A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.
Dreams are the touchstones of our character.
What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.
Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality.
All this worldly wisdom was once the heresy of some wise man.
Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it.
As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.
As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.
Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.
Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty. The obedient must be slaves.
Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for love of it.
Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends… Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.
Henry David Thoreau (born David Henry Thoreau; July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862) was an American author, poet, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, philosopher (and I must add, his book on Civil Disobedience (1849) was one of the major influences in my life )
In a long and winding letter to his brother Theo dated Thursday, 24 June 1880, van Gogh shines light on two types of idlers.
I’m writing you somewhat at random whatever comes into my pen; I would be very happy if you could somehow see in me something other than some sort of idler.
Because there are idlers and idlers, who form a contrast.
There’s the one who’s an idler through laziness and weakness of character, through the baseness of his nature; you may, if you think fit, take me for such a one. Then there’s the other idler, the idler truly despite himself, who is gnawed inwardly by a great desire for action, who does nothing because he finds it impossible to do anything since he’s imprisoned in something, so to speak, because he doesn’t have what he would need to be productive, because the inevitability of circumstances is reducing him to this point. Such a person doesn’t always know himself what he could do, but he feels by instinct, I’m good for something, even so! I feel I have a raison d’être! I know that I could be a quite different man! For what then could I be of use, for what could I serve! There’s something within me, so what is it! That’s an entirely different idler; you may, if you think fit, take me for such a one.
In the springtime a bird in a cage knows very well that there’s something he’d be good for; he feels very clearly that there’s something to be done but he can’t do it; what it is he can’t clearly remember, and he has vague ideas and says to himself, ‘the others are building their nests and making their little ones and raising the brood’, and he bangs his head against the bars of his cage. And then the cage stays there and the bird is mad with suffering . ‘Look, there’s an idler’, says another passing bird — that fellow’s a sort of man of leisure. And yet the prisoner lives and doesn’t die; nothing of what’s going on within shows outside, he’s in good health, he’s rather cheerful in the sunshine. But then comes the season of migration.
Ever since he was young, the painter Henri Matisse used to visit the great Renoir at his atelier every week. When Renoir was crippled with arthritis, Matisse began to visit him daily, taking food, paintbrushes and paint, always trying to convince the master that he worked to hard. He needed to rest a little.
One day, noting that each brush stroke made Renoir groan of pain, Matisse couldn’t stay silent: “Great master, your work is already vast and important. Why continue to torture yourself that way?”
“Very simple,” Renoir answered. “Beauty remains; pain ends up passing.”
The concept of evaluating your days is not new. I’ve talked about it in regards to my morning routine, and most productivity gurus tout its wisdom.
It works because it makes sense.
If we don’t have a goal, we’ll never get where we want to go. And if we don’t stop and evaluate where we are, we’ll never know if we’re there.
In the spirit of small life hacks that make a big difference, I can’t stress enough the importance of looking back at your life and asking:
What was the best thing I did today?
You might be intrigued, and surprised, by some of the answers. Yes, it might be the obvious: “When I ate chocolate ice cream.”
But it might also be, when I read for five minutes or when I played with my daughter or when I submitted that project. Whatever it is, this question aims to help you figure out if you can do more of that thing in order to make every day better.
Now, I don’t stop there, and I typically go further to ask another question:
What was the best thing I did last week?
What was the best thing I did last month?
If you ask yourself these simple questions, you’re bound to find out some unexpected, and illuminating things about yourself and the ways you spend your time. Most importantly, you’ll see some guideposts to how you should be better spending your time in the future.
Whether you read during your commute, at the gym, or before bed, books can provide you with in-depth analysis, tried-and-true techniques, and sometimes a really great story. Here are ten books—either recently released or coming soon you should look forward to reading this new year.
