Peer Review: What Books Have Most Influenced Your Life? (Part 1 of 2)

Summer is approaching its end. For our family, this means the day camps stop, and our kids begin preparing for a new school year.

This comes with new school supplies, clothes that fit, and of course, a fresh 30-lb stack of well-used text books. We convert paper bags into poorly constructed book covers, then load up their backpacks. As we send them off on their educational journey, it presents us an opportunity to reflect on our own.

Books can have a deep and profound impact on a person’s life. We have asked several clients from the Mint Hill community to share the books that have most influenced theirs. We hope you enjoy!

Jared L. Harwood, M.D., M.B.A.

Jared is an orthopedic surgeon at Sanford Health in Worthington, MN. The most influential books he’s read include:

  1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: Marcus Aurelius’ reflections provide a very peaceful, grateful, and happy lens through which to view all of life and death. I prefer the Penguin Classics audiobook version with contributions by Diskin Clay and Martin Hammond, narrated by Richard Armitage.
  1. Essentialism. The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown: This remarkably quick read came at a pivotal time in my life and helped me decide to actually prioritize my priorities.
  1. Scripture of your choice: The Bible, The Book of Mormon, Quran, etc.: We are all made up of three parts—physical, mental, and spiritual—all equally important to our well-being. Happiness comes in nurturing and taking care of all three. Scripture feeds our spirits just like food does our bodies.

Joel Lovell, D.M.D. & Kortnie Lovell

Joel is a dentist at Washington Dentistry. He and his wife, Kortnie, live in Washington, IL. Their most influential books include:

  1. The Bible: Truly the most time-tested and influential book that can change your life, not to mention all the guiding principles and truths that have an application to how to live life to its fullest potential.
  1. The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle: This book is a must-read for a multitude of reasons. One of my favorite takeaways is the idea of being vulnerable to break down insecurities in groups; and in doing so, you create a vulnerability loop that creates a more productive culture.
  1. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: I have part of this Teddy Roosevelt speech (the central theme of the book) hanging on the wall in my living room: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Daniel Jensen, M.D.

Daniel is a pediatric ENT surgeon at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO. His list of most influential books includes:

  1. The Book of Mormon and the Bible: These are the scriptures of my faith. They shape my view of the world and the meaning of my life. They give me peace and direction.
  1. Lincoln by David Donald: This definitive biography of Lincoln is a powerful portrayal of a singularly brilliant, courageous, hardworking, clever, yet deeply humble man. I read it in high school, and it provided me with a model to emulate that is as relevant now as it was over 20 years ago when I first read it.
  1. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey: I’m cheating and giving two answers here, because these books go so well together. Deeply insightful, they give clarity on how we should think about our life’s goals and ambitions, and how to dedicate our time. I highly recommend them to any young adult (or any not-young adult!).

Joe Mueller, M.D. and Tiffany Mueller, M.D.

Joe is an anesthesiologist at Mission Health in Asheville, NC. The following books made his list:

  1. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard: The irony of this “forced” read for a college application occurred during a frenetic and chaotic period where my world seemed to revolve around deadlines and efficiency. I was stopped in my tracks by these nonfiction stories from an author who illustrated the tremendous beauty and awe in our natural world. My own introspection that followed is something that became an exercise I try to follow each day. There is unparalleled wealth and beauty in the sometimes challenging relationships we have in our family, community, and the world that come at no charge but require an investment of our own spirit and time to fully appreciate the goodness that surrounds us. By appreciating the myriad “free” riches in our environment, it helps dampen the stress of the latest market drop and helps us take stock in the most valuable elements of our life experience. Investment losses become less painful and considerable gains are just icing on the cake.
  1. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: In perhaps the most powerful book I have ever picked up, the author articulates the stories and experiences of the world’s most skilled athletes, surgeons, artists, musicians, chess players, and other high performers with a captivating look at the shared psychological principles that help them achieve a “flow” state. Watching these principles play out with feats like MJ choreographing another Bulls championship on the court or Alex Honnold gracefully ascending the face of El Capitan without ropes makes them feel more tangible after reading this book. I will never free solo a novice peak or grace the planks on an NBA court, but I am inspired by a book that helps drive me to be a better father, friend, or physician. We are drawn by those who are passionate about a calling and strive each day for excellence. I have the utmost respect and trust for the Mint Hill team, which exhibits impeccable character and professionalism while striving for excellence as our financial advising leaders.
  1. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer: I had to pick my favorite of Jon Krakauer’s nonfiction gems. This thriller is one that will vicariously get you up and down Everest in the most austere conditions imaginable. The story of these brave, committed men and women is a page-turner. Many of these mountaineers don’t return from the grueling journey, and those that survive are changed forever. I admire the themes of preparation, tenacity, courage, teamwork, risk, triumph in the face of adversity, and fateful chaos that even the best-laid plans cannot account for. This cathartic read helps set the bar for dreamers. Krakauer’s narratives share inspiring stories about an individual’s ability to commit to a cause with every fiber of their being while being challenged beyond measure. It has motivated me to push beyond my comfort zone and branch out and experience new environments that challenge who I am and what I thought I knew. The humbling experiences come with tremendous growth and spiritual development.

Tiffany is an anesthesiologist at Mission Health in Asheville, NC. Topping her list of most influential books:

  1. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki: Significantly influencing my view of personal finance and wealth, this book challenged my common solution to working through adversity: just work harder. It sparked an interest to learn more about personal finance and helped me reflect on the good and potentially bad consequences of my “Midwest work ethic.”
  1. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: This book has brought me the most personal reflection and growth, challenging my view of strength and courage—subjects I thought I knew well. It helped me reflect on the coping mechanisms that functioned well for me to achieve success in my career, and also illustrated that those same strategies could have very easily damaged my relationships and had the potential to stunt my overall happiness and richness of life.
  1. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.: I will joyfully claim this as my most influential parenting book. It taught me the skill of soothing almost any crying baby and allowed me enough sleep to not only survive but thrive in residency with a nursing newborn and baby. It helped me thoroughly enjoy each of my four children as newborns and babies—I will forever cherish that time with them.

What Is Your Most Influential Book?

Do you have an inspiring, must-read book you don’t see on this list? We would love to hear from you!  Just send the name of the book along with an explanation for how it has influenced your life to We may be able to include your recommendation on a future release.

About Matt

Matt Lessman is partner and Chief Operating Officer at Mint Hill Wealth Management, an independent, boutique wealth management firm serving physicians, dentists and their families. With over 10 years of experience, Matt’s role is to oversee operations and assist in developing the private equity arm of the firm. He spends his days steering the Mint Hill ship, bringing organization and process to the growing firm and using his analytical and strategic skills to enhance the team. 

Matt holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Truman State University and is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner. When he’s not in the office, you can find Matt spending time with his wife, Katie, and their four children. 

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