I just finished up the book Ikigai (or rather, ordered collection of essays, email fragments and blog posts) by a guy named Sebastian Marshall. Ikigai translates to “Reason for Living,” and Sebastian does a good job of putting together a case for what type of reasons one should live their life, and provides a general framework for doing it effectively. The book constantly reminded me of work I’ve read by the Stoics (ie Marcus Aurelius, Cicero, and Epictetus). I wouldn’t go so far as to put Sebastian’s work on an equal footing with Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, but it is good.
The book covers a lot of ground for being a short read. I finished in a week of reading one hour per day. Among the topics discussed:
- Why it pays to study history. He includes tons of historical examples of figures who made both strategic strokes of genius and blunders.
- Managing your life. The importance of tracking things. Sebastian contends that what gets measured gets managed, so if you want to stop a bad habit or create a good one you need to start by tracking how much you do it.
- The importance of constant learning and self enrichment. Why you should pursue all of your interests (yet carefully schedule that pursuit, thus eliminating all but the most important).
- Settings goals and getting things done.
- Self control and self discipline. How to build them.
- The low value of temporary happiness and the high value of producing great work.
- Why the “All you have to do is find your passion!” stuff is mostly bullshit – sure you can’t hate what you do but no one who achieves anything does it without doing things that are hard. For example, I don’t enjoy every line of code I write, nor am I *always* enthused about studying new programming techniques.
The book is by no means perfect. There are many sentence fragments, a few misspelled / cut off words, etc. It was not proofed well. It is not polished, and as something of an English language snob, at times it annoyed the hell out of me. However, it is a great read. It’s inspiring, funny, and you’ll definitely learn something. At times I found myself saying “HELL YES” and pumping my fist. I rarely do that while I’m reading.
If I had to produce one paragraph that aptly described Sebastian’s message, it would be this:
“You’re going to DIE some day. Don’t waste your life mucking around in mediocrity. Don’t compare yourself to peers in your own generation – compare yourself to the greatest in history. Put yourself at the bottom of THAT mountain and start climbing. On your journey upwards, take care of your body, constantly feed your mind, and be a Johnny Appleseed. Help others when you can, and do not grant that help begrudgingly. What are you waiting for, go out and start doing things.”