I enjoyed reading Range by David Epstein. It was filled with interesting research and stories, all lending itself to the idea that early and intense specialization is not always a good thing.
This is a must read for parents, coaches, soon to be or recent college grads and anyone in the world of business or sports. Epstein gives a well supported case for breadth of activities and not being afraid of getting a late start. This means no need to force your kid into one sport at age 4 so he/she doesn't fall behind, it means college students don't have to know exactly what they want to do and will actually be of more value to the world if they get a variety of experiences and take detours, and it means generalists can be more innovative in a particular field than those who have specialized solely in said field.
Experiment, take detours, learn from a variety of sources, don't aim for efficiency perfect focus all the time. This is a breath of fresh air from Epstein in an ever more specialized and focused world.
I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a recommendation from Pete Holmes. This book may seem a little out there to some, but it really has stood the test of time, it was first published in 1997. I definitely read it at a time and place in my life where it really resonated with me.
I enjoyed reading Singer's The Surrender Experiment, which made me interested in the idea and practice of meditation. But it wasn't until I read The Power of Now that I actually understood what the goal of mediation truly is and how to get there.
Meditation, ancient wisdom and philosophy, religious teachings - they all get you to the true goal, which Tolle says is full consciousness and enlightenment. Tolle makes an effort to get you there by teaching how to exist in the present moment and no longer identify with the mind, which causes thought to become compulsive. This incessant mental noise is normal (and unnoticed) among most people and is what blocks the discovery of inner stillness that is your true self, your Being.
This book can be read and enjoyed with or without a religious background. For anyone who is interested in mindfulness and stillness, this is a must read. The mindfulness trend that seems to be all around us in the U.S. right now is good and necessary but sometimes feels superficial in my opinion.
I understand the rejection and decrease in the practice of religion in our current times (I'm speaking of my observation in America since I live here), but there still must exist a way to "access" the one spiritual teaching that every religious and spiritual leader in history seems to be pointing us to. Tolle is a great start before diving into any specific teachers such as Buddha or Jesus, as well as a good read for anyone currently practicing/following a particular religion.
Stillness is the Key is Ryan Holiday's latest book and while I'm a huge fan of his this is the first book he wrote that I actually read from front to back.
This was a quick and inspiring read, filled with references and stories from historical greats. I must admit that since I'm in the middle of reading other spiritual and religious texts (my rabbit hole on this topic that I still haven't gotten out of), this book felt less important to me as I'm so deep in the weeds of material that's teaching stillness and inner peace. With that said, everyone should try reading at least one of Holiday's books, he's super well read and therefore does a great job at putting together something worth reading.
Holiday says himself in the book that he wrote this as a first step on the journey to wisdom; an introduction to classical thinking and history. He urges everyone to continue on the path of finding wisdom and stillness through other texts and looking inward.
Stillness, according to Holiday, means to be steady while the world spins around you. To act without frenzy. To hear only what needs to be heard. To possess quietude - exterior and interior - on command.
Buddhism, Stoicism, Epicureanism, Christianity, Hinduism and more have all gotten people to this stillness, the key to elite performance and a happy life. Holiday references all of these ancient wisdoms, as they all agree that this stillness is what everyone should look to achieve in life.
I read Dirty Looks: The Secret to Beautiful Skin by Whitney Bowe after hearing her on the Atomic Moms podcast. If you're looking for better skin and to be all around healthier, this is a decent and informative read, and Bowe even lays out a plan to follow to get there.
I wasn't looking for a specific plan to follow, so I was able to quickly read through some of this. Lately I've been interested in gut health and Whitney shed light into how the body works and how to glow from the inside out. Spoiler alert - everything in the body is connected and the stomach and intestines control much more than you may think. Getting back to basics, plant based foods, less processed foods, moving/exercising and protecting yourself from the sun won't just make you look good but will help you live longer and feel better. If you don't need all the details a book can provide, the Atomic Moms episode is here.
I officially went down a spiritual rabbit hole these last few months and once I read The Surrender Experiment I had to read Michael Singer's other book The Untethered Soul.
This book does a deep dive into making the leap from being a self absorbed person living in the fog that most of us live in (making daily decisions based on our own preferences, getting angry over the minutia as we are oblivious to the fact that we live in a world for a tiny amount of time when you look at the big picture), to becoming enlightened and taking the brain and the self to a higher state of living.
I must admit, I'm glad I started with Michael Singer's other book (which he wrote after this one), because otherwise I probably would've judged Singer as a little too out there for me. But if you stick with this book, I think it's a great book for anyone looking to do some serious personal growth.
Singer starts by explaining that voice that we all hear in our heads. That voice narrating the world for us, judging what we see. The untrained eye (most of us) think that's us. But it's not. We can observe this chatter like a subject-object relationship, and the first step to a higher level of consciousness and true personal growth is to recognize this voice.
So what's so wrong with this voice? Well, it's ruining us and we don't even know it. What typically happens is this constant narration makes us feel more comfortable and in control of the world around us. But what really is happening is these thoughts influence the experience of the world around us so what we end up experiencing is really a personal presentation of the world according to us, rather than the stark, unfiltered experience of what is really out there.
