Die Empty by Todd Henry

Your days are finite. One day, they will run out. As a friend of mine likes to say, “You know, the death rate is hovering right around one hundred percent.” 

Todd Henry has given the world a call-to-action with Die Empty. The book is one big reminder that one day you (yes, you!) will die and he imparts some useful tools to help you discover what you’re meant to do and then to do it to the best of your ability.

The phrase “die empty” could easily be misunderstood to mean spending every ounce of yourself on your career, in an attempt to squeeze a little more effort out to the team. This could not be further from what Todd Henry hopes this book will accomplish.

The average man does not know what to do with his life, yet wants another one which will last forever.

—ANATOLE FRANCE

It’s not about getting everything done today

It’s not the same as “live like there’s no tomorrow” Opportunity is always accompanied by its twin sibling: responsibility. Today you have a chance to make a difference through your work, but you must also be mindful of how today’s actions will affect tomorrow’s outcomes, and how your work impacts the lives of others. You must be conscious of how today’s choices beget tomorrow’s regrets.

You have a responsibility to leverage your passions, skills, and experiences to make a contribution to the world. You also need to make sure that you are delivering on your expectations and honoring the people who are paying you to produce results. But as you’ll see throughout the book, the tension between these two forces can often be remedied with a subtle shift in mindset, which will also lead to more satisfaction, and, ultimately, better work.

Your days are numbered, finite and someday they will run out

 This is indisputable. We live with the stubborn illusion that we will always have tomorrow to do today’s work. It’s a lie. We need to live with a sense of urgency about the work we do today. It matters not just because an opportunity lost today is an opportunity lost forever, but because the way that we engage in our work ultimately affects the way that we engage in our life as a whole. As you grow in your capacity to engage in your work, and as you discipline yourself to make continuous growth a part of your daily approach, you will find that latent capacities arise in every area of your life. Don’t waste the opportunity.

You have a unique contribution to make to the world

This is not self-help mumbo jumbo; it’s the truth. It’s easier to dismiss this notion than to own up to it and do something about it. You possess a one-of-a-kind combination of passions, skills, and experiences; there is something you bring to your work that no one else could. If you relinquish that power, then it will never see the light of day and you will always wonder “what if?” The price of regret is incalculable.

No one else can make your contribution for you

Waiting for permission to act is the easy way out. Everyone has to play the hand they’re dealt. This means that you can’t make a habit of pointing fingers, blaming others, or complaining. As painful as it can be, unfairness is baked into every aspect of life, and to make a contribution and empty yourself of your potential, you have to come to terms with it and refuse to be a victim.

Cultivating a love of the process is the key to making a lasting contribution.

Your contribution is not about you. You cannot function solely out of a desire to be recognized for what you do. You may be rewarded with accolades and riches for your work. You may also labour in obscurity doing brilliant work your entire life. More likely, you’ll fall somewhere in the middle. There is an overemphasis on celebrity and recognition in our culture, and it will eventually be the death of us.

Avoid comfort or “the golden handcuffs”

If making a significant impact was easy, it would be commonplace. It’s not common because there are many forces that lead to stagnancy and mediocrity. For example, some people, whether co-workers, managers, or even friends, may not want you to fully engage in the pursuit of great work because it places an onus on them to do the same. If you begin to rise above the pack, they will quickly try to bring you back to earth. Also, organizations often make it easy to settle in, providing you with a good salary, a nice title, or a sense of stability, the proverbial “golden handcuffs.” It’s easy to fall in love with these comfortable perks, but the love of comfort is often the enemy of greatness. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing comfort as a by-product of your labor, but you can’t make it your chief goal. Greatness emerges when you consistently choose to do what’s right, even when it’s uncomfortable.

Take a stand, don’t shape-shift

You are better positioned to make a contribution if you align your work around your values. Don’t be a mirror, passively reflecting the priorities of others. You must dig through the rubble to the core principles that guide your life, come hell or high water. Then commit to engaging your work with a clean conscience, knowing that you are holding true to those principles. There is plenty of room to experiment and try new things, but if you don’t stand for what you believe in, you will eventually lose yourself in your work.

