25 more books: An update on my daily reading practice

A few years ago, I wanted to see if I could adopt a new habit of reading more substantive literature. So beginning in 2012, I set a goal to read 100 books in four years. Three years and 301 days later, I finished my 100th book, Finding Your Element by Ken Robinson. I wrote a blog post about my experiences here (it includes a list of all 100 books).

It was satisfying to complete such a big goal and I was able to develop a desirable habit in the process. I’m happy to say that my ritual of reading for 20 minutes or more every morning has continued day in, day out. Pro tip: if you’re trying to form a new habit, it helps to link the desired behaviour (reading) with an ingrained habit that’s already on autopilot (in my case, a morning coffee).

Given that I just surpassed the 125-book milestone, I thought I’d share the most recent 25 entries from my reading list. Here are the books (those marked with an asterisk are personal favourites):

  1. Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky
  2. Join Me, by Danny Wallace
  3. The Element, by Ken Robinson *
  4. City of Thieves, by David Benioff *
  5. The Force of Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg
  6. The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau *
  7. Decisive, by Chip Heath & Dan Heath
  8. The Orenda, by Joseph Boyden *
  9. The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion *
  10. The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx
  11. Born For This, by Chris Guillebeau
  12. Naked, by David Sedaris
  13. The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein *
  14. The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King
  15. The Art of Thinking Clearly, by Rolf Dobelli
  16. Buddhism: Ethics and the Path to Peace, by Phra Saneh Dhammavaro
  17. Burmese Days, by George Orwell
  18. The Personal MBA, by Josh Kaufman
  19. Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert
  20. The Millionaire Next Door, by Thomas Stanley & William Danko
  21. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz
  22. Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh *
  23. A Return to Love, by Marianne Williamson *
  24. Talk Like Ted, by Carmine Gallo
  25. Walking to Japan, by Derek Youngs & Carolyn Affleck Youngs

Buy a book, make a difference

Are you looking to stock up on some new books for the summer? If you intend to use Amazon to buy books or other products, here’s an easy way to leverage your online purchase for a good cause – at absolutely no extra cost to you.

If you click on this link to Amazon or on the banner below, and then make a purchase, I will receive a small referral fee. Every year, I donate 100% of these referral fees to the Project Change Foundation to help support emerging Canadian charities in creating positive change in our communities.

Stay true to your values

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein

When I set off to Bali for a six-month writing sabbatical in the summer of 2014, I planned to end my trip by spending Christmas Day on the beach drinking piña coladas. It was one for my bucket list — and a beautiful white sand beach on the Indonesian island seemed like a perfect setting to soak up some sun over the holidays while sipping on a sweet, tropical cocktail.

Life is not always kind. Sometimes it is just downright cruel. Never in a million years would I have anticipated being back home in Canada on Christmas Day, grieving over the sudden loss of my father.

It happened so fast. It was difficult to process everything. I wasn’t ready or prepared to say goodbye, but I’m not sure more time would have fixed that. I have comfort in knowing he was surrounded with loving family, and many good friends, right to the end. We even got to open some Christmas gifts with him on December 22, in what would turn out to be his last full day before he passed. This gave him, and us, a small moment of joy.

The expression “salt of the earth” comes to mind when I think of my dad. He was an honest, stand-up kind of guy. A natural provider who was fiercely loyal to his family, and always there to help others without asking anything in return. His love was tacit, but present in everything he did.

With dad, actions spoke louder than words. The key to my father was not in what he said (or didn’t say), but in what he did. I came to learn over the years that he showed his love through actions, and his actions were almost always guided by a strong moral compass. My dad’s gift was his integrity. His life was grounded on a core set of values that he tried to live out every day: hard-work, fairness, family, kindness, and stability, all come to mind. His wasn’t a flashy life, but a deeply rewarding and highly principled one.

Three days after my father died, my family gathered together for Christmas Day. To pay tribute to my dad’s spirit of playfulness and love of the outdoors, we drove to a small secluded beach at a lakeside park not far from my parent’s home in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. On a cold and clear afternoon, with piña coladas in hand, we honoured him with a short Irish blessing and a reading of the poem, He Is Gone, by David Harkins. It was a fitting way to pay tribute and bid farewell to my beloved father.