Basically, we are buffering reality as it comes in so that we can control the experience so it all fits inside our own minds. We re-create the world within our minds because we can control our mind and we can't control the world. Some people may think this is fine, but what you end up with are people who are limited very much so by their own preferences and controlled by fear.
So that's how Singer sets up the book, leaving us with the idea that true personal growth is about getting past that part of you that is not okay and needs protection. He then walks through how to connect with a higher power and truly live in a state of happiness.
I read The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer in 4 days after hearing Singer on James Altucher's podcast. I guess Oprah loved this book too.
In his book, Singer walks readers through his 40 year experiment of surrendering - letting life happen according to its natural flow.
He starts by saying that as humans, we believe that things should be the way we want them, instead of being the natural result of all the forces of creation. So we say things like, "I better get that raise because I really need the money," or "It better not rain on my wedding day." These claims are based solely on our personal preferences we've made up in our own minds.
So without realizing it, we do this with everything, believing the world around us is supposed to manifest itself in accordance to what we prefer. We make strong attempts to control the world around us. When we win that battle, we are happy and relaxed. When we don't we are stressed. Therefore we constantly attempt to control every thing in our lives.
The reality is, life will continue with or without us. Energy moves around the world to create beings and all matter, the Earth and the planets orbit in space and don't combust.
The basis for Singer's experiment is this: is he better off making up an alternate reality in his mind then fighting with reality to make it be his way, or is he better off letting go of what he wants and serving the same forces of reality that managed to create the entire perfection of the universe around him? The experiment would not be about dropping out of life, it would be about leaping into life to live in a place where he is no longer controlled by his personal fears and desires.
The journey Singer takes is pretty cool, and if nothing else, a fun read to follow him every step of the way. This book gave me interest in learning more about Eastern traditions such as Yoga, Buddhism, meditation, etc.
I’m going to use this post to combine several books under one Category: Parenting. I haven’t read all these books in 2018 but I always go back and re-read sections of them so I thought I’d list them all out as I've been referring to these a lot this year.
Elevating Child Care by Janet Lansbury
I wish Janet could live with me full time and help me parent. She introduced me to the Respectful Parenting Method. If you’re interested in a respectful parenting approach, you have to learn from Janet. I think many people misunderstand and misuse this approach and sometimes it gets a bad rap. Janet’s mentor was the late Magda Gerber, you can also read anything she’s written for an accurate and timeless portrayal of a parenting approach that works. This book pretty much summarizes how to approach parenting from the day a child is born.
No Bad Kids: Toddler Discipline Without Shame by Janet Lansbury
This was actually the first book of Janet’s I read. It’s super helpful in figuring out the difficult toddler years. I got the language and support I needed from this book.
How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber & Mazlish
This book is full of actionable takeaways to communicate and listen to kids of any age. I really like the approach of the authors, very much in line with the Respectful Approach, but this is not teaching that method. Rather, the authors work to give parents the tools to survive and thrive at home by teaching the best ways to help children deal with their feelings, give praise, find alternatives to punishment, encourage autonomy and more.
Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber & Mazlish
I will read and re-read this so I can ensure I provide the right environment in which my two kids can grow to respect each other and maybe, (hopefully) like each other and be friends. The same authors of the How To Talk Kids book above give some good insight and tools to help children live together under the same roof.
This book was recommended reading suggested by the company I work with, Cheshire Impact. I read it in just a few sittings. It's a quick read and I really enjoyed it.
Fish: A Proven Way To Boost Morale And Improve Results is a fictional tale about transforming your work into something you enjoy. Through an easy to read parable, you learn how to bring energy and fulfillment back to your work.
Here's the thing - many of us cannot simply change our jobs or our line of work to something we truly love. Other commitments, home life and current financial obligations sometimes mean you're stuck where you are, making the money you need to make. Other times a true calling hasn't yet made itself available.
People spend about 75% of their adult waking time doing work related activities. The book argues, if this is the case, we ought to enjoy and be energized by it. And instead of looking for a new job, it's possible to change your attitude and enjoy the work you are already doing.
If your department and/or office does the same, we can begin to get rid of that "thank God it's Friday" attitude about work. We can choose to have fun and make people's day. We can make small changes and be fulfilled by what we do every day. This creates stronger businesses, happier customers, happier people all around.
Although a bit idealistic and "hokey" this book is now on my "favorites" list of Business books, as it's an inspirational, quick read, and I love that it can also apply to your life outside the workplace.
If you are a woman are are looking to actually increase your strength, this is a must read. It's called The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Someone I trust online recommended this book and now I can't remember who it is, but I'm glad I bought this one.
This book contains a 6 month workout program and diet plans. But don't just buy this book so you can just start following the plans. It's written to be read like a book, beginning to end.
I actually didn't love it at first because I wanted to just learn about how the strength program worked. But I'm glad I sat down and read through it. Schuler provides great information. This isn't a quick 30 day fix to a beach bod, rather you'll learn about how to actually gain strength.
Here's Schuler's key insights:
I didn't buy this book for the nutrition section however it gave me some great meal ideas and ways to increase my protein and good fats intake. The content and the strength training workouts were well worth the money.
Final note on this book - if you want to use this book so you can follow the workout programs, you will either need a gym membership or good home gym equipment. That includes a bench with a benchpress barbell, weights for the barbell, free weights, and an exercise ball. A lat pull-down machine is a plus.
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