#1. Man’s Search For Meaning
This book makes you think about life and suffering differently. At some point, I’ve asked myself; “Why should we suffer ceaselessly when we can just end it and find peace once and for all?” But this book says; “If there is meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.”
The writer, Viktor Frankl was in Auschwitz concentration camp where they were made to suffer from dawn till dusk. They didn’t know when they were going to be released. They were not sure if they were ever going to make it out alive. HE saw a friend die, he saw many get killed and others also going for the wire to escape from this trauma. His family died. All seemed lost. But what kept him going through it all? He found meaning.
If you can’t read any of the book mentioned, at least read this and discover the meaning to whatever you are going through.
“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”
#2. Rejection Proof
“Is your dream bigger than your rejections? If it is, maybe it´s time to keep going, instead of giving up”
Rejection is something I’ve had difficulty in dealing with. I’ve had my fair share of rejections and I bet you, none of them felt like something I would love to experience again. At some point, I felt my world has come to an end because everything I ever hoped to gain had been rejected by the very one whom I expected to say yes to me. I don’t know of any one person who will say I love to be rejected. So when I heard Jia Jiang had gone through 100 Days of Rejection to become invincible to rejection, I had every desire to read this book.
He went through life making a lot of crazy requests from total strangers just so he would be rejected. But guess what, when he thought he was going to get a no, he rather got a yes. He was rejected many times but many times he had a yes that brought very beautiful victories to life. For instance when he asked a pilot if he could allow him to fly his plane. Jia said, “I had no license, no experience, and honestly, no courage to fly a plane. I simply asked so I could get rejected. But Desmond (the pilot) said yes.”
We don’t ask not because we don’t have a reason to ask but we are scared we are going to be rejected. Many a dream dies because owners of the dream were too scared to ask for help.
“However, we let the pendulum of requests swing too far in the direction of not asking for what we want due to fear of rejection. We stop making requests to the detriment of our dreams, aspirations, and relationships. We start to get overly timid and careful, and we start to tell ourselves stories about how we shouldn’t bother people, how we would get rejected anyway, and how we will someday ask “when the timing is right,” even though the “right timing” never comes. We tell ourselves all these lies because of one thing: we want to avoid rejection.”
#3. The Alchemist
“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
We all are created for a purpose and we need to find that purpose and live it. A shepherd set out to find his personal legend (purpose) and along the way found more than he could ever imagine. HE found love that nearly got him disillusioned to stop pursuing his personal legend. But the Alchemist told him; “If what you found was true love, you can always come back. If what you had found was only a moment of light, like the explosion of a star, you would find nothing on your return.”
The Alchemist is the ultimate guide to the individual who wants to discover his purpose in life but is scared to go through what he has to go through to find it. It takes you through the dangers of having to pursue a purpose that brings you ultimate joy and also encourages you not to sit in your comfort zone but stick your neck out and walk.
“If you concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens…Life will be a party for you, a grand festival because life is the moment we’re living right now.”
#4. The War Of Art
“Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”
Steven Pressfield is one of my favorite writers. In the War of Art the message is simply this; whenever an artist or an entrepreneur or a musician or any other person set out to create something out of his art, he’s met with “resistance.” This resistance comes from no one but from one’s self. You start giving yourself excuses just so you can find a reason to give up on what you are set to do.
I’m guilty. Resistance always gets me to quit even before I start. Anytime I have to sit up and write a blog post or work on a book or even a dream, excuses start coming up: I can’t write now, I’m too tired cos I didn’t sleep early last night. I can’t write about this because I’m a nobody to be talking about this. Wo who is even going to read that?
These things keep flashing my thought till I give up. Pressfield’s War of Art guides you through how to beat this resistance and come out with your best work yet.
“Our job in this life is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.”
#5. When Breath Becomes Air
“Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when.”
We know someday we’ll die yet death is one of the things that scares most humans. We prepare very little for death though we anticipate that someday we’ll die but the hope in us says: Don’t worry, you ain’t going to die anytime soon.
When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir of a dying man. Paul Kalinithi was diagnosed with cancer when he was at the pinnacle of neuroscience career. The months that followed his diagnose made him reflected deeply on what it is to die and the meaning of life itself. He spoke of his love for neuroscience, for his wife and for their little daughter whom he wouldn’t live to be a witness of her growth.
This book has become one of my favorite because it reminds me of how ephemeral life is and how one has to do what he set out to do without waiting. Because time isn’t waiting for you—because you can die when you thought you have a lot of time remaining.
“Everyone succumbs to finitude. I suspect I am not the only one who reaches this pluperfect state. Most ambitions are either achieved or abandoned; either way, they belong to the past. The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present. Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.”
#6. The Four Agreement
“Wherever you go you will find people lying to you, and as your awareness grows, you will notice that you also lie to yourself Do not expect people to tell you the truth because they also lie to themselves.”
