Reading (or listening to) a book is not enough to make a significant impact in your life. Two things have to happen concurrently.
1) It needs to speak to you using language that resonates with you
2) You need to be at a point in your life where you are ready to receive that message.
The 2nd point is something that is often overlooked. There are many fantastic books out there that people won’t fully absorb because they are simply not in a position to receive that information.
Recently I read, (and then immediately re-read) the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. This book has jumped to the top of my list for books you absolutely need to read at some point in your life.
I think it’s important to understand what got us to this point in history, but I don’t think you need to need to read 100 history textbooks–this is engaging and pertinent to humans
2) Fictional Reality
It unravels and identifies the various fictions that comprise our current reality (for example, democracy and capitalism are both completely fabricated by humans–they just happen to work pretty well for organizing very large groups of people)
From an exercise standpoint, it gives a basis of what our lives were probably like, and what our bodies are naturally geared for. (It’s mainly walking, talking, and procreating–we were mostly scavengers and gatherers for a long time before we became very effective hunters.)
4) Interpersonal Comparison
One thing that our various fictions allowed us to do was to cooperate in very large groups. These unifying beliefs have allowed us to dominate the world as the most effective animals. However, it has also caused us to compare ourselves to not just those in our immediate locale–but to the top fraction of 1% globally.
Essentially, it makes no sense for me to compare the way I look to Brad Pitt or my finances to Bill Gates–but we all do it. Right now someone reading this is comparing their physique to something they saw on a magazine cover (another fictional reality) and lamenting over the fact that they only have a $50,000 car when their neighbor has a $100,000 car. This comparison is likely not going to do anyone any favors from a happiness or satisfaction standpoint.
Don’t compare what you have or who you are to others, it will not serve you.
Try this brain homework:
Think of all the things in your life that cause your stress or anxiety and see which of them are actually real things (rather than human fabrications).
I am hungry (that is a real concern, eat some food)
I gained a pound and now I want to have gastric bypass surgery and liposuction. (ask yourself, what is a pound? Why do we measure ourselves in pounds? What is it about the number of fictional units that carries an emotional weight. Would you be happier if you measured yourself in kilograms?
Let’s look at this with my current weight of 195 pounds (note: I am 10lbs heavier than a few years ago).
Does it feel better with a smaller number?
–>195 pounds = 88kg
–>195 pounds= 14 stone
14 of something seems reasonable right?
Would a bigger number be better?
–>195 pounds = 3120 ounces
That doesn’t seem too heavy does it?
One key takeaway here is that you get a deeper understanding of humanity, and maybe more importantly, of relativity. Understand that how much weight you lift, what food you eat, how much you weigh, are all just relative to everything else–and intrinsically they mean nothing.
I found this book to be extremely liberating, the stories to be both informative and engaging, and I can’t recommend this book enough. I wish I had read it when I was in high school, and again when I was in college, and again every 5 years.
I’m not alone in this recommendation, many of the top performers in the world in a wide variety of arts, sciences, and business have Sapiens as their #1 go-to.
Pick it up, apply the lessons, and deconstruct the fictional reality around you.
Better every day,