There are people out there that really need The Power of No. If someone is on the edge of the abyss, as the authors - James and Claudia - clearly have been, this is the book I would proffer. It’s like an insight into a depressive hell, albeit from my standpoint with a cup of tea and mouth aghast, spilling said tea.
The essence of the Power of No is simply taking control of your life by doing things that you actually want to do, that are valuable to you, as opposed to those tasks we feel encumbered to do. To borrow a lovely phrase from the book, avoid ‘superfluous distraction’, such as watching television or reading the news. Or, since it’s Christmas, spending shitloads of money on stuff you don’t need, on people you don’t like, for a day that means nothing. Shalom! Ha ha This basic tenet of the book (saying no, not the grinch bit) is exceptionally straight forward. It’s then a matter of plucking up the courage to take that first steps. The expansion to this is not giving excuses, not giving reasons or having to lie when invited to participate in something you don’t wish to. You simply say ‘no I can’t make it.’ It’s immediately implementable. What a lovely gift of freedom that is!
Then there’s the next layer to The Power of No, pumping up the tyres of spirituality, of divine whispers, of a divine plan. To quote, 'surrendering in order to live a life directed by divine forces is the ultimate goal of a person whose energy has risen’. For me, this is a bit too stretchy-pants-spirit-animal-finding-yourself-oh-there-you-are type of thing, but each to their own. These sections are reserved for those that trapped in such a dark place that no rhyme or reason or logic can lift you out of your despair, and that somehow feeling God or higher powers have a plan for you will help. Thankfully I am not there, and woe betide those poor bastards that are. Yup, bit of a downer, sorry about that. It can’t all be penis jokes every week, can it? If you have a problem, and no one else can help, and if you can find them, contact the A-Team. Otherwise, try this book.
There are lovely ideas though, some I already possess in my armoury and others I’ve adopted: becoming an ‘ideas generating machine’ where every day you write down ten ideas (quality isn’t important) which I think is great for a start-up and problem-solving mindset; of spending several minutes every day in complete silence, letting your mind catch a breath and letting the tensions of your day wash away; and lastly of letting go of the anger or guilt in things you said ten years ago – these things cannot change, it’s useless and unhelpful to give them any thought.
The last idea the book discussed was being thankful, and that’s something I’ve never lost. And so, for the last post of 2018, a year that I accomplished a dream I’ve had for eleven years, in which I focused on being present, where I read more than I had in years, improved my Spanish and video editing skills (the latter was at level zero, so learning anything was good!) I am extremely grateful: for my friends and family’s unwavering support, intelligence, kindness and compassion, I am delighted and fortunate that you are part of my life. Happy New Year!
I am a duck. At least, that is how my parents refer to me: serene and calm on the outside, underneath paddling like bloody hell. At least I think it’s that, or my webbed feet and love of bread. Either or, really. In my new team my calmness was the first thing people noticed (that and my quacking). It’s not a bad thing to be noted for. This, as with everything, comes with practice.
In work I have been fortunate enough to have excellent leaders imbued with a calmness of authority, always unrattled no matter the circumstance. I knew I wanted to be that person. When I joined my current company, on the induction day I met a fellow man from Wales who related an anecdote that I’ve regurgitated for years. In a fairly typical humdrum day, he went about his business as usual, said hello to his staff and got on with his work. After a few hours one of his team approached his office cautiously and kindly asked if everything was ok. Slightly bemused, he asked why they thought something was wrong. The reply came ‘usually when you’re happy, you whistle, and today you didn’t whistle.’ Unbeknownst to him the entire team had noticed this trait, and he realised just what leadership meant. From that point on, no matter what happened or how his day was actually unfolding, he whistled.
No team will voluntarily follow a leader that is running around kicking and screaming. Remain calm, collect your thoughts no matter what. Your team will thank you for it, as too will your mental health. And so this Christmas try to give yourself the gift of calm: allow your mind some peace and quiet; take a walk outside in the countryside, lapping up the sunshine (southern hemisphere!); say no to a few things you don’t want to do to give yourself some time; and relax. Out of all the presents you buy, perhaps try for yourself one of the calming meditations apps like Headspace – that dude has a voice like honey, I tell you!
I will I sign-off this post with another quotation from the excellent James Allen (voiced on Youtube):
The strong, calm man is . . . like a shade-giving tree in a thirsty land, or a sheltering rock in a storm. That exquisite poise of character that we call serenity is the last lesson of culture. . . how insignificant mere money-seeking looks in comparison with a serene life. Tempest-tossed souls, wherever you may be, under whatever conditions you may live, know this: In the ocean of life the isles of blessedness are smiling and the sunny shore of your ideal awaits your coming. Keep your hands firmly upon the helm of thought. . . self-control is strength. Right (positive) thought is mastery. Calmness is power. Say unto your heart, "Peace. Be still!
Take care of yourself this Christmas, remember you’re the most important thing you’ll ever possess. Invest in yourself. Hugs, Reed.
Success is a phantasmagorical swine. In chess, the rules are relatively simple, the world is black and white, and you know what success looks like. You know what you need to do win. But in life, it isn’t so simple: diving into a swimming pool of money? Leading corporate empires? As simple as shared love, perhaps? There seems to be no single formula as we don’t know what the game looks like. We know what the end looks like – death! – but in between that, you know, as we tread the long march towards death (jeeezz, what a downer!), success evolves entirely to a question of personal choice.
