On timeless books and reading habits

Around a year ago I decided to read more books that would directly impact my life in some way; through insights, past and present, that have been thought of by people who have spent more time on it and are quite frankly, a lot smarter than me. They have been kind enough to put their ideas in words, for the world to read and absorb. I figured these books were the ones worth reading. Tools of Titans, by Tim Ferriss, has a list of books most gifted or received by world class performers. Spurred on by this and other lists, I ordered a whole bunch of them. They include ancient Chinese books on warfare and sci-fi classics from the 70s. It was a good way to get back into reading and the promise I made myself to simply read more. The books on personal development I read paved the way for an increased interest and active search for more knowledge, which I found in abundance in these new set of titles.

Where did the motivation go?

I did wonder how I got to the point where I had to motivate myself to read more, even though I knew I’d enjoy it. It’s strange how an interest in reading can change over time. I’ve asked a few people who I know are into books and most say that they always enjoyed reading but generally lost interest in high school or in uni when they were ‘forced’ to read stuff. I feel the same. I read a lot when I was a kid, starting with comic books (Calvin and Hobbes, yay!), Goosebumps and the Carry Slee children’s novels.  Then high school came along (and we got rid of dial-up internet) and I lost interest. I’d still occasionally read before bed but I rarely properly sat down with a book anymore. Especially when it came to school projects, you were handed a list of books to choose from (if you were lucky) and assigned to write a report on it. That just took all the fun out of it for me. While I couldn’t pick the books or projects, I did copy a way of making them bearable to write.

Being crafty

Findings ways to not to read them but to still write a kick-ass report became somewhat of an art. Oftentimes I put more effort into making stuff up for the report than actually taking the time to read the book and dissecting its lessons or takeaways. Like reading other people’s summaries and taking bits and pieces from several different ones. If I had been asked to write a book report on a book I actually liked or found interesting, rather than ‘a classic I was supposed to read because the generation before me had’, I’d have made the effort willingly. I’m not saying I was a saint in this, far from it. While I started out as an eager-to-learn student, I had a tendency to be incredibly lazy at times as well. Let’s just say it was a combination of the two. Nevertheless I think things could’ve been handled differently by both sides.

Little changes down the road

Things didn’t really change at uni, where I was supposed to read marketing and finance books of ~1000 pages and go through hundreds of pages a week. Ever hear that quality beats quantity? Well they obviously hadn’t. So I powered through a few books but quickly learned a different approach: reading bits and pieces and hoping I’d get through the exam OK. It’s not that I didn’t want to study it, but the sheer volume was too daunting. Present people with too many options and they fail to focus on the things that matter. Not everyone, mind, but I definitely fit into this category. I didn’t know how to handle it and simply managed with minimal effort and.. minimal results. (Not to say the newly discovered student lifestyle didn’t take up any of my time though)

Reading = invaluable 

I digress. The point I was trying to make is that the habit and pleasure of reading was lost along the way and I know I am not the only one. I think everyone should read, period. Types of books are personal, the ability to read and obtain information is universal and invaluable. I have found this out with the recent list, specifically the Tao te Ching by Lao Tzu, which is “The most widely translated work in world literature after the Bible. From the China of the fourth century BC.” With a description like that I just had to read it. More on that later. Happy reading!

Advertisements

The 4 happiness chemicals (+1)

We’re back to Simon Sinek (from Start With Why) , with a video I’ve watched too often to not write about it. This one is a presentation about ‘Why leaders eat last’, an analytical and biological – yep, that’s right – approach to leadership, organisations and the ‘happiness chemicals’. (Remember kids, hugs not drugs) Explained in a simple and relatable way, Simon talks about how these different chemicals make us happy, make us strive, alert us to dangers and how we create bonds of trust, among others.

Here’s the video, take a seat and strap yourselves in! Below you’ll find a ‘short’ list of the chemicals and their effects, as explained by the inspiring Mr. Sinek.

The dopamine list

Powerful stuff, eh? The information on its own is interesting enough but could be a bit much. Not if you have Simon at the helm though, who explains it in a witty, clear sort of way that makes it so easy to understand and digest. This makes it Continue reading

The last video you have to watch in 2017

Catchy title right? (It’s not mine so imagine this (™) behind it) The title is actually from a Gary Vaynerchuk (GaryVee) video I saw recently. Gary is an entrepreneur, author, author and more. He can be pretty intense but he sure knows what he’s doing and is therefore, an interesting fella. He features on many ‘top people lists’ on topics of motivation, personal development and entrepreneurship. The more I read and see about him the more interesting he gets, and he has a nice way of putting some real truths out there too.  There’s little sugarcoating involved but as is true of many great names in this field, sometimes the ‘hard approach’ works, with verbal guns blazing.

