Tag Archives: Reading

Testing the Medium Waters

Some of my favorite writers choose Medium as their writing platform of choice, and I’ve long admired its graceful simplicity and pleasant-to-read type.

I’ve decided to occasionally share updated and rewritten versions of posts originally published here on Medium. Maybe you’ll care. Maybe you won’t.

If you want, please read my first crack at this and “like” it because it’s true: We don’t have any idea what we’re doing, and the sooner we start admitting it to ourselves and one another, the sooner everyone gets to feel less alone.

Because we really are all in this together.

View story at Medium.com

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11 Books That Will Make You Smarter, Sexier and Awesomer

stack of books art

I read a lot.

I do it for three reasons:

  1. I believe it’s the most-efficient way to get smarter. I’m kind of obsessed with learning about everything. When I was a kid, any learning that wasn’t hands-on was a total drag and I just wanted to play. I’m older now and my priorities and interests have shifted. I want to be a genius capable of solving any problem, but I’ll have to settle for Moderately Smart Guy Who Reads A Lot (and uses Google).
  2. I’m also kind of obsessed with new ideas and discovering new ways to do or think about things. That, combined with the desire to write things, makes it wise for me to read often.
  3. I want to be sexier and awesomer. (I have little evidence this part is working, but I think it probably is.)

Not everyone likes reading or wants to do it as much as I do. But maybe you’d like to try something new. For everyone who loves books like me, here are some exceptional ones I’ve read in recent months that I hope you enjoy too.

The Art of Work by Jeff Goins

So many people are miserable because they hate their jobs and/or lives. Sometimes it seems like certain people have given up. They throw up their hands: “This is all there is!” Some people perform mundane jobs and live what I might consider mundane lives. I’m probably one of them. Sometimes people in lives like that feel satisfied and content. I applaud those people. But there are others who always feel like something’s missing. I often feel that way. The call.

Jeff Goins explores this phenomenon and the personal journey in this fantastic book about how people find their “calling.” What you were meant to do.

I love it and you probably will too because I have excellent taste.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Damn near everyone wishes they were better at something. For example, I’m shitty about cleaning my house (which is why I bought and will read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing once I stop putting it off), and effectively managing my refrigerator, and finishing my large-scale writing projects. I was officially diagnosed with adult ADHD yesterday (which I already knew and told you about), and which is an inexact science, but I still believe in personal responsibility and Duhigg’s book helps me understand why we are prone to do or not do so many of the things we do. Good stuff.

Double Feature

Steal Like an Artist 

steal like an artist

and Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

show your work

Both books are really quick, interesting reads that I have trouble differentiating from one another because I read them back-to-back within the same week. As someone interested in the creative process for writing blog posts, and more-ambitious things like books, the lessons Kleon imparts here are important to me. If you want to MAKE anything, read these books and thank me later. (Just kidding. No need to thank me. But seriously, read them.)

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson

models

I’m a little embarrassed about this one because one might get the impression I was trying to learn “pick-up” artistry (which I was not, and which this book is not about, though Manson addresses it). The author’s mission is to help men become the best versions of themselves and develop what he calls “true confidence.” Not false bravado, but legitimate comfort with oneself to establish healthy boundaries while navigating the sometimes-scary dating landscape. This book taught me a lot of things about myself, and I imagine almost any man would benefit from the important truths and psychological lessons. Frankly, I think most women would like it too. Manson has quickly become (even though he’s a bit younger than me) one of my favorite writers. You should sign up for his highly infrequent blog posts here.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher

choose yourself

This guy is my favorite writer. He has written two new books since this one (The Power of No, which I haven’t read but do own on Kindle; and The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, which I have yet to read because A. I don’t have that much money, and B. My book stack is beyond obnoxious and I just haven’t got to it yet.) Altucher is a genius and I love him. I read every blog post he writes, I listen to his podcasts on road trips, I subscribe to his monthly newsletters, and suspect I will buy every book he writes for as long as he chooses to write. No one has affected my thinking more than Altucher, and my life is better for doing so. Choose Yourself is exactly what it sounds like: A guide to rethinking EVERYTHING and making your own rules in a world that often wants you to play by someone else’s.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser

on writing well

I’m in the middle of this one now. It has already taught me so much about the art form I love most. Zinsser provides a ton of important lessons about what separates good writing from bad. (I do a lot of bad.) And the real value lies in the editing and rewriting portion of the work (which I NEVER do on this blog, sorry.) Many of you are writers, too. If you have never read this masterpiece, please remedy that soon. It’s accessible and amazing for writers of all levels and it WILL make you better. Even if you can’t tell from my work.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Bird by bird

Another book on writing, but less on science and more on art. I can’t describe this book, because its qualities are intangible. But I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you: It’s magic.

