My 2015 Reading Experience

Howdy! I just want to share with you some books and short stories I managed to read (and complete) in the year 2015. Take all the time you need to check out my review on each one of them and determine which one you’d love to read in the coming month or year. Danke!

 

God’s Outrageous Claims: Discover what they mean for you

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GOD’S OUTRAGEOUS CLAIMS is a spiritual classic written by one of New York Times Bestselling Author, Lee Strobel. Lee was a once-upon-a-time avowed atheist who through his journey of investigating the authenticity of the Bible has become one of the finest Christian apologists around. In his book, Lee carefully pulls up thirteen extraordinary claims made by God from the Bible that he believes can affect our lives positively. Using very simple words, Lee describes as well as provides practical insight on how to forgive those who hurt us, survive the rat race without becoming a rat, build strong faith in the face of doubt and 10 other astonishing claims listed as follows:

You Can Even Learn To Forgive Yourself; You Can Make a Difference That Will Last For Eternity; God Can Give You Power as Power Is Needed; You Gain When You Give Yourself Away; God Has a Cure For Your Secret Loneliness; God’s Rules on Sex Can Liberate Us;  Random Acts of Kindness Aren’t Enough; Heaven is More Than Wishful Thinking; Jesus Is the Only Path to God and Playing It Safe Is the Most Dangerous Way to Live.

In the seventh chapter of his book dubbed ‘Random Acts of Kindness Aren’t Enough’, Lee talks about how Jesus invites us to go out on a ‘compassion offensive’ in our quest to express true generosity to others. I fully agree with Lee that living a passive life that tries to offend none isn’t enough. We DON’T lie BECAUSE we don’t want to be lied to, we DON’T hit others BECAUSE we don’t want to be hit back and many others. In the end, we offend none alright but we also end up benefiting none. But if we go the extra mile by applauding a team member, paying a friend’s tuition fees or donating money to an orphanage expecting nothing in return, we bless many precious lives in the process. I was particularly impressed with the fact that Lee supports most of his arguments with ideas from major fields of discipline like Science. He presents you with info from modern research as a means to cancel out any believe-it-because-the-bible-says-so mentality. Also, you find that his book is laced  with several practical lessons as he chooses to use real life circumstances to communicate his thoughts. On a whole, this is a well-written, knowledge-filled, easy-to-read book for believers and non-believers alike who seek to understand properly the benefits that come with obeying the principles of Christian Living.

 

 

The Five Love Languages: The secret to love that lasts

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I have my own reservations when it comes to reading books or articles about ‘LOVE’. Nevertheless, I can say Gary Chapman’s THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES does a pretty good job in identifying one of the key problems that choke several relationships to death: love miscommunication. According to Gary, love is a form of language that requires a great deal of understanding of the emotions and intentions behind that which is being communicated. In his book, Gary enlists these five love languages as gifts, words of affirmation, physical contact, acts of service and quality time. The relationship counsellor explains that we may exhibit a blend of 2 or 3 of these languages but more often than not, we tend to be very dominant in one of them. Click here to find out what your primary love language is (very short survey). Gary said something that has been resonating in my mind ever since I read his book. Each person has a ‘love tank’ that may be empty, half-filled or full to the brim. Your love tank may be empty due to love miscommunication between you and your loved one or when your partner shows no love to you. In the case of miscommunication, a husband whose love language is quality time is bound to have an empty love tank if his wife speaks the language of words of affirmation. His wife may praise and complement him with the best of words but to him, sharing experiences together or some other form of spending quality time is what will fill his love tank. This tells us that it’s very essential for us to know what exactly makes us feel loved as well as what makes our partner feel loved when we enter into a relationship. Once we identify these, we are confident of building a happy, fun-loving intimate bond with loved ones. Let me be quick to say that this book isn’t reserved for couples only. I entreat all singles to read it too and I can bet your relationship with friends, family members and loved ones will improve drastically.