One of the stanzas in that poem reads, “You can remember him and only that he is gone, or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.” It’s a poignant message about finding your way forward after the loss of a loved one. Taking the poem to heart, I spent several days after Christmas contemplating how to honour my father’s memory and keep it alive in my life. During this time of reflection I kept coming back to one thing — my dad’s gift of integrity.

My father led by example rather than proclamation. Through his actions, he taught me what it means to stay true to your values and to live a life that’s guided by a higher moral code. What better way to pay homage to his memory, I thought, than to model this way of living. I would stake claim to my own values and then take deliberate steps to live them out in my daily life. There was just one problem: I’d never thought about my values before. I wasn’t even sure how to go about identifying them, let alone how to live a life based on them.

This is an excerpt from the The High Road, my upcoming book that will help readers discover a deeper sense of purpose and live happier, more fulfilled lives. The book weaves together practical research results with real-life accounts of people who are walking the talk. It also draws on my own personal stories and anecdotes. I invite you to have a sneak peek at the book’s introduction for free. If you’d like to get updates on the book, enter your email in the box above and click Sign Up!

Sharpen your saw: How to build up your inner reserves

“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” — Deborah Day

Imagine that one of your life goals is to run a marathon. It’s a major stretch goal, considering you haven’t done even a 5 kilometre race, let alone one that’s 42 kilometres. Undeterred, you register for the event months in advance. The weeks pass, but you don’t bother to do any training. In fact, you don’t even leave the couch. When race day arrives, you put on your untouched running attire, and join the other competitors at the start line. Not long into the race, you’re forced to drop out due to utter exhaustion. Failure. Of course, this outcome is unsurprising. It would be foolish to attempt a marathon without proper training. What would be surprising is if you somehow managed to finish the race without any preparation.

Living a life of purpose is much like running a marathon. Frankly, it’s hard work. It takes dedication and commitment to be successful. And like a marathon, there are things you can do to prepare for the challenge. The key to success is to bolster your inner reserves to help stay the course over the long run.

In 1989, the late Stephen Covey wrote a landmark business and self-help book, called The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Hugely popular, the book has sold over 25 million copies in 40 languages worldwide. Weaving together stories and advice from a wide range of successful people, the book presents seven principles, or habits, which provide guidance on being effective in accomplishing your goals.

It’s a book that everyone should read at least once, and while I won’t discuss all seven principles here, I do want to touch upon the seventh habit: sharpening the saw. Covey describes it this way: “Sharpening the saw means preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have — you.” This means building up your inner reserves — your vitality — so you will have the strength to reach your full potential. This habit provides the foundation for your success: It gives you the energy you need to put the other six habits into practice in your life.

Let’s look at the seventh habit in more detail. Covey states that, to maintain and increase your effectiveness, you must continually renew yourself in four main areas of health:

  • Body is your physical health. Building your reserves in this area means doing things like exercising, eating healthy, sleeping and resting, and relaxing.
  • Mind is your mental health. Strengthening your reserves in this area means doing things like reading, writing, pursuing education, and learning new skills.
  • Heart is your social and emotional health. Boosting your reserves in this area means doing things like building strong relationships, doing acts of service, volunteering, helping others, as well as laughing, loving and sharing.
  • Soul is your spiritual health. Bolstering your reserves in this area means doing things like meditating, keeping a reflective journal, reading contemplative texts, attending spiritual service, and praying.

Sharpening the saw means making time in your life for doing these types of activities. It doesn’t mean you have to do them all. However, it’s important to strive for balance and do things that reinforce your reserves in all four areas.

Here’s a quick exercise you can do to assess your current reserve levels. Divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants: body, mind, heart, and soul. In each quadrant, write down all the things you regularly do to promote good health. Only list activities you are actively doing at this point in your life — not things you did years ago.

This is a useful exercise because it helps you to identify where your reserves are low. You might notice that you have more things written down in some quadrants than in others. You might want to consider devoting more time to the areas you have been neglecting. This can help you to live a more balanced and healthier life — and give you more energy to pursue your dreams and contribute to the world around you.