Mark Zuckerberg recommends

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photo: Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Facebook founder, the youngest billionier, one of the most influential people

                  “The Aeneid” by Virgil

–from interview to The New Yorker

Also mentioned in Books That Inspire CNN Founder Ted Turner

Most schoolchildren know the basics of the Trojan horse, but Virgil outlines all of the intriguing details of myth and legend. Tension between the gods of the heavens and the underworld, true love, flaming pyres, shipwreck, political intrigue, revenge – no drama is left out or neglected. Aeneas recounts tales of strange beasts, the goddess Juno plots a settling of scores with Troy (for their future role in the destruction of noble Carthage), and battles erupt. While Virgil is no longer around to rejoice at his work’s placement on numerous book lists, this unfinished epic poem is still worth a read after nearly 2,000 years of translations.

                  “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

Mark Zuckerberg listed this book as the only one on his Facebook profile

Sensitive parents may not find Card’s work to be one of the best books (or most uplifting) for child reading, according to However, book recommendations from newspapers like The Guardian point out that Ender Wiggins’ adventures while training at Battle School (to wipe out war-hungry aliens) include explorations into timeless virtues of courage in the face of peer exclusion. The book’s prestigious accolades, such as the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award, may make parents think twice about reading the book for themselves – as well as to find out if the themes are damaging to children or not.

How the World Sees You by Sally Hogshead

Categories Business, Personal growthPosted on

How the World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination by Sally Hogshead- “Hell is other people,” a French philosopher famously wrote. How the World Sees You challenges this long-standing maxim, exploring how your unique personality and the way people perceive you can be used to your own advantage. At the same time, the book also provides you with the tools necessary to better read those around you and make sure that social dynamics always work in your favor.

Solving the Procrastination Puzzle by Timothy A. Pychyl

Categories Personal growthPosted on

Procrastination is our voluntary delay of an intended action

Not all delay is procrastination

In order to overcome procrastination, we need to understand our reluctance to act when it is in our best interest to act

The Five Big Ideas

  • Categorize which delays in your life are procrastination
  • Make predecisions using implementation intentions
  • Just get started
  • When working online, block distracting websites like Facebook (I recommend Stay Focused for Google Chrome)
  • Use willpower strategically

When we procrastinate, we voluntarily delay an intended action despite the knowledge that this delay may harm us in terms of the task performance or even just how we feel about the task or ourselves.

Pychyl believes there are many types of delay in our lives and we need to learn to appreciate this. Some are not only necessary; they’re wise.

To understand the procrastination puzzle—that voluntary but needless delay in our lives that undermines our goal pursuit—we need to understand our reluctance to act when it is in our best interest to act.

Pychyl’s initial strategy for change is to begin categorizing in your own mind which delays in your life are procrastination.

Exercise: Write down the tasks, projects, activities, or “things” in your life on which you tend to procrastinate. Next to each, jot down what emotions and thoughts come to mind when you think of each of these moments of procrastination. When you have finished your list, look for patterns in the emotions or thoughts involved.

“Procrastination is failing to get on with life itself.”

People express two kinds of regret in their grief over the loss of a loved one: regrets of commission and omission. Unsurprisingly, the regrets of omission related to our procrastination are found to be the most troubling in the grieving process.

“When we learn to stop needless, voluntary delay in our lives, we live more fully.”

Exercise: Next to each of the tasks or goals you wrote down earlier, note how your procrastination has affected you in terms of things such as your happiness, stress, health, finances, relationships, and so on. If possible, discuss this with a confidante or a significant other in your life who knows you well. Further, add notes about why this goal or task is important to get done, as well as the benefits of acting now as opposed to later.

Mantra: I won’t give in to feel good. Feeling good now comes at a cost.

We fail to self-regulate (control ourselves) because we “give in to feel good.”

Pychyl says it’s important to recognize that giving in to feel good is at the heart of self-regulation failure, and it is important to develop strategies for change.

When faced with a task where our natural inclination is to say, “I’ll do this later” or “I’ll feel more like this tomorrow,” we need to stop and recognize that we are saying this in order to avoid the negative emotions we are feeling right now.

