Why do we read?

When I moved abroad I changed one minor thing in my life. It turned out to have major positive influence on the same. 

Instead of wasting 'unused time windows' I began reading. Ten minutes in the taxi? No social media but listening to audio books. Three hours in the plane? Reading a book instead of watching a movie. 

We all are busy people. We do not often get the chance to sit down and pick up a book. Anyways we all know those 'unused time windows' and we encounter them every day. Why not use them for personal development?

 

Books are like treasure chests brimming with knowledge and wisdom that can actually make us rich. Rich in inspiration and motivation, rich in skills and rich in monetary means.

The following books are among the best I have ever read. They helped me to keep learning, keep asking questions, keep pushing, keep a positive mindset and never ever stop pursuing progress.

Emotional, Cognitive and Behavioral Dynamics

'Emotional self-control - delaying gratification and stifling impulsiveness - underlies accomplishment of every sort.'
- Daniel Goleman

 

I believe this category ranks among the most important ones because behavioral and cognitive dynamics influence our own lives in all aspects. Understanding the possibilities and limitations of our cognitive and behavioral framework as a result of several thousand years of evolution is important gain and keep control of our lives. How we think influences how we feel. Our emotions effect our reactions. Our reactions determine how we get along with ourselves, our lives and other people.

Understanding those influences and reciprocal dynamics is a requirement for building self-awareness and developing an understanding yet critical perspective on our own tendencies towards instinctive and impulsive behavior. By helping us to understand and manage our own emotions and behavior it paves the way to improve our empathy and do the same with other people.

Daniel Goleman - Emotional Intelligence

The term Emotional Intelligence first appeared in a paper by Michael Beldoch in 1964 and gained worldwide popularity through Daniel Goleman’s identically-named bestseller in 1995. Goleman claims that the Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ) offers a more precise prediction for future success in life than the classic Intelligence Quotient (IQ) does. Emotional Intelligence allows us to navigate efficiently through the storm of emotions and reach our goals in life.

This form of intelligence is important for everybody but especially for expats. Living and working abroad is like the craziest roller coaster in the theme park: The one going up for an eternity just to catapult you down into a series of adrenaline pumping lopings. That one we were afraid of as a child. But we are not a child anymore – we want to ride it! Together with resilience, emotional intelligence is our seat belt so that after many ups and downs we are still ourselves and remain grounded.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to

  • Recognize, understand and manage one’s own emotions

  • Recognize, understand and influence the emotions of others

 

Emotional Intelligence allows keeping a ‘cool head’. Emotional intelligent people are (self-) aware of their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, values and goals and those of the people around them. They do not instinctively act on disruptive emotions. They have the ability to label those emotions appropriately. Emotions convey information, which emotional intelligent people can use to guide their thinking and behavior. This allows the adaption to changing environments and circumstances.  Social skills like the management of relationships in a desired direction through empathy are greatly determined by emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligent people tend to be able to delay gratification and pursue long-term goals in life. 

Daniel Goleman's master piece offers a comprehensive understanding about the concept of emotional intelligence.
Especially helpful I found the explanations about the processes that happen in our brains and bodies when we think and feel. An excellent read with a lot of relevance for our own lives. An absolute 'must read'!

Daniel Kahnemann - Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahnemann's 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' covers a similar topic as Daniel Goleman's 'Emotional Intelligence' (see above). In this book Daniel Kahnemann describes that our thinking process are dominated by two dichotomy means of thoughts.

 

The first system is dominated by instinctive and impulsive behavior often strongly influenced by emotions. It's major advantage is that it acts very fast which can have lifesaving impact in certain situations. The second system is slower, more well-thought-out and logic dominates. 

The book also covers the cognitive biases that arise from the two different systems. The summary of decades of research work combined with practical explanations and examples makes this book a good investment.

Mark Manson - The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

In 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' by Mark Manson is a refreshing read about our focus on life. Instead of focusing on 'finding happiness' Mark Manson promotes the idea of accepting daily struggles and hardship as an integral part of life. He states that the absence of problems does not equal happiness. Instead we should focusing on solving the right problems since this will give us purpose and fulfillment.

Mark Manson has a brutally direct yet entertaining narrative that puts the mirror in front our own misconceptions about life and the pursuit of happiness. I read 'The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck' within two days. It is my favorite book of 2019 so far. A high recommended read!

Communication 

The quality of life is determined by the quality of our communication. How we communicate with ourselves creates our personal experience and how we communicate with others determines how we are treated throughout our lives.' 
— Tom Hoobyar

Communication is the factor when it comes to success in life and job. Communication comprises the range of soft skills that will never be replaced by artificial intelligence. When the understanding of emotional, cognitive and behavioral dynamics is the basement of a house then communication is the first floor. Successful communication requires a solid foundation of emotional and behavioral awareness. 

