As much as I loath to admit it, the three most life-changing books I’ve read recently are self-help books, all written by middle-class, privileged people who decided a traditional nine to five wasn’t for them. While my co-editor argues you should take the advice contained therein with a grain of salt—I’m guilty of being not-so-secretly addicted to them. Part of my brain really enjoys the cheerleading, while the other part scoffs and says the advice-givers are exceptional, if only in their arrogance. Still, all things said and read, there’s something inherently hopeful and positive about consulting another writer for his or her best advice, even if I end up doing my own thing, and it’s completely the opposite. The three books listed below gave me lots of room for thought about the way I evaluate success, what I’m willing to suffer for and how I want to spend my time and live my life.
The 4 hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
Tim Ferriss is many things—humble may not come to mind, but anyone who can look at the life he’s built for himself and resist reading his first best-seller, the 4-hour Work Week, has much more self-control than I pretend to possess. This book about the new rich—and how to figure among their ranks is full of ideas, case studies and practical ideas about building a passive income and living your best life. While I have my doubts about some of his methods, his message, which can be reduced to make as much money you need to live happily with as little grunt work as possible, and spend the rest of your time doing things that you are passionate about, is pretty hard to argue with. I especially like his thoughts on money for money’s sake—a waste of time—the one truly finite and absolutely volatile resource we all have.
The Art of Non-conformity by Chris Guillebeau
Chris Guillebeau’s nontraditional success story about finding his way to meaningful work was so inspiring that I read it from cover to cover before I gave it to my brother as a Christmas present, and then proceeded to buy a copy in Spanish for my husband. While sometimes the author starts to sound smug, his over all message that you don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to, and to choose your happiness, is one that I think lots of us need to hear. While sometimes he sounds irresponsible and unaware of the privileges he’s been afforded to quit school, and jobs, and move forward with his life, the book is full of inspiring ideas and encouraging quotes that push you to think differently about your past, present and future.
The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
Jeff Goin’s book on finding your calling and living a meaningful “portfolio” life consisting of more than one passion is my favorite of the three. Generally, his tone and style of communication are gentler and more patient with the reader, and the message he communicates is less smug. Let your life as you’ve been living it guide you to what you can do for yourself, your family and the world. Make no mistake, it won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it. For more details, read my book review in brief of the Art of Work.
Extra credit & Bonus Materials
All three of these authors have websites where they invite their readers to work through the processes they talk about in their books with bonus materials. Listen to podcast interviews with interesting people—among them authors, CEOs, politicians and famous musicians and actors on Tim Ferriss’ main site, the 4-hour work week. Download Chris Guillebeau’s original book-inspiring manifestos at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Study with Jeff Goins’ online course for registered users who buy the Art of Work or grab his best writing tips at Goinswriter.com