They say the best things in life are free. I’m not sure if this is always true, but when it comes to great books, some of the most influential titles I have ever read are now in the public domain.
When a book becomes public domain, anyone can re-purpose the work without infringing any copyright laws. This means you can easily find these books online.
I have read each of these books completely and credit them with much of the success I now enjoy. If they helped me, perhaps they can help you.
The Art of War, but Sun Tzu
Written roughly 250 years before the birth of Christ, this is the quintessential book on strategy. Before Sun Tzu, war was typically thought of only in terms of attrition. If you had a bigger army with better equipment and training, the chances of you winning were very likely. War was simple, bloody, and often disastrous to both the winning and losing side.
Sun Tzu sought to change this by incorporating previously unheard of tactics, such as spies, taking advantage of terrain, and sometimes setting up a battle area and then leaving before the opposing army arrived.
Today, this book is required reading for all Chinese businessmen and women. There have been many revised editions, translating the wisdom of this book into many specific niches, but the core wisdom remains. This book will teach you how to think in terms of long term goals, as well as understanding what others may be trying to accomplish when you interact with them. Finally, he teaches deeply on the use of power when dealing with competitors, leaders, and subordinates.
The strongest do not necessarily win; the ones who best use their strengths do.
A Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi
Musashi was a samurai born in the late 16th century. Coming from a violent background and an abusive father, he sought to make his life meaningful by becoming the greatest swordsman who ever lived. By the judgement of many historians, he accomplished this goal. He won his first duel at the age of 15 and went on to victory in over sixty others before retiring from dueling in his early forties.
The last several years of his life were devoted to teaching his skills to others and passing on his philosophy. A Book of Five Rings is the culmination of his wisdom gained from a lifetime of competition.
Musashi was an excellent swordsman, but what made him truly great was his deep understanding of human nature. If an enemy was known for being quick tempered, he would insult them. If the enemy was known to plan ambushes, Musashi would arrive at the meeting place very early and attack when the conspirators came by to plan their ambush. He was never predictable, which was his greatest weapon.
He teaches how to hone the greatest weapon you have: your mind. Only through discipline and constant practice can we achieve mastery, and only through real application can we test ourselves.
Musashi taught me how to separate theory from practice, and which I should follow.
Though I was a soldier once, I am not a warrior by nature. I prefer peaceably ending conflicts and understanding where the other person is coming from. I find it’s always better to gain a friend than lose an enemy. This being said, there is great wisdom in the warriors of the ages. You don’t become an old warrior by being a mindless thug. People living on the edge of life and death daily learn what is really important in this world and what should be passed over.
These books have helped me change my life; I hope they can help you.
What’s the most influential book you’ve ever read? How did it change your life for the better? Please, leave a comment below.