The best books to help you live a meaningful and successful life

Why am I passionate about this?

I sometimes describe myself as a stealth Zen teacher working in the business world. I've founded and been CEO of three companies, including the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, a company I helped create and launch inside of Google's headquarters. I'm an executive coach and consultant to CEOs and leaders in the corporate and non-profit worlds. Prior to my business career I was a resident of the San Francisco Zen Center for 10 years. I'm the author of 5 books.


I wrote...

Finding Clarity: How Compassionate Accountability Builds Vibrant Relationships, Thriving Workplaces and Meaningful Lives

By Marc Lesser,

Book cover of Finding Clarity: How Compassionate Accountability Builds Vibrant Relationships, Thriving Workplaces and Meaningful Lives

What is my book about?

This book is about helping people be better leaders in their own lives and workplaces. It's meant to help improve companies and workplace cultures through increasing clarity, accountability, and compassion. And it's intended to support people to utilize and leverage these lessons into our communities and beyond.

Each of the chapters in my book are essential lessons as well as practices for creating a more meaningful and successful life: be curious not furious; drop the story; listen for understanding; mind the gaps; cultivate a clear vision; turn breakdowns into breakthroughs; and don't wait. These practices describe the essential elements of what I'm calling compassionate accountability. I firmly believe that clarity and compassionate accountability are essential elements and practices not only toward our well-being but the survival of the human species.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind

Marc Lesser Why did I love this book?

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the experts there are few" is one of hundreds of gems from this collection of talks by Shunryu Suzuki, founding teacher of the San Francisco Zen Center.

Living a meaningful and successful life requires cultivating a full-functioning mind and body. Here are simple and profound instructions for seeing through the world of greed, aversion, and delusion. Suzuki provides guidelines for redefining meaning and success, going way beyond the usual self-help realm and toward a way of transforming how you see and live in the world.

By Shunryu Suzuki,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Named one of the 100 Best Spiritual Books of the Twentieth Century (Spirituality & Practice)

A 50th Anniversary edition of the bestselling Zen classic on meditation, maintaining a curious and open mind, and living with simplicity.

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

So begins this most beloved of all American Zen books. Seldom has such a small handful of words provided a teaching as rich as has this famous opening line. In a single stroke, the simple sentence cuts through the pervasive tendency students have of getting so close to Zen…


Book cover of The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization

Marc Lesser Why did I love this book?

Though written more than 30 years ago, I continue to return to it for solid business, entrepreneurial, and life advice.

Peter Senge's theories can help businesses to clarify their goals, to better understand threats, and to recognize new opportunities. He introduces leaders and managers to a new source of competitive advantage, and offers an empowering approach to work.

Mastery of Senge's five disciplines enables managers to overcome their obstacles to growth and creates new futures for them and their companies. The five disciplines are drawn from science, spiritual wisdom, psychology, cutting-edge management thought, and Senge's own work with top corporations that employ his methods.

By Peter M. Senge,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Fifth Discipline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the seminal management books of the past 75 years, The Fifth Discipline is an international multi-million-copy bestseller. Written in an engaging and accessible way, with diagrams and illustrations, it will change the way you think and therefore way you and your team grows and develop. In the long run, the only sustainable source of competitive advantage is your organisation's ability to learn faster than its competitors....

'Senge explains why the learning organization matters, provides an unvarnished summary of his management principals, offers some basic tools for practicing it, and shows what it's like to operate under this system.…


Book cover of Siddhartha

Marc Lesser Why did I love this book?

Siddhartha is a profound exploration of spirituality, self-discovery, and the pursuit of meaning in life.

It encourages readers to seek their own paths, embrace the present moment, and develop a deep sense of interconnectedness with the world around them. The books protagonist Siddhartha encounters various forms of suffering throughout his journey, and he comes to recognize the necessity and inevitability of pain and hardship in life.

The novel teaches that true wisdom and growth can arise from embracing and accepting suffering rather than trying to escape or avoid it.

