At this point, I can’t count the number of times I asked myself this question,

“How did they do it?” Have you ever asked yourself this question?

Books, blogs, and online videos claiming to hold the “secret to success”

attract a lot of attention. It’s tempting to look at the table of contents, or

skim the bullet points, or fast forward through that popular TED talk for

something you can use to advance your career.


Over the span of my career, I dedicated a lot of time to contemplating the

answer. I will share my solution to this question, the one I put into practice,

and why I found it true for me.


First, I have no desire to imitate someone else. I never wanted to find a

way to copy someone else. I studied to stimulate my thinking and

imagination. I was determined to create or invent my path to success. I

searched for years to discover the “secrets” to success, and I have

confirmed one undeniable principle. I’ll share it now.


There are no secrets to success!

I do not claim to know all the answers; there is much in this world I don’t

know. However, I did discover a way to learn more about success, and it

did not come from books about success “secrets” – my most significant

discoveries came from biographies and autobiographies of successful

people. Reading about the lives of successful people revealed the

obstacles, adversity, and challenges they faced. The stories of their lives

show us how often they tried and failed; and (reveals) their determination to

work until they succeeded.


In these books, I discovered what I did not know and that inspired me to learn 

more and not give up until I succeeded.

Looking for inspiration for your journey to success? Here are thirteen of my

favorite biographies. I recommend you consider looking for the inspiration

and wisdom you seek between the covers of these books.


Bennis, Warren: Still Surprised by Warren Bennis with Patricia Ward

Biederman. This memoir has special meaning for me because it gave me

insight into the thought process of one of the most esteemed writers on

leadership and management in modern times. I rank Bennis as one of the

two greatest business writers of my lifetime.

Carmi, Avner: The Immortal Piano by Avner and Hannah Carmi: This

autobiography is absolutely the best quest story I have ever read. I have

read it more than once and look forward to reading it again.


Carnegie, Andrew: Andrew Carnegie and the Rise of Big Business by

Harold C. Livesay: This biography of my favorite business mogul of the

Industrial Revolution is a fascinating story. Carnegie’s business principles

and practices would fit any age. He was a man who made the most of his

opportunities, made outstanding contributions to his time and invested his

resources in the future.


Cathy, Truett: It’s Easier To Succeed Than To Fail by S. Truett Cathy:

How did a tongue-tied boy working in the kitchen of his mother’s boarding

house become a successful businessman and a popular public speaker?

He often said, “It’s easier to succeed than fail.” Cathy explains that

statement as he tells his story of the development of the Chick-fil-A

restaurant chain. You will see this man’s success in life extended far

beyond his business. He uses simple words to convey a profound



Drucker, Peter: The World According to Peter Drucker by Jack Beatty:

In these words from The Economist, Drucker has been labeled “the

greatest thinker management theory has produced.” He was that, but more

important to most of us his thinking was clearly stated in his twenty-nine

books on management, industrial organization, employee motivation, and

most important for me personal development. Of all of the writers on

management, leadership and executive effectiveness Drucker is the

absolute best! I have read his book The Effective Executive dozens of



Franklin Benjamin: Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter

Isaacson: It is said that there have been more biographies written of

Franklin’s life than any other of America’s Founding Fathers. I have read

several, but this is my favorite. The more you learn about Franklin the

more you will appreciate that he is indeed the original model American.

This book is definitely a must read.


Kroc, Ray: Grinding It Out by Ray Crock with Robert Anderson: Written

in 1976, this is a from-the-heart autobiography told by Kroc in his own

words that clearly convey his founding operating principles and customer

focused practices that made McDonald’s America’s favorite hamburger

restaurant chain.


Lewis, Meriwether: Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose: This is

my favorite book on the Lewis and Clark exploration of the American West

after Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase. Meriwether Lewis was

America’s greatest explorer. To add to the pleasure of reading, Ambrose

writes history books that read like novels.


Lincoln, Abraham: The Prairie Years (two volumes), and The War Years

(four volumes) by Carl Sandburg:. This six volume Pulitzer Prize work is the

definitive biography of one of our greatest presidents and it is absolutely

the most comprehensive biography that I have ever read. If six volumes

with 3,309 pages is more than you want to tackle, the author did

subsequently write a single volume, 747 paged abridged version.


Patton, General George: Patton: The Man Behind the Legend. By

Martin Blumenson: No one attains General Patton’s level of legendary

leadership without conviction, courage and confidence. He had all three,

and was convinced that he was born for one reason, “I have always

thought that I was a military genius or at least that I … would be a great

general.” Those who admire him and those who despise him all

acknowledge that he was a great general. He is leadership personified.


Sanders, Colonel Harland: Finger Lickin’ Good by Harland Sanders:

This book is actually an autobiographic series of stories. It is written in

Sanders own words as he spoke them. The writing is not highly polished

but the story is worth reading, because it is an excellent illustration of the

life of a man with a goal who never gave up.


Truman, Harry: Truman by David McCullough: The story of Harry

Truman’s life is one of an unlikely man rising to the occasion to

successfully fill the greatest leadership challenge of the century. As time

passes, more people believe that Truman was the Lincoln of his age. I can

think of no one who could tell the story better or in a more interesting style

than David McCullough.


Wright, Frank Lloyd: Frank Lloyd Wright: America’s Greatest

Architect by Herbert Jacobs: Frank Lloyd Wright was an architectural

genius, unfailingly innovative, amazingly bold, but also notoriously eccentric

and unconventional. Even though not everyone agrees that Wright was

America’s greatest architect, he is, without a doubt, the best known of all 

American architects. The architectural schools of America’s best 

universities still have many students who aspire to be the next

Frank Lloyd Wright.

Complied by Jimmy Collins