Lifelong learning with books

One of the lessons I wished I learned in my twenties is to read more. Why? Because highly successful people know that the key to living a happy and successful life is having a dedication to lifelong learning. Bill Gates reads one book a week. The billionaire investor Warren Buffett reads 400 pages a day.

Reading books is my favourite way to learn about a new topic. I’ve been reading about a book a week on average since I was a kid. Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading.” – Bill Gates

So if you’re ready to take actionable steps, here are some lessons from 5 life-changing books I’ve read. They will enable you to understand how to make an impact, and live a happier and more successful life.


Switch: How to change things when change is hard book cover
Google Books

1. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath

In Switch, the authors mention research psychologist Jonathan Haidt who describes the mind as a small rider, ‘The Conscious,’ sitting on a giant elephant, ‘The Unconscious.’

The rider thinks he is in charge and can tell the elephant where to go, but the elephant has his own ideas. The rider cannot force the elephant into a direction and must, therefore, train him slowly over time. 

If the rider and the elephant work as a team – when our conscious and unconscious are close – our life is going to be richer.

The authors, Chip and Dan Heath, argue that change often fails because the rider simply can’t keep the elephant on the road long enough for the desired change to occur. In addition, the authors note that our surrounding environment, known as ‘The Path,’ is another catalyst for this failure to change.

To change a behaviour, we need to direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path. Change is always difficult, but the right framework helps considerably.


The 5 love languages: The secret to love that lasts-book cover
The 5 love languages

2. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

By Gary Chapman

Ever felt like your partner or loved one was speaking another language? Maybe they really were! In The 5 Love Languages, author Gary Chapman argues that depending on how you were raised and how you grew up, you speak a certain love language.

Chapman has observed five basic love languages:

  • Acts of service
  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Receiving gifts
  • Words of affirmation

As a result, and very importantly, how you communicate love to someone may be different than how someone receives it. For example, many people believe that the best way to express love is to spend quality time with their partner. However, Chapman notes that your partner’s love language might not be quality time; instead, it might be words of affirmation.

Another example is if you motion to hug someone as an expression of love, but they pull back. Rather than rejecting love, they might just not appreciate physical contact.

Ask yourself: what’s your partner’s love language?

This has been a huge help for me with all relationships, not just romantic ones, because it helps us understand what matters to the individual we’re interacting with.

To reveal your love language, take this quiz. You might surprise yourself!


Start-up Nation: The story of Israel's Economic Miracle

3. Start-up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle

By Dan Senor and Paul Singer

Interested in learning about the dynamic culture and rollercoaster lifecycle of startups? If so, Start-up Nation is highly recommended. 

Using examples of some of the most successful startups in Israel’s thriving entrepreneurial community, the authors offer insights into how local business can be used as the backbone of economic growth.

Senor and Singer delve into the challenges and adversities these startups face, and offer solutions that were able to transform not only the startup but the local community too.

Citing an eclectic mix of companies from a range of industries, readers will learn about everything from electric vehicles to drip irrigation and medical patents.


Confessions of a public speaker-book cover

4. Confessions of a Public Speaker

By Scott Berkun

Confessions of a Public Speaker is a ‘must-read’ for anyone interested in public speaking. The author reveals techniques to help elevate anyone’s communication game, whether on stage or in everyday life. Berkun also offers some entertaining insights from his 15 years on the speaker circuit. 

One of the key takeaways for me was: Know that your response to a mistake defines the audience’s response. Having spoken on stages around the world, to audiences from dozens to thousands, I’ve seen the full gamut of what can go wrong. Whether it’s a technological issue, such as your PowerPoint presentation not progressing or the batteries dying in the microphone, or a logistical fault from the event organizer, good speakers must be prepared for everything!

If the audience detects any sign that the speaker on stage is flustered, their authority as a leader quickly evaporates. Berkun states: “If I respond to spilling water on my pants as if it were the sinking of the Titanic, the audience will see it as a tragedy. But if I’m cool, or better yet, find it funny, the audience will do the same.”

Keep your cool. Sometimes, that can make for a more entertaining and memorable presentation anyway.


Think & Grow Rich- book cover

5. Think and Grow Rich

By Napoleon Hill

Success never happens in isolation. We like to think our heroes, whether Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, or Gary Vaynerchuk, are superhuman. The truth is that they have successfully established a passionate team aligned toward a single mission.

In his timeless classic Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill recognizes this as the power of the mastermind. Hill notes that when interests are aligned in a spirit of harmony working toward a common goal, the opportunities are endless. “Two or more people actively engaged in the pursuit of a definite purpose with a positive mental attitude, constitute an unbeatable force.”

Famously, Hill spent 25 years studying more than 500 of the most successful individuals of his time, before the book was first published in 1937. These included steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, automobile titan Henry Ford, and acclaimed inventor Thomas Edison. Hill discovered that one thing all these extraordinary achievers had in common was their ability to harness the resource of others to build their mastermind.


A SPEAK Braga group that is learning a new language and culture
Our mastermind, a SPEAK group learning a new language and culture

Our mastermind

Here’s a picture of a SPEAK group where all gathered to learn a new culture and language. This is our mastermind, formed to help foster respect and harmony between people of all backgrounds. Take a moment to think about who’s on your team.

Have you got a mastermind of your own? Post a photo in the comments.

Which of these books most resonated with you? What other books on how to make an impact do you recommend? Let me know via email:

Author: Khuloud Kalthoum

Khuloud is a a 30-year old social entrepreneur, engineer and TEDx speaker. Syrian currently living in Portugal, where she decided to start SPEAK Braga. Life brought her here & she loves it. She is fluent in Arabic, English and Portuguese.


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