Christmas is fast approaching and, with it, the challenge of finding a gift that will be of lasting value to the recipient. As ever, I recommend a book – a gift that can change a life, or at the very least, provide some entertaining hours.
Book shops are full of self-help books, but I have long believed that success – whatever it means to you – is achieved by the application of basic principles that have stood the test of time. The most famous success book of this type is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. Published in 1937, it has sold more than 120 million copies and continues to dominate bestseller lists.
For young people discovering it for the first time, I recommend Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy by my son, James Whittaker. Published in close association with the Napoleon Hill Foundation, the book positions each of the success principles in a modern setting, with contemporary stories of individuals who used the principles as a springboard to success.
There's Jim Stovall, who was blind and destitute at 17. Stovall recognised there was no television programming for visually impaired people, and went on to become the founder of a television network that is now active in more than a dozen countries. He's also the author of 30 bestselling books (despite his impairment).
Another is our own Janine Shepherd, who was an elite athlete on her way to the Olympic Games until she was hit by a speeding truck. After 10 days in a coma, she awoke to be told she was paraplegic and consigned to a wheelchair. She declared, “If I can’t walk, I’ll fly”. Shepherd is now an aerobatics pilot, motivational speaker, and is in talks to make a major Hollywood film of her story.
The essence of Think and Grow Rich: The Legacy is that success is far more dependent on mindset than circumstances.
I have a different recommendation for older readers. We are moving into a time when more and more people face the challenge of living happily as they age. Once, turning 100 was a very special occasion and put you in line for a telegram from the Queen. Today, half the children born in the West can expect to live to 105. Advances in medical science already taking place mean that these extra years will probably be mostly healthy, but it also presents challenges.
In their great book The 100 Year Life, London School of Business professors Linda Grattan and Andrew Scott cover issues such as supporting yourself in an extended retirement, staying healthy, maintaining good relationships and keeping up-to-date. Mastering the skills in this book will put you on track for a long and fulfilling retirement.
For anybody who loves investment, the perfect gift would be Pigs at the Trough: Lessons from Australia’s Decade of Corporate Greed by Adam Schwab, who was a corporate lawyer specialising in mergers and acquisitions before becoming a finance journalist. It was published eight years ago but is still easily obtainable and is as relevant today as it was when published, given the revelations coming out of the Royal Commission.
As the blurb says, this book “tells the story of how a generation of executives pushed all the boundaries, sometimes sailed right over them … and got away with.” The cast of characters include Telstra’s Sol Trujillo, ABC Learning’s Eddy Groves and, of course, MFS. This is déjà vu all over again! Schwab has a very witty, easy style and if you are like me you will be alternating between laughing and nodding as you read it.
The book highlights lessons in each chapter. These include “never trust a politician”, “history repeats”, and “buying and selling staff isn’t a real business”. This book is one of the great business classics and a riveting read too.
So give your friends, family – and of course yourself – gifts of Christmas reading that will bring you joy all year.
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