Reading is an important ingredient in becoming a leader and succeeding in life. Reading exposes our weaknesses and helps us discover and develop our strengths. I know you’re thinking, “But I don’t want to read!” We all felt that way after high school or college, but I’ll let you in on a little secret: If you’re not willing to read, you’re not willing to grow. Education doesn’t end after graduation. We are either growing or we’re dying, and it’s our choice which one we do.

It was incredibly hard to pick just three books that have influenced me throughout the years, as there are a plethora of them that have shaped who I am today. I have probably learned more about leadership, mindset, success, and myself in the last 13 years after graduating college than I ever did in the classroom. 

Do you know how? 

By investing in myself through books! A $15 book was worth so much more than my $60,000 college education (that, by the way, I’m still paying off)! I decided to share three books from three different categories: personal-growth, success mindset, and people skills.

The first book, and probably my all-time favorite and most impactful in my life is:

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself  by Shad Helmsetter, PhD — this book taught me how to speak positively to myself and that I’m able to train my brain and spoken words to change how I think about myself. 

When I was in college, I experienced a very deep depression, and it was a dark, overwhelming time in my life. Interestingly, my friends and family wouldn’t have been able to guess it because, on the outside, I looked like a successful college student with tons of friends, involved in everything, ready to take on the world. I hid these emotions away for no one to see, but I was struggling internally, feeling alone and lost without a hope for the future — I was scared, and that fear trapped me.

Soon after graduation I linked up with a leadership team that taught success principles that I had never heard before. This book, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself, was one of the first from the recommended book list that I picked up and read. It appealed to me because I was still trying to climb my way out of the dark hole I was in. I was newly married, newly graduated, trying to figure out what to do with my life and still wrestling with who I was and who I wanted to become.

This book literally changed EVERYTHING! 

It’s crazy to say that, but it’s true! It helped me see the bad habits I had created in my self-talk that had catered to my depression. Shortly after reading the book and applying the principles within, I was able to wean off my medication and have never looked back. Now when I feel myself slipping back to return to that place because it happens now and again, I have the tools to pull myself out. I know how to talk to myself and have re-trained my brain to be kind in my own thoughts and words.

We talk to ourselves more than we do anyone else, so it’s vital to understand that the negative, counterproductive, and self-defeating talk is damaging to our self-worth. I’m telling you, this is a must read!!

The second book I picked is:

Failing Forward by leadership coach John Maxwell — this book taught me that success ONLY comes through failure. 

John Maxwell is probably my favorite leadership coach and author. He has been my “mentor” from afar and shares leadership principles in a way that are understandable and attainable. 

I used to think that failure was a bad word.

Getting a “B” on my report card was not acceptable, and even losing a board game was somewhat defeating to me. What I thought was that losing meant I was a failure. 

At our jobs we are expected to be seemingly perfect. We get strikes on our files if we mess up, and we can’t have too many of those before we’re replaced. It scares us into not trying new things because we don’t want to fail. 

Through this book I learned how to turn mistakes into turning points for success, and, more importantly, if I’m not willing to fail, then I also won’t win. You can’t win something you don’t try. John shares that what matters most is what we do after we fail. Do we stay there and wallow in our failure, or do we get up, brush ourselves off, and learn from it?

“There is no doubt in my mind that there are many ways to be a winner, but there is really only one way to be a loser and that is to fail and not look beyond the failure.” — Kyle Rote Jr., quoted in Failing Forward

That’s powerful! We can’t dwell on our past mistakes. We can’t live life comfortably and void of failure if we want to step up and go after our dreams. The things that matter will take us falling on our faces, scraping our knees, losing, failing, and making mistakes many times over in order to come up with the solution to get us to our victory.

Are you willing to fail forward? 

The third and final book I chose that had a huge impact on my life is:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie — this book taught me how to take my eyes off myself and focus on others. It’s an oldie but a goodie!

I am always right. Okay, so that’s not true, but I’m darn stubborn to wish I were always right! There’s a problem with that, though. Nobody likes an egotistical know-it-all. Yup, that was me. Selfish (i.e. full of myself), not willing to admit when I was wrong, always wanting to win the argument. And this book exposed that to me — it wasn’t pleasant! 

When we take our eyes off ourselves and what we want, and we put them on others and help them get what they want, we in turn will be blessed. 

Leadership isn’t about being lonely at the top. It’s about taking others with you, helping them along, and letting them have the victories.

This book taught me how to be a friend and leader that people want to follow. It begins with the little things of remembering people’s names and becoming genuinely interested in them! Dale writes about how to deal with others you may not agree with, how to make others like you, and even how to win them over to your way of thinking.

If you’re in a leadership position or you just want to be better with others, this book is for you.

Are there any books that have helped shape who you are today?

What are some of your favorite self-development books that have helped you increase your dreams or expanded your thinking? I’m always interested in adding to my library, and I’m convinced that the saying, “Leaders are readers”, is absolutely true. 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

What to Say When You Talk to Yourself taught me how to speak positively to myself.

Failing Forward taught me that success only comes through failure.

How to Win Friends and Influence People taught me how to take my eyes off myself and focus on others.


Reading changes you. It’s not about opening a book and reading it. It’s about applying what you’re reading to your life. Books will cut you open and expose yourself to you. That’s when the results and change happens, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Let me know in the comments which book resonated with you the most and which you want to read first!

And, remember, you are a winner. Just run YOUR race!

*Note: I have added links to each of these books within the post. I encourage you to check them out. If you decide to purchase one or all, they are affiliate links, and I may receive a small compensation. I do appreciate the support, as it helps me to be able to continue to create content for you!

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