Everyone wants to be successful. We all strive and work hard and then wonder where we are going wrong. This sounds like a cliche, but it was a book that changed my life - and an old one at that, first published way back in 1982. It was by a sales guru called Tom Hopkins and was entitled The Official Guide to Success. I picked it up in the library and was initially sceptical that someone in sales had anything useful to say, but I was devouring books at the time, so I read his too.
The book was a revelation. It was broken up into small chapters (82 in all), each with an insight, clearly explained. The most important was around the idea of productivity. He recommends that you make a list of things to do each night, and then rank them from the hardest to the easiest. Then he says just focus on the top six the next day. Even if you just accomplish one item - the first on the list - you have been a success because you've eliminated the hardest thing on the list. He points out that most people don't operate like this - they focus on the easy, trivial stuff and let the other stuff build up. But if you switch to organising yourself to doing the hardest thing on the list every day, after a few months you end up way ahead of everyone else.
He also talks about the importance of not making enemies, finding safe outlets for anger using exercise and the importance of balance and downtime. He dismisses the idea that you should put in long hours to get ahead. Here's what he says about the "hard-grinds":
"At first they forge ahead rapidly. But the cost is high: the unremitting mental strain begins to sap their energy and health. .. Within five years many hard grinds discover that they're losing the cutting edge of their effectiveness. They feel themselves slowing down. No matter how hard they push, they just can't keep the pace up anymore. Now people they've been ahead of for years are passing them. What drives the hard-grinds crazy is that the passers seem to be doing it so easily. ..The ones forging ahead are the people leading balanced lives. ..they are more alert. ...They are enormously better at keeping things in perspective, which means their decisions are better."
There is also a very funny chapter about how to get rich in five minutes - he uses the example of the person who doesn't have to work , and describes someone called Turley who is in "that happy position". Turley turns out to be a very smart tramp - but because he lives as he chooses without working, he fits the definition of "rich" that many people have! Hopkins observes wryly: "Just reduce your wants until they match what you can obtain doing what you want to do with your life. Make that simple adjustment in your thinking and whap, you are there".
I could go on and on about the gems in this book - there are insights about office politics, personal finance and goal-setting. It turned my life around as I started focusing on doing what was really important. I really recommend people read this book. It's constantly in print, but because the book has been around awhile, you should be able to find a copy in your local library or to get a hold of a used one from Amazon for 1 cent. It will be the best cent you ever spent.