life lessons Tag

Given

Given

Given

starring the Goodwin family, directed by Jess Bianchi
launched in 2017 by Good Wolf Entertainment, 74 minutes

 

When looking for a movie to watch my boyfriend and I immediate agreed upon Given; a  road movie told by six years-old Given Goodwin who goes on a 14 month journey across the world with his mom Daize, dad Aamion and baby sister True.

 

“I asked my dad why we were leaving.
He said because it was what he did with his dad.” 

Given Goodwin

 

And so the journey begins. From their island home of Kauai, the Goodswins pass through 15 different countries following the waves on their quest to find ‘the big fish’. Every place the Goodwins visit, Given learns wonderful new lessons, meets fascinating people, discovers local traditions and some of the most beautiful beaches, places and landscapes of our planet.

 

Trailer ‘Given’

 

An amazing story, not only very pleasing to the eye, but also heart warming. Exploring our big and wonderful world through the eyes of a young boy and his surfing family. Living a life filled with respect for nature, always keen to explore their surroundings, making time for the people crossing their path and especially for the passing of knowledge from father to son.

Although the boy’s voiceover reminds me a bit of the movie ‘Australia’ and the storyline of the big fish might refer to Tim Burton’s ‘Big Fish’, Given definitely stands its own ground. Without any exaggeration I can say that this movie is just absolutely stunning! Even if the story told would not your cup of tea, the breathtakingly beautiful visual earthscapes will blow your mind and give you an instant traveling bug. Given, the movie, might be an inspiration for your own adventures or an easy way to explore our wonderful planet from your comfortable couch at home.

 

“The big fish waits for a strong and worthy opponent, to free his restless spirit.
Whoever catches the big fish, carries the spirit of the ocean inside him.” 

– Given Goodwin

 

For more info and lots of beautiful travel pictures, check giventhemovie.com.

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The death of Ivan Ilyich

The death of Ivan Ilyich

The death of Ivan Ilyich

written by Leo Tolstoj, published by Penguin Classics
genre novel, 106 pages

 

When a famous writer recommended this book and mentioned how much she loved it, I ended up buying a novel I probably never would have picked out myself. A novel telling the sad story of a dying man. A book I somehow love so much that I have read it several times now and probably will keep reading it every single year.

 

 

The story in short

It’s the year of 1882 when 45 year old Ivan Ilyich Golovin slowly but surely finds out he is a dying man. Although the doctors and his family cannot agree on the seriousness of his condition, for Ivan there’s no denying; this is the end.

Like most dying people Ivan starts to take measure of the life he has led. Starting off with the conviction he has led a righteous and proper life, following the path of duty that was laid out for him, surrounding himself with wealthy and powerful people.
But while his physical condition weakens, Ivan starts to realize he has not been a happy man and he is not at all satisfied with the life he has created and the people that are surrounding him.

In his final days and hours, the realization that he has led the wrong kind of life is even harder to endure than the physical pain and suffering. Thankfully Ivan finds comfort in the presence and care of his young servant Gerasim and while his final hour is nearing he has to find a way to deal with the reality of his life, he has to find a way to die.

 

“He would go into his study, lie down and find himself alone again with It.
Face to face with It. Nothing to be done about It.
Only stare at It and go cold.” 

– Ivan Ilyich

 

Why you should read this book

Even though I’ve read this book several times already, I still find it hard to explain why I love it so much and keep reading it. Of course the theme of reflecting on life and what’s important and what is not, has always been one of my interests. I guess it’s also Tolstoj’s down to earth way of writing and the way he’s given a rigid man those strong new insights. Just like the writer who encouraged me to read it, I can really recommend this novel, it’s definitely a book worth reading.

 

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A survival guide for life

A survival guide for life

A survival guide for life – How to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character

written by Bear Grylls, published by Transworld Publishers
genre non-fiction / self-help, 284 pages

 

Since my boyfriend kept mentioning this book I decided to give it to him as a birthday present. Not having any clue who Bear Grylls is and what the book’s all about. But as soon as I bought it, I realized I’d love this book as much as my boyfriend would.
The 284 pages are filled with 75 precious life lessons, personal experiences and hard-earned wisdom. Written down by a man who not only knows how to stay alive in extreme circumstances, but also knows how to translate these experiences into the most down to earth, to the point and valuable life lessons. A book that had to be read!

 


The story in short

Even though I’d not yet heard of the man, it turns out that Mr. Grylls is one of the most well known people around the world, when it comes to survival and outdoor adventure. Starting with training martial arts as a child, Bear joined the British Special Forces as a young man. While serving the 21 SAS he gained many experiences, perfected his skills and trained his heart and mind.