Your “sweet spot” develops over time

Your understanding of your “sweet spot” develops over time like the film in a darkroom In baseball, there is a place on the bat called the “sweet spot,” the best part with which to strike the ball. It will send the ball soaring a lot farther than if you hit it even a few fractions of an inch off the mark with the same effort. Similarly, you have a “sweet spot” in your life by which you will add the most unique value through your efforts. Too many people want to come out of the gate with a clear understanding of their life’s mission. There is no one thing that you are wired to do, and there are many ways you can add value to the world while operating in your sweet spot. However, these opportunities will only become clear over time as you act. They will develop slowly like the film in a dark room, giving you clues as you experiment, fail, and succeed. You have to try different things, and devote yourself to developing your skills and intuition, before you will begin to see noticeable patterns and understand your unique value. Patience is required. This is a long arc game, but it must begin now.

You must plant seeds today for a harvest later

What you plant today you reap tomorrow, or further down the road. You must structure your life around daily progress based on what matters to you, building practices and activities that allow you to plant new seeds each day, with the knowledge that you will eventually see the fruits of your labor. While the universal principles outlined above are not overtly expressed in the remainder of the book, you will find that they inform many of the specific practices you will learn. In the end, my hope is that you will embrace the importance of now, and refuse to allow the lull of comfort, fear, familiarity, and ego to prevent you from taking action on your ambitions.

Why the richest People are found in the cemetery

People die with their Ideas

I’ve struggled to write this blog, and in full disclosure, I realize I’ve got some things working against me. Here’s the honest truth: no one really wants to think about death, let alone adopt it as some kind of motivational slogan. But the corona virus and the depressions and illness that is surrounding us is making me really ask difficult questions.

It’s not exactly the kind of feel-good, warm and fuzzy sentiment that large public gatherings are typically designed to cultivate. It would be much safer (and perhaps more lucrative) for me to stay squarely in my lane and continue to write about Human resource only. I continue to encounter professionals every day who are abandoning their contribution and forfeiting their best work because they’re stuck or deceived into believing that the path they are on will eventually become more bearable.

 It pains me to think about their unfulfilled potential while knowing that implementing a few simple, daily practices to eliminate areas of ineffectiveness could set them on the right path.

Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside you. Choose to die empty.

Your Body of Work When you’re gone, your work will stand as the single biggest testament to who you were and what you believed. By “your work,” I don’t just mean your occupation, but anyway in which you contribute value to the world using your available resources. This, of course, includes every task you do and project you engage in, but also every time you encourage someone else or contribute to a relationship, every instance in which you make an effort to grow your skills or develop your mind, or every time you go the extra mile even though you are exhausted. Your body of work comprises the sum total of where you choose to place your limited focus, assets, time, and energy. Naturally, your worth as a person transcends the value you create, but your work is the most visible expression of your priorities. As you consider your current body of work and the sum of the value you’ve created, is it reflective of what you truly care about? Forget about your title, pay grade, or how the world would rate your relative success or failure compared with what’s considered “normal.”

The only way to effectively gauge a day’s work is to answer the question “Can I lay my head down tonight satisfied with the work I did today?”

Summary of Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

#Elizabeth Gilbert #Big Magic #Create

“If you want to be an artist of any sort, it seemed to me, then handling your frustration is a fundamental aspect of the work, perhaps the single most fundamental aspect of the work. Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.” Elizabeth Gilbert,Big Magic

 “I’m going to start a daily blog” sounds great in your head, for about 12 seconds. Then the fears and doubts kick in.

“You’ll run out of things to say after a week.”

“You don’t have the discipline to publish daily.” “You’ll produce a ton of crap.”

Sounds Familiar? Ahh, self-talk, where would I be without it? This little conversation is one I had in my own head before starting this very Blog. But I went ahead and gave myself permission to do it anyway. And I am glad I did all thanks to Elizabeth Gilbert.

Be Brave & Give yourself permission

There is a lot of treasure hidden within you that needs to be brought out. However, many people do not have the courage for this. Elizabeth states that

“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them. You need to give yourself permission to create something to start something even if you start at zero. But you need to overcome it by giving yourself permission by saying that you will start no matter if it’s from the scratch or from zero.”

