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Mike
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50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« on: 05 January 2012 »

Funny thing new years resolutions - there was me half-way thru resolving not to buy any books in 2012 [will take years to read what i have already bought lol] and this one throws itself under my feet... also for those with kindle [amazon kindle, iPad/Android app kindle, or also kindle for pc (free program)] its at a staggeringly amazing price right now of only £1.49!!! [amazon.co.uk]

This book is amazing.

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Commentaries on the classic works of personal development

USA today:     “Butler-Bowdon writes with infectious enthusiasm. He is a true scholar of this type of literature.”

It's full title - "50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life from Timeless Sages to Contemporary Gurus" - only gives a hint of promise ... what is hard to explain is how well Tom Butler-Bowden writes and puts over the key points/angles of the books - his words on squaring the Tao de Ching with Anthony Robbins are worth the price of admission alone.  And what an eclectic collection ... here are the first 21:

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1 James Allen As a Man Thinketh (1902)
2 Steve Andreas & Charles Faulkner (NLP Comprehensive Team) NLP: The New Technology of Achievement (1994)
3 Marcus Aurelius Meditations (2nd century)
4 Martha Beck Finding Your Own North Star: How to Claim the Life You Were Meant to Live (2001)
5 The Bhagavad-Gita
6 The Bible
7 Robert Bly Iron John (1990)
8 Boethius The Consolation of Philosophy (6th century)
9 Alain de Botton How Proust Can Change Your Life (1997)
10 William Bridges Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes (1980)
11 David D. Burns Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (1980)
12 Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers The Power of Myth (1987)
13 Richard Carlson Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff… And It’s All Small Stuff (1997)
14 Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936)
15 Deepak Chopra The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success (1994)
16 Paulo Coelho The Alchemist (1993)
17 Stephen Covey The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989)
18 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990)
19 The Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living (1998)
20 The Dhammapada (Buddha’s teachings)
21 Wayne Dyer Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life
...

Although I have read quite a few of the fifty in most cases I long since forgot the "main points" or angle as it were and in some cases - the Bhagavad Gita is a great standout here I never at all considered it from the angle Tom is writing about.

As someone with a fascination since childhood for "what this life thing is all about" I don't think I have ever been so enthused by a book purchase.  Whilst - as a reviewer on amazon says - Tom is such a great salesman he makes you want to go out and buy the books and read them yourself, its also true in many cases that - as another friend put it - most of what these self-help/business books have to say can be summarised on a sheet of A4.  In this case with "50 of the best" you are never [as I am right now with another book] wading thru' the same point repeated many times with lots of padding.  Of course some books cant be summarised but its far better reading Tom's "review"/"highlights" than the blurb on the back of a book.  Also he groups the books into categories:

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The Power of Thought: Change your thoughts, change your life

Following Your Dream: Achievement and goal setting

Secrets of Happiness: Doing what you love, doing what works

The Bigger Picture: Keeping it in perspective

Soul and Mystery: Appreciating your depth

Making a Difference: Transforming yourself, transforming the world


Great to dip into at random, revisit old friends and make new ones  cool

Did I say I thought this was great and a steal priced at less than a pint of beer?

Mike
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Mike
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Re: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« Reply #1 on: 05 January 2012 »

His take on selg-help books is fascinating in itself (and of course he is an expert!).  An easily disparaged field it was only TBB's summary of the history that got me thinking that it's only in recent times that most of us have the "space" and "information" to get on and transform ... for most of history most of us would have been too "under the cosh" to be able to do so...  Give thanks wink

Here is what he says about self-help literature:

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You will have heard many times that “you can change your life by changing your thoughts and your mental habits,” but have you ever stopped to consider what that means? This book identifies some of the most useful ideas from writings specifically devoted to personal transformation—from the inside out.

I have called these books “self-help classics.” You may already have an idea of what self-help is, but that understanding should be deepened by the range of authors and titles covered in these pages. If there is a thread running through the works, it is their refusal to accept “common unhappiness” or “quiet desperation” as the lot of humankind. They acknowledge life’s difficulties and setbacks as real, but say that we cannot be defined by these. No matter how adverse the situation, we always have room to determine what it will mean to us, a lesson given us in two books covered here, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy. To consciously decide what we will think, not allowing genes or environment or fate to determine our path—this is the essence of self-help.

