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Summer Reading List Part 2: Top 6 #NotBusiness Books

Which (non-business) books have had the biggest impact on your life? In a follow-up to episode 50, Molly and John share the 6 books that have helped mold them into the people they are today: literature that has inspired our hosts to travel the world, control their minds, and make the world a better place. Now, they hope to inspire you to give these books a read!

You’ll Learn:

  • Which podcast guest wrote one of Molly’s favorite books
  • The idea behind “thought balancing”
  • Which book inspired Molly to study abroad in Rome
  • Why it’s okay to read books that aren’t “challenging”

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0:22 In this episode, Molly and John share their 6 most influential non-business books.

1:09 Molly’s first book was written by her guest from episode 2.

3:24 This book not only helped Molly, it helped her whole family.

4:58 “… this book actually led me to study abroad in Rome in college, which completely changed my life.” -Molly

7:55 That one time John got in trouble for reading…

9:21 John’s first book includes cognitive exercises for controlling your thoughts and feelings.

13:42 “…this positive, confident, optimistic take on life tends to attract people to you.”

17:46 You may have heard of this book before, but it’s worth talking about again.

22:32 Do you believe that every book you read should be an intense, high-level book?

25:00 Thanks for listening! To share your feedback or get a question answered on the podcast, follow and message Molly on Instagram at @mollypittmandigital.

Transcript Of Episode 52:

0:00 John: Let yourself be Inspired, let this be part of your artist’s day, to sit down and read books from somebody that you might not otherwise. Because It’s such a powerful tool for developing who you are, who you wanna be, and figuring out how you relate to the world around you.

Ezra: #notbusiness.

0:22 John: Hello and welcome to Episode 52 of the Smart Marketer Podcast. I’m your host, John Grimshaw. And I’m excited for today’s episode because Molly and I are going to be doing a “Unexpected, Part 2.” We had such a great response to our episode about the three business books that we said made a huge difference in our careers, and we decided we wanted to do a follow-up. To talk about not the business books but the books in general that have had the biggest Impact on our life. Which Is maybe even a better fit for our not-business segment.
So, today, join Molly and I as we each share three books that made a huge difference on the way that we think, the way that we approach problem solving, and how we make the most of this thing called life. So, can’t wait to dive in and share those books with you.

1:09 Molly: Hello everyone, Molly Pittman here. We hope you enjoyed the episode where we shared our favorite business books and now we are sharing our favorite non-business books, which is even more exciting to me. So, I tried to keep my true crime, mystery, even my silly fiction books off of this list. I wanted to Include books that I thought would help you in some way and that would really be broadly applicable to all of you, listeners. So, let’s do it. Here are my top three non-business books.

So, If you’ve been following me for a while, this first one is not a surprise, it’s called “The Universe Has Your Back” by Gabby Bernstein. This was one of the first self-help or spirituality books that I ever read and this book completely changed my life. And it basically helped me to realize that we don’t have to force everything in our life. That, if we sit back and we have good intentions and we work hard and we are in tune with a positive energy, that amazing things will show up. And ever since I read this book in 2015, that has absolutely been the case.
And what’s even cooler about this book is I read it when I was in a really dark place in my life. There was a lot going on with my family, I’d just gone through a bad breakup. And I literally googled “how to become happier” and Gabby Bernstein popped up. And if you haven’t heard her in one of our first 3 episodes, definitely go back and listen. Gabby’s had a profound impact on my life and my career. And this was the very first book of hers that I ever read. Again, it’s called “The Universe Has Your Back,” and I couldn’t recommend it any more. Gabby has, I believe, eight or nine best-selling books at this point. So, I could recommend any of her books to you. But, if you’re just getting started in her world, I would definitely start with “The Universe Has Your Back.”

3:24 Molly: Okay. The second book is along the same lines, and it’s called “The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz. I’m not sure if I’m saying his last name correctly. But I also found this book in 2015 right at the same time that I had read “The Universe Has Your Back.” And this is a similar book but it’s also very different. The wisdom that he shares in this book has been passed down in his family for generations. And it’s fascinating, it makes sense, it helps you make sense of life, it helps you make sense of hardships that you’re going through, any issues and relationships or business. I couldn’t recommend “The Mastery of Love” enough.

