“It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand.”

Apache proverb

This holiday season, rather than squandering money on gifts with little long-term value, consider giving something practical that gets the recipient excited about taking ownership of his/her future.

Aside from allowing us to delve into the minds of the most inspiring and innovative people who ever lived, books are a great gift because they sit there staring back at us: providing gentle prompts, imaginative thought, and unprecedented motivation when we need it most.

In fact, many of the people I interviewed for Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy noted that, in times of distress, just staring at the cover of Hill’s original classic made them feel better about themselves.

Lately, I’ve also really been enjoying audiobooks. With the speed toggle, you can listen at an increasing speed. When you first try 1.25x, it seems a little intense. But a day or two later, you'll probably feel comfortable at 1.5x and wonder how you listened to anything slower before. Audiobooks are also more social because, rather than simply listening to music (which I love for entertainment or a demanding workout), you and a travel companion can improve your minds while exploring new areas of interest.

For my favorite books, as you'll see in the YouTube edition of this post, I make sure to also purchase a hard copy because it's easier for a quick reference.

Welcome to my second annual recommended reading list of gifts for yourself or a loved one. With this list, you'll undoubtedly have more lightning in the hand, as the earlier proverb reminds us.

Best for Entrepreneurs:

Driven
by Dr Doug Brackmann

I first met Dr Doug Brackmann in Orange County, California, in early 2019 when my good mate Ronsley Vaz interviewed him. Brackmann radiated a potent mix of strength and empathy, traits forged from a career working with some of the most driven people on the planet.

This is the best book I’ve read in 2019 and I’ve literally just purchased a copy for every one of my clients around the world.

In it, Brackmann argues that 10% of the population possess a certain DNA that makes them feel like something is wrong with them, leading to anxiety, shame, and negative self-talk that can create a hellish existence. He calls this group the ‘Driven.’

Yet, through his research (which includes holding two PhDs in psychology!) and work with some of the highest performers on the planet—everyone from Navy SEALs to pro athletes and business leaders—Brackmann has discovered how the Driven can harness that energy into constructive means to reach their highest potential.

If you are an entrepreneur, or are looking at buying a gift for an entrepreneur, you won’t go wrong with this book. I’ve never read something that struck at the heart of who I was more than this one, while at the same time giving practical tips to improve day by day.

And let's face it: every existing and aspiring entrepreneur could do with a little more help understanding themselves!


Best for Mindset:

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
by Dr Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck is one of my biggest inspirations. This book talks about what sets champions apart in any field—the growth mindset.

Dweck contrasts those who have a growth mindset with those who have a fixed mindset, and it typically comes down to one simple focus: how we respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes.

Those with a growth mindset embrace challenge and recognize mastery as a journey of self-effort, whereas those with a fixed mindset avoid challenge and give up easily.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Mindset:

In her bestselling book, Dweck shows how people of all ages can cultivate a growth mindset, while giving examples of well-known people to keep readers engaged and illustrate the points, offering practical solutions to help us fulfill our potential in the most important areas of our lives.


Best for Empowerment:

Educated
by Tara Westover

Written with phenomenal detail, Westover’s memoir describes her unique upbringing by uncompromising survivalists in the mountains of Idaho.

Working in her father’s junkyard, Westover was never allowed to go to school or visit a doctor, and recounts her volatile—and, at times, abusive—family life as the youngest of seven children.

This alone makes for gripping reading, but the trajectory from Westover first stepping into a classroom at age 17 to eventually earning a doctorate at the University of Cambridge, while continuing to fight battles in and out of the classroom, leaves you spellbound.

In particular, if you’re a female struggling to find your place (or voice) in the world—or you know someone in that situation—this book is a must read. It spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and has now been translated into more than 30 languages.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

Seriously powerful stuff, and an easy listen on Audible too. Plus, if you're an aspiring writer, it's one of the most beautifully written books you'll ever read.


Best for Gratitude:

The 5 Minute Journal
by Intelligent Change

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen how frequently I post these as daily stories. A huge percentage of CEOs have spoken about the importance of journaling for mental well-being; yet staring at a blank page each day can be daunting. The 5 Minute Journal provides a useful structure to start and finish the day in the right mindset.

You hear me talk constantly about winning the day. The best way to win the day is to know what actions you’re going to take on a given day and how they relate to your long-term mission, and this book gives you a forum to be able to do that.

