In 2006 I was living in my parents basement. I was newly single, dealing with constant debilitating back pain, unemployed and depressed. When I look back at the last 8 years, there are 5 books that changed everything and helped get me to where I am today. Here they are:
1. The Cashflow Quadrant, Rich Dad's Guide to Financial Freedom - by Robert Kiyosaki
Though I read it before my back crisis in 2006, this book, and it's predecessor Rich Dad, Poor Dad put structure to my entrepreneurial leanings long before I was ready to act on them effectively. I read Cashflow Quadrant in my 3rd year of engineering at McGill and I remember vividly the moment I realized that not only could I use my engineering training to start companies rather than work for someone else, but that given my goals in life and my disposition, it was actually insane to do anything else. I find Kiyosaki a bit slimy and he's unnervingly socially unaware, but regardless I consider both books a curriculum in basic financial literacy. I think the world would be a better place if they were required reading for high-school juniors everywhere in the world.
2. Healing Back Pain, The Mind-Body Connection - by Dr. John E. Sarno
This is the book that helped me rid myself of constant back pain and the accompanying fear of serious back injury. In 2006 I had a back operation that didn't work, and that summer I was living in my parent's basement figuring out how to build a life despite constant pain that was present whenever I wasn't lying down. I'm so thankful I found the work of Dr. Sarno. Six weeks later I was nearly all better, and have since recommended the book to numerous friends suffering from chronic pain, some of whom have had similar results. Today, Western medicine remains stubbornly unconscious of ingrained bias against mind-body medicine, but in 50 years Dr. Sarno will be seen as a visionary. Read my story of recovery here, and please back film-maker Michael Galinsky's Kickstarter to bring Dr. Sarno's story and work into the mainstream. As he's done for thousands of others, Dr. Sarno gave me my life back, and opened my eyes to a new way of understanding health and disease. If you have any type of chronic pain or ailment, Healing Back Pain could be the best investment you'll ever make.
3. A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life's Purpose - Eckhart Tolle
This book changed the way I think and see the world forever. A New Earth is a manifesto and a call to action, with the goal of elevating humanity to reach our true potential on this planet. Tolle masterfully reveals the insanity of the unconscious human mind, the reason for this insanity, and what each of us can do to 'turn off the crazy'. Before I read this book (2008) I was stuck in a dead-end government job. At that time the voice in my head told me that I wasn't good enough to deserve the exciting career and love life that I wanted, and so I lived my life in a state of waiting: waiting for my real life to begin at some future date once the voice in my head told me I was "good enough to deserve it". A New Earth exposed the voice in my head as "not me". An unbelievably powerful realization that de-cloaked the mental trap I had built for myself, and showed me the way out. I decided to stop waiting and live the life I wanted to live - voice in my head be damned. Over the next 18 months I quit my job, went to Burning Man, met my wife, moved to Panama, and started Kindara. I read it again this year and it continues to be a major force in my life.
4. Getting Things Done, The Art of Stress-Free Productivity - David Allen
How the hell are humans supposed to thrive among the hyper-stimulation typical of our 21st century environments? David Allen has the answer. The human brain evolved to be optimally effective for hunting in small groups, gathering food, and caring for family members. As a result our brains are terribly evolved to handle the overwhelming onslaught of information, ideas, messages, responsibilities, tasks, and projects that drench every aspect of our existence in the 21st century. This firehose of information has opened our eyes to the amazing potential that each of us has to impact the world and live great lives, but the sheer volume of "stuff" coming at us makes us miserable and tense, and shows us how inept our brains are at sorting, tracking and organizing this stuff so we can actually reach our potential. David Allen has solved this problem. Getting Things Done is about building an external brain (in the form of a series of lists) into your life so you can reach your potential on this planet in terms of happiness, creativity and productivity. I read GTD in 2010 and since then I've used his system nearly every day. It's become a central part of my mental operating system.
5. Non-Violent Communication, A Language of Life - Marshall B. Rosenberg
Lastly, this is the book saved my marriage. Late last year Kati and I were headed for divorce. We were fighting at work and at home, and didn't have a way to communicate to each other or ourselves what we each were feeling. Learning Non-Violent Communication changed everything. Suddenly we had a framework to communicate in a way that was entirely free of blame, and that focused exclusively on the empathy and connection that we both wanted. Discovering that Kati and I weren't meant to work together was painful, and without NVC I wouldn't have been able to empathize with myself over this pain, and forgive myself for failing to make our working relationship work. And without NVC I believe Kati and I wouldn't have been able to dig down through our frustration and pain, to find and rescue our wounded-but-still-alive love for each other. Since then, NVC has allowed me to upgrade my communication in any area where emotions are present. It's opened up a whole new realm of life for me, helping me to feel more, and deepen my connection with others.
So there's the five books that have shaped me more than any others into the human being/consciousness I am today. I'd love to hear what books have changed the course of your life?