The four agreement are these:
“Be impeccable with your word.”
“Don’t take anything personally.”
“Don’t make assumptions.”
“Always do your best.”
I read this book twice in a week because what I was consuming was too much for my head that I needed to go over again. As humans, we’ve been conditioned to live “the dream of the planet.” Who we are when we were born have been educated out of us. We’ve been “domesticated” to live just as all other people live—living by the standard set by society. We have been given a lot of “knowledge” which actually we might have no need of it.
So we suffer. We make mistakes and judge ourselves too hard on the mistake. We call ourselves stupid because we couldn’t excel at what society expects from us. We are no happier because we constantly judge ourselves.
To break out of this “dream of the planet” one has to make an agreement with one’s self. Those are the four agreements. To be able to recapture the spark you were born with, one has to follow through the four agreement every day.
“If someone is not treating you with love and respect, it is a gift if they walk away from you. If that person doesn’t walk away, you will surely endure many years of suffering with him or her. Walking away may hurt for a while, but your heart will eventually heal. Then you can choose what you really want. You will find that you don’t need to trust others as much as you need to trust yourself to make the right choices.”
It turned out that what we’ve come to know about intelligence is not the truth. Talent isn’t everything that ensures success and the way we were praised as kids have an ultimate bearing in the mindset that we develop.
Growing up I heard these a lot; This boy is very intelligent. That one there is so dumb he can’t tell his right from the left. My son is very talented at drawing that he does it effortlessly. Look at the way she sings, she could only be compared to angels.
We say these to our kids and they grow up to develop this “fixed mindset” that they are either intelligent or they are not and there is nothing they could do about it. You can either draw or you can’t. there’s nothing you can do about it. But Carol Dweck has debunked this perception with so many years research work.
In the book “mindset” Carole Dweck makes the point for “effort” as one thing we disregard but it’s the one thing that ensures success. We only see the performance. We don’t see the number of years of training and efforts one has to put in to be able to achieve such level of performance.
“Think about your hero. Do you think of this person as someone with extraordinary abilities who achieved with little effort? Now go find out the truth. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishment—and admire them more.”
#8. A Man Called Ove
“We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like ‘if’.”
Ove is a neighbor you wouldn’t love to have around. He doesn’t smile. He has no intention of making friends with anybody in the neighborhood. He’s very principled man. He loved sticking to his daily routines and keeping an eye around the neighborhood to ensure rules are enforced. Deep down he is an honest man. Something he’d learned from the father;
Ove is tired of life. The love of his life, Sonja his wife, is dead and Ove can’t wait to die so he could live again with the wife. He tried committing suicide on several occasion but somehow, something comes up then he had to stop. One time, it was his cat. The cat was sleeping and he didn’t want the sound of the gun to wake it up.
Then something happened. People came into Ove’s life. They loved Ove and Ove loved them back. That helped Ove to heal the loss of his wife and had a reason to live, at least, for a long while.
This story is a packed with laughter, anger, joy and life’s way of sneaking in some sadness in one’s life. When you love someone enough, you would want to die with them. When you open your life up for other people to enter, new memories are made and you desire less to die. Living is just enough when you have a reason to.
“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for memories, perhaps.”
#9. Choose Yourself
James Altucher has become the voice in my head. Every morning, I wake up to his newsletter in my mail and read it before I begin the day. He’s that guy who looks at you and gives you the brutal truth. In this book is what one needs to survive in this current global economy.
He tells you that the economy has changed and many jobs that once used to put food on the table are disappearing. The statistics are there. Most of the work that used to be done by humans are being done by technology now. And this trend is going to continue. What it means is that one has to flee from the cubicle jobs before their boss finally kicks them out.
This book has become one of my favorite books. The writing style is easy to come to terms with and clear enough to make one understand whatever is putting across.
“The best ideas are when you take two older ideas that have nothing to do with each other, make them have sex with each other, and then build a business around the ugly bastard child that results. The child that was so ugly nobody else wanted to touch it. Look at Facebook: combine the internet with stalking. Amazing!”
“it isn’t suffering that leads to hopelessness. It’s suffering you think you can’t control.”
Grit tells about how one can become the best version of one’s self if she could work hard enough and persist through thick and thin. Usually, we put limits on ourselves, giving boundaries on what we can and what we cannot do. Such perceptions rob us from achieving greater things and becoming the better version of our current selves.
Duckworth is a psychologist who has done extensive studies into “grit” and how it can predict or lead to success. Going through the book one is greeted with stories of famous people who were able to achieve success through hard work and perseverance. These stories are enough to motivate one another to persevere and hold on long enough till he succeeds.
In Duckworth’s words, Effort trumps talent when it comes to success stories.
“Grit depends on a different kind of hope. It rests on the expectation that our own efforts can improve our future. I have a feeling tomorrow will be better is different from I resolve to make tomorrow better. The hope that gritty people have has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with getting up again.”
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