And, as I said, I found this book in 2015 and I actually gave it to a few people in my family who I hoped but wasn’t quite sure that they would be receptive to this type of information. And what was amazing is, after we all read this book, we were able to resolve the family issues that we were having. And I can really tie most of that resolution back to this particular book. So, similar to “The Universe Has Your Back” but also very different. They would be great books to read back to back because there are a lot of similar themes, but you’re gonna get different messages from both of them that are very helpful, and simply being a happier better person. So, “The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz.

4:58 Molly: And then, the third book that I want to recommend that’s a non-business book, this is different from the first two that I mentioned and this is “The Da Vinci Code” by Dan Brown. And I know some of you might be rolling your eyes or maybe you don’t like Dan Brown books, but, when I was in high school, I picked up a copy of “The Da Vinci Code” and I read it in just a few days. And I’ve never read a book where I felt like I was on as much of an adventure as I was inside of Dan Brown’s book.

And what’s amazing is that most of this book is based in Rome. So, not only are you learning about symbols and art, you’re also learning about this beautiful historic city. And it’s almost like you’re taking a tour through the characters’ eyes of Rome. And, so, I was so engulfed in this story, I was so engulfed in this city, that this book actually led me to study abroad in Rome in college, which completely changed my life. Because that’s really why I’ve gone back so much, I ended up living in Amsterdam for a few years. This book was the catalyst to really peak my interest in Europe, in Rome specifically, and has just had a huge impact on my curiosity and my sense of adventure. So, if you love a good mystery book, if you love a good book that feels like you just went on a grand adventure but, you know, you’re sitting on your couch, I couldn’t recommend “The Da Vinci Code” enough and really any of Dan Brown’s books.

And, you know, per usual, even if you’ve seen the movie, “The Da Vinci Code,” absolutely read the book, there’s just something special about the book. It gives me chill bumps actually talking about it right now, so, I need to get that back off the shelf. And that’ll be a good vacation read this summer.

Okay y’all, I hope you enjoyed this. Again, the three books that I recommended are “The Universe Has Your Back,” “The Mastery of Love,” and “The Da Vinci Code.” Let us know what are your favorite non-business books. Look me up on Instagram, @mollypittmandigital. Send me a DM, let me know what you’re reading, let me know what your favorites are. John, Ezra, and I are always looking for new books to read. And I can’t think of a better place to get ideas than you guys. So, send me a message, let me know what you’re reading. Hopefully you enjoy this, hopefully you pick up some of these books.
And mostly, take time to read non-business books. I always just feel better after I read a non-business book. I come back to my work charged up and energized and feeling clear in my mind. So, grab a non-business book from time to time, hope you enjoy, and we’ll see you in the next episode.

7:55 John: All right, I am really excited to dive in and talk about these three books. And it was surprisingly hard to narrow it down. Which I will give a little preface before I dive into my three books, and that is I think reading is still one of the best ways to sharpen the saw that is your mind. I absolutely love reading books. And when I was a little kid, there was a time that I actually got in trouble and sent to the principal’s office because I was reading a book in math class rather than doing the assignment. Which I think I’d actually completed. So, it ended up not being a big deal but I feel like a lot of the success I’ve had in my adult life comes from my interest in books.

And it’s not just professional-development books. Right? It is books about everything. I love science fiction, I love horror, I love books about big ideas, small ideas, philosophy, everything. I just devour books. And it helps me get a lot of different people’s perspectives. Right? Every time you read a book, it’s like spending a few hours in somebody else’s skin, seeing the way that they think about problems, how they learn, how they grow, how they struggle. And you can take those lessons and apply them to your own life.
So, I’ve got two books for you that are non-fiction. And one book that’s fiction that really made a big difference to me in my life, and, hopefully, at the end of this, you walk away and say, “I wanna go read one of those books myself.” But if not, at least you’ll get the big ideas and maybe I’ll flex your brain a little bit and you’ll decide to spend a few hours sitting down with a good book in the next few weeks.

