So imagine you’re reclined on a favorite couch, reading, when you suddenly come across a sentence so profound you just need to sit up for it. Soon enough – after highlight that sentence of course- you realize you can’t read anymore because the gears in your brain just won’t stop turning. Finally you decide to stop reading and do something about that idea; write it down, talk to someone about it…etc.
Books are powerful weapons. So if you need recommendations on books to read – or give as gifts – so you and your loved ones can enter the new year with new ideas and a whole new mindset, check the list below.
Even though recent research has debunked the idea that logical, methodical, analytical people use their left brains preferentially while the creative types are right-brain dominant, Dan Pink argues that sparking our creativity is essential as we approach the end of the knowledge worker’s era and the beginning of the creative worker’s era. With material abundance, technological advancement and globalization taking over the business world, workers would need to rely on creative thinking skills to really stand out. He goes on to speak in detail about the six senses; Design, story, symphony, empathy, play and meaning.
This book really challenges many assumptions made in our societies. Creative people are usually looked down upon. The starved artist is quite the cliched character, so children from a young age are encouraged to suppress their creative side. A talk that goes in line with the topic is Ken Robinson’s famous TED talk on how schools kill creativity.
Everybody keeps on talking about how you have to follow your passion and then the money would follow. This books consoles those who don’t break free from the corporate cubicle to pursue their passion and argues that passion isn’t everything. Instead the author talks about how one must build his career capital by obtaining skills through hard work in order to achieve mastery, autonomy and mission. Again, whether you agree with it or not is irrelevant; the book will make you think. I’ve written about it in a previous post.
This is a personal favorite. It’s on my TBRA (To-be-read-annually) pile. Susan Cain has given voice to the millions of silent and misunderstood introverts who get energized by staying alone. Every time I read it I discover something new in it.
I personally wish I could distribute this book in our society because introverts get a bad rep as anti-social. Sometimes other people fail to realize that our own company is the best company we seek and it really has nothing to do with them. It’s definitely a topic for conversation during family reunions this holiday.
4. The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun
This book was a pleasant surprise. At first, I didn’t think that the details of someone else’s personal happiness project could be relevant to my life, but the book was filled with so many good ideas, it rendered my highlights section pretty useless as there are so many highlight, I might as well read the whole book again.
So which books have you read already? And which ones are you planning to read next? Leave your comments in the section below.
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The good thing about living in our age is that the internet is filled with career advice. The bad thing about living in our age is that the internet is filled with contradicting career advice.
The economic crisis happened the year I graduated, which meant I didn’t have to look far and wide to discover that “Go to school, get into a good university, get a good job and you’re set for life” no longer applied. All I had to do was go to work one day and see the empty desks around me. Apparently our peers in the Western world had discovered that a bit earlier but living in the Middle East, someone seemed to have missed the memo.
So at some point in your life, it’s 6abee3i jiddan (natural) to type into google, “I hate my job wh…” and google totally gets you. The trick is to somehow find your way through the 264,000,000 results that come up.
Some people will tell you to follow your passion, and again, if you live in the part of the world where you’re branded an engineer or a doctor from the day you’re born, then there’s a high chance your passion is very much different from what you’ve studied. However, the main risk connected with following your passion is you’ll be broke — for a very, very long time — and following your passion — or doing anything in fact — is pretty difficult when you’re broke and hungry.
“Following your passion – or doing anything in fact – is pretty difficult when you’re broke and hungry.” Tweet this
Then Cal Newport entered the scene with his message, “Why ‘Following your passion’ is bad advice,” in his book So Good they Can’t Ignore You. His advice focuses on how passion comes after working really, really hard on something, and being really good at it.
Personally, I support the second message, because of a few truths:
- Not everybody knows what their passion is
- The world might not be willing to pay you for your passion
So let’s say you’re really passionate about counting baby coconuts. The most that someone might pay you for counting coconuts is a free baby coconut drink. But the world might not be ready for your counting-coconut-services, so following your passion happens to be really really really bad advice.
So let’s say you’re one of those people who doesn’t know what their passion is.It’s very easy to read all this stuff on the internet and get pretty pumped up about quitting your job and hitchhiking around the globe to discover what your passion is. It’s easy theoretically, but pretty hard practically (read $$$$).
