We live to learn and learn to live

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

Sir Richard Steele

Though the Irish writer Richard Steele lived in the 1700s, his words are still true today. Not just because of how it relates to reading specifically, but to learning in general. Like transformation, reading and learning is a continuous journey – one that doesn’t end.

The journey of learning and development of course isn’t limited to our personal lives either. In the business context, learning was the top-rated challenge in Deloitte’s 2019’s Global Human Capital Trends. People now rate “opportunity to learn” as one their top reasons for taking a job, and business leaders know that changes in technology, longevity, work practices, and business models have created a tremendous demand for continuous, lifelong development.

And this is the reason why I love books. Whether you read them physically, study from your learning app, load them up on your Kindle or even listen to audio and podcast versions as you exercise, books are some of the greatest sources of knowledge and learning.

Books let us access the minds, and the ideas, of the greatest thinkers from the past thousands of years. There are several books that have changed my way of thinking, taught me new skills and helped me transform my life.

The German best-selling author Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth contained the important, if seemingly contradictory on the surface, lesson that the best way to speed up a transformation, is to slow down. To not rush, but instead act deliberately and ensure you understand the problem fully first, and then tackling the challenge at a steady pace – is a far more effective way to achieve your goals.

Ego, Hunger and Aggression by E.S. Perls, the father of Gestalt Psychotherapy, gave me one of my favourite metaphors for life when he talks about chewing food: Chew it well, and ask yourself, “Do you want this? Do you like it?” and if the answer is no, then you spit it out. Or, in the case of life, taste it – and stop just accepting it – whether it is an unfulfilling job or misguided ambition.

One of my favourite minds to enter is the Danish philosopher, Soeren Kirkegaard. From Either/Or (of which I even have two copies of!) I learned that I am the only one that has the freedom and power to give my own life meaning. That my life is not defined by the labels we traditionally put on ourselves or other people, such as doctor, father, mother, nurse or even senior vice president.

Being able to capture and share our words to thousands and millions of people that you’ll never even meet is – I think – one of our greatest achievements as human beings.

I will be adding to my virtual nightstand on here, as I continue in my own learning and transformation.

I’d love to hear your recommendations and suggestions for the books that have inspired you? And what you learnt from them?

Please share with the community in the comments, and perhaps find ideas for your reading list here as well.

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Comments (1)

I’m reading “Comfortable with uncertainty” by Pema Chödrön. It’s a wonderful collection of pieces of profound wisdom, and each page raises new thoughts. A perfect book to have on the nightstand. I’ve learnt that the road to fearlessness always passes through the heart, and that compassion and loving kindness will help greatly on that journey.

Ann-Mari Öhman
4 August 2020