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Dan Miller’s Top 48 Recommended Reading List

I grew up as a poor farm kid in Ohio. We had no TV or radio, but I found a window into a bigger world at the little public library a couple miles from our house. It was there that I encountered the Horatio Alger stories, full of the rags to riches adventures of ordinary boys just like me.

And books have continued to be my biggest source of new ideas and inspiration. I find it’s the quickest and least expensive way to dream bigger, to imagine the seemingly impossible and to grow personally.

I update this list annually, although some keep their place here as they are timeless treasures. I trust you will tap into the invaluable resources here to accelerate your own success journey.

 

As a leading vocational thinker, New York Times best-selling author Dan Miller helps you better understand and organize your God-given skills, personality traits, values, dreams, and passions. In turn, you’ll see clear patterns form that point you toward successful career decisions. Packed with modern insight and timeless wisdom, here is a step-by-step process for creating a Life Plan and translating it into meaningful, satisfying daily work.

This is the classic little book about finding opportunity right in your own backyard. Over the years I’ve seen many people discover the truth of this simple message.

This is a brilliant book about creativity. Elizabeth Gilbert offers potent insights into the nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work, embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

In some ways, we are all coaches in that we are calling people to take advantage of our product or service and showing them the benefits of doing so. Here’s a book that may help you in many of the things you need to have in place as a coach. Although you’ll find a wealth of information in the Coaching 101 series, The Coaching Starter Kit adds helpful forms and checklists.

Common sense tells us Goliath would win this battle without breathing hard. But David won. Following his tradition in Outliers & The Tipping Point, Gladwell once again points out why common sense may mislead us. What we see as disadvantages for David actually worked to his advantage.
The same is true for us. Gladwell develops the idea of “desirable difficulties.” Those things we complain about that may spur us to uncommon success. Growing up poor, having dyslexia, going to a mediocre school, shortening prison terms, and returning good for evil all bring the potential for extraordinary success.
I loved this book. I love how looking at events through new lenses can reshape our traditions and beliefs. These real life stories will change the way we relate to the world around us. What you see as a distinct disadvantage may in fact be the key to your greatest successes.

Everyone gets 168 hours a week, but it never feels like enough, does it? Work gobbles up the lion’s share–many professionals are working as much as 70 hours a week–leaving less and less for rest, exercise, family, and friends. You know, all those things that make life great.

Most people think productivity is about finding or saving time. But it’s not. It’s about making our time work for us. Just imagine having free time again. It’s not a pipe dream.

In Free to Focus, New York Times bestselling author Michael Hyatt reveals to readers nine proven ways to win at work so they are finally free to succeed at the rest of life–their health, relationships, hobbies, and more. He helps readers redefine their goals, evaluate what’s working, cut out the nonessentials, focus on the most important tasks, manage their time and energy, and build momentum for a lifetime of success.

I love being able to highlight a new book here each week. Not every book I recommend was a best seller. Many just impact me in unique ways – and you can decide for yourself if they resonate with you. I go back to this book time and time again. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven Steps to Genius Every Day. Few people have ever been as creative or inventive as da Vinci. But he was also a thoughtful philosopher. Leonardo reflected sadly that the average human “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” In his writings he constantly calls us to improve our senses – and our sensibility and sensitivity.

I hear repeatedly from people who are asking “What is the meaning of life?” Leonardo da Vinci would encourage them to ask, “How can I make my life meaningful?”

Old time favorite about how to treat people and gain positive influence.

Here’s a wonderful little book that speaks to authentic character in our lives. In Let Your Life Speak Quaker author Parker Palmer talks about making our lives, and vocations, transparent evidence of what we think and believe.

You may recognize “Let Your Life Speak” as the title of the second chapter in No More Mondays. I borrowed that from this book and the old Quaker saying of the same phrase. The phrase implies that we don’t need to say anything or actions will tell those around us what we believe and what we value.

What does your daily work say about your life?

From the book:
If I try to be or do something noble that has nothing to do with who I am, I may look good to others and to myself for awhile. But the fact that I am exceeding my limits will eventually have consequences. I will distort myself, the other, and our relationship — and may end up doing more damage than if I had never set out to do this particular “good.”

I recommend adding this little gem to your personal collection

There are just a few books that I re-read every six months or so. This is one of them. Dr. Frankl describes his experiences in a German concentration camp where he observed that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” It’s a poignant reminder that circumstances do not necessarily determine hopelessness we have to choose that.

In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he unpacks the biographies of great historical figures for clues about how they gained control over our their own lives and destinies – and how we can do the same. This is not light reading. But digesting it will give you profound insights into what is required for greatness. I loved this book.

No More Mondays will show you that meaningful work really is within your grasp. And once you’ve opened the door and seen all the exciting career opportunities that await you—whether you decide to revolutionize your current job or launch a new career altogether—you’ll find you can’t go back to the old way of working.

