The Internet is full of vast amounts of knowledge and it keeps on bloating itself. We have got access to so much data that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find quality material that you can actually use. Then there are some gems that are available that once you stumble onto, you can not get enough of it.
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, created, compiled, and edited by Eric Jorgenson is one such gem. This crisp book is one of the best things I stumbled upon this year. In fact, this book is one of the most hopeful pieces of gift or advice one can give oneself in this craptastic of a year.
It is not very common to believe that a Hero for one can be a Villain for others. Usually, heroes are heroes, universally. However, there are some heroes who have been catastrophic for others and that needs to be told to get the real picture.
Whenever you search for a quote about leadership, Winston Churchill’s name easily comes on top of the search results. In fact, the rhetoric device Anaphora, often referenced in speeches and in writing, is pretty easily understood by this example from his speech in 1940.
….We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…
I want to talk about some people I am jealous of. And that’s because I know they are faking it but still doing it successfully. I am talking about self-proclaimed Life Coaches, Mentors, Public Speakers, and likes.
Many of us, at some point in life, read self-help books. The intention is clear, we think that by reading and following the advice in the book, we might make our life better. It is a huge genre in itself and they often turns out to be the best-selling books months after months. But seriously, how many lives of people you know including your own have actually got changed by reading books? Passively Reading is not really acting but just entertainment, isn’t it?
So, why am I jealous of blokes who call themselves Life Coaches? One because it is evident that they are really good at public speaking which I am envious of. Now, I can speak to a good crowd size without breaking a sweat too but I am yet to attain the tag of someone who is considered to be a “Public Speaker – Public Speaker”. Still some way to go! Second, I understand that people are really creatures of habits and your life cannot really change just by attending a free seminar or reading an amazing self-help book. The onus of improving one’s life lies with oneself. Deep down, you know what is wrong in your life and you know how to solve it but inertia, sigh! Of course, if you don’t really know, sure, take some advice and try to mould it to fit your own life. The people who have become these Life Coaches and all, understand our problems as well. They are just people who dress well, speak good words, tell you to follow these 5 pieces of advice and you will become great. Not really. There is no 5 pointer plan to be successful. They act like they know it all and maybe milk your money in the process. I don’t think that is unethical but actually not really worth it. If you find someone who is really worth being a role model, you will automatically try to follow their lifestyle and try to be like them. If that lifestyle is too difficult to follow, then you will just give up and end up just as a fan.
However, my opinion changed a bit after reading Atomic Habits. I have read 2 books about habits. This one and another is The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. While The Power of Habit goes a bit scientific, still being really good, about how habits are formed and how habits form individuals by going deep into the science, Atomic Habit uses all that and tells us about how to actually create habits and put it to use.
One of the most important lessons from the book is this, which trumps everything a life coach will say and also life coaches will use the same thing to make you believe them:
The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this. The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.
The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader. The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.
Simple two-step process: Decide the type of person you want to be. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
The above is used very effectively by the life coaches who are new. They know they are new to the game but they have believed that that’s what they are (self-proclaimed-experts) so they will do everything possible to act as a Life Coach which is actually clever. (It is also easier than being a musician because you will actually have to learn music or being a runner because you actually have to start running.) But being a life coach, you will just have to speak convincingly.
Not making this post about them, the lesson I learnt is this: If you want to change a habit or develop one, act like the person who has good habits. If you transform your identity to become like your role model, the job’s done.
I found Atomic Habits, one of the most well thought of self-help books I have read yet. It gives charts, shout outs, call outs, and makes the habit-formation simpler. I recommend this to anyone who already understands their problems and willing to fix them. It is still up to you how much you want to change your life.
The book summarizes itself pretty well with this:
Whenever you’re looking to improve, you can rotate through the Four Laws of Behavior Change until you find the next bottleneck. Make it obvious. Make it attractive. Make it easy. Make it satisfying. Round and round.
Imagine you’re working in your office cubicle. There is a looming deadline at hand and whenever you are trying to concentrate, someone laughs hysterically loud from a distant corner. You mutter some abuses under your breath and try to concentrate harder. You try to mentally block the unnecessary noises along with stuffing your fingers into your ears, to added effect. Even now you can hear the printer, someone walking behind, and generally distracting lights but you tell yourself, it is okay and that you can still read the very important document without which finishing work would be difficult. As soon as you reach the second paragraph, a pop-up window shows up and the right-hand corner of the desktop. That can be ignored, for now, you assure yourself. You reach the third paragraph and then your phone lightens up. There is another joke on your family WhatsApp group which is there just for ruining whatever concentration you had built till now. You move on but before you reach the next chapter, notifications galore. Someone visited someplace on the company’s money and want you to see their airport check-ins on Facebook. Or some political upheaval has happened in the capital, your news alert shouts. Or twitter has just lost it’s, what do they say, collective shit, for the 109th time today. And there goes your concentration out of the window and gives up on you.
