Ryan Holiday has mastered the art of making the wisdom of antiquity sound and feel current. It’s incredible to think how many fantastic books he has already written, and even more so to think that they just keep leafing out of him like a fruit tree. Stillness is the Key to his writing prowess and your autumn reading list.
Stillness is hardly a hip, cutting-edge quality. It’s the missing piece we had no idea we were missing. One might think that in an age when apps and labor-saving appliances can do everything for us, we’d have copious leisure time that we could use to cultivate tranquility. Instead it seems that the faster we can go, the slower we feel we’re going.
I have a robot vacuum cleaner and a personal secretary in my pocket that can take dictation. Does this help me feel peace of mind? Laws, no. Why not, though?
Holiday has answers for this, timeless answers that paradoxically make even more sense now than they did in the past. (Isn’t it funny that a man who advocates for stillness goes through life with the name ‘Holiday’?) Take the time to pause and reflect. Take the time to remind yourself of your values and whether you are living up to yourself. Take care of yourself before you burn out.
At one point in the book, Holiday discusses having a higher power. I always thought it was funny that so many people get hung up on this, because to me it is a one hundred percent secular and rational concept. Most powers are higher than me, and I couldn’t be more grateful. When I get my teeth cleaned, my dental hygienist is my higher power. When I read a book, both the author and the publisher are higher powers, powers that do things I cannot do. I also don’t have to make the plants grow, take charge of gravity, or even remind myself to breathe when I’m asleep. Of course my puny human mind is not the highest power! Why would anyone think that, or want that?
Stillness is the Key to so many good things in life. Whatever you are missing, if you’re modern, it’s probably sleep, time for strategic thinking, and tranquility among everything else. This is a great companion, a book to carry around with you or keep next to your bed, a book to read when you could use a pause from the business of everyday life.
We sign up for endless activities and obligations, chase money and accomplishments, all with the naïve belief that at the end of it will be happiness.
Who is so certain that they’ll get another moment that they can confidently skip over this one?
Both egotistical and insecure people make their flaws central to their identity—either by covering them up or by brooding over them or externalizing them.
I just moved, and this book was a big help to me. What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You, sometimes, is “either pay for a bigger apartment or get rid of some stuff!” Unlike most clutter books, this one focuses more on the inner work and less on the routine organizing aspects of space clearing. In this sense, it’s a better pick for those of us who sometimes struggle to let go.
Q: Why is my house so full of stuff?
A: I have no idea!
Kerri L. Richardson gradually downsized from a 2,000 square foot house to 500 square feet. I’ve done a similar process, and I can verify that this experience definitely clarifies what you do and don’t need! On the other hand, I’ve also found that when people discard a lot of stuff in a short period of time, they can feel so distraught that it becomes traumatic.
This is exactly why it’s so important to focus on the emotional aspects of why we care so much about our stuff.
What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You covers everything, from sorting through clothes and books and papers to setting boundaries with people. This is a very rich topic, because so often a person’s family members have made more choices about the stuff in the home than the owner has.
Richardson’s book is an excellent companion for the intense work of space clearing. If you’ve been feeling stuck or struggling with why you can’t seem to motivate yourself to get rid of clutter, maybe you should find out What Your Clutter is Trying to Tell You.
I define clutter as anything that gets in the way of living the life of your dreams.
What am I tolerating in my life?
Organizing your mental clutter begins the process of establishing realistic expectations.
Once my clutter is gone, I’ll be able to _______________.
Quit Like a Millionaire is one of my favorite financial independence books of all time. Not only does it have more specific details about the technical details of FI, it also made me laugh like a sea lion.
Kristy Shen starts by describing her experience as a poor child in China. This is an excellent and attention-grabbing foundation for the book, because anyone reading it in English surely has more resources and ability to earn and save money. If that statement seems challenging, at least agree that anyone reading this is not a little kid...? ...and then actually read the book itself. Shen also describes herself as a mediocre student, struggling with concepts and getting by on hard work rather than brilliance.
In other words, if Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung can do it, anyone can. The book is filled with charts showing the numbers for all different income and saving levels.