But here’s one thing to know about those successful ‘follow your passion’ stories on the internet. To each one, there are probably five failure stories that don’t get reported.
So before quitting your job, find out exactly what’s bothering you. You might not be having a passion crisis. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you get intellectually challenged at your job?
- Are you building your skill set?
- Do you enter a state of flow while you’re working?
- Is the world ready to pay you for your services?
If the first three answers are no, then those might be your reasons for ‘hating your job’ not that you’re not passionate about it. Maybe if you find something else in the field that intellectually challenges you then you might throw those ‘Malaysia, truly Asia’ brochures out the window.
If you do know what your passion is, and really want to make money out of it, then work at monetizing it before you quit your day job. Ask the world if they are ready to pay for it and don’t be like that coconut-counter.
The trick is whatever you do, do not make rash emotional decisions based on one bad day at work. Even people who follow their passions will tell you it’s not always good in the ‘Living My Dream’ world. There are difficult clients, and tasks they hate doing but have to do it anyway. And if you’re not really convinced, read Cal Newport’s “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”. He definitely does a better job convincing than I do.
Image: Google screenshot and unsplash.com
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Leonardo Da Vinci was a Renaissance man. His interests spanned a wide range of topics; from engineering to cartography (=map drawing, in case you were wondering ‘what is cartography?!’). But you know the most fascinating thing I find about Da Vinci; his notebooks. Some may consider his notebooks as pieces of art in and of themselves. They recorded the man’s thinking and his fascination with nature. So your first step to being a renaissance (wo)man is simple; Start a Journal.
Journaling helps you learn more about yourself. It helps you disentangle your thoughts. Sometimes you can’t figure out why you did something until you adopt a third person’s view of it, and sometimes you can’t do that until you write about it and read it later.
Journaling can be cathartic; the pen providing a valve through which you can relieve all of your personal frustrations.
Journaling can also help you harness your creativity. Whether it’s through creative writing or drawing sketches, an empty page can both be thrilling and scary.
You can also use your journal to collect quotes, mementos from moments you never want to forget so when your fickle memory becomes unreliable you have something to remind you of the good old days. It’s always a good idea to capture specifics while describing bits and pieces of your current life because things change so quickly.
A beautiful example of presenting specifics can be found in The Unabridged Journals of Sylvie Plath,
“I may never be happy, but tonight I am content. Nothing more than an empty house, the warm hazy weariness from a day spent setting strawberry runners in the sun, a glass of cool sweet milk, and a shallow dish of blueberries bathed in cream. When one is so tired at the end of a day one must sleep, and at the next dawn there are more strawberry runners to set, and so one goes on living, near the earth….” Tweet this
It’s easy to take one look at Da Vinci’s notebooks and have such a high standard for a journal, but let’s be honest here, as much as I encourage you to be a renaissance (wo)man, you are no Da Vinci, and most likely, nobody’s really going to care about your journals so as Gretchen Rubin advises, sometimes to get things done you’ve got to lower your standards. Another sage advice she’s made popular is,
“Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Share on Twitter
In other words, open your journal and scribble about mats or cats, cars, or Mars. Let your tears smear the ink on the page so every word is illegible. Use the paper bag that came with your samosa as a bookmark so there are grease splotches everywhere. In other words, Wreck your journal!
After all, there’s something amazing about writing for yourself; it’s liberating not to have someone judge you for your ideas. The only trick, especially in our Kemeni culture, is to make sure your journal doesn’t look fancy. It shouldn’t be leather-bound or have a lock or pink feathers, because it might attract the wasabasi (nosy) people in your lives. Get one of those kasuku notebooks and let it meld in with your other school/work/recipe notebooks.
If you’re always virtually chained to your laptop, you can keep an online journal on penzu.com. There’s also the iphone app called ‘Day One’ that’s becoming popular nowadays. For other platforms, Evernote is another good example. The best thing about personal journals on your computer is the control+F function.
So are you thinking of starting a journal? Leave a comment below telling me about the type of journal you’d like to use and/or tag me on twitter (@ahscribbles) with hashtag (#journaling). What’s your first entry going to be about?
