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15 Motivational Books To Read In Your 20s

15 Motivational Books To Read In Your 20s

Being 25 is hard. It took me longer than most 20-somethings, but after hitting a quarter of a century, I too realized that I am nowhere near where I want to be in life. Everything seems wide open, but choosing a future is tough. This is a crucial phase in my life and I don’t think I’m alone in not having a clue what I want to do with the rest of it.

If you’re a 20-something too and you’re sometimes frustrated, or have a tough time motivating yourself, then this is for you. Because no matter how hard it gets, there are always plenty of sources to get new motivation from. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite ones: books.

I recently went through all the books I’ve read in my life so far, to pick out the ones that motivated and inspired me the most. I hope you’ll pick up one or two of these, and that they’ll change your life the same way they changed mine.

Here they are.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

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    Summary: A young shepherd boy in Southern Spain has the same dream about a hidden treasure in Egypt, over and over again, which eventually leads him to investigate it. He learns that one day, everyone finds out what their destiny is and that it requires passion and desire to make your destiny become a reality. Along the journey to find the treasure he meets new and strange people, some of which become his friends and touch his heart. The combined teachings of his companions finally lead him to a realization that is much bigger than even the treasure itself.

    Favorite quote:

    When you want something, all the universe conspires to help you achieve it.

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling

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      Summary: In his fourth year at Hogwarts, the school hosts the legendary Triwizard Tournament, for the first time in 202 years, where three wizards from three schools compete in grueling trials for fame and glory. Technically too young to compete, Harry mysteriously ends up as the fourth participant and soon has to face challenges he doesn’t feel remotely ready for. With luck, friends, bravery and skill he perseveres until the end, only to find he finally has to take responsibility not only for who he is, but also for the entire wizarding world.

      Favorite quote:

      It matters not what someone is born to be, but what they grow to be.

      Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

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        Summary: Pippi Longstocking is an estimated 9 years old (though no one knows for sure), has superhuman strength, and lives in a rainbow-colored house with her monkey, Mr. Nilsson, and her horse Old Man. She takes care of herself entirely, as her father, a famous seafarer, has been lost at sea for a few years, after dropping her off in the village, because he thought life at sea was too dangerous for her. Although Pippi has no manners, can’t do math and neither read, nor write, she lives an extraordinary life, filled with adventures, mostly involving the neighbors’ kids and shows that living by the world’s rules is hopelessly overrated. She never ceases to shock adults, but is living proof that you can make the world what you want it to be, without fitting any template the world would call normal.

        Favorite quote:

        I have never tried that before, so I think I should definitely be able to do that.

        Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

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          Summary: Artemis Fowl is just 12-year old, but is already following in his father’s footsteps as a notorious, underground crime lord. Driven mostly by greed, he kidnaps a fairy police officer, in order to blackmail the fairies into giving him their gold. But as he gets to know his prisoner, it is slowly revealed that there is a deeper meaning behind his seemingly evil plan. The battle between good and evil is not as black and white, as it seems, and starts to transcend the borders of fairies vs. humans.

          Favorite quote:

          Confidence is ignorance. If you’re feeling cocky, it’s because there’s something you don’t know.

          The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

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            Summary: The book begins with the legendary white picket fence painting punishment, which Tom turns into a fun afternoon of hustling his friends out of their little treasures and belongings, in order to let them paint the fence for him. He then courts his classmate Becky, witnesses a murder with his best friend Huck, becomes a lonely pirate on an island, returns to start a treasure hunt and gets himself and his crush into serious danger. Though he faces social and moral issues and crises all through his adventures, he’s still led to the conclusion that his way of approaching things might not be so bad at all.

            Favorite quote:

            The less there is to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.

            The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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              Summary: After a short introduction the narrator ends up stranded in the desert, because his airplane crashes. He meets a strange little boy, who came to earth after traveling around the universe and exploring several asteroids. As the days go by and the narrator tries to fix his plane, the prince recounts stories from his travels and his former life on his own asteroid, which highlight and critique lots of elements of society, all the while showing the identity crisis many of us go through at some point, exactly because of those less-than-good parts of society.

