The Alchemist is a story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure as extravagant as any ever found. Along the way, the story of the treasures Santiago finds teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, above all, following our dreams.
The Alchemist circles and returns to an individual's personal legend: life’s spiritual purpose.
Today, we are realizing the fragility of life delivered by this nondiscriminatory disease. For many, myself included, this book by Coehlo has provided the opportunity to evaluate if I am living in alignment, and as I sit in reflection it’s a valued companion.
The Miracle of Mindfulness
Thich Nhat Hanh
The Miracle of Mindfulness is a series of translated letters from 1968 — written while Thich Nhat Hanh was exiled from Vietnam — instructing young monks overseas on meditation. Throughout this guide, Thich Nhat Hanh offers gentle anecdotes and practical exercise as a means of learning the skills of mindfulness — being awake and fully aware.
When asked what actions a person could do to improve their health, Deepak Chopra, offered sleep, love, and meditation as alternative-medicine anecdotes. This has been echoed by doctors worldwide in the years since.
Meditation, defined by popular app Headspace is training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. “You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgment. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.”
In The Miracle of Mindfulness, Thich Nhat Hanh’s introduction to the practice of Meditation, he aims to assist the reader in arriving at mindfulness in all moments of life. From washing dishes to breathing on a walk.
During a time of intense stress and uncertainty, a grounding daily mindfulness practice such as meditation has been one of the few constants in life.
The Last Lecture
With a terminal cancer diagnosis, Carnegie Mellon computer science professor Randy Pausch gave his last lecture, Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams, to an overflowing audience in a university auditorium.
But, this lecture wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
In the face of death, Pausch, in The Last Lecture, reflected on his life, what was important, where he screwed up, and what he wants for his wife and children when he passes. Written during his final days, Pausch was able to maintain his childlike spirit and spill it into this book for all to access.
The Last Lecture is the single most influential book I’ve read in life, and each page is a grounding reminder about what is truly important in life. During stay-in-place orders, we are without our usual luxuries, our daily commutes, and our drinks after work, daily moments that are now replaced with time. Time to sit in reflection about what is truly important in this one life we have.
Last week, my family, like hundreds of thousands around the world, received the news that two family members had tested positive for COVID-19, and rather than speculate or grieve, I thought of Pausch’s words: “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”
On a normal day, a daily reading habit would occupy one’s leisure time, but if you are not a person with an essential role, you may have additional time on your hands these days to venture beyond this habit. Weaved through this quick read is the suggestion that we use this extra time to better ourselves, beginning with reflection.
To amplify this process, here are three podcasts that have shaped who I am today, that I often return to for their wisdom.
Hidden Brain With Adam Grant
Adam Grant is the author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World in which he discusses choosing to champion novel ideas and values that go against the grain, battling conformity, and bucking outdated traditions.
I first listened to each of these podcasts on a bus trip from Boston to New York during a time when I was contemplating leaving a job in pursuit of, well, originality.
As an idea generator, I often return to these podcasts, and his book for both inspiration, and a voice that says “No!”
As I reflect on where my time has been invested in a pre-COVID-19 world, I have been considering what updates I might make once a new normal settles.
Adam Grant, author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, tells us what makes an original, how parents can nurture originality in their children and its potential downside.
- Episode 22: Originals
What does it mean to be an original? As part of our summer series, You 2.0, we talk with psychology professor Adam Grant about innovators and the challenges they face. Adam gives his take on what makes an original, how parents can nurture originality in their children and the potential downsides of non-conformity.
- You 2.0: Originals
Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations With Dr. Maya Angelou
The late Dr. Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist. With one of the most incredible resume’s of life work, reaching back long before her work with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X during the civil rights movement, listening to Dr. Maya Angelou is soothing and surreal. Together, with openings from Oprah, Dr. Maya Angelou spills wisdom as if the keeper of all secrets for century-old forests.
Dr. Angelou discusses her last book, “Mom & Me & Mom,” delving into one of the deepest personal stories of her life: her relationship with her mother. Dr. Angelou shares intimate memories of her childhood, including the nine words her nurturing yet fiery mother said to her that changed her life forever, challenging her to find strength in the face of adversity.
- Dr. Maya Angelou, Part 1: 9 Words That Changed Her Life
Dr. Angelou shares some of her greatest life lessons on aging brilliantly and living with gratitude. She is moved to tears as she recalls the revelation that changed her life forever, and reveals the best piece of advice she ever received.
- Dr. Maya Angelou, Part 2: Best Advice She Ever Received
The Rich Roll Podcast with Dan Buettner of The Blue Zones
Rich Roll has long been a role model of mine. In 2015, I learned of his athletic accomplishments, sobriety, and plant-based lifestyle in his book Finding Ultra, introduced to me through a good friend entrepreneur Pat McAuley. In the half-decade since this introduction, one could argue I’ve adjusted my life to emulate Rolls.
One of the greatest discoveries through Rich Roll’s podcast has been The Blue Zones, pockets of the world home to the world’s longest-lived people. The Blue Zones are the result of years of work by explorer and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner.
In this episode, Buettner returns to the Rich Roll podcast to talk longevity as a result of food, friends, family, and movement, then surprises listeners with research on the world’s happiest people.
Many very well might emerge from this time with a new life direction, and I’d strongly advise anyone considering making changes to use this episode as a resource in that effort.
Today we synthesize all of Dan’s work in a primer on how to live a long and fulfilling life. Not surprisingly, the conversation begins with food. It extends to building better communities. It’s underscored by finding purpose. And sharing what you’ve learned for the betterment of others.
In 2019, Ibram X. Kendi, Executive Director of The Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University, wrote in How To Be An Anti-Racist that “The opposite of ‘racist’, isn’t ‘not racist.”
I read this book in the fall of 2019 and have since gifted it many times over to friends and owners of conservative Facebook rants to give them the opportunity to self-educate the way I did when reading this.
Through the pages of this book, you will be awakened to antiracism.
How To Be An Anti-Racist
Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America — but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.
With love and gratitude,
Prior to the new year, I spent a flight home from Europe detailing all the tools I use to run my business and brand for under $40 per month. I did this in Gmail, responding to a friend. A few days after sending, I decided it might be a useful list for others, and shared with The Startup.
The 9 Subscriptions You Should Bring With You Into 2020
For $32.43 each month, I can radically transform myself.
The difference between Seth Godin, The Morning Brew, and me? I respect your inbox, curating only one newsletter per month — Join my behind-the-words monthly newsletter to feel what it’s like to receive a respectful newsletter.
And, for those interested in what else I’m building, come over to RICKiRICKi.