We need to recognize that this task makes us feel awful and what we are trying to do is to run away from these feelings.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to effectively identify and utilize emotions to guide behavior.

The first step at the moment of procrastination is to stay put.

Use an implementation intention to deal with negative emotions, for example, “IF I feel negative emotions when I face the task at hand, THEN I will stay put and not stop, put off a task, or run away.”

Forecasting our future mood is known as affective forecasting.

The main idea behind affective forecasting is that we have a bias when we predict future mood (affective) states in relation to positive and negative events.

There are two biases that influence procrastination:

Focalism. Our tendency to underestimate the extent to which other events will influence our thoughts and feelings in the future.

Presentism. Our tendency to put too much emphasis on the present in our prediction of the future.

When we intend a future action, our affective state is often particularly positive.

“When we are tempted to procrastinate on a current intention or task, thinking that we’ll feel more like it tomorrow, we need to stop and think, ‘No, that’s a problem with my forecasting. There is a good chance I won’t feel more like it tomorrow.’ AND it is important to add the following: ‘My current motivational state does not need to match my intention in order to act.’”

Acknowledging that our motivational state is neither necessary nor sufficient to ensure action, we can simply remind ourselves of our personal goals (a form of self-affirmation) and “just get started.”

Let go of the misconception that your motivational state must match the task at hand.

When you start to act on your intention as intended, you’ll see your attitude and motivation change.

We need to consider the biases in our thinking including our tendency to:

Discount future rewards in relation to short-term rewards

Underestimate the time things will take and overestimate how much we can do

Prefer tomorrow over today

Self-handicap to protect self-esteem

Think irrationally about the task at hand and our ability to accomplish the task

Manufacture our own happiness by changing our thinking to be consistent with our behavior

A common cause of procrastination is our intransitive preference for approaching work.

Here’s an example:

“Imagine a task is due on Friday. It is now Monday morning. It is preferable to work on this task Tuesday as opposed to Monday. In other words, the preference for Tuesday is greater than the preference for Monday. Tuesday arrives. Ah, it’s preferable to work on this on Wednesday as opposed to Tuesday. Wednesday arrives. Again, it’s preferable to work on this Thursday instead of Wednesday. So far, so good; these are transitive relations. Then Thursday arrives. Oops, we think, it is now preferable that we had begun on Monday.”

Cognitive dissonance occurs when our actions and beliefs or even two beliefs are in conflict.

When we intend to take action and then don’t, we experience cognitive dissonance.

Here are a few typical reactions that researchers have catalogued as responses to cognitive dissonance (and ways that we reduce this dissonance):

Distraction. We divert our attention away from dissonant cognitions and avoid the negative affective state caused by dissonance.

Forgetting. This can be in two forms, passive and active. Passive is often the case with unimportant thoughts, while we may have to actively suppress important cognitions that are causing dissonance.

Trivialization. We change our beliefs to reduce the importance of the dissonance-creating thoughts or beliefs.

Self-affirmation. We create a focus on our core values and other qualities that reasserts our sense of self and integrity despite the dissonance.

Denial of responsibility. This allows us to distance ourselves as a causal agent in the dissonance.

Adding consonant cognitions. Seeking out new information that supports our position (e.g., “this isn’t procrastination”; “I need more information before I can do anything on this project”).

Making downward counterfactuals. Rationalizing “it could have been worse” so we just feel better in the short term.

Changing behavior to better align with our beliefs and values. This means that we would act instead of procrastinating, although changing one’s behavior requires effort and is often not the most convenient way to reduce dissonance.

Recognizing that it is human nature to have these biases, and more important, identifying specifically what we tend to do can be the beginning of change. (Note: Dan Ariely discusses biases at length in Predictably Irrational.)

Once we start a task, it is rarely as bad as we think. Pychyl’s research found getting started changes our perceptions of a task. It can also change our perception of ourselves in important ways.