Has it ever happened to you?
Or as they show in ads, are you fully frustrated with distractions, notifications, social media nonsense, and inability to concentrate for the attention span now almost nonexistent?
If yes, this book is the perfect antidote you need for your addiction to social media, the poison of modern-day life.
Deep Work by Cal Newport tries to do only one thing. It tries to reassure and encourage you that if you really want to do some productive work, which he calls ‘Deep Work’, you have to really boycott everything you think isn’t relevant to the work. The book has several examples of people who really mastered the art of Deep Work and produced astonishing work of literature, science, art, and so on. All they did was to cut themselves off from the material world and concentrate. They trusted their brain to do the knowledge work, they had set out to do and when their brain got free from all the mess around, it produced the desired results and the satisfaction which is often missing from the work. For example,
“Mark Twain wrote much of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in a shed on the property of the Quarry Farm in New York, where he was spending the summer. Twain’s study was so isolated from the main house that his family took to blowing a horn to attract his attention for meals.”
The book repeats several times, that social networking (and mobile phone), is nothing but a poison which is damaging our culture and innate mindset of humans that we are getting consumed by it and not the other way around. It mostly takes the example of modern knowledge workers, say, people who code, write, think, and create.
It also tries to propagate a beautiful fact which is totally unlike what you have been told till now. We are told to be approachable and we are expected to reply to every message, email, text immediately. Deep Work suggests becoming hard to reach. Not only it would make you better at what you’re currently doing instead of wasting time replying to things which can easily be dealt with later. But it also makes others understand that you treasure your time as equally as money.
Reading this book coincided with my getting fed up with social media and I feel no remorse whatsoever not being a regular on Facebook and Twitter.
Off the Corporate Bus and into the Creativity Boat
I started reading this book at the beginning of this year and finished it only a week ago. No, it is not that big a book but this year has been particularly bad about book reading for some reasons. I had to give reading up time and again and got involved in one thing or the other. Yada yada yada, I want to apologize for not finishing it earlier. Sorry, Ashoo Ma’am!
But that cannot stop me from writing a review now when I have completed it, finally!
This book is one of the most unique ones I have ever read. It is a non-fiction and a fiction book combined into one. To sum it up, the book revolves around a conversation which 2 people have about a person lost on an island and from that conversation, the author discusses ideas which form the basis of the concept of creativity.
I won’t go into the fictional part of the book but rather I would like to focus on the non-fiction part. Most of us, I would like to believe, have a creative side of us. That gets overshadowed and becomes latent with age due to various reasons like responsibilities, family, education, and society. This book tries to evoke the dormant part of our brain which deals with creativity and encourages the reader to explore it again.
After each chapter of the fiction, there is a lesson learned which discusses various forms of creative expressions. This deals, with a lot of conviction and scientific logic, as to how our minds form ideas. Examples from Photography, Writing, Art, and Music are explored with a lot of research.
You can read this book in a couple of days while sipping tea and enjoying the rain. I am pretty sure that a book like this would appeal to everyone’s senses who feel that they used to be creative but then life happened. Certainly, this can be the trigger to reinvigorate the hidden creative part of you. You might take out the instrument you bought long back but didn’t play or finish the incomplete poem you wrote long ago and pick up a new hobby if not done yet. Although the book’s title says ‘Off the corporate bus…” but of course, not everyone can leave their jobs and become artists. But one can take some time out and try to do a bit about their hobbies which they used to have in their childhood. Sometimes, to break the monotony of life, one has to do go back to their childhood and do the thing which made them happy. That is what the book aims for.
If you want to read this, you can purchase the book from here: https://amzn.to/2wUzTB0
P.S.: My name is mentioned in the credits of this book as a contributor to the illustrations. I am so glad I could be of use for a book like this. The illustrations I made were certainly not a piece of art but rather diagrams, to be frank. When I was making them, I had no idea what they would be emoting. But after reading the complete book, I understood the clear picture, as the protagonist of the fictional story within the fictional story of this book was told, that sometimes to see the clear picture, take a step back and observe again. You might find them showing a lot more than what they depict.
