I’ve been into Tim Ferriss lately, and notice how he asks his mentors which books they recommend — which books have changed their lives.
Which books have changed my life?
While randomly thinking about this question the other day in the shower, my answers became clear. In sharing this, I am opening up about personal issues I have faced that are so ingrained in me that I forget others might not be aware of them.
These books were all “a-ha” moments in my life (mostly during university), and have helped me look at problems in a more productive light. Though I’ve read some of the most influential English literature of the last century, my life-changers are all self-help books:
This self-help classic — along with a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) class at CAMH for social anxiety — changed my life by getting me to live by its title motto.
“Feel the fear and do it anyway.” It enforces what you learn through CBT — that most fear is in your head, and the only way to realize this is to constantly challenge fear through action. I suffered from debilitating anxiety, but through confronting it, I realized that my worst case scenarios never came to pass — they were kept alive by my imagination.
Confronting your fears is not only exhilarating and courageous, but it’s the only way to live up to your full potential and get what you want out of life. Replace fear with excitement by looking at it in a positive way. Befriend fear by confronting it. I’ve come a long way since then and still have a long way to go, but confronting fear daily is the only way to progress.
In addition to fear challenges, Jeffers provides creative assignments (which I totally did) throughout this book. She’s pretty rad.
This is the book that caused me and my parents to self-diagnose ourselves with ADD within weeks of each other. It also caused me to question my entire life while rampantly try to find a doctor who diagnosed ADD. When I finally got diagnosed by a psychiatrist, I got a psychotherapist and life coach, tried every attention and antidepressant drug (while it was free under my university health plan), weaned myself off everything, and ultimately concluded that the best cures were the natural ones: meditation, exercise, good relationships with people, good self care and routine.
I think this book can be beneficial to everyone because it emphasizes the importance of keeping your life in check through healthy routines and relationships, which are usually the things we avoid when we’re overwhelmed, depressed or in pain. It helped me realize that I could optimize my life by focusing on health, progress, and using ADD to my advantage by harnessing the traits I already had, like hyperfocus and creativity. It also focuses on the importance of play, which is a great reminder for any adult: embrace fun.
While complaining about the same old negative cycle that had been repeating in my life for way too long on a LiveJournal account I have long since deleted, someone recommended this thing called The Cult of Done Manifesto by this person Bre Pettis (who I always thought was a girl until now, when I looked him up and realized he is a highly successful entrepreneur, which is probably why his manifesto got crazy viral exposure).
The Cult of Done is a set of simple rules that effectively battle procrastination and — my biggest hindrance for a long time — perfectionism. My favourite rule after “Laugh at perfection; It’s boring and keeps you from being done,” is that “Failure counts as done.” From a perfectionist’s perspective, failure is the ultimate fear, however when we see failure as a success that we can move on (and hopefully learn) from, it loses its power, and most of the fear associated with it. I have failed a lot in my life, and I hope to fail a lot more, because each failure has taught me lessons about what I don’t want, and perhaps what I still need to work towards. When you embrace life to get done, you take the emotion out of decisions and it becomes a whole lot easier — even fun. After all, “Done is the engine of more.”
A graphic artist used typography to make The Cult of Done rules fit in an aesthetically pleasing way on one page, which I have kept on my desktop for many years. Many other productivity manifestos have formed out of this example. Some of my other favourites:
Steal Like An Artist → By a Tim Ferris-recommended author that I am also getting into quite rapidly…
Ferriss won my heart when he talked about meeting with Nina Hartley to learn about female orgasm from an expert in The 4-Hour Body. That and this (very straight man directed) quote about learning how to give a female an orgasm: “This should be required education for every man on the planet.” Yes, this book that is all about self-improvement and biohacking is also sex-positive and feminist. I recently went slow-carb while reading this book, since I already love the vegetables, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, select fruits and red wine the diet allows. Stay tuned for my results.
I just began The 4-Hour Workweek, which actually enforces lessons learned through all the above texts, so it’s a good reminder that I’m on the right track. My favourite part thus far is when he talks about positive stress, called eustress, which is basically healthy stress from the people or actions that encourage you to be your best self, instead of belittling and limiting you. “The more eustress we can create or apply to our lives, the sooner we can actualize our dreams,” says Tim.
I’m currently on the part about everybody being insecure, believing in yourself and asking your mentors for advice.
This book is awesome for the people who are already settled in their careers and looking to free time. I’d like to ask Tim a few questions about what he thinks I should be doing to make my money, though. Hey Tim: will you let me ask you three questions?
