There’s one thing that successful people have in common beyond financial wealth or a diversified portfolio. It’s something that’s inexpensive (or free) and can be found in your local library.

Author Steve Siebold interviewed more than 1,200 of the world’s wealthiest people while researching How Rich People Think. What he found was that success ties into the amount a person reads to improve their knowledge – as well as the content of the books they devour. “Walk into a wealthy person’s home and one of the first things you’ll see is an extensive library of books they’ve used to educate themselves on how to become more successful,” Siebold notes in the book.

In my 20+ years as an educator and author, I’ve read more books than you can count – and written a few of my own. Here are the five most memorable and inspiring books I recommend to entrepreneurs, executives and clients looking to raise the bar on success.

  • Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

I first read Think and Grow Rich when I was 19. Often thought of the founding father of personal development literature, Napoleon Hill’s master work provides thirteen steps for professional success. Hill focuses on creating success and financial gains, drawing from over two decades of experience working with the legendary Dale Carnegie, and speaking with more than 500 self-made millionaires from Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell to John D. Rockefeller. As an entrepreneur, speaker and financial educator, I appreciate Hill’s ability to balance internal motivators such as faith and desire with active lessons such as the Mastermind concept — working with others in a team or “think tank” to achieve common goals.

  • Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill

Over the course of several years I was privileged to edit and annotate Hill’s follow-up fable, published for the first time in 2011 (it was deemed too controversial during the author’s lifetime, and held back by family members until recently). A parable, the book addresses why a person would not succeed despite following the steps outlined in the previous book. Hill poses the conversation as a literal dialogue between himself (as Mr. Earthbound) and the Devil, focusing on the ways in which we place limitations on ourselves. Important lessons include defining purpose and mastering your inner self to overcome doubts.   

  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

“Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts. Happiness doesn’t depend on outward conditions,” Carnegie notes in his bestselling self-help book. Based on live workshops he conducted in the 1930s, How to Win Friends… focuses on networking, cultivating relationships, and changing one’s mindset to achieve happiness. Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Nonfiction Books, the advice found in How to Win Friends is as useful now as it was in Carnegie’s day.

  • From Good to Great by Jim Collins

The best leaders learn not only from their own challenges, but also through studying the success of others. Author Jim Collins conducted a thorough examination of companies whose discipline, innovation and leadership resulted in major financial gains; contrasted against those that failed. Entrepreneurs and leaders may be surprised by some of Collins’ findings. “Some of the key concepts discerned in the study fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people,” the author writes.

  • The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

Sometimes, we are so focused on the end goal – whether it be financial, professional or personal – that we forget to examine the psychological and emotional motivations behind the decisions we make. Tracy suggests transforming the methodology of the sales industry from self-centered (i.e. “How do I sell this?”) to a buyer-focused approach. The question then becomes, “what are buyers looking for and how can I provide that?”  

If you’ve read my book Three Feet from Gold, inspired by Napoleon Hill’s works, you’ll understand how my passion for knowledge relates to personal and professional success. It’s best said in one of my favorite sayings from Charlie Jones, “You’re the same today as you will be in five years except for two things: The people you meet and the books you read.” By reading about the experiences, perspectives and insights of others and internalizing key concepts, you increase your chance of success. 

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