Tag Archives: reading

8 Mind-Changing Books I’ve Read in 2014

Just before I start, I must admit that I’ve listened to most of these books, rather than read them. I’ve just used the word “read” in the title because I couldn’t find a better word, and “finished” was too long and inexpressive. To me, it doesn’t matter what the method was, as long as I’ve gained the knowledge, but Audible has been a great addition to my life in the past 2 years.

I’ve always loved books. I love browsing through libraries and bookstores, I have a notable affinity towards places full of books from ground to ceiling (literally), I was just never self-disciplined enough to read when I was younger. I love knowledge, and I always have, but as a kid, I just always felt overwhelmed by long books, and I usually didn’t commit to reading the books I bought.

In the past few years, this has been gradually changing, and a few days ago I realized I’ve finished 27 books in 2014. If you’re a reader, I’m pretty sure you’ve finished more than that 2 and a quarter books per month. However, as I’ve stated earlier, I’m a person who’s always loved books, I just always kept them stored, so this is the year’s proudest accomplishment.

Unfortunately, with my current obsession, I’ve realized that my life won’t be long enough to read all the books I’m interested in as well as still have a life outside them, so I’m becoming more picky and experienced in choosing my books, and this year I’m aiming on selecting books with a deeper meaning, and which help me go through an even deeper level of exploration.

I’m writing this blogpost to share my top 8 books of 2014, promising that they will not be a waste of time for you, or at least I hope they wont. So here they are in random order:

Quiet – Susan Cain

I’ve written a whole post dedicated to this book and how it made me start questioning many things in my past, present, and future. What I’ve learned most through time is that being an extrovert is not ideal for everyone, and that I should feel comfortable in my own skin, not always strive to fit in that ideal. What I’ve learned from the book is that most people think the same, but that introverts have so many natural benefits that we can learn from, and that when communicating with others, we should be empathic enough to understand where they’re coming from.

This book is worth a read, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert or something in between.

The War of Art – Steven Pressfield

If I would choose one of these books as my favorite, it would be this one. This book was the most influential for me this year, to the extent that I recommended it to many friends, and even bought it as a gift to a dear friend of mine, with complete conviction that she will love it.

In the War of Art, Steven Pressfield discusses his ideas regarding procrastinating on our biggest dreams, and how our fear (like fear of failure, or even fear of success) creates resistance which gets us stuck. He criticises the artist in us who’s often a dreamer, a perfectionist, and not a doer, at least not consistently. This book is perfect for you if you’re always dreaming about what you want to accomplish, but you’re not doing anything about it. It’s going to intrude deeply and within your soul and show you how to connect to your inner being. This book isn’t about being more productive, it’s a guide to connect to your creative self and really break the barriers of resistance.

Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder

Know nothing about philosophy but want to at least have an idea? Sophie’s World is gonna give you more than that. Jostein Gaarder tells a story of a little girl who one day gets a letter asking her, “Who are you?” and “Where does the world come from?”.

Ignore what I said about learning philosophy, yes the book does help with that, however, this book will feed your mind with questions, and confuse you. It’ll ask you the same questions it’s asking Sophie. You will realize that everything you thought you knew is actually an infinitesimal amount of knowledge you can know, which is way less than what you will never figure out. You will find your story in Sophie’s.

What Are You Hungry For? – Deepak Chopra

If being healthy, fit and light is a priority for you and something you’re willing to focus on, this book’s definitely for you. Deepak Chopra helps you realize that hunger doesn’t have to be hunger for food, and that the reason you’re unhappy with your body is most probably not even related to the fact that you overeat. This book taught me a lot about how my view of myself, self-limiting beliefs and insecurities are the real reasons I fill myself up with food, which is only a short term satisfaction. Dr. Chopra has guided me into digging deeper and getting to know myself more rather than just my body, and that our bodies follow our innermost courage or fear. This book fed my soul.

