For more than two years I taught and encouraged homeless individuals. Books always help with that. Recently, I stumbled upon seven great books that have changed my life and the lives of the students I teach. Here is my current list of books that will empower and support you in creating a life that is passionate, curious and constantly evolving.
1. The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Bejamin Zander
This wonderful book is written by two musicians driven by a love of music and the need to share it with the world. Unlike many teachers, these brilliant scholars assign the possibility of everyone doing well by determining what that looks like on an individual basis. Each student must write a letter that is to be dated for the end of the semester detailing why they had earned an “A” in the class. When my teaching switched from controlling the information and educational needs to one in which I had people focus on what they could do to earn an “A” in their careers, money challenges and personal lives, the entire course blossomed.
2. Linchpin by Seth Godin
Seth Godin allows the reader to stop waiting for permission to be great. I launched a pilot program that failed for one solid year. Upon reading this book, I figured out how to fail differently. I was being too cautious and refused to try things that were different, uncomfortable or unfamiliar. What I was creating and launching was new which meant my attack had to be new. To paraphrase Godin: If your job description and what you do can be put in a manual that means someone else can do it better and cheaper which means your days at company X are limited.
3. Taking Responsibility by Nathaniel Branden
Although I have been reading his work for years, it was the stem work and the sentence regarding communication and commitment that changed all of my interactions with everyone I knew. Stem work forces those who choose to use it to look at what they do not why they do it. Honestly looking at your behavior takes courage and can lead to some wonderful fresh experiences. We can then choose to change or continue doing what doesn’t work but is familiar and easy.
4. Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker
A financial planner in a straw hat- This was the brilliant tagline that let me know this would be something my students and I would love. The Amish ways of self reliance, “not eating the marshmallow”, community support and repurposing items make for very wise life instructions. It is hard to argue finances with a man who has fourteen children, a house he owes free and clear and $200,000 in the bank. Using this book allowed me to experiment with three radical financial philosophies: cash only for one week, no money spent at all for one week and figuring how to get what I need without money changing hands.
5. Overcoming Underearning by Barbara Stanny
As a teacher of financial literacy, I have heard every excuse imaginable regarding why people’s finances are disastrous. Ms. Stanny’s book breaks down five stumbling blocks that make us feel financially powerless. It also reminds us that with some focus, a commitment to changing our behaviors and some simple to use plans, we can create greatness. A perfect combination of spirituality and down to earth tools this wonderful book will make you feel that you can handle the beast that is financial responsibility.
I saw changes immediately (an increased credit score of more than one hundred points and was able to buy my first home) and continue to reread this book some seven years later. I have shared this book with colleagues and my mother. The greatest quote is contained midway through: “You don’t have a problem to solve; you have a decision to make.”
6. And There Was Light by Jacques Lusseyran
Lusseyran was a seventeen year old blind youth who challenged the Nazis by organizing and leading fifty–two boys in a resistance movement. Although not an official personal development book, it encourages us all to look at our self imposed limitations and annihilate them.
7. Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto
Gatto’s brilliant manifesto fundamentally changed how I saw education and learning. Whether it is detailing Richard Branson’s sojourn through London unaccompanied by an adult at age four, a nightclub singer who dramatically increased female applicants at MIT or a blind seventeen year old secretly toppling the Nazi regime in France (see book # 6), there are several examples that inspire and empower. What is really pointed out was how hungry we all are for something authentic, daring and real. I often write about burning the manual. This book doesn’t burn the manual it obliterates it.
While this is not an extensive list, it provides a great beginning to the power of books and the ways they can change your life and challenge and invigorate your thinking. Read all or a few of them and watch your life expand.
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