Shen goes over the financial principles she used to become financially independent very carefully. One of the most surprising of these is her Pay-over-Tuition score, which shows that a doctor or a lawyer may do only about as well as someone in an arts career due to the high cost of their education.
Something I particularly appreciated was the concept of “eating bitterness” and how Shen makes use of scarcity mindset. I have a bit of this myself, and have actually broken out in hives at the thought of wasting money on certain things. It definitely helps to draw on this attitude when engaging in extreme saving.
Quit Like a Millionaire explains Modern Portfolio Theory, capital gains harvesting, and geographic arbitrage, among other concepts. The section on insurance was enlightening. It can be hard to believe, but becoming financially independent actually eliminates whole categories of spending, and insurance can be one of them.
Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung retired just after they turned thirty, which is nuts, but possible. What is even crazier is that they accidentally discovered they could travel the world for the same cost as living at home. Now they’re at least three years into their retirement and it sure sounds like they’re having a lot of fun. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t mind joining them.
Read this book and Quit Like a Millionaire today... or maybe eleven years from now, but who’s counting?
No one is coming to save you.
My boss didn’t care about my mediocre grades; he hired me because of my insane work ethic.
For them, failure was totally an option.
Since I knew that things could always get worse, the Scarcity Mind-set taught me that money was precious and if I wanted security and autonomy in life, I’d have to earn it.
“The past doesn’t matter. What do we do now?”
If you understand money, life is incredibly easy. If you don’t understand money, like the vast majority of people, life is incredibly hard.
No Hard Feelings if someone at work hands you this book, okay? This is a book of pure genius that should be part of the onboarding process at every company in the United States, and possibly elsewhere. It manages to be fascinating, authentic, hilarious, and paradigm-shifting while still being completely suitable for the office. Leave it out in a conspicuous place, maybe in the break room, and watch everyone flip through it for the cartoons.
Everyone is included in No Hard Feelings. There are predictable style differences between extroverts and introverts, strategic optimists and defensive pessimists, leaders and followers, and of course the various generations, races, cultures, and genders. Some of these have been well explored in the business press, and others seem quite fresh and intriguing in the context of emotional intelligence.
Stress, burnout, and interpersonal conflict come up often. The authors have excellent strategies for setting boundaries, especially with the digital world. They recommend ways to set a company culture that encourages vacation time and discourages constant access. There are highly practical ways to lay down limits and shut down at the end of the day. Surely being less frazzled and exhausted would help everyone to get along and make it to Friday.
One of the features that I liked the most about No Hard Feelings is that it assumes ambition, that the reader is either in a leadership position or may eventually be considered for one. The concept of a “challenge network” was new to me, and I will be using that term when I speak on mentoring and continuous improvement. Everyone should have someone to go to for emotional support, and also someone to go to for advice and constructive criticism.
This is the Twenty-First Century, and it’s high time that we all collectively start acknowledging that emotions are real. Mood repair should be a part of standard operating procedure. Recognizing the human factors of communication and emotional intelligence can only make work easier, more fun, and ultimately more productive. Get your copy and put it in your boss’s inbox today.
...the future of work is emotional.
If you let someone underperform for months or even years without saying anything, you’ve failed as a manager.
This book is a gem by one of the all-time greatest motivational speakers and writers, the inimitable Mel Robbins. It’s more than inspirational, though. It provokes insight and emotional breakthroughs that are impossible to forget or ignore. Usually we know what we ought to be doing to move toward our dreams, so the question is, Why aren’t we? Stop Saying You’re Fine helps to answer that.
A key point to the book is that we already have all the information we need. Almost every dream is a dream that someone else has, too, and chances are that millions of people have done it before. That’s what I told myself when I was training for my marathon. If millions of people have done it, then surely I can, and I did, even when I was being passed by various para-athletes such as a blind runner with a seeing eye dog. The instructions are there, the workbooks are there, the teachers and coaches are there. When we finally decide to move forward, we will do it surrounded by resources, information, and support.
