GREG'S BLOG How To Choose Happiness In Your Life

Great Books That Change You15 min read

Who can adequately express the infinite power of a great book!

Good books have literally changed my life. I climbed out of a very undesirable beginning (broken home, out on my own at an early age) largely because of the influence of great books. I am a better man—husband, father, disciple, friend, philanthropist—because of the books I have read and continue to read. Each one helps me see more clearly, with greater breadth or depth.

In the last three months, I’ve read some wonderful books that have shaped and solidified several important values and perspectives in my life. I highly recommend each one.

Every book you read becomes a part of you. Occasionally a book will change your life. Brought together, a small library of great books will aid you in positive life transformation.

Here’s the books I’ve read recently in no particular order, with some great quotes.  There are literally hundreds of other great quotes and ideas that I have captured from these books but couldn’t possibly share them all.  Seriously, read all of these books.  They’re great.  (All the titles are linked to Amazon)


How will you measure your life? By Clayton Christensen

An excellent reminder about what really matters most in life and how to protect yourself and your family from slipping off track. Asking the right questions and pursuing the correct priorities will make all the difference in the final measurement of your life.

Despite such professional accomplishments, however, many of them were clearly unhappy.
Behind the facade of professional success, There were many who did not enjoy what they were doing for a living. There were, also, numerous stories of divorces or unhappy marriages. I remember one classmate who hadn’t talk to his children in years, … another was on her third marriage since we graduated.

How can I be sure that
I will be successful and happy in my career?
My relationships with my spouse, my children, and my extended family and close friends become an enduring source of happiness?
I live a life of integrity—and stay out of jail?

Solving the challenges in your life requires a deep understanding of what causes what to happen.

”The only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” Steve Jobs

I want you to be able to experience that feeling—to wake up every morning thinking how lucky you are to be doing what you’re doing.


Dumbing us Down, Gatto

A bold argument against educational systems that send an underlying message that is contrary to the stated message. What is actually happening in institutionalized educational systems, be they in government school, private school or home school, is that the system is dumbing us down and preventing us from getting the quality education that we need. This is a fantastic read and every person needs to read it, asking themselves how they might be dumbing down their own education, and that of their children, by inadvertently implementing systems that are counterproductive to real learning.

This system doesn’t work, and it’s one of the causes of our world coming apart. No amount of tinkering will make the school machine work to produce educated people;

The habits of self-reliance, self-respect, fearlessness, democracy, and local loyalty produced good citizens.

You need not fear educational consequences: reading, writing, and arithmetic aren’t very hard to teach if you take pains to see that compulsion and the school agenda don’t short-circuit each individual’s private appointment with themselves to learn these things.

There is abundant evidence that less than 100 hours is sufficient for a person to become totally literate and a self teacher.

Don’t be panicked by scare tactics into surrendering your children to experts.

… enshrining an exclusive bureaucracy of certified teachers…. Teaching must, I think, be decertified as quickly as possible…That certified teaching experts like me are deemed necessary to make learning happen is a fraud and a scam.

And an unseen social cost of all of this has been the destruction of family life, the loss of home as sanctuary or haven, and the bewilderment of children who, since infancy, have been raised by strangers.

Institutional schooling is absolutely unreformable because it is already an unqualified success! It does brilliantly precisely what it was originally designed to do..

It requires a particular kind of “human resource,” specifically one driven to define itself by purchasing things, by owning stuff, by evaluating everything from the perspective of comfort, physical security, and status.

Schools are a great mechanism to condition the onrushing generations to accept total management, to impose a kind of lifelong childishness on most of us in the interests of scientific management. Efficient management requires incomplete people to manage because whole people, or those who aspire to wholeness, reject it.


Emerson’s Essay: Self Reliance

“We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents…but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. It needs a divine man to express anything divine”

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place the divine providence has found for you, the society of your contemporaries, the connection of events.”

“These are the voices which we hear in solitude, but they grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world. Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs. Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

“I am ashamed to think how easily we capitulate to badges and names, to large societies and dead institutions. Every decent and well-spoken individual affects and sways me more than is right. I ought to go upright and vital, and speak the rude truth in all ways. If malice and vanity wear the coat of philanthropy, shall that pass?”


Taming of the Shrew

Shrew is a bad tempered woman

Such wind as scatters young men through the world
To seek their fortunes farther than it home
Where small experience grows.

To me she’s married, not to my clothes.

Our purses shall be proud, our garments poor,
For ’tis the mind that makes the body rich,
And as the sun breaks through the darkest clouds
So honor peereth(is recognized) in the meanest habit(clothes).

Fie, fie! Unknit that threat’ning unkind brow
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor.
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty,
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign, one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labor both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe,
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience—
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Even such a woman oweth to her husband.
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway
When they are bound to serve, love, and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?


The Merchant of Venice

A wonderful and enjoyable lesson in outside appearances vs. inner value, and the crucial balance between justice and mercy.

I hold the world but as the world,
A stage, where every man must play a part

“It is a good divine that follows his own instructions”

The devil can cite scripture for his purpose.
An evil soul producing holy witness
Is like a villain with the smiling cheek,
A goodly Apple rotten at the heart.
Oh what a goodly outside falsehood hath!