 

 

Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality

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This is my first ever read by Dr. Henry cloud and I’ll make sure this isn’t the last time I will be reading any of his works. Cloud’s INTEGRITY gives you an entirely different set of tools in measuring the true potential of a great leader. I support Henry in saying that there’s more to Leadership than just possessing the requisite skills and knowledge to execute a particular task. CHARACTER- the ability to meet the demands of reality– is very essential to make these abilities useful. You can tell if the furniture you bought two days ago will last long by examining the ‘character’ of the material its made from. Does it have the ability to withstand the cold? Heat? Insect attack? That’s how you measure the integrity of the furniture, by measuring  its ability to withstand these inevitable demands of reality. In the same way, a leader’s ability to handle a given situation will depend not only on his/her capabilities but his/her character as well. This is why I agree with Henry’s line of thought that ‘when we are talking about integrity, we are talking about being a whole person, an integrated person, with all of our different parts working well and delivering the functions that they were designed to deliver.‘ Integrity is a big deal! It’s for this reason Henry takes ample time to list and explain six character dimensions needed for a person to become a leader with integrity:

1. Establishing Trust 2. Oriented Toward Truth 3. Getting Results 4. Embracing the Negative 5. Oriented Toward Increase 6. Oriented Toward Transcendence.

I needn’t say much to convince you of the effectiveness of this book. Grab a copy for yourself and explore with Cloud these aforementioned six character dimensions on how to build for yourself a strong character that can meet life’s toughest demands.

 

How Successful People Think: Change your thinking, Change your Life

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John C Maxwell is the author of HOW SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE THINK and other notable books such as The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Make Today Count and a whole lot more. I didn’t really know John until I read that he’s an author, pastor and motivational speaker known for mounting big platforms to speak words of wisdom (Fortune 500 companies, United States Military Academy etc.).With this in mind, I didn’t hesitate at all to add his book to my reading collection. First thing you learn about John Maxwell is the fact that he employs the use of simple language to communicate his thoughts. Secondly, John’s understanding of how successful people think is on a whole different level. I’m not too surprised because of the different shades of people  he comes into contact with in his career. It’s an undeniable fact that every action we take in life is a by-product of what happens at our thought level, as to whether it is well thought out or not. Knowing this, John takes the opportunity to implore his readers to see the importance of setting some time aside to think. Yes, you heard me! You sit your butt down and THINK! It’s necessary we make room on our daily schedule just for thinking purposes (be it creative thinking, possibility thinking, reflective thinking, big-picture thinking etc). Even statistics show that the end result of undertaking poorly thought-out projects is no different from driving around town with a flat-tired vehicle; you don’t get anywhere. Anything and everything we would ever want to achieve in life is first birthed as an idea in our thoughts. Therefore, the technique of right thinking needs to be recognized and given top priority in our lives if we really want to think like a successful people.

 

 

Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a man’s soul

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I won’t say much here because I already reviewed John Eldredge’s book some months ago. I just want to thank a good friend of mine for introducing me to this wonderful write-up. It helped me think outside the box and reexamine my thoughts on who a real man is. Please follow this link to read what I had to say about it.

 

 

Who Moved My Cheese?

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This is my favorite read for the year 2015. How do you respond to change? Do you feel threatened, angry, scared or confused when change occurs in your life? Do you find it hard to accept change? Well folks, this is the book to read! Dr Spencer Johnson is a motivational speaker, management consultant and author of the WHO MOVED MY CHEESE? book which deals basically with CHANGE. Spencer’s wonderfully crafted story which is set in a maze with cheese features four imaginary characters (Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw). The cheese is a metaphor which represents our goals, ambitions, envisaged futures, dreams…what we want in life. The maze represents the place we go to in search of what we want in life. In the story, Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw happily enjoy life in the maze with sweet-smelling cheese by their side until a change occurs: their cheese is moved. Sniff and Scurry, who represent a simplistic version of ourselves, act swiftly in response to the change and head out of their usual spot to newer areas in search of the cheese’s new location. Hem and Haw on the other hand are two little people who spend most of their time in the maze, either blaming themselves or someone/something else for the moved cheese. They represent the sophisticated version of ourselves that overthink unnecessarily when changes occur in relationships, career, health or any other aspect of our lives. This was my take from the story: When we fail to anticipate change and harness the potential that it carries within to accomplish our objectives, it takes hold and runs roughshod over us. The solution then is to develop a permanently proactive approach towards change and focus on making the most of it. In simpler terms, when your cheese moves and you conquer your fears by venturing the unknown to look for it, you stand a high change of finding bigger and better ones. ‘When you make a choice to take a chance, your life is certain to change’- Spencer Johnson

