Sunday, 22 February 2015

Mastering the art of being brilliant (and how to be one of the super-happy 2%)

During a recent mentoring session I was recommended several books for business and personal development. These were to help me work out where I want to be, where to start, how to become a more confident leader and thinker, that sort of thing.

The books included:

It was this last book, The Art of Being Brilliant, which the mentor really had good things to say about. The book, she told me, helps you to develop the kind of attitude that takes you from good to brilliant in all aspects of life.

The Art of Being Brilliant

We reckon only about 2% of people fall into the category of feeling consistently great.  The “2%ers” stand out a mile. They are enthusiastic, optimistic, energetic, effervescent and possess a 'can-do' mentality. Research shows that they live longer, are more productive and raise the happiness levels of the people around them.

- Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker

It's an easy read, at under 200 pages. There are lots of diagrams (simple ones, mind), drawings, and pages to write down your answers to questions. 

The first set of questions includes:

Being brilliant with Andy Cope and Andy Whittaker
  • Think of someone who inspires you. What exactly do they do that makes you feel so brilliant?
  • Who are you at your best?
  • It's your 100th birthday and there's a big family party in your honour. Someone is going to stand up and say a few words about you. What would you like them to say?

The book is full of positivity, and shares "six common-sense principles to transform your life". It sounds quick-fix, but like the authors say, it's really all just common sense that we could do with being reminded of.

If you want to discover what you're good at, make the most of what you've got, and work out where you want to go next, this book is a superb place to start.

A quick warning: this book contains a lot of exclamation marks.

It's safe to say that positive thinking won't let you do 'anything'. However, it is even safer to say that positive thinking will let you do 'everything' better than negative thinking will. Positive thinking will let you use the ability which you have, and that is awesome. It works this way. You can walk into a dark room, flip on the switch and immediately the room is lighted. Flipping the switch did not generate the electricity; it released the electricity which had been stored. Positive thinking works that way - it releases the abilities which you have.

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

Marina Keegan's list of interesting stuff, and why we should create our own

I wrote about Marina Keegan's book The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories towards the end of last year. I suggested that the collection could be used to find hope and the courage to be creative, but there was something else that particularly inspired me.

This was Keegan's list of Interesting Stuff, which is mentioned in the book's introduction by the essayist and professor Anne Fadiman.

Fadiman recalls how, in an application to her first-person writing class, Marina wrote the following:

About three years ago, I started a list. It began in a marbled notebook but has since evolved inside the walls of my word processor. Interesting stuff. That's what I call it. I'll admit it's become a bit of an addiction. I add to it in class, in the library, before bed, and on trains. It has everything from descriptions of a waiter's hand gestures, to my cab driver's eyes, to strange things that happen to me or a way to phrase something. I have 32 single-spaced pages of interesting stuff in my life.

I find this fascinating: a source of creative wisdom and inspiration, yet also a trove of memories and everyday experiences.

When reading The Opposite of Loneliness, Fadiman's mention of Marina's list sets us up for the stories and essays ahead, and it's hard to doubt the influence it must have had on her writing and creativity.

It's something more than a journal, and much more personal than using Evernote to collect snippets of interestingness on our phone.

Let's keep note of the words that inspire us, the smallest moments of beauty we notice, and thoughts that come to us that don't fit any other list.

More list worship

Sydney Smith's twenty antidotes to depression
Ernest Hemingway's list of twenty books we ought to read
Leo Tolstoy's "Rules of Life"
Charles Darwin's list on the pros and cons of marriage (and the importance of books)

Like more of the same? Subscribe to the Tolstoy Therapy Newsletter and receive a round-up of the week's articles every Sunday to enjoy with your coffee. Click here to subscribe or take a look at an example copy here.