It’s that time of year, when we all start setting goals and making promises to ourselves to be better people in both our personal and professional lives. The truth is, most New Year’s resolutions don’t make it past January. It takes a lot of commitment and serious planning, with either a system or framework in place. Plus, most people simply aim too high, forgetting to make their goals more grounded and, well, smart.
Sometimes, it’s simply because we don’t have the right tools to get us where we want to be. The most successful way to a new you is to find the inspiration or learn a few hacks that will help you change your daily habits. With that in mind, here are seven books that came out in 2016, which will help you do just that:
1. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
By: Tim Ferriss
Tim Ferriss’ Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers is the ultimate do-it-yourself guru. He wrote the books The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef, all titles to help you become better at doing something in a fraction of the time it would normally take someone to learn to do new things. He’s a hacker by trade, so it should come as no surprise that he would turn his podcast series, where he interviews many at the top of their game, including Jamie Foxx, into a book filled with anecdotes and advice. Ferriss turned his personal issues into great interview content, like having a creative block and getting Robert Rodriguez, the founder and CEO of El Rey Network on his show to talk about how to deal with it. Those tidbits serve as fodder for the book’s content, so you have the wisdom of the super achievers interspersed with Ferriss’ own tips and tricks for everything from productivity to getting better sleep. While the book offers really useful and practical tips, it can come off very white male dominated much like the tech and VC environment of Silicon Valley. Still there’s a lot to be learned, like nearly everyone interviewed practices some form of daily mindfulness or meditation practice, which lends itself to the belief that if you want to be world-class then you should do the same.
2. The Power of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger For Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage
By: Daymond John
Shark Tank investor Daymond John got his start as an entrepreneur as a co-founder of the urban clothing line FUBU, initially selling hats on the streets without funding. This taught him to become creative and aggressive in business. It also taught him that being broke wasn’t a negative, but instead a positive, when mixed with passion. That’s how he launched a successful business.
From John’s book, The Power Of Broke: How Empty Pockets, a Tight Budget, and a Hunger For Success Can Become Your Greatest Competitive Advantage, readers learn that a lack of money is actually a competitive advantage. For example, a well-funded company might throw money at advertising and marketing, and earn little in return in the way of customers. Meanwhile, a bootstrapped business will have to be very creative in building audiences in an alternative and organic manner.
John also focuses on how he learned from expensive mistakes and the successes and failures of others. There’s also the power of grind, working hard, and sacrificing everything to get to your goal. A well-financed venture founder may look at his investments as money to play with, and while someone not well funded would feel like his life depends on building success. That grind is the same principle John held onto, when he found his bank account was getting too low from living lavishly and his six-figure salary couldn’t help him. So, he learned about building passive streams of income.
While it’s not so much a how-to guide, The Power of Broke does offer practical advice, stories of success, and tales from behind-the-scenes of Shark Tank.
By: Angela Duckworth
In psychology, grit is a personality trait related to a person’s passion and motivation, when it comes to reaching a goal. When it comes to business, some experts say it takes either smarts or skill to achieve, while others will argue that all an individual really needs is grit. Angela Duckworth, distinguished psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and winner of a 2013 MacArthur Genius Fellowship, leads us to the belief that grit is equally as important, if not more so, than either talent or IQ in determining success.
Duckworth’s book, Grit: The Power Of Passion And Perseverance, shares stories of those in sports, arts, science, business, or media, who have accomplished major achievements fueled by their passion and perseverance. She also showcases her a “grit scale” and survey-based research, conducted while still a graduate student, in order to learn more about how grit is an indicator of the ability to succeed. The test is available in the book, if you want to learn more about your own grit score. Duckworth also offers a formula that “Talent x effort = skill, and skill x effort = achievement.”
So, it’s not just about what our potential is, but rather, what we do with it. Her work also shows that anyone can learn to be gritty, no matter their age, class, race, or gender. In that vein, the book offers tips on how to develop grit, as well as how we can encourage it in others.
By: Charles Duhigg
The author of New York Times bestseller The Power Of Habit, Charles Duhigg is back with another book that looks at the science of productivity. But, Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business is more about managing how you think, not what you think, and how this can transform your life.
Like other books in the “entrepreneurial self help” genre, Duhigg weaves in fascinating stories about simple concepts, like motivation, teams, focus, goal setting, managing others, decision making, innovation, absorbing data, and how people have managed their thinking to become successful in those areas. When we make certain choices in certain ways, according to Duhigg, we can move ourselves from simply being busy to actually being productive.
