Whenever I’m down, I repeat this mantra, “Everything teaches us something. What am I to learn from this?”
The things that are capable of destroying us are also capable of developing us—the choice is ours. Feelings and emotional toil don’t often make sense, so thinking our way out of them almost always ends up futile, if not extremely frustrating and disempowering.
But what we do know is that we can convert energy. That said, what if we could metabolize our negative feelings?
Here is my ultimate bulletproof list. Each title has made a huge impact in guiding and transforming my life:
1. Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
I first came across this title seven years ago at the Barnes and Noble in Union Square, New York. I’ve always loved books, and prior to therapy, I’ve always gone to bookshops to locate some sort of grounding.
The titles I find most helpful are often in the personal development and business sections, and I would spend hours just reading the aisles. But this book was much easier to spot—it was on sale and had a compelling cover. “Antifragile:” I never even heard of the term, but I loved it, and it’s what I wanted to be. It’s more than resilience and survival, and it’s not being delusional, thinking we are invincible.
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder helps us recover from the shocks and traumas and become stronger than when we fell. Using Taleb’s example, Antifragile is like the hydra serpent: when its head gets cut off, two grow back. I treat this book like it’s my bible. In times of chaos and disorder, it becomes an essential reread.
2. The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee by John Little
If you ever practiced martial arts, you know that philosophy is deeply embedded in each practice, and this compilation of Bruce Lee’s blend of Eastern and Western philosophies is the most impactful read I’ve come across.
The quote that first introduced me to his way of thinking was, “Absorb what is useful, reject what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”
Even if you don’t pick up the book, this quote alone is a reminder in our noisy world, and it will carry us far. If you do happen to pick up the book, you’ll come across this quote in chapter 17, which is titled “In Your Own Process.”
3. Synchrodestiny: Harnessing the Infinite Power of Coincidence to Create Miracles by Deepak Chopra
If you align with the philosophy that life doesn’t merely happen to you, but it happens for you, or that “everything happens for a reason,” then this is the book to dive into. If we are truly mindful, then there are no real “coincidences.” We simply get into alignment with the things and people that we resonate with. It’s an energetic phenomenon, and it’s not unlike the Law of Attraction.
Deepak Chopra, of all authors, has certainly written many titles on personal transformation, but this is the one that I will list here, as it will equip us with the tools to live much more deeply, especially during this time of isolation and lockdown.
This book is essentially an exercise in choosing to see life events differently, so that obstacles become opportunities. If we can harness the power to become empowered through disempowering events, then what is that, if not magic?
4. The Lucid Body: A Guide for the Physical Actor by Fay Simpson
Please don’t think that this is just a book for actors. This listed book isn’t meant to hone artistic craft. The common denominator here is that all the books listed work with energy, and they give us the tools so that we can transform ours. This is a gem in this list.
Not only does Fay root her exercises through physical, tangible ways, she also goes through chakra exercises and includes so many chapters that would help the non-actor with life transformations: Nonjudgmental Mind, Audible Exhale, Meditation, Taking Off the Armor, Finding Your Persona, and so much more.
Lucid Body transforms the way we think and the ways we recognize ourselves. If we truly put the book to practice, our physical and emotional habits will change by the end of our read. This is how magic happens.
5. Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Life by Gary John Bishop
I’ve read Gary’s books, and I’ve taken his courses, and I wholeheartedly recommend listening to what he has to say because when I did, it transformed my relationships, and it transformed my life.
Here are a few favourite quotes of mine:
“You must first accept that while there are things that have happened in your life that you had no say in, you are 100 percent responsible for what you do with your life in the aftermath of those events. Always, every time, no excuses.”
“You have the life you’re willing to put up with.”
“Uncertainty is where things happen. Uncertainty is your personal pathway to opportunity. It’s the environment in which you grow, experience new things and produce new, unprecedented results. Uncertainty is where new happens.”
6. You Learn by Living: Eleven Keys for a More Fulfilling Life by Eleanor Roosevelt
I used to live on Albany Post Road, in upstate New York, and much further down the same road was the FDR Presidential Library & Museum. When I visited six years ago, all my favorite quotes within the walls of that space were from Eleanor. I wrote them down by hand and then proceeded to read everything I could find written by her.
This is a slim book that I carry with me almost everywhere I go because between the pages of wisdom are practical things to get us through the daily grind.
This is one of my favorite lines:
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
7. The Journey Into Yourself by Eckhart Tolle
I was first introduced to Eckhart Tolle almost 10 years ago. I was working for the federal government then, and he was an author and thinker that my boss had turned me onto. In an environment of fast-paced, competitive, global, and often ego-driven intellectual thinkers, it was unusual to turn to someone who talked at such a slow pace and in a tone I had little patience for.
When I left my government work to become an artist in New York, I found myself gravitating toward Tolle’s works because all the rush and the rushing didn’t get me to where I wanted to be. I lost my grounding in many ways, and this was a book that helped me locate my bearings again.
I recognized the value of stillness for the first time. I love listening to the audiobook when I’m commuting—it’s like a guided meditation. Every listen is like practising alchemy.
If there’s one person who gets why and how we self-cripple, and how to get us out of our funk, it’s Mel Robbins. I’ve taken so many of her courses and read basically everything she wrote, but this five-second rule is a classic. Trying to metabolize negative feelings? Zap them in five seconds.
9. The Empath Experience: What to Do When You Feel Everything by Sydney Campos
I listen to audiobooks on average eight hours a day, so when I purchase a paperback, there are reasons—and I keep this book by my bedside with a pen to make notes and underline sections.
There isn’t a vast amount of empath literature out there, so it took me decades to confirm that yes, I am one, indeed. There’s a huge difference between being an empath and being sensitive. Being able to label things correctly detaches us from much confusion and unnecessary emotional toil.
This book allowed me to understand life events in a completely new way, and it gave me tools to form new associations with what happened, and recalibrate life in ways that serve me, grow me, and protect me.
10. Rejection Proof by Jia Jiang
Jia Jiang may not have created the “Rejection Therapy” game, but he most certainly wrote the book on using rejection to propel us forward—in technicolor. This rather unorthodox way of experimental living proves again that we really are our own worst enemies—but we don’t have to be.
Through a hundred stories from real life, Jia shows us in concrete ways just how much richer and bigger our lives could be, daily, if we don’t hold ourselves back. This book follows Jia’s uphill and, sometimes, outlandish adventures as he toys with rejection, even teasing it.
In doing so, he gradually desensitized himself to the pain and shame that are often by-products of rejection and shows us possibilities for beauty and expansion in the places where we expect to find dead ends.
Nothing says metabolizing negative feelings like eating rejection for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can watch the TED Talk here.