9:21 John: So, the first book I want to recommend is called “A Guide to Rational Living.” It’s written by Albert Ellis and Robert Harper. And this book was, honestly, really dry when I first started reading it, but it just had such an interesting and important concept for me that I had to make it my top list. The book is actually the…maybe not the origin but certainly one of the origins of cognitive-behavioral therapy, a really powerful form of talk therapy that’s used today. At the time of the writing of this book, I think he used the technique called rational emotive behavior therapy, which is quite a mouthful. Not that cognitive behavioral therapy is much easier to say. But either way, it is a book all about this idea of you control the way that you think. And it’s a thing that a lot of us struggle with. And I think that’s why this book is so so important to me is because there have been many times in my life when I’ve struggled with negative thoughts or intrusive thoughts or things that I didn’t wanna think about and I felt a little out of control. Like my brain was pulling me in directions I didn’t wanna move.

And, so, the ideas in this book talk a lot about cognitive reframing, or what he calls “thought balancing.” But the idea is that, by thinking and rationalizing and creating some perspective around your thoughts, you’re able to pull out of a spiral of negative feelings. Those intrusive thoughts, those negative thoughts, you can by reframing them, take control of them and not have them pull you around by the nose but instead organize them and use them and feel your feelings without feeling overwhelmed by your feelings.

I think this book is actually pretty similar to some of the core concepts I talked about, from “Crucial Conversations.” But, instead of talking about how do you understand the way that you create emotions in conversation with others, it’s about self-reflective. Right? It’s how you create emotions and feelings in yourself in response to things. And in this book, Albert Ellis, who’s I think the core author, introduces his actions, beliefs, consequences, right, ABCs, as the big framework. But the idea is that actions are life events and we filter those through our beliefs, which he calls our shoulds, oughts, and musts.

But they’re essentially the expectations that we have about how life will go. And when there is conflict or discord or things don’t shake out the way that we want them to, we experience unpleasant emotional reactions or consequences. But, so, it’s showing that there’s a map between things that happen and the way that we feel our emotions. And it is all through this process of filtering whatever is going on through what we think should be happening. Right? Some expectation that the world is fair or that X equals Y equals Z equals A. Right? This sort of principle of “because this happened, the outcome should be this.” And we all know that’s not how life works. Right? It’s not like every single time things are gonna fall into pieces a certain way. Sometimes things happen that are good and sometimes things happen that are bad. And learning to let go of that expectation and release yourself from these irrational beliefs or things that you feel like must be the outcome really helps you get a little bit of perspective and step away from these negative emotions that can really drag you down.

And just to ground this in a real example, right, I’m talking about a lot of cognitive and reframing and it gets a little ephemeral, but I am a very anxious flyer. Which is pretty terrible for someone that has to do a lot of business travel. But I use a lot of the methods in this book to help me calm down and really handle that anxiety. When I get on a plane and it starts to get a little bit bumpy, I think rationally, I think logically, I think about the fact that the risk of flying is actually lower than the risk of driving a car. And I’m from Texas, we drive everywhere. So, I don’t get too anxious when I hop behind the wheel of the car. The anxiety that I feel when I fly is just that, it’s anxiety. Right? It’s a negative thought that is controlling my behavior. And by practicing the principles taught in this book, I am able to pull myself out of that anxiety a little.

Now, I won’t say that I never get anxious anymore, I still do, but this helps me handle that anxiety and keep from spiraling out of control. It’s not gonna work for everybody but, if there are things that stress you out, things that make you a little nervous, things that make you upset or angry or frustrated, the tools in this book are really helpful to work through those feelings. And I definitely recommend this for anyone that feels like sometimes they lose control of their thoughts. That’s a problem I struggled with a lot when I was younger and this book was really really helpful for me to ground myself and kind of get a handle on it.

13:42 John: The next book I wanna recommend is a fiction book. And it is a really really great short little parabolic book. Right? You know, it’s like sitting down to read maybe “The Four Agreements” or “The Richest Man in Babylon” but it is not either of those books, it is called “Illusions, the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah” by Richard Bach. In this book, a pilot who flew his plane all around the heartland of America, landing in little cornfields and flying people around for $3 a pop, which I think you’d call that person a barnstormer, but this pilot meets another pilot who has some weird almost supernatural abilities. And it turns out that he is a messiah who got tired of being a messiah.

