17 Actionable Ideas From Books That Can Help You Live A Happier and More Successful Life

These ideas will truly impact your life

Vincent Carlos
Oct 24, 2020 · 14 min read
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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

The average CEO reads one book a week. That’s 50+ books a year!

Why do they do this? Because highly successful people know that the key to living a happy and successful life is having a dedication to lifelong learning.

Unfortunately, information by itself isn’t enough to live a happy, healthy, and successful life.

“If information was all it took,” Derek Sivers once said, “then we’d all be self made billionaires with 6 pack abs, living on the beach somewhere.”

Instead, what we need to do is take the information we read in books and figure out how to actually implement it into our lives.

So if you’re ready to take action, here are 17 actionable ideas from the books I’ve read that will help you live a happier, healthier, and more successful life:

1) If You Want To Be More Influential, Use The Power of “Because”

In 1977, Harvard social psychologist Ellen Langer did a famous experiment where she asked people who were waiting in line to use a photocopy machine if she could cut in front of them.

Langer would simply walk up to the front of the line, look at the innocent bystander, and ask, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”

The result? Only 60% of the people she asked this let her cut in front of them.

However, when Langer changed her statement slightly and asked, “Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine because I have five pages?” Langer found that almost everyone (93%) let her cut in front of them.

Why? The use of the word “because.” In the book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” psychologist and marketing professor Robert Cialdini says,

“A well-known principle of human behavior says that when we ask someone to do us a favor we will be more successful if we provide a reason. People simply like to have reasons for what they do.”

2) Write Down Important Ideas You Want To Learn

Humans are inherently bad at retaining information. We forget almost all of the things we read and hear about. However, when we write things down, we’re far more likely to retain it.

This is exactly what Beethoven used to do when he composed music. In the book “Managing Oneself,” Peter Drucker, the founder of modern business management, says,

“Beethoven left behind an enormous number of sketch books, yet he said he never actually looked at them when he composed. Asked why he kept them, he is reported to have replied, “If I don’t write it down immediately, I forget it right away. If I put it into a sketchbook, I never forget it and I never have to look it up again.”

This is why whenever I learn about an interesting idea, I write it down immediately. I write it down so I can understand and remember the concept better. Even if you don’t ever re-read what it is you wrote down, the simple act of writing it down will help you increase your ability to retain information.

3) Make Your Bed In The Morning

In the book “Make Your Bed,” legendary Naval Admiral William H. McRaven says that if you want to find success, and maybe even change the world in the process, then you should start off by making your bed.

Why? Because when you make your bed first thing in the morning, you’ve accomplished your first task of the day. This puts you in a “winning” mindset and makes it easier for you to accomplish your next task.

“And, if by chance you have a miserable day,” McRaven says, “you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”

So the next time you wake up after a nights sleep, make your bed. It’ll only take you a few seconds.

4) Get Your Most Important Work Done In The First 3 Hours of Your Day

Researchers have found that, on any given day, you have a limited amount of willpower. In the book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller, founder of the largest real estate company in the world, says,

“Because you have a limited supply of willpower, each act of will creates a win-lose scenario where winning in an immediate situation through willpower makes you more likely to lose later because you have less of it.”

Willpower, therefore, is a timing issue, which means you have to learn to manage it and make it work in your favor.

If you have something important or difficult to do, don’t make it harder than it needs to be by waiting until the end of the day to do it. If you wait until later in the day, when your willpower is at its lowest, then you’re either never going to do it or you’re not going to do it well.

Instead, you should always do the hardest things first in the day because that’s when you have maximum willpower.

5) Become Genuinely Interested In Other People By Asking Questions

“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.”

This quote comes from the classic book “How To Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This is one of the many key principles that Carnegie talks about in his book, and is something I’ve consciously tried to do in my own life as well: “become genuinely interested in other people.”

Since reading this book, I’ve found there is always something genuinely interesting in other people, whether it relates to what they do, what they want to do, or what they like to do. All I need to do is find that specific interest I have in someone, and then ask them questions about it.

The great thing about this is that because what I’m asking is interesting to me, I become genuinely interested in them. As a result, this build a greater connection between me and the person I’m talking to.

6) Marry Someone Who Complements You and Supports You

Whether it’s a seminar, a conference, a book, or a personal development course, nothing will ever be as good for your success and personal growth than finding the person you’re going to marry.

Studies consistently show that married individuals live longer, they maintain better health, and they’re happier. Married individuals also do better financially than single individuals.

According to the book “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially,” Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher provide evidence that shows that even after controlling for age, education and other demographics, married people make 10 to 50 percent more than single people. And it’s not because financially successful people get married, but because a healthy marriage between two people who complement each other naturally leads to financial success.

Why? Because being with someone who supports you naturally makes you a better person. They challenge you, they show you what you need to work on, and they push you farther than you could’ve ever pushed yourself.