The fun part (the part where it doesn’t feel like work at all) is when you’re actually creating something wonderful, and everything’s going great, and everyone loves it, and you’re flying high. But such instants are rare. Only persistence will keep you going and focused.

Also, what are the motives of your project? Many people also feel like they are not ready to be creative because they do not know what reasons they have with their creative thinking. You do not have to save the world for you to be creative. Just be creative in your own little way. Further, you do not need to have a formal education regarding whatever you are doing.

Keep your day job and let it fuel your creative affair

Elizabeth has also shared various key lessons, such as Keep your day job and let it fuel your creative affair, the author said that after returning from your day job free yourself from bill payments and daily necessity bills stress and make yourself creative and do something which you like the most.

Manifest your Ideas

Ideas are driven by a single impulse: to be made manifest. Ideas have no material body, but they do have consciousness, and they most certainly have the will. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner.

“It is only through a human’s efforts that an idea can be escorted out of the ether and into the realm of the actual.”

Ideas are around us and when an idea finds you, or you find one you feel the inspiration go through your body. It is a magical feeling that ignites your creative juices. When you accept an idea, it grows. With growth, it is possible for the idea to get sidetracked or even go away. You need to act on it with enthusiasm and passion so that it can blossom into fruition.

Seek Love not Doubt – Many artists believe that their work thrives only in sadness. They deem anguish as the only authentic emotional experience for creativity. But this is not true. If you love your art and your art loves you back, then you should trust in your abilities and create regardless of your emotions. Choose love over anguish and with time your art will learn to love you back.

Creativity is a Sacred Call

Quoting Elizabeth here, “Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified, and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and an incredible privilege.” In Short respect your inner calling and nurture it instead of toning it down.

Elizabeth Gilbert definitely has a way with words, and you can tell she is a professional and passionate about what she writes. The book is exciting and full of profound wisdom so you should read the book if you want to fan your creativity.

Only when you toil will you know when “The”idea has found you and the magic happens.

Summary: Make Your Bed by William H. McRaven.

 I’ve been putting it off because it’s such a short read, but I chose it for this month because I needed to choose short books. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t finish on time and be behind my monthly reading schedule.

The book is broken down into ten aphoristic lessons that McRaven contends apply to people in all walks of life.

Chapter 1: Start Your Day with a Task Completed

If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.Making his bed was a reminder that at the end of the day he had done something well, something to be proud of no matter how small the task

Chapter 2: You Can’t Go It Alone

If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.You need people in life to help you through the difficult times.He realized that anything he achieved in life was a result of others helping him along the way.It takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life.You cannot paddle the boat alone.Find someone to share your life with.Make as many friends as possible.Never forget that your success depends on others.

Chapter 3: Only the Size of Your Heart Matters

If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart.Proving that size didn’t matter, that the color of your skin wasn’t important, that money didn’t make you better, that determination and grit were always more important than talent

Chapter 4: Life’s Not Fair. Drive On.

If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward.The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness

Chapter 5: Failure Can Make You Stronger

If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses“The circus” was designed to put you through a spiral of failure but make you stronger.In life, you will face a lot of circuses. You will pay for your failures but if you persevere, if you’ll let those failures teach you and strengthen you, then you’ll be prepared to handle life’s toughest moments

Chapter 6: You Must Dare Greatly

If you want to change the world, slide down the obstacle headfirst.Those who live in fear of failure, hardship, or embarrassment will never achieve their potential.Without pushing your limits, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life

Chapter 7: Stand Up to the Bullies

If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks.Make shark fin soup instead.