Over the years Bear Grylls has written 20 books and this one is an insider’s guide on how to follow your heart and live an empowered, effective, fun-filled life. As a former member of the SAS, Bear knows first handed how hard life’s challenges can be and how good it feels to keep holding on and to not give up.

A book filled with so many useful lessons can be hard to summarize. Picking my 5 favorite lessons might give you an idea why I loved this book and its author so much. So here they are :

  1. Be the most enthusiastic person you know. Enthuasiasm sustains you when times are tough, encourages those around you and rapidly becomes a habit.
  2. The will to win means nothing, without the will to train. Or as Winston Churchill put it: “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
  3. To get, you first have to give. A beautiful lesson Bear learned as a child from his mother. Please make sure to read this chapter in the book, I loved the explanation.
  4. No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. The real value of a team is the people and the relationships between them.
  5. It’s all about that little bit extra. Reaching our summits only requires us to hold on that little bit longer than most people are prepared to endure.

 

And because it’s incredibly hard to pick only 5, I decided to give a little encore :

  • You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion. Listen twice as much as you talk, don’t listen to reply but listen to understand.

 

Do you get what I mean? It all sounds very logical and sometimes even funny. But we all struggle with motivation or inspiration sometimes. According to Bear, champions never stay down for long. That’s why we need to keep feeding motivation into our brains and souls every single day, that’s what this survival guide is all about.

 

Why you should read this book

Having read quite a lot of self-help books, this one is definitely one of the quickest and easiest reads of all. The 75 chapters are very short and concise, they all add a new lesson or insight and together they add up to one overall story. It’s a book that can be read in just a day or two, or to have laying around to pick up every now and then for just that piece of  advise suitable for your specific situation or mood. If you’re in an instant need of motivation, this book will be the perfect cure!

 

“Life rewards the dogged, not the qualified.” 

– Bear Grylls

 

* Picture in header from Bear Grylls’ Facebook.

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Als jouw leven een cirkel is waar sta jij dan?

Als jouw leven een cirkel is

Als jouw leven een cirkel is waar sta jij dan? / If life was a circle, where would you be?

written by Inez van Oord, published by Kosmos Uitgevers
genre nonfiction / lifestyle, 263 pages

 

As long as I can remember, magazines always attracted my attention. Especially beautifully designed magazines, combining pretty pictures with interesting stories and topics. Being the founder of some of the most successful Dutch magazines, I’d heard of Inez van Oord before. I’d read her magazines and more recently found articles about her; about her life and the brave decisions she’s made. When I found out Inez had written a personal book about life, I just couldn’t wait to check it out.

 


The story in short

Inez’ natural talent for identifying trends helped her to translate the elements that are missing in life, into magazines that can count on big fanbases. Her magazines Seasons (about living a pure and natural lifestyle) and Happinez (about living a spiritual and mindful life) are great examples of following your guts and making dreams come true. But despite her former success, Inez’ third attempt to set up a new magazine called ‘Humanize’, unfortunately didn’t work out the way she’d envisioned and left her with one question : What to do now?

That’s when creativity kicked back in and Inez decided to write the book she’d been thinking about for many years; a book about living life and finding your balance. The book that has been declared the best spiritual book of 2016. With this book, Inez got back on track and shows once more that following your dreams and guts can make you a very happy and successful person.

Having a lifelong fascination for circles (hence the typical Happinez cover design), this time Inez refers to life itself as a circle. A circle like a compass; a compass with ‘Mind’ as North and ‘Body’ being South, ‘Self’ as East and ‘Others’ being West. A compass to help us find our own balance within those four poles. A compass that can guide us back to the centre of it all, back to the essence of what makes life worth living.

 

Why you should read this book

The book is a quick and easy read and the illustrations that complement the stories make reading it even more enjoyable. The book can be divided into two parts. In the first section Inez explains the four quarters of the compass and links them to her own professional and personal life. She tells about her career in the magazine world, how it started and took shape, her struggles and successes. The second part of the book focuses on the reader. Inez hands us tools to help us find our way back to the centre of our own compasses.

To be honest, I read this book mostly because of the first part in which Inez tells about her career. The second part I’m sure can be very helpful for a lot of people, but I think I’d already found my answers to those questions via other ways. Nevertheless I loved reading this book, because it’s a good example of how the most honest and personal stories often are the most inspiring and can help others to make their own decisions.