Feeling uninspired? Try answering one of these three questions in one of those inconspicuous kasuku notebooks;
1) What would I do if I knew I couldn’t fail?
2) What advice would you give your fourteen year old self?
3) If you had a million dollars, how would you spend it?
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So maybe it’s true. The highest highs are intertwined with the lowest low. It’s usually the people you love so much who can hurt you the most. When you love someone so much can you get really hurt by them. In engineering terms, the magnitude doesn’t change much, but the sign does.
The topic of vulnerability has been spreading a lot since Brene Brown’s TED talk. Sarah Kay also alludes to it when she says, “Now, I know that the number one rule to being cool is to seem unfazed, to never admit that anything scares you or impresses you or excites you. Somebody once told me it’s like walking through life like this. You protect yourself from all the unexpected miseries or hurt that might show up. But I try to walk through life like this. And yes, that means catching all of those miseries and hurt, but it also means that when beautiful, amazing things just fall out of the sky, I’m ready to catch them.”
The point she’s trying to make is that by building up fences around yourself, you’re not just shutting out the bad in the world. You’re also shutting out the good. In other words, you’re simply shutting yourself in.
People might say you’re oversensitive. Throw the word at you like it was an insult. “Stop being oversensitive. Buck up.” They make it seem as though this emotional stuff is just fluff, cotton candy that has no nutritional value. So it’s tempting, really…to just numb your emotions. Bury it all. Throw it out of sight. Sorta like the way we tidy the room before our mother walks in. Throw everything under the bed or in the closet and pretend the room is now tidy. And yet we know that’s not how it works.
We can’t go through life numbing our emotions. Let me rephrase that. We can. It’s just that we shouldn’t. It’s not healthy. Take it from a person who’s spent their whole life packing memories into these tiny boxes and burying them inside, they tend to build up, and truth be told, they never really go away. Just because they’re out of sight doesn’t mean they’re not going to spring open when you least expect it. The worse part is that when they do, they actually appear in a transformed into something so dark and ugly, it makes one wonder why they left it unattended for so long.
So how do we attend to it?
Step 1) Don’t pretend it doesn’t exist. Step number one to any proper treatment is a proper diagnosis. We shouldn’t live in denial. Yet denial seems to be our default M. O. We live in an age where living a pretense is much, much easier than accepting what is true.
Step 2) Talk. Cry. Throw things around. Having your feelings manifest itself in the world takes it out of your system.
Step 3) The letter. As a writer, I’ve always loved the letter idea. It’s actually part of step (2). Write a letter to whoever caused this feeling and decide after two weeks whether it’s a good idea to send it or not. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it’s not. So you need to give yourself that time period to sit on it, sleep on it…whatever it takes. Just don’t send it as soon as you finish writing it. t’s all part of the process. Purge your system. Get the toxicity out.
Step 4) Finally do something about it. And there are really two things to do; change it or accept it. It’s the binary rule. There’s no third option.
My point is process it as soon as it occurs. Otherwise it will keep on bothering you for a very long time.
In generic terms, the story that made me write this is someone hurt me a couple of years ago. It was such a pivotal moment in my life, you can say it really opened my eyes to a lot of things. Of course, the thing that hurt the most was the fact that this person and I were really close. Anyhow, come last year, the perfect opportunity for revenge came to me, and I really wanted to do something about it, partly because I’m evil and partly because I wanted that person to get a taste of what they did so next time I mention the story they don’t dismiss it with a laugh like I was being oversensitive. Now the problem is that someone else shut down my whole revenge plan, and I was so frustrated because if it weren’t for person # 2….
So I opened my journal and I wrote a stern letter to myself. I practically screamed at myself. It went something like, “YOU REALLY NEED TO GET OVER IT!”
I realized I can’t keep on carrying this baggage with me forever. And if I’m going to be honest with myself, I needed that moment in my life because it really changed a lot of things for me. As much as it hurt, it was important. So come last week, for the first time, I actually thought about it and was able to dismiss it myself, and I realized that it really works to process everything as soon as it happens so it wouldn’t last forever.