When asked, “What superpower would you want to have?” by a student at Nebraska State University, billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both responded with a rather unconventional answer.

But before I reveal that, how would YOU answer that questions?

If you could have any superpower related to your business, what would it be?

Would you be a super closer? Capable of selling premium priced products and services with ease?

Or perhaps a super marketer? Able to effectively share your message and get your brand in front of millions?

What about a super leader? Someone with the ability to influence and persuade your employees, keeping them motivated, inspired, and performing at 100%?

Gates said simply, “Being able to read super fast.”

Then Buffett, without a moment of hesitation, echoed the sentiment, claiming, “I’ve probably wasted 10 years reading slowly.”

Think about that for a second…

Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, two of the richest and most powerful men on the planet, both claimed that the most important super power a CEO can acquire is the ability to rapidly consume and (assumedly) implement important ideas.

And I want to take their point a step further.

Although how you read (e.g. your reading speed) is undeniably important, I would argue that what you read is far more impactful.

You can speed read 150 mediocre books over the course of the year without learning anything valuable or gleaning any actionable wisdom.

Inversely, you could read one book at a snail’s pace and it could change your life forever.

The right book can alter the way you do business, approach your goals, manage employees, invest your money, and live your life.

It can fundamentally change who you are from the inside out and help you accomplish your big dreams faster than you ever thought possible.

So today, I wanted to share with you my eight favorite books from 2018.

From changing my perspective on my own importance to shedding light on humanity’s rather dismal trajectory to inspiring, motivating, and empowering me to live my Perfect Life, I am not exaggerating when I say that these books changed my life.

And who knows, if you read and apply them, maybe they will change yours too.

1. Relentless by Tim Grover

I’ve read Tim Grover’s Relentless three times, and I rarely read a book twice … or even finish most of the ones I start!

If you don’t know Tim or aren’t familiar with his book, you should be. He spent decades working with the world’s top athletes—people like Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan among many others—training them to be relentless, unstoppable icons of their chosen sport.

And today, he shares those same lessons and principles through his book and keynote speeches (like the one he gave at the 2018 Perfect Life Retreat).

One of the most important things that Tim teaches in his book is the “Relentless 13”—a list of 13 guiding principles that, when followed, raise high-achievers above the crowd and help them achieve true greatness.

And I can tell you from firsthand experience, Tim’s book and the 13 principles shared within it, are the antidote to anxiety, procrastination, fear, laziness, and just about any other negative mental state in which you find yourself.

Anytime my progress towards my goals is slow or my life starts to feel like it’s slipping out of my control, I pick up Relentless and read three pages.

That’s it. Three pages a day keep all of the fear, frustration, and laziness away.

Anytime you’re feeling down, unmotivated, or depressed, pick up Tim’s book, read a few pages, and watch your state shift in an instant.

2. Sapiens & Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari

In 2018, few authors fascinated, informed, or flat out terrified me as much as Professor Yuval Noah Harari, a leading historian and tenured professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In his first book Sapiens, Professor Harai sets out to explain why we do what we do and how human (homo sapiens) won the battle against homo erectus for world domination. He also sheds some light on our species historically destructive nature and the fact that we’ve been destroying the environment and exterminating other species for millennia (so don’t feel too much guilt when you forget to recycle those kombucha bottles).

Sapiens was a fantastic ‘before bed’ read that helped me develop a better understanding of the (seemingly) irrational behavior that humans exhibit in personal and professional settings.

Oh, and it also had some great stories about how we’ve domesticated dogs to the point where we treat them like children.

And while Sapiens enlightened, informed, and encouraged me, Homo Deus, on the other hand, terrified me (seriously, do not read this one before bed!)

While Sapiens analyzes our species past, Homo Deus examines our future, exploring the implications of robotics, AI, and our current political ecosystem.  

Quite ironically, Professor Harari argues that the companies that are racing to profit from AI, machine learning, and robotics are the very companies bringing our species closer to extinction and the end of mankind as we know it.

