A Letter to Kathryn: The Graduation Gift

06/17/2013 05:14 pm ET | Updated Aug 17, 2013


Dear Kathryn,

As spring turns to summer and the warm weather turns uncomfortably hot, millions of men and women, like you, will be packing up their dorm rooms for one last time, and celebrating their graduation rites. Today, I offer you a gift, one that will offer you the best possible start to an exciting future where every day is spent fulfilling your greatest dreams and desires. It is my sincere hope that this gift will save you that which is more precious than any resource you will ever hold dear to your heart, time.

As I wish you bon voyage to your unknown and exciting future, I have compiled fourteen of the greatest assets I accumulated over the eighteen years since I sat amongst the throngs of college graduates contemplating my own future; books. These are fourteen books which have propelled my business and life, always promising me a better tomorrow. Today I offer you a better tomorrow, but not a distant, far off and uncertain one. No, I offer you the opportunity to achieve your dreams today, right now, immediately.

These books will offer you a turbo charged ride to your dreams. As you embark upon your journey in business and in life, make sure to surround yourself with amazing visionaries and leaders who have provided a smoothly paved path to your greatest dreams. For this is what I have done with my cherished assets; my books. My gift to you is that heavy one, filled with hope for a better tomorrow. Below I outline each of the fourteen books and why I wish I had read them eighteen years ago, and why I hope you take the opportunity to read them now.

1. Think & Grow Rich - Napoleon Hill: As I mentioned in the card, if you only read one book, pick this one. It offers you the notion that you can be, do and have anything in the world you want, and then it offers a blueprint for achieving just that.

2. How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie: I often joke that this one book is more valuable than a college education, but then again I am not joking. This book will share with you key insight on how to build long lasting relationships with people who come and go from your life.

3. Man's Search for Meaning - Victor Frankl: There will be many days along your journey where you wonder "What's the point of my life?" This book, as written from the eyes of a concentration camp survivor who lost both friends and family to the atrocities of Nazi Germany, offers you a glimpse into the answer behind this very question. This book is a perfect companion when soul searching.

4. The Richest Man in Babylon - George Clason: If you are ever after wealth, and in my opinion it's never a bad thing to possess, this book offers you keen insight, through stories from Roman times, as to how to acquire it. You will be whisked away to days long past and enraptured by the stories, only to find out in the end that you received a complete education on money, finance and the accumulation of wealth.

5. Your Best Year Ever - Darren Hardy: If I had only had a plan for accomplishing my dreams, how many years would I have saved myself? The freedom of graduation is a double edged sword. Your tomorrow is yours to do with it as you wish, and that can be both good and bad. This book and CD offers you a blueprint for carefully plotting out a roadmap to your destination. Not only will you get to where you want to go quicker, you will also realize much sooner, that certain detours are absolutely necessary.

6. What You Say When You Talk to Your Self - Shad Helmstetter: There's one person in this world that you will talk to every single day, every hour, for the rest of your life. That one person is you. The kind of conversations you have with yourself, will absolutely change the trajectory of your life forever.

7. The Slight Edge - Jeff Olson: The hardest part about accomplishing your greatest dreams is that they require you to work today for something you will not see the benefit of the results of until a distant future. How do you stay on track to your destination without the benefit of tangible results overnight? This book offers the solution.

8. The Power of Habit - Charles Duhigg: Achievers in life never accomplish things by accident. They accomplish by creating powerful habits which, over time, provide full throttle thrust to their destination. This book offers compelling evidence as to the power of habits, and also how to create them in your own life.

9. Crucial Conversations - Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler: If you can master the ability to have difficult conversations with people, you will always be in the top 5 percent of your business, and you will avoid the pitfalls that are the result of petty arguments and dissention. This book offers you techniques on how to remain truthful even when it's hard, and how to negotiate for what you want.

10. Purple Cow - Seth Godin: No library is complete without Seth. Let's just say that when it comes to getting the job you want, acquiring the client you need or simply getting noticed, by being the Purple Cow, you will always win. Celebrities, visionaries and amazing leaders, they are all Purple Cows.

11. The Thank You Economy - Gary Vaynerchuk: We live in a social media world and undoubtedly any path you take will somehow be influenced by Facebook, Twitter, Linked In or any other of the thousands of social media sites. This book is all about applying techniques you will learn from Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People to the social media world. Your inclination will be to talk on these sites, but the real power comes in listening.

12. The One Minute Manager and the Monkey on his Back - Ken Blanchard: Your ability to achieve your dreams is equal part controlling you as well as controlling others. To stay on your path, it is necessary for you to keep others on theirs. This book shows you how.

13. How to Be Like Walt - Pat Williams: Walt Disney is possibly the greatest creative visionary of all time. Over and over again he envisioned a dream, one that most would deem impossible, and he created it. How can you be like Walt? It's definitely worth learning.

14. Predictably Irrational - Dan Ariely: The human mind is an amazing specimen. Understanding precisely how it works will offer you a slight edge in business and in life.

Narrowing down this list for your library was difficult to say the least. If there are some glaring holes, it is only because I know you have some of the books I would have included, the most important of course being Sandberg's Lean In. For me, these books offered a Master's Degree in living life. Once you consume and practice these, make sure you path steers you toward other visionaries like Bob Burg, Michael Maher, Leo Babauta, Allison Maslan, Brian Tracy, Nancy Michaels, Matthew Kelly, Dalai Lama, Marilee Driscoll, Jack Canfield, Dave Liniger, Marc Wayshak, Rob White, John Chapin, Atul Gawande, Joe Mechlinski, Malcolm Gladwell, Cheap Heath, Brendon Burchard, Daniel Pink, Sonia Sotomayor and others. For they too all offer powerful tools on growing an extraordinary business and a life worth living. My personal board of directors is a collection of authors, leaders and visionaries; most whom I have never met, yet they guide me both professionally and personally to a better tomorrow. Today, upon your graduation, I offer their advice, expertise and knowledge to you. May they bring you many extraordinary tomorrows.