Though one of my resolutions is to read more physical books, I actually did so a lot when I was younger. When audiobooks came around and time became a luxury I didn’t have, reading physical books just wasn’t an option. Audiobooks gave me a chance to ‘read’ while driving etcetera and still maintain some level of knowledge. I am however, picking up on the actual reading again and can’t wait to share with you my thoughts about more recent books I have read.

Still, I find that to start this book section of the blog with somewhat older books I have read in the past, to be a logical choice. Like everything, it starts somewhere. And two out of these three books sparked a flame in reading and set me on a course of self development at a fairly young age.

The Tao of Pooh – Benjamin Hoff

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One of my earliest self development books (if you can call it that) was the Tao of Pooh. ‘The Tao of Pooh’ is considered to be a fiction theology book and uses the the life of Winnie the Pooh to explain the concept of Taoism. When I bought the book (around the age of sixteen), I had very little knowledge of Taoism and zero interest in Winnie the Pooh but some of the citations I had read struck me at my core. I believe this was the case, because at that point in my life I was trying to find so many answers and dealt with major anxiety. Obviously, as many of our anxieties, this came from a place of wanting to change what could not be changed.

I remember one of the quotes from the book was:

“You’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

Not only does ‘the Tao of Pooh’ show us that things are as they are, it is also in that what it is that you can find happiness.

“What day is today?” asked Pooh. “It’s today,” squeaked Piglet. “My favorite day”, said Pooh.

The book is amazing at explaining a very difficult matter in terms that you and I can understand by using the various characters from Winnie the Pooh to visualize the various aspects of our human nature. Though Taoism is a highly complex philosophical or religious tradition, this book makes the essence of it accessible to a wide audience including myself. It has helped me to understand that things are as they are and that in many cases, going with what they describe as ‘the natural order of things’, is the best way to go. Especially in this psyched/hyped up environment we live in, in which it is difficult to listen to your own intuition.

The alchemist – Paolo coelho

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This book is known pretty much across the entire globe. Some hate it, most love it. The book is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago. This boy sets out on a journey after experiencing a recurring dream which he believes is prophetic.

Without spoiling the story too much, there is a certain diversity when it comes to interpreting the story and much of it didn’t really apply to me at the time I received it as a gift. I believe I was nineteen when this was handed to me by a very good friend of mine. She believed the book would change me. And it did. I remember diving into it and thinking it was to spiritual for me. As the book speaks of Personal Legends and The unity of nature.

There is a certain pantheistic view that is noticeable throughout the entire book. Myself being an atheist, it was sometimes hard to digest.

Still it grabbed me at the core and caused me to finish reading it. There is something about ‘the Alchemist’ that applies to all of us.

It is about overcoming fear and understanding the danger of fear. It is about pursuing dreams, many of them given up on after childhood. It helps us understanding our place within the universe a little bit better and the importance of connecting with the world around us.

And whether you believe these things are of religious nature or not, does not really matter. It is book that, when read well, you can take a lot from and be a happier person.

getting things done – david allen

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The art of stress-free productivity.

What a book. This is a much more recent read compared to the other two.

Due to the lack of time I have now as a father/teacher/student, I was forced to built some sort of of system that could help me organize whatever was going on at any given moment. Before reading this I was already into listening to podcasts by Tim Ferris or Thomas Frank, who give major insights in ‘how to be productive’. Yet they lacked a complete system that someone such as myself could follow through. I was looking for a literal template. And David Allen gave me one.

Getting Things Done, or in short GTD, is all about taking whatever is happening in your life and processing it. In my case I use to believe that I could handle all of my affairs within my head. And I did. Until I didn’t. Becoming a father while working and trying to get your bachelor just became too much to handle. It’s like math. Most calculations are easy when you are allowed to externalize the steps on paper but immensely difficult when all you are allowed to use is your head. David Allen puts it like this:

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.”
― David Allen

He actually says in an interview that your head is a crappy office. And most people are still using their head as their office. And your brain did not evolve to remember, remind, prioritize, or manage relationships with more than four things.

The GTD system is all about getting stuff out of your head and into your ‘inbox’. By doing so you empty your mind and create space for new ideas and creativity. Obviously this sounds very simple and very ineffective, because now what? Now you have an inbox full of shit. No worries, David Allen’s got you covered!

There are five essential steps:

  • Capture
  • Clarify
  • Organize
  • Reflect
  • Engage

However you feel like taking these steps, is up to you. I eventually came up with a hybrid system that includes OneNote (digital) and a productivity planner (analogue) which helps me to execute on my goals. This book even helps you (especially the latest edition) practically with setting up your own system. It specifies what materials you could use, what programs and so on. In the end thought David Allen emphasizes that it is not so much what you use, as long as you trust your own system.

After a few months the system starts to feel natural and it helped me A LOT (!) to get a grip on things. If you find yourself in need of structure and an almost foolproof system that allows you to execute ideas and create space for new ones, this book is a MUST READ. I highly recommend it to anyone I meet.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole bunch, there are some youtube videos you can check out or just follow the simple steps below. But to be honest, to get a good feel for HOW and WHY it works, the book does an amazing job at this. There’s all sorts of tiny life-hacks such as the ‘Two Minute Rule’ which absolutely changed my perspective on doing small tasks immediately.

Go check it out!

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