These ideas assume that your mental health is not connected to the people around you, and all you need to do is to take a break from the world or isolate yourself.
Some new books and some re-reads. Some were worth the time, some were not.
Greenlights – Matthew McConaughey
This is a really interesting insight into the life and psyche of Matthew McConaughey. His upbringing was quite unusual.
My take aways from this book:
- He approached his auditions with a sense of confidence. His mindset was that they needed him in their film rather than him needed a role (and coming across desperate).
- He was also willing to say goodbye to his whole career to try and change the type of roles he was getting.
- The story behind his most well-known line was brilliant.
- The first chapter was a word salad.
The Power of Now – Echart Tolle
He has some solid truths sprinkled in amongst some shady fluff.
Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth
Rethinking economics and the measurement of economic growth and the yardstick for a healthy economy. This is where we should be heading but it will take a major change in the way the world approaches economic theory.
Becoming a Person of Influence – John Maxwell and Jim Dornan
From back in the 90’s. Some quality content based on the character of the person seeking to influence.
Range – David Epstein
A brilliant read about how those that generalise in their endeavours will out-do those that specialise in one sphere…unless it is a kind environment, like golf.
Tiger Woods vs. Roger Federer. A kind environment vs. a wicked environment.
Hint: Most of life in not lived in a kind environment.
Disappearing Church – Mark Sayers
Trouble in the Land of Giving – William De Maria
A scathing review of charities in Australia. William seems to be angry.
Think Again – Adam Grant
The power of knowing what you don’t know
Adam frames the different thinking styles that we use when we approach problems.
Preacher – “When we are in the preacher mode we are convinced we are right” and try to persuade others to agree with us.
Prosecutor – When we are trying to prove someone else wrong
Politician – When we are trying to win the approval of an audience
Scientist – Create a hypothesis and test it for reasons that you are wrong.
Obviously he thinks the scientist is the best method to use.
Beautiful Things – Hunter Biden
Hunter’s journey through loss, grief and addiction, and a presidential election or two. This is an amazing story with a bit of politics thrown in.
Values – Mark Carney
A book of over 500 pages of which I understood very little. Mark is the former Governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, and has guided the global financial system through the GFC and COVID. He is now on the UN special envoy for climate action and finance. This book is about the values which will serve us as we approach the challenges that lay ahead. I feel like it is everything that he has ever thought about these topics (but probably not because he seems like a super intelligent guy). Bono liked it. The parts that I understood were interesting and the rest is a blur.
The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyun
A theological trip to the 1600’s. Once I had a handle on the language and the fact that there are no chapters, or breaks, or places where you can logically stop, it was a nice journey.
Jack Reacher – Better off Dead – Lee and Andrew Child
My annual wait for the Jack Reacher book was worth it and it was over very quickly. After a disappointing book last year, 2021 was a great improvement in the tale of Reacher. (Soon the become a TV series on Amazon Prime for those interested). Now to wait for October/November 2022.
The Obstacle is the Way – Ryan Holiday
If/when I meet Ryan Holiday, I will apologise to him for underestimating this book. The first time I read it I thought it was a lightweight bit of inspiration, but I missed the point. It is a profound book which I will re-read every year from now on.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Mark Manson
This book was exactly how I remember it. Shock and fluff to start with but some really interesting points along the way about not being swayed by what other people think and to live your life with confidence. The last chapter is a memorable one.
Incognito – David Eagleman
This is a random book that I found somewhere but one that I have loved because it unpacks the complexity of the brain. We are not one person, but many ‘persons’ – which may sound a little shady, but if you have ever found yourself having an internal debate on a topic it is important to ask, ‘who am I debating with?’.
I don’t agree where David lands with the final premise of the book which is essentially that we don’t have much control over most of what we do, therefore we can’t be held responsible for most of our actions, but the debate he creates is worthwhile.
Meditations – Marcus Aurelias
I made my way through this slower than I did last time. There is still much that I don’t grasp but the philosophy of life and death is extraordinary.
My favourite quote:
“Remember that to change course or accept correction leaves you just as free as you were. The action is your own, driven by your own impulse and judgement, indeed your own intelligence.”
