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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 March 14, 2019

                                7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

                                7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

                                Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

                                For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

                                Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

                                1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

                                A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

                                It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

                                It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

                                How it helps you:

                                If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

                                Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

                                2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

                                Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

                                Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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                                How it helps you:

                                Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

                                Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

                                If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

                                Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

                                3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

                                Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

                                Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

                                How it helps you:

                                This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

                                For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

                                Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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                                A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

                                4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

                                To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

                                A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

                                How it helps you:

                                One word: hierarchy.

                                All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

                                In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

                                If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

                                5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

                                Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

                                Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

                                How it helps you:

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                                Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

                                If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

                                This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

                                6. What do you like about working here?

                                This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

                                Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

                                How it helps you:

                                You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

                                Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

                                Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

                                7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

                                What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

                                As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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                                How it helps you:

                                What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

                                First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

                                Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

                                Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

                                Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

                                Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

                                Making Your Interview Work for You

                                Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

                                Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

                                More Resources About Job Interviews

                                Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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