Self-help books?
February 19, 2008 10:45 AM   Subscribe

What are some "life enhancing" books/programs I should check out to help live a more successful and rewarding life?

I recently started reading How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie and have developed a large interest in "life enhancing" books/programs. I'm fresh out of college and lust to improve my life. What are some popular and proven books/programs I should check out that can help me become more successful and live a rewarding life? I want to learn all the trade secrets that the pros use to get ahead of everyone else.
posted by deeman to Education (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I read 50 Success Classics a few months ago, and it was really great because it gave a taste of a large number of other books that I could read.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:46 AM on February 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.
posted by stopgap at 10:48 AM on February 19, 2008

What is currently wrong with your life?

Thankfully everyone has different goals, it generally makes things a little more interesting. If your idea of sucess is to be live as stress-free a life as possible, then your path or required knowledge and experiences would be different then wanting to conquer wall-street.

Work out your goals first, what will make you happy, then perhaps you can find someone who's walked a similar line, and maybe they've even written a book.
posted by Static Vagabond at 11:00 AM on February 19, 2008

The Zen Habits blog would be a good place to start. It's free, first of all, so before going out and buying lots of books you can learn a lot.
posted by PinkButterfly at 11:10 AM on February 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I want to learn all the trade secrets that the pros use to get ahead of everyone else.

Not to be too snarky about this, but part of the trick about getting ahead of everyone else is to define "ahead" so that it's the thing you excel in and not the things you may not excel in. So, for example, if you define success as having the most cash, then books on how to make money will be helpful to you. Dale Carnegie's book is loved because he talks about how to get along with people as a method to getting to be a better business person and his advice helps in a lot of other areanas as well.

So, that said, these are books I would recommend that I think teach you how to be a better person.

- The Heart is a Little to the Left by William Sloane Coffin. The Long Lonliness by Dorothy Day. What Are People For by Wendell Berry. Collections of sermons and writings and essays about politics and justice and love. Helps you get better at: empathy and being a good member of society.
- Innumeracy, Freakonomics, Damned Lies and Statistics. Good intros to how numbers are used to convince people of things and how many people don't understand where statistics come from, how they are gathered and what they mean. Helps you get better at: math, convincing people of things, understanding economics.
- The Economist - international magazine with smart thinking [in a particular political context of course] about how our systems interrelate at a high level. Not for everyone, but in combination with The New Yorker, The Utne Reader, Wired and maybe a few others, gives you an idea of how specific groups of people who are in some sense "tastemakers" in the US view things like popular culture and the interrelatedness of things. Helps you get better at: talking to others about things, understanding large scale systems and microcosms within them.

I don't know anything about trade secrets since for my job they don't matter much at all though there are plenty of places to go online to get "pro tip" type advice on a lot of these things. However, like Carnegie's book, they're not secrets per se, they're just rarely used particularly effectively by people.
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on February 19, 2008 [3 favorites]

I'm OK You're OK
posted by euphorb at 11:32 AM on February 19, 2008

OK, define "successful" and "ahead of everyone else". Do you mean money and material posessions? Do you mean political influence and power? Do you mean fame and having your face on the cover of Time Magazine? Do you mean acheiving enlightenment in this incarnation? Travelling the world and eradicating child poverty? Finding the cure for cancer?

I'm not trying to be facetious, here, I'm just asking you to really think about what these concepts mean to you before you go charging down the path. Think about what the end result is going to look like, then think about what it's going to take to get there within whatever timeframe you've specified for yourself. Chart out your plan of attack. Think through what could prevent you from achieving your goal, and have a plan B and a plan C ready in case you encounter a roadblock. Like Static Vagabond says, identify some people who've already acheived what you aspire to achieve. I'd even go so far as to say that you should talk to them if you get the opportunity. They will provide invaluable advice about what it will take to "make it" in your chosen endeavour.

And good luck!!
posted by LN at 11:41 AM on February 19, 2008

I agree with LN, you need to define successful. You also need to make your goals specific, and less abstract. Instead of shooting for something like security, wealth, or fame...think of something concrete you want such as opening your own restaurant. Then find books and other types advice regarding starting a restaurant business.
posted by sixcolors at 11:51 AM on February 19, 2008

You might like Awaken the Giant Within or really anything written by Anthony Robbins

The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

I really like the Richard Templar "Rules" books:

The Rules of Life

The Rules of Work
posted by triggerfinger at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2008

All About Love by bell hooks. Just fantastic. Across the board, fantastic. Will change your life.
posted by lunit at 12:59 PM on February 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

I'd also like to point out - the fastest way to unhappiness is the realization that you haven't achieved your goals in the timeframe you've allotted to yourself, or that you have acheived your goals, but that they're suddenly not at all what you thought you wanted.

Conversely, some of the most fantastic things have happened to me because I was just open to the experience of whatever was happening to me at that particular moment. I met my SO that way (hiya honey!)

Don't be driven to the point of excluding everything else from your life. Leave some room open in your outlook to let the universe happen to you. :)
posted by LN at 1:13 PM on February 19, 2008

Also... why not save an enormous amount of time and stress by skipping straight to the part where you figure out that you don't need to change anything, and that the drive for self-improvement is a subtle kind of aggression against the self. (Radical Acceptance, Goal-Free Living.) After that, when you realize that "success" isn't important, it'll actually be much easier to achieve. (And you will in any case have redefined what the term means to you.)
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 1:15 PM on February 19, 2008

"It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be" and "Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite" both by Paul Arden. They're small, cheap, entertaining reads, and "it's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be" is really the truth of it. A lot of the "top" people in any field are barely any better (in technical terms) than the guys at the bottom.. they can just act like they are and success follows. I only know that because I do it myself!
posted by wackybrit at 4:18 PM on February 19, 2008

I'd read all the books on communication skills: Crucial Conversations, Difficult Conversations, Fierce Conversations, Getting to Yes, and Deborah Tannen's books. Those skills will be helpful whatever you do.
posted by salvia at 1:20 AM on February 20, 2008

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