The problem is what we call Resistance. It’s the feeling of not wanting to do something, even though you believe you should. Resistance comes up in different forms for everyone. For instance, I feel it most when I have to make a business call. I’ll happily wash someone’s sink full of dishes or fold all the laundry on their couch if only they’ll make calls for me. Once we start recognizing the feeling of Resistance for what it is, it becomes easier to call it out and to catch ourselves acting out boring old patterns.
The solution that Mel Robbins teaches is to figure out a bunch of small steps toward your goal, pick one, and then TAKE ACTION within five seconds. This trains the impulse and strengthens the connection between thought and implementation. If I think, I should call my friend, and I do it, then I’ve done something positive. If instead I let that impulse slip away without calling, I may start to replace my positive feeling with guilt. I’ll then waste the time I could have been chatting with someone I like, and the exact same minutes could go toward reinforcing a negative impression of myself. When I do something within those five seconds, I get two rewards, the satisfaction of doing the thing and the freedom from beating myself up after procrastinating.
Mel Robbins is a coach, and this book comes from years of working with individuals and conducting workshops. This stuff works. I even used it to get this review written. If you have a tendency to procrastinate or you feel stuck on something, please treat yourself to the delightful and transformational experience of reading this book - Stop Saying You’re Fine.
Everything you could ever need to live the life you want is right there at your fingertips.
You are very powerful when you put your mind to it.
The snooze button is the perfect symbol of human resistance, and the emblem of anyone who feels stuck.
If you hear yourself ever saying “It is what it is,” that’s not the powerful you talking.
We are all stuck in some area of our life, pretending it’s not that bad so we can justify doing nothing.
If your mind can kill a great idea by dampening it with emotional turmoil, it will.
In any area of your life that you want to change, adopt this rule. Just do the things that you don’t want to do.
You need to hear this loud and clear: No one is coming. It is up to you.
Recognizing and seizing these moments is like opening a doorway into an alternate universe where your life is not governed by routine.
If there’s a way to avoid doing anything, you’ll do it, even though it won’t make you happy.
You’re actively trying to convince yourself that it’s okay to feel disappointed with yourself on a regular basis.
You will never just wake up with the motivation and fortitude that you’ve been missing for years.
The only choice you have is to force yourself to change whether you feel like it or not.
The only wrong choice is to do nothing.
The Procrastination Equation is a curious artifact, the product of a former extreme procrastinator who became an academic researcher and actually completed and published a book on procrastination. Piers Steel, PhD in your face! Something like 90% of doctoral candidates never complete their thesis, so this is a pretty big deal. If a procrastinator can get a PhD, then maybe anyone can do anything?
I keep reading and reviewing procrastination research books because guess why.
About 95% of people admit to procrastination and about a quarter consider it one of their defining personality traits. I’m in that quarter, although I have worked so hard at it for so long that when I try to cop to it, people will laugh. You?? Yup, me. I want to be in that magical 5% elite group that never puts anything off, never feels guilty or distracted, gets to wear a diamond tiara that spells out IN THE NOW.
While this book includes targeted behavioral suggestions, it revolves around research, including quizzes which are always a great way to be entertained while procrastinating. It’s pretty funny, for instance when Steel includes a footnote as a supposed reference to an astrology factoid.
One of the most interesting ideas I picked up was the link between impulsivity and procrastination. There is probably a strong link here with hoarding and chronic disorganization as well, because my people tend to be big-time guilty procrastinators as well. The impulsive streak tends to make them fun to be around, ready to try out mental exercises and games as we clear. It’s the same trait that makes them want to bring home random bargains and anything shiny, patterned, or brightly colored. It’s also what makes it hard for them to stay on task.
Procrastination Polka is one section of The Procrastination Equation that is particularly telling. Maybe flip to that section first and see if it catches your attention. I felt smug about several items but there were three out of thirteen that applied to me. Ouch.
Procrastination is as old as agriculture, extending at least to the dawn of written history. There’s a term for it in every culture and language. This makes me feel better. Then I learn that procrastinators get lower grades, have less money, are less healthy, and also less happy, and it gets harder to pretend that my cute little personality trait derives from perfectionism. When Steel calculates it as a trillion-dollar problem and points out how little Congress gets done, procrastination starts to look like a bigger deal than just whether I personally keep up on my email.
