“Know thyself” - Socrates
How do you find the time to read? This is a question I'm mostly asked at speaking sessions or by friends and family hoping to explore an additional activity to indulge themselves in. The answer is simple: I read to escape, I write to find myself. As a young boy, my father would convince me to read by paying me 1 Ghana Cedi for every book I completed. Keep in mind, my father was one who never stepped a foot in a school hall, however, the man saw and truly valued the power of knowledge. He believed the application of it to be power.
This year has been quite an exciting one for reading both digestible and extremely challenging books. I really enjoyed The Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie and his essay, The Gospel of Wealth, where a big take away was “the man who dies rich dies disgraced.” On the other hand, Hero of a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell reminded me of the widely read book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. In Campbell's book, he rather explores the Hero’s Journey by drawing references from religion, philosophy to the social forms of the primitive days. If you are looking to pivot on your life journey in 2018, it’s worth carving out some time for this book.
Another fantastic read was The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcahy. It’s evident the world is increasingly becoming a globalized village and the ones who are eager to sharpen their skillsets and invest in their personal and professional growth will continue to stay ahead of the curve. As the co-founder of Zipcar, Robin Chase said: “My father had one job in his lifetime, I will have six jobs in my lifetime, and my children will have six jobs at the same time.” Ironically, the book drew a close relation to one of my personal favourites; Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday. This compelling non-fiction helped me comprehend that in order to achieve true greatness, we must let go of the belief that the world revolves around us. When we are truly following our hearts (and not just our egos, which is what most of us do most of the time), we are tapped into our true passions in life. We are doing what we most love, and we find our lives full of increased energy, creativity, joy, and purpose. We simply feel alive when we are moving within the flow of life. Are you looking to challenge your perspective? You cannot go wrong with these books:
Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl
In this book, author Viktor Frankl makes the point that life is not primarily a quest for pleasure, as Freud believed, or a quest for power, as Alfred Adler taught, but a quest for meaning. The greatest task for any person is to find meaning in her or his life. Frankl saw three possible sources for meaning: 1) by creating a work or doing a deed 2) by experiencing something or encountering someone and 3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering. As we go through different phases in life, we often encounter obstacles that either make us stronger or completely paralyzes our drive. The latter occurs when we aim at the widely accepted view of success. However, the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued, it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. If there is one takeaway from Frankl’s book, that is, the meaning of your life is to help others find the meaning of theirs.
Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now.
Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey
Capitalism is one of those words that makes people either cringe or rejoice. In Conscious Capitalism, author John Mackey craftily paints how the leaders of conscious businesses care about service to others because that is what ultimately leads to fulfillment and value creation. Having a higher purpose is the starting point of what it means to be a conscious business: being self-aware, recognizing what makes the company truly unique, and discovering how the company can best serve. Increasingly, we live in a generation where most people are launching businesses for financial gain as opposed to discovering the true purpose of their entrepreneurial journey. According to Mackey, purpose is the difference you are trying to make in the world, mission is the core strategy that must be undertaken to fulfill that purpose, and vision is a vivid, imaginative conception, or view of how the world will look once your purpose has been realized.
Conscious leaders abundantly display many of the qualities we most admire in exemplary human beings. They usually find great joy and beauty in work, and in the opportunity to serve, lead, and help shape a better future. Since they are living their calling, they are authentic individuals who are eager to share their passion with others. They are dedicated to their work, which recharges and energizes them instead of draining them.
The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason
The biggest lesson I generated from this book is “Pay yourself first.” Incorporating this discipline into my lifestyle has propelled me to be more financially conscious and mindful of my daily spending habits. In this book, author George Samuel Clason makes the point that money is plentiful for those who comprehend the simple rules of its acquisition. He breaks these rules into seven steps:
Start thy purse to fattening - For every ten coins you put in your savings account, take out for use but nine.
Control thy expenditures - Budget your expenses so that you may always have the income to pay for necessities.
Make thy gold multiply - One’s wealth is not in the coins (s)he carries daily, it is in the income (s)he builds.
Guard thy treasures against loss - Invest only where the principal is safe and where it may be claimed, if desirable. Always consult with experienced professionals.
Make of thy dwelling a profitable investment - If you can invest part of the remaining balance after paying yourself first, your savings will grow faster.
Ensure a future income - Provide in advance for the needs of your future and the protection of your family.
Increase the ability to earn - We currently live in the gig-economy, where there is always someone willing to pay for your skills. Continue to sharpen your skillsets, utilize them, and your interests to generate additional income.
Wealth that comes quickly goeth the same way. Wealth that stayeth to give enjoyment and satisfaction to its owner comes gradually, because it is a child born of knowledge and persistent purpose.
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
This book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions. There are times I laughed, other times I cried, and even got filled with rage. Author Trevor Noah is truly a remarkable and talented professional. In his book, he shares his experience growing up in South Africa and how the apartheid contributed to his experience as a child born to interracial parents. The ultimate goal of apartheid was to make South Africa a white country, with every black person stripped of her or his citizenship and relocated to live in the homelands. Unable to completely fit in this enigma caused Noah to embrace solitude and use his pain as a weapon to sharpen his wits. Fortunate for Noah, his mother was adventurous; exposing him to the possibilities of imagining and dreaming ambitiously. As she shared with him, “I chose to have you because I wanted something to love and something that would love me unconditionally in return.”
So many black families spend all of their time trying to fix the problems of the past. That is the curse of being black and poor, and it is a curse that follows you from generation to generation. My mother calls it “the black tax.” Because the generations who came before you have been pillaged, rather than being free to use your skills and education to move forward, you lose everything just trying to bring everyone behind you back up to zero.
GRIT by Angela Duckworth
GRIT is one of those books that almost forces you to take action. Reading this book helped me solidify my life philosophy, which is to create meaningful experiences that help people thrive. In her book, Author Duckworth shares that it’s a combination of passion and perseverance that makes the high achievers special. In other words, as much as talent counts, effort counts as twice. Based on the countless number of interviews Duckworth conducted to write this book, she concluded that passion for your work is a little bit of discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening.
Consider the parable of the bricklayers: Three bricklayers are asked: “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” And the third says: “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.
- Jeph Acheampong