365 days ago I left the UK for Havana to kick-start my travels, having left employment with Nomura on 12 July 2017. I'll share with you in due course reflections on what's happened over the past 12 months and how I feel I've changed in that time.
For now, I wanted to share with you a list of books I've read during my time not in full-time employment and how they have influenced me and helped me grow. I've found that books are a great source of motivation and inspiration, expanding the ways in which I think about and interact with the world. Other times I've been provided with words to describe my formless thoughts and feelings that hadn't yet been able to crystallise into words myself.
1. The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi - Elif Shafak
The book that introduced me to the beautiful historical figure that is Rumi, a Sufi mystic and poet. The book also helped me to see that there are people in every religion who see deeper than the surface-level "beliefs" and practices that most people only see. Told through the eyes of various characters during the time of Rumi, the story shows how a strict teacher of Islam has his heart opened to a deeper truth by a close friendship with the nomadic whirling dervish Shamz of Tabriz.
I devoured this book while sick in Morocco and it is now one of my favourite books and one which I'd be most likely to gift to people who want to encounter a depth to life.
2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar - Cheryl Strayed
Powerful, honest and beautiful advice from the woman behind 'Wild' (portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the film). The book is a collection of responses from an advice column that Cheryl Strayed wrote for under the pseudonym Dear Sugar. This will surely make you cry as you read the book. If you want to feed your soul, this book is a must!
3. The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path To Higher Creativity - Julia Cameron
The Bible for those suffering from a creative block (the majority of people). We are all born creative. We see worlds of possibility. Then at some point, as we're "growing up", many of us lose this creativity as we learn rules, construct boxes and get conditioned to seek safety. This keeps us safe in adulthood but also stuck.
You might think to yourself, "Why on earth do I need creativity? I'll just read a book about business instead." I'd say that to be creative is to be fully human. To be creative is to be fulfilled. When you develop your creativity, you will see powerful knock-on effects in all areas of your life - your job, finances, romance, friendships. You will also learn to listen to your soul rather than fear or your inner critic.
One of the many lasting gems that I got from the book was the Morning Pages, a stream-of-consciousness journalling habit that has had a dramatically positive influence on my life.
This book also played a part in my shifting attitude to money. From thinking it was 'dirty' and also that I'd never make a lot of it, to actually wanting abundance of it in my life.
3. The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life - Chris Guillebeau
I received this free book at the World Escape Day event in London in 2017, where Chris Guillebeau gave a keynote talk on finding fulfilment in the journey rather than the goal. This book centres around his "quest" to travel to every single country in the world. In it he argues that purpose isn't some "thing" that you discover before you start working on it, but rather that it something that is found during the pursuit of a quest itself.
If you're looking for a sense of meaning in your life, you might find this book helpful. Personally, this didn't hit my heart as hard as my head - the book seemed a little too pragmatic - but that is just personal preference. I know many others will love it. The stories in there from other people are also incredibly inspiring!
4. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear - Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic was also my first audio book and the second book that I finished during my time in Morocco. I finished it while sitting in a van between Marrakesh to Ouarzazate (and back - which isn't a trip I'd recommend). It provides Elizabeth Gilbert's take on creativity and life. In a similar vein to Julia Cameron's The Artists' Way, the book portrays Creativity (capitalised on purpose) as a powerful energy in the universe that we tap into, rather than something that we either have or don't have. She views us as partners for Creativity, through which Creativity manifests in the world.
Highly recommended for anyone who feels like they've lost touch with their creative self.
5. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed
This is a truly inspiring and powerful journal-turned-book that formed the basis for the film Wild, featuring Reese Witherspoon as the broken Cheryl Strayed who reached rock bottom and left to walk the Pacific Crest Trail to find a new life for herself.
Of great personal resonance, Cheryl Strayed is brutally honest about her grief following the loss of her mother at an early age, the depths that she descended following the tragedy - tales of damaging promiscuity, drug addictions, family fall-outs and broken relationships. As she describes the challenges that she faced while undertaking the hike in sometimes tragic, sometimes comic detail, we get to witness her gradual healing and how she discovers a hidden power within herself.
6. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind - Yuval Noah Harari
I was recommended this book by so many people over the years and finally got round to it after Rob Bell talked about it on his Robcast.
Harari takes us on a journey through the history of humankind, touching on questions such as what it means to be human, how storytelling led to the rise of Homo Sapiens over all the other Homo species, happiness, religion, science, politics and the future of humankind.
More articulate reviews are widely available so I'll stop here, but this book satisfied me intellectually and impacted the way I look at and behave in the world around me.
Rich Dad's Who Took My Money?: Why Slow Investors Lose and Fast Money Wins! - Robert Kiyosaki
As I approach my thirties, I decided I should get in control of my finances. Coming from a family of intellectuals (at least my immediate family) who are also Christian, I always had a negative view of money. I also thought I'd never be rich, which was an unfounded and disempowering story that I was telling myself. The booked helped me to think more deeply about cash flow and income, rather than focusing on capital and net worth, which actually fit in really well with the concept of lifestyle design that I'm looking to implement in my life (inspired by Tim Ferriss - see below).