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferriss

ferriss four hour workweek

This one is a dirty lie because I haven’t read it yet, and I’m sorry to deceive you, but not really. It has 3,700 reviews on Amazon with a 4 ½-star rating, so I feel good about including it. Ferriss’ bestseller is in my monster stack and I will get to it and almost certainly write about it when I do. The reason I wanted to include it is because Ferriss is extraordinary and you should know who he is. I’ve read and listened to Ferriss many times in interviews and podcasts and articles. He’s exceptional and magnetic.

There’s never enough exceptionalism and magnetism in life. Tim Ferriss, yo. He’s legit.

The True Measure of a Man by Richard E. Simmons and Jerry Leachman

true measure of a man

Men have an identity crisis in 2015 because what it means to be a man in today’s society is radically different from what it meant for previous generations. Some men feel lost, like rudderless ships. I feel that way sometimes. People want to know why. We all just want to know WHY!?!?!? for everything. If you’re a guy and nodding your head right now? Please read this. It will help you make more sense of things. (You should read it even if you didn’t nod your head.)

Become An Idea Machine: Because Ideas are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher

idea machine

Claudia is James’ wife. So she gets bonus points from me simply by James-related osmosis. But I don’t want to minimize what she’s done here. Claudia took a staple of James Altucher’s self-improvement advice and made a nice, useful book out of it.

Bottom line: There is no skill I would rather possess than the ability to come up with great, creative ideas on-demand. Something shitty happens? BAM. I know what to do.  I want to complete a new goal? BAM. Here’s the methodology for tackling any problem with high-level thinking and execution.

That’s what this book will teach you how to do if you’re willing to grind and sweat a little (don’t get excited—I don’t mean that sexually.) Everyone can and will benefit from this book.

I always believe tomorrow can be better than today.

So, I read. Because I want to be a part of the solution.

We have Father’s Day coming up. And also, just, life.

Maybe you or someone in your life can benefit from one of these.

I hope so.

Please have a great weekend, everyone. Love you guys.

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The Writing Itch and a Love Song for One

I've got the itch.

I’ve got the itch.

I woke up today and thought to myself for the first time in my entire life: I can write a book.

I’m not saying anyone will read it.

I’m not saying it will be good.

I’m not saying I have any good ideas. I don’t.

However, I can write a book.

I believe that because of what I’ve been able to do here. It’s a productivity thing. I’ve been averaging north of 1,000 words a day for close to a half year. You can fill a couple books with that many words.

There are people in this world—amazing, creative people—who splatter good ideas all over the place. These are how successful businesses are made. How great movies and television shows are made. How the most delicious food is made. And how the best books are written.

They start with ideas.

And that’s kind of a problem, because…

I Never Have Good Ideas

Case in point: My 10-year career as a newspaper reporter prior to my layoff in late 2009.

I could write a decent story when news was happening. Piece of cake. Event X happens. I write about it.

Same’s true of this blog, really. Some life event happens. I write about it.

Easy. Don’t have to think about it. Just tell you what happened and how I feel about it.

With the news, I just had to tell you what happened.

But some days, I had to come up with “enterprise” stories. That means, I have to dig. Find an angle on some random thing and manufacture a good story out of it. Those were my most-challenging days.

The same is true here with my daily blogging efforts. If I don’t have something specific to report on, I have to come up with some enterprise idea. I try to resort to what’s top of mind, when in doubt. To document the journey as best I can. And this is what I’m thinking about.

I Want to Love Myself Again

I stood in the shower first thing this morning. Hot water stinging my neck.

I thought about something I read before bed last night about how a man changed his life by making “I love myself” a personal mantra. By truly learning to love himself again after the rigors of adult life had stolen his innocence.

And then I got to thinking about how shitty I feel sometimes. About how I felt awesome as a kid. Every day. Even with my parents divorced. Even being alone a lot.

I felt great. I was sad when people died. I was sad when one of my best friends moved away. I was sad when I had to say goodbye to my dad after summer and winter visits. But I was also resilient. Bounced back quick.

I smiled. I was positive. I was kind. I was friendly. I loved.

I loved my family. I loved my friends. I loved myself.

Then adulthood hits. Christmas stops being magical. No one cares about your birthday. You lose touch with all your friends. You don’t go to huge parties with a hundred people anymore. You don’t get the same attention from the opposite sex that you used to. Your hopes and dreams begin to die as you watch other people achieve things and wonder what they have that you don’t.

You make bad choices.

The sins pile up.

Your insides get poisoned.

And then you frown a little more. You laugh a little less.

You darken. On the inside.

I’ve spent most of my adulthood believing this phenomenon happens because we have the wool pulled over our eyes as children. We’re innocent. We don’t know how ugly the world can be. Most of us—the really fortunate ones—don’t experience extreme tragedy and hardship as children. Those moments tend not to arise until we’re wading through adulthood. We thought we’d have life figured out once we got here.

