After the popularity of my last book review – 5 Bookshelf Every Mans Bookshelf – I decided to write a sequel. The angle on this article is alternate motivational books, that is to say, books which are not directly marketed as motivational books, however, are nonetheless motivating.
#1 Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger
The smug expression and arrogant title of this book, with an obvious pun thrown in as well, does it no justice. But, let’s be honest here, Arnold really does have a lot to be arrogant about. He really does have an incredible life story. The book is indeed on the arrogant side throughout; but if you read between the lines, this book is vastly superior to any nonsense ‘self-help’ book by some lame New York times journo or internet ‘guru’. Arnold really did dominate the bodybuilding scene, and action movies, and govern California. And all before this he moved to a foreign country and became a millionaire way before he was successful with movies. Not bad for immigrant who could barely speak English.
There are some great nuggets in this book from Arnold’s early days, especially when he first moves to America. There are tonnes of great lessons which a young man can learn from Arnold’s constant hustling (and hard work). Rather than reading about the Arnold we are all used to seeing, we get to meet Arnold the tank driver, Arnold the ladies man, Arnold the salesman, Arnold the bricklayer, Arnold the college student, Arnold the small businessman. It is great fun hearing of his adventures in and around California in the 70s with his late best friend, Franco. These fun stories also have little business tips spread throughout.
If you are prone to overthinking you will love Arnold’s philosophy on just jumping into things and trusting that he is intelligent to figure out what to do. A lot of us probably are a lot better at figuring stuff out on the fly than we give ourselves credit for; the only way to test this is to just go ahead and get in there.
Main motivational takeaways? Give yourself a standard: Arnold gave himself a standard to live up to – 1 million for a staring role in a movie, and he lived up to it with Conan The Barbarian. Be an original salesman: ‘Franco and I noticed that Americans loved foreign names: Swedish massage. Italian design, Chinese herbs, German ingenuity’. But most of all, be more (just a tad) arrogant! Just like big Arnold.
#2 Napoleon The Great by Andrew Roberts
Look up Napoleon and you will find two things. 1. short jokes and 2. marching on Russia in winter jokes. But, beyond the punchline, Napoleon was without a doubt one of the most interesting figures throughout history. Curiously, after reading the book you find that reading about Napoleon is like getting a fast track into the mindset of two other conquerors; Alexander the Great and Julius Ceaser (both of which Napoleon was totally obsessed with, no surprise there) – except, with Napoleon we have 1000s of sources of quantifiable evidence to really delve into the mind of a true conqueror.
This really was a case of one man altering history through shear determination, charisma and energy. And by reading this book, you will gain an insight into those characteristics. In the context of our article, this book really proves to be an excellent motivator for a young man (or indeed an old man!). Putting it bluntly, Napoleon will make you feel lazy; he had Ritalin-like elan in every subject or venture he pursued. The book doesn’t just cover the big battles, but also how he fulfilled his day to day work; tips and tricks which can be used by everyone; whether you’re invading Prussia or trying to make a VBA code for your excel spreadsheet…
The incredibly complexities of the man, from being frightfully ruthless and battle-field smart to being compassionate, jovial and a bookish nerd. We aren’t kidding when we say bookish either – Napoleon travelled with a mobile library when he went to Alexandria.
Oh, by the way, the reason we can understand Egyptian hieroglyphics is due to Napoleon’s soldiers discovering the Rosetta Stone.
Forget the Sunsu’s Art of War, Napoleon art was much more modern – unfortunately, so ahead of its time that it was nefariously used by the Nazis with their – Napoleon inspired – Blitzkrieg battle tactic.
After reading this book you will no longer just think of short jokes when you think of Napoleon, in fact, you will become a Napoleonic fan boy; like me.
#3 Penguin Book of Modern Speeches
Tonnes of epic speeches ranging from Obama to Churchill. Lots of bonus fodder for trolling politicians on Twitter, or to drop some cool phrases in an essay or at the bar or whatever.
Also within the book are peppered facts about the speeches which can sometimes be amusing for example, Michael Foot (leader of the Labour party in England) manifesto was described as ‘he longest suicide note in history’.
Reading these speeches from approximately 1900 to modern times you will notice that even some of the older speeches remain pertinent and eerily relevant. It is easy to find quotes and speeches on the big topics of our time, war, nationalism, free speech, the middle east. It’s all in there. Listening to some of the greatest speeches by some of the greatest orators will prove highly motivating. It’s also nice to have a book like this you can dip in and out of – no commitment required. It’s actually the best toilet book for that reason, which is a shame as given the solemnity of it’s contents.
Theodore Roosevelt 1906: ‘We no administer the affairs of a nation in which the extraordinary growth of a population has been outstripped by the growth of wealth and the growth of complex interests. The material problems that face us today are not such as they were in Washington’s time, but the underlying facts of human nature are the same now as they were then’
Salmon Rushdie 1991: ‘ ”Free speech is a non-starter” says one of my Islamic extremist opponents. No, sir, it’s not. Free speech is the whole thing, the whole ball game. Free speech is life itself‘.
Barry Goldwater 1964: ‘I would remind you that extremism in the defence of the liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue’.
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