To me, it’s been truly life-changing and is the book I gift the most. If you want an introduction to gratitude, this is the best place to be. A lot of people ask me what book it is that I keep posting on Instagram, and now you know 🙂


Best for Parenting:

Letters From A Self-Made Merchant To His Son
by George Horace Lorimer

This is the only book on this list that has entered the public domain, which means it can be downloaded for free. As a result, it’s probably a better gift for yourself, rather than sending someone a link!

This book was originally published in 1901 and contains letters from a successful business owner to his son who had just started university.

If Educated is slightly better suited to a female audience, this one is slightly better suited to a male audience. Yet, both hold enduring value for all readers.

Given Letters was written more than a century ago, it is told in a language of a foregone era, but it’s phenomenal quotes are timeless, such as:

This is the book that inspired me to start writing an annual letter to our daughter, the first one written in December 2018 (i.e. five months before she was born), so at whatever age I choose to reveal them to her she can understand the journey we’ve all been on together, especially her mother's unparalleled contributions, and exactly what unconditional love means.


Best for Motivation:

Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy
by James Whittaker

Writing this book is the greatest honor of my life and it’s truly humbling to see it continue to resonate with so many people around the world.

The theme of the book is that how you respond to adversity when it inevitably strikes is far more important than the adversity itself, and this is demonstrated through a combination of moving stories and practical tips. My hope is that it continues to inspire people of all backgrounds to extraordinary achievement.

Email us if you're after a signed copy! If you want your signed copy to arrive before Christmas, please allow at least two weeks' notice to ensure your order arrives in time. Discounts are available for bulk orders. Unsigned copies, as well as audiobook and ebook formats, are available on Amazon.


Best Gift (or Accompaniment) for Everyone:

A letter or card, handwritten if your legibility allows, to acknowledge the recipient for all the loving and selfless actions they have taken to brighten your world and illuminate your spirit. Expressing our gratitude to one another in the long form written medium has become a lost art, but that just means your opportunity to make an impression will be even more powerful.

You've heard me say many times before that the best way to get is to give. Give someone a piece of your heart, and watch the way your life changes as a result.

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I proudly recommend all these books and know they would be a welcome gift in any stocking. This holiday season give your friends and loved ones the inspiration and ability to help themselves.

As we approach the end of 2019, I wanted to thank each and every one of you for your continued support. Have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones and get excited for an incredible 2020.

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In case you missed it:
How to Get a Promotion: Lessons from a Chief Maker

“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”

Albert Einstein

As we approach the halfway point of the year, many people shy away from any purposeful action, instead choosing to worry about ‘next year’. But, with the right plan, you would be astounded with how much progress you can make, even in 6 months.

Here are 11 productivity tips you can use right now to start getting the most out of your hours each day.

1. Start the day with your intent.

Most people wake up and complain about their alarm, the traffic on the way to work, their boss, the news, their commute home from work, then when their partner asks how their day was, they complain about it.

Total day's output = 0.

Instead, wake up and be grateful for the opportunity to share your unique gifts with the world. Think about your intent, your purpose. Ignore the sensationalized daily news schedules, stop stalking people on Instagram, and switch complaints for gratitude.

When you live with intent, it will be much easier for you to say ‘no’ to the distractions that derail your day.

2. Have a daily plan. Achieve it.

Dale Carnegie once wrote: “An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.” A plan allows us to create a structure around it so we can allocate the necessary resources to get it done as efficiently and effectively as possible, while keeping us more resilient from distraction and procrastination.

Each day, write down three things you’re going to achieve no matter what. Perhaps it’s to complete a gym session, finish the first draft of a blog post, call a family member, or do a meal prep for the week. The important thing is creating the list so your brain can nag at you until it’s done.

(Note: I’m a huge fan of meal prep because it ensures you have nourishing food that can be quickly accessed, rather than interrupting your day to continually shop, cook and clean.)

3. Do your life's work first.

Most people want to start the day with the feeling of achievement, and for most that is responding to emails. The problem with emails is they’re like boomerangs—always coming back. Instead, do your life’s work first (i.e. the actions that are going to inch you closer to your 90-day goals), before turning to someone else’s agenda for your day. You’ll find you can do the rest on autopilot.

