“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” Harry S. Truman
During my freshman year in college, the Arizona Star called and asked me if I wanted to subscribe to their newspaper.
“I’m a college student. I don’t read,” I answered before hanging up the phone.
What I meant to say is that I don’t read for fun. Over ten years later, that’s still true. I don’t read for fun. I read to learn.
That wasn’t always the case. When I was growing up, I read a lot, and mostly for pleasure. As soon as I could talk, I was constantly bugging my mom to read with me, and by kindergarten, I was reading chapter books. During the summer our local library ran a reading program for kids, complete with milestones and prizes. The go-getter that I was, I always won all of the prizes long before the program ended. Throughout elementary and middle school, I carried at least one or two books with me at all times. Reading was a priority for me.
Then during high school, I stopped reading for fun. I was taking so many honors courses that I didn’t have time to read for fun. Or rather, I didn’t make time to read. Back then, I thought that studying and getting good grades was more important than enjoying myself. The only books that I read were the ones required for class.
Several years, one diploma, and a bachelor’s degree later, I was stuck at a dead-end job I hated and so depressed I couldn’t even look at a book, let alone read one.
That all changed when one day, one of my friends challenged me to read a book that changed my life forever. What came next was a rekindled love affair with reading that not only reshaped my relationships, but positively impacted my business by empowering me to start one in the first place.
Here are three books that were game-changers in my life and business.
The book that started my journey of entrepreneurship was The Business of the 21st Century by Robert Kiyosaki. If “Kiyosaki” sounds familiar, it may be because he’s the author of the #1 New York Times Best-Seller, Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
One particularly busy workday, my friend, Eric, handed me a copy of The Business of the 21st Century and challenged me to read it before the end of the day. It was only 115 pages, so maybe two to three hours of reading at the most. That still seemed like too much work tacked onto my already hectic schedule. Eric asked me if my unwillingness to invest in a few hours of reading would be the reason why I failed financially. This hit me hard, and so I gave the book a chance.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t finish, or even start the book that day. However, I did read it over the next few days. And the more I read, the angrier I became. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry in my life. I was mad because I’d done all of the “right” things—I’d gone to school, gotten good grades, had a decent job with good pay and excellent benefits—and yet, I was still struggling with my finances. And now, I finally knew why.
Without getting too political, the book explains everything that’s wrong with today’s society… the corporate world, big banks, Wall Street, government, economy… Kiyosaki doesn’t hold back. He explains why we can work so hard and still barely make ends meet. The reason? We’re not doing the “right” thing by working a “safe, secure job.” In fact, by being lulled into the supposed security of standard employment, we’re falling into a trap.
It’s no wonder I felt stuck.
So now I knew about the problem, as well as the cause. The solution? I needed my own business.
As someone who’d watched her parents struggle financially throughout her childhood, I craved stability. That’s why I’d relied so heavily on the predictability of standard employment. The thought of venturing out on my own seemed absolutely terrifying to me. As I thought about starting my own business, all of the “what-ifs” came creeping up.
And yet, I knew in my heart that traditional employment would be the death of me. I couldn’t stay on my current path and be happy. If I wanted to thrive, not just survive, then I needed to be in business for myself.
But if I’d learned anything from Kiyosaki’s The Business of the 21st Century, it was that it wasn’t enough to be an independent contractor, solopreneur, or small business owner. I had to start thinking beyond just myself and start looking at the big picture of business ownership, that is, how I could leverage my skillset to build an asset that would produce ongoing (passive) income.
At the time, I was subcontracting as a virtual assistant helping a handful of Silicon Valley C-Suite executives keep their lives together. I thought that because I was earning a comparatively decent living, I’d be okay. But I was limiting myself by sticking to the familiar routine. And furthermore, I was working myself into a self-imposed form of slavery by becoming more and more specialized.
After reading The Business of the 21st Century, I realized how much of my life I’d built on my ability to do certain things and do them well. It was time for me no only to declare my independence as a business owner, but to begin building a business that would start producing a passive income within the next few years. That meant letting go of control, trying to do everything by myself, and identifying ways I could automate my processes to free up more of my time and earn money in my sleep.
The Business of the 21st Century talks specifically about leveraging network marketing to build an asset that produces an ongoing income. However, you don’t have to employ the multi-level marketing model to create passive income. Digital downloads, printables, and courses are just a few examples of content that can be sold and distributed passively. Since reading Kiyosaki’s book, I’ve identified ways I can transfer my knowledge and skillset into products I can share and sell to other people looking to grow their businesses and improve themselves.
