Building a Personal ‘Success Library’

February 7, 2016 Updated: April 24, 2016

One of my mentors, Charles “Tremendous” Jones, told me, “You are what you are because of the people you meet and the books you read.” Unfortunately, most people read less today than they did in school. Who has time? Well, we all do. We have all the time there is. Reading 30 minutes a day puts you in the top 2 percent of readers. But what do you read?

Over the years I’ve collected many books on success and achievement. I call it my personal “success library.”

One of these books is Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” which I’ve been reading once a year for many years. Its principles are burned into my brain. One year I decided to apply its principles of success for the duration of the year. I pictured in my mind a specific goal, designed a plan, and followed it with faith.

I was behind on Dec. 23 and it looked as if I would fail. Then, as we were celebrating Christmas at the office, the phone rang and a customer I’d been working with for months gave me an order that put me over the top. I was hooked! Hill’s six-step method of achieving your desired outcomes is classic and counter-intuitive to what many of us have been taught.

You are what you are because of the people you meet and the books you read.
— Charlie 'Tremendous' Jones

Another classic in my success library is “The Richest Man in Babylon” by George Samuel Clason. Since I was in my 20s, I’ve followed his principle of “pay yourself first.” What a surprise to see my net worth expand such a great deal after many years of following a simple investment plan. Up until then I was in debt, spending more than I earned. His simple principle elevated me to a place where I have more freedom to do more than I ever dreamed possible—without undue sacrifices!

Another book I read every year, for over 30 years now, is Dale Carnegie’s “How To Win Friends and Influence People.” I get deeper insights every time I reread it. Becoming a friendlier person, done with sincerity and empathy toward others, elevates your influence and attractiveness to others. It is important to apply these principles to become the person you wish to become, rather than trying to “get” something from others.

I also treasure and read often “Hope for the Flowers,” a short classic by Trina Paulus. On the surface it looks like a children’s book about two caterpillars, but its wisdom is for adults as well. It has a simple message: Give up your current existence, move on to the next level of awareness, and becoming a beautiful butterfly (the person you dream of becoming) is within your grasp. It’s worth a read, as is “Johnathan Livingstone Seagull” by Richard Bach. Both have a strong message beautifully communicated in story form.

A tiny paperback in my success collection opened my eyes to the infinite game of business. “Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility” by James P. Carse shatters “conventional wisdom” about how business works. “There are at least two kinds of games: finite and infinite,” Carse says. “A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play.” Played well, business is an infinite game.

When asked, “Should I read Dale Carnegie’s book and do what he suggests,” Charles Jones answered, “No. Read five books and write your own rules.” Great advice from a terrific mentor and teacher. Thanks, Charlie.

Dave Mather is a 40-year veteran business coach. His columns can be read at