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5 must-read books for career success

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Books are an essential part of career success. They enable you to pick up workable ideas, tips, and practical wisdom on the go.

They contain usable knowledge drawn from different experiences, which you can apply to your own life. It is like bringing the authors right into you living room for a fireside chat at a fraction of what it would cost to fly them in for a personal coaching session.

For any young person starting their career, the following five books, selected for their impact and sage advice, are an absolute must read.

1. The Power of Less ~ Leo Babauta

An incredibly busy and seemingly frantic lifestyle is often mislabeled as “living life to the fullest”. While we might want to acquire everything and be able to do all things, the fact remains that it is virtually impossible. If you require someone (or a book in this case) to sober you up to this reality, this is it.

The Power of Less offers a refreshing look at why we need to simplify our lives and focus on the essentials, rather than “try to do a million things and take up every project”. Babauta argues that we are not only far less effective when we try do too much, but that our personal lives suffer too. He shows that it’s possible to work without feelings of limitation, deprivation, or the fear of missing out. The book is instructional and bold in its message, and reading it will certainly lift you to a position of control over your life.

Short on time? Here’s the upshot: Stop, step back, and take a big-picture look at your life. Make a list of all your commitments: everything you do and would like to do in the near future. Make a shorter list of the things that are most important to you from your original list. Compare the two lists and toss out anything in the long list that is not aligned with an item on your short list. Boom! You just simplified your life.

2. Who Moved My Cheese? ~ Dr. Spencer Johnson

It has been more than 15 years since this book was first published. Some 26 million copies later, the timeless tenets and advice within its pages continue to empower and inspire employees to effectively deal with change. There are, of course, more practical and better written books about how to deal with change, but this book is remarkable for its simple yet powerful tale that illustrates both good and bad ways of handling change.

It is a story of four characters who live in a maze and look for “cheese” for both their survival and personal enjoyment. This cheese is suddenly taken away (read: a change occurs in the workplace, such as getting fired or switching jobs), and the four characters each deal with this change in different ways. The book’s central message is contained in the characters’ responses and reactions to the sudden loss of “cheese”.

Before you dismiss this book as simplistic, remember that Dr. Spencer Johnson is a staple on the motivational literature shelf, with several titles to his name, which have been translated to more than 20 languages.

3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People ~ Stephen R. Covey

On June 16, 2012, the world mourned a great educator, author, and renowned keynote speaker. Mr. Covey is fondly remembered, among other achievements, for this landmark book, which crystallized crucial and powerful life lessons into seven habits. The book is the result of careful analysis of the key habits of highly effective individuals and a review of 200 years of success literature. Contemporary management terms like “win-win”, “begin with the end in mind”, and “sharpening the saw” were all drawn from this book.

The book is most remarkable for its ability to capture success as a whole (i.e. success at work, home, and in the community) rather than compartmentalizing it. This means that success in one area does not make up for failures in another area. The seven habits are easy to understand and apply to your life and career.

This book promises to change your life. Though he did not invent the term “paradigm”, a way of seeing the world, Stephen Covey is singularly credited with popularizing it in this generation.

4. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking ~ Malcolm Gladwell

How many times have you wished you had gone with your initial hunch on a decision or an issue? How accurate are your snap judgments and first impressions? We often ignore this ability when it comes to making crucial decisions or forming judgments. Malcolm Gladwell helps us to appreciate the mysterious nature of our snap judgments. He shows us that you can “know without knowing” and why sometimes we are better off that way.

His insights on good decision making are applicable to life as well as business. Gladwell does not suggest that we should entirely shun rational thinking in favor of instinct; rather, we should strike a balance between the two.

Gladwell’s great use of a storytelling and graceful prose drive his points home. Despite criticism following its first publication in 2005, the book should be read for the value of its insights on quick decision making.

5. The Mackay MBA of Selling in the Real World ~ Harvey Mackay

Could the founder of an envelope company (in this digital age) possibly teach you anything useful about sales? You bet your life he could! After all, this man ran a thriving envelope-making company (yes, envelopes!) in an era where other non-digital media, like paper and newsprint, are on life support.

There are hundreds of books on sales, but if you’re looking for a powerful read, let me help you get started (you can thank me later). The book is predominantly about practical, road-tested selling techniques, which, in and of themselves, justify the price.

However, it also challenges its readers to question whether they are reaching their full potential. Mackay explains how to stay charged up, map out your thoughts, think things through, and give yourself crucial feedback on your progress. If you are the sort of person who constantly “talks to yourself” and “gives yourself pep talks” as the author puts it, you are likely to enjoy this book and glean important anecdotes that can help fast-track your career.

So what are you waiting for? Grab these titles and transform yourself, your thinking, and your career for the better.

By John Nasaye

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