The primary strength you have as an Unbound student is your practiced ability to learn on your own. When you earn your degree using Unbound, your primary skill—the one that’s even more important than whatever you’re majoring in—should be quickly and effectively mastering complicated information. You should be really, really good at learning.
A degree becomes the foundation on which you can build your personal and ongoing education. If your degree is your academic foundation, then career, business, and personal development books can provide critical structural elements. Think of them as the framing and walls of your educational house. These books are all about application and action — how to get important stuff done.
Here’s a list of my most recommended career, business, and personal development books that I have read over the last six years. Read any of these, and you will know more than the average person. Read all of them, and you will have substantial knowledge and experience that will set you apart from most people.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
You will always have more to do than you have time for. This is one of the best time management and focus books out there. Keller notes that balance is a myth at best, and leads to mediocrity at worst. Great things require focus, which will result in imbalance. As a result, this book will help you figure out the one thing you need to do that is most important.
So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport
If you have ever heard me speak about finding work that you love, you’ve definitely heard me quote Newport. This book is the most important book you can read on finding work that you’re good at and that you love.
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle
Newport (above) will tell you why skill is so important. But The Talent Code will explain how you actually build skill. Coyle explains the biological and neurological science behind skill building and then tells you how to use it.
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Drive by Daniel Pink
Want to know how to motivate others? Want to learn how to motivate yourself? Read Drive. It’s a great companion read to So Good They Can’t Ignore You.
Essentialism by Greg McKeown
If The ONE Thing teaches you the importance of focus, then McKeown in Essentialism will teach you how and why you must apply focus. Read them both and apply even half of what they say, and your ability to get things done will increase far beyond what you thought was possible.
Remote by Jason Fried and Jason Heinemeier
Not all work and all careers take place in an office. Bust free from the cubicle.
The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews
This is personal development best practices taught in a fun story. Consider this some of the best life principles distilled into seven decisions.
The Noticer by Andy Andrews
The Traveler’s Gift is all about principles. The Noticer is all about perspective. An interesting story that teaches a lot. There’s also a sequel: The Noticer Returns.
Do Over by Jon Acuff
The best career strategy book I have ever read. Bonus: it’s funny and fun to read.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
This is one of the most interesting and useful books about dealing with people that I have ever read. Voss was the lead hostage negotiator for the FBI, and what he teaches you in this book will be useful any time you are dealing with a human.
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
This book teaches you how to make better decisions about almost everything.
The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
This one will teach you how to break bad habits and how to create positive habits.
The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
This is a fast read (I read the whole book on a short flight) that will teach you the essential principles of management in an entertaining parable style.
The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
The world moves too fast for 10 year, 5 year, or even annual planning. Moran and Lennington teach you how to shorten your time frame to achieve more. Student Life started using these principles for running our department. We now run on a 6 week “year.”
Rework by Jason Fried & David Hansson
A great collection of work and management advice all presented in a quick to read format with lots of visuals.
How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
This is a very different, but very helpful, book on “success.” In fact, if you’re going to read any book about success you should make sure that you read this one too.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
Accountability and leadership advice from Mr. Extreme Accountability himself. Willink and Babin don’t say anything that’s super new, but the war stories they tell to illustrate what they say will make everything stick a lot better.
It’s Your Ship by Captain D Michael Abrashoff
An excellent leadership book that’s fun to read and packed with useful information. If you lead a team, or want to lead a team, you should read this.
The Little Things by Andy Andrews
Little pieces of advice about little things that all add up to make a huge difference. A little book with a lot of wisdom.
Conflict Communication by Rory Miller
This is one of the most important and useful books I have ever read. Combine it with Never Split the Difference, and you will have a masters degree level understanding of human nature that’s applicable. Miller learned what he knows by dealing with very violent people, but what he learned and teaches here applies to pretty much everyone.
Finish by Jon Acuff
Everyone loves to start things, but it’s finishing them that gets tricky. Acuff has a load of advice on how to get all your important projects to completion, and of course, he delivers it with his typical humorous style.
It’s time to build upon your academic foundation and start reading! If you incorporate just one thing from each of these books into your thinking and into your life, you will set yourself apart from the competition, achieve more, and probably have a lot more fun doing it. So start learning!
Jonathan Brush is the President and CEO of Unbound, a homeschool graduate, and a homeschool dad of six. He worked for nine years as a Director of Admissions for a private, liberal arts college, and then spent over ten years working in non-traditional higher education.
Jonathan loves Unbound and Unbound students and dreams every single day about new ways to connect them to each other. He gets to work with the world’s best team and the most amazing student body in the history of the world (which is just as awesome as it sounds), and field questions about Rule 4 violations (ask an Unbound student to explain). Jonathan and his family make their home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.