Chapter 8: Rise to the Occasion

If you want to change the world, be your very best in the darkest moments

Chapter 9: Give People Hope

If you want to change the world, start singing when you are up to your neck in mud.He learned of the power of one person to lead and inspire a group, to give them hope

Chapter 10: Never Ever Quit

If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.If you fill your days with pity, blaming your circumstances on someone or something else, then life will be long and hard.If, on the other hand, you refuse to give up on your dreams, stand tall and strong against the odds, then life will be what you make of it

Summarizing the Summary:

  • If you make your bed, that one task completed will eventually lead to many tasks completed by the end of the day
  • Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things matter
  • If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right
  • If you want to change the world, find someone to help you
  • Nothing matters but your will to succeed
  • If you want to change the world, measure a person by the size of their heart
  • Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or how well you perform, you still end up as a sugar cookie
  • If you want to change the world, get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward
  • Over time, the students who constantly made the circus list got stronger and stronger
  • The pain of the circuses built inner strength and physical resilience
  • If you want to change the world, don’t be afraid of the circuses
  • If you want to change the world, sometimes you have to slide down the obstacle headfirst
  • If you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks
  • If you want to change the world, you must be your very best in the darkest moment
  • One person can change the world by giving hope
  • If you want to change the world, start singing when you are up to your neck in mud
  • If you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell
  • If you want to change the world,respect everyone
  • Know that life is not fair
  • You will fail often
  • Take some risks
  • Step up when the times are toughest
  • Facedown the bullies
  • Lift up the downtrodden
  • Never, ever give up

This book is very short, crisp and to the point. The message in the book is for everyone who want to inculcate self discipline.

Summary :The way of the Korean Zen by Kusan Sunim

The Way of Korean Zen comes highly recommended — it is a joy to read and to digest over time. The wisdom of Zen practice is gently set forward throughout the text.

Kusan Sunim (Korean for “monk”) is a consummate teacher, leading the reader, or student, through a series of interesting and helpful topics including: instructions for meditation; discourses from a winter retreat; advice and encouragement; and the ten oxherding pictures.Aside from Kusan Sunim’s many accomplishments as a teacher, he was the first Korean Zen teacher to accept Western students in a Korean monastery. Additionally, he lived simply and strictly as a vegan Zen monk. He had a bright, radiant, challenging, freeing, and magnetic presence.

I think you would be hard pressed to find a better, more authentic introduction to Zen Buddhism-or, as it is called in Korea, Seon Bulgyo (where “seon” is pronounced like English “son”). But perhaps the word “introduction” is not really appropriate. If you know nothing about Zen Buddhism this is probably not the best place to start. If you’ve waded into the ocean of Zen and are looking for a fine “fish” to eat, something tasty and nutritious, something truly representative of these particular “waters” (just me showing my love for Korea ), this book is marvelous.

It is not about Japanese Zen, though, but Korean. The Koreans have been practicing Buddhism longer than the Japanese, plus there is more active, “authentic” Buddhism happening in Korea than in Japan. (I wonder why India further lags behind though.) That said, the Koreans understand the whys and wherefores of koan (or “hwadu”) practice in a way I never got the sense contemporary Japanese do. This book delves in depth regarding koans and contains prime instruction for anyone utilizing this particular meditation subject.

Some words about the source of these teachings. Kusan Sunim was, along with Seong-cheol Sunim (“sunim” means monk in Korean), arguably the greatest living exponent of Zen Buddhism in twentieth century Korea. He started life as a farmer and barber, was even a married man. At the age of 26 a life-threatening disease struck him. He survived by going to a temple and reciting the mantra Om mani padme hum for a hundred days, which practice cured him. Three years later he renounced family life and ordained as a monk and soon after took up meditation, which he did with fanatic resolve. Sometimes circumstances intervened to interrupt his practice, but he repeatedly went back to it with increased determination. During one stint, to fight off drowsiness he practiced continuous standing meditation for days on end, during which time “he lost any sense of the outside world. He was no longer concerned whether he lived or died. He was so absorbed in his meditation that birds would come and sit on his head and shoulders and take pieces of stuffing that protruded from his padded coat for their nests” (45). Eventually he attained Great Awakening, which caused his teacher Hyobong Sunim to say “Until now you have been following me; now it is I who should follow you” (47). This book gives you a chance to follow this great man.