A conventional view of self-help is that it deals with problems, but most of the self-help classics are about possibilities. They can help reveal your unique course in life, form a bridge between fear and happiness, or simply inspire you to be a better person. Samuel Smiles wrote the original Self-Help in 1859. He feared that people would think his book a tribute to selfishness. In fact it preached reliance on one’s own efforts, the never-say-die pursuit of a goal that did not wait on government help or any other kind of patronage. Smiles was originally a political reformer, but came to the conclusion that the real revolutions happened inside people’s heads; he took the greatest idea of his century, “progress,” and applied it to personal life. Through telling the life stories of some of the remarkable people of his era, he tried to show that anything was possible if you had the gall to try.

Abraham Lincoln is sometimes mentioned in self-help writing because he embodies the idea of “limitless” thinking. Yet his thoughts were not applied to himself—he considered himself an ungainly depressive—but to the potential he saw in a situation (saving the Union and freeing America of slavery). Lincoln’s vision was not vainglorious; he lived for something larger.

At its best, self-help is not about the fantasies of the ego, but involves the identification of a project, goal, ideal, or way of being where you can make a big difference. In so doing, you can transform a piece of the world - and yourself along with it.

The self-help book was one of the great success stories of the twentieth century. The exact number purchased is impossible to calculate, but this selection of 50 classics alone has sold over 150 million copies between them, and if we consider the thousands of other titles the final number would run to more than half a billion.

The idea of self-help is nothing new, but only in the twentieth century did it become a mass phenomenon. Books like How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936) and The Power of Positive Thinking (1952) were bought by ordinary people desperate to make something of their lives and willing to believe that the secrets of success could be found in a paperback. Maybe the genre took on its lowbrow image because the books were so readily available, promised so much, and contained ideas that you were unlikely to hear from a professor or a minister. Whatever the image, people obviously had a new source of life guidance and they loved it. For once, we were not being told what we couldn’t do but only that we should shoot for the stars.

A self-help book can be your best friend and champion, expressing a faith in your essential greatness and beauty that is sometimes hard to get from another person. Because of its emphasis on following your star and believing that your thoughts can remake your world, a better name for self-help writing might be the “literature of possibility.”

Many people are amazed that the self-help sections in bookstores are so huge. For the rest of us there is no mystery: Whatever recognizes our right to dream, then shows us how to make the dream a reality, is powerful and valuable.

...

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“In the last analysis, the essential thing is the life of the individual. This alone makes history, here alone do the great transformations take place, and the whole future, the whole history of the world, ultimately springs as a gigantic summation from these hidden sources in individuals.” Carl Gustav Jung
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Mike
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Re: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« Reply #2 on: 05 January 2012 »

Some small snips from Marcus Aurelius the Stoic Roman Emperor:

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“Begin each day by telling yourself: Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will and selfishness—all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil. But for my part I have long perceived the nature of good and its nobility, the nature of evil and its meanness, and also the nature of the culprit himself, who is my brother (not in the physical sense, but as a fellow-creature similarly endowed with reason and a share of the divine); therefore none of those things can injure me, for nobody can implicate me in what is degrading.”

...

"Life can be sad and lonely, seemingly one thing after another, but this should never dull our basic wonder at our existence in the universe: “Survey the circling stars, as though you yourself were mid-course with them. Often picture the changing and rechanging dance of the elements. Visions of this kind purge away the dross of our earth-bound life.”

...

This is a short book that is a source of sanity in a mad world, and today’s reader will also love the beautiful prose that makes it stand out against modern philosophical and self-help writings (Maxwell Staniforth’s translation is particularly good). Buy a copy and you will make use of it for life.
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Mike
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Re: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« Reply #3 on: 05 January 2012 »

And from one I hand't heard of but which seems very interesting ...