The stories take us from a public school in Cincinnati, OH, to the basic training of the U.S. Marine Corps, to neurology labs, and even Google’s brainstorming sessions. It also delves into how Disney made Frozen. In essence, productivity starts with motivation and in order to make motivation work, we have to have certain types of control. Then, the choices we make depends on our ability to predict outcomes. Duhigg even offers reader’s a guide, further explaining that those of us who are really productive are better able at making those difficult decisions that others would normally ignore. The book is truly life-hacking at its best and brings together the ideas presented in many self help books before it, but places it all under one umbrella.
By: Adam Grant
Adam Grant’s previous book, Givers and Takers, showed us that although we might think takers are more successful in business and in life, it’s actually those who help others who are more successful. This is especially true, if they learn to distinguish between giving and the timidity, availability, and empathy that often goes along with it.
In Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, the core premise is that we should be more original and encourage originality and creativity in others. For example, when it comes to entrepreneurs, it’s not that these folks actually like taking more risks than the rest of us, it’s that they’re actually a little bit better at managing risk. This is because they are driven by the opportunity to try something new. In essence, it’s more about the decisions they make.
This book contains the stories of people who are original in their thinking. But, don’t go thinking these people are the not conforming as the risk-takers of the world we imagine them to be; in fact, they are strategic procrastinators that work slowly at something, refining and redoing it until they make a break. For some, heading to the final section of the book for Grant’s 30 ideas he’s laid out as actions for impact might prove most useful. As far as storytelling goes, Grant is just as good as many others emerging in the pop psychology cannon, and these stories are inspiring and full of lessons.
By: Cal Newport
We live in a world full of distractions. Though there have always been distractions, there probably hasn’t been as many since the advent of email and social media have brought us. You can’t even work on a project for two minutes, without some notification dinging you nowadays. All of these distractions are causing our meaningful work to suffer, argues Cal Newport, an assistant professor of computer science at Georgetown University, in his book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
A millennial himself, Newport has written books and also pens a blog, but he finds no use for social media. For those that maintain that we need social media to connect to people and to find opportunities, Newport suggests that if we were about our business, creating work of value with our minds and time, then those opportunities would find us. In fact he asserts that he built his stature as a writer and professor, and now actually looks for less offers.
But, social media isn’t the only deterrent from our deep work time. According to Newport, it’s the open office model that enables anyone to walk up to you at any time of day, which can result in an attack on your concentration. And, how about the busyness of work—like sending out emails and attending meetings? Studies show that these kinds of distractions can cost lots of productivity time, in terms of getting back into the flow of things. However, Newport writes about how we can deal what those things, too.
The book also provides useful anecdotes from the lives of many great big thinkers. What’s most useful about Deep Work is that Newport provides tactics and systems that provide you with chunks of time to get yourself focused and hunkered-down on the tasks that matter—whether it be finishing that Excel spreadsheet, or spending time with your family.
If nothing else, the book offers the tools and insight to help shape your habits, and get you as prolific as Tupac was in the booth.
7. The Year of Yes
By: Shonda Rhimes
In the past, many self-help books have focused on teaching us how to say “no” and stop overly committing ourselves to people and things. However, with The Year of Yes, which actually dropped late 2015 (hence, why it’s a bonus), Shonda Rhimes—creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and the executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder—writes about how saying “yes” changed her life. The book discusses how her experience can serve as a guide for you to change your life, too.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Rhimes was the type of person who often said “no” to invitations, because it created anxiety for her. She often used the excuse that she was busy with either her kids or her work, but the truth was, she was deathly afraid of putting herself out there. This recognized this in herself once her sister brought it to her attention, so she decided to declare “a year of yes.”
In this poignant and hilarious, blog-style account, Rhimes’ decision to say “yes” to everything ended up including invitations interview with Oprah, in addition to accepting more help, and opening up about having a nanny that helps her at home. She even learned a lot about saying “yes” to herself, shedding some weight, spending more time with friends and family, and ultimately finding her own path to happiness.
The Year of Yes teaches that being a bad ass doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. In learning to say “yes,” Rhimes’ self-discovery led to a much-needed self-confidence boost; something we wouldn’t imagine someone of her caliber needing. Her candidness may help others to learn ways to say “yes” that are not detrimental to themselves.
Lynne d Johnson has been writing about music since the early 1990s, tech since the late ’90s, and the intersection of technology and everything else since the early 2000s. She currently writes, teaches and consults companies on how to better engage with their audiences. Follow her on Twitter @lynneluvah.