The contents offer a good variety. The introduction (by Stephen Batchelor) chronicle the history of Buddhism in Korea, a much neglected area of study by Western Buddhists. Readers who wish to delve more deeply into this would be advised to check out Mu-Seong Sunim’s Thousand Peaks: Korean Zen Tradition and Teachers. Those with a philosophical bent will appreciate Tracing Back the Radiance: Chinul’s Korean Way of Zen. (Chinul, a contemporary of Dogen’s, is the intellectual godfather of Korean Zen, though in the last several decades he has been somewhat overshadowed by Seong-cheol’s “sudden awakening, sudden cultivation” teachings which hearken back to the Sixth Patriarch.) There follows an overview of life in a Korean Zen monastery and a brief bio of Kusan. Those wishing to know more about the former should read The Zen Monastic Experience by Robert E. Buswell.

The second half of the book constitute the teachings proper. They consist of meditation instructions, specifically how to practice the koan (hwadu), as well as discourses from winter retreats delivered by Kusan to monks assembled at Songgwang-Sa, where Kusan was the abbot. (This is also the temple where I lived most of the time that I spent in Korean temples.) There are also less formal talks-“advice and encouragement”-and a series of poems and commentaries on the traditional “Ten Oxherding Pictures.”

The feeling one gets from reading the words of Kusan is This is the real deal. Imagine if one of the ancient Chinese masters-Huang-po or Linchi or even Huineng-were suddenly resurrected in the here and now and started spouting off-this is what you’d expect to hear. Kusan has the same punch, energy, sense of paradox, and intrinsic authority. You can’t help but want to take this man’s advice, to run off to the mountains, live in a cave and risk all for the breakthrough.

But don’t believe me. Listen to him:

“To live long would be to live for a hundred years. A short life is over in the time it takes to inhale and exhale a single breath. A hundred years of life depends upon a single breath, for life stops when respiration ceases. Can you afford to wait for a hundred years when you do not know how soon death will come? You may die after having eaten a good breakfast in the morning; you may die in the afternoon after a good lunch. Some die during sleep. You may die in the midst of going here and there. No one can determine the time of death. Therefore, you must awaken before you die” (78-9).

What will it take to awaken? Kusan tells us:

“The Buddhas and the patriarchs did not realize Buddhahood easily. They realized it through great effort and much hardship. They exerted themselves with such great effort because the sufferings of birth and death are so terrifying. Therefore, even though you want to sleep more, you should sleep less. Even though you want to eat more, you should eat less. Even though you want to talk a lot, you should try to talk less. Even though you want to see many things, you should see less. Your body will definitely feel restrained by acting in such a way. This is indeed a practice of austerity. However, none of the Buddhas and the patriarchs would have awakened had they not trained themselves in this manner” (81-2).

Finally, if you want to help sentient beings, how can you do it? Kusan says

“In order to be able to actually help others, you should seek to emulate the spirit of a great hero. This is necessary because only one who is the greatest hero among heroes is able to accomplish this difficult task [of awakening]. You need supreme courage in order to bring this practice to its completion. To transform this world into a Pure Land and to change ordinary sentient beings into accomplished sages is no easy matter. It is truly the work of a great hero” (118).

This book sets forth Kusan Sunim’s deep emphasis on questioning, the heart of the Korean practice of the Korean Zen Buddhist approach. He was constantly challenging the monks and seekers who came to him with abrupt and forthright questions, such as, “right now, tell me, what is the sky?” The book also details Kusan Sunim’s biography, and how he practiced extremely diligently for many years, and as a result of his sincere and concerted effort attained profound breakthroughs .
I advise all you wanna-be great heroes to get a copy of this illuminating and inspiring book and enter soon the practice of the Way!

The Vegetarian (채식주의자 Chaesikjuuija )

I am a Non -Vegetarian, though I am not quite sure how long I can stay put thanks to Corona Virus and the holistic life I have been practicing because of it. On top of it, I happened to read “The Vegetarian”.

The vegetarian is not a book I would have picked up earlier and it’s strange that it has come to me now when I am open to the title.  In this remarkable novel,South Korean writer Han Kang explores the conflict between our two selves: one greedy, primitive; the other accountable to family and society.

