Little differences over a long lifetime create big disparities. This is the nature of compounding. If you make decisions only a little better than your cohort, that should translate into a big difference down the line.
Someone who saves money early for retirement, for example, is probably going to be in a better situation come 65 than someone who didn't start saving until they were 45.
Here are five books that I think everyone should read before they turn 30. Reading and understanding these will give you an edge, however slight, that will increase the odds that things will work out to your satisfaction. When you're a rich billionaire because of this, just remember me, ok?
1. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Psychologist Robert Cialdini introduces the universal principles of influence: Reciprocation, scarcity, authority, commitment, liking, and consensus. Sure you can watch the short video, but it's not the same. Buy the book. Why do you need to learn these? To paraphrase Publius Syrus, "He can best avoid a snare who knows how to set one." After you read this book, move on to Poor Charlie's Almanack.
2. Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger
The last time I mentioned this book, Farnam Street readers flooded my inbox. I'll try to address the two primary concerns that appeared. First, if you can't find it new, just purchase a used copy. Who cares? Second: Yes, it's an "expensive" book. Ignorance is more expensive. Just buy it.
3. Letters from a Stoic
I came to Seneca a few years after I turned 30. It's clear from reading Seneca that he's full of wisdom. His letters deal with everything we deal with today: Success, failure, wealth, poverty, and grief. His philosophy is practical. Not only will reading this book help equip you for what comes in life, but it'll also help you communicate with others.
4. The Moral Sayings of Publius Syrus
A Syrian slave, Syrus is a full of timeless wisdom. Want an example? "From the errors of others, a wise man corrects his own." Here is another: "It is not every question that deserves an answer." Ok, one more? "To do two things at once is to do neither." And he didn't even know of Facebook and Twitter. You can read this book in under an hour but spend the rest of your life trying to learn and apply his wisdom.
5. The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, Third Edition
I'd much rather recommend Berkshire Hathaway Letters to Shareholders (also freely available), however, I recognize that most people would be intimidated by its size. In the Essays, Lawrence Cunningham thematically organizes Buffett's own words. There is more than enough here to get a clear picture of the principles and logic of Buffett and Munger's philosophy for business, life, and investing.
If you're over 30, that's ok, too. It's never too late.
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