I enjoyed The Procrastination Equation, and it actually changed my perspective. Viewing my petty to-do list in a broader historical, anthropological, and economic context gave me a new perspective. I’d rather see myself as different type of animal, like a crow maybe, than a typical procrastinating ordinary human. I read this book and then I did the first next thing on my list, which was to review it.
Now, how about you? What are you going to do next?
By your own standards, if you thought delay was a good idea in the first place, you wouldn’t be procrastinating.
“...the only thing I really ever finish is dessert.”
Those bizarre outfits that languish in your closet were likely purchased toward the end of a shopping trip.
Passion is overrated. This is the message of The Passion Paradox. This research-based book helps to distinguish between different types of passion, positive and negative, which is something that pop culture could really use right now. We can thank Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness for offering a message that is much more nuanced and interesting than a million memes and fridge magnets.
The term ‘passion’ originally had dark and religious meanings. It wasn’t a feeling that people would associate with a dream job, say, or interior design. Passion was (and probably still is) a form of suffering, just as nostalgia was considered an illness. I can tell you, as a person afflicted with a lifelong passion for birdwatching, that I do sometimes question why I am bushwhacking through brambles and waist-high weeds just to look at a bird for a few minutes.
Dopamine, that’s why. There are biological reasons why some people are ‘passionate’ and others less so. There are also psychological roots, and passion can lead to obsession and addiction. Whatever else it does, passion does not guarantee a path to happiness; it’s not comfortable.
Two ways that the search for passion can mess us up are the destiny belief of love and the fit mind-set of passion. The first is the belief in “soulmates” rather than that relationships take work, and the second is a sense that there is a “dream job” out there for everyone. These beliefs convince us that any difficulty, awkwardness, or less-than-perfect feelings mean a job or relationship aren’t right for us. This in turn can lead us to quit rather than putting in any effort, meaning we destroy our own chances at happiness before they have a chance to get anywhere.
The Passion Paradox does more than identify problems with our pop culture perception of passion. This book teaches ways to deal with hedonic adaptation and fear of failure. Unexpectedly, it suggests that we seek out ways to experience awe and develop a greater perspective. It also encourages enhancing our self-awareness. Ultimately, we can incorporate a health and balanced passion into our very identity.
Everyone tells us to find our passion but no one tells us how to find it, let alone how to live with it.
After a massive achievement or a devastating failure, getting back to work serves as an embodied reminder that external results aren’t why you are in this.
Be most intent not on winning or losing, but on becoming better—stronger, kinder, and wiser—than your past self.
You simply cannot be deeply passionate and balanced in combination.
The End of Procrastination: could there really be one? Is there a way to stop a basic tendency of human psychology when it affects literally everyone? (Those who believe they don’t procrastinate should ask themselves about their retirement planning and fitness goals, since those are the most commonly procrastinated tasks). Petr Ludwig explores this desire to avoid all those things we think we should be doing and how we can convince ourselves to get back on track.
Laziness and procrastination, contrary to popular belief, are not the same thing. Laziness, if there is any such thing, means that someone is perfectly happy not to do something and may just have low standards. Procrastination is avoiding something that someone thinks they really should be doing. Start here, if you think you’re a lazy procrastinator, because you can’t actually be both! Pick one, why don’t you.
Personally I’ve been leaning more toward laziness because it’s summer. Also, I’ve found that I get the same amount done whether I stress out or relax. As I’ve gotten better at just jumping on the most obnoxious task of the day and getting it over with, I’ve found that none of the time I spend stressing out is productive. It’s the same with the weary dread of procrastinating, knowing that time is passing and beating yourself up over why you aren’t doing the thing you should do.
The End of Procrastination teaches valuable concepts like self-regulation, hedonic adaptation, and decision paralysis. There is a method for habit tracking that should be attractive for those who like bullet journaling. Perhaps the most valuable concept for me was the idea that you can plan your day with two different paths. If you get stuck on one path, use the other. It seems simple, but sometimes all it takes to break up a stuck energy pattern is to do something different.