“When you find yourself thinking things like: ‘I’ll feel more like doing this tomorrow,’ ‘I work better under pressure,’ ‘There’s lots of time left,’ ‘I can do this in a few hours tonight’ … let that be a flag or signal or stimulus to indicate that you are about to needlessly delay the task, and let it also be the stimulus to just get started.”

There are two main approaches to predecisions regarding potential distractions:

Reducing the number of distractions before we begin to work.

Using implementation intentions to help us decide ahead of time what we will do when distractions, obstacles, or setbacks arise.

Implementation intentions have effects over and above our motivation to succeed.

Willpower is a limited resource that you need to use strategically.

“It is exactly when we say to ourselves ‘I’ll feel more like it tomorrow’ that we have to stop, take a breath, and think about why we intended to do the task today. Why is it important to us? What benefit is there in making the effort now? How will this help us achieve our goal? From there, if we can muster the volitional strength for one more step, that is, to ‘just get started,’ we will find that we had more self-regulatory strength in reserve than we realized.”

“An implementation intention may well be the thing that gets you to exercise in the evening, even though you usually feel much too tired to begin.”

“Don’t get hypoglycemic; your self-regulation will suffer. Keep a piece of fruit (complex carbohydrate) handy to restore blood glucose.”

So much of our ability to self-regulate depends on our motivation.

Research pioneered by Henri Schouwenburg (University of Groningen) and Clarry Lay (York University) has revealed that only two of these traits have meaningful relations with procrastination—Conscientiousness and Neuroticism (which is also known as Emotional Instability).

Procrastination draws on our ability to deceive ourselves.

Minimizing distractions is an important part of curbing our online procrastination.

Recommended Reading

If you like Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, you may also enjoy the following books:

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Mindset by Carol Dweck

Buy The Book: Solving the Procrastination Puzzle

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The Practicing Mind by Thomas M. Sterner

Categories Personal growthPosted on

“Realpeace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience as magical”.

“When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering”.

“With deliberate and repeated effort, progress is inevitable”.

The Five Big Ideas

“Real peace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience as magical”.

“When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering”.

“If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are not in control of yourself”.

“A paradox of life: The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them”.

“We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy”.

The Practicing Mind Summary

“Real peace and contentment in our lives come from realizing that life is a process to engage in, a journey down a path that we can choose to experience as magical”.

“When we learn to focus on and embrace the process of experiencing life, whether we’re working toward a personal aspiration or working through a difficult time, we begin to free ourselves from the stress and anxiety that are born out of our attachment to our goals, our sense that ‘I can’t feel happiness until I reach my goal’.”

“This ‘goal’ always takes the form of someplace we have not yet reached, something we don’t yet have but will at some point, and then, we believe, all will be right in our life”.

“When we subtly shift toward both focusing on and finding joy in the process of achieving instead of having the goal, we have gained a new skill. And once mastered, it is magical and incredibly empowering”.

“However, the practicing mind is quiet. It lives in the present and has laser-like, pinpoint focus and accuracy. It obeys our precise directions, and all our energy moves through it. Because of this, we are calm and completely free of anxiety. We are where we should be at that moment, doing what we should be doing and completely aware of what we are experiencing. There is no wasted motion, physically or mentally”.

“If you are not in control of your thoughts, then you are not in control of yourself”.

“A paradox of life: The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them”.

“We have a very unhealthy habit of making the product — our intended result — the goal, instead of the process of reaching that goal”.

“We erroneously think that there is a magical point that we will reach and then we will be happy”.

“The word practice implies the presence of awareness and will. The word learning does not. When we practice something, we are involved in the deliberate repetition of a process with the intention of reaching a specific goal”.

“When you focus on the process, the desired product takes care of itself with fluid ease. When you focus on the product, you immediately begin to fight yourself and experience boredom, restlessness, frustration, and impatience with the process”.

“When you focus your mind on the present moment, on the process of what you are doing right now, you are always where you want to be and where you should be”.

“In order to focus on the present, we must give up, at least temporarily, our attachment to our desired goal”.