It shouldn’t be surprising then that the average millionaire gets married early, many of whom got married before they were successful. These findings suggest that if you want to be successful in life, you should find someone who complements you and who you can depend on.

7) Pare Down The Number of Decisions You Make Every Day

Every single day, you make thousands of decisions: Should I hit the snooze button or not? What time should I leave for work? Should I exercise today? And if so, what time?

Some of these decisions are important, but most are trivial. Unfortunately, studies have shown that, as humans, our capacity to consistently make well thought out decisions is finite.

What this means is that when you use your brainpower earlier in the day deciding what to eat for breakfast, for example, you’ll consequently have less of it later in the day when you have to decide if you should have that piece of cake or not. This is what’s known as decision fatigue, which is the psychological condition where making a decision in the present will reduce your decision-making ability in the future.

John Tierney, the coauthor of the New York Times bestselling book “Willpower,” says,

“Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price. It’s different from ordinary physical fatigue — you’re not consciously aware of being tired — but you’re low on mental energy.”

Simply put, every decision you make uses up your mental energy. So in order to save your mental power for the important decisions of the day, you have to learn to automate the mundane decisions you experience on a daily basis.

8) Spend Money (But Not On Stuff)

We’ve all heard the phrase “money can’t buy you happiness.”

But is this actually true?

The short answer is yes.

Money actually can buy you happiness, but only if spent on doing things as opposed to being spent on having things.

In the book “Luxury Fever,” economist Robert Frank concludes, after a careful review of evidence, that those who think money can’t buy happiness just don’t know how to spend it properly.

Frank says that the positive feelings we get from material objects are fleeting. Spending money on experiences, however, produces positive emotions that are both meaningful and longer lasting.

Frank’s research says that spending money on activities, such as a concert, a ski trip or a group dinner out, brought far more happiness than material purchases like shoes, cars or expensive watches.

When spending money, learn to spend it on experiences, rather than on material possessions.

9) Write A List of The 50 Things You Want To Achieve In Life

In the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen R. Covey talks about the importance of knowing what you want in life. Covey talks about the idea that life is meant to be lived out intentionally. It’s not meant to be left up to chance. More often than not, though, this is what most people tend to do.

3 years ago, I was like this. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. And because of this, I wasn’t doing anything with my life. Having no direction, I decided to make a change and to think every day about what I wanted my life to look like.

This is why I wrote a list of the 50 things I want to do (and will do) with my life in the next 20 years. This was a list that was very hard to create but the benefit of knowing what you want in life is that you start seeing opportunities all around you to then act on what you want. This allows you to act on your goals faster because you know whose advice to take, what opportunities to say yes to, and what information is important for you to learn.

10) Get Your Daily Routine Right

Having a list of goals for yourself is just one part of the equation. The second part of the equation is you then have to set up your daily routine to get you closer to those goals.

The historian Will Durant (not Aristotle) once said, “we are what we repeatedly do.” But if you are what you repeatedly do, then becoming a success isn’t the result of specific actions you take, but is the result of habits you build into your life.

This means that success isn’t something you seek out. Instead, success is the accumulation of habits you build into your daily routine. In turn, those habits are what build you a successful life.

This is what most people fail to do. Often times, you get people who say they want to build an audience online, start and grow a business, or run a marathon, but what they do on a daily basis doesn’t reflect that.

So tell me, what does a typical day for you look like? Can you say that what you’re doing on a daily basis will bring you closer toward achieving your goals? If not, then think to yourself, how different would your regular day need to be in order for you to accomplish your goals and dreams?

11) Build One Habit Before You Work On Building Another

When it comes to building a new habit, research shows that it takes an average of 66 days. So whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months to build a habit, learn to stick with that action long enough until it becomes a part of your daily routine.

Once you build one habit into your life, then you can work on building another habit. If, however, you split your discipline trying to wake up at 5:00 am every day, write every day, read every day, and go for a run every day, you’ll most likely not be able to carry through on any of them.

In the book “The One Thing,” Gary Keller says,

“Success is sequential, not simultaneous. No one actually has the discipline to acquire more than one powerful new habit at a time. Super-successful people aren’t superhuman at all; they’ve just used selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time.”

12) Start Creating A Large Volume of Work

People who are considered original, such as Seth Godin, Picasso, or Mozart, do not always consistently create work that is great.

Seth Godin, for example, has once said that over 50% of his posts are average. Yet, Seth Godin is one of the greatest and most popular writers in the world.

The total number of artworks that Picasso created in his life has been estimated to be around 50,000 works of art, but Picasso is only known for about 10 pieces of art.

Similarly, among the 50 greatest pieces of music ever created, 6 belong to Mozart. But in order to create those 6, Mozart had to write over 600 songs.

Not everything Godin, Picasso, and Mozart created was innovative and revolutionary.