              Favorite quote:

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              And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.

              Measuring the World by Daniel Kehlmann

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                Summary: This incredibly funny and ironic novel re-invents the lives of Carl Friedrich Gauß, famous German mathematician, and Alexander von Humboldt, biologist, adventurer, scientist and explorer. It does away with boring facts and figures, and quickly tells the stories of their discoveries, most of which with humorous (and made up) twists. The narrative perspective switches between the two, eventually having them meet and become long-term pen pals.

                Favorite quote:

                That was the moment when he grasped that nobody wanted to use their minds. People wanted peace. They wanted to eat and sleep and have other people be nice to them. What they didn’t want to do was think.

                The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

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                  Summary: When the curator of the famous Louvre in Paris is murdered, Harvard professor and expert in symbolism and cryptography Robert Langdon is called to help. Against the French police’s efforts, who suspect Langdon to be the murderer, and thanks to the help of local police cryptographer Sophie Neveu, the two are soon lead to a safety deposit box at a bank, which contains a cryptex, yet another mysterious item containing more riddles and codes to crack. The chase after the seemingly religious killer, who seeks to find the Holy Grail for his master, leads them to Britain, Scotland and the point where friend can’t be told from foe. They finally discover that there’s a much bigger plot in progress, which might erase the world’s most powerful church, and, as it comes full circle, brings them right back to the beginning.

                  Favorite quote:

                  Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.

                  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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                    Summary: Ebenezer Scrooge is rich beyond measure. Sadly, the only thing the old man is preoccupied with is turning money into more money, which leaves him roaming the streets alone, clenching his fists, yelling at workers, children and the less fortunate. That night, the ghost of his former business partner appears, warning him of the terrible (same) fate he is about to suffer, if his habits of greed and selfishness don’t change. He tells him that he’ll be visited by the three ghosts of Christmas (past, present and future), which then take him on a tour of various Christmas scenarios. The grief and horror he witnesses transform him over night, and he decides not to waste another second and right his wrongs, feeling blissful at having been granted another shot at life.

                    Favorite quote:

                    There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.

                    The Hunger Games: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

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                      Summary: After both Katniss and Peeta make it out of the 74th Hunger Games alive, they’re supposed to visit all the districts of Panem on a victory tour. This instantly turns dark, as people seem to take inspiration in how Katniss broke the rules to make it possible for two people to win, instead of just one, and a rebellion dwells underneath the surface. To nip this in the bud, the Capitol comes up with a terrible twist: All participants for the next year’s Hunger Games are to be drawn from a pool of previous victors, dragging Katniss and Peeta right back into the arena. Deadlier and trickier than ever before, the struggle for survival forces the tributes to join forces, and once again the grand scheme only unfolds to Katniss (and the reader) in the final pages of the book.

                      Favorite quote:

                      I wish I could freeze this moment, right here, right now and live in it forever.

                      Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

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                        Summary: When Meggie spots a stranger in front of her father Mo’s house, who’s a bookbinder, weird things begin to happen. Dustfinger, as the stranger and apparently old friend of Mo is called, seems to be a troublemaker, whom aunt Elinor isn’t happy to see, when the three arrive at her house full of books, where Mo has some work to do. Soon Meggie discovers that the perpetual presence of books in her life is no coincidence, as her father can make them come to life when reading out aloud…

                        Favorite quote:

                        Books have to be heavy because the whole world’s inside them.

                        The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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                          Summary: In 1922, Nick Carraway takes a new job and moves to West Egg, a fictional village on Long Island. When he visits his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom, he meets the attractive, but cynical Jordan Baker, and soon finds out that the lavish lifestyle they all lead comes at many a terrible price, including infidelity, depression, alcoholism and identity crises. The mysterious millionaire owner of the mansion next door, Jay Gatsby, soon invites Nick to one of his extravagant parties, which Jay himself never attends. When Nick discovers they all have a shared history of romance, including his cousin Daisy and Jay, he tries to help reunite two estranged lovers, which ends in disaster.

