Books That Changed My Life

 George reading Dylan

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:

Feel The Fear … And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Feel The Fear cover

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.

Delivered From Distraction by Edward M. Hallowell & John J. Ratey

Delivered From Distraction cover

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.

The Cult of Done Manifesto by Bre Pettis

Cult of Done

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:

The [Expert Enough] Manifesto

The Rebel’s Manifesto

Steal Like An Artist → By a Tim Ferris-recommended author that I am also getting into quite rapidly…

Tim Ferriss and his “4-Hour” Books

4-Hour Books

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.

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