I once cracked open a fortune cookie to find this inside: Read in order to live. I keep it in the ID sleeve in my wallet. I am a Reader and I cannot live my life without all that I learn from books, magazines, newspapers, online news, blogs, e-books, essays, cereal boxes, pamphlets and fliers. If there are words, there must be something to learn.
The following titles are from the last 6 months of my reading list and all have been powerfully informative to my decision to change my life. Each one awakens in me an idea that when all are pieced together I more clearly understand where I’ve been and where I want to go:
The Centered Life, by Jack Fortin. The author, a Lutheran minister, explores why the “balanced” life is a fantasy and offers instead the Centered Life. Yes, this is a Christian book, but don’t let that stop you from reading it. Whether we think it is God-given or a happy circumstance of nature, we each have unique gifts, talents and skills – for some it is golf, painting, making music, dancing, cooking, or restoring a car.
No matter your spiritual beliefs of how you got them, these gifts complete your identity and instruct your place in the world. Becoming fully aware of that is mind-altering. And when you can fully engage your community through that gift, whatever that community may be, you are living the life you are meant to live. Full disclosure: I had to read this book three times, a year apart each time, before the lightning bolt struck. When it did, boy, that light burned BRIGHT.
Crush It, by Gary Vaynerchuk. This book was recommended to me well into a happy hour one Friday night not long ago. The conversation of “what do you do” (a topic eloquently covered here by blogger Cordelia Calls It Quits) quickly turned, shall we say, truthful, and my happy hour cohort sang earnest praises about this book. The subtitle is “Why Now is the Time to Cash In On your Passion” since the author has made a considerable fortune transforming his family’s liquor store from a modest $4 million business into a $60 million wine selling powerhouse in 5 years. Not to mention the fortune he is making on this book and speaking engagements.
Google videos of this guy – he is frenetic. So is the read. He is all about hustle and while that is not for everybody, he does have an insight about honoring your “DNA.” Authenticity, passion, patience all figure prominently in his message, which is one of immersion in the online community for the purpose of promoting your “thing” and reaping its lucrative benefits. Don’t feel squeamish; the desire to make a living requires the same pep talks as wanting to be a millionaire. And he is pretty measured about it, saying both, “Cream rises to the top,” and, “Don’t drink your own Kool Aid.”
7 Keys to Discovering Your Passion, by Jonathan Mead. When I first told my best friend about my plan (change my life…start a blog), she forwarded to me several helpful links, among them www. Illuminatedmind.net which led to this short e-pamphlet. Reading it was a steady blow of oxygen on the tiny spark inside me. The most important section is an exercise where the reader explores six questions that will really shake out (a) where your true talent lies, and, (b) what is truly fulfilling work for you.
That this e-pamphlet is only 10 pages long does not diminish its impact. I found it to be a validating experience with an easily-digestible road map. My answers to the six questions shine back at me like neon lights. How could I not change my life?
The results of my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Okay, it’s not a book or article, but it is a reading that influenced my decision to change my life. From time to time I dig out a folder I have kept for eleven years. In this folder is a set of literature that explains the 16 combinations of “psychological types” derived from the results of a 93 question bubble test called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which I once took.
The MBTI, based on the work of Carl Jung and feeling a little bit like having your fortune told, is a neat trick if nothing else. Some of the type descriptions are dead-on, while other parts are sort-of on. Taken with a grain of salt, the information helps me to think about how I go about projects and how I interact with others. It doesn’t leave out the unpleasant bits either. If you have the opportunity to take a MBTI assessment, I would say do it.
Babbitt, by Sinclair Lewis. It was serendipity that brought me to this book this summer. I have wanted to read it since reading Lewis’s prequel, Main Street, during college, but never got around to it. At midsummer I stepped into the rat’s nest that is the local used book dealer where for less than a dollar I can find HG Wells’ novels, a summer reading tradition I’ve kept for the past several years. I strolled by another shelf and spotted Babbitt, the back cover review ending with, “HG Wells said of this novel: I wish I could have written Babbitt.” Obviously, someone is trying to tell me something.
Babbitt is an American classic about the ugliness of conformity as played out by a detestable, and uncomfortably recognizable, business man of the 1920’s. It is of course a caricature, but the reason a caricature works so well is that we are surrounded in life by some mighty compelling examples of such personalities. Babbitt is detestable, after long chasing a life he never truly wanted, and yet he doesn’t know how to fix it or how to stop chasing after it. He is miserable in his comfortable habits.
In the throes of that struggle Babbitt has turned party animal just to do something different, in the same way that teenagers try to be different and wind up looking exactly like each other. He compares his customary life to the party life, referring to it in a line that brought me to a standstill: “a life of barren heartiness.” I don’t want to be a Babbitt.
What have you read that has lit a fire under you?