Give & Take – Adam Grant
This is a book about how generosity breeds success, in all parties involved. Still my go-to generosity guide book.
I look forward to more quality reading in 2022. Any suggestions? What are your favourites?
“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it.” Seneca, Roman Stoic Philosopher
I feel like we have been in the Christmas season for two months. There is something about the Australian culture which seems to “wind things down” for the year from mid October.
I know small businesses that work with larger firms and any conversations in the last quarter about new contracts automatically get pushed to the new year – which really means February/March.
Now, there is nothing wrong with managing your workload and recognising that things do get busier in many areas of life towards the end of the year, but the risk is we wish away our most precious and unknown quantity. Our time.
My paraphrase of the quote from Seneca above is “life isn’t short, we just waste a lot of it.” We waste it on things that are not aligned with what we say our priorities are. We waste it because we don’t spend it intentionally.
I encourage you to think about who you want to be at the start 2022. On January 1st, what will you wish you spent time on today?
What is the most important thing? Choose to focus on actions that align with your priorities.
What can you complete that you have been putting off? Pain delayed is pain magnified.
What can you put off that you have been pushing to complete, but it isn’t a priority? Saying yes to something means saying no to something else. What can you say no to?
In the next few weeks if you are looking forward to working when things are quiet and others are on leave, embrace that and get productive.
If you are taking leave, take the heck out of that leave.
Be intentional about how you finish off the year. Finish it well. Well rested and well prepared for 2022.
“There are two types of people, those that believe there are two types of people and those that don’t.”
People are complex and cannot be sorted into two types of anything, let’s not oversimplify, except for the statement above.
Take vaccinations for example. There are those who are pro-vax and those that are anti-vax, right? Wrong.
It’s more like this:
100% Passionate Support 100% Passionate Against
Forget vaccination, let’s talk cheese. There are those people that like cheese and those people that don’t, right? Wrong.
It’s more like this:
100% Passionate Support 100% Passionate Against
And that’s just one small part of the person.
The world is a spectrum of beliefs, experiences, thoughts, and traditions. How I ended up having the same opinion as you is most likely a very different journey to how you ended up with that opinion. We think the same on that issue, we both like cheese, but we are not the same person. We don’t have an equal amount of commitment to it. We don’t have an equal amount of experience with it. We don’t have an equal amount of care for it. We are at different points on the spectrum of our love of cheese.
It is generous to see people as complex and more than a cheese lover or not.
It’s a cliché now. Finding your purpose is so mainstream that there are numerous books, podcasts, blogs and articles on how and why you should do it. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had with young, and not so young, people about how they can find their purpose.
I haven’t really had a succinct answer for them. I can only share about how I found mine – but they are not me, so that might not be helpful.
I can give them lists of the 12 top tips to finding purpose in life, I can lead them to ask the 7 strange questions that will help them find it, or even teach them the 4 easy steps which is guaranteed* to map out their life purpose. (*Not an actual guarantee).
But none of that seems to work.
Here’s what does. Finding purpose in whatever you are doing right now. That will help you find your purpose.
Most likely, your purpose won’t come to you in your late teens/early 20’s as one grand vision which shapes the rest of your life.
More often than not, it will consist of dozens of small pieces that you have picked up at random times, doing random things, in random jobs and having random conversations.
So, as you go along, find purpose in what you are doing right now, and you will help create your broader purpose in life.
I heard a story of a defensive driving instructor teaching people how to safely navigate obstacles on the road. He set up traffic cones on the roadway they were using and instructed each driver to drive straight towards them, then when they got to a certain point, brake and avoid hitting them.
Every single driver ran into the cones.
He then asked, ‘What are you looking at when you are braking?’
‘The cones’ they all said.
To which he replied, ‘Don’t look at the cones, look at where you want to go’.
Every driver was then able to navigate past the cones without hitting them.
Often, we can get so caught up in what we are trying to avoid that we focus all our attention on that one thing, and keep running into it.