So, with a fiction book, I don’t really wanna spoil it for you, I really recommend it, it’s very short, it’s a great book, but there’s a really key reason that this book has stuck with me and that it made my list of top three books. And it’s that the central theme of this book is this idea that life and the world around us are illusions. Right? Hence the name of the book. And the crazy thing is this is literally true. Right? If you think about the way that you experience the world around you, our brains smush together all of these different signals to create what we see in here. And our nervous system releases a bunch of chemicals that tell us what to think and feel about those things that we see in here. So, there’s a very strong biochemical process where we’re interpreting all this raw data and turning it into meaning and sense and reason and things we understand.

But a lot of that is very much created by our experiences in life. Right? We don’t even know, when we look at a color, if we see the same color as the people around us because it is all being created and filtered through our own brain. And starting to realize that the social structures and the expectations and some of the burdens that we feel limited by in life, those are generated through our own mind. And I don’t mean that I’m gonna float away if I decide that gravity doesn’t exist. But what I find really useful and comforting and helpful about this is that things that I see as big barriers or limitations, I often can work my way through them. Right? There are not many walls or obstacles that I can’t find a way through. It doesn’t mean I’m gonna be able to do it every time but I’m never gonna feel totally trapped and stuck because I can say, “Some of what I’m experiencing is being created by my own mind and I need to reason through what is a real limitation.” Right? I can only literally fit five people in my car. But there are other challenges like, if I need to move 10 people from place A to place B, I can rent a second car. I can borrow my wife’s car. There are ways to work around a problem, and that’s a really really helpful mental exercise.

And from that comes this idea that I am responsible for my own happiness, which I really really like. I will say I have it incredibly great to have been born in America and born into all the opportunity that I enjoy. So, I’m not saying that systemic barriers don’t exist and that there are not real problems that limit people from getting everything they want or having all the help they need or the support. So, I’m not pretending that everybody can move from anywhere in the social strata to the very very top. But I think the mindset of opportunity is really the key here. Right? You are responsible for your happiness in the sense that you can have a mindset where you’re focusing on abundance and focusing on the fact that there is opportunity around your life. And if you do this well, you’ll find yourself attracting people who wanna give you more opportunity because this positive confident optimistic take on life tends to attract people to you.

And I really have seen this work very well in my life, but even more so maybe in my father’s life. Right? He was a peanut farmer who became a doctor, who became a chief medical officer. Right? He’s a very open-minded and opportunity-seeking individual, and it really took him very very far. And I think a lot of people do have the ability to do this. And it doesn’t mean everybody’s gonna get exactly where they want in life but starting to look for opportunity and embrace it I think is a really powerful tool.

17:46 John: The last book I wanna mention is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. And I’m sure I have talked about this book on another podcast episode, but it’s such a good book it’s worth mentioning again. And the reason I really like this book and I always wanna talk about it in terms of life and business and really everything is that it is not so much about being an artist, as you might think, it is about this idea that creativity is not magic. Right? Creativity is not something where you’re gonna be handed it in a dream and you translate that and you’re done being creative. Creativity is, in fact, a method. Creativity is the diligent practice of finding and chasing inspiration and translating that into something useful. And really that creativity is a powerful tool for all of us, not just the writers and the painters and the musicians. Learning how to tap into your creativity will make you better at problem solving, it’ll make you better at marketing, it’ll make you better at connecting and enjoying time with other people. Because you’ll start to see little moments of joy and inspiration, you’ll start to see connections that you might not have seen before, you’ll start to interpret things in a totally different way.

And what’s so cool about this book and why I really like it is the process by which Julia Cameron leads you into this more creative life through this method is really simple. There are two key pieces to it. And if you can implement these two key pieces in your life I think you’re gonna have a lot of success finding more creativity and more joy.

The first one and the one that I like the best is what she calls morning pages. And the idea is just that, every morning, when you get up, the first thing you do is you need to write three pages longhand. That’s it. You need to write three pages longhand. It can be writing down what you dreamed about, it can be writing down description of your bed, it can be writing down description of how you feel when you haven’t had a cup of coffee, it can be, “I don’t know what to write,” that you write over three pages. But if you follow this practice every single day, you do these morning pages, you will find that your mind starts to organize information in really interesting ways through this. You’ll write down things that you’re worrying about and you’ll pull them out of your brain where you’re not stressing about them every second. You’ll have a spark of inspiration about a work problem you’ve been trying to solve. You’ll be reminded of some interesting story you heard that you wanna write down because you haven’t heard anyone else tell it before. But it pulls information out of your brain where it has been locked up or it’s jumbled up or you can’t understand it and it spits it out into a format where you can actually process it and see it.

