Keen readers will remember one of my goals this year was to read more books, after failing miserably last year!
Well, I’m glad to report, the book-reading habit is now well established and I’m enjoying it very much!
It’s not easy to build a new habit, but once you get going, a habit like reading books becomes addictive. Today I’ll run through a few of the better titles I’ve read this year and share some takeaways from each.
Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.
A solid book. After stumbling upon their blog recently – The Minimalists – I decided to check out one of their books.
This book covers their journey from outwardly successful, yet ultimately unhappy, career-focused guys, to discovering minimalism, simplifying their lives and changing their relationship with money and possessions.
They explain what matters isn’t our stuff, our house or our car. It’s not our mementos or any of our possessions. That stuff doesn’t truly add to our lives. In fact, it often subtracts from our life and creates a stressed mind, cluttered home, busy schedule and empty wallet, yet not much in the way of fulfilment.
What I particularly liked was how the book was broken up into many different sections, covering what they consider to be the key areas of life that matter most. Health. Relationships. Passions. Growth. Contribution.
Certain areas could’ve had more detail, but they noted it was slimmed down on purpose, to remain authentically “minimalist!”… so I’ll let that slide.
Minimalism is something that really strikes a chord with me. It makes sense on many levels.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve become increasingly detached to ‘things’. I often wonder how much of people’s lives are wasted to create an idealised lifestyle they’ve concocted in their mind (usually very consumer-focused), which they think will deliver them ultimate happiness.
But the more I gravitate towards living a simple life, the more I enjoy life.
Turns out, that’s not unusual at all. Because life is better when we concentrate on what matters. And what matters in life isn’t complex or expensive, it’s pretty simple. We just get lost along the way. In contrast, what we own doesn’t matter all that much. It often ends up owning us. And in any case, it’s mostly just stuff.
By adopting some minimalist principles, we can simplify our lives and become more satisfied with less stuff. This means less things to own, maintain, fix and replace. It means less housing is required (to store all our stuff). It means less debt, less spending, less stress.
Takeaway for FI seekers: For those who want freedom in their lives sooner, minimalism is a perfect match with the FIRE philosophy. By removing the extra possessions, tasks and even relationships that don’t add value to our lives, we can direct more of our time, energy and money toward the truly important things.
This one was recommended by a reader a while back. And I really enjoyed it.
Being a true introvert, I have a strong preference for solitude and plenty of quiet time. While I often feel awkward in social situations, I also find socialising to be extremely tiring, and I never knew why.
Susan Cain explains the myriad of ways introverts and extroverts differ. And how modern society has decided to hold up “the extrovert ideal” – that is, being extroverted is what we should all strive for. When in fact, a balance is necessary and indeed valuable, because both sides bring different strengths to the table.
Oversimplifying, here are some key traits of each…
Extroverts: Thrive in social situations. More risk-taking and spontaneous. Like to multi-task (or attempt to). Action oriented. Love small-talk and gossip. Enjoy networking. More likely to exercise. Typically experience higher levels of pleasure and excitement overall.
Extroverts derive most of their energy from the outside world. This means socialising with others, taking action and connecting with their surroundings. They often get down or tired being by themselves too long and need stimulation from noise and talking with others.
Introverts: Better at delaying gratification. High levels of concentration. Like doing one thing at a time. More cautious and analytical. Hate small-talk and often find networking painful. Great at absorbing information and details. Typically deep thinkers or philosophical in nature.
Introverts get most of their energy from the inside world. This means getting lost in thought, trying to solve problems or working on their ideas (or reading the ideas of others). We are easily overstimulated from our surroundings, especially in social situations, and need quiet time alone to recharge.
Many of us have traits of both, but usually lean towards one or the other. Think of it like a scale. Some folks are on the edges (very introverted or very extroverted) and others may be a little closer to the middle.
If you’re an introvert, you need to read this book. You’ll discover why you are the way you are, and the science behind it, rather than thinking you’re weird because it feels like you’re supposed to be more “outgoing.”
And extroverts should read this book to understand the introverts in their life. The extroverts I’ve met often give off the vibe that there’s something wrong with introverts for not being the same as them. But really, both sides should make an effort to understand the other and what makes them happiest.
Anyway, this was a great read, highly recommend. Learning more about who you are as a person is incredibly powerful.
Takeaway for FI seekers: This is handy knowledge to have. If you discover you’re an introvert, you might realise you’re in the wrong job role for your personality. But if you can’t switch jobs right now, this self-awareness helps narrow down your ideal type of work for when you can afford to leave your current role. (side note – coincidentally, writing is a great role for introverts as we get to think about and work on our ideas quietly.)
At the very least, you’ll realise there’s nothing wrong with you, and that you need time to recharge between social occasions!
The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod.
I came across this book from a podcast a while back. This guy’s story is amazing.
Hal came back from the dead at age 20 (literally… he was dead for about 5 minutes after a head-on car accident and then recovered!). He then grew a business which tanked during the GFC and ended up broke and depressed.
Searching around the self-help arena for a way to lift himself up, he wasn’t sure what advice to follow. So he decided to try it all, by combining all the major self-help tips into one epic morning routine, which he followed diligently and found to be highly useful.