For her latest book, Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestseller The Happiness Project, takes aim at habits. Combining research with humor, Rubin answers tough questions, like why it’s easy to change some habits and not others and why it’s so difficult to create a habit around something we enjoy. Whether you’d like to get healthy, get promoted, or simply stop checking your smartphone, Rubin’s book offers 21 strategies to help you start—or break—habits in 2015. Out March 17, 2015
Billed as a book for makers instead of managers, Make Your Mark taps the expertise of 21 entrepreneurs including Neil Blumenthal (cofounder of Warby Parker) and Seth Godin (New York Times bestselling author and marketing guru) on topics ranging from defining your purpose and building your product to customer service and leadership. Out now (November 2014)
Not many books are known by acronym alone, but in the fifteen years since Getting Things Done was first released, “GTD” has become synonymous with personal productivity. Much has changed since the book was published and, according to publisher Penguin Random House, productivity expert David Allen has completely rewritten his bestselling book to make it relevant to the changing demands of today’s workplace. Out March 17, 2015
Sometimes you need a “do over.” Perhaps you’ve lost your job or lost your passion for it. Maybe you took a few years off to care for your family. Whatever the reason, Jon Acuff, a New York Times bestselling author who’s worked with companies like Home Depot and Staples, wants to help you hit the reset button. The book promises inspiring and true stories of people who’ve found themselves on the “wrong track” and offers advice on how to change course. Out April 7, 2015
Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, offers a behind-the-scenes look at the company’s practices that consistently earn it top rankings among best places to work surveys. He also shares some unconventional and counterintuitive lessons such as taking away managers’ power over employees, why you should pay unfairly, and going beyond your comfort zone when it comes to the freedom you give your team. “We spend more time working than doing anything else in life. It’s not right that the experience of work should be so demotivating and dehumanizing,” Bock says. Right on. Out April 7, 2015
Ten years ago, Kind CEO Daniel Lubetzky and his team sought to build a not-only-for-profit company, providing healthy and tasty snacks while helping the community. In Do the Kind Thing, Lubetzky shares the secrets behind the success of Kind, including the company’s “and” philosophy—instead of seeing things as either/or (healthy or tasty, for example), employees see them as “and,” challenging assumptions. The book also celebrates Lubetzky’s earlier failures by highlighting the lessons learned from them. Out March 31, 2015
Four years after the publication of his first book,The Other Wes Moore (detailing his difficult childhood and eventual career as a Rhodes Scholar, Army veteran, White House fellow to then-Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice, and Wall Street banker), Moore returns with stories to inspire others to find their role/work (when your joys overlap with the world’s needs). In a recent MSNBC interview, Moore reflected on advice a mentor once gave him: If you’re not doing your work (what fulfills you), you will become extraordinarily ordinary. The book examines 10 stories (including Moore’s) of people in both the public and private sectors who’ve found their life’s work. Out now (January 2015)
If you’d like to know what that your employees really think about you, look no further. In The Like Switch, the authors offer tips and techniques based on both research and experience to influence how others perceive you, like how to use verbal and non-verbal cues to increase your LQ (Likeability Quotient) or how to spot lies inpersonal and online communications.Out now (released January 2015)
Susan Packard, co-founder of HGTV and CNBC, wants to see more women in senior leadership roles. Packard’s book centers around the concept of gamesmanship: a strategic way of thinking and an attitude that develops creativity, teamwork and competitiveness. She shares her successes and mistakes, as well as stories of leaders who’ve learned to play the business game well. The book contains ten rules (chapters) with concrete tips and takeaways readers of both genders can apply to their careers. Out February 3, 2015
The only thing that’s constant is change, yet it’s something many of us resist strongly. In his new book, Scott Steinberg, CEO of Techsavvy Global offers advice ranging from making friends with fear to the importance of staying relevant. Steinberg helps readers identify and respond to change through a four-part model: Focus (define the problem objectively), Engage (interact with the problem and experiment with solutions), Assess (review the responses), and React (adjust your strategy accordingly). Out now (January 2015)
Ryan Holiday is the media strategist and writer who dropped out of college at 19 and has gone on to represent clients like Marc Ecko, Tim Ferriss and Robert Greene. In his latest book, Holiday shares the Stoic principles that enabled him to become the Director of American Apparel at 2, found his own marketing company, Brass Check, and write three books. Here are 15 quotes to inspire you to turn your adversity into advantage.
“Where the head goes, the body follows. Perception precedes action. Right action follows the right perspective.”
“It doesn’t matter whether this is the worst time to be alive or the best, whether you’re in a good job market or a bad one, or that the obstacle you face is intimidating or burdensome. What matters right now is right now.”
“Stop looking for an epiphany, and start looking for weak points. Stop looking for angels, and start looking for angles.”
“We forget: In life, it doesn’t matter what happens to you or where you came from. It matters what you do with what happens and what you’ve been given.”
“What matters most is not what these obstacles are but how we see them, how we react to them, and whether we keep our composure.”
