4 Books for Success Beyond Your Day Job9 min read

Published by Zach on

My “day job” is medical school. I enjoy it. But I was hungry for something outside of it. I wanted to build something. Create something. And yes, I’ll say it, I wanted to make money. Here are 4 books for success beyond your day job.

In the past 5 years, I have read over 100 books on self-help and building a side hustle, but I never did anything. Until I read these four books.

These 4 books actually provided actionable advice as opposed to fluff and motivated me to create something, to START.

Show Your Work

Austin Kleon, the author, explains that everyone is doing something interesting. Whatever you are aspiring to do, to create, to build, there are other people trying to do something similar to you.

Also, those people, aren’t necessarily looking for a professional to learn from. They want to see an amateur, they want a comrade, a compatriot, someone to walk alongside them as they learn their new craft. You can be that person.

Austin explains to just start. Don’t focus on making money or gaining a career out of it. Don’t even focus on “gaining a following.”

Focus on what you enjoy doing. What do you enjoy learning about, or experiencing, when you are done your work for the day? When you are done the things you have to do?

Are you into cinematography? Do you wish there were more hours in the day so you could learn about lighting or proper editing?

That was just an example, but find that thing.

Start sharing what you learn. Consistently.

Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.

Austin Kleon

This was the book that actually motivated me to start. After I read this book I started writing down ideas for YouTube videos and I started this website.

Now when you are sharing your work, Austin says, to only share what YOU would be interested in. Say you want to learn from a guitar player you admire. He has a website, but instead of seeing some awesome tutorials, or a new song he is working on, he posts about his favorite brand of water bottles. Would you be disappointed? I think I would.

This leads into my favorite quote of the entire book (which Austin actually quotes from his professor in college)


Austin goes on to say,

“What are you working on?” Stick to that question and you’ll be good. Don’t show your lunch or your latte; show your work.

Austin Kleon

What do you want to learn about? What do you wish someone could teach you how to do? Learn about it and immediately post about it.

Finally, it is important to realize that, one day, you might actually have an audience. Respect your audience. Value their time. Learn to speak properly. Learn to write properly. Austin says,

You’re never “keeping it real” with your lack of proofreading and punctuation, you’re keeping it unintelligible.

Austin Kleon

The 4-Hour Workweek

Generate Passive Income. That is the main teaching goal of this book.

I have read this book twice now and each time I learn something new. He gives specific, step-by-step guides on how to define your goals, eliminate the unnecessary, automate EVERYTHING (in business and life), and liberate yourself from whatever is holding you down.

[Side Note: I just love Tim Ferris, I listen to his podcast, subscribe to his blog, and read his books. They all provide really good value and don’t waste your time, what I’m trying to do here!]

The first step is Define.

What’s important to you? What’s your goal? What do you really want?

This helped me figure out that I really enjoy medical school, but I have this extra little bit of time, and of me. This little bit of Zach likes creating, likes nerding out on camera equipment, and likes sharing what I learn with others.

I also don’t want to depend on medicine for an income.

Many doctors I speak to (but not all) seem to like what they do but feel burnt out. They wish they could work a few fewer hours, but they still have to pay off their student loans (usually over 200k), and their daughter just got accepted to a university charging 60K a year.

My goal, what’s important to me, would be able to teach people cool things, that I find cool and make some money. That’s it.

So I started a YouTube channel, and this blog because if I was successful on either platform I could accomplish those goals.

Ok end mini rant

So when you figure out your goal, Tim says, to eliminate everything unnecessary. He introduces the 80/20 rule, which says that 80% of what you are doing isn’t that important. The other 20%, is.

The 20% is making the real impact. Double, triple, quadruple down on that 20% and you will reap the benefits.