And so the idea (and later book) was born. The Miracle Morning routine is as follows. Silence (meditation). Affirmations (basically positive self-talk). Visualisations (imagining your future and who you want to become). Exercise. Reading. Scribing (writing or journalling).
A key part of the approach is that these things are done first thing in the morning, by getting up a little earlier. The reason is, and most of us can relate, if we leave things till later in the day, they rarely get done. We get tired, we get busy, we come up with reasons to delay the task until tommorrow.
So, by getting these things done in the morning, we can go into the day with confidence that we’ve already worked on our personal development. In addition, Hal suggests that how you start your morning sets you up for the rest of the day. A slack morning leads to a slack day. A productive morning leads to a productive day.
I enjoyed the book. As far as personal development goes, it’s one of the better ones out there. I did test out this system for a few weeks, and found it to be reasonably enjoyable. I can totally see how an early-morning routine is a winner for time-poor career-focused people.
But for whatever reason, I haven’t stuck to the routine, despite doing most of those activities each day anyway (reading, writing, exercising, meditation).
Having a healthy and uplifting morning routine definitely boosts your mood for the rest of the day. But depending on your work hours, it might not suit you. I used to get up at 5am many days to start work at 6am, so as an always-tired shift-worker, getting up even earlier for a “life-changing” morning routine just wouldn’t have happened.
Takeaway for FI seekers: Regardless of our work hours and when we squeeze it in, we have to make time for important habits like exercise and reading. This needs to be non-negotiable commitments we make to ourselves. Other things like meditation and journalling also have been shown to lower stress and increase happiness and mental well-being.
Reaching Financial Independence means we are able to spend much more time on life-boosting activities like this, without the stress of work demands, home life and general fatigue getting in the way. Imagine the super-healthy life you can live in the not too distant future!
Everything is F*cked: A Book About Hope, by Mark Manson.
As with his last book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, the title is attention grabbing. And for good reason.
This book is about society itself, why we do what we do, and what gives our lives meaning and hope.
Manson outlines in incredible detail, why many of us in the West are in a state of despair, despite the world actually getting better over time on almost every metric.
As Manson puts it:
“In the developed world, we’re not suffering a crisis of wealth or material, but a crisis of character, of virtue, of means and ends. We’re childish and impulsive, or sometimes compromising adolescents, with too few real adults who do the right thing because it’s right; the maturity of our culture is deteriorating.”
It’s quite the paradox. Mark backs up his views with a mass of psychological research, and adds to it a healthy dose of ancient wisdom and philosophy.
Humans have evolved to operate best in a state of mild-dissatisfaction, almost permanently. Even stranger, we’re comfortable with (and even need) a certain level of pain in our lives. So when one type of annoyance or pain disappears, we seem to find a replacement soon after. Bizarre!
I really loved this book and I’ll be re-reading it again very soon. There are so many well-crafted points to take in and I don’t feel one casual reading has done it justice.
Mark always seems to find new counter-intuitive concepts about life, which often sound ridiculous at first, until you sit with the idea for a minute. And this book is no different.
It seems that the better things get, the more choices we have and the easier life becomes, the more difficult it is to figure out what actually matters. And, paradoxically, a good life is not about seeking rewards and pleasure by avoiding pain or struggle.
Instead, a good life is about deciding what kind of pain we want to endure, for the things in life that matter to us. Like the hair-pulling frustration of re-writing this blog post section four times because it’s not coming out right! Or, putting up with my internal pain and fear of crowds and speaking, to be part of the Playing with FIRE Sydney event.
Takeaway for FI seekers: We all need to find something that give our lives meaning. And for most of us, the regular wage-slave environment just doesn’t cut it. That’s why Financial Independence is so important. It gives us the ability to actively choose where we spend our time, to create and contribute to things that are truly important to us, thereby giving our lives greater meaning.
Wealth Ways for the Young, by Pete Wargent.
But it’s more than that. He covers all aspects of building a strong financial foundation for your children’s future:
Learning about compound interest. Everything from pocket money, chores, charity and getting started in the workplace. All the way up to investing in shares and property, and building a positive mindset around money and wealth.
He discusses encouraging your child’s crazy dreams because they might not be so crazy after all. So keep an eye out for a budding entrepreneur under your roof!
There are also great introductions to investing and getting started in the sharemarket. I even came across this in there…
Pete graciously mentions this blog in a section about investing in low-cost LICs and index funds for passive income. I’m very grateful for the plug (thanks Pete if you’re reading!).
Building good financial habits early is incredibly important… before you’re juggling three part-time jobs to keep up with your restaurant habit and monthly credit card or Afterpay repayments. If you’re a parent with children at home, then starting financial education as young as possible with a book like this is a fantastic idea.
It’s fair to say I’ve been reading and thinking lots about life lately. Just like in the finance space, we can learn different things from different people, and combine those lessons in a way that makes sense to us.
Many of these books have nothing to do with money. Yet each has important points related to the freedom, health and meaning in our lives. And to me, that’s what Financial Independence is all about!
Do you have any book recommendations? Share in the comments below…
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