Friday, July 30, 2010

How I benefitted from a cheesy self-help book

Last night, I read Robin Sharma’s The Greatness Guide -2 – 101 ways to reach the next level. Don’t laugh. I was done pouring highlights of my day into the last pages of my diary. I needed something to read.

The life of Pi, hardback, limited edition, illustrated by Tomislav Torjanac wasn’t exciting me. Tiger, boy, lost at sea --- er, no. Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess could wait. And Bill Bryson’s Mother Tongue was a bit academic for my mood.

I don’t buy self help books. If I did, I’d admit it. But the crappy literature lining my bookshelf is because a books editor, author and colleague allows one to keep the trash that comes his way to review. That’s how Greatness ended up on my bookshelf, ‘sharing real estate’ with The Language of Apology and Dirty Secrets.

So anyway, there I was, whining away to myself on pen and paper till I glanced at the title of this book that I had forgotten was lying with me. I’d entered the trap. I picked up the book and I couldn’t put it down. Out of curiosity, I told myself. Heaven forbid I was actually enjoying this stuff! And then, you know what, it helped. My mood improved. I became a sucker. Why else would I read on? And there, I realised ‘my subconscious desire to be a better person’. I put this in quotes because it makes me self conscious but I’m working on it.

Five minutes into the book, I started to tear little bits of shopping tags to mark pages I liked. I played a memory test with myself. I put the book down and tried to remember what the hell Ribin Sharma said that I liked so much. The man quotes Shakespeare, Coldplay, a manager of a hotel in Goa, his 11-year old daughter, Bianca and Martin Luther king, Jr.

To thine own self be true. -- Shakespeare

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. -- King Jr.

And then his chapter names, with a relevant quote that made sense to me. Let me pick ten.

Wear shiny shoes – The way you do little things says a lot about the way you will do the big things.

Beware of victim speak -- No matter what life sends us, we are responsible for the way we respond.

Find perfect moments – Sure, life could always be better. But happiness is all about gaining a sense of proportion and perspective.

There are no mistakes -- Everything that has happened to you in your life – the good and the difficult – was necessary to help you become the person you are now.

(I love me, so this suits me fine. I nodded along more to the quotes that I believe in. Obvious? Yes, I suppose so.)

Listen carefully – Every person you meet knows at least one thing that you don’t; don’t let them leave without learning it.

Time passes too fast – Go the extra mile in all you do. Speak truthfully. Live with honour. And have some fun. Because one day, your time will run out.

Find uncomfortable friends/ go through ideas and experiences that stretch us. Grow into your greatness -- Why spend time with people at work who play at mediocre? Why have friends in your personal life who resign themselves to being ordinary?

ABC (Always be connecting) – Find ways to connect. With the people you work with. With the loved ones you live with. And with the strangers with whom you share this journey called life with.

Don’t fight for your excuses -- No great life was built on a foundation of excuses. So stop making them.

Angels in your evolution – Everyone who is causing you stress, struggle and challenge in your life might be an angel of sorts...carrying the lessons you most need to learn.

Your highest freedom – “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms to choose one’s attitude to a given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” Victor Frankl, an Austrian psychotherapist who survived confinement in Nazi concentration camps.

On the burden of greatness – At the end of our lives, the only thing that endures is who we became, the difference we made and the love we gave.

I couldn’t pick just ten. He says these things that are obvious, but a reminder never hurt anyone, not me least of all. He shook me out of a meh mood. I’m grateful for that. He made me feel better. And in places, I laughed -- well, smirked, anyway because I thought of people in my head whom a quote was tailored for. I'm thinking I could have a cup of coffee with this man. If he's funny we could do a drink even. I’d pay, of course -- if just to prove my greatness. Insert smiley.


A said...

slightly unrelated but i broke up with someone a while back and a well-intentioned friend signed me up on email to a 'break-up survivor' group (eep! right?!).

despite myself, it helped to hear people articulate the really obvious stuff about heartbreak and how it pans out. i did, for a little bit,also become a break-up literature junkie, but anyway. :) i guess what i'm trying to say is i never diss self-help stuff as irreverently as i did before, you know?

also, i like your blog, you have a funny voice. given how social circles in delhi are concentric circles, i'll bet i even know you! i hope your newspaper (?) appreciates you. :)

edita krishnan said...

heheh :)
thats a good post as are the rest of yours...
i kinda detest self help books as well.. the thing is many times they say the things you know in a way to make you believe you did not actually know it..
err whatever...
well mood uplifters always help..even if its green tea..

Han said...

I definitely enjoy reminders like this every once-in-a-while. We keep forgetting this sort of thing.

I recently re-read The Phantom Tollbooth -- a charming little book from my childhood. It was definitely preachy, but the messages were... useful.

Nimpipi said...

A: Break up survivor group sounds lethal. Break up literature junkie even worse! My condolences. I hope you've moved on and found traits in a new partner that were lacking in the ex. I feel vindicated when I think like this. Although I'm not sure this line of thought would make it to any self help book:) Whatever gets you through today, like that Grey's anatomy song..; who're we to diss the guru spiel?

The newspaper (yes) appreciated me in fits and starts. And when they don't , I can't say it's never my fault. Pardon the double negative.

Concentric circles is right, don't tell me you hang out at $S and went to DU. That'd be a bit much. :)

Ed K: Yup. Makes one feel a bit stupid, like duh, of course we should smile more, who doesn't know that. Still..

I must drink more green tea. I keep sachets in my bag for emergencies -- whatever classifies as a green tea crisis.

Han: The Phantom Tollbooth. Mental note made. I can deal with preachy. Once in while, how bad can it be, huh.

A said...

thanks yo, that's sweet and you're right! i haven't found a replacement for the ex but i'm moving for grad school to a city where, according to a crass friend settled there - bright, funny men pedon se latakte hain.:)

also, i did go to DU and i still frequent $S and bitch about it, so there you go. don't be spooked though. :)

The Mystic said...

I read the first edition and it was really life changing.I don't read self help books too, but this book was a prize and I thought lets give it a read and I actually now follow it.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

These books aren't phenomenally popular for no reason. All very nice platitudes, but I take exception (as I always have) with the notion that there are no mistakes. Of COURSE there are mistakes. Things happen for no reason. Life is a series of arbitrary events. The worth of a person is how well you adapt to these events. Do you crumble or adapt. People say there are no mistakes and things were meant to happen because the idea that life is random is too terrifying for them to grasp. Sorry, folks. We're on our own.