Communication is never easy. Especially across cultures and language barriers communication can be challenging. And this challenge often decides success or failure. In this communication category I list literature that covers communication in general but also inter-cultural communication.

In her book 'The Culture Map' Erin Meyer decodes in an entertaining and practical manner the most important differences across cultures in regards to communication, decision making and business. 

Suddenly the 'weird' behavior of our foreign friends, colleagues and customers make sense since we understand their characteristics and background. Erin Meyer uses for her explanations many examples which makes this book very practical and easy to comprehend. With 288 pages 'The Culture Map' is on point and helps us to maneuver ourselves successfully through the pitfalls of global work environments. An absolute must read living and working internationally.

Carmine Gallo - Five Stars: From Good to Great 

After 'Talk like TED' (see below), Carmine Gallo wrote 'Five Stars: From Good to Great'. It emphasizes the importance of extraordinary communication skills for anyone who wish to thrive in the future and want to protect their professional profile from being disrupted by artificial intelligence. 

After an introduction which in my opinion could be shorter, Carmine Gallo highlights all aspects of a persuasive narrative by using many historic examples. Storytelling will remain the method of connecting and influencing people besides all technological growth. The author provides the reader with the necessary toolkit to get ready for the future by applying old communication techniques, which have proves themselves countless times in human history.

Leadership & People Management

The quality of life is determined by the quality of our communication. How we communicate with ourselves creates our personal experience and how we communicate with others determines how we are treated throughout our lives.' 
— Tom Hoobyar

Leadership and people management is applied communication. It puts what we learned in the books about communication (see above) in the concrete context of supporting people in becoming their best version of themselves and deliver exceptional results at work and in life. Strong leadership and people management skills are a 'must have' for anyone who wants to take over more responsibilities and make a difference in the world.

'How to Win Friends & Influence People' is considered the bible of leadership and people management. This classic from 1936 explain the fundamental techniques of handling people. The books is divided in three sections:

  1. Basics methods in handling people

  2. Six techniques to make people like you

  3. Twelve ways to win people to persuade people of your way of thinking

  4. How to be a leader: wow to change people offending them or triggering resentment

From the many books that leadership expert John C. Maxwell wrote, 'The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership' is the most popular one. It summarizes all his findings and comprises them in 336 pages.

The book contains practical exercises after every chapter which makes it easy for the reader to apply the newly gained knowledge in real life. The leadership assessment is an additional gimmick which gives us the opportunity to see where we are standing on our journey to becoming a strong leader. 

This book is not for nothing considered to be 'the bible of leadership'.

Additional tips and tricks to thrive in life

The last category of literature includes books which do not fall into any of the above listed topics yet provide incredible content to further build on the knowledge and skills we can take out of the literature listed above.

Carmine Gallo - Talk like TED

'You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.' - John Ford  

 

Public speaking is one of the skills that is highly under represented among leaders in public and private offices. It is sad to see when corporate executives can not convey a compelling message to a crowd. I really do believe that this actually hurts the business or at least prevents taking advantage of the opportunities that public speaking bring along. In the end any form of public appearances is marketing: Marketing of ourselves as a person and marketing for the organization or cause we represent. How and how often we present ourselves on a stage determines the image we create about ourselves in public. Good ideas do not sell themselves. They need a persuasive communicator who conveys the message wrapped into a captivating story. Public speaking is no 'secret gift' and no 'magic formula'. As in all aspects in life some people naturally are better with it and feel more comfortable than others. But this does not mean that everybody can learn it and multiply their capabilities multiple times. Even if we do not step on a big stage frequently - public speaking skills can be applied in any situation. From talking to our supervisor to get the budget released that we desperately need to conduct our work over presenting in a team meeting till talking at mum's birthday party.

I know exactly how hard the start it and that it makes us feel miserably uncomfortable. We might present to a peer group that is way more experienced in the topic than we are. We might speak in a foreign language while remembering all the important points. And this feeling will only lessen when we start speaking at any opportunity we get. Although there is no 'magic formula' to it there is a simple way. Not easy but simple:

1.      Learn about what good public speakers are made of

2.      Apply our knowledge at any opportunity given. This means volunteering whenever we can.

3.      Assess our own performance after the speech and identify points we want to improve for the next time.

4.      Continue point 2 and 3 over and over again. 

As Carmine Gallo points it out in 'Talk like TED' does it need in average 10,000 hours of practice to excel in about anything. Let it be speaking a foreign language, skateboarding, basketball, weightlifting, chess or ... public speaking. We can simply have a look at Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple. Steve is known for his outstanding presentation skills, e.g. in the orchestrated introduction of the first iPhone. When we have a look at his first public appearances though it is hard to believe that this is the same person. Steve Jobs was not born as an impressive public speaker. He himself created the public speaker Steve Jobs.