 

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The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

written by Gretchen Rubin, published by Harper Collins Publishers
genre non fiction / self help, 292 pages

 

The first time I came across this book in a store I had just finished reading ‘The Rosie Project’ by Graeme Simsion. Having loved reading Simion’s novel I felt drawn to ‘The Happiness Project’ immediately, hoping it would tell a similar story. But it did not.
Actually this is a totally different story and not at all what I expected, but it turns out that I like it even more!

 


The story in short

One morning like many others Gretchen Rubin, a NYC-based writer and mother of 2 young children, has the sudden realization that she’s in danger of wasting her life. She feels like the years are passing her by and decides it’s time for a change. Not because she isn’t happy, but because she knows she can be happier.
Knowing nothing will change unless she makes it change, she decides to dedicate a year trying to be happier and starts her own happiness project. A project that results in a blog, a website and eventually turn into a book. The book that I’ve been reading, several times.

 

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy, is to make other people happy.
One of the best ways to make other people happy, is to be happy yourself.” 

– Gretchen Rubin

 

Gretchen’s happiness project can be divided into 3 stages. First comes the preparation stage, a moment to identify what brings you positive feelings (such as joy and happiness) and what does bring negative feelings (such as guilt, anger and boredom). After that you focus on the making of resolutions, concrete actions that’ll boost your happiness. Goal of the final stage is the keeping of your resolutions.

Since all the great truths about happiness have already been laid out, Gretchen didn’t expect her findings to be new. But as for many changes, the difficulty lies within the action, not within the knowledge. Her methodical approach for putting her happiness ideas into practice in her life (including resolutions, commandments, secrets of adulthood and a scoring chart) makes it very easy to start of on your own project. Conquering your own idiosyncratic faults and limitations, changing your own life.

 

Why you should read this book

Gretchen Rubin shows in a very effective and enjoyable way, how to change your life, without changing it. Reading about her happiness project, her personal insights and experiences, is not only fun and interesting but also inspires you to start your own happiness project or just stick to some resolutions that you’re willing to keep.


To learn more about Gretchen, the Happiness Project and other projects she’s working on, have a look at her website.

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Wild

Wild

Wild. From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

written by Cheryl Strayed, published by Luitingh-Sluithoff
genre Memoirs / non fiction, 384 pages

 

With a fascination for traveling, especially in combination with soul searching and the contemplation of life, my boyfriend chose very well to give me the book ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed as a birthday present. Having seen the movie shortly after it came out, I hadn’t read the book yet. And as soon as the wrapping paper came off I couldn’t wait any longer and started reading immediately.

 


The story in short

It’s the summer of ’95 when 26 year-old Cheryl makes one of the biggest and probably most impulsive decisions of her life. Four years after losing her mother, Cheryl finds her family scattered and her marriage broken. Accidentally coming across a book about the Pacific Crest Trail at a gasstation, she decides this is what she wants to do, this is what she needs to do. Not knowing what she is getting herself into, her adventure starts then & there.

With nothing left to lose, Cheryl sells most of her belongings and without any experience or training starts her 3-month journey. During those months she hikes 1700 km / 1100 miles from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to end at the ‘Bridge of the Gods’ in Washington State, all by herself.

During the book, we get to know Cheryl as a strong and independent woman, who’s determination helps her to heal her broken heart and become the woman she wants to be. The book presents a mixture of all the emotions, pleasures and terrors she has to overcome during her solo hike. We are there with her when she feels lonely, when she meets wonderful people, when she feels overwhelmed and when she’s terrified. Cheryl shows us a wonderful and inspiring example of how you can’t always control your circumstances, but can control the way you’re dealing with them.

 

Cheryl Strayed near the PCT in Old Station, California, July 1995

 

Why you should read this book

Even though I read the Dutch translation, it’s obvious to me that Cheryl is a very good story teller. I loved how she intertwined passages from her past into the story of her hike, without becoming unnecessary personal or emotional. We get to know Cheryl and her situation very well and therefore get even more respect for the guts she shows and the choices she has made.

What I loved about the book was that it immediate takes you into the mindset and atmosphere of travel, the feelings of adventure, despite the discomfort and loneliness. This book resurrected in me the itch to travel again, starting on my couch reading lovely books like this one.

 

*Picture in header is still from the movie ‘Wild’ based on this book, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, released in 2014 by Fox Searchlight Pictures

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De Amerikaanse Prinses

De Amerikaanse Prinses

De Amerikaanse Prinses / The American Princess

written by Annejet van der Zijl, published by Querido
genre literary nonfiction, 280 pages

 

During an interview on the Dutch television last year, Mrs. Van der Zijl – one the most famous authors of literary nonfiction in the Netherlands – mentioned that she just finished writing this book. She told the presenter how she, like most people, always is searching for something. How the writing of her books, the searching for the stories, keeps bringing adventures, new worlds and beauty into her life. This interview made me curious to read her newest work, a book about the amazing life of a beautiful woman.