Even though I knew that I needed to start my own business, just the word “business” left a sour taste in my mouth. Prior to becoming a virtual assistant, I’d experienced my fair share of the corporate world—first as an administrative assistant for a few different organizations, then as an assistant manager for a nation-wide retail chain. I thought that I could escape the toxicity of corporate culture by working from home as a virtual assistant, but instead, I perpetuated the system by attempting to keep executives sane as they dealt with the drama on a daily basis.
Honestly, after working long shifts as an assistant manager, then watching my clients sacrifice their own health and wellbeing to meet their deadlines, I didn’t think that “business” and I would ever be in the same sentence.
The book that turned all that around for me was The Go-Giver, co-written by Bob Burn and John David Mann.
I’d heard of being a “go-getter” (heck, as a perfectionistic straight-A student, I definitely was one), but I’d never heard of a “go-giver.” Having seen so much greed and corruption in the corporate world, I didn’t understand what generosity had to do with building a business. The Go-Giver revealed what life could be like as a soulful entrepreneur.
The Go-Giver tells the story of an ambitious young man named Joe who’s trying to land a big account to meet his quarterly sales goal. He’s a hard worker, but no matter how hard he works, he still can’t seem to achieve his goals. It’s not until he meets a man named Pindar that Joe learns he’s been going about business all wrong.
Over the next week, Pindar introduces Joe to a series of “go-givers” who teach Joe the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success:
The Go-Giver reveals that true success comes not from getting, but from giving. By putting other people’s interests first and continually adding value to their lives leads to unexpected success, wealth, and abundance.
As the famous entrepreneur Zig Ziglar says, “You can have everything you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” If I wanted to be successful, then I needed to be willing to serve others and provide immense value.
While The Business of the 21st Century made me mad, The Go-Giver made me cry. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever cried so hard after reading a book. But they weren’t tears of sadness. No, in fact, I was unbelievably happy.
After spending years thinking that business was bad and business owners were evil, I finally realized that one could have their own business and still be a good person. Business ownership and integrity weren’t mutually exclusive. This also meant that I could own a business, and still uphold my values.
Contrary to what I’d seen in the corporate world, I didn’t have to compromise my beliefs in order to be successful. And this realization not only made me happy, but gave me hope. I could finally see the light on the other end of the tunnel I’d dug for myself.
The Business of the 21st Century and The Go-Giver opened up my eyes to new possibilities in entrepreneurship. However, I still struggled with perfectionism that lead to decision-making paralysis. I was so afraid of making mistakes, that I didn’t take action at all. My head was full of ideas, but they wouldn’t become a reality until I started taking action.
The book that helped me overcome my perfectionism and finally start taking action was The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. The subtitle pretty much sums up my experience with the book: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are.
If I wanted to get into the flow, pursue my dreams, and make them a reality, then I needed to let go of who I thought I was supposed to be and embrace my true self.
The Gifts of Imperfection is a guide to wholehearted living. It shares 10 guideposts for engaging with the world from a place of worthiness:
Brown explains that by engaging with the world from a place of worthiness, we cultivate courage, compassion, and connection. Loving ourselves means knowing that we can be imperfect, vulnerable, and afraid, and still be enough.
If you’ve ever done any kind of soul work, then you know that it’s not easy to cultivate self-love, worthiness, trust, faith, hope, intuition, joy, or gratitude. It takes heart and hard work.
In pursuing wholehearted living, I learned to let go of the perfectionism, unhealthy coping mechanisms, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, and scarcity mindset. Life was no longer about doing things right, but about loving myself well. And loving myself meant embracing my flaws while still pursuing excellence (not perfection). Self-love also meant manifesting my desires while still being grateful for my present blessings.
I learned to approach my life and new business not as something that had to be done 100% correctly, but as a learning experience and an opportunity to grow alongside my new clients and customers. Now, instead of pursuing the elusive myth of “work-life” balance, I focus on becoming the best possible version of myself. By empowering myself, I have the courage and strength to empower others. This gives me a reason to wake up every day and make things happen.
Earlier, I said that I don’t read for fun, I read to learn. While that’s true, I’ve found that I do have fun as I learn more about myself and creating a soulful business. I’ve found joy in improving myself, building my business, and helping others achieve success. Embracing a growth mindset is a lifelong learning experience that so far more impactful than the rote memorization of facts that I’d grown accustomed to in school.
Now, having read more books in the past couple of years than I did in the previous ten, I’ve achieved new heights in my life that I’d only ever dreamed about. I may not know all of the answers, or even do everything right, but I’m becoming my best self and helping others along the way. And for someone that once felt so hopeless working a regular 9-to-5, that’s really all I wanted—to find fulfillment in making an impact.