And you don’t turn these morning pages into the next bestseller on “The New York Times” list but you use this process to clean and organize your mind so that it’s better at doing everything else it’s supposed to do.
And the other tool in the artist toolkit here is what she calls “the artist date.” It’s the idea that, once a week, you need to go experience something new and unique by yourself to start to fuel the tank. Right? You have a creativity tank, an energy tank, an inspiration tank. And using a lot of that up by sharing good ideas or creating or thinking through things drains the tank. And finding unique new perspectives and insights and experiences is the best way to fill the tank up.

And, so, finding time to commit to, by yourself, take this internal journey of going to the zoo alone or going to an art exhibit alone or going and wandering around a flea market by yourself, you will be prompted with all these new sights and smells and sensory experiences that you will take in and interpret as your body sees fit. And those fuel the tank. So, next time you sit down to write, you’ll be reminded of the strange way the light glinted off of this wind chime as you were walking through the flea market. Maybe that is the missing piece that your marketing campaign has been needing. Right? This little glint of creativity translated from a spinning wind chime into your next sales letter that sells…I’m making up a number so I can say anything, $100 million worth of product.

But this book is just so good because it’s a really really simple set of tools. Right? It’s writing every morning three pages longhand, and it’s once a week taking the time to spend just a little bit of time with yourself in a new environment and letting yourself feel that, experience it, and process it, and turn it into future inspiration. So, definitely a really really good book that I absolutely recommend. And a pretty quick read and it has a lot of work bookie vibes to it. So, if you wanna do this really next level, she is giving you the tools to do so.
So, those are my three books. I really really think they are all worth a read, just like the business books I recommended on last week’s episode.

22:32 John: But the other thing I’ll say is that I fell into this trap of feeling like, every time I read a book, I needed to be reading a really intense high-level book. Right? I needed to sit down and I needed to read “Sapiens.” Which is a good book but it took me a little while to get through it. And, so, there was a 2 or 3-year period of my life where I wasn’t really reading books because I felt like, if I was reading something that I thought was fun, I wasn’t working on myself, I wasn’t doing this personal-development thing that I do find very valuable.
But, about 3 years ago, I realized, “You know what? I used to read 20 to 30 books a year, and I’ve been reading 3 to 5 books a year because I’m turning it into a chore.” And so, I flipped it on its head, I said, “Hey, I wanna read because I think reading is a great way to have a meeting of the minds with people that I probably will never have a conversation with in real life. And it means I’m gonna read what I think is interesting, I’m gonna read things that make me ask questions and think harder and think deeper about the world around me, my relationships with people and my relationship with myself.”

And I’ve kind of [inaudible 00:23:34] my reading back up, right, I think I’ve read 10 or 12 or so books so far this year, which is not bad. And a lot of those were fiction books but a lot of those books inspired really interesting conversations with people that I care about that helped me further define how I see the world and how I understand my role in it. And, so, I recommend that…you can read business books all day long, and you should read some business books, especially “Crucial Conversations,” it’s very good. But you should also let yourself enjoy reading. If it’s something that’s fun for you, it’s a really really great way to take in all kinds of information. It doesn’t always have to be super intense and hybrid. Right? Let yourself be inspired, let this be part of your artist’s day, to sit down and read books from somebody that you might not otherwise. Or read something that you find fun and enjoyable, inspirational. Because it’s such a powerful tool for developing who you are, who you wanna be, and figuring out how you relate to the world around you.

So, hopefully you enjoy those books. I would love to hear from you what books have made a big difference in your life. I wanna flesh out my reading list. Right? I’m almost done with the book I’m in the middle of right now, which I think is called “Black Water Sister.” So, if you have any suggestions for me for business books or personal books or things that really meant a lot to you, please share them with me on Instagram or email us at And I will look at all of those emails you guys send in. So, thanks so much. I hope you enjoyed this episode.

25:00 Molly: Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Smart Marketer Podcast. For any resources mentioned on the show today, please visit our show notes at If you enjoyed this episode, please leave us an honest review on whichever platform you are listening. Thanks again, and we’ll see you next time.

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