The Vegetarian is set in modern-day Seoul and tells the story of Yeong-hye, a part-time graphic artist and home-maker, whose decision to stop eating meat after a bloody, nightmarish dream about human cruelty leads to devastating consequences in her personal and familial life. The story is told in three parts:

“The Vegetarian” The first section is narrated by Yeong-hye’s husband Mr. Cheong in the first person.

“Mongolian Mark” The second section is narrated in third person focusing on Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law

and “Flaming Trees” focuses on her sister, In-hye.

“The Vegetarian”

Mr. Cheong, considers his wife to be completely unremarkable. He explains that when he first met her, he was not even attracted to her and that suits him just fine. Mr. Cheong is content meandering through life; it seems as if his only goal is to live a conventional, unremarkable life. He chooses to marry his wife since he thinks she would prove to be a good, dutiful wife who would fit nicely into the kind of lifestyle he seeks. After several years of relatively normal marriage, Mr. Cheong wakes up to find his wife disposing of all meat products in the house. He demands an explanation, and Yeong-hye replies vaguely that “I had a dream.” Mr. Cheong attempts to rationalize his wife’s life decision over the next few months and to deal with vegetarian meals at home, but eventually calls Yeong-hye’s family and an intervention is scheduled. While around the dinner table, Yeong-hye’s family attempts to convince her to eat meat; her father, who served in Vietnam and is known for his stern temperament, slaps her when she refuses. Her father then asks a reluctant Mr. Cheong and Yeong-hye’s brother Yeong-ho to hold her arms while he force-feeds her a piece of pork. Yeong-hye breaks away, spits out the pork, grabs a fruit knife, and slits her wrist. The incredulous family rushes her to a hospital where she recovers and where Mr. Cheong admits to himself that she has become mentally unstable. As the section ends Yeong-hye manages to walk out of the hospital and when she is tracked down, she reveals a bird in her palm, which has a “predator’s bite” in it, and she asks “Have I done something wrong?”

“Mongolian Mark”

The husband of Yeong-hye’s sister In-hye, whose name remains unstated, is a video artist. He imagines a love-making scene between two people, with their bodies decorated by painted flowers and, upon learning that Yeong-hye has a birthmark shaped like a flower petal, he forms a plan to paint and record her in order to bring this artistic image to life. It is revealed that he is attracted to Yeong-hye, especially after checking up on her the narrator reveals that Yeong-hye has been served divorce papers by Mr. Cheong and finding her unabashedly naked in her apartment. Yeong-hye agrees to model for him and he paints flowers across her body in a studio rented from an art professor in the area. He follows up this project with a second piece of art, which involves recruiting a fellow artist to join Yeong-hye in a sexually-explicit film. When the brother-in-law asks if the two will engage in actual intercourse, his friend becomes ashamed and leaves. Yeong-hye, who had become aroused during this sequence, claims it was because of the flowers painted on the man’s body. The brother-in-law asks a friend to paint flowers on him and visits Yeong-hye, where the two engage in a recorded moment of intercourse. When his wife discovers the film, she calls “emergency services”, claiming that both he and Yeong-hye are mentally unwell. He contemplates jumping off of the balcony, most likely to his death, but remains “rooted to the spot” and is escorted out of the building by the authorities.

“Flaming Trees”

In-hye remains the only member of the family to support Yeong-hye after her mental and physical decline. She has separated from her husband after the events of the previous section, and is left to take care of their son in addition to her deteriorating sister. As Yeong-hye’s  behavior worsens, she is admitted to a mental hospital at Mount Chukseong, where, despite receiving high-level treatment for mania, she behaves gradually more plant-like. On one occasion she escapes the hospital and is found standing in a forest “soaked with rain as if she herself were one of the glistening trees”. In-hye, who constantly ruminates about the pain of dealing with her divorce and the care of her child and who throughout the chapter shows signs of her own depression and mental instability, visits Yeong-hye regularly and continues to try to get her to eat. Yeong-hye has given up food altogether, and when In-hye witnesses the doctors force-feeding her and threatening sedation to prevent vomiting, In-hye bites the nurse holding her back and grabs her sister. In-hye and Yeong-hye are driven to a different hospital by ambulance, and In-hye observes trees as they pass by.