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Finding Your Own North Star: How to Claim the Life You Were Meant to Live - Martha Beck 2001

“Listen carefully: Your family of origin does not know how to get you to your North Star. They didn’t when you were little, they don’t now, and they never will.

… People whose families were accepting and supportive have to face the fact that familial love can’t take them all the way towards their right lives.” “Many of my clients can’t figure out what they want to do with their careers until they restore themselves to physical health by resting deeply for weeks, sometimes even months. Whatever your body tells you to do, the odds are very good that it’s the next step towards your North Star.”

...

Also known as Stella Polaris, the North Star is found at the North Pole of the heavens. Because it does not move around like other stars, it has always been used by explorers and seafarers to work out their current position and check direction. The North Star struck Martha Beck as the perfect symbol of what she calls “right life,” the fulfilled existence that is uniquely yours and waiting to be claimed.

...

How do we find our star? Internal compasses, in the form of our physical reactions, intuitions, and peculiar wants and longings, are there to guide us, and to get us back on course when the clouds and storms of life make us lose sight. Beck says that the key to finding our right life is to know the difference between the essential self and the social self. This is what we concentrate on here.

...

The essential self and the social self What is the essential self? It is that quiet voice that will ask you to “walk to the beat of a different drum” when you would prefer to stroll with the pack. The social self is the voice that may have determined most of your life decisions so far; it has provided you with skills, networked for you, and is basically “responsible.” Most people make their social self their master, but for you to live a fulfilled live it should be the other way around—take your lead from your essential self, and let the social self do what is practically necessary to get you where you want to go. Beck came from an academic background in which doing something “difficult” was respected. She took Chinese as her major at college because it sounded admirable and brainy—and she hated it. It bogged her down mentally and was truly hard. Anything you are doing that causes stress and struggle, she says, no matter how worthy you think it is, is probably not part of your true direction. When you find something that gives you joy and at which you seem easily productive—what in eastern philosophy is called “non-action”—it is probably close to your North Star.

...

The essential self is like the daimon or soul image that James Hillman talks of in The Soul’s Code. It can’t speak, so it finds all kinds of ways to be recognized. Many of Beck’s clients come to her complaining that they “self-sabotage”: They fluff exams or interviews that they had to do well in, not really knowing why. Yet what seems like an inexplicable failure may actually be in harmony with your true desires in the long term.

...

Alignment with your North Star, in contrast, may release a pent-up vitality that you last enjoyed when you were a child. You will start to love yourself again, remember things easily, be more concerned with good health, and be a lot more cheerful to the rest of the world. In the eyes of those close to you, looking for your true purpose may seem selfish—but would they rather live with the results of keeping it buried?

...

Not being “on purpose” will affect every area of your life, and you will need to become more aware of your emotions and inner learnings to get back to that state.
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Mike
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Re: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« Reply #4 on: 05 January 2012 »

& finally a fuller snip from Tom's www - where most of the reviews are up there free [but hey guys - buy  the book - I browsed this www some years ago but one just gets overload that way ... this is a book for a quiet cup of coffee or to read in bed and mull over...]  ... http://www.butler-bowdon.com/DCApp/cms/web/bgita

From a TTEM angle much "spirituality" either has an implicit vibe of "passivity" or running round like a nut "saving" everyone [your version of saving of course - never theirs wink].  The angle here of Arjuna being pressed to decide where the knife edge between action and inaction lies is a fsacinting take 

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The Bhagavad-Gita is the record of a conversation between a young man and God (in the form of Krishna). The young warrior, Arjuna, from the royal Pandava family, is in a state of panic on the morning of a battle - the ‘enemies’ he is expected to fight are cousins he knows well. In this desperate predicament, Arjuna turns to his charioteer, Krishna, for help. The answers he gets are not exactly what he wants to hear, but it is Krishna’s opportunity to tell a mortal about how the universe operates, and the best approach to life.

The Gita is a small but much-loved part of the vast Hindu epic, the Mahabarata, a poetic chronicle of two warring groups of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The title means Celestial Song or Song of the Lord, and Juan Mascaró (whose translation we use here) has described it as a ‘symphony’ which represents a peak of Indian spirituality.

