A while back, some friends and I went on an out of the city weekend road trip to visit the legendary Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru. While on our way, I discovered that one of my friends had carried her copy of Sheryl Sandberg’s (face book COO) recent book ‘Lean In’. Inevitably, during our three days there, I stayed up late after the others had retired to read this amazing anecdotal inspirational book that I believe every working woman needs to read.
Having worked in the corporate world for a while after graduating from college, I nodded and was thrilled to find out that I, and my friends too, could actually relate to most of the issues and challenges Sheryl encountered at her workplace even though we are continents apart; the issues mentioned therein included lacking self confidence, not speaking up(especially when in the company of very loud and aggressive colleagues who technically take over the meetings) and even settling for lesser pay than the male counterparts in exactly the same job position(because women, having been raised to care for others first, find it selfish and improper to ask for a higher pay). With each chapter I read, not only did I discover my blind spots, but also felt better knowing exactly how I could work on my weak areas , progress in my career and even achieve an amazing work and family balance.
If you have been following most of the literary discussions lately, you most likely have come across a breed of nay-Sayers who are bombarding the literary circle with a fallacy so ridiculous it can only be compared to the millennium bug claptrap that rocked the world slightly over a decade ago. These people, most of who unfortunately are educators, are telling the rest of us not to read motivational books. They go on to compare motivational book reading to drug addiction and claim that these books replace ‘our’ reality. One of such prophets of doom is one Gakera Mtembezi who in his article, (Saturday Nation September, 2013) alleges that these books aim at generalizing life, and everyone’s situation is unique. Perhaps he needs to remember the words of the wisest man to walk this earth; King Solomon who in his book of Ecclesiastes says over and over that ‘there is nothing new under the sun’
The brilliant renown author TS Elliot stated three permanent reasons for reading; the acquisition of wisdom, the enjoyment of art and the pleasure of entertainment. Nonetheless, when I read the argument stated for not reading motivational books I get the feeling that the writer only focuses on one reason, the acquisition of wisdom. Could it then, not have occurred to the writer that there are those of us who read those books simply to entertain ourselves by the sometimes bizarre quick fixes therein? Then again, since philosophers argue that we see the world as we are, not as it is, could it be that these particular writer might have reached a saturation point, a sort of false utopia where he feels that only his personal experiences are sufficient or worthy enough to educate him on life?
One of the most life-changing books I have read is Stephen Coveys’ ‘ Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families’ not only did I find the numerous real-life illustrations he used very eye opening (he went round his country collecting real life stories from real families and used them to emphasize his points in the book) but through application of some of those simple principles like respecting, listening and even focusing on creating a win-win situation, I was able to improve my relationships and consciously work towards accepting others and not striving for perfection.
Reading-motivational books or otherwise- helps us dream. It opens up our mind, it helps us look at other peoples’ viewpoints and realize just how uniquely different each of us was created. Fortunately, we have the liberty to take in whatever we find useful and discard whatever we deem inappropriate. Reading simply opens up a whole endless world before us.
Finally, in the words of one incredible writer Doris Lessing: there is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag- and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement.
First published here.