7 Books That Shaped How I See Life

I have read or listened to over 200 books.

While most of them are good books, there are a few that left a lasting impression. Their impact didn’t come from the greatness of the content or the structure of the book. It came from a combination of personal circumstances, mindset, timing, and the essence of the message.

I make no promises these books will affect you in the same way but if you choose to check them out, I trust you’ll get at least 1 insight out of each if you approach the reading as an exploration rather than a goal to accomplish.

I ordered them by major categories: personal, leadership, and spiritual.


#1 – The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

I consider this book the one that changed my life. It wasn’t the first one I read on personal development but it is the one that started my journey to fully express myself.

I read and applied this book when I was going through a life crisis. I had been kicked out of my role (read it as fired), and I had realized I spent my entire life doing what other people expected me to do.

This book was the catalyst for the content behind my book Greatness Within and continues to be my top recommendation for anyone seeking to know more about themselves.

The book focuses on 15 concepts that drive personal growth. It is more of a proposal to explore and embrace principles of personal growth than techniques and strategies to “be your best self.”

The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth worked for me because it came when I needed guidance to identify what was truly a part of me versus what came from others’ opinions and expectations. Aside from the well-organized and simple content, it worked because each chapter had exercises and self-explorations to help me test the principles and discover things.

Hence, rather than being told what to do, you are given a few pathways to start your journey. The result has a greater impact because your discoveries come from insight rather than prescriptions from an expert.

We all know that internalizing a concept is much more powerful than following orders.

The laws I recall most are:

  • The Law of Intentionality: Growth Doesn’t Just Happen
  • The Law of Awareness: You Must Know Yourself to Grow Yourself
  • The Law of the Mirror: You Must See Value in Yourself to Add Value to Yourself
  • The Law of Reflection: Learning to Pause Allows Growth to Catch Up with You
  • The Law of Trade-Offs: You Have to Give Up to Grow Up

The titles are self-explanatory but you can check out the book yourself for more details.

I also include a summary of the experiences and reflection questions I used while going through the 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth as a bonus companion to the Greatness Within book.

#2 – Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Most people rave about  Simon’s TedTalk, but it’s the book I seem to remember most.

I have never read the book but listened to the Audiobook a dozen times.

The audiobook starts the introductions with the line, “there are leaders and there are those who lead.” In the book, that’s on page 5.

The statement and Simon’s voice continue to resonate whenever I think of leadership and the character of those occupying leadership positions throughout my professional journey.

I’d say Start With Why is the first leadership book I paid attention to because I was in a leadership development stage of life when I listened to it. But the reason it connected with me is its foundation on personal purpose and how life should be aligned with it.

The book uses business and leadership structures to present The Golden Circle concept. Yet, starting with why made complete sense to me at a deeply personal level.

I have always been driven by taking purposeful action. Start With Why was the first book I encountered that put words and gave a structure to what I believed.

Everyone seems capable of describing what they do and how they do it, but few can describe why.

Interestingly, it is only when you identify why you do what you do, independently of whatever explanations others give, that life can be simplified and can be more fulfilling.

Being aware of your purpose allows you to choose whether you want to engage with something and at what level of intensity. Your purpose goes with you regardless of external circumstances and you can always find a way to express it in whatever you do.

Some environments and activities will be more conducive to expressing your purpose than others, but it can always be present.

There’s power in knowing your why.

This book shaped my life because it help me see I wasn’t crazy.

PS: I’ll expand on the leader’s quote in a future post.

#3 – You Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

The 1st time I experienced David Goggins was through a YouTube clip recommended by my digital marketing mentor.

Beyond all the cursing and “in-your-face” military speaking style, there was a level of truth that came across in his message.

At the time, I was in an empowerment mindset journey and David’s video came at the perfect time.

Initially, David’s messages caused plenty of mental conflicts thanks to a mix of self-judgment, motivation, and “his crazy” dismissing comments, but I kept coming back to his videos.

I purchased the audiobook because each chapter comes with a bonus conversation between David and his writer expanding the context of David’s life and challenges.

