What Books Have Shaped Your Life?

I love to read and I know certain books have had a profound effect on my thinking and my outcomes in life. In this article I’m going to share my top three.

It’s been a very tough choice to shortlist but here are three of my favourites that have deeply influenced me, challenged my thinking and helped me develop in my career and personal life.


1. Influence – The Psychology of Persuasion – Robert Cialdini


This book, backed by 30 years of scientific research, explains how the human mind works and ultimately why we say “yes”.

It helps us understand how we can be persuaded – and how we can persuade others. This is a must for people in sales and marketing roles. And when you think about it, who doesn’t need to influence others in some way or another.

Whether it’s getting your kids to tidy their bedrooms, persuading a colleague to help you on a project or closing that big deal. Influence is a key – perhaps the key – skill in business today.

For me the book has been useful in two ways. First it’s made me more self-aware (always a good thing) of when I am falling for a marketing campaign or a persuasive person using a tactic designed to press my buttons and get me to act.

Secondly it’s helped to me understand how I could win people over, and encourage them to be open to my perspective. For me it’s essential reading.


2. The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage – Ryan Holiday

obstacleLife can be tough at times. Knowing how to face the challenges which will inevitably come is not easy. And yet it is in our darkest hour that our character is truly forged.

This book demonstrates how whatever is standing in your way actually becomes the way, as Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius put it back in the 2nd century “The impediment to action advances action. What’s in the way becomes the way.”

Ultimately whatever challenges we face we all have a choice. We can choose how we react to them, how we frame them in our mind, what thoughts we have about them and ultimately what we do next.

Books on philosophy don’t usually jump out at me at all but this book, which looks at how stoics face challenges head on, with eyes open, is very powerful and has helped me see life’s challenges in a completely new light.

Though I believe it was published quite recently it’s a timeless classic with advice which was relevant hundreds of years ago and will be for many years to come.


3. Psychocybernetics – Maxwell Maltz MD

psychoIgnore for one moment the awful title and the Americanised self-help twaddle blurb on Amazon. This book is a hidden gem.

Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the US in the 1950s who noticed how people reacted very differently to the results of their surgery. Some had a complete change of character as a result of the plastic surgery he performed while others changed very little.

He realised through this that self-image played a central part in determining people’s attitudes, their thought patterns and ultimately the lives they live. Many people are incredibly limited by their beliefs and perceptions – but they don’t need to be.

“You act and feel not according to what things are really like but of the image your mind holds of what things are like” Maltz says.

He became so fascinated in the psychological impact of his surgery he retrained as a psychologist. His work highlights the mind-body connection and explains how “your brain serves you not the other way round”. Most people, he argues are unaware of this and make their lives unnecessarily difficult as a result – improved awareness can change this.

He urges proactivity: “if this thought is constructive we will have it, otherwise we will discard it.”


Final Thoughts

Ultimately if a book is really good you’ll reread it and recommend it. Of all 3 this last book has been the one I have revisited most often and recommended to friends. It moved the needle for me and still does.

What book had the greatest impact on your life or career?

I’d love to know. Please share in the comments below as I’m always looking for inspiring new material to read.