“You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” —Jim Rohn
Let’s face it, how we spend time is everything we need to know to understand who we are and where we are headed. There simply are no better metrics! If you spend all your time hanging out with avid party goers who stay up getting wasted ’til dawn, there’s a big chance you don’t care much about yourself. If your peeps don’t perform well in school because all they do is skip class and play computer games all day, chances are you are also not performing well in school by choice. But if the people you spend most of your time with regularly hit the gym, watch what they eat, and keep track of their sleep and recovery, there’s a high probability you are person who values your health and well-being.
“When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends.” —Japanese Proverb
We learn each others’ habits and adapt each others’ mindsets after spending a lot of time together. This is how we humans have survived throughout the ages. It’s a survival strategy that helps us thrive, build societies and cultures throughout the millennia. As the trustworthy African proverb reminds us, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Our shared values and beliefs are formed by the way we spend time together, and share and understand wisdom together.
What’s interesting is that those who become successful in life not only have chosen successful peers to surround them, but they almost always have at least one mentor in their life. Mark Zuckerberg had Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Jr. took inspiration from Gandhi, and Drake has Lil’ Wayne. If you never had a mentor before or don’t have any mentors just yet, this is where reading comes into play.
Today we need to deliberately take a break from our fast-paced lives and appreciate the value of reading. Working hard round-the-clock can be great but it can be destructive to oneself if our efforts end up producing nothing of real value. We work so hard to earn so much but to what end? What is real value and where can one find it?
A person’s experiences, stories and values may not necessarily be compressed into a single book but they surely can be deeply expressed through its chapters and passages. Reading can give us a leverage by opening a world within us wherein we can experience another person’s struggles and triumphs without having to literally go through the same circumstances and challenges. We learn by empathizing with the author’s own pursuit of meaning and purpose. Through reading, we are able to defeat great monsters by joining Hercules in his adventures or are able to take a last stand for the people we love by fighting with Leonidas and the brave 300. We suddenly are able to travel without having to fly and we can gain wisdom without having to repeat another person’s mistakes and missteps. Imagine the pace at which we can grow and learn and the insight we can gain if we just started to read more.
My own little world started to expand during my 24th birthday when my long time friend, Joanne, gave me this book entitled “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren as a birthday present. Anyone who have read it can easily say that it is such a life-transforming book.
Having been addicted to reading and the pursuit of wisdom early in my coaching career allowed me to have an awareness about the deeper meaning of life and what I am called to do. Suddenly, it was less about building a career and more about giving myself, all of who I am, to what I am called to do with the people whom I am called to serve. I was able to answer Warren’s question, “What on Earth am I here for?” and it was that time when I have found peace within me. I looked at my own “inner demons” with different eyes. My clinical anxiety had caused me much internal suffering growing up but, looking back, I realized that my overcoming of my own darkness is part and parcel of my message as a human being. I am, as we all are, created uniquely with specific strengths and weaknesses. The dark valleys of my life were there for a purpose and that purpose is what drives me to this day.
From then on, I became passionate about reading. I couldn’t live without books. I would read during my fifteen minute breaks, in between clients, any free time that presents itself during the day, and, my favorite time, before going to bed at night. I would squeeze it in no matter what because it is an essential source of sustenance— a kind of food for my heart and my soul. The authors became my mentors and I learned from their ideas, values, philosophies and character which then I tried to emulate myself. Like an empty sponge, I woke up each day excited and hungry to learn from my books! However, this addiction to reading suddenly wasn’t simply enough for me. I made sure to learn from each conversation I had with every person I would encounter, most especially from my students. Little did I realize that I was beginning to become a student of life for life.
Today, books have and always been my SoulFood. With my highly active lifestyle of coaching and training as a competitive athlete, there’s an actual need in me to slow things down to feed my soul. For me, chilling with a good book with a strong cup of coffee is as nourishing as it can get. As the cliche goes, “We can only give what we have.” And I have found that it’s my responsibility to raise my standards, widen my understanding, and open my mind so that whenever the opportunity to share wisdom presents itself, I can hopefully give some enlightening perspective that could help a friend or student turn a corner in their lives.
Throughout the years, reading really made me better equipped. Books in my personal library range from exercise science, to nutrition, to psychology, to philosophy, to religion, to self-enrichment and to business. As I have developed a deep love for all these, I hope to make my world a little bigger and better not only for myself but most especially for others who learn from me. As a fitness coach, I want to be able to reach and connect with people from where they are and what better way to do this than through reading, embodying what I have read, and ultimately sharing the wisdom through my life and my service to my community.
“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” — Nelson Mandela