 


The story in short

Being the first biography I’ve ever read, ‘De Amerikaanse Prinses’ (the American Princess) totally blew me away. Allene Tew (1872-1955) was a woman who used her limitations as a motivation to give shape to her own life and managed to live the lives of many people in one single lifetime.

Growing up in Jamestown as a descendant of the first settlers in America, Allene was raised in an entrepreneurial environment. This childhood in combination with her good looks and adventurous character, were all that was needed for a life like no other.

Reading her story, we not only get to know a lot about Allene, her family, her friends and the social scenes she was being a part of. The book also tells us a lot about our history and gives an overview of the world as it was during Allenes life; the First and Second World War influencing daily life in both Europe and America, industrial revolutions, technical discoveries and developments and social changes making enormous differences to the lives of the people during the different eras of Allene’s life.

An informative and fascinating biography that tells us the story of a woman that was decades ahead of her time. A woman who despite many disappointments, sadness and difficulties, never let go of her dreams and ambitions. A strong and independent woman who, thanks to her resilience and perseverance, never lost courage and always kept moving on. A woman who can still be an example for women today!

The book was completed with pictures of Allene and her family during different life stages.

 

Allene Tew Hostetter | 1892

 

Why you should read this book

Reading this book was an absolute pleasure. Not only is Allene Tew’s life very intriguing, the way it was written, with all the background information, was as beautifully as the story itself. It could easily have been an overkill of information, a complex and exhausting book to read, but it was not like that at all. As soon as you start reading this book, you just want to know what is going to happen, how the life of this woman evolves, how she deals with the difficulties that come her way and how she keeps standing strong, no matter what.

 

En misschien was dat wel Allenes grootste prestatie – meer nog dan haar rijkdom,
haar titels, haar vele huizen en haar imponerende gastenboek.
Dat ze, wat ze allemaal ook had meegemaakt en doorstaan,
zich nooit het vermogen had laten afpakken om van het leven te genieten
en er dankbaar voor te zijn.” 

– Annejet van der Zijl

 

“Maybe Allenes biggest achievement – even more than her wealth, her titels, her many houses and her imposing guestbook.
Was that she, despite what she had experienced and endured, had never lost the ability to enjoy her life and be grateful for it.”
– Annejet van der Zijl

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Minimalism

Minimalism

Minimalism – A documentary about the important things

starring the Minimalists, directed by Matt D’Avella
launched in 2016, 78 minutes

 

They say that ideas float through the air and all you have to do is grab them. If you don’t somebody else will, sometimes several people will. When I came across an article in the newspaper about people joining the Tiny House Movement in the Netherlands, in my mind it got immediately linked to the documentary that my boyfriend and I had watched the previous evening. A documentary definitely worth telling you guys about!

‘Minimalism’ is a fascinating documentary about minimizing your life. A life in which less means more. A lifestyle conflicting with the western ideal in which materialism equals happiness. We’ve all heard of Marie-does it spark joy-Kondo who taught us how to get rid off all the stuff that we don’t need. Well, for some people that is only the beginning.

 

“I had everything I ever wanted.
I had everything I was supposed to have.
Everyone around me said: “You’re successful”.
But really, I was miserable.”

– Ryan Nicodemus

 

In this documentary we get to know people that brought minimalism to an even higher level. For example Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn, also known as ‘The Minimalists’.

We follow Ryan and Joshua on their tour through America. A tour on which they try to introduce this ideal of living a minimalistic lifestyle to as many people as possible. They go to conferences, give presentations and take part on radio and tv shows to talk about the significant difference changing from a consumeristic lifestyle to a minimalistic lifestyle has made. Both men are now feeling so much happier, no longer working long days to earn a lot of money to buy things they don’t really want or need.

 

Trailer ‘Minimalism – A documentary about the important things’

 

The documentary introduces not just Ryan and Joshua’s version of a minimal lifestyle, but many more people that at a certain point in their life decided to take back control and live life differently.

What really inspires me is how they all explain that living a less excessive life makes life so much easier and enjoyable. There is no more worrying about what to wear when you can choose between five first choice-sweaters instead of a hundred seconds. Something simple like owning less clothes would surely make the morning ritual of many men and women much less stressful (not even mentioning what this would mean for our natural environment and the people working in all those mass production processes.)

