I believe that there are two important questions in this world that few people ever ask. What does it mean to be successful, and is success worth attaining? Well to answer the first question, I think a great man put it nicely when he said: “Success is the realization of a worthy ideal.” That means the women putting herself through nursing school because she truly wants to be a nurse is just as successful as the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. However, this definition implies that success isn’t simply a matter of career or finances but any worthy ideal or goal, such as those relating to family, friends, and happiness. By this definition, I’d say that success is certainly a good thing and very much attainable. In my eyes, successful people are those that make the most out of life.
Would you believe me then if I told you that principles exist based on laws of nature, which if obeyed, will ensure your success in any given area of your life? Well, believe it or not, these principles exist making it attainable for anyone to enjoy success. They’re borderline common sense, but as Stephen Covey points out, “Common sense isn’t always common practice”. Many men and women throughout history from Socrates to Gandhi understood, applied and tried to define these principles. Many people have dedicated their lives to clarifying this subject for the sake of their fellow man, and for a more harmonious future.
I’ve saved everyone the headache of searching for resources on the matter by listing and summarizing five books that I find outline the subject of success superbly well. It is my personal belief that mankind can enjoy a real utopian society by closing the gap between those who live successfully and those who do not. These books should be read carefully and more than once because they don’t merely state facts. They provide systems of habits and truths which, if incorporated everyday, constitute a harmonious way of life. It’s never too late to lead by example and incorporate them into our lives, truly making this world a better place. These principles can only be applied through growth and understanding, and it’s not easy but certainly worth the price you must pay to be the person you truly want to be, the person you were born to be.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
This book is one of the most complete and intuitive works of its kind, and easily one of the greatest business books of our time. The author, Steven Covey, spent over ten years researching the idea of success in America, and with the help of many men and women with whom he worked with throughout his life, developed a system of seven habits which if applied to any and all areas of your life, will multiply your effectiveness. What sets this book apart from the others on this list is the level of organization of these principles and concepts, often being accompanied with simple yet brilliant diagrams to help illustrate the idea he’s teaching to the reader. I love that he isn’t afraid to tell stories of when he fell short of these principles and the consequences he faced because of it, giving the reader a great frame of reference for applying these habits in their life.
Think and Grow Rich
Published in 1937, this book is a giant in the field of self-development to this very day and for various reasons. The author, Napoleon Hill, was given a “secret to success” by the legendary steel magnate, Andrew Carnegie. Hill spent decades interviewing the 500 richest people of the time as well as thousands of average people, effectively isolating thirteen principles which are at the foundation of every lasting fortune ever accumulated. The book stresses the importance of desire, faith, and persistence as the basic traits necessary for achieving your goals, as well as ten additional principles you must incorporate into your life to become a perpetually growing, thinking individual. These principles have been reviewed and approved by several United States Presidents as well as some immortal innovators such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison (both of whom played a big role in Hill’s findings).
Working with the Law
Written in 1938 by Raymond Holliwell, “Working with the Law” is probably the simplest book on this list but covers all the bases when it comes to the natural laws that govern success. Being a preacher, Holliwell was a deeply religious man which is conveyed in his writing. However, he was also a man of science. He saw God and the universe as two different terms which describe the same concept, and to avoid confusion he refers to this concept as “law.” The book identifies 11 mental laws which govern the supply of the tangible and intangible income in any given area of a person’s life. This book is perfect for those who would like to understand the foundation of the principles which these other books teach.
The Richest Man in Babylon
As some of you may remember from school, Babylon was one of the most prosperous civilizations in ancient history located in the arid deserts of the Middle East. What I love about this book by George S. Clason, is how he presents the lessons. “The Richest Man in Babylon” is a compilation of parables intended to spread financial wisdom taking place in ancient Babylon. The stories are very memorable, and the lessons they teach are so doable that they can be applied to anyone’s life the moment you read it, as opposed to the more arduous self-development books. This book is a must read for anyone living from paycheck to paycheck with no end in sight!
Man’s Search for Meaning
Last, but certainly not least is Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning“. Frankl was a Jewish psychologist during World War II, who was imprisoned by the Nazi’s and sent to Auschwitz. Frankl, like anyone who survived these horrors, experienced countless traumas which most of us will never see our entire life. Aside from being a moving account of a man surviving against all odds, Frankl describes his discovery of the true freedoms inherent in all of us while trapped in a place that can accurately be described as a sadistic death camp. He quotes Friedrich Nietzsche several times in this book with the powerful truth, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. Frankl forever changed the field of psychology by creating a strong case for a person’s life being a quest to find meaning and not a quest to seek pleasure as Sigmund Freud believed. Anyone who has ever accomplished anything so daunting and seemingly impossible knows the wisdom behind Frankl’s findings.
A question many may have (I know I certainly did at first) is, how relevant are these teachings today, does any modern successful person employ these principles? This question has merit considering the newest book on the list was written in 1989. While you’d have to study them yourself to understand how eternal these lessons are, great people still apply these concepts. A song came out this summer on the new DJ Khaled album called “Holy Key” by Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean. Big Sean has a line that goes, “I practice seven spiritual laws and cutoff distractions” directly referring to a book called “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” by Deepak Chopra. Any truly successful person studies these laws for success and lives by them consciously. Hey, if Big Sean knows it, you should too.
With technology and innovations at our fingertips, millennial’s probably won’t be known for their love of reading. However, reading is probably the most effective way of truly understanding this world we live in. I challenge each of you to pick up just one of these books, the one that stands out to you the most, and finish it! After reading it, make a conscious effort to live your life with the lessons learned at the forefront of your mind. Then reread the same book again. Universal truths that you merely skimmed over before will move you because of recent life experiences you’ve had. The same thing will happen with different passages each time you reread it, compelling you to read other books on this list as well. I urge you to look into this material which, if studied and applied, will start you off on the greatest quest of all time: The pursuit of happiness.