For the past five years, I’ve read 50-plus books per year.
In 2020, I only finished 32 even though I spent way more hours glued to my Kindle than in the previous years. However, I relentlessly quit the books that sucked.
When I first tapped into the world of personal development, I tried to set smart goals in all areas of my life. That obviously included goals for my personal growth, and aiming to read a certain number of books seemed reasonable.
But what I realized at the beginning of 2020 is that my time and mental energy are too precious to be wasted on bad books.
After fighting my way through two books that sucked in January, I decided to give up on my reading goal and focus on quality over quantity.
Matthew Dicks once stated the following:
“Read more. It allows you to borrow someone else’s brain, and will make you more interesting at a dinner party.”
However, the truth is that bad books won’t add much to your brain. They also won’t make you more interesting.
And at a dinner party, most people will prefer being around someone who’s excited and enthusiastic.
I fell in love with the idea of borrowing someone’s brain a few years ago and I’ve always been passionate about learning. But this year, I allowed myself to return that brain if I felt like it wasn’t adding much value to my life.
It took me a while to get used to leaving books unfinished. Yet by doing so, I was able to read much more of the texts that truly added value to my life and business.
And while doing so, I came across a few hidden gems that I wish I’d read earlier.
Keep Going by Austin Kleon
I discovered the work of Austin Kleon at the beginning of the year and read all his books within a few weeks.
Above all, I love his writing style and his simple yet effective ideas on being more productive, effective, and creative.
In Keep Going, Kleon teaches how to master roadblocks and move on even when difficulties arise.
He talks about how routines can help you keep going despite challenges and how to actually create these routines.
However, he also talks about common distractions such as social media and how to deal with them.
“The people who want to control us through fear and misinformation — the corporations, marketers, politicians — want us to be plugged into our phones or watching TV, because then they can sell us their vision of the world. If we do not get outside, if we do not take a walk out in the fresh air, we do not see our everyday world for what it really is, and we have no vision of our own with which to combat disinformation.”
Keep Going is an easy-to-read guide for anyone trying to be more effective and take responsibility for their own life, regardless of your industry or background.
A User’s Manual for the Human Body: How Traditional Chinese Medicine Helps the Body to Heal Itself by Alex Wu
This one was the first book I read in 2020 and it influenced me to prioritize my health throughout the entire year.
I never faced health-related struggles besides five surgeries on my hips in my teenage years.
Yet, I sincerely believe that you should take care of your body while you’re still feeling good.
A User’s Manual for the Human Body by Alex Wu is a fantastic introduction to the world of traditional Chinese medicine.
This book helped me realize why we should be much more conscious about our bodies and health and try to look for the roots of certain symptoms instead of alleviating pain through painkillers.
This book was the reason I built a few new habits in 2020:
- Making sure I get enough sleep every single night: Without rest, your body can’t heal itself. For me, that means 8 hours per night.
- Reducing the intake of pain killers to a minimum: Instead, I’m asking myself what might have caused the pain and look for ways to treat the cause instead of the symptoms. For instance, I started doing yoga every day as I realized this helps me avoid back pain caused by my inactive office job.
- Eating meals slowly: This doesn’t only help you be more conscious of what you eat and better absorb nutrients but also helps reduce your calorie intake.
- Drying my hair after taking a shower: I always hated using hairdryers as it takes me so long to dry my thick hair. However, I learned that keeping my hair wet could weaken my immune system and lead to catching a cold more easily, so I got used to the hairdryer.
Superfans by Pat Flynn
Superfans changed the way I view and engage with my audience.
Pat Flynn is one of the few people who really know how to build an online business and impact hundreds of thousands of people.
In Superfans, he shares a step-by-step approach that helps you stand out, grow your tribe, and build a successful business.
However, it’s not only a nice-to-read book but also includes exercises at the end of each chapter so that you really understand how to put the knowledge into practice.
A must-read for any content creator who’s trying to build an audience.
“When you focus on creating superfans, as a byproduct you’ll get more traffic, more followers, more views, and more subscribers. You’ll build a stronger, more targeted tribe who will go out of their way to support you and what youdo. They’ll be more engaged, more excited, and more likely to take action. And they’ll be more likely to buy from you, too!”
Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday
Even though Holiday is mostly known for his bestselling books such as Ego Is The Enemy, I found much more value in Trust Me, I’m Lying.
In this book, Holiday shares insights about his work as a media manipulator who worked with major brands and influential people. Yet, what makes the book truly valuable is that he shares all the dirty secrets as someone who’s been applying most of them himself.
As a digital entrepreneur who’s publishing content online and working with various clients and platforms, this book was a significant eye-opener about how the industry really works.
If you’re writing and publishing online, I highly recommend giving this book a chance. You won’t regret it, but you might be shocked more than just once.
“A powerful predictor of whether content will spread online is valence, or the degree of positive or negative emotion a person is made to feel. Both extremes are more desirable than anything in the middle. Regardless of the topic, the more an article makes someone feel good or bad, the more likely it is to make the Most Emailed list.”
Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
In Steal Like An Artist, Kleon encourages creative minds to copy their heroes.
He preaches that you shouldn't be afraid of using what exists as a springboard until you find your own voice and style. He often quotes famous artists like Pablo Picasso, who said “Art is theft”.
Another person he quotes is the French writer André Gide who said:
“Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”
Instead of worrying about being unique and blocking your own way, you should try out as much as possible and move quickly so that you have lots of experiences and find your own path as soon as possible.
This book significantly influenced my ability to build a 6-figure online business in less than a year. It encouraged me to move fast and do more of what’s proven to work instead of standing in my own way.
After finishing Steal Like An Artist, I stopped worrying about being extraordinary and focused more on how I could influence as many lives as possible.
“Nobody is born with a style or a voice. We don’t come out of the womb knowing who we are. In the beginning, we learn by pretending to be our heroes. We learn by copying.”
Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson
The title of this book is a bit misleading as it’s actually way more than just about sleep.
Even though the book teaches everything you need to know about sleeping well and performing at your best, it delivers way more than that.
If you read Sleep Smarter from cover to cover, you get a holistic approach to improving your health and performance in all areas, not only during your sleep.
“Working hard is unarguably a big part of being successful, but so is working smart. So many people in our world today go on plugging away with work, burning the candle at both ends, not realizing that the quality of work they’re doing is being radically compromised. Research shows that after just 24 hours of sleep deprivation, there is an overall reduction of six percent in glucose reaching the brain. Simple translation: You get dumber.”
Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards
The skill that I spent most time and money on in 2020 is copywriting.
If you want to sell products, you need to be able to write great copy. This includes product descriptions, sales emails, sales scripts, website copy, and so much more.
I decided to learn from someone who’s been into copywriting for decades and invested $1,000 in courses, tools, and the book by Jim Edwards. And it was worth every penny.
If you’re trying to sell anything online, this is your go-to copy bible and you won’t regret studying it in-depth, promised.
“The better you understand the people in your niche market, the more money you’ll make and the happier they’re going to be because you can communicate better with them.”
Eleven Minutes by Paulo Coelho
I mostly read non-fiction books, but this one was one of the most influential books I read in 2020.
Eleven Minutes is the story of a young woman who leaves her native village in Brazil and ultimately becomes a prostitute in Switzerland.
During that journey, she’s trying to discover herself, but also the true meaning of love.
This book helped me gain a new perspective on prostitution and let go of prejudices. However, it also forced me to think about what love means to me.
“Dreaming is very pleasant as long as you are not forced to put your dreams into practice. That way, we avoid all the risks, frustrations and difficulties, and when we are old, we can always blame other people preferably our parents, our spouses or our children — for our failure to realise our dreams.”
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
I mostly read as part of my morning and evening routine to set the tone of the day or learn something refreshing before going to bed.
That’s probably why I’ve been procrastinating on starting this book for at least two years because I assumed it would be harder to process than what I usually read.
Man’s Search for Meaning recounts Viktor Frankl’s experiences in concentration camps of WWII.
Now that I worked my way through it, I’m convinced that every single human being should read it.
If you’re willing to open your mind, Frankl's experiences will teach you more about humankind and yourself than you discovered ever before.
“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.”