Now this video is exactly that. A hard approach to the way people are handling their lives, goals and plans, and what Gary thinks of that. It’s been a few days since it was posted and they have since censored the swearing so younger audiences can watch it as well without being restricted by YouTube. Well done but I would prefer the uncensored version. Just gets the message across more properly.

It’s 11 minutes long, so take a seat or make sure you don’t have to switch trains or something halfway through. It’s worth the watch.

Take from it what you will. Obviously it won’t mean the same to everyone else, or you might not even like it at all. Side note: learn from that experience as well. Not liking something is fine, taking the time to consider why you don’t like a certain thing is better. Opinions are based on something, they have roots you might not know. Figuring these out can be just as interesting as something you do like. Accepting your own opinion is key.

Gary ends on an interesting note. He is basically saying he doesn’t want to be a motivational speaker or have people need him for that. He’d rather people do it on their, or use one or two sources (of his) to kick-start their own motivation and make it their own. “I genuinely want you to never watch me again.” he says.  I feel like I fit in the category of ‘people who constantly look for ways to motivate themselves without acting upon that drive’. Even motivated I tend to procrastinate which I then hope to combat with even more motivational nourishment. Yet I find myself putting things off anyway. It’s something I really should work on. I’ve taken some steps already to do just that and this video definitely helps a great deal.

So that is an example of what I got out of it (and much more). Again, to each their own. I just hope you can take something positive from the video. Perhaps an old or new year’s resolution or two 😉 Still two weeks left so make them count!

Have a good one and enjoy the holidays!

Sharing a Stallone success story

Sharing someone else’s story that is being told by yet another person seems a bit redundant. The story got to me however, and I wanted to do something with it, so here we are. Besides, stories are meant to be told and shared anyway.

It’s about the starting years of Sylvester Stallone’s career, specifically how he kick-started it himself. You can listen to the whole story, being told by Tony Robbins, here:

You can listen to it and/or read the following:

In the seventies Sly Stallone was trying to make a name for himself in the movie business but kept failing, with his facial features and slightly slurred speech not helping either. Yet, the man was driven by an idea, with a clear goal in mind. Continue reading

Sleeping with fiction

Slumbering, snoring, snoozing, synonyms, for this post on sleeping I’d like to share some of my own experiences and findings. So without messing about, here goes:

I currently sleep between 7-8 hours a night. It used to be < 7 but a slightly older and more realistic version of me told me yawning around a 100 times a day is not the healthiest of habits. Common knowledge, I knew that just fine. I just didn’t want to spend too many hours of my day sleeping. I still prefer not to but have finally accepted that I need a few more winks or those extra hours awake won’t account to anything anyway. Besides, I got tired (tee-hee) of dozing off like Chandler here.

I see sleeping as a practical matter, so a couple of years ago I experimented and monitored my sleeping patterns to figure out how many hours I needed, what my sleeping ‘segments’ were and what resulted in me feeling the most fit and chipper the next day. I started by doing some research, which mostly focused on the 90 min cycles and reaching deep sleep, which I took into account. As for my own results, I found that I would usually ‘wake’ after 3.5 hours and again 3.5 hours after that, totaling the 7 hours I felt I needed. Due to an increase in physical activity, age and probably many more factors, I now follow a 2x ~4 hour pattern. At the end of both segments, my body sort of starts up again. Most of the time I don’t notice this at all but sometimes I’m vaguely aware. (Or fully aware, bathroom breaks occur in this ‘waking’ stage)

Now, whatever my pattern is, there’s a lot that influences it and there’s loads of research and science behind all this. Deconstructing sleep just isn’t that simple. There’s plenty to Google (like: howsleepworks.com/types_cycles) if you want to find out more. Also, if you’re keen on finding out your own sleeping patterns, try using a fitness/smart watch or phone app. I find it remarkable how much effect a little extra knowledge and self-awareness can have. Side note: there’s also a lot of research on alternative sleeping cycles, like 20-30 min naps every 4 hours or 2x 4 hours with a 4 (productive) hours in between. Interesting stuff.