The Secrets of the Power of Intention – Dr. Wayne D. Dyer

The Secrets of the Power of Intention is actually a lecture presented by Dr. Dyer. It might seem a bit too religious or spiritual for some, but I personally loved the concept of the field of intention. Dr. Dyer discusses the difference between “doing” and “being”. We all know that doing is very difficult, we barely start new projects, and when we do, we barely finish them unless we absolutely have to. In this lecture, Wayne Dyer turns doing into being, being part of a field of intention, an energy field and the choice to feel good that give us the effortless momentum we often lack when we’re just focused on action. Loved listening to it, and I would do it over and over again.

One More Thing – B.J. Novak

Some might argue that this book doesn’t teach you a lot because it’s a couple of comedy, short stories. I completely disagree, because I’ve enjoyed this book beyond any other form of entertainment. The stories were so unique and interesting, and I fell in love with B.J. Novak, that I’m now convinced I should watch all of his creations.

If I have to say what I learned from this book, it would be the fact that you can always take something further, creatively. A lot of the stories here are based on other, older stories, but the way they changed throughout really astonished me. This book is bold, the ideas in the stories are things you probably never ever thought of.

David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is one of my most respected authors. He’s the perfect example of how you can provide scientific research and results in the most fluid manner. It was difficult for me to recommend David & Goliath, because I love all of Gladwell’s books including Blink, the Tipping Point, and Outliers, and I think they’re all worth reading. However, this one’s the most meaningful to me.

Gladwell discusses the advantages of disadvantages and the disadvantages of advantages, it helped me comprehend that I can find positive things in my hardships, and that I have to use my privileges right so they don’t go to waste. It also makes me believe in everyone, no matter how unfortunate or fortunate they are. With plenty of stories presented as examples, Gladwell will also ask you reflective questions which might help you set new values and find unfamiliar ways to approach some major life decisions.

Creative Confidence – Tom Kelley & David Kelley

And last but not least, Creative Confidence. Before you skip to the end, this book doesn’t target creatives only. On the contrary, this books tells everyone that whatever they’re doing, they can be creative and they can change the world with that. Design thinking is a huge part of this book. The book is also rich with examples and stories from all over the world of how people created impactful products, services and startups in a very short time, and how they’ve pivoted along the way, away from their initial solutions.

This is a great read for creatives and non-creatives, but especially for people in or approaching the startup life.

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The Heaven and Hell They Didn’t Teach Us At School

The following definitions were copied from the Oxford Dictionary of English.

heaven |ˈhɛv(ə)n| noun, a place regarded in various religions as the abode of God (or the gods) and the angels, and of the good after death, often traditionally depicted as being above the sky.

hell |hɛl| noun, a place regarded in various religions as a spiritual realm of evil and suffering, often traditionally depicted as a place of perpetual fire beneath the earth where the wicked are punished after death.

I grew up as a mediocre Egyptian kid. In school, I was taught that we’re only here for a little while, and what we do in our short journey is going to either send us to heaven or hell. Back then, this is how I thought about heaven. Everyone wants to go there, and of course, all the adults I know are going there, except the ones who have done bad things like drinking and other taboos. As most people, and most adults, I was afraid to question. I was fearful of hell, that horrible place where you’re in constant, excruciating pain you cannot escape. Will I fall in the fire pit, or flash across it? I wanted to go to heaven, because it was extraordinarily unimaginable. I dreamed of how I will make my life perfect in every way, yet still not be driven by extreme dogma. I thought about what it would look like, and always stopped myself when I couldn’t envision this magical place.

I hated religion classes, especially when my teachers talked about the signs of the end of the world, or even worse, how we’re all going to be naked on judgement day, but how no one would care about looking at you. On those days, I always left school with a sinking feeling in my stomach, too scared to even consider discussing my agitation with my parents, thinking they thought the same. Instead of educating myself and forming an opinion, I just told myself I’d get concerned when I’m older, and I numbed out my thoughts.