Ending poverty can sometimes feel like that. We know that we want to avoid people suffering in poverty. We don’t want people to go hungry. We don’t want people to get sick and die from easily curable diseases. We don’t want people to fall into generational cycles which traps families in a vulnerable state.
We know what we don’t want, but what do we want instead?
Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO of Acumen nails it when she says, “The opposite of poverty is not income, it’s dignity.”
So we are not just aiming for everyone to have more dollars in their bank account, that would help, but it is only one part of the process of each human being having dignity. We are aiming for every human to be respected, belong to a community, receive justice and have the capacity to reach their full potential.
Take your eyes off the traffic cones and aim for where you want to go.
‘You are one in a million’ is not as good as it sounds. It’s definitely not as good as it used to be.
It means that there are 7,600 more of you around the world, which doesn’t make you feel as unique. It is possible to meet them.
‘You are one in a billion’ sounds better.
Although that still means there are 7 of you out there.
One in 7.6 billion is the best, although it’s a bit clunky and not as easy to say.
This is one of the downsides to population growth.
The global population in 1700 was about 600 million people.
By 1800 it had reached around 1 billion.
It had reached 1.6 billion by 1900, 2 billion by 1928, 5 billion by 1987 and 7.9 billion in 2021.
Since 1800 the global population has increased by 700%.
People used to freak out about this and worry about our impending doom as the sheer amount of people would surely overrun the planet, use everything and bring about the end of the world.
Why is no one worried about this now?
Because we have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. When that happens, families have less children because they can be confident that they will survive, they no longer need to think about who will look after them when they get older, and they become more educated about contraception. People’s generosity did this.
At this stage the global population should plateau at around 11 billion in 2100. Crisis just about averted.
Now, on to climate change.
“The poor you will always have with you” – Jesus
Jesus was talking to a room full of people after someone used an expensive item in an extravagant act of gratitude towards him. Some in the room criticised this act, and in their moral superiority suggested a better use of this gift would be to sell it and give the money to the poor. Jesus essentially said, “if God is in your living room, then shower Him with your best. Spend up big on him because it probably won’t happen again. Tomorrow, when God is no longer in your living room, give generously to those who are living in poverty.”
What we think it means…
We take this interaction and think that it means that we don’t need to worry about trying to end poverty, because you can’t. It’s a fool’s errand. People will always be poor; it’s just how thing are. Give up now and save yourself some heartache.
What it actually means…
Aside from the main point of giving your best to God if He is literally sitting right in front of you, Jesus was talking about situational poverty, which is a transitional time that people go through. Life has all sorts of ups and downs and sometimes the downs can put you into a place of poverty for a season, which is when you require generosity from others. Situational poverty is a short term experience.
This is stark contrast to systemic poverty, which is generational in nature and ensures that those who are poor today will also be poor tomorrow – you know, the kind if extreme poverty we see in the world today. Systemic poverty is man-made and exists in the structures we have put into place which, among other things, ensure that those who are vulnerable are the ones that earn less, suffer greater life shocks, and end up living without what they need to flourish. It doesn’t matter what they do, the system is stacked against them and they are unable to work their way out of it. Most are born into it, and some fall into it, but it doesn’t matter how it happened, it doesn’t need to exist and we can end it.
Poverty will always exist, people will fall into poverty through challenging life circumstances, but to think it will always be the same group of people, and their family for generations to come, or that some people should live their entire lives in poverty because of where they were born, is arrogant, ignorant, and wrong.
Fortunately, we have been making some pretty great headway with some smart structures and a bunch of generous people. We know that systemic poverty doesn’t need to exist and that we can end it, one family and one community at a time. We can’t do it without you though.
“When you have faith in others you give them an incredible gift.”
John Maxwell & Jim Dornan
I am not great at buying presents. I have a real challenge every time a birthday, anniversary or other celebratory event comes around. I find it difficult to think about what items or experiences people will enjoy and value, and I do have a fear of failure when it comes to buying a gift for someone. As the Generosity Guy, this is a little embarrassing to admit.
My wife, on the other hand, seems to have a superpower in present buying. I don’t know how she does it, but somehow, she just knows what people are missing in their life and will find the perfect gift for them.