“When you shift your goal from the product you are trying to achieve to the process of achieving it, a wonderful phenomenon occurs: all pressure drops away”.

“We waste so much of our energy by not being aware of how we are directing it”.

“Remember, judgment redirects and wastes our energy”.

“In summary, creating the practicing mind comes down to a few simple rules: Keep yourself process-oriented. Stay in the present. Make the process the goal and use the overall goal as a rudder to steer your efforts. Be deliberate, have an intention about what you want to accomplish, and remain aware of that intention”.

“The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them”.

“As we attempt to understand ourselves and our struggles with life’s endeavors, we may find peace in the observation of a flower. Ask yourself: At what point in a flower’s life, from seed to full bloom, does it reach perfection?”

“Most of the anxiety we experience in life comes from our feeling that there is an end point of perfection in everything that we involve ourselves with”.

“Stop yourself during the day as much as you can and ask yourself, ‘Am I practicing flower-like qualities and staying in the present with my thoughts and energies?’”

“It is our ego that makes us create false ideas of what perfect is and whether we have reached it”.

“Habits are learned. Choose them wisely”.

“You cannot change what you are unaware of”.

“What is required is that you are aware of what you want to achieve, that you know the motions you must intentionally repeat to accomplish the goal, and that you execute your actions without emotions or judgments; just stay on course. You should do this in the comfort of knowing that intentionally repeating something over a short course of time will create a new habit or replace an old one”.

“All the patience you will ever need is already within you”.

“Constantly reviewing new ideas creates, in a sense, a new habit of perceiving and processing our lives, a habit that brings us the sense of clarity we long for every day”.

“There are not that many ideas in this book; just a few, and they have always been there for us to discover. But they slip away from us in our daily lives so easily. They need to be studied over and over again from different angles so that they become a natural part of us”.

“Experiencing impatience is one of the first symptoms of not being in the present moment, not doing what you are doing, and not staying process-oriented”.

“The first step toward patience is to become aware of when your internal dialogue is running wild and dragging you with it”.

“The second step in creating patience is understanding and accepting that there is no such thing as reaching a point of perfection in anything”.

“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything”.

“When you stay on purpose, focused in the present moment, the goal comes toward you with frictionless ease”.

“When you constantly focus on the goal you are aiming for, you push it away instead of pulling it toward you. In every moment that you look at the goal and compare your position to it, you affirm to yourself that you haven’t reached it. In reality, you need to acknowledge the goal to yourself only occasionally, using it as a rudder to keep you moving in the right direction”.

“Cheating discipline doesn’t work”.

“The real thrill of acquiring anything, whether it is an object or a personal goal, is your anticipation of the moment of receiving it. The real joy lies in creating and sustaining the stamina and patience needed to work for something over a period of time”.

“When you let go of your attachment to the object you desire and make your desire the experience of staying focused on working toward that object, you fulfill that desire in every minute that you remain patient with your circumstances”.

“Simplicity in effort will conquer the most complex of tasks”.

“The four ‘S’ words are simplify, small, short, and slow”.

“Simplify. When you work at a specific project or activity, simplify it by breaking it down into its component sections”.

“Small. Be aware of your overall goal, and remember to use it as a rudder or distant beacon that keeps you on course”.

“Short. Now you can also bring short into the equation: ‘I’m going to work at cleaning the garage for forty-five minutes a day over the next few days until it is completely clean’”.

“Slow. Incorporating slowness into your process is a paradox. What I mean by slow is that you work at a pace that allows you to pay attention to what you are doing”.

“Nonjudgment is the pathway to a quiet mind”.

“Equanimity is defined as even-temperedness and calmness”.

“It is because equanimity comes from the art of nonjudgment. Nonjudgment quiets the internal dialogue of our mind”.

“Our concepts of ideal and perfect are always changing”.

“What we consider good or bad for ourselves doesn’t stay the same”.

“Wisdom is not a by-product of age. Teach and learn from all those around you”.

“With deliberate and repeated effort, progress is inevitable”.