I am not an avid reader of books. I read a lot of articles, blogs, and ‘Terms & Conditions’ thoroughly on websites before clicking ‘I agree’. Alright, not the last one but I have not been a book reader types person in the past, even if I look like one. If you count articles and blogs maybe I do do a lot of reading and if you add all those articles up, they might constitute 2-3 books or so. But not proper books. I mostly end up reading 5-6 books a year, at max. This had been going on for a long time.
In case you are not aware, on the Goodreads.com site, there are Reading Challenges every year. People enter a number of books they wish to read that year. When you are done reading a book, you can mark that book as read. That’s a good way to check your progress from time to time.
Sometime in late 2015, I bought a Kindle. That helped a lot in increasing my book reading ability so I read 8 books in 2016. At the start of 2017, I aimed to read one book per month i.e. 12 Books per year. For actual book nerds, this might be a number they could be reading per month. But I am a normal person (some of us work also) so I thought one per month is a good number.
I would like to apologize by saying that I failed. 2017 ended but I could read only 10 books in 2017. Yes! That’s how life is, sadly. But I am very proud to say that most books I read this year had a profound impact on me. It was about quality and not quantity. These books not only reduced my social media time but also helped me become a better person. I also found my liking to non-fiction genre which I didn’t delve into much earlier. So, long story short, I am sharing the list of the books I read in 2017. The books which are bold are the ones I recommend. You can try reading them. No harm. As far as I know.
This is not your story by Savi Sharma
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Secret of Leadership by Prakash Iyer
Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
The Martian by Andy Weir
Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris
Krishna’s Secret by Devdutt Pattanaik
Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi
Faster than Normal by Peter Shankman
Some of these have been reviewed here and obviously, those are the ones I recommend.
This is going to be weird. Although the book ‘Faster than Normal’ is about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or popularly known as ADHD and how to make it work for you, by a renowned Author, Speaker, Ironman Triathlon Athlete, Podcaster, etc. named Peter Shankman, the title might also be my own Tagline, if I do get a tagline.
Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Productivity, and Success with the Secrets of the ADHD brain
Let me share some of the traits (as I would refrain from calling them symptoms) of being Faster than Normal:
Speaking fast. Very fast. I mean really fast. (Although in my mind I am being normal and others are being slow to understand me)
Getting easily distracted from uninteresting things (BORING!)
Being a Morning and Monday Loving Person / Extra-Energetic / Borderline-Hyper (Yes!)
A believer in ‘Either my way or highway’ philosophy (Although this doesn’t work in real world. Still, I try.)
Suffering from Imposter Syndrome often.
Uncontrollable hands. Sometimes tongue too.
This isn’t written in the book but rather my own traits if I may be frank here. So, I don’t know whether I really have ADHD or not but reading this book gave me so many examples of my own life. And even if I might have had ADHD, this book continues to state that ADHD is not a disorder. Rather, ADHD is a superpower which can be utilized to maximize one’s output. The best part of this book is that the suggestions, tricks, and tips given in this book would work for anyone who wants to be optimal at their game, ADHD or not. I would pause here and state that if someone really has ADHD, I cannot even comprehend what all would be going through their minds all the time. But when this book tells about people who have been diagnosed with ADHD and still made it big, that is very reassuring. For instance, names like Seth Godin, Richard Branson, Will Smith have been diagnosed with ADHD at some point in their lives.
So, reiterating here that whether you are normal or faster than normal, this book has a plethora of tips by which you can enhance your general productivity. Peter gives his own examples at every instance and also brings in guests who share their experiences with how they used their faster brain to accomplish great things. From getting up early, journaling your schedule, keeping your room tidy, choices minimum, following rituals, and making the best of the time when you are in your zone, are some of the tips which are explained in details with daily life examples.
In the modern day life where we have more distractions than a normal sane person can handle, focussing on a single task at hand is certainly a huge deal. When you know that if you are to be given only one hour of time with no distractions, you can wrap up the work which otherwise might take a day with distractions, then you probably you would enjoy this book.
I have gained a lot of insights about things which I had kept on the backburner due to laziness but after reading this book, I am pumped up again. This review is the 7th blog post on my blog in 7 straight days. I think if I am able to continue this streak further, this book would be one of the reasons behind that.