It’s hard to figure out what the best self-help books are because…there are a lot of self-help books. Like, a lot a lot.
And 95 percent of them are mediocre or bad.
Self-improvement changed my life. At a point where I felt lost in life, reading a bunch of self-help books helped me immensely. See, self-improvement, when done right, is the key to getting everything you want.
But it’s very, very easy to quickly slip into “mental masturbation,” meaning you’re reading and consuming self-help and productivity content for the sake of consuming self-help and productivity content. When you treat it as the end itself, instead of the means to the end you want, you’ll spin your wheels.
Certain self-help books, the best-self help books, either light such an intensely hot fire under your ass or present the information in such a unique way that you feel compelled to act.
As follows is the list of books that did just that for me.
Tim Grover trained world-class athletes like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Dwayne Wade. He had first-hand experience with some of the most competitive and driven people on planet earth. In relentless, he talks about the attitude it takes to become a “cleaner.”
Per Tim, there are three types of people:
Get this book on audio. The narration will make you want to run through a brick wall. The key component to becoming a cleaner? Don’t ignore your dark side, harness it. People with real drive and tenacity — from top-tier athletes to corporate raiders — all have a bit of dark relentlessness that pushes them forward.
I love that this book has no qualms about its message. The book is about the entirely self-interested pursuit of success above all else. Some people do like living this way. I like living this way. If you’re a type A person and want to go from good to unstoppable, this is the book for you.
Grant Cardone is the type of person people love or hate. The quintessential brash, lavish, in your face, “get rich” advertiser, he’s also a genuinely pragmatic person with a sold philosophy if you take the time to listen.
Here’s the 10x rule in a nutshell: to get what you want, you have to work 10 times harder than you think you should have to, for 10 times the amount of time, to get 10 to even 100 times the result.
He contrasts this mindset of abundant effort and prosperity with the common person who:
The 10x rule isn’t just a lofty idea, it’s a hedge against the pitfalls of being average. See, being average is fine, so long as things so smoothly. In bad times, chaotic times, it’s the average who get screwed the most. See 2008-09.
Per Grant, getting rich and successful isn’t idealistic, it’s a pragmatic ethical duty.
Self-improvement books are great to listen to on the ago. Have you tried Audible? If you sign up to Audible using this link, you get two free audiobooks along with your 30-day trial. You can cancel at any time.
I wish the government mandated every eighteen-year-old read this book. Of course, they’d never do that, because the teachings of the book would undermine all of their goals.
Rich Dad poor dad is about money. More importantly, how to think about money. His “poor dad” was his real dad — a teacher on salary, the prototypical average American. His “rich dad” was his best friend’s father who owned businesses.
The lessons from his rich dad are plentiful, but here are a few:
Contrast this with the normal American. Deeply in debt, their main investment vehicles (home & retirement) extremely illiquid, and one source of income that’s capped by time. No bueno.
If you want to become rich, this book will tell you exactly how to do it. The first time I read it, I felt as if society had been lying to me for my entire life. And I was right, it was.
Momentum is the name of the game. You need momentum to become successful because success begets more success. To get said momentum, you need to line up your goals in the right order and focus on one thing at a time.
This creates a ‘domino effect.’ You begin with smaller goals to gain momentum, then, you’re able to complete larger goals more easily. You’ve heard this before, but the book lays out this concept in a way that might actually make it stick.
Aside from the core idea of focusing on one thing at a time, there are also some excellent nuggets from the book:
The entire ethos of the book is this question:
“What’s the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
If you can truly get good at answering that question, the world will open up to you in a way you couldn’t imagine.
It’s actually astonishing how socially unaware some people are. How to Win Friends and Influence People basically teaches you the rules you learned in kindergarten, but these rules need reinforcement because adults still have a really hard time adhering them.
It’s not that hard to get people to like you or do what you want.
Here are some of the classic rules from the book:
There are many more rules, anecdotes, and stories, but this basic book covers 99.9 percent of everything you need to know if you want to be popular, or, just don’t want to be a pompous asshole with no friends.
Stoicism is a philosophy that can be summed up in two words. Chill out.
We’re constantly reacting to everything as if life is doing something to us, when in reality we’re just perceiving what we believe to be reality. If you can change your mind, you can literally change your reality.
Just read these quotes from the book and you’ll want to buy it:
“How much time he saves who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks.”
“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.”
“If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now.”
“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”
You can credit Ryan Holiday for taking stoicism mainstream, particularly with TOITW.
Ryan comes from the Robert Greene school of writing. An insanely voracious, he uses carefully chosen anecdotes to bring the concepts to life. The entirety of the book is based on concepts you already know, which is exactly why it’s a great book.
All self-improvement is derived from the classics, philosophy, timeless wisdom, whatever moniker you want to give it.
Basics concepts like these are easy to understand but extremely difficult to practice. Why do you think there are some many self-help books? Why do you think it’s difficult to change your life even after reading the best self-help books over and over again? Because life is hard! We need reminders. The Obstacle is the Way is a great one.
I should’ve added this at the top because this is the best self-help book you’ll ever read. Actually, to call it a self-help book is a bit of an insult. The 48 Laws of Power is a guide to understanding how the world actually works.
The book has been called Machiavellian, amoral, cruel, ruthless, you name it. But at its core, the laws ring true. Accepting people for how they really are is a superpower.
People play power games, engage in politics, use coy maneuvers to get what they want, deceive, all the while pretending they aren’t doing any of it. Often, this happens on a subconscious level.
Before you call me arrogant for putting my own book on a list of the best self-help books, take a look at some unsolicited reviews from people who’ve read it:
“This book was perfect! Thank you! I’ve read A LOT of self-help books but this one is different. The author’s wisdom & understanding really helped me in understanding why I was stuck. He really understands the process of becoming a better person while voicing all the obstacles & setbacks that one experiences while on this journey of self-discovery & dream chasing. Get this book! It’ll help!”
“I’ve spent the last several months reading multiple books and blog posts about self-improvement, and while they all offered decent enough advice, this is the book that has genuinely inspired me to make a commitment to putting in the effort required to reach my full potential. As the author mentions in the book, he’s writing from a place of also being in-progress to achieving his goals, which I personally find far more motivational than reading a book written by someone who has already achieved it all. I really wish I had discovered this book sooner.”
“Just started and finished reading this book today – the Kindle version, because I was so hooked on the preview content, I couldn’t wait for my paperback to be delivered. What a very delightful book to read.”
You 2.0 is a book that tells the truth about how to reinvent yourself. It helps you uncover the rationalizations and blind spots that keep you stuck. You’ll learn how you’ve been persuaded to act a certain way, only to find unhappiness. Then, you’ll unlearn those patterns and create a life that’s perfectly suited to…you.