Saturday, September 19, 2015

10 Books You Should Read in Your Early Twenties



Your twenties are time for exploration and growth, and for most of us, a time that we use to 'set the stage' for the rest of our lives. I firmly believe that reading is very important for this process, and should be encouraged when children are young to instill a habit that will benefit them greatly. I've always believed that if you don't read, you can't grow, and I know many others do, too.

Because of this, I made a list of books that are (almost) vital reading for those of us who're looking to learn and grow and find out more about themselves. Of course, they can be read and enjoyed by people of most ages, but I think many of them have greater impact when read while in transitionary phases, like the early twenties are for most people.

Disclaimer: I haven't read some of the books on the list, but they come highly recommended, and I plan to get my hands on them soon!

So go ahead, grab one of these, make yourself a cup of tea (or grab a glass of wine), settle down in a comfortable spot, and enjoy!

1) Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

In a world where women are now being seen as equal to men, they still face many disadvantages that can get in the way of them having satisfying careers. Many times, women are made to feel that they have to choose between their careers and their families, and should they choose the latter exclusively, the former usually suffers if they go back to it. An ambitious woman is still a bitch, while an ambitious man is praised. Written by the COO of Facebook, Lean In talks about all these issues and more in a way that's funny, thoughtful, and that stays with you after you've put the book down.

I definitely think that this is a book that should be read by everyone, not just women, and especially so leaders who need to know how to really bring equality into the workplace.


2) Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

In a culture that celebrates unlikely, rags-to-riches kinds of success stories, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on a journey to understand where success really comes from, and talks about the little things that worked in favour of those outliers we look up to; people like Bill Gates and the Beatles, for example. Most of the time, when looking at their success, we tend to ignore their backstories; where they're from, and the experiences they have had that set them ahead of the rest.


3) The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

This is an absolutely wonderful philosophical book that can be savoured in parts, devoured whole, and returned to time and time again. Gibran talks about everything from marriage to children to friends to work, and his simple truths are definitely ones that we can all relate to.

One of my favourite quotes from the book:

Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul. If either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas.For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction.Therefore let your soul exalt your reason to the height of passion, that it may sing;And let it direct your passion with reason, that your passion may live through its own daily resurrection, and like the phoenix rise above its own ashes.


4) Discover Your Destiny by Robin Sharma

A powerful fable that encourages us to reach within our depths and discover our true destinies. There's no doubt about the fact that Robin Sharma is one of the greatest minds of our time, and he's definitely an author none of us should skip. In this book, Sharma shows us how to live up to our potential and get to know ourselves in an inspirational and not at all aggressive manner. No matter who you are and where you are, I can guarantee that you will walk away from this book feeling inspired.

Often his writing contains simple truths like the one below that remind us to dig deep and do better:


Things are never as bad as they seem. The situations that cause us sorrow are the same ones that introduce us to the strength, power and wisdom that we truly are.
  

 5) Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Our culture celebrates the extravert, at the expense of a large segment of the population. For example, 'open-plan' offices definitely don't work in favour of those who're more introverted. Most, if not all of us, are not all the way introverted or extraverted, but rather, fall somewhere in between. While I'm an extravert, most people would be surprised by how much introversion is in me, and I never had a chance to fully appreciate that part of myself before I read this book.

I've written about Cain's work before, and it's still something I would highly recommend for everyone; whether you're trying to understand part of yourself that you haven't really explored before, whether you're an introvert who's trying to learn to make the best out of a society that doesn't celebrate introversion or whether you're the friend, teacher, parent or employer of an introvert.

 
6) What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard Bolles

This isn't really a book to read as much as it is a book to work through, but I think it's definitely the most comprehensive manual out there for people who're trying to figure out their career. A new edition is published every year, and I first learnt about it on the recommendation of my career counsellor and a dear friend, who worked through this book when SHE graduated from college.

The book is filled with practical advice and exercises that encourage us to get to know ourselves better and figure out what, exactly, we want to do and would be best at, and how to get there. Are you about to graduate (or recently graduated) and trying to figure out where you want to work? Or someone who's already working but not quite satisfied with what you're doing? Are you looking to change your career and try something new? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this book is definitely for you.


7) Thrive by Arianna Huffington

This is ones of those that I haven't yet read, but it comes recommended by Dana Brillante-Peller, who wrote about it on her blog, Pellerini. Another blogger, Carly Ferguson, who blogs over at FitLiving, includes it in her list of 5 Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List. Please go check out both these posts; they definitely convinced me!


8) Losing My Virginity by Richard Branson

Sir Richard Branson is one of those names that practically EVERYBODY knows. He has reached such stunning heights of success that most of us do not even dare dream about. Luckily for us, he gifted the world with an autobiography that allows us to dig deeper into his life and his philosophy, and serves as a guide to those of us who need one. Especially for those of us with more entrepreneurial tendencies than most, Branson's autobiography is a must read.

Side note: I would ABSOLUTELY love to meet him in person. You know those interview questions that ask which living or dead person we would have to dinner if we could? Richard Branson is probably at the top of my list.


9) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

This is a self-help book that remains as relevant today as it was more than 20 years ago. The title is pretty self-explanatory, so I can only add that this book is definitely very helpful if you want to learn how to better control your life and achieve more out of it.


