There are plenty of great books out there. But most people have one incredible book that completely changed their perspective and the trajectory of their life. These luminaries share one heck of an Amazon order.
1. Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel
Concerned that my need to please and overachieve would not serve me well in the real world, my father gave me this book as a young girl. He wanted to make me aware of, and intentionally respond to, societal pressures and gender norms, rather than simply react and blindly conform.
I don't remember everything in the book, but staring at the cover for more than a decade as I navigated high school and college was enough to remind me to regularly question sabotaging behaviors. Getting the corner office to achieve happiness isn't the point of the book; that's a societal belief I rejected early in my career. The takeaway is maintaining one's self-worth — this was difficult as I navigated a career in industries not known for gender parity, although not impossible, given the impact of this book.
For all the parents of "nice girls," I recommend giving this book to your daughters.
2. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
Twenty years ago, my uncle, Hector Orci (widely considered to be a pioneer of multicultural advertising), recommended this book. It's amazing. Each chapter elucidates an insight with historical examples of when a particular law of power was used successfully and then counters with an example of when it failed.
As a young writer, I introduced this book to my colleagues and agents. It's now widely regarded as required reading in Hollywood. Some people see the book as slightly evil, as its insights can be used for manipulation. But my uncle told me that it's more useful as a guide for good: to recognize when those around you are abusing power and how to counter it.
There's always a dark side to the force. Use this book for the light.
—Roberto Orci, Hollywood super producer and screenwriter whose movies and TV shows have grossed more than $5 billion worldwide
3. Bionomics: Economy As Ecosystem by Michael Rothschild
First, this book helped me understand that the economy is a living, breathing body and that progress comes in fits and starts. Second, it gave me a good understanding of the incentives and political machinations that can impede progress. Finally, it helped me understand that while most economics books are simply trying to apply equations to historic outcomes, bionomics allows people to project into the future as they explain economic phenomena.
4. The Bible
Before you dismiss this as a "religious" answer, consider that the Bible is regarded as the top best-selling and most widely distributed book ever. It outlines the principles of a successful and prosperous life, issues warnings against downfall, and beautifully captures stories of triumph and victory against all odds — lessons applicable to entrepreneurs and business owners.
The book is simple enough for children to understand, yet deep enough for philosophers to research and discuss for centuries. It completely changed my perspective and trajectory of life, and continues to refine my thinking and mindset — whether I'm looking at product development, sales, marketing, customer service, leadership or culture, or reflecting on the virtues of purpose, stewardship and integrity. The more I read it, the more I fall in love with it.
5. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I read this book when my life and career were sitting uncomfortably between what I thought I should be doing and what I actually wanted to do.
The book is a parable about leaving what's comfortable for something more, and pushing through the inevitable resistance on that journey. Until that point, I felt alone and misunderstood for being ambitious. No one called me "crazy," but people around me treated my goals as "unrealistic," and sometimes, "selfish."
Reading "The Alchemist" was a turning point. I felt validated for not wanting to play it safe anymore.
6. Intentional Living by John C. Maxwell
This book by the legendary John C. Maxwell, which my friend Laura Morton co-authored, was a difference-maker for me. Many people have good intentions, yet forget to live intentionally with purpose. This book reminds me of the profound importance of connecting. Everyone communicates but few people truly connect. Success comes to those who connect and connection is essential for living intentionally.
"Intentional Living" includes writing your legacy or story. My goal is to go from success to significance, which includes noble efforts to make a difference — including family philanthropy. Maxwell's book is a reminder to trust yourself and your spirituality so you can make your someday, today.
7. The First and Last Freedom By J. Krishnamurti and Aldous Huxley
With success, you're often the biggest obstacle. I certainly was when beginning my entrepreneurial journey. Doubts clouding my mind prevented me from seeing the unlimited potential we all have. I needed to control my thoughts to grow. This book provided the clarity to see things as they are and to build self-awareness, which every leader must possess.
Although not an easy read, this hidden gem deconstructs ways of communicating, then pieces the method back together in an entirely new and profound way, with insights that place it on the must-read list of every leader.
8. Being in Love by Osho
This magical book reminded me that we're on a journey in life; what we do is not nearly as important as how we do it, and who we are inside. As the author writes, "Love can make a celebration out of your life." We've been conditioned to "work hard," but I've discovered that no matter what you do, hard work isn't so difficult when you pour love into it.
—Nafisé Nina Hodjat, founder and managing attorney of The SLS Firm
9. Getting Everything You Can Out of All You've Got by Jay Abraham
This masterpiece is the playbook for business and personal marketing from a real marketing Yoda. There are dozens of ideas and strategies to immediately add revenue to any business. It's brilliant and timeless because human nature is immutable. The "host-beneficiary strategy," for example, cultivates partnerships between two similar businesses for maximum profit; it's the very definition of a "win-win" situation and has been a favorite of mine for years.
10. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
In 1985, after spending 90 consecutive days underwater on a nuclear submarine chasing Russians, I realized that I didn't love my career choice as a junior naval officer.
I was a blue-collar kid from Michigan. My life goal was to get a good job, raise a family and live in a nice house. Luckily, I found a used copy of this book on the submarine and devoured it. It was a major turning point in my life. The book changed my viewpoint, attitude and ultimately my life. It laid a template for success, based on helping others spiritually and financially, which I've strived for ever since.
Since age 16, I've had a burning desire to become a millionaire. Without "Think and Grow Rich," I may not have realized this dream (and it's probably created more millionaires than any other book).
It taught me the success steps, but more importantly, it showed me that if you have a burning desire to realize your dreams, nothing can stop you. When your inner visions and voices (what you see for yourself and say to yourself) are greater than the outer visions and voices (your circumstances and others' opinions), you've begun to master your life.
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