It’s summer! Time for summer vacation. But life is a quiz so here’s today’s multiple choice: Which of the following, if any, is out of place for a summer vacation: (A) the beach; (B ) the surf; (C) sun screen; (D) self improvement; (E) none of the above. The right answer: E. Summer is an ideal time to engage in self improvement through reading. But not “War and “Peace” or “You Can’t Go Home Again.” Oh no. It is time instead to learn about actionable information presented in bite-sized and very digestible wisdom. Nuggets. Just the right meal for a perfect summer afternoon.
First out of the gate, “Tribe of Mentors: Smart Life Advice From the Best in The World” from Austin-based Timothy Ferris. A thought-provoking book full of offsets (but penetrating) questions from an eclectic group. Check out Annie Duke, a website rod class competitive poker player. Ferris asked what advice she’d give to a graduating college student. Her timeless response: “Try to change your mind about one thing every day.” (Mine would be try and learn one truly new thing every day. Move over Charades, I think we’ve stumbled on the party game of the future “Mentor Madness,”)
Here’s another: don’t confuse bad results with bad decision making. She says that poker teaches that a bad result is often dictated by factors out of your control. And if you cannot segregate results and decision making, you may change a winning strategy. Or, worse, because you won you keep making bad decisions. Her vivid analogy: you keep driving through red lights because you did it once and nothing bad happened. (Want to learn more? Check out her book, “Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All The Facts.”)
And to make it a trifecta, Ferris asked what she has become better at saying “no” to. She said everything. How? Age teaches her to more accurately gauge the downside of saying “yes” and the upside of saying “no.” And for those readers who have difficulty saying “no,” have I got a book for you! (And you know who you are!) Pick up a copy of “The Art of Saying No: How To Stand Your Ground, Reclaim Your Time And Energy, And Refuse To Be Taken For Granted” from Damon Zanhariades. The book is full of bite-sized chunks of wisdom to help you do just that.
Strategy No. 1: Replace “No” With Another Word. By way of example, when asked to help on a project, resist the temptation to exclaim “of course” and simply say (if it is the truth): “People are depending on me to finish this project. If I abandon it to help you, I’d be letting them down.”
Or Strategy No. 2: Resist The Urge To Offer Excuses. In short: don’t lie. His advice: “The better approach is to turn down the request with a simple ‘no’ and resist the temptation to say more. … being direct shows respect.”
And here is Strategy No. 3: Take Ownership Of Your Decision. Instead of saying, “I can’t” say “I don’t want to.” He says that you can give a response in order to defuse a potentially combative response. But the reason must be sincere. Owning the decision makes you stronger and more able to say “no.”
One of my favorite books of wisdom nuggets is “The Daily Stoic: 365 Meditations On Wisdom, Perseverance, And the Art of Living” from another Austin-based thinker and writer Ryan Holiday. Holiday offers up a quote from an ancient Stoic thinker and then briefly expounds upon it. The counsel from 2,000 years ago are applicable to the daily news feeds we get. Here is Oct. 27 titled “We Reap What We Sow,” supported by a Seneca quote, “Crimes often return to their teacher.” Here is Holiday: “(This quote is) something to think about when you consider whom to work with and whom to do business with in life. If you show a client how to do something unethical or illegal, might they return the favor to an unsuspecting you later on? If you provide a bad example to your employees, to your associates, to your children, might they betray you or hurt you down the road?”
Finally check out the Roger Housden series on poetry, “ Ten Poems for Difficult Times” or “ Ten Poems to Save Your Life” are two in the series. Housden couples each poem with a short meditation he writes on the meaning of the poem. Short and pointed but thoughtful and reflective. A big bonus: he uses poets from different times and cultures.
I end with the great Persian poet Rumi who wrote “what you are seeking is seeking you.” So, drop by a book store or scroll away on a book centered web site. I promise, there is a short book full of wonderful advice waiting just for you. Have a great summer.