Then we arrived. And we feel less ready than ever. Less confident than ever. More unsure than ever.

The clock ticks a little bit louder now.

Tick, tick, tick.

The bottom of the hourglass constantly filling, reminding us that time isn’t on our side.

Then we feel sad.

Angry.

Depressed.

Lonely.

Unfulfilled.

We search for meaning.

Believers ask: Why me, God?

Some believers stop believing because of this. Why have you forsaken me? I guess you’re not really there at all.

Non-believers say: I told you so. Nothing matters.

Some of us die hopeless and alone.

But not all of us.

Because maybe I’ve been thinking about this all wrong. Maybe the wool wasn’t pulled over my eyes.

Maybe I just really loved myself as a child. Respected myself. Took care of myself.

I chose good over bad. I was physically fit. I got plenty of sleep.

I had friends. I felt purpose going to school. I had goals and hopes and dreams.

But mostly, I had love.

Meant to Be More

I think I stopped loving myself after my layoff.

When I would lay around all day, unshaven in sweats and a t-shirt watching TV with my two-year-old son at home while my wife went to work.

It was a new kind of worthlessness.

I don’t remember how long my wife put up with me, but I should be grateful for whatever amount of time she did.

How could I expect her to love and respect me when I didn’t even love and respect myself?

I came close to getting it back.

In 2011, I started eating right and working out every day. I lost 30 pounds and became physically stronger than I’d ever been before. People would always compliment me when they saw me. That’s always an amazing feeling.

My confidence soared.

I was offered and accepted a job in June 2011, right around my son’s third birthday. I was now making significantly more money than I’d ever made before, plus I had income from my freelance writing business.

I thought I’d finally beat back my demons at that point. Everything felt really good. Back on track.

And then in October, just a few months later, the bottom fell out again when my father-in-law died suddenly. We had dinner with him. He was the same amazing guy and grandfather he always was. Then we left. And got a phone call the next night.

Then my life spiraled out of control.

I lost everything that mattered to me when my wife walked out the door on April 1 of this year.

I fell hard. And I’m still on the floor. I just fake not being there sometimes.

And I was reading that book last night before falling asleep. I love myself. I love myself. I love myself, the guy repeated over and over and over again.

He faked it for a while.

But then the message finally started to sink in.

I love myself.

He started to believe it, because we can trick our brains.

I love myself.

Then he started living like he loved himself.

Took care of his body. Took care of his mind. Took care of his soul.

Because he loved himself. Genuinely.

And then everything changed.

He felt happy again. That really pure happiness we feel as children. Not fake happy. Not drunk happy. Not drugs happy. Not sex happy. Not money happy.

Real happy. And then all the other pieces of his life fell into place, too.

This idea makes sense to me. You say we can’t go back? We can’t have what we lost?

Maybe we can. I’ve never bothered to ask. I’ve never bothered to try.

What if life didn’t ruin us? What if we just stopped loving ourselves the way we did when innocence was all we knew?

And what if starting again is how we get to where we want to go?

Can’t hurt to try.

It’s okay if it feels corny. It’s okay if it feels fake. It’s okay if we don’t believe it.

Because if we just say it enough times, we’ll start to believe it: I love myself.

An Idea Machine

That’s what I want to be. A guy who has ideas. So I can write something that matters.

And to have ideas, I need energy. And to have energy, I need to feel good. And to feel good, I need to love myself.

I like the hot shower first thing in the morning. Some of my best thinking happens there.

I want to work out. I want to look and feel good.

I want to be good even when no one’s watching.

I want to be a better friend, father, son, grandson.

I want to be financially responsible.

And then.

I want to write a book.

I’ve always wanted to write a book. For many years, my ultimate fantasy was to sit in a movie theater watching a film based on something I’d written.

As I aged, becoming more interested in the things that make human beings do human-being things, I began to gravitate more toward non-fiction.

I like simple stories. Few characters. Emotional heartache. Forbidden lust. Poisoned hearts. Ruined lives. Healing and forgiveness. Redemption. Or stories of greed. Deceit. Or simple comedy.

I like complex stories. An EMP attack. The world goes dark. Society breaks down. It’s everyone for themselves. What’s a husband, wife and two kids to do? When the cops don’t come. When there’s no more grocery store. Or pharmacy. Or hospital. Or military defense. Or anything.

I like ongoing stories. Like great television shows or novels with reoccurring characters.

I like books that offer solutions to problems. Books that help human beings become better versions of themselves.

I need to pick one and try. Because I finally believe I can do it. And that’s a big step.

But first I need energy.

Physical fitness. Spiritual wellness. Reduced stress.

And I’ll get that by treating myself with the love and respect I feel for those who matter most.

I love myself.

I want to take risks.

Take my shot.

Choose myself.

Because I miss that happy kid from all my old photos.

