The 5 books that inspired me to get off my ass and start making changes in my life for the better

Eric Dykstra
Sep 8, 2016 · 5 min read

Knowledge isn’t power, but potential power. How these books motivated me to take action.

(this post originally published on

I read a lot of books, and they almost all increase my knowledge, but a select few create serious changes in behavior in my life. If it weren’t for these books, I wouldn’t be writing this post to you now. Instead, I’d probably be playing Overwatch, tabbing through useless websites on my browser out of habit, or something equally mundane. Together, these books have provided the right combination of inspiration, motivation, techniques, and strategies that took my musings about entrepreneurship out of my head and into action. These are not book reviews per se, although I think they’re all fantastic and I recommend them, but a summary of how these books affected me personally.

I listened to all of these books first as audiobooks and recommend that format if audio works for you. They are all narrated by the author, which, in my experience, is a huge positive for non-fiction books. So here they are, in the order of which I first consumed them:

1) Choose Yourself by James Altucher

This is my most listened-to audiobook since first picking it up 3 years ago. From the title, it might sound a little narcissistic: “Choose Yourself (instead of other people),” but the actual meaning of the title is “Choose Yourself (instead of waiting for others to choose you).”

I keep coming back to this book because listening to it is like sitting with someone I respect, teaching me life lessons through anecdotes and stories. Generally speaking, I don’t learn well from people who say “you should,” because who are they to say anything about what I should or shouldn’t do? I know my situation better than they do. Contrast that with James’s style, where instead of prescribing actions, he just tells what he’s learned from his own experiences and leaves the reader to interpret what the lessons mean for their own life.

2) Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Online music store CD Baby was created by Derek Sivers because his friends asked for it. Soon his friends’ friends asked to join, and then independent musicians worldwide joined in until it became a company that he sold for $22 million. This book is his story of how he created a company out of service to people who wanted it, and the lessons he learned along the way. The first time I read this book in December of last year, it filled me with ideas and dreams that I’ve been feeding off of since. Anything You Want has resonated with me because it describes a way of building a company that I can believe in.

The book is short, dense with information, and easy to read. It’s a book I’ve already gone back to once, and will continue to go back to as I hit different stages in my entrepreneurial journey. Since it’s just an hour long in its audio form, I can listen to it start to finish during a leisurely walk or while cleaning up around the house and be inspired again.

3) The End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson

Just as the title suggests, the majority of this book outlines why jobs as we know them are coming to an end, and why the new economy will be based around entrepreneurship. The first part of the book is a (convincing) argument that, going forward, entrepreneurship is the most lucrative and safe way to make a living. The rest of the book provides concrete steps to start taking advantage of the post-job economy. Reading this book gave me the push I needed to start making changes now. The 90 day goal setting plan provided is very well-constructed, and was the first step I needed to make my move to action.

4) The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza

This book is more valuable than every other marketing book I’ve read and every marketing classes I took in college. The Brain Audit combines scientific research, easy to understand examples, and a step-by-step guide to apply the method to your own marketing. Everything Sean writes about customer psychology lines up with other books I’ve read on psychology (such as Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and Influence by Robert Cialdini), but is written with action in mind.

Since listening to the audiobook, I’ve begun to analyze advertising campaigns that I see through the lens of The Brain Audit. Even though I’m still relatively green to marketing, I now have a game plan to move forward with marketing my own projects. I plan on using Sean’s other material, much of which lot of which is free on and in his email list, to continue studying in the future.

5) The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

Listening to Darren Hardy talk about The Compound Effect changed my life in the first day I started listening to it. I’ve already cut out time-wasting habits, resolved to put better ones in their place, and have taken inventory of more facets of my life that I didn’t even think about before… and I just finished the audiobook this morning! As soon as I sat down at my desk I went online and ordered more of his material (specifically: Living Your Best Year Ever).

The stories of Darren going above and beyond to get customers, to anecdotes of successes and failures of the people around him were extremely motivating. They illustrate that the difference between success and failure isn’t super intelligence, extreme creativity, or grandiose plans, but instead the small habits that make one better every day. The tactics and action-plans he set forward lined up with what I’ve read in a more academic book on habit-changing (The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal, another book I recommend).

What’s next?

Even though I’ve never met any of these authors in person, they have served as mentors to me through their work. In The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy says “Never ask advice of someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.” I read these authors because I admire the life lead and the value they have created for other people.

Here are places you can find these authors online if you’re interested in learning more about them or checking out some of their material before taking the plunge and buying their books:

James Altucher —

Derek Sivers —

Taylor Pearson —

Sean D’Souza —

Darren Hardy —

Eric Dykstra

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More posts at -> I write about programming and some other things.

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