A lot of people ask me what books I recommend for multipotentialites who are getting started down the path of designing a life around their passions.
Puttylike is all about making multipotentiality work through lifestyle design and personal development principles. It’s a smoosh between those areas. But it’s the lifestyle design stuff — namely concepts around career, productivity, and confidence — that have taught me the most about how to integrate my many passions into my life.
As a result, my book suggestions tend to be on the lifestyle design side of the equation. It’s in part due to the fact that there just aren’t that many books written about multipotentiality, but it’s also because it’s the LD stuff that has really provided me with a road map for making this work.
If you’ve spent much time in the lifestyle design space, you’re going to recognize most of these titles. I’m really writing this list for those of you are new to these ideas. The following five books are foundational. You should have them under your belt, period.
1. The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
4HWW is one of those “before and after” books. So many people I know can draw a line between how they lived before reading 4HWW and how they lived after reading it. That’s how it was for me. Reading this book changed everything and sent me down an incredible path.
What’s important about 4HWW, isn’t so much the specific techniques, like outsourcing or setting up an online business. What’s important is the mindset that it introduces you to, particularly the ideas about the deferred life plan and lifestyle design. One of the most valuable points that I got out of it was how there is far less competition for the amazing opportunities in life, than there is for the mediocre ones. Since everyone thinks that they don’t have a shot at the top opportunities, they don’t bother trying. Once you know this, it’s much easier to really go for what you want and not down-play your dream to the “practical,” more “easily-obtainable” version (because it’s not).
There’s a lot of controversy around 4HWW, and twice it has happened that someone has come up to me and said “I was going to read 4HWW like you suggested, but then my friend told me that it’s all about outsourcing to India…” (spoken in a negative, judgmental tone). In both cases, the friend that discouraged them hadn’t actually read the book themselves.
It’s very easy to put down ideas that disrupt the status quo, and some people feel very threatened by 4HWW. Opening yourself up to the ideas in this book means that you might learn that you are responsible for your current (unfulfilling) situation, since there’s something you can do to change it. It tends to be the people who make excuses and refuse to take responsibility for their happiness, that bash 4HWW without reading it.
My other sense is that when you’re ready for it, this book will find you and the voice of naysayers won’t deter you from reading it.
2. The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
Chris is a friend and a mentor. He’s been a huge an inspiration to me, and I often look to his business as a model in my own work. I love the way that his best marketing tactic seems to be kindness. I also love that he often publishes blog posts that are very pro-multipotentialte in nature.
AONC is the kind of book that I hope to write one day. My topic will be different of course, but the idea of describing my entire philosophy in one powerful, actionable book, sounds great.
Another thing. I’ve never told this to anybody, but when the book first came out, I was living in Denmark and feeling pretty lonely and isolated. I remember reading AONC and stumbling upon this one quote. It was a quote from the tv show Felicity. (Chris accredits it to Keri Russell, but I’m pretty sure it was J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves who wrote the Pilot episode. Anyway…)
The quote is: “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can pretty much change your life forever.”
Good quote, but that’s not what got me.
The thing is, NOBODY QUOTES FELICITY. Nobody except me, that is.
To see this very significant part of my past here, in this new book, felt too strange. There was no question that it was a sign from the universe that I was on the right path– that I had magic in my hands.
And on that note, lets jump to book #3…
3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
The Alchemist is a magical book. It’s fiction, but it’s not. It’s about your journey and your dreams. Just read it.
4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art is a kick in the butt. It’s a short, powerful, brilliant book about Resistance and the internal struggle that every artist faces when sitting down to do their work. Even now, I often think about the principles that Steven Pressfield talks about– from “turning pro” to the fact that “the more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.”
This book has had a tremendous impact on my work habits. It’s helped me harness my hunger and hustle like a pro. I can’t even pick up The War of Art anymore, because within two minutes of reading it, I have to put it down and go work.
5. Do You by Russell Simmons
I don’t even know where to start. I didn’t know much about Russell Simmons before picking up his book, but now I’m a convert. The guy is a fully realized multipotentialite in the greatest sense. He’s an innovator. He has harnessed many of his passions– from music to fashion to meditation — and has used them all in service of bringing hip hop culture to the mainstream and spreading love.
Do You is a blast to read. It’s got a hip hop flavour to it, making it very different from most personal development books. But it’s deep. Simmons derives a lot of his principles for success from Yoga scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita. The concept from this book that has most changed my life, now hangs, framed, above my desk. It reads:
“You have control over doing your respective duty only, but no control or claim over the results. The fruits of work should never be your motive.” -Bhagavad Gita 2.47
This quote keeps me focused on what matters: doing my best work. That is all.
Bonus Multipotentialite Reads:
Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher
If you’re a multipotentialite, you have to read Barbara Sher’s “Refuse to Choose.” Period. She’s an incredible woman. So wise. And she’s really the grandmother of this Scanner stuff. This book covers the basics of being a multipotentialite. Definitely foundational reading for any Puttypeep.
The Renaissance Soul by Margaret Lobenstine
Another great book on being a multipod. Takes a slightly different spin than Refuse to Choose, but also really valuable for our community.
Anything by Tony Robbins
Nobody has had as profound of an impact on my confidence than Tony. I didn’t read his books though. I listened. Hearing him speak is every bit as inspiring as the words themselves. I have listened to every book and audio program I could get my hands on. I actually have “attend a Tony Robbins seminar” on my life list. I have no doubt that it’ll happen within the next two years.
What have been the most influential books to you, as a multipotentialite? Lets get a list of resources going in the comments.