Having watched this documentary and having read the article really helps and inspires me to keep focusing on the important things in life. To keep living my life intentionally, to make decisions that will increase mine and other people’s happiness, not just the number on my bank account. When living a more minimal life, life won’t be perfect, nor easy, but it will be simple.

 

“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn

 

To learn more about the minimalists, have a look at their website.

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How to become a Buddha in five weeks

How to become a buddha in five weeks

How to become a buddha in 5 weeks – The Simple Way to Self-realization

written by Giulio Cesare Giacobbe, published by Mana
genre educational, 160 pages

 

As a yoga and pilates practitioner, I’ve always considered following meditation lessons as well. But I either couldn’t find the time or the right meditation class to actually do so. When my colleague, who’s an even more fanatic yogi, told me about this book, about the lessons it teaches you and how much it had brought her, I simply couldn’t wait to read it and start the course myself.

 


The story in short

Giulio’s son Yuri was a Bodhisattva, a reincarnation of the Buddha. When Yuri was only 27 he past away and transferred his buddhism to his father. A man who unlike his son, considered himself to be an old sinner. But Giulio changed into a buddha. He found enlightenment and realized that it’s possible for everybody to become a buddha too. Buddhism no longer was just a theory to him, it became something real and finally resulted in this book.

Even though what you’re reading now is a book review. It would be more correct to call this a short course for getting a buddhist state of mind, in the form of a book. The book not only provides us with a clear and easy to understand explanation of the base principles on which a buddhistic mindset can be build. These principles have also been translated into a 5 week course that can be followed and completed by everybody who’s open and willing to do so.

It is not a book about religion. It’s a book about a psychological method with a practical goal; to end your mental suffering and achieve a permanent state of serenity. Perhaps this all might sound complicated or maybe even a bit far fetched. But don’t worry, it really isn’t. The writer explains the essence of a buddhistic mind in a very clear and easy to understand way. And the five assignments derive from this explanation very naturally. Really everybody can do this.

 

Why you should read this book

Reading the book is only the beginning. The writer proposes you first read the book completely, before starting the assignments that each take at least a week. I’ve read the book twice but haven’t finished all the courses yet. I prefer to take more time for each assignment and really let it sink in. But I’m sure that in some weeks, I as well will reach the ultimate goal and become a buddha. Wouldn’t you like to give it a try?

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Morrie Schwartz & Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie

Tuesdays with Morrie – an old man, a young man and life’s greatest lesson

written by Mitch Albom, published by Doubleday
genre autobiography, 192 pages

 

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, he said it’s one of the most wonderful and inspiring books he’s ever read. I ordered the book online and after receiving it, read it within just a couple of hours. Morrie had come into my life, and he never left.

 


The story in short

This book is the final thesis Mitch Albom writes for his old professor Morrie Schwartz. Unfortunately Morrie has ALS and knows the end of his life is nearing as his body is getting weaker every day. Despite this horrible disease Morrie focuses on the little joys that are left in his life, he surrounds himself with the people he loves and feels blessed for having the time to say goodbye.

One of his visitors is Mitch, a former student who accidentally hears about the circumstances of his old professor when Ted Koppel of ABC-tv’s Nightline interviews Morrie for the first time. After the show Mitch travels to West Newton to say goodbye to his ‘coach’, as he used to call Morrie, not knowing that this visit will be the start of the last class Morrie will teach, once a week by a window in his home study, discussing ‘the Meaning of life’. For this class no books are needed, the lessons are taught from experience. The class meets on Tuesdays.

 

Morrie & Mitch | picture by Heather Pillar

 

Why you should read this book

The book is easy to read, but so full of life lessons that you might like to take a little more time to process all of Morrie’s wisdom. Many quotes will stick with you for a very long time. The book is very personal, actually it’s Mitch telling about Morrie, the progress of the illness and what that means to Morrie’s everyday life. At the same time Mitch tells about his own life, about choices he has made and new insights he gets during the classes with Morrie. He describes very personally how the disease and Morrie’s dysfunctional body bring them closer every lesson.

Even if you’ve never met Morrie, reading the book gives you the feeling that you get to know him and that you want to get to know him, learn from him, his positivism and wisdom. He was and still is a teacher. Have you ever had a teacher like this?

 

“People see me as a bridge. I’m not as alive as I used to be, but I’m not yet dead.
I’m sort of . . . in-between.” He coughed, then he regained his smile.
“I’m on the last journey here – and people want me to tell them what to pack.”

– Morrie Schwartz

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