Wow, what an incredible year! It has been an amazing journey for The Happiness Planner. We’ve been so busy that I haven not had much time to write as many blog posts as I would have liked to. But since it’s the end of the year and a few of you have emailed me asking for book recommendations, I decided to write a blog post about inspirational books I love and that I could go back to read over and over again.
1. Creative Mischief by Dave Trott
Whenever someone asks me for a book recommendation, I always think of this one. Firstly, because not many people know about it. Secondly, because it’s super fun to read! Each chapter Dave tells a short story from his life experiences. Each story contains a key takeaway or words of wisdom that you can learn from. Besides being thought-provoking and relatable, it’s also extremely easy to read and is engaging. Well, Dave Trott is a renowned advertising guy in London, so you’d expect him to know how to tell a story, wouldn’t you?
2. Predatory Thinking: A Masterclass in Out-Thinking The Competition by Dave Trott
Once you’ve finished reading Creative Mischief, you will crave more content from Dave Trott. This is his second book. The format is pretty similar to the first one. It’s just more stories - and probably more strategic thinking. Great read!
3. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
This is a business book. However, I believe that this could be helpful to you if you know how to adapt what you learn and apply it to your line of work. After all, it’s all about human psychology. As you know I’m fascinated by human psychology, any psychological books intrigue me. This is the reason why I love marketing - because it’s a combination of business and psychology. I’m always intrigued by what drives people and how people get hooked onto things. You can even adapt what you learn to life and to social settings.
4. Happiness books by Andrew Matthew
If you’re like me - I’m not a fan of books with heavy research and academic content because they make me feel like I’m reading a dry textbook. I prefer books that are easy to read and understand, and are inspiring. Andrew’s books do just that! He has a whole series of Happiness books from Follow Your Heart to Happiness in Touch Times, Happiness in a Nutshell, and How Life Works. They are super easy to understand and inspiring. Even teenagers could understand it - as you know, sometimes it’s hard for kids and teenagers to grasp a good understanding of deep life concepts as they are still limited in their experiences.
5. Staying OK by Amy & Thomas Harris
My Dad gave me this book when I was very young. I didn’t completely understand everything but I finished it and the words of wisdom from the book have stuck by me since. This book offers advice on making important changes and taking charge of your life, resolving conflicts, and rooting out the causes of worry, panic, depression, regret, confusion and feelings of inadequacy. If you want to learn techniques on how you can build resilience within yourself and feel positive (aka staying OK) no matter what happens in life, this is the book you should pick up.
You can see how old this book looks.
6. The Magic of Thinking Big by David J. Schwartz
Again, I was introduced to this book by my Dad. My Dad has always inspired me and taught me to think big, dream big, and believe in myself. He taught me to have a winner attitude.
“If you want to be a winner, you must first think like a winner. Never let doubt enter your mind - especially doubt in your own ability.”
As a kid, I enjoyed studying and competing with myself.I guess I was inspired by my Dad. He was a high-achiever and he always moved from one passion to another - being the best at what he’s passionate about. Since I was in kindergarten, I always participated in school competitions and really enjoyed doing so. In order to win school competitions, I had to build my mental strength and self-belief aka adopting a winner attitude. I practiced that way of thinking over and over until it became a part of who I am. This involved learning how to use positive affirmations to help make your dreams come true. So far, this way of thinking has never led me down. It has brought me so many wins which helped me find fulfilment from within, from harnessing my own personal growth, building self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-belief.
7. The 7 Habits Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Another book introduced to me by my Dad. This one is pretty deep. I have to admit it was quite hard to grasp as a high-school student. But because I admired my Dad, whatever he recommended me to read, I read. Plus, I loved the feeling when you flip through an old book - a book that’s been highlighted, marked, and underlined; a book that contains the charming old-ness passed on by your parent.
This book introduced me to the concept of “Paradigm Shift”. If you’ve never had a paradigm shift, it probably sounds like a word from an outer world that you could never understand. And it really is that. When you experience a paradigm shift or an epiphany, you feel as if you’ve died and been born again in another life. When you shift your mindset and perspective on such a whole new level, you feel like you’re a new person. Everything around you seems different. Everything around you feels different. You start to attract people you’ve never encountered before and that’s all to do with the vibration of your energy and thoughts. Re-wiring your brain is not easy. How many years have we been a certain way? As long as we’ve existed - so, over 20-30 years. How long would it take to change a habit that you’ve been doing everyday for the past 30 years? Probably several months of nail-bitingly bashing through your willpower and self-control. Changing one’s perspective is even harder because your perspective is everything. You’re living inside your own perspective - your world and your interpretation of the world and everything that happens around you - and in order to change your perspective you need to get out of the old perspective. Your perspective affects the way you look at the world and the way you feel about everything.
This book was an eye-opener. I highly recommend you read this. It will change your life.
8. Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential by Carol Dweck
This book talks about growth mindset. When you have a growth mindset, you believe that you’re in charge of your own self and that you have the ability to increase your own capabilities, skills, talents, and intelligence to however much you want to increase them to. You believe that you can be anything you want to be because the limit is within yourself. Not everyone has a growth mindset. It is definitely something that needs to be cultivated or taught whilst growing up. Luckily, I have a Dad who instills in me these values and encourages me to grow. I remember he told me that when he was in his early 20s, all he focused on was how he could accelerate his learning curve and increase his intelligence at the fastest rate possible. He looked into the science of how he could increase his intelligence, but then later on in his life, he realized that emotional intelligence is probably far more important than intelligence alone.