By Hermann Hesse,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Siddhartha as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here the spirituality of the East and the West have met in a novel that enfigures deep human wisdom with a rich and colorful imagination.

Written in a prose of almost biblical simplicity and beauty, it is the story of a soul's long quest in search of he ultimate answer to the enigma of man's role on this earth. As a youth, the young Indian Siddhartha meets the Buddha but cannot be content with a disciple's role: he must work out his own destiny and solve his own doubt-a tortuous road that carries him through the sensuality of a love…


Book cover of Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Marc Lesser Why did I love this book?

This is a transformative book emphasizing the power of small, consistent actions in achieving remarkable results.

Clear highlights that the key to lasting change lies in focusing on systems rather than goals, and shares practical strategies for habit formation. By employing the concepts of habit stacking, environment design, and tracking habits, individuals can make incremental improvements that compound over time, leading to personal and professional growth.

By James Clear,

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked Atomic Habits as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller. Over 4 million copies sold!

Tiny Changes, Remarkable Results

No matter your goals, Atomic Habits offers a proven framework for improving--every day. James Clear, one of the world's leading experts on habit formation, reveals practical strategies that will teach you exactly how to form good habits, break bad ones, and master the tiny behaviors that lead to remarkable results.

If you're having trouble changing your habits, the problem isn't you. The problem is your system. Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the…


Book cover of Living Beautifully: with Uncertainty and Change

Marc Lesser Why did I love this book?

This book offers profound insights on navigating life's uncertainties, with wisdom and compassion.

Chodron guides readers to embrace impermanence and find freedom within uncertainty. She encourages cultivating mindfulness and compassion as tools for transforming fear and resistance into opportunities for growth and awakening.

Through humor, personal anecdotes, and teachings, Chodron guides us to live authentically, discover resilience, and find greater meaning and success in all parts of our lives.

By Pema Chodron,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Living Beautifully as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Best-selling author and spiritual teacher Pema Chödrön shares life-changing practices for living with wisdom, confidence, and integrity amidst confusing situations and uncertain times.

We live in difficult times. Life so often seems like a turbulent river threatening to drown us and destroy our world. Why, then, shouldn’t we cling to the certainty of the comfortable—to our deep-seated habits and familiar ways? Because, Pema Chödrön teaches, that kind of fear-based clinging keeps us from the infinitely more powerful experience of being fully alive. The teachings she presents here—known as the “Three Commitments”—provide a treasure trove of wisdom for learning to step…


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Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

Book cover of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

Jim Brown Author Of Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my entire professional life quietly patrolling the frontiers of understanding human consciousness. I was an early adopter in the burgeoning field of biofeedback, then neurofeedback and neuroscience, plus theory and practices of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, plus steeping myself in systems theory as a context for all these other fields of focus. I hold a MS in psychology from San Francisco State University and a PhD from Saybrook Institute. I live in Mount Shasta CA with Molly, my life partner for over 60 years. We have two sons and two grandchildren.

Jim's book list on brain, mind, and consciousness

What is my book about?

In this thoroughly researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development.

He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind.

Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through lifelong brain development within a supportive culture--drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner--and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.

Mindleap: A Fresh View of Education Empowered by Neuroscience and Systems Thinking

By Jim Brown,

What is this book about?

In this thoroughly-researched and exquisitely crafted treatise, Jim Brown synthesizes the newest understandings in neuroscience, developmental psychology, and dynamical systems theory for educators and others committed to nurturing human development. He explains complex concepts in down-to-earth terms, suggesting how these understandings can transform education to truly engender optimal learning and intelligence. He explores the nature of consciousness, intelligence, and mind. Brown then offers a model of optimal human learning through life-long brain development within a supportive culture--drawing on the work of Piaget, Erickson, Maslow, Kohlberg, and Steiner--and how that work is being vastly expanded by neuroscience and dynamical systems thinking.


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