Why is it that I feel so comfortable taking advice from a perfect stranger?
I invite someone I have never met before into my home and my head and let them change me. No, I’m not talking about Scientologists, I’m talking about authors.
For those of you that know me personally or have been following FromBrownEyes since its conception, you already know that I love to read. Growing up, my favorite books were always novels. Harry Potter and a Series of Unfortunate Events when I was younger and Pride and Prejudice and East of Eden when I was older. Now, my taste has changed yet again. For about a year and a half now I have been on a memoirs and self-development kick.
It all began with Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist from the New Yorker. Wanting to read something that I might be able to learn from, I picked up a few of his books. After reading almost every book he has published in quick succession, I moved on to other works of research-based insights. I read Think Like a Freak, which, like Gladwell’s books, finds the intersection between “interesting stories…and interesting research.”
The goal of these books are to prompt and answer the “but, why?” questions. But, why do we make snap decisions? But, why do we believe in illogical magic tricks? But, why does it pay off to be the underdog? These authors prompted me to continue questioning. I began to ask, “But, why would organizing your closet make you happier?” and “But, why would women get paid less than men for the same work?”
A friend and mentor of mine one said, “If you want to be an expert on something, write a book.” I was looking for answers to these questions, so I took to the experts.
Wanting to learn and grow during my step back, I created categories of my interests. I started with three big interests: how careers (I had just quit my job), home life (I had just moved back into my parents’), and openness to new experiences (I decided to travel and start this blog) would affect my happiness. In my research, learned about one woman’s view on the gender pay gap in Knowing Your Value, about the art of de-cluttering in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and how to say “Yes” in Year of Yes.
I continued my journey by exploring how humor can make a bad situation better in Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me, Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, and Tina Fey’s Bossypants. I about how the best place to find yourself might be in prison, hiking a mountain, or by joining the military. I learned why we write about ourselves, start our own businesses, and flight a loosing battle with cancer.
Whether it was my thought process, habits, or goals, each and every book has changed me. Opening myself to the words and influence of strangers has been one of the most gratifying experiences of my step back. These books have challenged me to take on new perspectives, all with a common goal of finding new or better sources of happiness.
Initially I found it hard to change my routines and habits. But once I acknowledged my desire to simplify the stresses in my life and boost my happiness, I began seeking out and listening to these strangers’ tips. Some pieces of advice stuck (I still ‘spend out‘ as Rubin suggests and practice Kondo’s one-in-one-out rule) and some books pushed me away from trying something new entirely (although it worked out well for both Kerman and Strayed, I have little desire to spend a year in prison or hike the Pacific Crest Trail, respectively). That is the beauty of reading: you can experience something new from the safety of your bed. But, the true excitement and gratification happens when you jump out of bed and ask yourself, “But, why don’t I give this a whirl?”
Want to see what is on my summer reading list? Click here.
What books have inspired you to make changes in your life? Let us know below.