Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Book Review: Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart

The self-help shelves in bookshops are choking on superficial drivel that is making more money for the authors than actually helping anyone. At times, though, amongst all the rubble, you can find a pearl that has grown from adversity and that has some substantial insights on the human condition. Gordon Livingston has been listening to people's problems for more than thirty years as a psychiatrist. He has experienced adversity himself, losing both of his sons in one thirteen-month period -- one to leukemia and one to suicide. Out of this wealth of experience has come his little book of wisdom, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart: Thirty True Things You Need to Know Now. In brief chapters that get straight to the point, he discusses what turn out to be "obvious" truths. Here are a few:
  • If the map doesn't agree with the ground, the map is wrong.
  • We are what we do.
  • It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not placed there by logic in the first place.
  • The statute of limitations has expired on most of our childhood traumas.
  • Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least.
  • Feelings follow behavior.
  • The perfect is the enemy of the good.
  • The most secure prisons are those we construct for ourselves.
  • Happiness is the ultimate risk.
  • And many more...

Listing them like this might give the impression that they are witty platitudes. Far from it. Reading this book is like listening to a wise mentor who understands life and its ups and downs and who has insights that speaks so often to the realities of life. A gentle, insightful read that will inspire some real change in the way you view your approach to living.

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