Today, I’m older, and I have a contrasting mental picture. If you’re reading this post right now and you’re getting fired up to judge, or argue without being open to read something different in the first place, then don’t waste your time reading on, and save your breath. You’re free to believe in whatever you wish, I am also free to be confused, even if that’s foolish to you.

However, if you have a wide imagination, and are willing to question something you might have been ignoring until today, or looking for someone who, perhaps, shares your opinion, then I hope you enjoy this.

I don’t have all the answers, and my knowledge of this universe is infinitesimal compared to how much I will know in 30 years. Values, ideas, and thoughts we’ve grown up with are difficult to change. Our brain’s power in storing knowledge and forming habits is immense, and I’m sure we are all aware about how old habits die hard. But I’m challenging my brain, and I’m in the phases of reassessing how I see this world and how inconsistent my views are now versus my childhood. I am using my brain’s competence as a strength, not a weakness. I am naïve, I am confused, and I admit I have a lot of doubts writing this, choosing my words vigilantly.

After reading many articles and books about religion, spirituality, psychology, productivity and philosophy, I’m starting to experience heaven and hell as metaphors, not as inevitably existing places. One of my most recent inspirations is The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak. I was skeptical as I began reading this book. I thought that anything that becomes this popular just cannot be deep enough, it cannot be talking to the outliers, it must be talking to the ordinary. However, to my surprise, I’ve found inspiration in this book, and even though I still can’t identify why it was a page turner, I accepted the fact that it just was.

This is an excerpt that caught my attention because of how simply it was written, and how it sent out the meaning of what I believed in with tremendous skill.

“Did you know that Shams says the world is a huge cauldron and something big is cooking in it? We don’t know what yet. Everything we do, feel, or think is an ingredient in that mixture. We need to ask ourselves what we are adding to the cauldron. Are we adding resentments, animosities, anger, and violence? Or are we adding love and harmony?

We all know we’re going to die. Some people believe there’s a non-physical afterlife, and some don’t. I think, that whether there is or isn’t an afterlife, heaven and hell are symbols, and the huge cauldron can be turned into heaven or hell, where ever you are, whatever you’re doing at this moment. Heaven and hell are like the self and the ego, calm and anger, love and hate, and happiness and sorrow.

The ego forgets about the cauldron, it forgets that you can’t possibly hurt someone else without hurting yourself, it doesn’t even have to be karma, it can be here and now. How can you possibly hurt someone by anger, yet not suffer from this anger? Anger poisons you, more than who you’re angry at. Do you remember the last time you chose to be in hell? Wasn’t it hard to escape after you’ve chosen to let it in?

The self is at peace, the self is heaven. The self remembers the cauldron and its impact. It remembers that good things bring about more good things. It remembers to give love, because love fills us up when we share it, it never makes us feel empty. Have you never felt this invincible? Have you never felt, that you’re so grateful to that source of light inside you? Didn’t it feel like a reward for a seemingly insignificant decision?

Yes, our deeds take us to heaven or hell, but heaven and hell can be all around us. Heaven is not necessarily/only above the sky, and hell is not in the Earth’s core. Heaven and hell are mindsets. Or maybe, the heaven and hell you’re living now are a tiny example of where you’ll end up, when you’ve fed heaven and the positive has become the norm, your cheerful everyday. Or when you’ve fed hell, until you’re unaware about being on your fatal autopilot.

Be aware, be alert, be compassionate. Everyday is a new opportunity that can make you happier by being mindful. Everyday, you can nourish your body and mind with pieces of heaven. Remember, that it’s never too late to exit hell and enter heaven, all it takes is one thought that is slightly better than your current, until you’re overwhelmed with virtue. It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’ve got your whole life ahead of you to have a happy journey.

“How about you, dear Ella? What ingredients do you think you are putting in the collective stew of humanity?”

References:

Definitions from the Oxford English Dictionary.

Both quotes/excerpts mentioned in this blog are derived from The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak

Other Relevant Inspiring Resources:

The Secrets of the Power of Intention, Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

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