Blog, Leadership

The Power of Books

December 13, 2014 | Rick VanDermyden

Recently, a good friend sent me this quote:

“One must be careful of books, and what is inside them, for words have the power to change us.” (Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices)

Wow! Oh, that’s good. The truth is that great books can do more than change us…they can transform us. I know from personal experience.

Books have not only shaped the man I am today, but there are books still unread that will change the man I become.

Reading is more than a pastime for me, it is nearly an obsession. Why? Because I love to grow, and help others to grow, more than anything else.

Have you ever read a book that changed your life?

I have a tendency to believe that words are powerful, but the truth is that we are powerful. A book is just a book, words are just words, until we allow them to become a part of us. Then they become living things…powerful beyond measure.

People frequently ask me for book recommendations. I wish I could share every book that has ever made a difference in my life, but for now, I’ll settle for ten of my favorites. At the end of this post, I would love for you to comment and share the books that have had the biggest impact in your life.

1. The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews

“Until a person takes responsibility for where he is, there is no basis for moving on. The bad news is the past was in your hands, but the good news is that the future, my friend, is also in your hands.”

Andy Andrews is the best storyteller I know. Through his books, he spreads hope and perspective in a way that inspires and challenges me at the same time. The Traveler’s Gift taught me the seven decisions that lead to personal success. These decisions have had a tremendous impact on my life in the past decade. Andy rejuvenated my desire for personal growth many years ago and I am grateful. His work is fun and engaging, but more importantly, it teaches lessons that can make a lasting difference in your life and results.

2. The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John Maxwell

“If you want to reach your potential and become the person you were created to be, you must do much more than just experience life and hope that you learn what you need along the way. You must go out of your way to seize growth opportunities as if your future depended on it. Why? Because it does. Growth doesn’t just happen – not for me, not for you, not for anybody.”

I’ve always been passionate about personal growth, so I have read mountains of books that have taught me priceless lessons about growth, but this one is my favorite. Why? Because it gave me a model to follow. I’ve been able to build a personal growth plan around it for the past 36 months – since the book came out. I love it because it doesn’t just teach you why you should grow, but it teaches you how to grow. That’s why it is so valuable. If you’re interested in personal growth, this is a must-have.

3. As a Man Thinketh by James Allen

“Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves, they therefore remain bound.”

Oh, this book was challenging for me. It is a short book, but it is one of those that forces you to crack your mind open and examine it. When I read this book I was at a time in my life when some of my relationships were suffering. I had an overwhelming need to be right much of the time. This book made me question my own thinking. I learned to assess: What is getting in my way? The answer was…me and my ego. Then I went on to ask: What have I been unwilling to change that is keeping me from what I want? That question taught me a powerful and unforgettable lesson. My need to be right was hurting my relationships. This book changed my thinking as much as any book I have ever read. When I think about books that changed my perception of myself, this is the one that made the biggest difference.

4. Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless by Jeffrey Gitomer

“The Customer only wants two things — show me you care about me personally, and tell me what you’re going to do for me now (help me, please).”

When I read this book, it changed my perceptions about what a happy customer looked like. It helped me to grasp the difference between customer satisfaction (customers are happy but they can be happy giving their business to someone else too) and customer loyalty (customers are only happy giving their business to you.) Gitomer gives a clear picture of what it means to over-deliver and he explains the impact that this can have on your business. This book, like the customer loyalty it describes, is priceless. The real value, however, is in the application of his principles. This book is a game changer.

5. The 5 Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman

“Inside every child is an ‘emotional tank’ waiting to be filled with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop normally, but when the love tank is empty, the child will misbehave. Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated by the cravings of an empty ‘love tank.’”

When I read this book in 2003, it radically changed my parenting. My oldest daughter, Courtney, was seven when I read it the first time. Through the book, I learned Courtney’s “love language” – quality time. When I began to understand what filled her “love tank,” it helped me to pour into my relationship with her in a way that mattered deeply to her. She blossomed when Sue and I started investing in her through her love language. I am certain that the shift that this book created in my thinking is largely responsible for the close relationship that I have with Courtney today. It is no exaggeration to say that I am a different parent and spouse because of this book.

6. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

“First comes thought, then organization of that thought into ideas and plans, then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination.”

This book is powerful. I have read and re-read it many times over. It expanded my abundance thinking more than any other book I have ever read. In the book, Hill interviewed the wealthiest and most successful men of the Industrial Age. From those interviews, Hill compiled a formula for creating success that anyone can use. In fact, Hill explained how to make success (whatever that looks like for you) predictable. It is one of the most empowering books I’ve ever read.

7. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters by Meg Meeker

“When you look at your sleeping daughter, you are confronted with a spiritual reality that you can’t deny. From the moment she was born, you sensed the awesomeness of her life, the fact that there is something mysterious and transcendent about it, that she goes beyond you and your spouse. A man can banter with his friends and colleagues about whether God exists. But a father looks at his daughter and knows.”

I recommend this book more often than any other book on this list. In my opinion, if you are a father, this is the most important book you can read. It is largely responsible for shaping my thinking about my relationships with my daughters. It not only taught me the importance of building a strong bond when my girls were little, but it taught me how to do it. I didn’t always get it right, but I tried to apply her principles in my relationships and I believe that it not only changed how my daughters see me, but also how they see themselves. Meeker explains the father-daughter relationship better than anyone I have ever seen. According to Meeker, the strength and health of our early relationship will either crumble or hold steady during those rough junior high and high school years based on the relationship we build in the pre-teen years. I could go on and on, but you just have to trust me on this – this book is invaluable.

8. The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

“At any level, a leader doesn’t automatically stay at that level. You must earn your level of leadership with each person, and that level can go up or down at any time.”

I love, love, love this book! It is the simplest and most impactful book I have ever read on leadership, (and I’ve read A LOT of leadership books!) I have applied Maxwell’s principles to my own growth as a leader, and to every person that I have the privilege to lead and influence. It has changed the way that I live and teach leadership because it is more than a hypothetical discussion about leadership, it is a clear model for leadership development that anyone can follow. If you are a leader, this book should be on your bookshelf.

9. Marketing Outrageously by Jon Spoelstra

“Marketing outrageously beats the hell out of marketing bland, time after time after time.”

This book blew my mind. I could not believe how it changed my perspective when it comes to marketing strategically. I use Spoelstra’s model for every marketing dollar I invest. This book is chock-full of ideas that will help you to develop a sound marketing strategy. Throw out any old-fashioned thinking about what it means to grow a successful business because Spoelstra will challenge what you believe about marketing and business-building. You can’t afford to miss this book.

10. The One Thing by Gary Keller

“What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else becomes useless or unnecessary?”

This question is the single best focus and time-management question that I have ever come across. I find that I can get sucked in to multi-tasking and information overload on a daily basis unless I am highly intentional. This book helped me to learn what it really means to focus on the ONE THING that is most important to my success. Be prepared to re-think your schedule and priorities in order to identify where you should focus your time and energy. This book is an enlightening, inspiring, and challenging read.

Every one of these books get a gold star from me. They have made a difference for me and I firmly believe that they can make a difference for you too!

What are your must-read books? I would love to fill my Christmas list with new reading material. Please comment below and share your favorite books!

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