Let me know what you think of this article by commenting here, and tweet me @ccprmaven with your list of life-changing books — I am genuinely curious.
You always hear it: “follow your passion,” as if there’s this exclusive club of people who are fortunate enough to be doing exactly what they were put on this earth to do. They’ve found the illustrious Dream Job, and it’s brought them more fulfillment than you could ever dream of. … What about you? What if you don’t know exactly what your passion is, or how to translate it into a career? Here are five steps to help get you there.
1. Identify your interests
a) Looking back from elementary school to now, what have been your recurring interests? What clubs did you join, how did you use your volunteer time, what classes did you take and most enjoy? Write them down.
b) What do you spend most of your time doing, and where? What do you Google most often, and what online communities are you a part of? Write them down.
2. Identify your strengths
What are all the jobs you have done, and what did you enjoy most about them? What did your coworkers, bosses, and customers (if applicable) say about your performance? Write them down.
Align what you have done with what you are good at and most enjoy. Cross everything else out.
3. Find your people
Start looking for people with the same interests as you. What local communities do you participate in? Talk to the people in them, find out what they do and how they got there, and ask for advice. Tell them what you’re good at and most enjoy doing. Often we overlook talking business with the people at the gym, at a beer event, at a yoga retreat, in your book club. However, these are the people who are most likely to help you. Even if you don’t find a job, you might find a new friend.
4. Network with a mentor
Once you have an idea of your interests, where you like to spend your time, and your particular skill set, start looking for similar kinds of people on LinkedIn. Look for people in a position you’d love to be in five years from now or less, and spark a conversation with them. Buy them a coffee. Find your mentor.
5. Stick with it
Remember that landing your dream job doesn’t happen overnight. Start identifying what you most like to do in every job you do. Find and create value for yourself and for your company, no matter the job. If you want to expand your skills and try something new, ask. Volunteer on the side at places you want to be. Keep looking for patterns in the things you’re good at and enjoy, and never quit.
Most people in the Dream Job realm worked hard to get there, and it may have taken a while for them to realize how to fuse their passion with their career destination. So keep at it.
If this article got you thinking about your strengths in a different way, then I’ve done my job! Let me know your thoughts by tweeting me @ccprmaven.
Here is a beautiful documentary shot by Ryerson students at Acappellooza, the concert I coordinated this past March. A cappella is so much fun to sing, and through Jonah (who is also in my choir and at least two other choirs) and the Yonge Guns, I have been introduced to the world of barbershop and tags. Life will never be the same. (I will never get sick of this documentary.) A big thanks goes out to Amanda Ann-Min Wong and all the students who worked hard on this (and sang their hearts out at the concert)!
“It’s about the harmonies you make along the way.”
Most of my PR experience has been through volunteer work. #GiveBloodTO, Project Fusion/Ready Aim Hire, PodCamp Toronto and currently…. choir stuff. Mainly organizing a giant concert in a pretty short period of time.
That’s right. This year, in addition to being thrown into a leadership funding position for PodCamp Toronto, I also organized a concert called Acappellooza that happened on March 1st. I’m part of the Varsity Jews, a choir that is loosely affiliated with U of T, and am on their executive team as UTAC (U of T Acappella Coalition) Liaison. My job was to make Acappellooza happen, an annual concert (in its tenth year) featuring four U of T a cappella choirs. Two identical concerts in one day, both with a capacity of 140. This year, I invited an amazing local barbershop quartet called the Yonge Guns to be our special guests, and chose UNITY as our charity. A couple of UNITY’s affiliated artists came and treated the crowd to spoken word, which was awesome. Oh yeah, I also made a group song happen.
I’d been told that all of this basically depended on me, which wasn’t too daunting of a task: I asked how last year went, planned the concert, delegated what I could and hustled the rest. I was worried about what could go wrong (in addition to massive stage fright at my first solos ever!), but planned everything right and assured myself that volunteer positions provide a safe space to learn.
I usually find events stressful, though Acappellooza made me reflect on all steps of event planning (I handled everything from venue, sound and lighting, communications, F&B, to ticket sales and donations), and I know how to do it now. There were a couple things I’d do better next year, but both concerts ran flawlessly and I’m told I was a pleasure to work with. I was thanked many times, and was presented with a bouquet of red roses onstage to boot.
How was the experience of organizing a concert, something I had never done before?
… It was really cool. I want to do more of it.