 

 

APOLLO

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‘APOLLO written by the famous Nigerian writer Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie, was my first fiction read by THE NEW YORKER magazine. I honestly don’t know how Chimimanda mesmerizes her readers with a 10-page short fiction but well, yes she’s pretty good at it! Anyway, APOLLO is set in somewhat modern-day Nigeria where an adult called Okenwa visits his aged parents and recounts an incident that occurred during his childhood days. As a child, the only attention Okenwa ever got was from a houseboy named Raphael, as Okenwa’s parents never really had time for their son. Eventually, both Okenwa and Raphael will become the best of friends even to the point of developing a shared interest in Kung fu. As the story unfolds, Raphael and Okenwa will contract what will later become the title of this fiction– Apollo–a contagious eye infection that manifests as reddening of the eye. Now, let me hold my horses here before I assume the work of a spoiler because this is where the story comes alive the more. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a 10-page read that can be completed 15minutes before you watch your favorite TV series. Yes, and I had one major problem with this read: the story ended all too quickly and left me thirsting for more. You know that feeling, right? Yah yah! But all in all, it was a remarkable story to read.

 

KINO

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‘Not allowing yourself to feel, say pain or happiness, leaves you heartless and cold eventually and this would lead to a very unhappy life

 

This was the first review I came across when I wanted to know what Haruki Murakami’s KINO was all about. In the story, Kino catches his wife red-handed cheating on him with his co-worker but…his reaction to the news is just far from reality. He shows no sign of pain, gets up and walks away from the scene. Really? This isn’t any ordinary woman caught practicing marital infidelity but his beloved wife! Apparently, KINO is a clear picture of an African child who has been taught to be “strong” in the name of being a “man”. You could refer him to an emotionless log; he was just indifferent about many things and that’s how most of us live our lives. Kino represents majority of men, and even women, who forcibly lock their emotional selves up in chains and rather live a life of self-deception. We think it’s embarrassingly denuding to admit our feelings and profitable to remain unconcerned about everything. Well, Haruki thinks differently as you learn from the story how Kino comes to realize the real danger associated with living an unconcerned life for a long time. I must admit Kino wasn’t that simple a read to me. The story was a bit weird with some interesting characters. I had to read it about three times to get what the author was trying to say. But at the end of the day, I like what I learnt from KINO:

 

Identify the things in life that have the tendency of destroying you up at the early stages. Find them. Deal with them. Failing to do so can leave you damaged heavily beyond repair.’

 

 

I’m guilty though for reading the following books/short stories halfway:

  • Always Enough by Heidi Baker
  • Is the Bible Intolerant? by Amy Orr-Ewing
  • Good or God?:Why good without God isn’t enough by John Bevere
  • Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis
  • Seven Men by Eric Metaxas
  •  The One-Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
  • The Apologizer by Milan Kundera
  • Sweetness by Toni Morrison

 

Hopefully, I will pick them up again, read and update this post by writing a review on them. Thanks once again for your time. It is very much appreciated. Until we meet here again,

 

We read…

We learn…

We lead!

