When I was in graduate school pursuing my MBA I was molded into a future career-man. The focus in school was twofold: develop skills that are relevant and in demand; and to learn how to network to find jobs and make a decent salary. It was the biggest goal of all the students: acquire a J-O-B. With a little skill and hard work, an MBA student would get hired and work their way up the corporate ladder.

And then one day that whole dream began to fade away. I landed a job out of graduate school, started with an okay salary, and was given two weeks of paid vacation. The latter was the first sticking point. I love to travel and believe life is more about making memories than acquiring assets and accomplishments. I started to feel trapped, spending over one-third of my day at work and being tired by the time I got home. I started daydreaming about retirement... only forty more years to go...

And then I discovered a few books that changed my view of where I was going. These books were more influential on where I was headed than anything I have ever read, and continue to shape the path I am forging for myself.

"Choose Yourself" by James Altucher

It all started with this book, "Choose Yourself" by James Altucher. For some reason Amazon had it listed in recommended books for me and it was cheap, so I figured I'd give it a shot. I've now read two other books by Altucher. 

This book made a few points that stuck with me:

1. The middle class is dead. 
2. Employees are an expensive burden to corporate America.
3. Money is not happiness.

The last recession made a lot of things come to light. First, jobs are decreasing and probably never coming back. Employees are expensive and technology will eventually do what you currently do, and do it better. The recent uproar of minimum wage is fueling the fire for corporate America to downsize the labor force. Second, anyone can be let go at any time. That nice, steady paycheck that gets handed to once a month may stop at any moment. You are dependent on someone else, and that someone else has their own interests to consider. Third, those things we thought were safety nets are a false sense of security - college education, tenure at a job, retirement benefits, the government. None of this is guaranteed. 

Despite the dark news that this book presents, Altucher goes into ways to "choose yourself" and do what is in your better interest. He teaches the reader how to develop the ability to come up with ideas and how to utilize those ideas to make an income on your own terms. You are capable of shaping your future, and you are capable of making money without the help of a boss. 

Choose Yourself!
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The most inspiring and enlightening book I have read in a long time.

"Free Range Humans" by Marianne Cantwell

"Choose Yourself" will set the stage for this book, "Free Range Humans". Cantwell had the same condition that many of us suffer every week. We arrive to work on Monday with a feeling that the weekend was too short. We rely on coffee to get us going, plugging along at our busy work. By Wednesday we are itching for the weekend. Friday comes along and we watch the clock slowly ticking towards 5 pm. We come alive on the weekends, doing the things we enjoy most and being around the people we care about. And then... Monday comes back around and the drudgery starts over. 

Cantwell aims to show the reader that there is another way. It is possible to only work when you want to work, on your terms and doing something you love to do. You can work from anywhere; and you can live your life everyday and not just on weekends. 

Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills
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Practical ideas and tips for pursuing your dream lifestyle and not being tied down by a job.

"The 4-Hour Workweek" by Tim Ferris

I owned a copy of "The 4-Hour Workweek" for a long time before I read it. I picked it up at a thrift store, but never got into it as the title seemed a bit far fetched (or so I thought). 

One of the key takeaways for me in Ferris' book is his definition of the "new rich". Most people consider rich to be a million dollars or more. The rich have fancy cars, big titles with corporate jobs, and work 50-60 hours a week to make all that money. The new rich, however, live a life to their choosing. They work whenever they want, where ever they want and for however long they want. The new rich have the freedom to explore the world and do all the things they dream of without having to wait for retirement. And best of all, this lifestyle can be achieved without making millions of dollars.

Ferris goes through his own personal story of working insane amounts of hours for average pay, to working four hours per week and making ten times the money. He gives a compelling argument for why someone should pursue other streams of income outside of a 9-5 job, and tips to freeing up more of your time so you can spend it doing the things you love to do. 

4-Hour Work Week
Credit: Amazon: product stock image

Get Ready for a Paradigm Shift

These three books have completely shaken the foundation I was standing on when it came to career and retirement planning. When I truly consider my desires I find myself compromising because I either lack money (part of the problem) or I lack time (a huge pat of the problem). I want to backpack South America, but I cannot take more than two weeks off work to do it. I want to work from home, but my employer doesn't allow that. I want to start my day relaxed with a good book and coffee, work my way towards breakfast and showering, and then start work. Oh, and then I want a longer afternoon lunch so I can exercise and maybe take a short nap. Then I want to be done with work around five to enjoy time and dinner with my family. None of that fits my current job schedule. 

Although the choose yourself, free range, few hour work week takes time and effort, the reward is staggering. These three books have likely shaped my future, and I cannot wait to see where their influence takes me.