In the end, winning is sleeping better. 
– Jodie Foster

Even though I found it intriguing, I stopped using apps after a while because I don’t want to have my phone in or near my bed. In fact I’ve banned all screens in or just before bed. A slight Netflix-launch relapse aside, this has worked well for me. I used a combination of fewer screens, reading (fiction) and meditating (light forms) to decrease my ‘falling asleep’ time from 30-60 mins before to max 5 mins now. Oh and yes, I still use my phone as an alarm, it’s just in another room. On silent except for the alarm tune.

I still use these methods to help me fall asleep when necessary, or whenever I feel like reading. I only read fiction at night, so my mind can just absorb and doesn’t have to activate [and process] too much. On top of that I tried taking a little cocktail “That knocks your right out.”, recommended by Tim Ferriss and Chase Jarvis (see video below). It’s made of Apple Cider Vinegar + honey in hot water. Whether it’s placebo or not, it worked pretty well!

I highlighted the prioritizing sleep bit but the whole video is worth a watch. It’s part of the reason I got into journaling as well, mentioned in There and back again. Tim and Chase are definitely a fascinating high energy duo.

A proper night’s sleep and activities such as journaling and meditating are regarded as a few of the most important parts of the day by a great number of successful and inspiring people. If by studying your own sleeping habits you could increase your productivity, fitness or creative output by as little as 10%, it’d still be worth it, right?  Feeling rested and energetic can change a day for the better, so see what works for you!

 

There and back again

Oh hi! I imagine every blog on the net will at some point have a post that starts with “So it’s been a while”, and so it has and will be again.

The past year (!) I’ve still been writing a lot, yet not so much on here. Someone gifted me a booklet which I’ve been filling with thoughts, experiences and ideas. It has proven very fruitful and useful, but they were stories for me, not for this blog. The process of it though, has led to me sitting here once more, squinting at my screen in the summer sun, writing an actual blog post. Continue reading

Find Your Why (part I) – Meet Simon:

I’d like to introduce Simon Sinek. In two parts, this post being the first. For those of you who don’t know Simon, he’s a visionary, speaker and consultant. His main topics are leadership and ‘start with why’. Both these topics are (mostly) job-related, what kind of work you do, how you do it but mostly, why you do it. This lands on common ground with an earlier post regarding Live Your Legend. That it is important to realise what you do and why you do it. This leads to one of Simon’s strongest quotes:

“People don’t care what you do they care why you do it.
And what you do it simply proves what you believe.”

In one of the most interesting talks I have ever seen/heard, he explains this quote and the meaning behind it. He explains it using his “Golden Circle”, seen here:

golden-circle
It’s based on this: Most people and organisations know what they do and how they do it, but only a few truly know why they do what they do. Sinek uses Apple, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright Brothers in his talk as successful examples of people who follow their why, and inspire others to do the same.

Point is: find your why. If you know why you do what you do and you are happy doing it, congratuwelldone! If you dig deep and realise you have no idea why you do what you do – the opposite end of the spectrum – it might be time to rethink some stuff. Everyone is at some point of this ‘line’. You might do what you do for the money, for self-actualization (Maslow’s pyramid: hierarchy of needs), simply to have something to do or maybe you do what you do for the well-being of others. There is no right or wrong, as long as you stand behind your reason for doing it. Currently in a shitty job but you need the money? Fair enough, if you are happy with that situation. In a great job but the pay is shitty? Fair enough, if you are happy with that situation.

Simon goes a little deeper and mentions the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Wright Brothers. They all did what they believed to be right, they had their why and followed it ardently. Their belief inspired others, not what they did, but why they did it.

“By the way,
Dr. King held his ‘I have a dream’ speech,

not his ‘I have a plan speech’.”

Like with all sources, it is not what is said or stated that contributes to growth, it is what you – the recipient – do with the information that matters. People followed Dr. King because of their own idea of what had to change in America, says Sinek.

There are leaders and then there are those who lead. People like Dr. King are leaders not because they have authority but because they lead. They inspire us. It is the same in our jobs and work places, we follow those who inspire us because we want to, and only follow the authoritative leader because we have to.

“If you hire people just because they can do a job they’ll work for your pay check but if you hire people who believe what you believe they’ll work with blood, sweat and tears.”

The Wright Brothers are the perfect example of this. They knew and followed their why and it inspired others to follow them and do the same.

I recently held a speech at a (my) graduation ceremony about this.  About finding your why, and it was mostly inspired by this talk. I still find it incredibly interesting (I think I mentioned that before) and Simon has many more like it, some of which I’ll add later on. For now, I recommend watching this one and marvel at its truths!