The beauty of this work is that it operates on various levels: poetry, scripture, philosophy, self-help guide. It is the last that we focus on.

The meaning of Arjuna’s predicament

Arjuna does not want to get involved in this damned battle, and why would he? The reader cannot but agree that it is madness to wage war against one’s own relatives. The story, though, is allegorical; it is about action and non-action, and introduces us to the concepts of karma and dharma.

Arjuna wonders, quite reasonably, why he should bother to do anything good, to do anything at all, in a world that is so bad. Joseph Campbell says that part of maturity is saying ‘yes’ to the abominable or the evil, to recognise its existence in your world. What he calls ‘the affirmation of all things’ does not mean you can’t fight a situation, only that you cannot say something does not have the right to exist. What exists does so for some reason, even if that reason is for you to fight it. It would be nice to withdraw from life, to be above it all, but you can’t. Being alive, we can’t avoid action or its effects - this is karma.

If we must throw ourselves into life, what should be our guide? There is action motivated by desire, and action undertaken out of a sense of purpose. The first type seems easier, because it allows you to live without questioning, and requires little self-knowledge. In fact it goes against the grain of universal law, usually leading to the departure of spirit from our lives. Purposeful action seems more complicated and obscure, but is in fact the most natural way; it is the salvation of our existence, and even the source of joy. The word for it is dharma.

Reason

The Bhagavad-Gita is great because it embodies the reasoning mind, capable of choosing the way of purpose over the automaticity of a life by desire. If Arjuna simply follows his desire not to fight, he learns nothing. Instead, Krishna tells him to ‘fight the good fight’ – it is his duty, his purpose, his dharma. Freed from indecision, Arjuna is subsequently told that his opponents ‘have it coming to them’ anyway; Arjuna is merely the instrument of divine karma.

The reader should not dwell too long on why God is recommending war - the point of the story is that the young warrior, in questioning his own action and existence, displays Reason. Nowadays, we tend to equate reason with intelligence. This is lazy thinking, because it means a mouse or a computer, displaying the ability to ‘work something out’, is at our level. Reason is actually the process by which we discover our place in the larger scheme of things, specifically the work or actions by which our existence is justified and fulfilled. It is what makes us human beings.

The Gita is no flight into the mystical; in showing the path to reason, it reveals our highest faculty and greatest asset.

Work

The Gita draws attention to the three ‘constituents of nature’, Tamas (darkness), Rajas (fire) and Sattva (light). A Rajas style of life is being full of action and endless business, with fingers in too many pies, hunger for more, lack of rest and lust for things and people. It is about gaining and attaining, a life focused on ‘what is mine and what is not yet mine’. Sound familiar? This is living according to ‘outcome’, and while it may be of a higher order than Tamas (inertia, dullness, lack of care, ignorance), it is still one of mediocrity. And the life of light, Sattva? You will know you are living it when your intentions are noble and you feel peace in your actions. Your work is your sanctuary and you would do it even for no reward at all.

This holy book’s key point about work is that unless you are doing the work you love, you are darkening your soul. If this seems impossible, love what you are doing. Freedom - from the fear and anxious worry over ‘results’ - will follow. The wise always have an outcome or result in mind, yet their detachment from it makes them all the more effective. The Gita says that higher even than the peace of meditation is the peace which comes from surrender of the fruit of one’s actions; in this state, we are free from the rigidity of set expectations, allowing the unexpected and remarkable to emerge.

The steady self

You may be relaxing in front of the TV when a report comes on about this year’s Academy Awards, telling of the glitter and glory of the Oscars and exclusive post-ceremony parties. A waiter remarks that: ‘This is where the rest of the world would like to be.’ Beneath the superficial enjoyment of the report, suddenly you get a sense of inferiority. ‘Who cares if people say its shallow, I want to be there! What have I done with my life that I am not on the list for that party? Am I really going back to my job Monday morning?’

