I used to be depressed, anxious, friendless, jobless, financially distressed, addicted to weed, and overall, a total failure.
I knew I wasn’t doing well, but I didn’t know how to fix it.
So I kept on reading books about happiness and how to get more friends.
It was a mistake.
Instead of attacking the roots of my issues, I was trying to fix the symptoms.
That led me nowhere.
I eventually understood that my mental state and its consequences stemmed from not respecting the four pillars of mental and physical health.
I call these four pillars “the four pillars of health and happiness”. These are the basics.
If you want to achieve anything significant in your life, you must first get the basics right.
Only then can you target the remaining problems in your life that have not yet been fixed.
These four pillars are sleep, food, exercise, and social relationships.
When I addressed these issues starting with food, my life quality jumped up in a matter of weeks. I had endured so much pain over the years that I was amazed at how quickly my new diet had improved my life.
The foods I ate were largely responsible for my depression and anxiety.
This anxiety in turn made me obnoxious in my social relationships and left me lonely.
The loneliness added stress to my life, which prevented me from sleeping well.
A lack of sleep made me moody, lazy, and mean (yes, mean).
Eating well made me happier and more inclined to social contact. I became a better conversationalist, which helped me network (I still act like an assh*le sometimes, but much less than before ;)).
I acquired more motivation and discipline to exercise every day and could sleep better.
This experiment taught me about the importance of getting the basics right.
My mindset about solving problems shifted. Instead of attacking the symptoms, I went to look for the cause.
So I searched for more books dealing to fix other areas of my life. I had taken care of my mental and physical health. Now it was time to deal with financial security and personal growth.
What I learned out of this multi-year experiment is that it’s useless to go and try to improve your life if you don’t respect the basics. There is no point in reading “the intelligent investor” if you sleep less than seven hours a night.
It will in fact improve so dramatically that most of the problems you experience will be gone or resolved.
Here are six books that will help you fix the basics of your life.
Why We Sleep, by Matthew Walker
Why We Sleep outlines the few things we know about sleep — the majority remaining hidden in the depth of our brain. The author spends more time explaining the problems that arise when we don’t sleep well, than when we actually sleep.
Among these, we can cite troubles to think and memorize, higher chances to create accidents and make mistakes, higher chances to develop degenerative diseases, mood changes, weakened immunity, higher blood pressure, weight gain, low sex drive, and much more.
Sleep is the basics of the basics. A friend of mine once observed that while you can go for weeks without food, you can hardly go more than forty-eight hours without sleep.
Respect your sleep. You have everything to gain from it.
Genius Food, by Max Lugavere
This New York Times Bestseller dives deep into nutrition science and how food impacts your body.
The problem with nutrition is that we’ve heard everything and its opposite: from eating a low-fat high-carb diet to eating a high-fat and low-carb diet, to encouraging people to eat more proteins before telling them that it’s killing their kidneys.
If you’re lost, Max Lugavere brings a refreshing view and separates the myth from the truth. You will learn why you want to avoid carbs and seed oils, and why you want to charge up on protein and fat.
Switching diet is the habit that had the biggest impact on my life to date.
May it be the same for you.
Charisma on Command, by Charlie Houpert
I read both Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. And yet, I found Charisma on Command to be much better for anyone looking to improve their social life.
Charlie Houpert, unlike Carnegie and Ferrazzi, focuses on the basics. While Carnegie is telling you to smile, Houpert explains the mindset shift you need to operate to smile naturally.
Charisma on Command is a short book but packed with excellent advice and a thirty-day challenge at the end to help you be more outgoing.
It is highly recommended for anyone looking to extend their social circle.
Find a summary here.
Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Benjamin Hardy, PhD
Behold the Bible of personal development. I discovered PIP randomly while browsing Amazon. The book had five stars, which is unusual, so I bought it and read it.
I quickly understood why this book was so appreciated. Personality isn’t permanent is a complete book. I mean by that it was a book that discussed all sides of personal development.
Benjamin Hardy starts by shattering societal beliefs about personality. Then he highlights the need for people to solve their traumas and make peace with their past if they hope to grow and improve in the future.
He gives a method to do so, then outlines a goal-based growth method to ensure that not one day passes without you getting closer to your goals.
This book may be in my personal top five of all time. Forget about Tony Robbins. Personality Isn’t Permanent is likely the only book you will ever need to reach your goals and become who you want to be.
Find a summary here.
Atomic Habits, by James Clear
Atomic Habits complements Personality Isn’t Permanent. It’s a book that helps anyone break bad habits (eating sugar, smoking, drinking, staying up late) and replace them with healthier habits.
The author demonstrates that success in life does not only depend on big bold moves but is built one step after the other. The idea is to reach success by compounding growth through becoming 1% better every day.
The small improvements are built on top of each other and before you realize it, your life has dramatically changed…in a positive way.
Atomic Habits is a good book as it outlines that successes don’t happen overnight. They are built day by day, every day.
Success is a process.
A priceless lesson.
Unscripted, by MJ DeMarco
The best for the end. Unscripted is one of my favorite books of all time, mainly due to MJ DeMarco’s angry writing style. That being said, the information you get out of this book is priceless!
Unscripted is a book about money and the sequel to the infamous The Millionaire Fastlane. The book starts by deconstructing the lies mainstream society has fed you regarding acquiring wealth.
Then it reveals the real and only way to become rich in the twenty-first century (spoilers: creating a company).
He further gives you a framework to build your company so that you can make sure it rests on solid ground.
Finally, the last part of the book introduces ways to effectively manage your money once you become a millionaire.
Unscripted is not a book you read once.
It’s so dense and packed with knowledge on business, entrepreneurship, and life lessons that you want to read it several times.
The “unscripting” process takes time, and it personally took me months before I could properly switch my mindset.
Likely my favorite book of all time.
You can find a summary here.
If you’re stuck in life and don’t know what to do anymore, you may want to check if you really have the four pillars of health in order. As a reminder, these are:
- Social relationships
Once you respect these, can you then move on to become who you want to be with Personality Isn’t Permanent; learn to break bad habits and construct new ones with Atomic Habits; and achieve financial security and independence with Unscripted.