The explicit message of the book isn’t what affected me. It’s the overall energy behind the words and the overarching theme of resilience and human potential.

David’s messages are physical evidence that the mind is much more powerful than the body, and that human capacity appears to have no bounds.

Thanks to a well-written and voiced account, I attempted to live David’s life and could only feel in awe of what a human can do if they can connect to their innermost desire to live and express themselves fully.

What makes this book different from other empowerment writings is David’s reminders he doesn’t want you to do what he does but to find your way to be resilient, deal with your demons, and believe in yourself.

#4 – The 5 Levels of Leadership by John C. Maxwell

There are thousands of books on leadership strategies, tactics, and practices.

I have enjoyed this one the most because it presents leadership using the universal concept of levels of influence.

In a world that strongly focuses on leaders from a hierarchical view, John Maxwell takes an approach that doesn’t depend on titles or positions. The higher your influence, the more people you lead.

The book resonated with me because it provided a simple structure to represent what I experience and observe daily.

People have different reasons for following someone and it’s not necessarily attached to the person’s societal status.

The 5 levels of influence are:

  1. Position (Rights): people follow you because they have to
  2. Permission (Relationships): people follow you because they want to
  3. Production (Results): people follow you because of what you do
  4. People Development (Reproduction): people follow you because of what you do for them
  5. Pinnacle (Respect): people follow you because of what you represent

It provided a framework for placing myself in relation to peers, team members, and supervisors while providing a benchmark for what could be done to improve my leadership abilities.

The 5 Levels of Leadership does a good job at giving practical steps to progress through the different stages while also making it clear that it’s a continuous growth process because you aren’t at the same level with everyone and you can’t ignore or skips stages.

#5 – The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard & Mark Miller

This is another practical leadership book that gave me a simple framework to explain my views on leadership.

I first read it for a weekly leadership symposium I attended as an initiative for professional development at work.

What kept my attention was the nicely framed fable of a manager struggling to figure out how to lead a team.

The book’s premise is that what great leaders know and do is serve others. Also, it gives five skills a person must develop to be a great leader.

Here are the 5 skills that form the acronym S.E.R.V.E.

  • See the future
  • Engage and develop others
  • Reinvent continuously
  • Value results and relationships
  • Embody the values (of the company)

These are very broad categories that encompass a plethora of challenges, strategies, and objectives.

Yet, while most leadership books approach leadership with a performance improvement lens, The Secretwas the first book I naturally aligned with because it gave equal weight to the importance of valuing people.

#6 – The Heart of Leadership by Mark Miller

While The Secret focuses on the skills a leader must develop, The H.E.A.R.T of Leadership discusses the character of a leader.

Many can learn the skills, but without proper character, the effectiveness of the leader suffers.

This book continues the story of the main character in The Secret and uses it to explore key personal characteristics of great leaders.

The premise here is that great leader lead with the heart, and each letter represents a character area.

  • Hunger for wisdom
  • Expect the best
  • Accept responsibility
  • Respond with courage
  • Think others first

What resonated most with me was the accessibility and inclusivity of the framework.

Note that each letter describes a personal trait that can be expressed by anyone even though each person would show it in unique ways.

Rather than giving a prescription or formula, The H.E.A.R.T of Leadership points to practical concepts anyone willing to put in the work can implement.

Some may say the book is too simplistic but I consider it an excellent starting point for those wanting to lead others expecting high performance without devaluing the person behind the results

#7 – Ecclesiasticus/Sirach by Ben Sira

A book not available in every Bible because it wasn’t part of the original Jewish canon. It’s one of the books in the Apocrypha.

This is one of the first books I read in the Catholic Bible when I was a teenager. I can’t say I remember any of it except for one verse I often recall.

“No one who fears the Lord need ever hesitate, or ever be daunted, since the Lord is his hope.”  ~ Sirach 34:14

This one verse shaped my life because I read it when I was feeling lonely and misunderstood. It’s a statement that gave me hope and helped me remember there are greater things at play.

Whether you are a believer or not it doesn’t change that sometimes a well-timed statement can change everything.

There you have it, 7 books that shaped the way I see life.

What is on your list?

In peace,


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