The Week’s Highlights: Tim Ferriss and Rebecca Solnit

Back in high school, conversations with my best friend would frequently start, “OMG, Jennie!  You have to read…”  As she would tell you, I said that way too often for anyone to keep up!  These days, I’m constantly discovering new books, podcasts, and blog posts.  I find that it’s still a passion of mine to share the gems I discover.  When an idea, a book, or a conversation impacts me, I want to pass it on.  Here are my reflections on of a couple of my favorites this week – Tim Ferriss’ interview with Tony Robbins and Rebecca Solnit’s wonderful book, “A Field Guide to Getting Lost.”

This Week's Highlights - Ferriss & Solnit

Tim Ferriss’ Interview with Tony Robbins

Podcasts are intended to be timely.  The podcast interviews I listen to are usually promoting a newly released book or product.  You get the most out of them when you listen to them right after they’re released, buy the product, and join in the online conversation.

But a great podcast has a timeless element too.

This conversation between Tim and Tony is a great example of both.  They’re talking about Tony’s latest book, and I was so intrigued I immediately took advantage of this special offer.  However, there are numerous pearls of wisdom dropped in the conversation.  From stories about the influential, successful people Tony has worked with, to examples of his own routines and what keeps him energized.

A few of the ideas discussed that particularly struck me:

  1. Tony’s description of his morning routine.  He talked about jumping into a cold shower first thing.  Why?  To train his body to spring into action.  I loved this image, and personally, I see a need to cultivate more of this instant readiness in my life.
  2. We’re all investors.  Both Tim and Tony said this.  Whether you have specified financial investments or not, you are investing your money and your time in something.  And as Tony pointed out, trading time for money (e.g., working at your job) is a poor investment because you can never get that time back.  Wow! Thought-provoking, right?!  Invest better.
  3. There are seven key areas that impact your quality of life.  If you’re familiar with Tony Robbins’ work, you’ve probably heard him talk about this, but I hadn’t.  And I loved the simplicity of it.  There are only seven.  I have a ton of things I worry about and try to focus on.  This boils it down to the essentials and reminds me how it all fits together.  (To find out what the seven are, listen to part two of the podcast.)

My other favorite from this past week is very different.

Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost

I first learned of Rebecca’s beautiful book through Brain Pickings.  I was moved just by the excerpts shared, and immediately requested the book from my local library.

So far, I’ve only read the first section, yet this library copy has so many phrases flagged that it’s clear this book will be one of my favorites.

Rebecca writes, “to be lost is to be fully present, and to be fully present is to be capable of being in uncertainty and mystery.  And one does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, a chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography….  The word ‘lost’ comes from the Old Norse los, meaning the disbanding of an army, and this origin suggests soldiers falling out of formation to go home, a truce with the wide world. I worry now that many people never disband their armies, never go beyond what they know.”

I love this idea of getting lost.  Of embracing wonder and exploration.  Of intentionally not knowing.

For this recovering perfectionist, this type of unknown is like a baby step towards accepting failure.  It’s an intellectual “trust fall” of a sort.  It’s not just getting lost, but intentionally choosing to wander and encounter something new.

Rebecca’s description of getting lost reminds me of Brene Brown’s writings about the value of play.  Brene describes play as “doing things just because they’re fun and not because they’ll help achieve a goal.”  It’s connected with being present.  With shutting off the brain for awhile in order to be in the now and see through new eyes.

At grad school orientation, a professor told all of us incoming students that success in grad school depends on “being comfortable with ambiguity.”  Ironically, that is something most grad students are really bad at.  And for obvious reasons.  You see, we got to grad school by being good at following rules, at taking the traditional path.  We got there by being good at the school thing, at absorbing information given to us, and reporting it back in a teacher-approved format.  And while grad school still requires many of those skills, my professor was right.  It also requires being able to move forward into a realm where no one else is telling you what to do or what the right answer is.

I’ve come to believe that mastery of any skill or body of knowledge requires this same comfort with ambiguity.  This willingness to wander and get lost.  To explore without needing it all to “make sense” right away.  Rebecca’s book is indeed a guide to finding such a place.

This book is also beautiful to me because I started reading it at a time when I was feeling particularly constrained, almost trapped, by the commitments I had taken on.  There’s a line in one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail.  The main character describes her life as “meaningful, but small.”  But Rebecca reminds me that there is an adjacent vastness.  No matter how small your life is, there is an enormous, majestic, unknownness right outside your front door.  Physically and metaphorically.  There is a neighborhood you’ve never wandered.  People you’ve never encountered.  Views you haven’t seen before.  Ideas unexplored all around you.

Reading “A Field Guide to Getting Lost” is like inhaling deeply.  Letting your soul breathe.  Pick up a copy and enjoy.

What’s your favorite idea or resource from this past week?

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