Each December I share a round-up of the books I’ve found most compelling throughout the year. If you’re looking for ideas for your 2019 reading list, here are the ten reads I would most highly recommend from the last year, as well as my full list.
If there’s a theme in my reads for the year, it would probably be ‘Attention’. The issue of what we choose to pay attention to (personally, organisationally and socially), what forces are at work to influence that, what is at stake, and how we can be deliberate in focusing our attention, is a thread throughout a number of the books below. I believe it’s a critical issue for us all within our current social context, and I believe there is great hope to be found in the potential for positive change when we are, in a sense, attentive to our attention.
I came to the end of a week recently, and I felt as though, even though I had given it my all, there was still so much not done.
Maybe you know the feeling.
Maybe you’ve recently finished off a week, or even the year, and felt as thought there was so much more you would have liked to have accomplished.
But then I realised something.
What’s the point in living a deliberate life? Are there certain approaches to life, which, if carefully crafted into the fabric of our lives, will ultimately leave us more satisfied when it comes time to look back over our days?
I believe there are. I believe that woven throughout our shared human experience, there are certain components that make up a life well lived, and we see them surface again and again in our great thinkers, art, and science.
One of the best comedy ensemble tv shows of the last couple of decades is ‘The Office’, and one of the best characters of the show is the manager of the Dunder Mifflin Scranton branch, Michael Scott, played to perfection by Steve Carell. What makes Michael so awkwardly, cringingly hilarious to watch is his complete and total lack of self-awareness.
You’re probably familiar with the story of the big rocks, the pebbles and the sand in the vase. A teacher stands up in front of the class and fills a glass vase with big rocks. ‘Is it full?’ he asks. ‘Yes’, the class answers. Then he pours in small pebbles, which fill up the cracks between the big rocks. ‘Is it full now?’. ‘Yes’, they answer. Finally, he pours in a bag of sand, the grains making their way into the tiny gaps that remain.
The principle in the story is that if you start with the sand, it will fill the vase completely, leaving no room for the big rocks. Starting with the big rocks and then moving onto smaller things is the only way to get all the elements in. This, of course, is an analogy for starting with the ‘big rocks’ in the way we plan and live out our lives – the things that really matter to us – and then allowing the smaller things that matter less to fit around them.
It’s a classic story that gets used again and again, because the principle is true. Being deliberate about the most important goals and values in our lives is the only way to ensure we give them the time and energy they deserve.
Ultimately, it’s a story about getting what you want. What you really want.