Thanks for that uplifting message Professor!

And, although I haven’t read it, I’ve heard from many mentors and friends that 21 Lessons for the 21st Century is equally as informative (and terrifying) as its predecessors.

To quote my mentor Mark Ford:

“After enjoying Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, I couldn’t resist ordering a copy of 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, also by Yuval Noah Harari. This is a very different book. It’s not about how, over millennia, we came to be what we are. It’s about a specific cultural threat that we face right now. And that threat is the one suggested in Sapiens: that 21st century Homo sapiens face the threat of extinction because of advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and neurobiology, to name a few. And these changes, Harari persuasively argues, will make contemporary men (i.e., us) less and less necessary.”

Simply put, if you want to gain a more in-depth understanding of our species past, present, and future, Professor Harari is the man to help you do it.

3. Prediction Machines by Ajay Agrawal

If you just finished reading Homo Deus and find yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to escape your AI-fueled nihilism and existential dread, hold up a second. Don’t jump off that cliff just yet!

While Harari makes a case that AI will destroy the world and lead to the inevitable obsolescence of the human race, Agrawal argues in his book Prediction Machines, that AI will actually make the world a better place and lead to a more empowering and exciting future for all.

The only problem is that he seems just a tad too cheery about the topic.

If Harari is today’s Cassandra, Agrawal is our modern day Pollyanna.

After finishing both books (which make excellent counterpoints to one another), I’ve come to accept that, in the end, the future is unpredictable.

There are bound to be more than a few Black Swan events over the next few decades that will determine the course of humanity and there seems to be little we can do to predict or control them (that’s why they’re Black Swans afterall).

Will we get a Skynet? Or the Singularity?

Eutopia or mass extinction?

Only time will tell.

4. Skin in the Game by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Mr. Taleb has some very important things to say regarding humanity, happiness, and the progression of our species… And he takes a long, long, long time to say them.

In Skin in The Game, Taleb sets out on a rather lengthy explanation of an aphorism that everyone and their grandmother know to be true.

But like most of his books, it was a fun and engaging read that left me with plenty to consider (and more than a few new words to add to my lexicon).

As Taleb’s copywriter explained on the back cover of his book:

“The phrase “skin in the game” is one we have often heard but rarely stopped to truly dissect. It is the backbone of risk management, but it’s also an astonishingly rich worldview that, as Taleb shows in this book, applies to all aspects of our lives. As Taleb says, “The symmetry of skin in the game is a simple rule that’s necessary for fairness and justice, and the ultimate BS-buster,” and “Never trust anyone who doesn’t have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them.”

And I would be remiss not to share the greatest description of Taleb, as found on the back of his book:

“The problem with Taleb is not that he’s an a*shole. He is an a*shole. The problem with Taleb is that he is right.”—Dan from Prague, Czech Republic (Twitter)

5. Man-Up by Bedros Keuilian

If Relentless missed any measure of motivation, my friend Bedros Keuilian’s book, Man-Up, covered the rest.

After growing up in abject poverty–when he came home with lice his mother had to wash his hair with gasoline because they couldn’t afford medicated shampoo–Bedros spent the first decade of his adult life as an overweight line cook with extreme insecurity and anxiety.

Today, he’s the Founder of Fit Body Bootcamp (one of the fastest growing franchises in America), a father, husband, fitness freak, and the quintessential embodiment of the Operator.

As both my business partner and coach, Bedros has changed my life in more ways than I can count and his new book Man-Up perfectly encapsulates the stories and lessons that fueled his American Dream success story of rags-to-riches.

If you’re ready to cut the crap, kick butt, and dominate in your business and life, Bedros’ story of going from a broke immigrant without a dollar to his name to building a 9-figure franchise and becoming one of the leading authorities on business and entrepreneurship will fire you up, elevate your leadership skills, and help you take full ownership of your life and results.

6. Principles by Ray Dalio

Considering that Principles was voted as the #1 Business Book on Amazon in 2017, I’m a little late to the party.

