The 7 books you should read (again) in 2017

The Four Agreements – A Toltec Wisdom Book, by Don Miguel Ruiz

I find myself moved again by this modern classic. The author offers a compelling vision for humanity. His simple, logical rules, or agreements, carry depth, and wisdom. Yet when you try to live by the four agreements – there is an unexpected level of resistance. Take for instance the first agreement – “Be impeccable with your word!” Sounds straightforward enough, right? But what does it mean in practical terms? Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. OK. Even to examine one’s words in everyday situations can be challenging. And necessary. A much needed fitness for the soul.

The War of Art – Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, by Steven Pressfield

Don’t be fooled by the title. The continuous success of Steven Pressfield’s manual for creative people comes from the universal power of the invisible force he dissects. Pressfield calls this force Resistance and its black magic works equally well against the writer and the artist, as well as against the entrepreneur and anyone else trying to move the needle in any area of their life. The War of Art is worth re-reading every a year.

Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life, by Marshall B. Rosenberg

Programming code runs computers and transforms them into mostly useful hardware. Language runs our brains and has the power to make our lives heaven or nightmare. Dr Rosenberg offers a powerful professional insight into how our language shapes our interactions and introduces or removes conflict from our lives. Read this book, and you will look with new eyes at simple phrases like “You need to …”.

Presence – Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, by Amy Cuddy

Do yourself a favor and read this book. If you have – read it again. Of all the personal transformation books out there – this helped me the most. The key? The realization that our emotions affect our body language, just as much as our body language affects our emotions. So when I want to feel calm, powerful, and in control – I learned to act this way. I’ve seen a dramatic difference in my business and personal interactions. Thank you, Amy, for sharing all your great work.

Steal Like an Artist – 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon

The title says it all. While “steal” might convey a negative connotation at first – it is actually a positive attitude towards the art of learning as a creative person. Or as a business one.

Dandelion Wine, by Ray Bradbury

There is no other book like Dandelion Wine. Like a favorite vacation spot, I like to go there at least once a year. It is a nice break and a reminder that while today titles may be ruled by the likes of “Unf*ck Yourself”, there are masterpieces that are just as good today, as when they first came out.

Wait, What? – And Life's Other Essential Questions, by James E. Ryan

This is on my to-read list. Wait, what? “You haven’t read it yet?” Yes. I’ve included it here because I believe in the power of asking good questions. We spend most of our time and energy in looking for the right answer. I believe we will be better off, when we learn to ask the right questions first.

So in the spirit of asking good questions:

Did you like this list?

Would you share it if you did?

Have you read The Excellence Habit?

If yes – would you consider leaving a review on Amazon?

If not – do you prefer paperback or kindle version?


Doing The Right Thing


Doing The Right Thing

Last week author and coach Michael Port had a webinar on writing a first book. At the beginning he asked everyone to type ‘Hi’, and share a bit about themselves. Using the webinar text-box I wrote: “My first book The Excellence Habit was named best motivational book of 2016”. “Great!“ - responded Michael. “By who?”

By the time I typed New Apple Literary, and Readers’ Choice … , Michael had moved on to interact with other guests. At that moment I realized my marketing skills could still use improvement. 

A year ago The Excellence Habit hit Amazon. The experience felt like a roller-coaster. There were times when I would check for new reviews literally a hundred times a day. To get some traction and exchange reviews with other authors I worked the Facebook groups and Twitter. Amazon allowed me 5 free days, so I sent out paid press-releases to advertise those. The first 5-star review was from a friend. Then a few days later I had a couple of 5-star reviews from strangers. Readers said nice things about my book. It was an unusual feeling. A pride and happiness that I have made a stranger’s life better. 

I was lucky to have more than forty 5-star reviews before the first 4-star one showed up. That was emotional too. The Excellence Habit was a success also in terms of velocity of sales. The book hit the # 1 best-seller status in at least 3 different weeks. My Facebook and Twitter following exploded. Fans started signing up for my really random blog posts. 

In May, The Excellence Habit was named Best Motivational book for 2016 by Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The awards ceremony was in Chicago’s Newberry Library. It was on the local news. A Bulgarian TV channel, stationed in Chicago, broadcast the event, interviewed me, and then had an extensive live segment in my old country. The most surprising question I got was “Why”. Why did I write a book? Why did I choose to write about excellence? Why this, why that? My answer evolved. At one stage my answer was this:

Because doing the right thing is very important to me. I believe in it. I believe we all would be better off if we paid attention to doing the right thing. For me the “right thing” is not a “moral imperative”, or “moral superiority”. The right thing as in the most effective way to live my life, do my work, relate with my family, friends and co-workers. Something like an excellence habit. 

Doing the right thing deeply satisfies me and fills my life with meaning. Ever since my high-school years I had this awareness. As a teen, I knew deep inside what the right thing was. Being honest. With myself and others. Taking care of others and of myself. Approaching life situations with calm, positivity, confidence, and love. Working to improve. Knowing that any problem can be solved when approached the right way. Controlling my emotions and my actions. 

When I can be my at my best, then I can be of most value to those around me. And to humanity, and to the planet. Humanity and the planet, because I believe we are one. I believe the right thing is to understand, and accept that we are one. And to act accordingly. We own the responsibility for our intentions and our actions. In his book The Open Society and Its Enemies - Karl Popper said it beautifully: 

[Our second tendency] is based upon our fear of admitting to ourselves that the responsibility for our ethical decisions is entirely ours and cannot be shifted to anybody else; neither to God, nor to nature, nor to society, nor to history. All these ethical theories attempt to find somebody, or perhaps some argument, to take the burden from us. But we cannot shirk this responsibility. Whatever authority we may accept, it is we who accept it. We only deceive ourselves if we do not realize this simple point.”

Doing the right thing is also kind of binary: Every choice I make is either the best one, or a compromise. “The best one” not as in “perfect”. The best one as in - the one that “feels”, and “computes” most right for that given moment. Sometimes the best one is clear and sometimes it’s ambiguous. Sometimes I make a mistake. Then the right thing is - accept it, learn, and move on. Say sorry if I need to. Try to avoid repeating the mistake as it is embarrassing. 

At the end of Michael Port’s webinar we can ask questions. I type: “How do you write your second book?” Michael laughs, then says: “This is the webinar on how to write the first one!” 

You can watch this event and follow Michael on his Facebook page: