The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.— Mark Twain

Let’s travel briefly back in time to the dog days of summer during our middle school years. Imagine the sun shining with the waves of the summer heat surrounding you as you play in the middle of the streets with your friends. The only responsibility we had was to read our assigned summer reading books, create a shoe diorama and write a book report.

Now, at this moment in our lives, we read about current events, work-related assignments, fiction to get away from life, or non-fiction to make us better at life. But let’s accept the fact that books develop us to be more open-minded people, intelligent beings that are more susceptible to change, and a step closer to being the best version of ourselves.

Aside from physical connectivity in the brain, being able to make connections between ideas and knowledge we hold in our memories can help us to think more creatively and produce higher quality work. — Belle Beth Cooper, The Secret to Creativity, Intelligence and Scientific Thinking

Counting the number of books I have read in 2016, I was able to reflect and see the application of each book described in the phases of my personal growth below. I have the advantage of making reading a temporarily full time job, and the ability to utilize my creative thinking during my moments of unemployment solitude. Here we go!

Phase 1: Knowing Your Existence
My New Year thoughts were, “What am I doing with my life? Am I where I want to be? Am I great at what I do? How can I be better?” It was January of 2016, tucked away on an island in the Philippines, traveling back in time to no television and Wifi, when this book confirmed my happiness and taught me disciplines I still strengthen everyday. The most powerful concept I took away was the meaning of self-actualization: to be motivated by growth, knowing your purpose and working towards your full potential.

What is your purpose? Do you feel fulfilled with what you do? What is your definition of success and happiness? What are your weaknesses and how can you improve them? What disciplines will you start today to make you a better person?

“Leadership and self-discipline go hand in hand. It is not possible to imagine an effective leader who lacks self-discipline, willpower, self-control, and self-mastery.” — Brian Tracy

Phase 2: How to Be Better with People and Relationships
After my promotion to Assistant Fitness Manager, and as a new young leader, it was my responsibility to bring new skills and ideas to the table for my team. After reading these two books and applying it to my job, I closed 5 out of 5 new clients in one month. The knowledge I gained from this book is life-changing, as I can apply it in all forms of human relationships — work, friendships, family, and love. Find out their why, listen empathetically, and seek first to understand then to be understood.

“We are drawn to leaders and organizations that are good at communicating what they believe.” — Simon Sinek

“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. “To know all is to forgive all.” — Dale Carnegie

Phase 3: Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
The next step for me in my professional growth was my goal to become a Fitness Manager. I was saddened by the news that my boss and my mentor was leaving the company to take care of her growing family, but I looked at this as a window of opportunity. I stood my ground confidently, stating my desire for the position and my strategic plan on how to run the club. Fortunately, I did not get the position (yes, fortunately was a blessing).

“All great men and women went through difficulties to get to where they are, all of them made mistakes. They found within those experiences some benefit — even if it was simply the realization that they were not infallible and that things would not always go their way. They found that self-awareness was the way out and through — if they hadn’t, they wouldn’t have gotten better and they wouldn’t have been able to rise again.” — Ryan Holiday, Ego is the Enemy.

“The obstacle in the path becomes the path. Never forget, within every obstacle is an opportunity to improve our condition.” — Ryan Holiday, The Obstacle is the Way.

Phase 4: Finding the Wisdom to Quit
At this point, I knew that my professional growth would not be possible and made the decision to leave. But, was I making the right decision in the right state of mind? Were my emotions blocking my rational reasoning? Not only did this book allow me to think clearly, it confirmed my confidence in my people skills, scoring above-average in the Emotional Intelligence Appraisal Test.

“People with well-developed emotional skills are also more likely to be content and effective in their lives, mastering the habits of mind that foster their own productivity; people who cannot marshal some control over their emotional life fight inner battles that sabotage their ability for focused work and clear thought.” — Daniel Goleman

Phase 5: Using Creativity to Enter a New Career into the Conceptual Age
When I decided to leave the fitness industry and pursue a new career, I doubted myself and questioned, “Why is my career path non-linear? Why didn’t I listen to my parents, become a Nurse and be secure?”

The Conceptual Age is the new era we are entering where qualities such as creative strategic thinking, storytelling, design, ability to see relationships between relationships, empathy, and seeing the big picture will play a dominant role in the workforce. The Sexual Paradox explains that women are leaving their jobs, despite external metrics such as a higher pay, for jobs that fulfill intrinsic metrics: to work with meaning and purpose. Well, these two books comforted me in knowing I am on the right path towards professional growth, and living a life with purpose and filled with meaning.

“Empathy is an essential part of living a life of meaning.” — Daniel H. Pink

“An interest and an ability to contribute to a field, and a capacity to have an impact in the real world are more powerful drivers for women, on average, than higher salaries, job security, and benefits.” — Susan Pinker

“It’s true. And how do you know when you’re doing something right? How do you know that? It feels so. What I know now is that feelings are really your GPS system for life. When you’re supposed to do something or not supposed to do something, your emotional guidance system lets you know. The trick is to learn to check your ego at the door and start checking your gut instead. Every right decision I’ve made — every right decision I’ve ever made — has come from my gut. And every wrong decision I’ve ever made was a result of me not listening to the greater voice of myself.” — Oprah Winfrey

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