In this inspiring guide to discovering a vocation that feeds your heart and soul, Askinosie describes his quest to discover more meaningful work – a search that led him to volunteering in the palliative care wing of a hospital, to a Trappist monastery where he became inspired by the monks focus on “being” rather than “doing,” and eventually traipsing through jungles across the globe in search of excellent cocoa bean farmers to make award winning chocolate. Askinosie shares his hard-won insights into doing work that reflects one’s values and purpose in life. He shares with readers visioning tools that can be used in any industry or field to create a work life that is inspired and fulfilling. Askinosie shows us that everyone has the capacity to find meaning in their work and be a positive force for good in the world.

In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?

His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Brilliant and entertaining, Outliers is a landmark work that will simultaneously delight and illuminate.

I ordered this book immediately when it was released and was one of the fortunate ones who received the book in an actual milk carton. Seth is a radical marketing guy who makes the case that black, white, and brown cows don’t get our attention – but a Purple Cow; now that would make us look. He uses this same thinking in helping you look at your business and career – how can you make it remarkable?

Bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins dismantles the myth that being creative is a hindrance to success by revealing how an artistic temperament is in fact a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Now in trade paper.

For centuries, the myth of the starving artist has dominated our culture, seeping into the minds of creative people and stifling their pursuits. But the truth is that the world’s most successful artists did not starve. In fact, they capitalized on the power of their creative strength. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Jeff Goins debunks the myth of the starving artist by unveiling the ideas that created it and replacing them with timeless strategies for thriving, including:

  • steal from your influences (don’t wait for inspiration),
  • collaborate with others (working alone is a surefire way to starve),
  • take strategic risks (instead of reckless ones),
  • make money in order to make more art (it’s not selling out), and
  • apprentice under a master (a “lone genius” can never reach full potential).

Through inspiring anecdotes of successful creatives both past and present, Goins shows that living by these rules is not only doable but it’s also a fulfilling way to thrive.

From graphic designers and writers to artists and business professionals, creatives already know that no one is born an artist. Goins’s revolutionary rules celebrate the process of becoming an artist, a person who utilizes the imagination in fundamental ways. He reminds creatives that business and art are not mutually exclusive pursuits. In fact, success in business and in life flow from a healthy exercise of creativity.

Expanding upon the groundbreaking work in his previous bestseller The Art of Work, Goins explores the tension every creative person and organization faces in an effort to blend the inspired life with a practical path to success. Being creative isn’t a disadvantage for success; rather, it is a powerful tool to be harnessed.

This is certainly one of the most influential books in my life. The first edition of See You at the Top came out in 1975. I was 28 years old at the time and was excited about the message and the character of the author. I have a special line in the introduction to No More Mondays to express the impact Zig had on my developing entrepreneurial career: Zig Ziglar’s powerful personal presentations captivated me many years ago and called me to a higher level of success without compromising integrity or compassion. See You at the Top is his classic work. Zig’s engaging way of storytelling will pull you in as you are inspired to your own higher level of success. The book includes his famous fleas, biscuits, and pump handles stories as well as many others.

You don’t need to be a genius, you just need to be yourself. That’s the message from Austin Kleon, a young writer and artist who knows that creativity is everywhere, creativity is for everyone. A manifesto for the digital age, Steal Like an Artist is a guide whose positive message, graphic look and illustrations, exercises, and examples will put readers directly in touch with their artistic side.

In The $100 Startup, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to lead of life of adventure, meaning and purpose – and earn a good living.

Seth Godin is perhaps the brightest marketing mind in America.
In his book The Dip Seth challenges the old adage: Winners never quit and quitters never win.
He says that is ridiculous. Winners quit fast and often and without guilt.
He says the opposite of quitting is rededication. The opposite of quitting is an invigorated new strategy designed to break the problem apart.

Could you use a kick in the pants to jump-start your creative calling? Or do you know someone who is gifted at their craft but too fearful or hesitant to pursue it? “The Empowered Artist” is a call to action and a rallying cry for you to step into your greatness. What you’ll get in this book is a big dose of reality checks, empowering attitudes, shifting perspectives, powerful mindsets, and nitty-gritty details on the real work you need to do to make a difference (and make a living) with your talents and know-how.

Here’s one that I love and go back to at least once every year. David Schwartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big was written 50 years ago. But like the Dale Carnegie principles, what is presented here stand the test of time.

Every day I am asked by more people, “Dan, can I be a coach?” And my response has always been, “Are people coming to you now for your advice and opinion?” If they are, it may be a short step to position yourself as a coach. If they are not, then perhaps you need to explore some other options. (The fact that people are asking does not mean you are fully competent as a coach but it is likely a starting point.)

In this book The Millionaire Messenger, Brandon Burchard addresses this question – “How could I possibly be considered an expert, and who would want to listen to me anyway?”

A phenomenal follow-up to The Millionaire Next Door. This one tells the top common characteristics of truly wealthy people. They might surprise you.