 

Carmine Gallo's 'Talk like TED' is by far the best book about public speaking I came across. It is the perfect start to tackle the above listed first point to learn about what makes good public speakers. Detailed yet sharp in his explanations, illustrative in his narrative and rich in examples from the best public speakers. I enjoyed every page of this book and together with my willingness to repeatedly expose myself to the uncomfortable situation of speaking in public it helped me tremendously to step up my presentation game.

Leil Lowndes - How to talk to anyone

​ We all like those books where you can just read two, three pages before going to bed without compromising getting the full value out of it.

 

Leil Lowndes' 'How to talk to anyone' falls under this category. It contains 92 little tricks that help us to connect to people more easily. Each trick is explained in an entertaining way and quite easy to understand. The gimmicks cover different topics from non-verbal communication and body language over introduction and small talk till how to talk about literally anything after an established connection.

This book is not about big pictures, life-changing questions or finding our purpose in life. 'How to talk to anyone' covers those little yet highly effective behavioral tricks we can learn in five minutes and apply the same day. Consciously we can repeat them over and over again in our daily lives until they become a standard procedure in our operating system. To just give one example: Instead of simply stating my position when being asked what I do for a living I now wrap it into a little story that takes the person I am talking to into consideration. So it becomes way more compelling for them because suddenly the things I do in my life become related to my conversation partner. And people suddenly asks me how I can 'naturally' connect so easily with other people and being so extroverted even though my nature I tend to be an introvert.

Buy this book, put it next to your bed, read one or two tricks before falling asleep and apply them directly the next day. You will see the difference.

Robert Kiyosaki - Rich Dad Poor Dad

Becoming an expat is a good opportunity to improve our income. Nevertheless if we do not have the mind- and skill set to build wealth and financial freedom we are likely to spend our money on things that drain our bank accounts instead of filling them.

Robert Kiyosaki's 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' is rightly considered to be the basic training for anyone who wants to acheive financial freedom. With anecdotes from his own life Robert explains in an captivating manner that the classic path of getting a college degree and a job is not enough to build substantial wealth. He explains the basic characteristics which distinguish a rich person's mindset and behavior from those of a poor person in such a way that even 12 year -olds would understand it. 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' puts light on the differences between assets and liabilities, what it means to 'pay yourself first' and that a high-paying job does not prevent you from staying broke (lifestyle inflation). He encourages the reader to escape the mindset of trading time for money and explains why it is important to delay gratification in order to escape the rat race. With those basic understandings Robert Kiyosaki builds the foundation for building passive income - the 'secret' to wealth and financial freedom.

Instead of sharing direct investment tips, Robert Kiyosaki helps the reader to build the mindset and fundamentals to take it further with more niche-orientated literature (e.g. see book 'Investing demystified' below). 'Rich Dad Poor Dad' is the first step to take your financials in your own hands and start creating wealth. Do not miss out on this one!

If you only read one single book on investing in financial markets (stocks, funds, ETF, etc.), then read 'Investing Demystified' by Lars Kroijer. Following the books subtitle 'How to Invest Without Speculation and Sleepless Nights' the author literally take out the myth of investments in financial markets for everyday people.

Instead of making the readers work on identifying their 'edge' over financial markets with the aim to outperform them, Lars Kroijer convincingly lays out why the average person never has an 'edge' in the market. By acknowledging this fact the readers emancipate themselves from the pressure of identifying the next 'ten bagger'. Instead of spending a lot of time and nerves on interpreting balance sheets Lars Kroijer encourages the reader to invest their time in other activities,  e.g. increasing their skill set to generate more income which then can be invested into cost-efficient indices-tracking ETFs or bonds depending on the individual life situation and risk level.

From personal experience I support Lars Kroijer's viewpoint that as individual investors we seldom have an 'edge' (advantage) over the market. Though I personally prefer to put some emphasis on specific sectors or geographies in my own portfolio. In any case due to its practicability 'Investing Demystified' is the one read about investing in financial markets that everyone should read. Turning the knowledge from the book into practice does not require any specific skills or education.

‘Everything is a negotiation. Everything is a little bit of give and take.’ – Lamman Rucker

For many decades the traditional perception of negotiation focused on facts and their presentation and argumentation. As a consequence many of the old-school negotiation books and guides focus on exactly that.

In the last years the academic and practical approach of teaching negotiation has changed. Nowadays the professional negotiator focuses on the partner and his/her emotions. By acknowledging irrationality and emotions, modern negotiators make the other person feel powerful and in charge while subtly steering the negotiation in the desired direction.

As expats we have to negotiate all the time: Expat contracts and assignment conditions, negotiations with suppliers or customers, colleagues or at home with our spouse and kids. As a former FBI Hostage Negotiator has a ton of experience in negotiating under immense pressure. In an entertaining narrative he is able to convey his key messages to the reader. 'Never Split the Difference' is the one book about negotation that everyone should read.