It's a really easy read and I'm looking forward to putting what I've learnt into practice!
Never Split The Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It - Chris Voss
A real gem of a book with techniques for negotiating good deals for yourself, written by an ex-FBI hostage negotiator. I learned the idea that no deal is better than a bad deal, how emotions play into negotiations (very Kahneman) and why you should aim to get a "no" rather than a "yes" in a negotiation (because when you get a "no", you uncover new information whereas a "yes" doesn't teach you anything).
The Book of Dust: Volume 1 - Philip Pullman
One of just two fictions that I've read in the last year. I loved the original His Dark Materials Trilogy and the recently released prequel did not disappoint! I still prefer the first three books (so maybe this was Philip Pullman's Phantom Menace) but it was an enjoyable read that transported me back to my teenage years. I love the critique of the church a lot more than I used to though.
I bought the audio narration as available through Audible (in partnership with Kindle) and thoroughly enjoyed it! Have any of you tried audiobooks yet?
Fear The Fear And Do It Anyway - Susan Jeffers
As some of you will know, I am running a pilot series of workshops on mastering fear so that it no longer holds you back from taking the action that you want to take. For me, this isn't a theoretical topic as it's something that I've lived and embodied over the last 12 months and beyond - I was living my life under the tyranny of fear rather than listening to my deeper, wiser self, something that I think I've definitely got a lot better at!
I curated the best of the lessons and techniques that I'd learned and used into a series of workshops, and bought a couple of additional books (one still in progress - see below) to make sure I was covering all my bases. This book by Susan Jeffers is old and may sound very corny (especially the advice to buy and listen to "motivational tapes"!) but I can absolutely vouch for the techniques and lessons learned from the book.
Bonus: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich - Tim Ferriss
I read this book perhaps a couple of years ago, but I had to include it in this list because I think that I'm now using the principles from the book and I'm working on actually putting it into practice.
As Ferriss admits himself, the tone of the book (written when he was around my age, ten years ago) might be a little too much for some, as there's a lot of chest-puffing being written by a 29 year old with everything to prove! The advice and wisdom contained within the book is actually really well thought out though, and he's actually a really thoughtful and big hearted guy.
I've recently befriended someone who's actually running and expanding his muse (passive income) business, which has encouraged me to actually go and pursue this myself. It really can work in real life! One of the main concepts in the book is to start generating passive income so that you're not bound by a specific "job" which takes up all of your time, leaving you free to pursue more worthwhile pursuits of your choice. For me, I want to give my life to helping people, regardless of income, so this idea seemed perfect for taking the financial pressure off my coaching work! I'll keep you posted on how this goes!
Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell
Rob Bell's first book talking about his love for his faith tradition, Christianity. He digs into the misconceptions that people might have about the faith and sets out what he (and those that came before him across millennia) thinks Christianity is truly about.
If you, like me, are one of those people who think that there must be more wisdom and depth in one of the oldest faith traditions (the Judaeo-Christian movement) than "we're bad, needed saving, so Jesus came so that we don't go to hell but go to heaven instead", I'd highly recommend any of Rob Bell's books or podcasts. I'm really enjoying Velvet Elvis and hope that I can be of some influence in this area like Rob Bell has been over the years.
Awaken the Giant Within - Tony Robbins
THE performance coach that everyone thinks they know (as a "motivational speaker") but is actually often misunderstood. I'm a big fan of Tony Robbins but a recent convert. I must admit that I judged him by his cover in the past too.
This book has so far given me the framework of decisions. It's made me realise that so often in life we don't actually make decisions and as a result never take any action. It's taught me the power of a real committed decision and helped me realised that any positive change that happened in my life was a result of committed decision that I'd made in an instant.
I'm still working my way through the book, but it was certainly worth the investment.
Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm - Thich Nhat Hanh
Purchased and on the list
- Draft No. 4: On The Writing Process - John McPhee
- Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want By Saying What You Mean - Kim Scott
- Prisoners of Geography
- Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
- What We Talk About When We Talk About God - Rob Bell
- Love Wins - Rob Bell
- The Love Wins Companion - Rob Bell
- Velvet Elvis - Rob Bell
- Sex God - Rob Bell
- Jesus Wants to Save Christians - Rob Bell
- Drops Like Stars - Rob Bell (I'm a real fan of Rob Bell, can you tell?)
If you'd asked me a year ago what I'd wanted to do instead of working, I'd have said, "Travel a bit, read a lot and write a lot." I've travelled a bit, written a bit and read a bit too. Looking back at the last year and forward at the next 12 months, I'd probably say that same thing but add building a sustainable source of (passive) income to that list.