The better you
"Life is good. Rarely easy. Often funny, outrageous, wonderful, thought-provoking. At times exasperating, doubt-inducing, desperately worrying and frightening. But deep down: life is good. Life lacks enough clear maps, timetables and simple instruction guides; it appears at times to deliberately mislead you and steer you down a few side paths until you hit the clear empty highway and begin to motor."
I've read Nicholas Bate's latest book, You, Only Better, twice now. I'll probably read it a third time just to make sure I caught it all. I don't write this because the book is hard to comprehend; one of Bate's strengths is his ability to take complex subjects and boil them down to understandable concepts - sometimes he even boils them down to pictures. I write this because You, Only Better, combines Bate's drawings and the best of his thinking into a useful how-to manual for improvement.
The book addresses what I consider to be key elements of getting better: ensuring creativity, understanding the whole picture, momentum and mediation or contemplation. Of course there is more in the book, but Bate hits all the important subjects in this relatively slim 184-page look at improvement.
Bate also addresses the always-present challenge of getting better while recognizing the importance of being you. He never suggests reform without addressing the essential form that is you.
And he properly makes the reader understands who is responsible in the improvement process:
"One thing to get really good at is taking ownership of your own destiny. Of not blaming others. Of not complaining about things which are out of your control. Life isn't always fair. And organizations are certainly not. You can get a discussion with your boss. You can save money for the course. You can watch less TV and read some books on the topic."
A friend of mine once commented on Bate's writing to the effect, "I know all those things." "Of course you know all those things," I said. "But reminders about all those things are what keeps us doing them."
We know we shouldn't complain. Yet we do all the time. We know life is unfair, so why do we get so worked up and stew about it instead of doing things to insulate ourselves against the unfairness?
Bate offers all the reminders of all the important things plus he offers some great insight on new approaches for managing the important things.
Two I find particularly useful are the personal compass - a six-point guidance system we need to maintain in order to be successful - and the master list - or "your master list" - as a life management tool.
Underpinning all the great ideas and guidance in the book, is Bate's sparkling writing. You, Only Better challenges the reader to eat better, live better, exercise more and think better. It issues those challenges and supports them in an encouraging, thought-provoking manner with crystal clear writing that drives the reader on. In You, Only Better, Bate provides a practical guide for an ever-improving life. It is highly worth your reading, thinking and action time. Buy it, read it, live. Better yet, buy a few copies for distribution to some of your favorite people.
Oh yeah, and for additional help, Bate's blog serves as proving ground for many of his ideas. You can find it here.