10) Leave Your Mark by Aliza Licht

This is another one that I haven't read yet, recommended by Ana Luiza Douthwaite who blogs at Northwest Blonde. Targeted mostly toward a female audience who're starting off their careers (or looking to improve it), it does a great job in teaching you to leave your mark.

Do you have any other recommendations? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Dropping Inhibitions

Picture courtesy of www.unsplash.com
What is an inhibition? To prevent you the trouble of googling a definition, I'll show you the ones I got: "a feeling that makes one self-conscious and unable to act in a relaxed and natural way" and "a voluntary or involuntary restraint on direct expression of an instinct". If you really think about it, these two definitions make perfect sense (thanks Google), and you really start to wonder how many times you have been held back by inhibitions.

I'll give an example that many of us might have encountered at some point or another. A crowded room, music playing cheerily in the background, people laughing and weaving in an out of crowds. Suddenly you see a face you think you recognise, but can't seem to place. What you really want to do it go say hi- but something holds you back.

We encounter inhibitions in more situations than just weekend parties. How many times have we been held back because of fear of failure, or rejection, or embarrassment? Like it or not, inhibitions may be holding us back in many ways; professionally, socially and personally.

By trying to fit in and be 'normal', we are kept from being ourselves. Giving in to our inhibitions can leave us with a feeling of inadequacy that lingers long after a specific incident has passed. If you're good at something and you know it, inhibitions can get in the way of allowing you to excel. By giving in to your inhibitions, you get conditioned to avoid these sorts of 'negative' situations, and may not realise how much you're missing out on!

Think about this scenario for a second; you've been working really hard at your job, and you know you've been doing really well too. You think that you may deserve a raise, but feel inhibited, and neglect to ask your boss. Think about these sorts of situations happening on a regular, almost daily basis, and you may begin to understand why you've learned to hold back and prevent yourself from getting where you deserve.

How do we overcome inhibitions? It's important to realise that you need to break free, and you need to want to break free. Expose yourself to things and situations that scare you (there we go again with fear being a good thing), and learn not to step back at the moment that you most want to. Don't escape the negative feelings; instead, deal with them, think about them, and ask yourself what they're telling you about yourself. Step forth, and free yourselves!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Let Your Fear Take You Higher



I think it's a very small portion of the population who can claim that they're not afraid. For people like me, who're in a transitional phase of their life, fear can be something that we learn to deal with on an everyday basis. I had addressed the issue of fear in a shorter blog post last year, but definitely felt like it was time to talk about it again.

Where does fear come from? I think that if we dig deep enough, this fear comes from being lost, from being disconnected with our purpose(s), from uncertainty. As I've mentioned many times before, so many of us get stuck in 'the rat race'. We end up doing things that we think we're supposed to be doing, while really being afraid to dig deep and explore our dreams and fears, and this ends up leading to unhappiness and a sense of not being fulfilled.

Why is it that so many of us are afraid to dream? And if we do dream, why are we afraid to follow through? Why is it that dreamers, those who have courage to follow their dreams, those who are very happy with their lives are the exceptions rather than the rule?

I think that part of the reason this is the case is that we have created a society that is so afraid of failure, that people would rather not try at all, lest they end up failing. When children are growing up, they are not afraid of showing their ambition, but as they grow, they are told to tone down this ambition, to stop dreaming so much. There are some lucky few who don't let society and educational systems diminish their abilities to dream and to believe in themselves, and I wish we could all be more like them. I've heard it said that a young Serena Williams was asked which tennis player she'd like to be like, and she responded by saying that she'd like other people to be like her. Incredible insight and ambition, and quite obviously, a determination to follow through!

Leaving aside the people who're afraid to dream, and who somehow may be able to convince themselves that they're happy where they are, I think it's even more depressing to think about the people who DO dream, but don't follow their dreams. Saying that they lack the courage to follow their dreams is but a small part of the equation, and I wouldn't like to phrase it that way, since it puts the blame on these people. Rather, I think the problem is that society and educational systems don't do much to help instill this courage in people when they need it.

Of course, this isn't always the case. I know, and I'm sure you all do too, about many, many wonderful people and educators who believe in their fellow community members and those under their tutelage. These people do everything they can to encourage and support, but sadly, sometimes it's hard being the only one in a system doing the encouraging and supporting. When one person is telling you that you can while everything and everyone else is showing you that you shouldn't, why would you believe them? If someone tells you that you can dream and also follow your dreams and be happy and successful, yet you see so many around you who're so discouraged, why would you believe them?

Thankfully, those who dream and are afraid to follow their dreams have a little bit of an advantage: their fear.This fear that they feel can be incredibly motivational. If you're afraid, it means you know there's more for you out there. It means that there's a part of you that knows you can do it. You can use this fear, channel it into making it work for you, into supporting others who may be dreamers afraid to follow through. I was rereading a Robin Sharma book last night, and one sentence really struck home with me. I read it, and was so overwhelmed by it that I actually had to put the book down.

"The very fact that you have a desire or a dream means that you have the corresponding capacity to realize it."
-The monk who sold his Ferrari

I'm afraid too. Why shouldn't I be? But I choose to look at this fear as something I will conquer, something that will teach me more about myself, something that will actually propel me in the direction of my dreams.

If you're afraid, recognise that that's not a bad place to be. Let your fear take you higher.


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