It’s amazing how many famous people, dead or alive, celebrity or scientist or comedian, we would label successful and yet battled crippling depression, anxiety and self-doubt. Winston Churchill famously wrote about suffering from the ‘black dog’, now common parlance for the affliction. Abraham Lincoln, Peter Cook and Spike Milligan, and since it’s almost Oscar time and At Eternity’s Gate is showing, the infamous and plagued Vincent Van Gogh. Hero’s are often depicted as trying to prove others wrong, yet it seems the real battle is within: forever trying to prove themselves worthy of their own love, which no matter their lifetime achievements, remains elusive.
Self-love and compassion for oneself isn’t based on achievements or goals or tasks ticked off during the day – he says, looking at his post-it note of lists with adjacent ticks. Perhaps it’s the success of knowing that you tried your best with your gifts, bestowed or acquired, and that perhaps you made someone else’s life a little bit happier, no matter how trivial it seemed for that fleeting moment you were acquainted. Out of the all the books I sourced this week which got me quite excited - John and Claudia Altichore’s The Power of No, Peter Thiel’s Zero to One and Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends Upon It by Kamal Ravikant – it’s the latter that inspired me to reach out to the author and thank him for sharing his story. Zero to One is also excellent by the way, the ex-Pay-Pal CEO has a singular vision and drive which strides from the pages, finding a niche in his book that others rarely talk about i.e. finding that niche for your start-up. Jumping into a competitive marketplace is hard, jumping into one that doesn’t exist makes much more sense. In listening to venture capitalist Mike Maples on a Tim Ferris podcast, since 93% of start-ups are successful only after a pivot, it almost doesn’t matter what the company’s initial vision is. Find the niche, find your niche.
As with the last few weeks I’ll leave you with an excellent quotation from James Allen:
‘The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart -- this you will build your life by; this you will become.’
Admittedly someone writing ‘thy’ constantly is a little annoying, and then there is a horse-ton of me that reviews the entire text with scepticism – were these really the teachings of Babylon, or were they simply some chap in the 1930’s just trying to sound like it was ancient proverbs and texts? An lo, God diduth sayeth, the dython vacuumuth pretty gooduth. That side, it's actually very good!
The Richest Man in Babylon’s power is that it is simple: stash at least 10% of your earnings away for savings, find some high-interest compound interest savings, minimise your expenses, and you’ll be a wealthy man. It never mentions women saving anything: very much a pre-equality book. It also doesn’t mention much around the paying of taxes either which is primarily my struggle point – you can earn a lot more for your purse if you don’t pay any taxes, just ask Google and Amazon! I read a fantastic article recently that a footballer in the UK paid as much tax as the two mega-rich giants combined.
And there lie the teachings of The Richest Man in Babylon. Is that it, you cry? What about earning money? You work for it. As the saying goes, every overnight success is ten years in the making, so work your ass off. Then work some more.
I have taken Tim Ferriss’ advice on reading two books simultaneously, one a fictional something-or-other before bed time purely for enjoyment, and the other to increase the learns. I have tried my third Hemingway book (For Whom the Bell Tolls & Old Man and The Sea previously), and for the love of God Green Hills of Africa is a chore. I’ve given it a hundred pages and it’s an absolute labour, so it’s resigned to be in the same bucket as Gulliver’s Travels – left on the shelf unloved. . . which I’m getting more comfortable with doing. Time, like money, is worth investing wisely.
"The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colours which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts" - James Allen
This book should be taught in schools. It reminds of a wonderful line in Dune by Frank Herbert, that, to paraphrase, runs along the lines of ‘and the universe just sat there, open to the man that could make the right decisions.’ James Allen’s small book covers a rainbow of serenity, vision, purpose, mastery of thought and drive, of self-reliance, of good and positive actions over bad, of repetitive and ceaseless endeavour to reach your goal and a better sate of simply being. If that doesn't entice you, then the fact it's 27 pages make it any better? Not sure I've read anything that has contained so much advice on life in such a concise manner. Take your time, put the kettle in, enslave one of your loved ones (or ask them nicely, whatever works) to bring you the hot beverage when it’s ready, and enjoy this book.
Like Emerson’s tome on self-reliance, there is plenty of emphasis here on self-learning and ultimately self-belief. ‘Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world’ wrote Roald Dahl, to a sea of high-fives from little girls across the world. Allen delicately puts it that ‘man’s mind is like a garden: it needs intelligently cultivating or it may run wild. It’s a product of the seeds that are put into it’. This is a wonderful, wonderful analogy. You get out what you put in. I have friends that each Christmas forsake tangible gifts, but instead purchase one another a course where they can learn. Isn’t that fantastic?
This calls to question of how much we genuinely invest in ourselves. Making the investment to learn something properly will create its own rewards. But the reward is yours to dictate. Again, to Allen ‘Men are anxious to improve their circumstances but not to improve themselves - they therefore remain bound.’ People generally want more money, fancier cars, bigger houses, gadgets and technology, yet don’t make the sacrifices or effort to improve themselves to get to enable that circumstance to happen. Perhaps if you understood why you wanted these things in the first place, you may not even want them.
There is simply too much goodness in James Allen’s book for only on one post, but if you’re going to do anything this weekend, go read this. Cancel seeing your friends, avoid that awful wedding you don’t want to go to, even if you are the bride. Read this book! In fairness, it’s only 27 pages, so at the very worst you’ll only be a little – it’ll teach them for making you wait for that film you wanted to see four years ago, won’t it? Go on, vaminos!
James Allen book cover from Booktopia
Although the top image isn't quite a kaleidoscope, the colour is simply mesmerising from an exploding nebula. The image is available from here
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