But over the holidays, I finally made the time to sit down and read it and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

One of the first articles I wrote for Early to Rise (before I actually owned it) was about the personal rules for my life, which I refer to as my “Operating System”.

Billionaire investor Ray Dalio takes this idea to the extreme.

He’s built systems from everything in his life and business and his rag-to-riches story (with an early implosion) reminds us that everyone goes through hard times and lasting success is only achieved by those who operate under time tested and failure-forged principles.

If you’ve been struggling to find a “guidance system” for your life or build your own operating system for success, Principles will give you the tools and tactics you need to build a life and business on your terms.

7. Unstoppable by Craig Ballantyne

Yes, I know, Unstoppable is my book (hey, there are a few benefits to writing the ‘best book’ lists!)

But before you claim that this is “cheating”, I actually did read Unstoppable (multiple times) during the editing phase and after its publication.

If you haven’t read it yet–you can grab the Kindle version here or the audiobook version here–the recently minted Wall Street Journal Bestseller Unstoppable is my personal story of coping with and overcoming high performance anxiety.

After checking into the ER on New Year’s Day 2006 with an anxiety attack (that I thought at the time to be a heart attack), I underwent a half-decade battle with chronic anxiety and overwhelm.

Unstoppable is my story of overcoming that anxiety and, more importantly, a play-by-play gameplan to help you beat anxiety, get through hell, and dominate in business and life.

If you’ve ever woken up in the middle of the night stressed about bills, or your business, or your performance at work, Unstoppable will show you how to turn the tide in the battle against one of our society’s most pervasive mental illnesses and achieve lasting success and sustainable high performance for years to come.

8. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is, without a doubt, the most important book I read last year and easily one of the most important books I’ve read in my entire life (falling just behind Discourses, Meditations, and Man’s Search for Meaning).

The reason is simple.

It gives some much needed perspective on a rather cheery fact…

We’re all going to die.

And no one is going to remember you.

Despite what you might infer from the above statements, I’m not being sarcastic.

The fact that you will die and be forgotten by 99.99% of population is cheery news.

I’ll explain in a minute. But before I do, let’s play a game.

Without using Google, I want you to quickly name five Roman Emperors.

Right off the bat, we have Julius Cesar, of course.

We’ve all heard, “Nero fiddled while Rome Burned”. Ok, so that’s two.

If you’re a fan of philosophy, then you’ve probably stumbled across the Stoic Emperor/philosopher Marcus Aurelius. Alright, that’s three.

Cesar Augustus was mentioned in the Bible, so that brings us to four.

But who else? Anyone?

Oh right, Constantine! The guy who moved the center of the Roman Empire from Rome to modern day Istanbul. That’s five!

While I am, of course, teasing you. The point of the above exercise is to give you a lesson about perspective.

There were dozens of other men who wore “The Purple” including: Hadran, Caligula, Claudius, Tiberius, Commodus, Nerva, Titus, Galba, and countless others.

And yet, here we are, 2,000 years later. And almost no one remembers arguably the greatest Roman emperor to ever live (Trajan) or my favorite, Julian The Apostate.

But I digress.

The point of all this is that 2,000 years after their reign (a mere drop in the bucket of our species 200,000 year long history), the common man has forgotten the names of men who once ruled the world.

And I promise that 2,000 years from now, they will forget you too.

And that is good news.

Because this gives you the freedom to live life as you see fit. To stop keeping up with the Jones’. To get over the fact that you don’t have a new iPhone XR 1,000 with the 500 Mega Pixel camera. To stop worrying about the number of ‘likes’ on your YouTube videos.

None of these things matter in the long run.

Sure, Skynet may one day have a permanent record of your most embarrassing Facebook photos for a future Terminator to download into its murderous super computer system.

But history won’t remember you.

So let things go. Live your life as it is right now.

Marcus Aurelius would agree.

Very little is needed to make a happy life. It’s all within yourself and your way of thinking.

So be happy now and let the rest go.

It doesn’t matter anyways.

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Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at craigballantyne.com

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