The Vegetarian is structured, as a novel, in a slightly unusual way. It is divided in three parts: “The Vegetarian,” told from Mr. Cheong’s point of view; “Mongolian Mark,” from Yeong-hye’s brother-in-law’s, In-hye’s husband; and “Flaming Trees,” from In-hye’s, Yeong-hye’s sister. Yeong-hye is the figure around which all the narratives revolve, but she is almost never the first-person narrator, and we hear her thoughts only in the first section, when we are presented with her dreams, and at the rare times (she is rather the silent type) in which she speaks in the other sections. Throughout the book, Yeong-hye remains a mysterious and ethereal creature which different people, and among them the readers, try and understand in different ways and to different degrees, while being confronted with the existences with other people at very intimate levels as well.

As memorable works do, The Vegetarian touches on what it means to be human, taking a special and almost literal approach to the idea of “humanity” which passes through many themes.

My 2 cents on the First 20 Hours

Source :

https://sachachua.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/20130705-Visual-Book-Review-The-First-20-Hours-How-to-Learn-Anything…-Fast-Josh-Kaufman.png

Sorry Josh Kaufman.

I’m a kind book rater, but I’m really disappointed. The first few chapters (2 chapters to be precise) got me all excited because it seemed that I could finally Learn how to Learn.

However it went downhill from there.Most of what the first 20 hours is about can be digested from the first 2 chapters. The additional chapter’s concepts are elementary when it comes to understanding how to use the strategies for rapid learning. Check it out from your local library before buying it if you can; you may get all that you need from doing so.

Once I read the first few pages, I skipped everything. It goes too deep about his personal goals like yoga (I have the working level I need to enjoy benefits of yoga), programming (was never interested), and few more skills that I’m not interested in.

Rather than stretching the book in depth for all the skills not everyone needs, why not briefly explain how we (the readers) can implement or apply in our cases, or maybe give a workbook, or simply how we can use the principles mentioned in the first chapter.


If you haven’t bought this book already, I suggest you to read the above infographic by Sasha Chua and see Josh Kaufman’s Video on the same and you are all set.

Choose Your Deep Work Strategy

While you may be convinced of the value of deep work, you may be unsure of how to implement it in your life. Newport describes four different types of deep work scheduling you can choose from: monastic, bimodal, rhythmic, and journalistic.

All four of these philosophies have their pros and cons that should be carefully considered:

The Monastic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling is the most dedicated form of deep work and involves spending all of your working hours on a singular high-level focus. While this philosophy has the highest potential for reward and the lowest level of context-switching, it’s unrealistic for most people who are required to perform various kinds of work in their role. I find it unrealistic unless you are a fulltime freelancer or artist.

The Bimodal Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling allows for a high amount of deep work while enabling you to maintain other activities in your life that you find valuable. Successfully adopting this philosophy requires the flexibility to arrange your year, months, or weeks as you see fit into larger chunks of deep work. I plan to schedule my Goals under this philosophy because it seems realistic and balanced to me

The Rhythmic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling is ideal for individuals with a fairly static schedule. If you can anticipate what most of your days will look like, it’s feasible to block off several hours every day for deep work, thereby getting into a daily “rhythm”, and leaving the rest of your hours for shallow work.

The Journalistic Philosophy of Deep Work Scheduling is an option for people who are constantly on the move with little to no regularity to their days. This method demands vigilance with your time and the keen ability to notice natural ebbs and flows in your day where you may be able to fit in 30 minutes or an hour or two of deep work. Unfortunately, this method is not for beginners and is likely to fail for people who are not experienced in deep work.

Select the deep work philosophy that best suits your work and life. Also, feel free to experiment before you land on a method that finally takes hold in your schedule. Let me know which style suits you better and why.

Deep diving into Deep Work

Cover of Deep Work by Cal Newport

If self improvement is your goal , consider reading this book during this Lock-down.