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told.
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold;
Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
Had you been as wise as bold,
Young in limbs, in judgment old

” Who chooses me shall get as much as he deserves.”
And well said too, for who shall go about
To cozen(cheat) fortune, and be honorable
Without the stamp of merit? Let none presume
To wear an undeserved dignity.
O that estates, degrees, and offices
Were not derived corruptly, and that clear honor
Were purchased by the merit of the wearer!
How many then should cover that stand bare!
How many be commanded that command;
How much low peasantry would then be gleaned
From the true seed of honor! And how much honor
Picked from the chaff and ruin of the times
To be new varnished.

“That light we see is burning in my hall;
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.”


Education of a Wandering Man, L’Amour

I feel very sorry indeed for any young man without an education in these days, for there is literally nowhere to go.

I lived on one sandwich a day so I could save the money to buy three books of which I had read reviews.

Writing, however, is a learning process. One never knows enough, And one is never good enough.
In so many areas my ignorance was impressive—to me, at least.

If one is any good as a writer at all, he must be constantly improving, learning, finding better ways of saying what needs to be said. He must also be constantly aware of what is happening in his world and in what direction it seems to be going. Page 106

Start writing, no matter about what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. You can sit and look at a page for a long time and nothing will happen. Start writing and it will. Page 118

Of the value of books I am myself my best example. If it were not for books, I should never have been more than laborer, Perhaps killed in a minute disaster, as some of my friends were. Yet the books were there, I could read, and had the will to read and the persistence to keep on reading. Page 121

Nations are born, they mature, grow old, and almost die, but after some years they rise again, and we in this country, as in all nations, need leaders with vision. Too few can see further than the next election and will agree to spend any amount of money as long as some of it is spent in the area they represent. HG Wells wisely said that”men who think in lifetimes are of no use to statesmanship.”
… we must begin to think in terms of generations and centuries rather than in years.

“Yet I have ever been a wanderer, Drifting through fields of books and finding blossoms wherever they might bloom. Education is everywhere, prompting one to think, to consider, to remember.”

“Someone has said that culture is what remains with you after you have forgotten all you have read.”


Les Miserables, Victor Hugo

I’ve read hundreds of great books, but I think this book is my all-time favorite. That’s a bold statement, and very meaningful. But the ideas, stories and principles in it have changed me. When I finished it, I sat there and wept. And I don’t cry! Victor Hugo is such a master observer and writer of human nature and the interactions of mankind. His compelling writing will tug on your heart and trouble your mind, and inspire you to become a better human being!

After all, what is there to fear in this house? There is always One with us who is the strongest. Satan may visit our house, but the good Lord lives here.

This shepherd should not recoil from the diseased sheep.

Man has one tyrant, ignorance.

To destroy abuses is not enough; habits must also be changed. The windmill has gone, but the wind is still there.

“We living in a sad society. Succeed—that is the advice which falls drop by drop from the overhanging corruption.
In passing, we might say that [financial] success is a hideous thing. Its false similarity to merit deceives men. To the masses, success has almost the same appearance as supremacy. Success, that pretender to talent, has a dupe—history.”

Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the idea of duty, are things that, when in error, can turn hideous… they are virtues with a single vice—error.

Progress is the aim, the ideal is the model.
What is the ideal? It is God.

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor. To meditate is to labor; to think is to act.

We live in times of terrible confusion. People are ignorant of things they ought to know, and know things of which they ought to be ignorant. They are crude and impious.

He was experiencing what the earth may experience at the moment when it is opened by the plow so wheat can be sown; it feels only the wound; the thrill of the seed and the joy of the fruit do not come until later.

All of the nuns in the world are not equal to one mother.

Oh, pitiful thoughts of the miserable!
Alas! Will no one come to the aid of the human soul in this gloom?

An enormous fortress of prejudices, Privileges, superstitions, lies, exactions, abuses, violence, iniquity, darkness, is still standing on the world with its towers of hatred. It must be thrown down. This monstrous pile must be made to fall.

And hundreds more…


Lifeonaire, Steve Cook

A great book, presenting unconventional ideas about what life could and should be like; not the never-ending pursuit of more money and more things, but the life of freedom and happiness. This book will challenge you to see things differently, to question your social conditioning and clearly identify what really matters you and what you need to change in order to live accordingly.

I’ll give you a hint: you have to get out of the social peacock pageantry and stop living for the opinions and expectations of others. Learn to live life on your terms, with freedom to do the things that matter most to you.

It’s amazing to me how few people are actually pursuing the life they truly want…
It’s even more amazing to me to see how few people even know specifically what they really want out of their life.

Prosperity means having the freedom to live life

Money is a tool, not the goal.

Most people make decisions day to day on what will get us the most money in the end. We strive to become millionaires hoping to one day experience life at Millionaire Acres. But what if that day never comes? What if you work your whole life to win this type of game and your life ended right before you got to enjoy it?

What if instead, the winner of the game were the person who had the best life experiences?

What if instead of spending all that energy on becoming merely a millionaire, what if we strove to be a Lifeonaire.

[Think of all the people you personally know well] How many people can you think of that are actually living that life of freedom and prosperity…?

You’re trying to attain abundant life by doing the same thing as them, working like a dog to make more and more money, when clearly that plan is not working out for anyone you know.

It’s pretty hard to live a life of freedom and prosperity when we spend the majority of our time and energy focusing on things that don’t necessarily give us more life.


I’ve also recently read or reread:

The Power of Full E ngagement (get this one on your shelf!)


Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens–a fantastic read; don’t stay away just because it was written for youth.  It’s a must read for anyone interested in becoming an educated person!

The Walking Drum  I love this book.

I’ve also read the first 7 books of the Betsy Tacy series to my children. It’s a great family series, teaching many important life principles. We are reading book 8 now.

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