Finding what matters in 2016 and the best books I’ve read this year

by Jessica Dang
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road

There’s a saying that goes, ‘the days are long, but the years are short’, which I didn’t understand when I had my corporate job.

Back then, the days were long, the weeks and months dragged on, and a year seemed like an age. Although I had what most people considered an ideal job, after month after month of unhappiness, I couldn’t carry on. I was at a crossroads, so I chose the road less travelled. I quit.

I don’t have any regrets. I needed to experience everything wrong with a 50+ hours per week office job to realise that it was completely the opposite of what I wanted from life. Scared of facing the truth that I was wasting my life, I lived in denial and I never gave myself the chance to ask myself the important questions—what’s important to me? What do I want in life? Who/what do I want to spend my time on?

There’s a happy ending. With all the time and freedom I had, I started some side ventures which lead to my own investment business, and now I’m making more than my previous salary (and still growing). The best thing is, I have set it all up as a passive income, so that I don’t have to work more than 2-4 hours per week. 

In other words, I’m earning 50% more while working 95% less. 

I also travelled to several different cities/countries, hit my long time goal of reading 52 books in a year, ran both a half marathon and a full marathon, found time to learn more French and Japanese, take swimming and yoga lessons, and so much more, all of which I never would have had the time or energy for before.

My own success is the best remedy for the time I wasted during 2014-2015. Now that I have done well on my own, I have let go of my hang up about never having a successful corporate career. I don’t need one. Everybody is different, but for me, I’ve learned that I am not willing to pay the price.

Whilst all this was going on, quite a few negative things happened during 2016 (politically speaking) in the UK and abroad that I strongly disagreed with. While I did what was in my power, I’ve come to terms with the fact that there are many things outside of my control, and the world isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. As long as I do my best to make the world a better place, and I encourage others to do so too, then slowly things will be better. We’ve made a lot of progress in other areas, and with the right amount of introspection and attitude, the world can only move forwards, not backwards.

2017 will be a continuation of my personal and professional journey. With all of the free time I now have, it’s not a question of if, but when I will do the things that I hope to. I want to do more and give more this year. The best thing is that I don’t have to seek the time, money, or permission to do it. I created that for myself. I’m my own boss now.

Posts of 2016

January: Life begins when…

February: I’m only passing through

March: What I learned from 7 years of minimalism

April: How minimalism redefines success

May: Minimalist Meditations — Giving

June: Minimalist Meditations — On Control

July: What’s left after minimalism?

August: There’s no such thing as karma

September: What minimalism taught me about dying

October: What minimalism taught me about love

November: The bigger picture

Bonus: Searching in 2015

the best books I read in 2016

For the first time in my life, I read 52 books in one year. In the theme of freedom and figuring out what I want from life, here is a selection of some of the most helpful pieces of advice I received this year:

The Obstacle is the Way: The Ancient Art of Turning Adversity to Advantage – Ryan Holiday. Holiday turns stoic philosophy into practical advice on how to get over difficulties that we face in our lives. It’s okay to have obstacles, and even to be annoyed by them, as long as we face them with the right perspective and get over them with the right action. Wisely, he says, “Doing new things invariably means obstacles. A new path is, by definition, uncleared. Only with persistence and time can we cut away debris and remove impediments. Only in struggling with the impediments that made others quit can we find ourselves on untrodden territory—only by persisting and resisting can we learn what others were too impatient to be taught“.

 

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich – Timothy Ferriss. I reread this book again for the first time in about 5 years and things are very different this time around. Before, while I could agree with a lot of what Ferriss said, this time they actually meant something doable and tangible to me (see passive investments above). This book contains a great argument for working less even if it means earning less, and also solid tips on how to start and grow a passive income business. I’m also in the middle of devouring his newest book Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers.

 

Man’s Search For Meaning: The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust – by Viktor E Frankl. Thankfully, many of us haven’t had to go through the horrors that Frankl did as a Holocaust survivor. As a professor in neurology and psychiatry, his unique perspective on what it means to find meaning in life fascinated me. In particular, his view on what it means to have good mental well-being, “[…] mental health is based on a certain degree of tension, the tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become,” reminds us that meaning is found in having something worthwhile to aim for.

 

The Last Lecture: lesson in living – by Randy Pausch. With his immediately likeable personality, yet devastating story of being diagnosed with a terminal illness that only gives him a few months to live, Carnegie Mellon Professor Pausch gives leaves this important and poignant memoir for this wife and three young children about what is really important in life. He teaches us to dream big, and not obsess over what other people think, because in the end, who cares? It’s the dreams you have, and the things you do, and the people you love and who love you that really matter, and makes us happy. Let’s not wait until we realise that we are dying to make the most of it.

 

Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance – by Angela Duckworth. What makes a person successful? I’ve been asking myself this question for years and Duckworth sheds a lot of light on the answer. The answer is, spoiler alert: effort. Persistent effort. Not just showing up, or innate talent, or luck, or environmental factors, but persistently putting in the time and energy to get better. While this means I have a lot of work to do on the things I want to get better at, it’s reassuring to know that what separates the mediocre from the great is blood, sweat and tears because I’m willing to shed a lot of it.

 

The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now  – by Meg Jay. The Image result for defining decadebiggest crime of twentysomethings these days is thinking they have all the time in the world to do anything they want. I’m certainly guilty of this in some respects, so I’m glad I found this book when I did. With all the changes in the last century, people are putting off important decisions until their 30’s or even 40’s, which is too late to make the most of the time they had. The decisions we make in our 20’s have the biggest impact on our lives down the line, and it’s better to use that to our advantage right now, rather than let bad choices made for us, or by us, dictate the rest of our lives.

 

I read many more books than the few I’ve listed here, but these were some of the most impactful. Of course, I will continue with my journey of learning, and will post more book updates in future posts.

Minimal Student book update: This project means a lot to me so I’m taking my time with it. I’ve nearly finished the first draft of the main text, and sketched up potential covers. There will be a lot of editing to do, but I’m planning on spending some time disconnected to get 80-90% done by early spring. I will continue to update the blog regularly.

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  • dsiva

    Thanks for the article. You should write about your passive income. Or give a brief summary here as a reply.

    • Hi dsiva, thanks for your comment.

      I’ve had a few people ask but normally I don’t go into detail because I don’t want anybody to take my strategies as advice (I’m not a qualified professional) – I have invested my savings into a mixture of property, joint ventures, and the stock market via various platforms which generates a healthy income. On top of that, I have the option to do freelance translation/transcription work if I need or want to (not passive). Hope that helps!

  • bookworm0894

    Thank you for another great post! I’ve been reading through some of your past articles, and your discussions about minimalism and building the life you want have really helped me as I transfer schools and move away from my family. I’m glad you are finding happiness and success. Cheers to a new year!