Making a commitment to yourself and really keeping your promise can be difficult but it can truly be worthwhile too. At this point in time, I have read for 90 consecutive days (I have yet to read today, but I will) and now it is no longer a question of if I will read, the question is more like how much or what will I read today.
Reading every day now feels truly automatic. Regardless of what else is going on, I make the time.
The beauty of this habit is it is the most relaxing activity I enjoy. It’s also an incredibly effective way for me to learn more, to better myself. Reading helps improve my working life, my approaches to business and to relationships. I can honestly say that I feel a subtle difference in my life with each new idea I adopt or approach I take. Books and the ideas they contain are now the fuel that my life is powered by and I can’t see that changing.
Here are the books I read in March and what they taught me.
‘The Personal MBA’ — Josh Kaufman
My biggest mistake was tackling this book as a cover-to-cover read and that really isn’t where the value in ‘The Personal MBA’ lies. Cherrypicking the most appropriate section and using the book as a reference or guide seems like a much more effective use of the text. Kaufman does an incredible job of summarising just about every term you might stumble across in business and points you to works of others that can elaborate if you need a more in-depth analysis of a certain topic.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: ‘Counterfactual Simulations’ are thought experiments that we run when analysing tasks or goals. We instinctively do this, but Kaufman wants us to ask the right questions and propel ourselves towards solutions we might not otherwise have encountered.
‘Ego is the Enemy’ — Ryan Holiday
This is my second time reading this in the space of 6 months and I can honestly say I got even more from it this time around. It might be one of the most important books I have ever read. A modern take on Stoic philosophy with examples of ancient and contemporary figures acting with or without hubris, Holiday’s style does remind me of Robert Greene (a mentor of his) but his work is a little easier to get through. After a few chapters, I had to order ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ to add to my collection.
As you can see from my main takeaway below I think the idea of rejecting rejection is pretty important. Although not the basis of any chapter, the quote offered me a new perspective on having our work or efforts go unrewarded. It seems there is a balance that we must always aim for, having the sense to realise we can always learn more, always get better, ask for help when we need it and that ultimately know the world doesn’t revolve around us but at the same time there has to be an internal voice which rejects setbacks and pushes forward in spite of rejection.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: “Achieving success involved ignoring the doubts and reservations of the people around us. It meant rejecting rejection.”
‘The Renaissance Soul’ — Margaret Lobenstine
I can’t remember how I first stumbled across this book, maybe it was the title. I like the idea of a Renaissance soul, a person who has to pursue multiple passions in order to feel truly fulfilled, maybe we all identify as one to some extent. Lobenstine walks us through managing our multiple ideas and dreams to craft them into a life that can be lived without regret. The premise is that we can make room for more than one major pursuit and can incorporate disparate interests under one umbrella. Life design for those of us who struggle to fully focus on one thing 50+ hours per week.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: There’s a section on internal and external goals which resonated with me a lot. I think shifting our focus away from monetary value, likes, shares, sales etc. onto something more sustainable which we have direct control over is incredibly important for anyone pursuing a creative or entrepreneurial life.
‘When Breathe Becomes Air’ — Paul Kalanithi
What can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said? There is a reason that it has been included on just about every recommended reading list I have seen in the last year. If Kalanithi’s story doesn’t shift your perspective on life, your career or your calling then I don’t know what will. The quote below is written from the perspective of a neurosurgeon but applies equally to us all.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: “The secret is to know that the deck is stacked, that you will lose, that your hands or judgement will slip, and yet still struggle to win for your patients. You can’t ever reach perfection, but you can believe in an asymptote toward which you are ceaselessly striving.”
‘The Obstacle is the Way’ — Ryan Holiday
We might instinctively know we have to face obstacles to reach worthwhile goals and that the greater the goal the more obstacles we will face but sometimes it is good to remind ourselves. ‘The Obstacle is the Way’ walks you through the various approaches to take when encountering your greatest challenges by drawing upon the works of the Stoic philosophers.
The most important distinction I took from this book was the idea of philosophy being a practical and active pursuit as opposed to the passive, academic study that it is often relegated to.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: “Life can be frustrating. Oftentimes we know what our problems are. We may even know what to do about them. But we fear that taking action is too risky, that we don’t have the experience or that it’s not how we pictured it or because it’s too expensive, because it’s too soon, because we think something better might come along, because it might not work.
‘The Richest Man in Babylon’ — George S Clason
Quite possibly the most influential book ever written on personal finance. Contemporary writers draw upon the examples in Clason’s parables to this day.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: It might seem obvious, but asking for advice is the single greatest lesson of this book. Find someone who has achieved what you wish to achieve, ask them where they went wrong and what worked for them and what didn’t. This applies not only to finance.
‘The One Thing’ — Gary Keller
If ‘The Renaissance Soul’ was about following multiple passions and making time for them all, ‘The One Thing’ may just be the antithesis. Keller shows how dedicating a sufficient amount of time each day to one practice can pay off in the long run. Drawing on the now famous ‘10,000-hour rule’ his argument is that you should block of time each day to focus on your most important activity and guard that time with your life.
The idea of having a focusing question is unbelievably important. To paraphrase, it is finding the one thing we can do that makes all other tasks easier or unnecessary. Tim Ferriss swears by this process and it is something I try to incorporate into my life.
MAIN TAKEAWAY: “when you can see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable.”
What did you read in March that changed your worldview?
If you could only recommend one book, what would it be?