And I intend to find him.

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New Thought: I Don’t Know The Secret

Psssst. You're doing it wrong, Matt.

Psssst. You’re doing it wrong, Matt.

I read The Secret. I still don’t know it.

I also read Wallace Wattles’ The Science of Getting Rich. And I’m a far cry from that.

They’re both the same book, only Wattles focused on money and wrote his version 94 years before Rhonda Byrne repackaged his ideas and made a fortune.

The genre is “New Thought.”

The premise of both books is that we create our own realities via the Law of Attraction. The law of attraction is as true and constant and impartial in our universe as the laws of physics or gravity, the authors write.

I read these books about four years ago.

My life has been infinitely shittier ever since. Which could mean a variety of things:

1. I’m doing it wrong.

2. My cosmic universal wiring is totally jacked.

3. They’re total bullshit.

Are bad things happening in your life?

Well, it’s your fault, moron!!! At least, that’s what Byrne wrote.

You caused that car accident!

You made your Aunt Gwendolyn die of cancer!

You’re the reason life sucks and there’s no money and insurance premiums are rising and the FDA is allowing all that shit into our food and the politicians are all on the take and people are getting raped and children are starving in Africa and those baby seals got clubbed!

“Your ability to think is unlimited, and so the things you can think into existence are unlimited,” Byrne wrote.

If you believe her, by tuning your mind to the proper “frequency,” you can think things into reality. You want a 1993 beige Mercury Topaz? Think about it really hard. Feel gratitude in your heart for it. And then The Secret Elves in deep space who probably aren’t even getting hazard pay build it for you, and—BAM!—you’ve just Secret-ed yourself a fancy “new” ’93 Topaz. Booya.

“You have the ability to choose what you want to experience,” Byrne wrote. “The Universe offers all things to all people through the law of attraction.”

Maybe I’m Doing it Wrong

This is totally possible. I do tons of things wrong!

Maybe I’m just bad at Secret-ing stuff. Maybe I need to practice harder. Maybe my mind isn’t on the correct “frequency.” Maybe I should stop trying to conjure up 20-year-old Ford Tempo knockoffs. But seriously, since reading those books, I’ve lost a job and my family.

Worst. Secret-er. Ever.

Did I lose my job because I attracted the layoff back in 2009?

Did I lose my wife because I feared losing her?

Did her dad die because she was afraid of losing her father?

Are we only in control of us, Rhonda Byrne? Can we make other people do things with our minds?

Do bad things happen to other people because we worry FOR them? Are all of my friends and family in mortal peril because of me? Can the space elves make things for other people?

Don’t sleep on the space elves.

They can make ANYTHING in their magical Universe toy-building shop.

You just have to know The Secret.

But I’m still not in on it.

My Cosmic Universe Wiring is Totally Jacked

Sometimes, electricians—amateur and professional—make mistakes. They put the red wire where the blue wire was supposed to be. The yellow wire and the green wire get crisscrossed. Shit happens.

Maybe, just maybe, my wiring into the Universe was not installed correctly.

Case in point: My personal life.

Fact #1 – I read The Secret.

Fact #2 – I read The Science of Getting Rich.

Fact #3 – I tried to incorporate many of the principles into my daily life. I have an open mind. I swear.

Fact #4 – I tried to visualize being wealthy and living happily ever after in a gorgeous home with my wife and son.

Fact #5 – My wife filed for divorce. My son is now gone half the time, and I have less money than ever.

They’re Total Bullshit

What if?

What if there are no space elves out in the Universe building the things we think up and sending it to us in magical rocket ships that materialize as new jobs, or lottery wins, or chicken pox, or AIDS?

What if the law of attraction is more of a metaphor?

A reminder that visualizing success and working for it and being positive and helping others and having faith and being a good person and displaying gratitude is simply a universal recipe for someone to whom good fortune tends to smile upon?

Isn’t that possible, Rhonda Byrne? Isn’t that possible, Wallace Wattles?

I don’t know.

I. DON’T. KNOW.

If I’m Secret-ing all these bad things into my life, I need to figure out how to stop.

If I’m getting royally screwed by the space elves because my wiring was installed by some disgruntled electrician from the Local #2749 Secret Universe Electrical Workers Guild, I’m going to be pissed. But more importantly, I need to figure out how to rewire it.

And if it’s all bullshit, then I’m just annoyed that Wattles wrote something revolutionary in 1910 only to have Byrne repackage it, make a fortune, and get a bunch of people’s hopes up about their futures, and then tell us we have no one to blame but ourselves when we get a galactic-sized dick in the ass.

You know what, though?

I think there’s a chance Byrne just wants to help people. I want to help people, too. I just whine a lot more than she does.

If I can just get the space elves to deliver me some Secret ass lube, I might be able to walk a little straighter.

Then, my friends, we can let the healing begin.

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