Life sucks. I suck. You suck. I was clueless as a kid, and I thought I would at least have a small clue about how life works when I grow up. I thought adults had figured out life. I know now that everyone is as clueless as me and we are taking life day by day. 

Perhaps it’s all B.F. Skinner’s fault. According to his operant conditioning theory, if we behave right and display the desirable action, there will be a positive reward. And I survived childhood, four years of college education and that horrific despacito song. Along with everything else between these things. I did everything ever desired from me. But there wasn’t a positive consequence. No reward. 

I am just as clueless as to when I was a kid, if not more, and I am lost. I can’t figure where I want to go and how to get there. There is only one person that seems to know about all the clues, and that person is fictional. Sherlock Holmes. And he knows because he can use his imagination to connect ideas and work a scenario backwards.

So imagination is the key to getting clues. And when I needed a mentor and savior the most, I turned into my imagination or rather turned it up. I used it to create the persona of the future version of me. A virtual mentor. A time traveler from the future. Someone wiser, better, and a greater person that who I am today. But we are the same person. Though he is cool and I am a fool. And he is super. The super version of me. 

He often consults me about different superpowers I could have in the future. Superpowers every superhuman of tomorrow has. He recommends, never dictates. And today he introduced to me a new superpower, that is, in fact, two superpowers grouped into one. He said reading is the fifth superpower. 

Reading is time traveling. He said I could go back in time. I could borrow the wisdom of people who became immortal because of their ideas and teachings. Or I could always time travel in the future and find him. My greater and super self. And he would grant me his wisdom, skills, abilities, and superpowers. 

The time traveler from the future also said that reading is telepathy. He said with reading, I could communicate with the brains of other people. People wiser and smarter than me, and find a whole new world of ideas and practical wisdom. 

He said other things too, but I won’t go into detail about them. His arguments were convincing. He then recommended a list of books I must read to start trying to live a successful life. And just for this once, he insisted, not recommended, that I must share this list with everyone else. 

Here is the list:

1. The Dip: A little Book That Teaches You When to Quit(and When to Stick)” by Seth Godin

Small books often pack the strongest punches. This is one of those books. Seth Godin speaks, and we listen to what he says. He argues that success in anything is simple. Stick with the right stuff, get through them and come out on the other side. Quit the wrong stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other.

Anything worth doing has a painful middle period, a plateau or even a dip. Winners are people who recognize and commit and push through the right dip. And they are also people who know when to quit fast, often, and without guilt.

Notable Quotes:

“Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.”

“Successful people don’t just ride out the Dip. They don’t just buckle down and survive it. No, they lean into the Dip. They push harder, changing the rules as they go. Just because you know you’re in the Dip doesn’t mean you have to live happily with it. Dips don’t last quite as long when you whittle at them.”

“If you can’t make it through the Dip, don’t start. If you can embrace that simple rule, you’ll be a lot choosier about which journeys you start.”

“The most common response to the Dip is to play it safe. To do ordinary work, blameless work, work that’s beyond reproach. When faced with the Dip, most people suck it up and try to average their way to success. Which is precisely why so few people end up as the best in the world.”

2. Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Published in 1841, this book(essay) of 52 pages is still loud and clear. It’s as much relevant today as it was back in the day. It is a book on independence, non-conformity, and trusting oneself. 

I won’t say much about this book. Just read it, and you will find the courage and the will to stick to your intuition, ideas, and authentic self. And it will help you trust yourself. 

Notable quotes:

“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another, you have only an extemporaneous, half possession.”

“In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

“No greater men are now than ever were. A singular equality may be observed between the great men of the first and of the last ages; nor can all the science, art, religion, and philosophy of the nineteenth-century avail to educate greater men than Plutarch’s heroes, three or four and twenty centuries ago.”

3. Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl

In this memoir, Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl shares his experiences at four concentration camps including Auschwitz and shares his lessons about spiritual survival. Frankl found a deep meaning and hunger for survival and hope, even in a living hell, and had excitement for an unknown and uncertain future. 

He found meaning and purpose in something meaningless like suffering. And he argued that suffering is unavoidable, but we can choose how to respond to it. If we have something to move us forward, a purpose, there is a meaning to suffering. 