I’m making an exception here and recommending a fiction book – or is it? Andy Andrews has an incredible gift at storytelling. But his stories are packed full of life principles. I love The Noticer. It’s a story about an “old man” who kept showing up at just the right time to share a truth to save someone’s business or marriage. A delightful read.

Jack Canfield is one the co-authors of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series now having sold over 100 million copies. In 2005 he wrote The Success Principles. Kevin and I met Jack in Los Angeles right after this book was published. He talked about his years of compiling the information for the brightest minds in the world. It is 473 pages of valuable insights for success. 


My copy is dog-eared and full of post-it-notes to bring me back to the points I want to easily reference.

Think about how money works. If you are on a desert island and you have $10 million in $100 bills in a big suitcase, you will find that the money is absolutely worthless. It only has value as it connects you with and flows through other people. Your human interaction produces your wealth. The cool thing is that in today’s technological world you can expand your connection with people exponentially – and quickly. If you have expertise in any area, you can use that as a foundation for speaking, writing articles, radio and TV interviews, newsletters, blogs and podcasts. If you are honestly trying to improve the lives of other people through those tools, you will create new relationships and see your true wealth soar.

I guess you knew this one would show up on my recommendations sooner or later. And with all that has happened in the last two weeks, it seems more applicable than ever. People are scrambling in their attempts to keep things the same but it just isn’t going to happen. Nobody can count on having their work situation staying the same.

Of course, the book is just a short little amusing and entertaining story about four mice who are looking for daily cheese to make them happy. The
“cheese” is a metaphor for what you want in life whether that’s a good job, a loving relationship, money, possessions or health. When unexpected and unwelcome change comes, how do you deal with it?

If I had to chose just 10 books to keep for the rest of my life Windows of the Soul by Ken Gire would certainly be in that group. Several years ago someone gave Joanne and me a copy. We have now given out countless numbers as we really believe that next to the Bible, everyone ought to have a copy of this book.

In Windows of the Soul, the author says God gave us art, music, sculpture, drama, and literature as footpaths to lead us out of our hiding places. As we see something, hear something, touch something, we have an opportunity to see God.

Reading this made me much more aware of the things around me each day. When I walk in the mornings I make it a point to really see, hear and touch rather than just hurry to get my heart rate up.

Wisdom, meet passion. Passion, wisdom. By bringing these two voices to the issue, this book takes readers through familiar plights, such as understanding the American Dream, the quest for security, and work that matters―regardless of age. Through candid storytelling, Dan Miller and his son Jared Angaza uncover various generational approaches to work, money, success, and relationships, proving that it is possible to be both passionate and wise.

Another artistic way to look at the life you want, and then to develop your career around that.

An Understanding Heart is meant to be more than an inspirational book. From its simulated leather cover, to the gold edged pages with a bookmark to track your current reading, Dan Miller created this book to be a living instrument of growing your personal impact and legacy.

“I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of having “wisdom.” It just sounds valuable and rare. And growing up as the son of a pastor, I knew the Bible story that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived. When I tried looking up the scripture where Solomon asked God for “wisdom” I found the real story doesn’t put it quite like that. In the reference Solomon asked God for an “understanding heart” so he could judge the people well. We may refer to it as wisdom, but I think the clarification is important. “Wisdom was a byproduct of what he truly wanted. This moves beyond knowledge, to understanding, and meaningful application to impact the world.”

This book had a major impact on how I get productive work done. Rather than squeezing in the important things when I had time, I now have major blocks of time blocked out for “deep work.” Cal Newport walks us though why distractions cripple our ability to do our best work and how to reduce them.

Our relentless emphasis on success and productivity has

become a form of violence, Muller says.  We have lost the necessary rhythm of life, the balance between effort and rest, doing and not doing.  Just reading this gives me a new sense of Sabbath and rest in my own life.

More than 150 inspired—and inspiring—novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians on how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to complete the work they love to do. I love reading about the sometimes quirky things successful people do to enhance their creativity. You’ll find tips here you may want to try – or the encouragement to be comfortable with your own quirky habits.

John Maxwell has written a lot of books. This, one of his earliest ones, is my all-time favorite.

In Becoming a Person of Influence, Maxwell and Dornan show us, regardless of our occupation, how to reach our full influential potential:

  • Managers will see their employees respond with new enthusiasm
  • Parents will connect with their children on a deeper level
  • Coaches will see players blossom
  • Pastors will reach more people
  • Salespeople will break records

Brendon Burchard was obsessed with answering three questions:

1. Why do some individuals and teams succeed more quickly than others and sustain that success over the long term?

2. Of those who pull it off, why are some miserable and others consistently happy on their journey?

3. What motivates people to reach for higher levels of success in the first place, and what practices help them improve the most

Which habits can help you achieve long-term success and vibrant well-being no matter your age, career, strengths, or personality? To become a high performer, you must seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage. The art and science of how to do all this is what this book is about.