… and must write a book to leave your wisdom behind. What are the books that you could write before you leave, with three items that would go in the table of contents?
So the wisdom gained in all those years on Earth, useless (or is it?). What is your legacy, once you are on another planet?
What have you learnt? What can you share? What did you do when all the odds were against you, and still you managed? What are your ten books?
In “Become an Idea Machine”, Altucher has this example: “The Guide to Asking for Things”, and in the table of contents, it would have (a) How to ask so that you get a “yes”; (b) How to ask when the odds are against you; (c) How NOT to ask.
This is actually a great exercise, because it makes us evaluate what advice we can really give to people.
So without further ado, here are my suggestions.
#1 – How to completely forget the environment and get lost.
We are occupied 24/7 with thoughts racing through our minds concerning things of all different nature.
I have often been able to simply forget everything. The past, the future, even the immediate presence. It goes so far that before exams or important dates, I am completely calm. That’s not always an advantage, but it helps me to find my way and stick to my goals even if circumstances are volatile. The chapters would be:
(a) How to get lost in a book.
(b) How to get lost in music.
(c) How to get lost doing nothing, forgetting time.
#2 – How to build deep, long-lasting friendships.
I am more of a marathon runner than sprinter.
Building long-term friendships – even refreshing connections after a long pause – has always come easy to me. I have several friendships that are ten years or older.
I am basically like my father, who still keeps contact with those he grew up with.
To me, seeds for a long-term relationships are laid in the very beginning. You may even have to push through those parts of the other person’s personality that you may initially disagree with to find the shared values that harbor long-term potential. So the main parts of the book would be:
(a) How to plant the seeds for long-term commitment.
(b) How to recognize shared values.
(c) How to anchor deep commitment.
#3 – How to solve long-term problems.
Ever since I started studying biochemistry 20 years ago, all the exercises and problems I had to solve in research involved series of experiments that took several days to complete.
So I learnt to stick with a process and think in large time intervals, while working daily on the relevant problem.
Then, one day early in my PhD thesis, I was about to give up on an experiment that I had started in the beginning of the day and that was not going well.
My advisor noticed and forbade me to stop the study. His point was to always finish what you started. Ever since, I have not wasted any start in solving a problem. I learnt that even if the circumstances are not beneficial, you have to find ways to finish.
These are the three most important points for long-term commitment to finding a solution:
(a) How to draft a plan for solving a problem that takes years.
(b) How to deal with periods of apparent stagnation.
(c) How not to lose steam towards the finish.
#4 – How to never give up.
This is something that took me a long time to learn: when things go sideways, and some God or Devil or Fate is throwing a wrench into your plans… completely unforeseen and outside your control – still stick to your original goals.
This includes three main steps:
(a) How to get back up after you failed.
(b) How to keep going on even if headwinds are strong.
(c) How to believe in yourself and focus on the areas you can control.
#5 – How to declutter your mind and life.
If we want to find what truly makes us happy, we need to strip away all the stuff and clutter and every baggage that’s holding us down.
Three areas come to mind.
(a) Stuff, stuff, stuff: What is and what is not important for you
(b) The daily shot in the foot: are your habits misdirecting you?
(c) What are your most important beliefs and values?
#6 – Stand up! – The audacious guide to getting up and speak
This is something I have always been able to do, eventually, even though it took me some time to internalize.
Standing up for myself and those that are close to me.
(a) Standing up for others if they have been treated wrong.
(b) Speaking up in public: small groups, large groups and social media.
(c) Navigating headwinds, loving your haters and destroying your “bullies” and hecklers.
#7 – The talk of your life – the art of public speaking.
Public speaking… it certainly helped that I played cello in small groups and big orchestras since I was 15.
Almost always on stage. Even though I was very shy at the beginning, I learnt to function and eventually loving it, having all eyes on me.
I would practise cello at home behind my window curtain – then open it and pretend I played for an audience bigger than the birds in our garden.
When I started giving talks in science, this experience benefitted me to have a relatively easy transition into speaking publicly. What would the three most important chapters be?
(a) How to prepare the talk.
(b) How to connect with your audience.
(c) How to silence ticks, brain farts and distracting habits and speak up.
#8 – Beauty in small things – The guide to being grateful.
This is something I have practised within the last years.
You don’t need to venture out into the wild and achieve big things to enjoy your life.
Often, stopping and appreciating something that is easily overlooked – like a flower on the wayside – can give you a glimpse of greatness as well.
Because as a complete flower is initially contained in but one seed – and a complete organism forms from one cell – the whole Universe is contained in one grain of sand. The chapters would be:
(a) Stop and watch – are small things really insignificant?
(b) Pain’s not here – what pain and inconvenience are you not suffering?
(c) You’re not alone – who has your back?
#9 – Loving something you hate – how to open up to the new
I realized that I often just dismiss things for no good reason at all.
For example, I never liked coffee – until a friend introduced me to Espressos after lunch. And from that point on, I was hooked. For loving something you previously hated, you can employ three strategies.
(a) The leap of faith: Close your eyes, take a deep breath and just do it.
(b) Just think about it: Find the common denominator.
(c) Could you be happy anyway? Imagine ten possible positive outcomes.
#10 – How to dare to dream big.
Dreaming is a form of transport away from your current planet as well, no?
Most people though will not even leave their world in their dreams. Not even in their dreams!!! What stops people is that they judge themselves so harshly that they start condemning themselves.
If people are feeling shame or guilt, they can never develop their own true vision, because they are always be worried to offend someone. Because dreams could become reality. And that is probably they most frightening aspect of dreaming big.
I found that dreaming big also involves experience. If you have never gotten a halfway decent sound out of an instrument, you can not see yourself as a rock star or famous musician. If you have never sold anything to anyone, you will never see yourself as an entrepreneur some time.
However, as soon as you have taken a small step towards your goals… you can now imagine more.
Likewise, if you have had bad experiences in the past, you can become too frightened to dream again. I once had a traffic accident in my car – for the next three months or so after that I cringed and started to shiver when the car I was sitting in came closer to the car in front of us.
And third, watch the words you use. If you talk about “failing” something, you are actually making room for the possibility of failure. It’s better to talk about “things that need improvement rather than failures”.
So here are three steps you can do to become a big dreamer.
#1 – The power of small increments. How to develop your vision, one small step at a time.
#2 – The past does not exist. The future is reality!
#3 – Failures do not exist. Improvement will happen! (ban the word ‘Failure’ from your vocabulary.
#11 – The handy spaceship mechanic guide
This will be a book that I can only write AFTER I have been transported to another planet.
If the planet is a fun place, why wouldn’t I want you to come join me?
(a) Quantum foam, makes me roam: How to navigate the space-time continuum.
(b) Starship Supporter Club: How to call the mechanics when you are stranded on the wrong planet.
(c) Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? NO!!! How to entertain your kids when the next star is still 50 light years away.
If you want to check out “Become an Idea Machine”, you can do so here.
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What books would you write?
Are there areas we should develop a strong legacy?
Let us know in the comments below!
(Top Picture taken from Wikimedia Commons.)