In the book “Originals,” Adam Grant says,

“It’s widely assumed that there’s a trade-off between quantity and quality — if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it — but this turns out to be false. In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.”

What this means is, in order to create a few masterpieces of your own, you need to learn to create a lot. So what large volume of work are you creating?

13) If You Want To Be Persuasive, Get The Incentives Right

In the book “Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect,” Matthew Lieberman, a social cognitive neuroscience professor at UCLA, says,

“Pain and pleasure are the driving forces of our motivational lives.”

This should be obvious, but so many people don’t understand how important incentives are for shaping people’s motivation to do something.

If you want to persuade someone to do something, whether it’s to buy your book or work well on your team, then you need to get the incentives right.

This is the most important rule when it comes to influencing other people to take action. As Benjamin Franklin once said,

“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest and not to reason.”

14) Keep A Calendar On Your Wall

In the book “Deep Work,” author and professor Cal Newport shares the productivity method that Jerry Seinfeld used to become a successful comedian.

What was the method Seinfeld used? He kept a calendar on his wall. And for every day that Seinfeld worked on his craft as a comedian, he would cross out the date on the calendar with a big red X.

“After a few days, you’ll have a chain,” Seinfeld said. “Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing the chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain. Don’t break the chain.”

This method works because it breaks down your biggest goals into small goals you can achieve today. All you have to do is focus on making the next X.

15) Stretch Regularly

I’d bet a lot of money that you’re reading this article while sitting in a chair.

Am I right? If so, here’s the bad news: Although sitting in a chair may seem like a completely normal and comfortable thing to do, an evolutionary perspective would say that sitting in a chair could actually be quite harmful.

In the book “The Story of The Human Body,” Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman says that the act of sitting in a chair is not something our bodies are meant to do for long periods of time.

According to Lieberman, a common problem caused by sitting in a chair for hours at a time is your muscles start to atrophy. This is because when you’re sitting, you’re not using any of your leg muscles to support your weight. As a result, Lieberman says,

“Your muscles will start to deteriorate in response to prolonged periods of inactivity by losing muscle fibers, especially the slow twitch fibers that provide endurance. Months and years of sitting with poor posture in comfortable chairs combined with other sedentary habits therefore allow trunk and abdominal muscles to be weak and to fatigue rapidly.”

This doesn’t mean you have to stop sitting in your comfortable chair. I’m surely not. But what Lieberman suggests you definitely do is stretch.

“Fortunately, stretching effectively increases muscle length and flexibility, making it a good idea for anyone spending long hours in a chair to get up and stretch regularly.”

16) Be A Continuous Student By Trying To Learn From Everybody

Genghis Khan was one of the greatest military minds who ever lived. More importantly, though, he was also a continual student, whose victories were largely the result of his ability to take the best ideas, innovations, and practices from every culture his empire encountered.

In the book “Ego Is The Enemy,” Ryan Holiday says,

“Under Genghis Khan’s direction, the Mongols were as ruthless about stealing and absorbing the best of each culture they encountered as they were about conquest itself. Though there were essentially no technological inventions, no beautiful buildings or even great Mongol art, with each battle and enemy, their culture learned and absorbed something new. Genghis Khan was not born a genius. Instead, as one biographer put it, his was “a persistent cycle of pragmatic learning, experimental adaptation, and constant revision driven by his uniquely disciplined and focused will.”

Genghis Khan became the greatest conqueror the world has ever known because of his willingness to learn from others more than any other conqueror that has come before and after him.

17) Create Multiple Streams of Income

Based on all the finance books I’ve read, the average millionaire has seven sources of income.

The average person, however, only has one source of income, which is typically their job.

Having just one source of income isn’t terrible, but the danger of only having one source of income is what happens when things go bad?

What happens if the economy goes into another recession or when your company finds someone better who can do your work at a cheaper price?

On the other hand, what would happen if you set things up so that you were getting income from seven different places each month? It would probably do a lot for you.

Understand that if you’re like most people, who rely only on their salary from their job, then you’re going to make a lot less money than you should and you’re going to enjoy life a lot less.

This is why Warren Buffett says creating multiple streams of income is one of the most important principles you can learn in life. All it takes in order to do this, though, is a little bit of discipline and a desire to learn.

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Vincent Carlos

Written by

2X LinkedIn ‘Top Voice’ Writer | Avid Reader | Interested In Spreading Good Ideas | Join My Book Club @ www.vincentcarlos.com

Books Are Our Superpower

Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim to build a community of book lovers sharing about the books that moved them the most.

Vincent Carlos

Written by

2X LinkedIn ‘Top Voice’ Writer | Avid Reader | Interested In Spreading Good Ideas | Join My Book Club @ www.vincentcarlos.com

Books Are Our Superpower

Book reviews, recommendations, summaries, rants — as long as it is related to books, your piece is welcome here. We aim to build a community of book lovers sharing about the books that moved them the most.

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