I take solace in the fact that I am not the only person in the world who struggles with this and we all have different strengths when it comes to showing love and affection for each other.
One gift that you can give to anyone, no matter who they are, is your belief. We may think that we live in a world where there is too much positive reinforcement and encouragement, but I don’t think that is even possible. So many ideas are idle, so many plans are stagnant, so many abilities are untapped because the right person hasn’t come alongside and said “I think you should give this a go”. Knowing that another person has faith in you, even if you don’t have faith in yourself is the greatest gift.
Money is spent. Resources get used. Help creates a cycle of dependence. But if you can give someone faith, space for them to grow, develop and realise that they are capable of greater things than they have ever imagined, it puts them on the path to success. That is a gift that continues to have an impact.
Being ‘generous’ used to mean that you were from noble birth. The term was reserved only for those families (which was essentially those that had generational wealth – some would give some of that wealth away).
Over time it changed from ‘being of noble birth’ to ‘being of noble spirit’. Moving from something you were born into and becoming more about the good and moral individual qualities that someone had. It didn’t change who was considered generous because many thought that people of noble birth had those qualities.
It didn’t take too long though, for people to realise that just because you were born into nobility, it doesn’t mean that you were of ‘noble spirit’. So, generosity was no longer measured by your family tree, and became all about actions. Anyone could be generous, no matter who they belonged to or how much money they had.
Fast forward to today, generosity has the following attributes:
It is Giving – A gift that shifts from one person to another. Be it time, money, presence, gifts, mental space, ideas, energy or encouragement.
It is Thoughtful – An act or gesture that an individual has put great thought into what would benefit the receiver. Be it something they enjoy or something that will help them.
It is Considerate – An act or gesture that takes into account the feelings of someone else, whether or not it is appropriate for them even if it would help, or if it may cause embarrassment.
It is Caring – An act designed to bring out the best possible outcome for the recipient.
It is Slow and Fast – Usually as a gift of time or presence with someone, that allows space to sit with them in their journey but also responds quickly.
It is Sacrificial – it costs something to be generous. A gift without cost is platitude.
It is Intentional – Something done on purpose.
Here’s what it isn’t…
Self centred – For the sole purpose of making the one giving the gift feel better.
Accidental – Without generous intent. (A generous person may be accidentally generous to someone once, maybe twice, but if the only time someone is generous to others is by accident, that is not generosity).
Thoughtless – with no thought about the long-term impact that the ‘generous’ act could create.
Cunning – actions which are political in nature, which are premeditated to bring power to the giver.
Manipulative – used to force someone to do something for you.
Restrictive – actions that are designed to hold someone back and keep them in their current situation. A gift that disempowers.
A limited time only – running out after a certain period of time.
It may be that generosity is a little more complicated than we originally thought, and it takes a bit more effort to do a good job of. But, it has the potential to create significant positive outcomes for everyone involved if we can do it well.
There’s an old saying that love ‘keeps no records of wrongdoing’.
I find it comforting to know that mistakes that I have made won’t be used against me in the future. That in a healthy relationship, through a process of owning up, seeking forgiveness, and restoring trust, mistakes and failures can be let go.
Love chooses to forget the times we stuffed up and remember the times we nailed it. It thinks that the times we managed to support, encourage, be present for and take care of others, is more important to focus on that the times when we didn’t do that.
James Clear would put it like this, ‘praise the good, ignore the bad’.
I like that kind of love. It is outrageously generous.
But I don’t always see, experience, or show that kind of love. I can remember times, pretty clearly, when someone didn’t meet my expectations of love, and also many times when I didn’t meet my own expectations of what love looks like to them.
The opposite of love is fear. When I act in a way that directly contradicts what love is, I know that I am no longer acting in love, but in fear.
Fear does keep records of wrongdoing. Fear remembers them, keeps track of them and then drags them up to use as a weapon any time it feels threatened.
Fear destroys relationships. It is outrageously stingy.
To move away from fear and towards love means acknowledging the fear, perhaps even unpacking it, and choosing to put it aside so that you can experience all that love has to offer.