This is a research-based book full of great diagrams. It’s fun and easy to read, which of course creates a double bind for the committed. Are we procrastinating more by fully enjoying it or by reading it only partway through?
Now that I’ve read The End of Procrastination, I’m going to sort out a box so I can find my missing thank-you notes. I’ve got a little task I need to do.
Procrastination can be overcome once you improve your motivation, discipline, outcomes, and objectivity.
Don’t procrastinate when it comes to fighting procrastination.
How many times in your life have you tried telling yourself what to do and haven’t obeyed?
How can you avoid the hamsters of failure?
Someday is Not a Day in the Week. Sam Horn wants to remind us that we can find a way to live out our dreams today, rather than waiting until “later.” First of all, later doesn’t always come. Second, by the time we retire, many of us don’t have the health or freedom to do the things we’ve been waiting for decades to do. Whatever it is, let’s figure out how to do it now.
This book is centered around a “Year by the Water,” Horn’s way of living what she teaches. She decided what she wanted to do, gave away all her stuff, and hit the road. This sounds like something for kids in their twenties, and of course it is, but Horn is a mom of a kid that age. Pay attention, non-kids, because the message that Someday is Not a Day in the Week is aimed at us.
Horn reminds us that we can’t take our mobility for granted. She has a few examples of people who worked hard their entire lives, only to be unable to enjoy their freedom once they had earned it. So many of us are such workaholics that we don’t know how to unplug. We don’t take our vacations when we’ve earned them, and we don’t retire even when we can. How would we feel if we had to look back and realize that we never took the time when we had the opportunity, and suddenly we never can?
How can we make more time to live out our dreams and be more consistent with our values? How can we restructure our commitments? If George R. R. Martin isn’t obligated to finish writing Game of Thrones, then how much are we obligated to do?
I loved Sam Horn’s book, which is full of practical advice and exercises. I’m taking the advice that Someday is Not a Day in the Week and building my semi-annual review around it.
I hope you choose to stop waiting and start creating the quality of life you want, need, and deserve now—not later.
Are you overthinking your dream?
....when we focus on what we don’t want, that’s what we’re going to get.
Get crystal clear about what makes you laugh and enjoy your life, and schedule it on your calendar.
...meaning makes us happy, not money. And everyone can afford that.
Have some of your dreams come true and you’re not even noticing them?
Passion is overrated. That’s the core message of Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You. I believe him, partly because I think ‘passion’ is something of a myth in the first place. My clients often confess that they don’t have a passion, that they don’t have an outrageous dream, that they don’t have a secret wish and that they don’t know what to put on their vision boards. Not a single one of them has ever managed to get through the “perfect day” exercise. Culturally it makes them feel out of step. Newport shows us another problem with passion, which is that people have been taught to expect that following their passion will lead to a successful and prosperous work life.
Maybe. It only works if you follow your passion in a very specific way and become “so good they can’t ignore you.” It’s not passion that we think we want, but mastery.
Should I be paid vast sums of money to indulge my lifelong passion for birdwatching? If I were, would I still enjoy it with the simple delight of a tiny child? I’ve always suspected that attaching financial interests to my passions would snuff them out, so I like to keep them separate.
Newport argues that career passions are rare. Whether people see their position at work as a job, a career, or a calling depends on the individual, not the work itself. It’s an attitude. Attitude is the secret behind whether someone finds fulfillment as well as a paycheck.
The basic formula, if you want to become So Good They Can’t Ignore You, is to adopt a craftsman mindset, build career capital, and engage in deliberate practice. Or, choose something you want to be good at, prove your value, and constantly get better at what you do. From this deep commitment comes the passion that you seek. True passion comes LAST, which is also something that few people understand about marriage.
Newport has built a successful writing career, so much so that I advise quickly acquiring and reading anything with his name on it. His method has worked for him, as well as (most of) the people he profiles in his book. Let’s all take his advice and start talking about mastery instead of passion.
“Follow your passion” might just be terrible advice.
Compelling careers often have complex origins that reject the simple idea that all you have to do is follow your passion.
The problem, of course, is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt.
“Do what people are willing to pay for.”
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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