Buy this book

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One Small Step Can Change Your Life : notes

Categories Personal growthPosted on

The art of making great and lasting change comes through small, steady steps.

Kaizen circumvents the brain’s built-in resistance to new behaviors.

Small rewards lead to big returns.

The Five Big Ideas

Kaizen is a process of improving a habit using very small steps.

Small steps can lead to big changes.

Kaizen disarms the brain’s fear response making change come more naturally.

By asking small, gentle questions, we keep the fight-or-flight response in the ‘off’ position.

By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before.

One Small Step Can Change Your Life Summary

Kaizen has two definitions:

Using very small steps to improve a habit

A process, or product using very small moments to inspire new products and inventions

Common Beliefs About Change

Myth #1: Change Is Hard

Myth #2: The Size of the Step Determines the Size of the Result, So Take Big Steps for Big Results

Myth #3: Kaizen Is Slow; Innovation Is Quicker

“In our “bigger is better” culture of IMAX movies, supersize meals, and extreme makeovers, it’s hard to believe that small steps can lead to big changes. But the wonderful reality is that they can.”

“There are two elements of the spirit, or purpose, in which kaizen plays an essential role: service and gratitude.”

“Low-key change helps the human mind circumnavigate the fear that blocks success and creativity.”

“All changes, even positive ones, are scary. Attempts to reach goals through radical or revolutionary means often fail because they heighten fear. But the small steps of kaizen disarm the brain’s fear response, stimulating rational thought and creative play.”

“When you want to change but experience a block, you can often blame the midbrain for gumming up the works.”

“Small, easily achievable goals—such as picking up and storing just one paper clip on a chronically messy desk—let you tiptoe right past the amygdala, keeping it asleep and unable to set off alarm bells.”

“When you are afraid, the brain is programmed either to run or attack—not always the most practical options.”

Small actions satisfy your brain’s need to do something and soothe its distress.

“Your brain is programmed to resist change. But, by taking small steps, you effectively rewire your nervous system so that it does the following: ‘unsticks’ you from a creative block bypasses the fight-or-flight response creates new connections between neurons so that the brain enthusiastically takes over the process of change and you progress rapidly toward your goal.”

“When life gets scary and difficult, we tend to look for solutions in places where it is easy or at least familiar to do so, and not in the dark, uncomfortable places where real solutions might lie.”

“Use times of difficulty to remember that fear is the body’s gift, alerting us to a challenge.”

“Small questions create a mental environment that welcomes unabashed creativity and playfulness. When you ask small questions of others, you channel that creative force toward team goals. By asking small questions of yourself, you lay the groundwork for a personalized program for change.” (Sam: this is similar to Anthony Robbin’s strategy of asking “quality questions” in Awaken the Giant Within.)

“The hippocampus’s main criterion for storage is repetition, so asking that question over and over gives the brain no choice but to pay attention and begin to create answers.”

“Ask yourself, ‘If health were my first priority, what would I be doing differently today? What is one way I can remind myself to drink more water? How could I incorporate a few more minutes of exercise into my daily routine?’”

“Your brain loves questions and won’t reject them … unless the question is so big it triggers fear.”

“By asking small, gentle questions, we keep the fight-or-flight response in the ‘off’ position. Kaizen questions such as ‘What’s the smallest step I can take to be more efficient?’ allow us to bypass our fears.”

“Make your questions small, and you reduce the chances of waking the amygdala and arousing debilitating fear. When fear is quiet, the brain can take in the questions and then pop out answers on its own timetable.”

“If you tend to berate yourself with negative questions (Why am I so fat?), try asking: What is one thing I like about myself today? Ask this question daily, writing your answer down in a journal or on a sheet of paper you keep in a specially designated place.”

Quality Questions

“If you are unhappy but aren’t sure why, try asking yourself this: If I were guaranteed not to fail, what would I be doing differently?”

“If you are trying to reach a specific goal, ask yourself every day: What is one small step I could take toward reaching my goal?”

“What is one small step I could take to improve my health (or relationships, or career, or any other area)?”

