the importance of me being a leader. Since I first remember trying to lead anyone besides my brother, people have always been enthusiastic about following me and I thought it was because I was born a charismatic leader. In reading this book, I saw that the world most people live in is often filled with an asshole boss at some level that makes their life much harder. The problem is that nearly anywhere you work, you are likely to have at least one asshole boss somewhere above you just because of the number of bosses most people have. Reading Good Boss, Bad Boss and In The Plex together helped me understand that I would have to be the leader if I was going to do what God put me here to do in communicating my love, hope, and faith with the world. Bad bosses are everywhere and if you want a good boss, you often have to work on your own or find that special organization where asshole bosses are not tolerated.