I was chatting with one of my students who is a fellow book addict (he has a YouTube channel with book reviews, do check it out). He reminded me that I don't talk about books much anymore after I stopped my "3 quotes" posts. So, why not use this post to talk about a few books?
Books are a medium that work for me. They've allowed me to see what someone's else's brain functions like. Some authors you connect with because they express a thought in your head much better than you can, even to yourself. When you click with a book, you can undergo a paradigm shift. It leads you down rabbit holes you never thought possible. I've chosen 5 books that led me to spiral upwards.
Never Let Go by Dan John
The first one is Coach Dan John's Never Let Go.
This is a book on life, a book on strength training, a book on principles and lessons on both. This is a book I re-read every other year (at least.) Some lessons clicked immediately with me because I had gone through a similar experience. And with subsequent readings and my added experience, I realised Coach was also clairvoyant. So, I reframed the lessons in this book into two - stuff I have learned and can use his words to develop a cheat sheet for and stuff that I don't have the wisdom to process yet but I should copy.
I'll leave you with one of the latter - Work / Rest / Play / Pray. Finding balance in our lives, especially as we keep getting busier and busier, with more things to do, more places to vacation, more TV to watch, more work to do, more friends to drink with, more drinks to drink, more food to eat - the stress of living has gone up. Silly us, eh!
Coach talks about how we need to find balance amongst these four aspects of our lives. And how as we find the balance, we will spiral upwards.
A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Coach - one of the silver linings of the pandemic. Until then, I had remained a silent consumer of his work and never gotten around to connecting with him.
How to Live by Derek Sivers
Derek's one of my favourite authors. He presents a contrarian perspective. For those of you who know what CD Baby was, he's the founder of it.
His writing is succinct. His editing is brutal. Reading his books is a breeze. I love all his books and you won't go wrong by buying all four. From one of his other books (Hell Yeah! or No - you can read it in its entirety via his blog), I learned this wonderful lesson. Well, when I say I learned it, I mean I'd like to learn it. It is simply - when something comes up, do you feel "Hell Yeah!!!". If you don't, your answer to it is "Nopes."
I find myself agreeing to a bunch of things that are not "Hell Yeah!" and over the past few years, I've started to say no to a few of them. I am yet to work up the courage to say no to all them but I know I need to get there.
Here's another short and brilliant work from him - a TED talk on how to start a movement.
Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee
Those of you who read my quotes would know that I quote Bruce Lee a lot. His thinking and philosophy connect and as I read more about philosophy and his influences, I understand more of his writings.
This book has a lot of stuff about his martial art, which is not relevant. But I found them useful to think about my physical and mental training in lifting weights and kettlebells. For example,
The mastery of proper fundamentals and their progressive application is the secret to being a great fighter.
But it is his musings on the larger schemes of life that blow my mind away. Reading this as a 28-year-old who, until then, had paid zero attention to deeper thoughts, I was hooked. I'll leave you with one more.
When real feeling occurs,
such as anger or fear,
can the stylist express himself with the classical method,
or is he merely listening to his screams and yells?
Is he a living, expressive human being
or merely a patternized mechanical robot?
Is he an entity capable of flowing with external circumstances,
or is he resisting his set of chosen patterns?
Is his chosen pattern forming a screen between him and the opponent
and preventing a "total" and "fresh" relationship?
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
This book was the slap in the face that I needed to start creating again.
My reading habit was rekindled. My blog writing was kickstarted. My thought process that was stuck in the weeds with the same patterns and routines and the constrained universe was broken.
What I needed was a slap. And this book delivered that.
If you feel stuck, if you are procrastinating, if you think you are here in this world to do something awesome but aren't figuring it out, do yourself a favour and get slapped.
A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine
I always thought philosophy was complicated and useless for life. That only bearded gents in stuffy suits discussed using words that I hadn't seen in a dictionary. In parallel, I was also looking for non-sectarian methods of how to be a decent human being. There is a lot of that in philosophy without the mumbo-jumbo.
This book on Stoicism was eye-opening for me. It led me to other books on Stoicism - Meditations, Ryan Holiday's work, Seneca, Epictetus etc. - but this book was where it started. Written, with adequate hand-holding for the noob, I realised that philosophy was ALL about living a good life. It led me to explore previously unexplored parts - spirituality, meditation, shedding old labels.
It is easy to get carried away by labels. One doesn't need to be a Stoic (different from the English word stoic) to learn practical, fundamental lessons from this school of philosophy. A powerful lesson from the Stoics, for example, is to control the controllable. We lose our shit all the time by trying/wanting to control something that is out of our control. Understanding that you are being a nincompoop, coming to terms with it, and working on controlling what is under your control empowers you.
Thanks for indulging me as I shared five books that I have enjoyed reading over the past decade. Not everything (or any) might be your cup of tea but I hope at least one of them is and it opens up a new door in your head.