                          Favorite quote:

                          Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead.

                          Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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                            Summary: This book introduces Sherlock Holmes and his companion and biographer Dr. John Watson, starting off with them meeting via a mutual friend and deciding to share the flat at 221B Baker Street, in order to save money. Next to Holmes obvious quirks, like experimenting with drugs and playing the violin in the middle of the night, Watson notices many guests come and go, who turn out to be Holmes’s clients.

                            When a Scotland Yard messenger arrives and requests help with a new murder case, Watson eventually persuades Holmes to investigate the crime scene and Holmes invites him to tag along. As the two analyze and interpret the odds and ends of the murder, the plot thickens and a second murder takes place. The hunt finds a sudden end in Holmes’s apartment, with the second part of the novel explaining the entire story leading up to the murderer’s malicious actions and capture, including how Holmes deciphered minute details and thus identified the suspect.

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                            Favorite quote:

                            What you do in this world is a matter of no consequence. The question is what can you make people believe you have done.

                            The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason

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                              Summary: Since the book is a collection of short stories, it’s divided into 9 major parts, many of which have sub-chapters, the first and foremost being the story giving the book its title.

                              It reveals how Arkad, the richest man in Babylon, owes much of his wealth to simply saving 10% of his income each year. This is followed by the “Seven Cures for a Lean Purse”, a series of seven lessons on how to save money and “The Five Laws of Gold”, which lay out a simple philosophy for investing. Then, “The Clay Tablets from Babylon” draws lessons from the fictional translation of five ancient, Babylonian tablets by an English archeology professor. The other five parables are more singular in their nature and each hold one or two more lessons to be learned about building wealth.

                              Favorite quote:

                              Advice is one thing that is freely given away, but watch that you only take what is worth having.

                              Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

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                                Summary: Phileas Fogg is a rich English gentleman of the old school, with discipline like clockwork and few pleasures, one of which is engaging with his friends at the Reform Club. When his friends discuss an article in The Daily Telegraph, stating it is now possible to travel around the world in 80 days, thanks to a new railway line in India, he takes a £20,000 (£1.6 million today) wager and sets off with his newly hired valet, Jean Passepartout (whose last name translates to “passport”). Using mostly trains and steamboats, the two make new friends, face lots of setbacks, get lost, find each other again, and even gain an entire day (which eventually helps them win the bet), returning to London at the same time, exactly 80 days later.

                                Favorite quote:

                                Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.

                                A book a day keeps the worry away

                                Just reading a few pages in one of these can make the difference between having a slow, boring day, and feeling inspired to take action. These are just some of the books to read in your 20s, so now I want to know: what’s YOUR favorite motivational book?

                                Let me know in the comments and tell me which one of these you want to pick up first.


                                This post is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Four Minute Books.

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                                Niklas Goeke

                                Student, Technical University of Munich

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                                Last Updated on July 20, 2021

                                How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

                                How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

                                You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

                                Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

                                Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

                                Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

                                1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

                                According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

                                “Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

                                Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

                                Warming up

                                If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

                                If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

                                Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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                                1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
                                2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
                                3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

                                Stay hydrated

                                Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

                                To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

                                Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

                                Meditate

                                Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

                                Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

                                Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

                                Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

                                2. Focus on your goal

                                One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

                                Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

                                Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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                                Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

                                If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

                                3. Convert negativity to positivity

                                There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

                                ‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

                                It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

                                Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

                                Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

                                Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

                                4. Understand your content

                                Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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                                However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

                                “No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

                                Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

                                Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

                                One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

                                5. Practice makes perfect

                                Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

                                In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

                                Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

                                6. Be authentic

                                There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

                                Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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                                Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

                                To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

                                With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

                                Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

                                7. Post speech evaluation

                                Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

                                Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

                                We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

                                You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

                                Improve your next speech

                                As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

                                Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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                                • How did I do?
                                • Are there any areas for improvement?
                                • Did I sound or look stressed?
                                • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
                                • Was I saying “um” too often?
                                • How was the flow of the speech?

                                Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

                                If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

                                Reference

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