Some ways you can actually implement this:

  • Batching: Such as looking at your email only once or twice a day. Doing laundry only when you have enough dirty clothes for two full loads. Meal Prep.
  • Pick One Thing Every Day: What is the one thing, that if you got accomplished that day, would move you closer to your goal. It seems if you set this “one thing” you are way more likely to accomplish it. And to not get bogged down with the unnecessary, the 80%.
  • Stop Multitasking: When you are writing, just write, don’t have the TV on in the background. Turn your phone on airplane mode, turn off the internet on your computer.

When writing, write.

Then Tim says we should automate. There are much better guidelines inside of the book, but, basically, when you automate you create time for the more important things. For the 20%.

This is why when you call the customer support line at Microsoft, you don’t get Bill Gates on the phone. Bill Gate’s time is much better spent doing other things than answering technical support questions, such as figuring out ways to prevent children from dying from malaria.

Finally Mr. Ferris says liberate.

You have your plan, your dream, you what to eliminate, you know how to eliminate. Now how do you apply this to your day job? To your side hustle?

Slowly transition, make small changes, that, over time, will be BIG changes.

For example, if you work in an office, try to slowly transition to working at home. You must still be generating value for the company, however, and you must demonstrate (to your boss or whomever) that you can keep giving value, maybe even more value, when you are working from home.

Do things that you enjoy. The whole point of this book is to free up time so you can do what drives you.

Some other small tihings I learned from this book

  • Carry around a physical notebook. In it write “to-dos”, ideas, observations, anything that you think is important.
  • Reduce clutter everywhere, in life, at work, in your diet.

Steal Like an Artist

Is it ok to steal someone’s work? Someone’s art? Austin Kleon argues, yes, as long as you do it right.

As a new YouTuber and blogger, I certainly draw my inspiration from others. I may even be copying people, but, I feel, I am putting my own spin on things. Making it Zach’s.

In one of my favorite passages from the books, Austin tells us to pick someone we admire. Then learn as much as we can about that person. What drives them? What is their style? Their niche?

Then find three people that that person followed. That that person admired. Learn about these three new people. Continue this process.

Eventually, you will have created a “family tree” of sorts. The tree consists of people you admire. Once you have established the tree you can grow your own branch.

Or, in other words, use all the insights and strategies from the people you have learned about to create something yourself.

Your work will definitely have their influences, but, it will be a blend of those ideas. You will, maybe without realizing, pick the ideas and principles that you agree with the most and represent you the most. At that point, you will be creating something new whether you like it or not.

Finally don’t wait to grow your own branch, to create, to fail, start doing stuff now!

Once you start you will learn exponentially more things from doing, and from failing, than from reading books about “what you are meant to do.”

Failure and Experience are the best teachers.

Anything You Want

The last book is about a struggling musician, Derek Sivers, and his 22 million dollar company. He began wanting to sell his CDs online. But there was no place to sell music for independent musicians online.

What did he do? He solved his own problem. He made a website that sold his CDs online.

He had no idea how to code or start a website. He learned.

He had no idea how to legally start a business or ship CDs. he learned.

He figured out how to fix a problem he had.

But how did he compete with other companies, like Apple, that were selling CDs online?

He put the customers first.

Never forget absolutely everything you do is for your customers […] If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “how can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests.

Derek Sivers

Finally, Derek says, to not forget why you go into what you are doing. Whenever I am at a crossroads or stuck, I remember this quote, my favorite quote from the book,

pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.”

Derek Sivers

Overall I loved this book. What I think Derek is trying to say is, do something that you enjoy doing. Do something that benefits people.

That’ it.

Thanks for reading! hope you gained something out of this. These books really did change my life. What books changed yours? I’d be interested to know.



Show Your Work – Austin Kleon

  • Share what you are working on
  • Only share what YOU would be interested in
  • Use proper grammar

The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferris

  • Generate Passive Income

Steal Like an Artist – Austin Kleon

  • Start your own branch
  • Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started
  • Write the book you want to read
  • Do good work and share it with people

Anything You Want – Derek Sivers

  • Put customers first
  • Follow your passion


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