Book Notes: 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think

Notes/Quotes from the book 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by Brianna Wiest 

“we’re wired to believe that success is somewhere we get to—when goals are accomplished, and things are completed.”

“Accomplishing goals is not a success. How much you expand in the process is.”

I tend to disagree. I think both are successes but for different reasons.

“You think your past defines you, and worse, you think that it is an unchangeable reality when really, your perception of it changes as you do. Because experience is always multi-dimensional, there are a variety of memories, experiences, feelings, “gists” you can choose to recall…and what you choose is indicative of your present state of mind.

I am not sure about “defines you” part. Past gives you a prior. It is possible to move away from it and re-invent yourself. May be hard, but I think it can be done. I think both successes and failures play a role in the way you think and the way you act.

In short, routine is important because habitualness creates mood, and mood creates the “nurture” aspect of your personality, not to mention that letting yourself be jerked around by impulsiveness is a breeding ground for everything you essentially do not want.

I hated routines throughout my life. But I had to live with routines till the age of 31. Then I got out of several routines since I started my first startup. I think routines matter a lot because they help you build healthy habits. Some routines in life are good for health, for example eating, exercising and sleeping at predictable times.

“Happiness is not how many things you do, but how well you do them. More is not better.”

It took a while to get this into my thick head. I am still doing a lot but trying to converge to a few things I can do well. A bit of reflection shows that you do many things because you are not sure of the few things you can do well. Initially, it is the process of exploration.

“Flow” (in case you don’t know—you probably do) is essentially what happens when we become so completely engaged with what we’re doing.

I have experienced it a few times, and it is bliss. I realized that being in a continuous state of flow is neither possible nor desirable (at least for me). I enjoy the work I do when I get into this flow state. But doing certain tasks (like coding or designing) are such an immersive experience that you automatically get into the state of flow.

“Some of the most notable and peaceful individuals to grace the Earth died with only a few cents to their name. The commonality is a sense of purpose, belonging, and love”

I am thinking of Mahatma Gandhi, Kamaraj (one of the most self-less politicians from India), and my grandpa. They accomplished a lot, touched many lives. They were certainly individuals of grace. I wonder what was going through their minds during moments of suffering and happiness.

“Eric Greitens says that there are three primary forms of happiness: the happiness of pleasure, the happiness of grace, and the happiness of excellence.”

I think the term happiness seems to default to the happiness of pleasure.

“The ancient Greeks called it Akrasia, the Zen Buddhists call it resistance, you and I call it procrastination, every productivity guru on the Internet calls it being “stuck.” Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton call it the “knowing-doing gap,” or the experience of knowing the best thing to do, but doing something else anyway.

I like the term “knowing-doing gap”. Having experienced it in abundance, I often wonder why I can learn so much about what to do and never really do even a fraction of it.

“self-sufficiency is just a precursor to happiness. It is the foundation. It is crucial, but it is not the connectedness on which human beings thrive.”

This is sad. Really sad.

“Extraordinary depends on what I do with the ordinary”

one of the nicest quotes in the book.

“The things you love about others are the things you love about yourself.”

I wonder about this. Sometimes the things you love about others are the things you wish you could do.

Quite a lot of questions to think about. But I think some of my friends figured out the answers for them. Me? I am still thinking.

“What, and who, is worth suffering for?
What would you stand for if you knew that nobody would judge you?”

“Ask yourself: “If I could tell every single person in the world just one thing, one sentence, what would it be?”

Would you say: “It’s going to be okay?” “Don’t worry so much?” “Seek the best in others?” What you think you’d want to say to everyone out there is actually a projection of what you most need to hear”

These notes are a couple of years old. But this is one of the most thought provoking books I have read.