“Discipline in perception lets you clearly see the advantage and the proper course of action in every situation—without the pestilence of panic or fear.”
“There is no good or bad without us, there is only perception. There is the event itself and the story we tell ourselves about what it means.”
“There is always a countermove, always an escape or way through. No one said it would be easy and of course the stakes are high, but the path is there for those ready to take it.”
“To see an obstacle as a challenge, to make the best of it anyway, that is also a choice—a choice that is up to us.”
“Uncertainty and fear are relieved by authority. Training is authority.”
“Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing and wherever we are going, we owe it to ourselves, to our art, to the world to do it well.”
“We decide what we will make of each and every situation. We decide whether we’ll break or whether we’ll resist.”
“Through our perception of events we are responsible for the creation—as well as the destruction—of everyone one of our obstacles.”
“We decide what story to tell ourselves. Or whether we will tell one at all.”
“All we need to do are these three little duties—to try hard, to be honest, and to help ourselves and others.”
Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony starts off as though the music is making a joyful sprint toward a double handspring that catapults it to the high trapeze. Mendelssohn gives the winds eleven quick steps before the violins make their first energetic somersault, but in one concert, while I was pointing to the winds, a single violinist came in with exuberance and gusto after just five steps! It was the kind of confident violin playing you can’t help admiring, but it left us out there in space, no trapeze within our grasp. For the first time in my conducting career, I stopped a performance–in front of more than a thousand people. I smiled to the orchestra, said to myself “How fascinating!” and began the piece again. This time, of course, there was no mishap.
Afterward, someone associated with the orchestra asked me in a hushed voice, “Would you like to know who came in early in the Mendelssohn?” Whether it was the slightly conspiratorial nature of the question that put me off, or whether it was that such a question was in disturbing contrast with the spiritedness of the music that we had just performed, I found myself saying, “No!” abruptly, and then adding, “I did it.”
Not literally, of course. I didn’t actually play the violin. But in that moment, in the context of the great music we had just made, it seemed absurd to me to consider handing out blame. It could only divide us, and for what?
Certainly that player would never again come in early in the Italian Symphony, nor, perhaps, from this time on, make the mistake of a premature entrance in any performance. And I myself would know to be especially careful in guiding the orchestra through those eleven steps whenever I conducted that passage again. There was absolutely no gain to blaming anyone, and a real cost in terms of the blow to our integrity as a group. Besides, I know full well that every time I step onto a podium, I take a risk that things won’t turn out exactly as I anticipate them in my ear–but then, there is no great music without such risk-taking.
I think, in retrospect, that my “I did it” response represented even more than that–I was saying that I was willing to be responsible for everything that happened in my orchestra. In fact, I felt enormously empowered and liberated by doing so.
The type of responsibility we are most familiar with is the sort that we apportion to ourselves and others. Dividing obligations helps us keep life organized and manageable, as for example, “I’ll be responsible for making the kids’ lunches, if you feed them breakfast,” or, “It wasn’t all my fault that our check bounced; you forgot to enter other checks in the ledger.” We often use reward and punishment to regulate accountability–the carrot and stick, the bonus at the end of the successful year, the threat of being fired. Approval and disapproval are also strong motivating factors, which rely for their effectiveness on the individual’s desire to be included and to do well within the community. Because the model is based on the assumption that life will be under control if everyone plays his or her part, when things do break down, someone or something naturally gets blamed.
Apportioning blame works well enough to keep order in a relatively homogeneous community that boasts commonly accepted values and where everyone is enrolled in playing his part. It appeals to our instinctive sense of fairness. However, its effectiveness is likely to be circumscribed in communities of divergent cultures and widely varied resources. It is at this point, when everything else has failed, that you might find it useful to pull out this new game, the game of being the board.
In the fault game your attention is focused on actions–what was done or not done by you or others. When you name yourself as the board your attention turns to repairing a breakdown in relationship. That is why apologies come so easily.
In a lively, sensible manual for turning life’s obstacles into possibilities, the Zanders introduce various “tools” for transformation, drawing on their extensive experiences with musicians, students and patients in therapy (Rosamund is a psychotherapist and painter; Benjamin is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic). They also emphasize practices such as thinking in terms of making a personal “contribution” rather than stark “success or failure”; “lightening up” in order to see a problem from a new perspective; and reassessing “frameworks for possibility.”