Sunday, October 14, 2007

Watch a movie, change your life: Can films make a difference?

Linda is a highly functioning autistic woman who loses her only child in a car accident. The cold and emotionally distant stranger who was driving the car comes to apologise and stays until after the funeral. As he watches Linda's different approach to life he lets himself relax more until, by the time he leaves her, he has “thawed”.

That is a brief synopsis of the movie Snow Cake. I watched it last night and enjoyed it. I've been thinking about it today and considering what, if anything, I can learn from the story.

As I have said on this blog before I am a voracious consumer of self help books but lately I've been thinking about other sources of wisdom and “lifehacks”. Movies are such a source.

This is most obvious in children's movies. The lessons in a film like Cars are laid out for all to see, requiring little work from a young mind. Adults usually have to work a little harder when they watch their own films. But the work pays off when you find something that resonates with your own life.

Here are my top 5 films with life lessons:

1. Fight Club

Tyler Durden's speeches are full of overblown rhetoric but I associate with the essence of his comments on modern society. The film didn't make me take up fighting but it did make me question some assumptions about what I wanted for my life and pointed to some answers.

2.Ferris Bueller's Day off

Ferris sums up his approach to life with “Life goes by pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it“. Who could disagree with that? This is about having fun and not worrying too much about the rules just as long as no one gets hurt. I watch this film when I've been taking myself a little too seriously...

3.It's a Wonderful Life

Not only is this the perfect Christmas film it is a great reminder that we can forget our positive impact on others and our world.

4.Touching the Void

I cheated a little in adding this as it's a documentary but Joe Simpson's story of survival is incredible. There are lessons about decision making, achieving your goals and the importance of not giving up in this film.

5.Finding Nemo

In addition to getting childcare lessons from the turtles there are lessons here about being true to your nature yet not being afraid to try something new.

And what about Snow Cake? For me the film was a reminder about enjoying the present moment and to understand that there are many ways of seeing the world.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Buyers' Remorse

I buy a lot of self help books. I spend lunchtimes browsing the self-help section of Borders and I get a tingle when I see a new one that looks promising. I pick them up knowing how I should examine them; read the index, read about the author to establish their credentials, look for chapter headings and diagrams, read the back cover for testimonials. And sometimes that's exactly what I do.

But sometimes the title or the promise ("Transform Your Life", "Find Your Purpose")creates such a positive emotion that I am going to buy it no matter what my examination reveals.

Sometimes the emotional reaction leads to a good purchase. Mostly it doesn't and I end up reading the same tired self-help cliches for a few chapters before I throw it aside. And it's then that I get buyer's remorse a horrible feeling for someone who prides himself on making rational choices. I don't want to feel that emotion very often in the future but I suspect I will.

Most self-help books are full of platitudes, are overly-long or are written by people who are poor role models for success so I'm likely to experience buyer's remorse again.

So what can we can do to reduce the risk?

Here are my top tips:

1. Spend 5 minutes mentally interrogating the author ("If you are such a massive success why did you sell your book to Crud Publications?" "How long have you been teaching this stuff?"

2. Ask yourself "If I could only take 20% of my library with me if my house burnt down would this book be in my hand?"

3. Check the contents page, chapter headings, diagrams etc for things that interest you. Then do a sample read of a section that looks promising.

4. Promise yourself that you will never buy a book without checking Amazon or other online reviews.

5. Make it a rule to give away or sell a self-help book everytime you buy a new one.

6. Think about a self-imposed fast for a month/6 months/12 months.

You never know - I might even take my own advice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Four Hour Work Week Is Ruining My Life...

It's rare that a book nags away at me.  Most self help books are instantly forgettable when you put them back on the shelf.

Having now read Tim Ferriss' "Four Hour Work Week" at least 4 times in total (that's not including all the dipping 
into read throughs) I can safely say that it won't be going back on 
my shelf for quite some time.

I'm not going to review it because others have done it better than I would hope to (I'll add some links to reviews and stuff shortly) but I wanted to point out that you need this book.  Whoever you are and whatever you want from your life - you need this book.

So if it's that good why is it ruining my life?

Here's the first bunch of reasons:

1.  Most of the ideas Tim presents are simple yet pretty profound and I find myself thinking "Damn, why didn't I think of that before!"

2.  I am constantly looking at my own life and wondering how I can get from where I am to where I could be with a little help from the book

3.  There are so many little tips and techniques in it that I get mad at myself for not applying them all in my day to day life.

4.  His whole "creation of a muse" idea is driving me insane.  I want to find a muse or three and quickly so that I can start living a much cooler life.

5.  It reminds me to read his blog and that makes me mad as hell when I read about all the cool stuff he's doing :)

There.  I've said it.

For those who have been hiding from the internet this is Tim's website... and don't forget to check out his blog.