My Dad always encouraged me to become a lifelong learner, read, and spend time with myself. You can’t get to know yourself if you’re always surrounded by others and outside noise. Getting to know one’s self requires a lot of reflective thinking which takes time. Journaling is a great way to re-visit your thoughts and experiences, structure your thoughts, and reach a better understanding about yourself and the world. Self-awareness is the key to self-actualization. And for intelligent people, self-actualization brings them true fulfilment in life.
“If you want to be smart, read. Those who read get smarter.”
9. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
This book was also introduced to me by my Dad. It’s ironic that my Dad and my Mom have totally different views and approaches to finance. My Mom has a Chinese mentality where she basically wants to save every cent she can and would rather trade time and labor for money. My Dad, on the other hand, believes in using money to work for you, so that you can have more time for yourself. I probably didn’t completely understand this concept until I started reading Tim Ferris’s book, The 4-Hour Work Week, and got involved in tech startup scene where I got to learn more about outsourcing, automation, and realizing that the sky is really the limit especially if you do something online and global.
If you are not happy with your current financial situation and you’re ready to take some risks and make change in your life, I highly recommend you read this book. It will change your approach to how you see your earning potential. It’s not always about monthly salaries or hourly rates, it’s about spotting opportunities, creating value, finding talents with skill sets you need, and managing all of these components to make it work for you.
10. Linchpin: Are you Indispensible by Seth Godin
I picked up this book at the airport and read it on the flight. I only just graduated then and was quite stressed about finding a job. This book changed my whole perspective on how I look at the job market. It taught me to think about “value”. Whether a company wants you or not, it’s all about the value you can create for them. And if they could find someone else who can create the same value, then you are replaceable. In order to become such a valuable asset in this day and age where so many companies fight for you which translates to higher pay, you need to become indispensable. How can you become indispensable? You need to be able to provide value the way that others can’t.
How does this apply to my life right now? When I look at The Happiness Planner, I can clearly see that I provide value to my customers and to the world. My focus has always been to provide value. The Happiness Planner was born because my blog’s readers told me they wanted to learn more about how they could be more positive and happier. I didn’t just come up with a product and try to sell - I created the product to help and inspire people. Someone else may try to copy my product and do something similar, but I don’t think they could provide as great value as we currently do. A lot of my blog posts were written months and years before I even had a product to sell. They were written from my heart and soul. They were created to pass on words of wisdom and to inspire others. I never write a blog post to try to sell products - everything comes from within. And even now, my purpose in life (and my vision for the company) is to provide value to people and the society. This is my calling. This is what I was born to do. I knew I wanted to do this since I was little (though I didn’t know how I’d make it come true at the time). I don’t think other people can copy such gift. They could do something similar, but not exactly the way I do it. This is how The Happiness Planner is indispensable. :)
12. How to Write Great Blog Posts that Engage Readers by Steve Scott
The ability to write well can benefit anyone. I picked up this book when I just started blogging and I have to say it contributed immensely to the success of my blog and of my business today. I’ve always had a gift of writing. But writing blog posts that people want to share, like, and feel inspired by is a whole new ball game. If you want to improve your writing skill - whether you want to start a blog or simply become better at writing emails and presentations - please read this book. It’s the best book out there about content marketing. Very easy to read through too. I finished it in 1-2 days.
13. Theories of Personality
Have you ever been curious about why you are the way you are? Or why your loved one is the way he/she is? Why are people different? This textbook will give you the answer to everything related to human psychology. If I could re-take this course again, I would. You will learn everything about how our beliefs, personality traits, attitudes, and characters are formed, how we think, and what we are driven by. It is extremely interesting and will change your whole perspective about how you look at the world and people around you. You will become more curious about the world and people. You will find yourself much more understanding and open-minded after studying Theories of Personality.
I don’t remember who the author of my textbook was but I don’t think it matters. Seriously, this is simply my favourite subject at university! It definitely contributes to a lot of what I know and the way I think today. Hence, this is why I do what I do.
14. Developmental Psychology
Lastly, studying psychology wouldn’t be complete without studying Developmental Psychology. In Developmental Psychology, you learn about how one develops and changes psychologically from the day they’re born to the day they die. I learned how babies feel when they’re first born and how one’s self-esteem and self-love are built. I learned about the psychological changes that teenagers go through. I learned that when men reach the age of 40-50s, they will naturally start evaluating their lives and how fulfilled they feel about the lives they have lived and what they have accomplished. This is a critical period because a lot of men realize they are not actually happy and they can go weird for a few years (well, at least my Dad did. Did this happen to your Dad or the man in your life too?). This is called mid-life crisis. A lot of divorce also happens during this period of men’s lives. Women go through similar psychological changes when she goes through menopause. Now doesn’t all of these sound interesting? This subject is super interesting. And I believe if you learn more about it, you can then know what’s coming at you and understand those around you and what they’re going through better.
That’s quite a long list, isn’t it? Please pick up whatever you feel intrigued by. And I’d love to hear what you take away from the book(s) and how it applies to your life.