In our quest to success, there will be a lot of resistance, setbacks, and failures. There will be a lot of dips, disappointment, and suffering. But if there is a purpose, and a clarity of vision, there will always be a way to push through. 

Notable Quotes:

“The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in his or her life.”

“Suffering in and of itself is meaningless; we give our suffering meaning by the way in which we respond to it.”

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

4. Outliers: The Story of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell

An inspirational book that challenges our perception of success and successful people(outliers). Malcolm Gladwell examines the factors that contribute to high levels of success and how these factors turn an individual to an outlier. 

A basic repeatable concept in this book, it’s the 10,000-hour rule. According to psychologist Dr. Anders Ericsson, it takes approximately 10,000 hours or 10 years of deliberate practice to become an expert or successful in a field. And Gladwell argues that timing, circumstance, family, birthplace, birth rate and even luck are major factors that decide a person’s success. Success is a product of opportunity these factors provide, followed by hard work. 

Gladwell also suggests that in a society that provides opportunities for all, the world could be much richer than the world we have settled. And for every Bill Gates, there could be another million teenagers that could become outliers like him(not him), given the opportunity. 

So success and maybe becoming among the best in the world at something comes down to having the opportunity to put down 10,000 hours of deliberate practice in a field.  No magic differentiates the average from the exceptional. Failure from success. Just opportunity and hard work. 

Not everyone can become great. If that were the case, there wouldn’t be outliers as greatness should be the new norm. But can’t we grasp the opportunities life provides us and at least try to be successful or great at something? 

Notable Quotes:

“It is those who are successful, in other words, who are most likely to be given the kinds of special opportunities that lead to further success. It’s the rich who get the biggest tax breaks. It’s the best students who get the best teaching and most attention. And it’s the biggest nine- and ten-year-olds who get the most coaching and practice.”

“Everything we have learned in Outliers says that success follows a predictable course. It is not the brightest who succeed. If it were, Chris Langan would be up there with Einstein. Nor is success simply the sum of the decisions and efforts we make on our own behalf. It is, rather, a gift. Outliers are those who have been given opportunities—and who have had the strength and presence of mind to seize them.”

5. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck

In this book, Carol Dweck argues that success or improvement in anything is a matter of approach. A fixed mindset or a growth mindset approach. A growth mindset keeps us on the path to improvement and success. A fixed mindset pushes us off that path.

With a fixed mindset, people measure themselves by failure. Failures happen more often than successes, and these people let failures define them. They let failures rob them of their coping resources and from reaching their potential. And even if they succeed, they are afraid to try to improve further. Because they could do something that could expose their flaws and question their talent. So even if they win, people with a fixed mindset loose to the fear of failure. 

Failures don’t define individuals with a growth mindset. These individuals believe their basic abilities can be developed. They see failures as obstacles, not as massive walls. And if abilities can be developed, then failures are opportunities for learning and growth. There is always something to learn from a failure. A negative experience can be the basis for growth. With a growth mindset, growth is always possible.

Notable Quotes:

“When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures don’t define them. And if abilities can be expanded—if change and growth are possible—then there are still many paths to success.”

“But isn’t potential someone’s capacity to develop their skills with effort over time? And that’s just the point. How can we know where effort and time will take someone?”

6. The Obstacle Is The Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph” by Ryan Holiday

To further enhance the idea of the growth mindset, one must read this book inspired by Stoicism. Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that can be traced back to around 304 BC and a merchant called Zeno. It’s a philosophy of enduring pain or adversity with perseverance and resilience. Stoics differentiate things they can control from things they can’t. They let go of things out of their control. And Stoics see every new obstacle as an opportunity for growth. Something that makes them better, stronger, more resilient. 

In this book, Ryan Holiday demonstrates the use of Stoicism to overcome difficulties and impossible situations by using historical figures such as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, John D. Rockefeller, Ulysses S. Grant, and Steve Jobs. 

Read this book to rationalize your problems into your biggest advantages, and turn obstacles into clear paths of action.

Notable Quotes:

“Where one person sees a crisis, another can see opportunity. Where one is blinded by success, another sees reality with ruthless objectivity. Where one loses control of emotions, another can remain calm.”

“Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. Training is authority. It’s a release valve. With enough exposure, you can adapt out those perfectly ordinary, even innate, fears that are bred mostly from unfamiliarity.”

“The point is that most people start from disadvantage (often with no idea they are doing so) and do just fine. It’s not unfair, it’s universal. Those who survive it, survive because they took things day by day—that’s the real secret.”

“A new path is, by definition, uncleared. Only with persistence and time can we cut away debris and remove impediments. Only in struggling with the impediments that made others quit can we find ourselves on untrodden territory—only by persisting and resisting can we learn what others were too impatient to be taught.”

“Passing one obstacle simply says you’re worthy of more. The world seems to keep throwing them at you once it knows you can take it. Which is good, because we get better with every attempt.”

7.The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy” by Lewis Howes

Multimillion-dollar online business owner and host to the popular and beloved podcast called “The School of Greatness,” Lewis Howes, shares the essential tips and habits he gathered from interviewing people who achieved greatness.  Anyone from great athletes to artists, entrepreneurs, professors, speakers, health and fitness experts, nutritionists and so forth. 

From the interviews with the masters of greatness, Lewis figured greatness comes from within. Greatness develops by cultivating the character and habits that lead to success. While it’s also something that helps a person overcome and challenge adversity. 

In this book, he proposes eight areas of focus and continual improvement. And each area comes with information, tools and resources, and exercises. Used right, this book is a huge step forward to reach success and greatness. 

Notable Quotes:

“Your life matters, and so do your dreams. It’s time you act like they matter. The best way to start doing that is to visualize and map out how you want your dreams to look on a day-to-day basis. The key to greatness is fulfilling what you want in your life first and being an inspiration to yourself.”

“A lot of times we don’t hustle because we are afraid of the negative potential outcomes. But if we use that fear, process it, and shift our thinking toward the positive potential outcomes, we can turn that fear into faith. When people hustle, it’s not because they have no fear—it’s because they’ve harnessed it instead of letting it harness them.”

“Greatness comes from fear. Fear can either shut us down and we go home, or we fight through it.”

“Greatness is really the survival of your vision across an extended timeline, based on your willingness to do whatever it takes in the face of adversity and to adopt the mindset to seize opportunity wherever it lives. After all, greatness is not something that comes to you; you go to it, and it’s always moving. You slow down, and it moves farther away. You stop, and it disappears over the horizon.”

8. Reinvent Yourself” by James Altucher

James Altucher is an entrepreneur, an investor, a podcast host, a writer, and a ranked chess master. He also has a  secret identity as Superman. He started over 20 businesses and failed at 17 of them. He invested in over 30 companies. He wrote 18 books, one of them a best-seller. And his podcast “The James Altucher Show” has over 50 million downloads.  Is James Altucher a modern sage? I don’t know, but he knows a lot of stuff. 

He knows a lot of things as he tried a lot of things and because he is on a journey of reinvention for over 20 years. James released, this year, a book he wishes he had at the beginning of his journey. The ONE book he wishes he had in his twenties. 

Like Lewis Howes, James interviewed 100s of people who achieved greatness or people who seem to excel at something. These people range from chess masters to investors, artists, economists, entrepreneurs, writers, and everything between. And James wrote a book by documenting his own story and out of speaking to 100s of his heroes and researching 100s more. 

James often writes about his daily practice and how to be the luckiest guy on the planet. We are lucky too.  Lucky to have a book about 100s of mentors and the ONE book James wishes he had in his twenties. 

Notable Quotes:

“Learning never stops. Many people die at 25 but are not put in the coffin until 75. The learning stopped for them early.”

“Thoughts in our heads can’t do anything. They are so invisible, not even a microscope can see them. Only forward motion works. A superhero doesn’t blame. A superhero flies through the sky and saves lives. Action!”

“Talent is the tiniest of sparks. A spark lights the fire. But you have to feed the fire more fuel to keep it going. Else it dies out. How many of us have had that spark? And then years of being beaten down have put out the fire?”

“Gratitude is the bridge between your world and the parallel universe where all creative ideas live.”

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These books didn’t create a successful life for me yet, and I don’t know if they will. I doubt it.

The time traveler only recommended these books, and it’s up to me to read them and how to use them or the ideas in them.

Never forget that life sucks, and the same goes for I and you. But there is a small chance for life to go from “sucksessful” to successful. And I feel like gambling today.

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What do you think about this list? Do you agree or disagree? What other books would you add? Please let me know.

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