5 Great Self-Help Books That Change Your Life

Do you ever feel insecure? Uncertain? Not quite ‘right’? Lacking confidence?

I did. As a teen and into my 20’s I was outgoing yet strangely self-conscious, sometimes deeply embarrassed about myself, insecure, with spasms of ‘unable to look people in the eye’, tongue-tied and face-flushed. I did not like the man in the mirror.

There were times I felt three steps behind everyone else, —and felt as if they knew it and weren’t waiting up.

“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.” —Jim Rohn

My life took a turn for the better—mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually— when at age 22, as a well-read college graduate, I found my first self-help book. I’d never read one before. I’ve read many since.

“If you’re going to walk through a minefield, follow somebody” —Sum Wun

If you asked me, ‘What 5 self-help books should I read?’, I’d be torn to smithereens! I don’t know you, your situation, your attitude, your spiritual inclination, your heart,—and there are so many great books! I wish we could talk face to face. In lieu of that, listed here are five books that massively impacted my life. If you’re like me—hungry to learn, willing to think, wanting to change & ready to grow—you could do well starting with these:

1. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. In a basement in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, while my wife’s father lay dying of cancer in the hospital, I found this funky little book with a kaleidoscopic cover that said ‘The Magic of Thinking Big’. What the heck is this?! The cover was goofy, the language was from the 1960’s—but his ideas opened my eyes, blew my mind, and changed the impossible to possible. I’m forever thankful to my wife’s Dad for having bought that book and left it in his basement.

2. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Profound insights but awkward title (when I first bought this at a bookstore, the cashier looked at the title, looked at me, and said, ‘Aww…don’t you have any friends??)

Be cautious with this book: handle these truths with care. You are about to learn profound insights into why people do what they do, their motives & desires; skills for how to understand & get along with people; how to help them, love them, give them what they need, —and yeah, how to win friends and influence people.

3. Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations On & Off the Court by John Wooden and Steve Jamieson. Written by a basketball coach who holds the record for most NCAA Championships (10, with second place winner being 5), yet considered himself a teacher, this little blue book is full of wisdom, including a paradigm-shifting perspective on ‘success’ and how to thrive without forfeiting life, limb, love, family and friends. This is much more about life than sports. A wonderful book.

4. See You at the Top, by Zig Ziglar. A foundational blueprint on steps to success. Susie and I hosted Zig at a conference where, after he spoke, he stood in hallway for over two hours and autographed books for a very long line of people. He spoke with each person individually—and I stood nearby, eavesdropping without wanting to appear so. People hugged him, thanked him, shook hands; some laughed; but those with heartaches and trouble were most touching. For each person, Zig had a customized word of encouragement and a ‘reference’ to a bible scripture that he signed in their book. I watched him—he wrote different verses according to the heartaches, pains or sorrows they were enduring. One woman was sobbing that her husband had divorced her. He empathized, paused, and said, “Well…everyone knows that no husband is better than the wrong one.” She chuckled through her handkerchief and gave him a hug.

5. The Bible. Not really one book, it is actually a collection of 66 books, a library in itself: history, poetry, biography, wisdom (one of the books, Proverbs, written by the wealthiest man who ever lived, is considered one of the richest resources of wisdom in history), and of course, the Master Teacher—not prosaic platitudes, but a true-grit unvarnished look at life and how it works, the world of contrasts between good and bad. There are many translations, I suggest picking one in modern language. If you speak/read english, try ‘New Living Translation.’

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There are many, many great books—these are five that encouraged & enlightened me, I hope they do the same for you. Questions? Comments? Please share your thoughts and I’ll do my best to read & respond.

– Dirk M.

Dirk Mullenger

Raised in NY, college at University of Iowa, year abroad in Paris. Tight with my wife and 4 children. Business, writer, guitarist, skier, drives a convertible. One person’s hindsight is another person’s foresight.

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