Oh, if I heard all the secrets from my future self, would it even help? “Future Self” by Boehm
Time travel seems pretty complicated. Given how hard it is to navigate time in one direction, in this “simple” life, I don’t trust myself to go back and start messing around. But I would consider sending a time travel module back to my younger self, with five choice reading selections. I believe this is a pending feature of Amazon Prime.
I should add that I envision sending this module back to my 17 year-old self. At that point my capacity for understanding is at least somewhat reasonable, and my accumulation of regrets relatively minimal.
Interestingly enough, these are books I discovered in the past ten years. What the heck was I reading from ages 17 to 37? It obviously didn’t make the same impression. I understand that a rich life exists beyond these books, in the spiritual, technical, fantastical and all other realms of literature. But these are designed to provide heartfelt but practical guidance, and you could do a lot worse.
Without further ado, here are the books for my pimply, mullet-headed, know-it-all former self.
When we head out of high school into the big world, we have to execute the program. Navigate the maze of life, do the things that society tells us to do, and the vegan cheeze of happiness is ours – all ours! As Lyubomirsky describes, it is not that simple. The “secrets” of real happiness can be quite different than what we think. The payoff in understanding can come in avoiding crap that simply won’t make us happy (Hint: it is not a bigger TV or finally having the requisite 2.2 children). It can also come in accepting happiness without shame or suspicion even if we aren’t “keeping up with the Joneses”
Here are two choices: we can wait until life’s problems become a crisis, then pour ourselves into expensive and difficult therapy. Or, we can pick up this book and pay attention. Livingston provides excellent advice on a host of topics around love, children, aging, loss and the meaning of life. The chapter title “The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood dramas” gives you an idea of his approach. He is big on accountability, which can be both frightening and empowering. Regardless of how we got to the difficulties we find ourselves in, the question is the same: “What’s next?”. The next move is up to us.
Thankfully my seventeen year old self does not know much about statistics, so will likely be thoroughly impressed that Gottman can predict divorce better than 90% of the time – just from watching a video of the couple!
Most successful relationships don’t result from a divine match. Relationships require work, and using skills few of us were born with. Gottman helps couples differentiate between “solvable and unsolvable” problems and learn how to take action. This book includes practical guidance to apply principles such as “nurturing your fondness and admiration for each other” and “developing shared meaning”. It sounds groovy, but there is some tough love too: Gottman also describes the warning signs that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are thundering into our relationships.
Even though money isn’t everything, it is certainly a tool that can be used as part of a happy life filled with meaning. Entrepreneurship and running a small business is stressful, but rewarding in so many ways.
A number of years ago, a colleague and I sat down with the idea of writing a snappy business book. The working title was something in the order of “Balls, Brains and Bucks: Working Smarter and Harder for Success in Your Business”. One day at the used bookstore I saw Fox’s book. I quickly realized that Fox had said most of what we wanted to say. So much for our writing project.
Many of Fox’s books are excellent (“How to Become a Rainmaker” and “The Dollarization Discipline” are close seconds), but this is my favourite. The advice is applicable to many different types of livelihood. He has an amusing and friendly style. Sample chapters: “It’s OK to Pick Fleas Off a Dog”, “Hire Ex-Paperboys”, and the best of all “Price to Value”. Hopefully younger me would get started earlier in exploring what kids are calling “side hustles” these days.
This is a humbling book. Kahneman and Amos Tversky carried out many simple but elegant experiments to demonstrate just how “lazy and illogical” our brains can be. Every 17 year-old could use a bit of humbling. Understanding how our brains are poor at gauging probabilities and payoffs is a great step in avoiding mental pitfalls. Or at very least it might allow us to tread more carefully when we know our minds might lead us astray. For example: when negotiating a salary or a used car price, or investing in a stock, or judging people at first impression. Of the five books, this 500 pager is the most likely to sit on the bookshelf under some pizza boxes. It proves an enjoyable but lengthy read once the latest instalment of the “Book of Swords” has been devoured.
If you can find a copy of any of these at your library, used bookstore, or yard sale – grab it. Read it before passing it onto the eye-rolling youngsters in your life.
What books would you recommend to your past self and why? And which past self? Drop a comment and share your thoughts.