I will refer to Cal as “He” (akin to Him, god the all-knowing) in this write up because he has definitely earned the authority on this topic. He gives a name to the productive state of “flow” most of us like to attain at work but which we can rarely maintain for more than a couple minutes when the next emergency interrupts our attention. The book is all about how to create an environment in which Deep Work is possible and how to reduce the time spent on Shallow Work.

According to him the ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive. He further goes to define “Deep Work” as:

“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

Whereas “Shallow Work” is:

“Non-cognitively demanding, logistical-style tasks, often performed while distracted. These efforts tend to not create much new value in the world and are easy to replicate.”

The book is structured in two parts. The first part motivates Deep Work in stating that Deep Work is valuable, rare and meaningful. The second part describes four rules that help to facilitate Deep Work. I had some trouble staying motivated through the first part which goes into details about why Deep Work is important. You can skip Part 1 totally if I am able to convince you the importance of Deep Work but if not skim through.

Chapter 1 explains why deep work matters. Our economy is changing, and the days of doing the same thing over and over for 40 years until you retire are over. Cal lays out an interesting theory for 3 types of workers, Superstars, Owners and High Skill Workers and makes a convincing and important argument for the importance in the future of being able to work at higher levels of abstraction and work with intelligent machines. In this chapter he also makes a case for the two critical skills for knowledge workers:

1. Learning Quickly

2. Producing at an Elite Level

Chapter 2 focuses on why deep work is rare and essential for achieving success in this VUCA (Volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world. He shows how distractions are becoming more and more common for knowledge workers, and that attention is becoming a rare ability. Newport makes a good case for how complex knowledge work is often hard to measure, so managers measure busyness instead of output that relates to bottom line results (KPIs). People end up optimizing for looking busy instead of getting real work done.

Chapter 3 goes into the why of deep work. Newport give 3 theories on why deep work is meaningful, a psychological, neurological and a philosophical reason.

Part 2 is full of tips and insights and covers four chapters on the rules of Deep Work ie Work Deeply, Embrace Boredom, Quit Social media (take what resonates and leave the rest) and Drain the Shallows. I plan to write more on it but here are a few takeaways that I could list down:

  1. Schedule time for Deep Work, ideally in a rhythmic fashion to establish a habit. By Rhythmic he means fixed times for work and relaxation. This is to ensure we are not all work and no play.
  2. Set impossible deadlines. The only way to keep an impossible deadline is focused work.

Schedule every minute of your day in order to keep shallow distractions at bay.

  • Consciously decide for every entry in your schedule if it’s deep or shallow to set the mood. Give yourself a budget of Shallow Work and don’t overspend it.
  • Ritualize where you work and how you work. Create rules that help you focus.
  • You needn’t be alone for Deep Work. Collaborative Deep Work is possible (Newport calls it the “Whiteboard Effect”). This doesn’t mean that Open Space is the best office layout, though.
  • Take breaks from focus, don’t take breaks from distraction. Schedule breaks from focused work regularly.
  • Execute like a business. Focus on the important, measure your deep work time and results and keep track of them on a scoreboard, and do a regular review. This is called the “4 Disciplines of Execution” (4DX) Framework
  • Have a weekly rendezvous with yourself to review your achievements and plan out the next week.
  • Don’t extend your work day into the evening to do Deep Work, because it’s most likely not productive. Establish a “shutdown ritual” to follow every day after work in which you check the status of today’s tasks and your calendar for the next day. This helps to free your mind to let go until the next day. Take downtimes away from work seriously as they help to recharge.
  • Meditate productively on Deep Work problems when running, driving, or anything that is not mentally engaging
  • Quit social media because it’s a shallow distraction. Be hard to reach to avoid shallow distractions.
  • Identify the high-level goals you want to reach and the key activities that help you reach them.

Overall Thoughts:

There are lots of powerful insights in the book. Even if you don’t buy the entire process, you’ll pick up some tips and tricks that will make you more productive. I personally find it annoying that he talks about deleting social media accounts! Social Media provides pleasure and relaxation to people, which is exactly why it can be addictive.  The secret is moderation, not elimination. This Lock-down has proved to be a blessing in disguise because not only did I get the opportunity to read this book but also actively implement some of its principles.

Cheers to Deep diving into everything we do!