Weekly Blog #9 - a few thoughts on books... (Part II)
Updated: Feb 11, 2020
It's the day after Chinese New Year and it's very quiet out on the streets. This is the only time of the year it gets that quiet in Shanghai. I am not sure if the bad weather, the slow pace and lack of life in the streets and the outbreak of a deadly virus should make me feel depressed, unsettled or - calm?...
Usually this ever growing mega city is crowded with busy people rushing to work, to school, the next coffee shop or the next mall. There is a certain emptiness to all this hustling and bustling in the streets. What for? What's next - and why? To me, this still is a crowd of unfamiliar faces. Faces behind masks...
How did I do? Was it gripping? Immersive? Did it arouse your interest? Did it create pictures in your mind? If not, that's fine, I'm not (yet) an author anyways...
But what happens and how do you react when you read a good book? One with deep stories, well sourced facts, historical references, etc.. I usually get sucked into it. Last night I've been reading "The subtle Art of not giving a F*ck" by Mark Manson. I started at 0930 pm and all of a sudden it was way past midnight. A good book can really mess with your sleeping schedule.
As mentioned in Part I, here are some books that are currently messing with my sleeping schedule. I will write a little bit about the content, describe the situation in which I am reading or listening to them and why I think you should read them, too.
Principles by Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio is the Founder, Co-CEO and Co-CIO of Bridgewater Associates - one of the largest Hedge Funds in the world. He has written this book to pass along life- and work-principles that he has gathered throughout his professional career. The book is well structured and in almost every chapter the author incorporates a short story of his personal life. This makes it interesting and immersive to me.
Where to read?
I have not finished this book yet but I am listening to it while I am on the treadmill every morning and also re-reading chapters of it during the evening. The author has recorded the audio book himself so you get a good idea of how the author thinks and feels about his own writing which makes it ever so much more enjoyable.
What to expect?
It's not a book for a typical 7-day beach vacation since the author challenges you to constantly think about his principles and the principles you might have been applying - knowingly or unknowingly - to your professional and personal life. He also challenges you to be "radically open-minded" about it which is the part I probably like the most. His constant reminders of discarding your bad habit of being closed-minded and his ways of describing how you can improve open-mindedness are truly eye-opening.
You can buy the book here (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/386eFSb)
Atomic Habits by James Clear
Atomic Habits is a really good addition to Principles, and here is why...
Where to read?
I am enjoying this book, as I am enjoying the first one, while doing my daily cardio. It is easy to follow as an audio-book and - since I am a big fan of repeating what I've learned - it's also nice to follow up the chapters you've listened to by visiting James Clear's website and using the tools he has provided there. I do not recommend to read this book before you go to bed. It will make you ponder about your good and bad habits and I usually find it hard to fall asleep with all the thoughts about "What am I doing wrong?" and "What am I going to do better tomorrow?" in my head.
What to expect?
The book has helped me to steer my daily routines along the four laws of building good habits and breaking bad ones:
1. Make it obvious! / inversion: Make it invisible! 2. Make it attractive! / inversion: Make it unattractive!
3. Make it easy! / inversion: Make it hard!
4. Make it satisfying! / inversion: Make it unsatisfying!
Here's an explanation regarding the four laws from the book: “The first three laws of behavior change - make it obvious, make it attractive, and make it easy - increase the odds that a behavior will be performed this time. The fourth law of behavior change - make it satisfying - increases the odds that a behavior will be repeated next time.”
My favorite take-away until now is the authors advice on shaping your environment to form better habits - which is part of the first law. The author states: "Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.” - I have often used different places at work and at home for different types of habits and activities. For example, I used one and the same spot in my apartment for reading, playing guitar and watching TV. If you associate one spot in your house with more than one habit, it is very likely that you will fall to the habit that requires the least effort - in my case: watching TV. For that reason I am currently developing and improving my surroundings to suit the habits I want to built. My comfortable big seating pillow next to the couch is only for playing the guitar, my desk in the second bedroom is only for working, the dinner table is only for eating, my bed is only for sleeping (that one is quite hard and not true at times but you get the idea)...
Since the book is so full of actionable advice it is hard for me to pick all the good ones and write them down in one blog entry. I will try and come back to more insights and key messages from the book in future blog entries.
But here is a short summary on what you can gain from the book stated on the author's website (https://jamesclear.com/atomic-habits):
"Learn how to…
Build a system for getting 1% better every day.
Break your bad habits and stick to good ones.
Avoid the common mistakes most people make when changing habits.
Overcome a lack of motivation and willpower.
Develop a stronger identity and believe in yourself.
Make time for new habits (even when life gets crazy).
Design your environment to make success easier.
Make tiny, easy changes that deliver big results.
Get back on track when you get off course.
And most importantly, how to put these ideas into practice in real life.
…and much more."
Hint: Sign up for James Clear's newsletter at https://jamesclear.com/newsletter! It's really good and some say it's "the most wisdom per word of any newsletter on the web." (source unknown, but that line is from his newsletter...).
You can buy the book here (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/38h39nf)
The subtle Art of not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
Do you know the feeling of constantly worrying about not achieving enough in your life? This book might help you to overcome this feeling, cherish who you are and appreciate the more common things in life... That is, if you are willing to get insulted by the author here and there and don't mind stumbling over a whole lot of F-words in your evening-read. Here is one of my favorite quotes: "[...] if everyone was extraordinary, then by definition, no one would be extraordinary".
Where to read?
In the evening, before going to bed. Put this book on your pillow after making your bed in the morning and make sure to pick it up when you lay down. It's funny, makes you feel good about life and if your day was f*cked up, it will help you to forget about it and find some rest.
What to expect?
I expected to get clear advice on how to give less f*cks about everything. Like in the other two books that I have introduced in this blog: clear structure, a set of methods, some application advice and tools, something like that. The book doesn't do that. What it does is it picks up on peoples life stories and helps you see the stories from different perspectives. The author uses statistics to prove his point, he picks examples that most of us can relate to because we know the person he talks about or the feelings he describes. He makes his point very obvious and easy to understand so that you can learn from it. It's easy to pick up one of the stories and tell it to your family or friends in the right moment, and that makes it stick even more.
Hint: go to https://markmanson.net/ and browse his website for a bit. You can get a good feeling for his writing style and the content he creates and it might make it easier to decide whether or not to buy his book.
You can buy the book here (Amazon Affiliate Link: https://amzn.to/387qurl)
I have never been particularly good in making book reviews at school, probably because I never finished the books and looked up summaries on the internet. But I an trying to improve that skill and this will probably not the last blog entry on books. Please leave a comment or a like if I should keep going and also feel free to recommend books that you like and that helped you in your personal or professional life.