There is a phrase in psychology for this thinking: ‘object-referral’. It means having a focus on others and the seeking of their approval. Hollywood is famously a shrine to external valuations of worth, where you are always wondering what people will think of your next audition, performance or deal. This is basically a life of fear, and when things don’t turn out as you had hoped, of desperation. The Gita teaches that you can achieve a state where you don’t need any external commendation to make you feel right; you know you are of real worth.

One of the main routes to this level of being is meditation, which brings detachment from emotions like fear and greed. Through it we discover a self that is not subject to change, which is, in Deepak Chopra’s words, ‘...immune to criticism...unfearful of any challenge, and feels beneath no-one.’ This surely is real power, compared to that which we can acquire in the world of action. In your baser conscious desires you are just like everyone else; in the meditative state, you grasp your uniqueness. What we do following meditation does not generally generate negative karma, because we are emerging from a zone of purity and perfect knowledge. ‘With perfect meditation comes perfect act,’ says the Bhagavad-Gita.

The book repeatedly says that the enlightened person is the same in success or failure, is not swayed by the winds of event or emotion. It is a manual on how to achieve steadiness, which ironically comes from appreciating the ephemeral nature of life and the relentless movement of time. Though the universe may be in a constant state of flux, we can train our mind to be a rare fixed point. The book is a brilliant antidote to the feelings of smallness and insignificance which can swamp even the most confident in modern life.

Final comments

Those prejudiced against religious books as ‘mystical rubbish’ may be shocked to discover that the Bhagavad-Gita is one of the great works on the sovereignty of the mind. God tells Arjuna:

"I have given thee words of vision and wisdom more secret than hidden mysteries/Ponder them in the silence of thy soul, and then in freedom do thy will."   

Even though God is all-powerful, man has free will. The Gita has delivered this message with force across the ages because, perhaps ironically, it is delivered through poetry, the language of the heart.

It is a perfect self-help book because it is not scholarly or complicated but remains a source of the most profound wisdom, offering a path to steadiness of mind and joy in one’s work that could not be more relevant amidst the speed and pressure of life in the 21st century.
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Mike
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Re: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« Reply #5 on: 06 January 2012 »

At 05:39 in this youtube interview "What did Tom Learn After Reading 250 of the Greatest Books Ever Written? Interview with James Rick " - TBB talks about how reading 250 of the worlds best books [he has written 5 in his "50 Best of..." series] changed him...  cool

Altho the host is a bit (er a lot lol) - erm - um - "American" (usual over-sell) at the start he warms to the task and the touching thing is how what can be taken as egoic - how to improve "me" - ends up as being seen as a spiritual journey ... if only as to enable your maximum power and energy "you" have to get "yourself" out of the way.  TBB quotes Bon "we are just a vehicle for something that flows through us"  cool   

At around 19:00 he also describes what he thinks is most underestimated in all these books....  cool  cool ... but you have to do a little something yourself so I am not telling tongue but it's especially important when it comes to implementing your passion in life and helping others as well as yourself by doing so grin
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Mike
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Re: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life - Butler-Bowden
« Reply #6 on: 09 January 2012 »

Here - www.youtube.com/watch?v=ugm2_4Qxo4M&feature - is TBB giving a public presentation to a business community  cool

In the 50 self-help classics one book he enthuses over especially is one I have walked past but never picked up many times - I think I will next time - TBB has a great opinions:

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With an effortless power and simplicity, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success is a supreme example of contemporary self-help writing. You could throw away all other self-help books and live by this one alone.

...

The emphasis on success and prosperity may not seem “spiritual” enough for some, but this is the very point of the book. Unless you are a self-sufficient hermit, you are an economic actor who must be able to reconcile wealth generation with the spirit. In being both a devotional tract and a prosperity manual, The Seven Spiritual Laws acknowledges this and is therefore an emblematic work of our times.

...

Don’t let this outline suffice. For the detail and rich prose that makes Chopra a delight to read, buy the book. It may take a while to get on to his wavelength and understand his terms, but persevere—the laws can have a real effect. On subsequent readings you may find yourself discovering new meanings in the text, the familiar mark of a classic.

 cool
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