“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

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation.”

Margaret Wheatley

Early on in my career I made the decision to get good at networking. Whether it was striking up a conversation with a stranger in an elevator, trying to be memorable at events, or adding value to people far higher up the pecking order, I wanted to forge a meaningful relationship based on emitting a vibrant energy, an organic connection and unconditionally adding value.

This decision, along with being committed to simple and consistent action, has been the cornerstone to every success I have achieved to this point.

Being your natural self is an important part of building relationships. When it happens as organically as possible, authenticity reigns, time is saved and value increases tenfold. I’ve seen too many networking ‘experts’ say that the solution is to start at the finish line, where you spend big money to attend events, enthusiastically ‘appear’ (rather than meaningfully engage), and dish out business cards like ninja stars.

Remember, extraordinary achievement only comes with a strong foundation. A few meaningful connections are far more valuable than exchanging 500+ business cards.

Here is a five-step system to take your networking skills to the next level. This process can be followed by anyone and I absolutely guarantee it will have an enormous impact on your life.

1. Build your knowledge

True mastery in any field—including networking—only comes from ridiculous amounts of purposeful practice. Before diving headfirst into the deep end, work on your stroke. Here are the three best networking books I have encountered:

Grab a notepad and spend one hour each day reading these books, until you’ve finished all three, being sure to jot down ideas and inspiration as it comes to mind. When you’re finished, keep increasing your knowledge with podcasts like Build Your Network by Travis Chappell.

I guarantee you will 10x your networking results from this first step alone.

2. Get clear on your definition of success.

Retain a laser-like focus by being crystal clear on your objective, i.e. what you actually want to achieve from networking. Perhaps it’s to:

It could be anything. Once you have a clear objective, you can work on crafting an elevator pitch that gets people excited about wanting to help you achieve it. The result? A sizzling first impression.

Just remember the cardinal rule of networking is to focus on other people’s interests before your own. As Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” 

3. Invest in your personal brand.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is scrimping on their personal brand. Tidy up your social accounts and your personal website, and get some good quality business cards that:

In the world of Squarespace/Wix and Fiverr/Upwork, there’s no reason not to have at least a reasonably professional online presence, irrespective of where you’re at in your career.

In reference to creating a killer website for his brand new (at the time) School of Greatness podcast, Lewis Howes told me, “The website needed to look professional if I was to attract high level people to appear on the show. If it looked amateur, I would only attract amateurs.” Invest in your personal brand.

4. Get out there.

At this stage you should be fired up and ready to go, like Usain Bolt on the starting blocks! Test out your skills in every interaction you have, whether at a coffee shop, the dog park, in a business meeting—everywhere. The aim is to quickly establish rapport and get comfortable communicating with authenticity. Carry an air of confidence, trying to draw out a smile from others. If you’ve done step one, you’ll know that you need to be:

Find a list of conferences/events that are in your industry. If possible, connect with a few people beforehand who might be attending—you can easily find them via an industry FB page, the event’s FB page or posting to your own network. Having some conversations locked in can help you warm up and feel more confident than fronting it blind. Make sure you look professional, but natural and authentic.

When you start to meet people of interest, and have offered value to them, ask them to suggest 1-2 people you absolutely need to connect with at the event. When they offer some names, ask for an introduction. The original lifestyle entrepreneur Tim Ferriss once outlined his networking strategy as: “Go narrow. Go long.” A deep, trusted relationship with a few people is exponentially more powerful than a surface-level acquaintance with many.

Experience is an essential part of mastering your craft, and remember that you’ve already done most of the hard work, so excitedly get out there and get your “sea legs”.

5. Keep in touch.

Continue to offer value without the expectation of anything in return—perhaps it’s an article that might interest them, an introduction to someone you know, or a brief catch up to hear more about their journey and how you can help.

Down the track, start hosting your own mastermind catch ups to really turbocharge your network. Never underestimate how valuable a core team of enthusiastic supporters can be on every aspect of your life.

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Remember, networking is not event-specific—it is an “all the time” skill. Judge success on the number of real relationships you’ve made and invest in them long term, rather than risk burning them for short term gain.

Follow this simple formula and see how quickly your impact is amplified. After all, your network is your net worth.

Onwards and upwards always,
James W.

Ready to win the day, every day? 

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