Where Would We Be Without Boooooooks?

(It’s A Rhetorical Question, Sir.)

If you’ve never heard “Bookworm” on NPR, don’t worry. All you need to do is listen to about 2 minutes of an episode and the above song lyric will be forever stuck in your head. Do yourself a HUGE favor by finding it and reporting back to me. It’s magical.

I was never much of a reader. Once college ended, I pretty much stopped reading books. I still bought them and occasionally gifted them but rarely read them. People would ask about and talk about what books I was or should be reading and wasn’t, and I largely avoided any conversation that surrounded reading. If I did pick up a book to read I would get about halfway through and never return.

It was that way with knowledge and learning in general all through my twenties and early thirties. My twenties were a post-intellectual period and an altogether dumb dumb (me, not life overall) time. I was challenging many of my childhood paradigms and found myself “killing time” when I wasn’t working a day job. I think I even found myself feeling “bored” at times. I can’t imagine ever being bored now. I can’t imagine any human ever being bored. Louis CK has a fantastic bit about boredom, and I completely resonate. But that’s a different post for a different day.

My first relationship ended at the transition between ages 30 and 31, so the next four years or so were me playing 21 again. I spent a lot of time rediscovering what it meant to be attractive to, and attracted to, the opposite sex, which meant doing little other than working a highly lucrative serving job and chasing tail. I didn’t know that women I found hot could ever think I was — mind blown (along with a lot of my cash money. Y’all are expensive sometimes.) Anyway, I didn’t have time for self-education. I was learning the ways of amore.

Flash forward to me finally figuring out what I wanted to do with my life at the ripe young age of 35, doing some of it, and losing all of the passion somewhere around mid-36. Age 37 hit me post-breakup from the only other long-term (but truly incredible) relationship I’ve had, sadness settled in (as previously written about,) sobriety broke through, and New Year 2017 landed in my lap along with a copy of Tools of Titans and I suddenly became a reader.

From that early morning of the first day of 2017 until now, I can’t seem to get enough knowledge.

What changed?

For one, mortality crept in. Rather than become the slovenly being I’d rather be and live the rest of my days watching reruns of C.O.P.S., I want to know stuff. And I want to DO the stuff based on the stuff I KNOW. My passion for filmmaking has become a bit of an obsession, and telling a few good stories with my life seems an excellent use of it. I got out my Dad’s old SLR from the 70’s the yesterday, found the pdf manual for it online, and read it. Yeah, 25 year-old MJ would NOT have done that.

For two, sobriety has made me voracious for understanding and good use of my time. Audio books and listening to podcasts have replaced music in the car, during showers, or while cooking. I want to learn from every single person who has made something great, and the podcasts I listen to are like free master classes. Being sober and knowing life is temporary sure make a person aware of the value of his time.

Reading and hearing the written word have changed my life and my approach to life in ways I never imagined. The desire for knowledge feels like it arrived late, but I’m not complaining. My brother reminded me of that quote, “Youth is wasted on the young,” and it couldn’t feel more appropriate than now. Sure, I’m still young, but it would have been nice to realize that I’m capable of anything and everything somewhere around 17 or 27. So, if you ARE 17 or 27 (or heck, 67), take it from me- YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU WANT TO DO AND BE ANYTHING YOU WANT TO BE IF YOU WANT IT BADLY ENOUGH.

Here are a few of the life-changers for me:

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss- This is the one that started it all. It’s a 500-pager of interviews with some of the greatest minds of our time covering all manner of topic. It looks like a coffee table book, but it ain’t. It’s broken up in three parts- Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise, and many of the interviews are condensed from his podcast which is also a daily source of life-changing-ness. I started reading the Casey Neistat chapter once every day. “Work Hard. Be Brave.” Those words ring in my ears…

Vagabonding by Rolf Potts- this is the first audiobook I’ve ever listened to. I started it on day one of my L.A. Sabbatical, and I finished it quickly. It’s one part theory of travel, one part romance of travel, and one part practicality of travel. Read it. Or listen to it. Either way, it’s amazing.

The Four-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss- also a must-read if you’re not where you want to be in your career or are thinking of changing things up, starting that business, or simply want to make more money. It’s also an incredibly practical workbook to get things you’re thinking out of your head and onto the page. DO THE EXERCISES. Don’t skip them like you want to. You’ll thank yourself later.

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger- I LOVE this book. The stories are stand-alone for the most part, but some of them also have some relevance to his later work. “For Esme- with Love and Squalor” is one of the most touching and impactful fictional stories I’ve ever read. It’s the only written word that’s ever brought me to tears. One day I’ll make the short film version of it…just have to win over the people who own his stuff first. “The Laughing Man” is also a great one to start with. I can’t say enough about this collection. Truly incredible work.

I really think the change from never reading to reading every day came as a natural byproduct of finding purpose. Nowadays I can’t find enough time to read, which is actually a good thing, because I could easily get lost in the theory and effectively lose the practice.

So it seems the reason that the books I’ve read these past three months have been so life-changing is because life has changed so, so much.