A message from our CEO & Founder, Joseph Chou
At the beginning of a new year, it’s so common to hear of people joining book clubs, making reading lists, or resolving to read a new book every week for the year. And every day you find someone sharing an article on social media that ‘you simply must read’.
Everyone reads for different reasons; for some it’s for pure literary enjoyment, for others it’s to gain more knowledge, skills or for personal development.
I myself, am an avid reader. At university I majored in English literature, and enjoyed fiction, poetry and short stories. Ever since moving to Australia and becoming an entrepreneur and investor, I now primarily read non-fiction, to learn more and enhance my own skills and knowledge in business. I also read a lot of biographies as well as history to learn from the past or from other people.
For me, reading is an important part of developing and growing as a person. Because, I believe that, as leader within the business, if I don’t learn and grow, then I’m doing a disservice to my colleagues and to our customers.
It’s important to be selective about what you read, but even more so, you need to be able to get the most of what you’re reading.
You don’t want to read just for the sake of it – to be able to tick off a list, or spout a great quote at a party, or to be seen saying, doing or sharing the ‘right’ things on social media.
If you’re reading motivational or personal development books, it’s really not important how many books you read, but what you take away from them, and what you do with that knowledge.
Have they made you a better person? Have they helped you grow a bigger heart, widen your perspective, be a better leader?
Many people say to me: “Oh I don’t read personal development books, because they all say the same thing.” That’s true, they do – because the principles of success are universal. But reading multiple books may offer a unique perspective on the theme. You may pick out something new from each one. Or an idea you’ve read before may suddenly become more relevant to you because you’re in a different life stage when you’re reading it. I’m a firm believer in duplicating success formulas; if you read a biography about a successful entrepreneur or an Olympic gold medallist, you’ll find their road to success in one form or another is actually quite similar.
But before you’re tempted to start quoting great passages or sharing article links or books with others, ensure you’re taking the time to read those books or articles carefully yourself. And that you are applying the principles you learn to your own life first. Unless you do so, your shares or quotes are not really coming from the heart, and if it’s not coming from the heart, then you’re not really changing or growing as a person. Other people will also quickly lose interest in what you have to say, when they see it’s not genuine.
My must-read wealth books
The list of books I’ve put together here were essential reading for me, in my early days as a migrant, business owner, leader and investor. They’re great foundational books on mindset, EQ, wealth-building and investment and have been highly influential in my own success. If you’re looking for books on these topics, I think they’re worth a read. I also think that for parents, they’re great books to encourage your kids to read or to gift to them as a ‘coming of age’ birthday present. I certainly encouraged my own children to read these as well.
How to win friends and influence people – Dale Carnegie
I’ve mentioned before that this book is like a bible to me. I must have read it nearly 100 times by now. And the reason why I think it’s such an important read is because in life, whatever job you do, or whatever your background, you’re going to need to work with people.
To be able to work with different personalities, to bring out the best in yourself and others, to work to people’s strengths rather than weaknesses – all this ‘EQ’ stuff is so important.
For me personally, I made a concerted effort to apply Carnegie’s principles in my daily life – initially this was a conscious effort, and later it has become unconscious. Most importantly, it has come from the heart – from a genuine desire to change and a genuine desire to relate with others better and see the world from another perspective.
The magic of thinking big – David J. Schwartz
Because of our upbringing, background, where we live or a whole host of other factors, for many of us, we tend to have modest dreams. This book is great in helping you to expand your horizons, so you can open up new opportunities in life. The other thing that I personally got out of this book was a small section towards the end which discussed social situations.
I’ve always been an introvert and used to be very shy. In a party or group event, I would never be the first to go up to someone and start talking, I’d usually just wait for someone to approach me.
This book made the point that in such situations, it’s usually the most successful person, the most important person, or the person who holds the highest position in the room, who makes a point of going around and introducing themselves – because they’re likely to have the most confidence. After reading this, I started forcing myself to start doing the same thing. Of course, I quickly discovered that it didn’t need to be so daunting, that everyone is just like me – keen for someone to approach and strike up a conversation.
Think and grow rich – Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill’s classic talks about the great power of the subconscious mind. It also contains the success formula developed by Andrew Carnegie – the richest man in the world at the time – and reinforced by the author’s 20-odd years of studying the most successful people in America. These people include Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan as well as the President and even movie stars of the time.
For many people, lack of self-belief or self-confidence is what holds them back from achieving their goals or the success that they’re pursuing. I often ask people: “If I could provide you a government guarantee that if you do these 10 things (all of which are legal, ethical etc but might be uncomfortable and require you to step out of your usual routine) you will achieve your goal, would you be more likely to do it?”
For most people, the answer would be yes. But of course, life isn’t like that, there are no such guarantees on offer, which is why you tend to stay in the safe zone: you’re not confident of your own future success.
To be honest, the first time I read this book, I wasn’t really ready to take it in; it was only on-re-reading, when I’d gone away and grown as a person that it started to become relevant. I’m now a firm believer in the power of the mind and the law of attraction!
Many successful people, including celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, credit this book to their early success. I can certainly attribute this book to where I am today and where I will be in the future.
The richest man in Babylon – George Samuel Clason
This is a great book which explains the basics of managing personal finances and wealth-building. It’s essential reading for anyone who aspires to be financially successful and it’s written in a format that’s very easy to grasp: as short ‘fables’ or ‘parables’.
Sometimes I find that books can be written in a style that’s unnecessarily complicated, which makes them too difficult to read. If you’re writing a literary narrative, then you probably want to craft your language beautifully and with greater complexity. But for non-fiction, I believe you just want it to be as accessible as possible. With my own book, this was also important – the point wasn’t to show off my writing skills, I just wanted the messages to come across as simply and effectively as possible.
Rich dad, poor dad – Robert T. Kiyosaki
This is another great book about wealth building that provides some clear financial definitions, for example, between an asset or a liability. But ultimately what it explores – and challenges – is the traditional path of getting an education and going on to get good job versus achieving financial success through greater financial literacy, through investing or choosing to become an entrepreneur.
I read this book when I first started as a strategist and it was crucial in helping to open my eyes to the importance of wealth building through investing in assets, including property investment. I regularly gave a copy of this book to each of my customers back at that time as well.
Ultimately, while it’s interesting to find out what successful people are reading, it’s important to note that everyone is different. Books that others are reading – even if those people are very successful – may not be relevant to you. I certainly don’t go away and read all the books on Bill Gate’s reading list – because many are simply not relevant to me, my life or my business.
The books I’ve been reading recently are on the topics of artificial intelligence and its effect on business and the workplace; innovative ways of marketing as well as autobiographies – two of my favourites are Shoe Dog by Nike Founder Phil Knight and Principles by Bridgewater Associates Founder, Ray Dalio. Apart from books, I also make a daily habit of reading the Australian Financial Review, Forbes and Fortune to stay up to date on business, news and trends.
Be smart about what you choose to read and of the books, articles or publications you do choose: try to devour them. Take in the most important points. Re-read the relevant sections. Don’t feel like you need to read a book cover-to-cover for the sake of it. I often scan the contents page of a book and read only the sections that I find most interesting or relevant. If you start reading a book and find it un-readable, go away and find a better one on the topic.
Take the time to enjoy the pursuit of reading in the moment, and then take what you learn and genuinely master those concepts. Doing this will truly make your life better, and perhaps more importantly, will become a way of making other people’s lives better. One of the most important lessons I’ve ever learned from a book is to try to make other people you meet leave you feeling better about themselves. That is one of the best feelings in life.