If you have to set your alarm an hour earlier in the morning to get it done, do it. If you want some morning inspo, follow Jocko Willink on Instagram.

4. Begin with the end in mind.

It’s not starting things that makes us successful, it’s finishing things. Only begin tasks that you are going to finish and give your best effort. Whether it’s a recorded but unreleased podcast, a stagnant YouTube channel, or training for a marathon that never occurs, begin with the end in mind always.

There’s nothing worse than having a whole heap of half-assed and incomplete tasks that have occupied your attention for months, or even years, where the only reason you haven’t gained traction is because you haven’t been consistent. Most people think starting things is the hard part, but it’s not. The hard part is continuing at the first sign of adversity. Be conscious of that and have an accountability plan to blast through it.

5. Use the Pomodoro Technique.

I first heard about the Pomodoro Technique when I interviewed John Lee Dumas for Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy. It requires you to have a large timer sitting on your desk and then segmenting your work time into focused intervals (typically 25 minutes), separated by short breaks (typically five minutes). Every time you complete a ‘pomodoro’, or work interval, mark your progress on a piece of paper with a tick.

After four pomodoros, i.e. 100 minutes of work time, take a 15-20 minute break.

Knowing that your output is capped to 25 minutes unlocks hyper productivity as you race against the clock—otherwise you’ll have nothing to show for your pomodoro—and keeps you focused knowing that a break is never too far away.

6. Do what makes you happy.

Doing what makes us happy gives us an extra tank of rocket fuel to commit to our work. It’s far easier for your brain to switch off if your boss is giving you the same boring data entry task for the 500th time or if you don’t even believe in the product you’re selling.

Apple founder Steve Jobs once said: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.”

If you’re not sure what areas make you happy, connect with like-minded people, attend events, and add value to others unconditionally. This will give you exposure to more areas, and eventually you’ll find the areas that excite you where you can concentrate your attention.

7. Eliminate distractions.

Whether you're working in home or an office, make a list of the 5-10 things that interrupt you during the day. This could be anything from the phone ringing and social media, to getting bothered by work colleagues and even your own thoughts.

Break that list into four categories—people, technology, self, and other—and take actions accordingly:

8. Miss a meal, but don't miss a book.

We have access to history’s most brilliant minds right now. Why not spend 20 minutes a day tapping into their expertise?

If you don’t enjoy reading, turn your attention to podcasts or audiobooks. Importantly, when you’re reading (or listening to) these books, keep a notepad so you can brainstorm ideas along the way that will help you achieve your goals. After all, action is the real measure of intelligence.

9. Go to bed with a request to your subconscious.

Acclaimed inventor Thomas Edison once said: “Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious.”

Our bodies and minds are capable of extraordinary things while we sleep, and that rest time is essential for recovery, growth, and general well-being. Thinking about what we want before we go to bed also plants a seed of imagination that can allow our mind to focus on it for the next 7-8 hours.

Never underestimate the power of the subconscious. After all, every great endeavor, innovation, or achievement was once a simple thought impulse.

10. Review your success each week. Calibrate accordingly.

Checking in on your actions—the people you spent too much or not enough time with, the books you read or didn’t read, the fitness session that did or didn’t get done, or the progress you made or didn’t make towards your goals—enables you to adjust your schedule and routine to ensure the next week is better. With this plan of constant reflection and calibration, long-term success is assured.

And just remember, often, removing a negative influence in your life can be just as powerful as gaining a positive one, so pay extra special attention to who you spend your time with and what stimulus you allow your mind to feed on.

11. Be inspired as the hero of your own journey.

The number one productivity technique, which I never hear anybody talk about, is being inspired. When you’re inspired, it doesn’t matter how many hours of sleep you’ve had the night before, how much money is in your pocket, or where you’re working from. You wake up and get after it.

The best way to make that happen is to download my Success Plan Template, write out your 'Perfect Destination' in all areas of your life, and then backtrack it to the work you need to do today that will eventually make it a reality.

Once you’ve done that, you can release yourself from worry about the future because you already know how the story ends—after all, you wrote the story! That will inspire you to take the simple and consistent action that will get you where you need to be.

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Try those 11 tips to become a master of productivity.

Everyone tries to act like their super busy, but remember—it’s not how busy you are, but how productive you are, that makes all the difference. Output is everything.

Onwards and upwards always,
James Whittaker

In case you missed it:
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Story

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