“Is there a person at work or in my personal life whose voice and input I haven’t heard in a long time? What small question could I ask this person?”

If somebody’s annoying you, ask yourself, “What’s one good thing about this person?”

“What is one small thing that is special about me (or my spouse, or my organization)?”

“The easy technique of mind sculpture uses ‘small thoughts’ to help you develop new social, mental, and even physical skills—just by imagining yourself performing them!”

“Small actions are at the heart of kaizen. By taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable, you’ll sail calmly past obstacles that have defeated you before. Slowly—but painlessly!—you’ll cultivate an appetite for continued success and lay down a permanent new route to change.” (Sam: the idea of “taking steps so tiny that they seem trivial or even laughable” is similar to Stephen Guise’s strategy of making new habits stupidly small in Mini Habits.)

“If you ever feel yourself dreading the activity or making excuses for not performing it, it’s time to cut back on the size of the step.”

“We are so accustomed to living with minor annoyances that it’s not always easy to identify them, let alone make corrections. But these annoyances have a way of acquiring mass and eventually blocking your path to change. By training yourself to spot and solve small problems, you can avoid undergoing much more painful remedies later.”

“Whether you wish to train yourself or others to instill better habits, small rewards are the perfect encouragement. Not only are they inexpensive and convenient, but they also stimulate the internal motivation required for lasting change.” (Sam: the idea of rewarding yourself for doing a new behavior is a crucial part of BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits program.)

“The larger the external rewards, the greater the risk of inhibiting or stunting the native drive for excellence.” (Sam: Dan Pink writes about this in Drive.)

“The kaizen approach to life requires a slower pace and an appreciation of small moments. This pleasant technique can lead to creative breakthroughs and strengthened relationships, and give you a daily boost toward excellence.”

“As you experience success in applying kaizen to clear goals like weight loss or career advancement, remember to hold on to its essence: an optimistic belief in our potential for continuous improvement.”

Recommended Reading

If you like One Small Step Can Change Your Life, you may also enjoy the following books:

Better Than Before: Mastering The Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin

Essential Zen Habits: Mastering The Art of Change, Briefly by Leo Babauta

Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results by Stephen Guise

Buy The Book: One Small Step Can Change Your Life

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My Philosophy for Successful Living by Jim Rohn

Categories Personal growthPosted on

Jim Rohn had influenced more than 5 million people in all corners of the world. He’s famous for mentoring countless motivational speakers including Tony Robbins,Les Brown, Harvey Mackay, Mark Victor Hansen and others. In My Philosophy for Successful Living by Jim Rohn, Rohn shares his best teaching son living a successful life.

My Philosophy for Successful Living Summary

You will be paid for what you bring to the marketplace and what you become.

Formal education gets you a job, but self-education is what makes you rich.

The answer to solving your problems isn’t to be found by listing out the obstacles both real and perceived in the outside world, but instead by noticing the obstacles in your own thinking and approach.

Your personal income is determined primarily by your philosophy.

If you work hard on your job, you make a living. If you work hard on yourself, you can make a fortune.

Success is not something you pursue. Success is something that you attract by becoming an attractive person.

The way that you become rich is not by wishing your life were easier, but instead by focusing on making yourself better.

Achieving wealth and greatness can be distilled down to helping others.

If you search you can find good people, but you have to be committed to searching.

Rewarding people for small steps of progress is a key part in your ultimate success.

Be so busy giving others recognition that you don’t really need it for yourself.

Becoming a skilled communicator is one of the single best investments you can make in yourself.

One of the best ways of building a financial wall around your family is to have more than one skill and more than one language.

Profits are better than wages.

No matter what you are doing in life, it’s important that you learn the fundamentals or the foundation of a given job or task.

Taking the time to sit down and write out your goals for the present, the near future and the more remote future is a necessary part of transforming your life.

You can have all you want out of life if you endeavor to help others.

Those who do not contribute to society often find that they pay a price in the form of solitude.

Recommended Reading

If you like My Philosophy for Successful Living, you may also enjoy the following books:

Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Buy this book

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