Nine Books That Changed My Thinking (And, Consequently, My Life)

How important are books to you? To me they are hugely important! These are books that have left a lasting impression on me and have meant big impacts in my life when I read them. 


1. Isaac Asimov – The Foundation Trilogy

The main character in these books, Hari Seldon, resonated so well with my inquisitive nature. The idea of “psychohistory”, the fictional science of putting all knowable data about the present in some super-advanced set of algorithms and getting an output of likely forecasts about the grandest passings of events hundreds of years into the future made me want nothing else than to be that wise, curious professor who had all the answers.


2. Dan Millman – Way Of The Peaceful Warrior

The context in which I got this book recommended to me was as important as the reading itself. It was my martial arts senpai (junior instructor) that told me of this book, and it was during a period when the practice of budo was as central in my life as gymnastics is to the main character in the book. Thus, it was amazingly identifyable to me. It drove me deeper into my martial arts commitment, and the spiritual aspects sent me on my first steps in a “shamanic quest” (best way to describe it, really) that had heavy repercussions almost 10 years later. Chakra meditations and experiments with astral travel were other things that can be attributed to reading this book.


3. Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged

It’s funny how my mom was the one who first recommended this book to me, as a younger kid. Having read it after none other than Randy Gage (see below) did a more effective pitch for it, it made me re-evaluate a lot of the attitude I had been brought up with in regards to money, success, achievements and ownership. You could say it counteracted a lot of socialistic programming that came from my environment until then. It meant a huge paradigm shift, and I have since then strived to always see beyond what the environment and establishment is teaching and promoting. For me, that principle is as true in relation to the ideas (and the proponents of them) of this book.


4. Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search For Meaning

This is a book about perspective. I’ve never read anything else that better illustrates the power of re-framing, to use the power within you that can never be taken away… the power to choose your own attitude towards your circumstances. Viktor Frankl lost pretty much everything in his life when he was put in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, but managed to survive and even provide strength to those around him by focusing on the things he could keep control of – his own thoughts. Truly inspiring.


5. Hermann Hesse – The Glass Bead Game

Probably my overall favorite author, Hesse blends spiritual themes, poignant reasoning and a beautiful poetic flow in his prose. This is my favorite book of his. It’s a science fiction tale about a world where the highest levels of academic pursuit is conducted in the isolated “land” of Castalia, and the purest expression of mastery in the Castalians’ “art of knowledge” is The Glass Bead game, a performance instrument of sorts that incorporates all known disciplines.

Language, history, math, psychology… everything is weaved by the performer into a uniquely individual expression. What this book is really about, to me, is nothing else than design thinking. Oh, and it also taught me another great lesson – that learning ABOUT something is far from actually LEARNING something.


6. Randy Gage – How to Build a Multi-Level Money Machine: The Science of Network Marketing

Network Marketing or “MLM” (Multi-Level Marketing), the growth engine in companies such as Amway, Herbalife, Zinzino, Dreamtrips etc, was something I was involved in for more or less five years. I would call it the best business school I’ve attended.

This book takes away all of the rah-rah “hallelujah” type hype that’s unfortunately prevalent in MLM, and instead does what the title promises: it breaks down success in MLM into all its small components, and gives a great analysis of marketing, psychology, organization work and all other parts.

This book dissected “viral growth” before anyone in the tech startup world was talking about it, and many of the principles (including the maths for efficient incentive systems) I still have daily use for in all business I do.


7. Stephen Covey – 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

“A people, without a vision, perishes” – it’s paraphrasing the Bible, and though I’m not a man of any particular faith, I love the quote. Inner drive comes from having a clear purpose and a vision – “if you have a strong enough WHY, you will always come up with a HOW” – and this book really is an instruction manual for personal integrity, as well as a great guide to balance your roles and principles against the daily barrage of “things that need to be done”. I’ve read countless books and articles on “productivity”, and in my humble opinion, only two of them are required reading. This is one of them.


8. David Allen – Getting Things Done

… and this is the other. While 7 Habits does a superb job in the “top-down” perspective of personal achievement, Getting Things Done is hands down THE instruction manual for the actual work of ticking “to do” boxes and becoming a machine of task management.

GTD (the methodology in this book) has a cult-like following, and the whole thing can be overwhelmingly complex at first (it really goes into the nitty-gritty, and there’s a bunch of scary flow diagrams and other abstract illustrations), and to become a “black belt” in the system probably takes a couple of years of practice.

But it can be applied in bits and pieces, which is how most people read it, and the amount of immediately applicable tips makes it worth a read to anyone. To me, the tangibility of tasks that arise from using GTD is a practice of mindfulness that I have use of everyday in my work or anything else that needs “getting done”.


9. Howard Schultz – Pour Your Heart Into It

I founded a food company. This guy did too. His company is Starbucks, and Howard Schultz is one of my heroes. This is an autobiographical recounting of how a fantastic company grew out of incredible passion and dedication to quality in product and operations. It’s a classic success story, was incredibly inspirational to me – and had a huge impact on my entrepreneurial vision and the way Bar-deli was developed.


There you have it! My friend David inspired this list.

So. Now I’m of course wondering – what books make YOUR list? Please leave a comment!

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