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!

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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!

Live Your Legend

I want to introduce the Live Your Legend movement and Scott Dinsmore. I found his TED talk a while back already but had lost track of it while speeding along the clutter of the information superhighway. Luckily I have rediscovered it and with it, its greatness and importance.

First things first: here’s the TED talk of Scott Dinsmore, the founder of Live Your Legend. I should note that Scott unfortunately passed away in September 2015 while climbing the Kilimanjaro in Kenya. (While doing what he loved).

What he founded lives on and many people are joining the so-called revolution. Currently Live Your Legend (LYL) is joined by 200.000 people from 186 countries who are on their journey to finding fulfilling work. ‘Change the world by finding work you love!’ An amazing feat and creed which I fully support. By signing up with your email address you’ll receive regular tips and tricks on how to do this. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of these tips, they benefit anyone who is open to them! Continue reading