New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays. Not just because of the festivities; in fact, I prefer to take it easy on New Year’s Eve because I really hate the idea of starting a brand new year hungover. For me, New Year’s is a time to get inspired, dream big, and make plans for the next year. I do make resolutions, but they usually aren’t the cold-turkey quitting or starting resolutions. I don’t really see why we need to wait for New Year’s to make changes like that. Rather, I like to use the New Year as a time to take stock of what I accomplished last year and figure out what I can do even better in the next.
Since this week is all about that type of planning for me, I figured I’d recommend two books that I love for inspiration. I usually use affiliate links so that I get commissions when people buy things I mention, but I have chosen not to do that here so as to avoid having you think these are anything but honest recommendations.
Talent is Overrated
The first book is called Talent is Overrated. Its main thesis is essentially this: What separates people who are truly great at what they do from the rest is not inborn talent; it’s the amount of hours they have spent practicing their craft. The temptation is to chalk the astounding achievements of Mozart or Tiger Woods (bad timing, but a good example) up to innate ability, but the science in this book suggests otherwise.
One study I recall looked at a large group of professional musicians and compared them across many variables. What distinguished those who had achieved great success from those who were just average had nothing to do with achievement at a young age; it had everything to do with total hours of practice time. It’s estimated that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice time (i.e., not just running through the motions) is required to master most things.
Anyway, it’s a cool book. The message is one that I always come back to when I doubt my natural ability to do something, even running (remember, my first marathon took me almost five hours). Knowing that what I achieve depends only on how much I’m willing to put into it is very liberating. It’s technically a business book, so the middle gets a little white-collar for me, but it’s a great read otherwise. Please don’t leave comments arguing with me about Mozart or Tiger being prodigies; get the book from the library and read the evidence the author presents.
Awaken the Giant Within
The other book I want to recommend, one that I’m rereading this week, is Anthony Robbins’s Awaken the Giant Within. I think Tony’s infomercials earned him a reputation for corniness, but I make no secret of my fan-dom. It was one of his seminars last year that pushed me over the edge to become vegetarian, really commit to qualifying for Boston, and starting this blog.
Awaken the Giant Within is my favorite of his books. It’s not just a lot of stuff to get you pumped up about what you’re capable of, it also provides very effective strategies for making change. Warning: you have to actually do stuff. There are exercises at the end of each chapter, and though the information is great, you won’t get nearly as much out of it if you don’t put it to immediate use with the exercises.
If you’re new to Tony Robbins and/or skeptical, you can get a very condensed audio version here. It doesn’t have nearly the amount of content that the book does, but Tony’s real power is in his speaking ability and this is a great introduction to what he teaches. It was the first (of many) of his products that I bought.
For what it’s worth, those are my recommendations. Get them from the library if you can; otherwise you can find them at Barnes and Noble. Hope they help you make 2010 your best year yet.
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