 

 

 

Boiled Frogs

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How can we account for this generation? To what shall we compare ourselves? Have we let our guards down so easily that we cannot even tell when something is going wrong around us? Isn’t it so obvious you aren’t making any progress in life because you’re content with the status quo? We live in a day and age where we’ve allowed ourselves to become victims to one of the most lethal ‘disease’ on this planet—The Boiling Frog Syndrome. For the sake of those who are unfamiliar with this terminology, please allow me to introduce you to what I call the ‘nasty cancer’ that eats up both the young and old slowly until there’s nothing left of them to fight against it. The analogy goes like this:

If you place a frog in a pan of boiling water, it immediately leaps out of the water. But if you place it in a pan of cold water and gradually increase the temperature of the water, it will remain in there until there’s no strength left in it to hop out. Within some few moments, the frog dies.

This is the danger associated with allowing small, seemingly harmless acts to go on unquestioned: little by little, they effortlessly permit huge objectionable activities to become ‘normal’ events, which later paralyze various aspects of our lives. It’s quite interesting to know that what you or I would have called a major change (and probably objected to its implementation) rather becomes very offensive when you decide to speak against it at the very last minute. Let’s have a short exercise for the sake of clarity. Are you ready?

Hands up if you do this.

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Oh boy! You’re boiling in hot water if this is your lifestyle. Your relationship will never grow if the digital world means so much more to you than spending quality time with the people you care about so much. Don’t expect your relationship to blossom out into a beautiful union if you’re constantly distracted by the merciless pings and push notifications from your cellphones, iPads or [name what you got] when you could have been capturing the present moment together with your friend/relative/loved one sitting just next to you. I’m not against technology totally; as a matter of fact, they make life very convenient and easy for us. What I’m trying to say though is gadgets can be serious barriers to communication among people too. It is said that intimacy is a very hard thing to develop which is why effective communication is key to nurturing and maintaining it. It requires a considerable amount of time, effort and energy to keep it going. Unfortunately, the social media requires a considerable amount of time, effort and energy to keep it going too! There’s a tight competition going on out there. You see, you can’t serve two masters at the same time. It’s just plain impossible. One will definitely take precedence over the other—the digital world taking the superior spot in this case. I find it interesting how we go on and on with our ‘Omg! It happened so fast’ anthem in an attempt to justify our actions as happening ‘all of a sudden’. If you’re wondering how it all started and how you got hooked up to whatever device you own, truth is it didn’t happen so fast; it was a gradual process. It all began the very day you permitted yourself to indulge in certain innocuous acts like texting during class or office hours. It was the very day you felt you weren’t hurting a fly if you carried your tablet to the dining table and shared your ‘dinner story’ on Snapchat (I do that a lot *face in palm*). It was the moment and season you felt carrying your gadgets around with you wherever you went wasn’t a big deal. If only you had looked a little bit closer and had been more cautious, you’d have realized that a major change was going on around you in an unnoticed manner. You were slowly developing an addiction to your gadgets. You had actually lifted your cage and made way for the little foxes to run around your vineyard. Now, they can’t be controlled. They’ve gone on a rampage and are on a mission to destroy your vine! You have become a ‘boiled frog’ for that matter.

Time surely won’t permit me to touch on other important things but I need you take a moment to review the other facets of your life in this context. Where have you allowed yourself to sink into a tranquil stupor? What are some of the things you have begun to perceive as the ‘new normal’? Note them down and begin to fight them head-on while you have time on your hands. Don’t give this syndrome the chance to destroy what you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Remember, it was never the boiling water that killed the frog; it was the frog’s indecisiveness to leap out while it had the strength. Your (in)ability to say ‘enough is enough’ is what will determine your fate at any given moment in any given situation. Get decisive and make your move now. If we know that Life is what we make it, then the onus lies on us to make a conscious habit of paying close attention to the minutest details of things that happen around us. Let’s make it our business to keep our eyes on the ground and observe our surroundings ALWAYS. Act fast when the cold water begins to slowly embrace the heat—Jump out while you can before it’s too late to resist death by boiling!

Driving Around With a Flat Tire

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“A bad attitude is like a flat tire; you can’t go anywhere until you change it.” —Unknown

I was browsing through my photo gallery some days ago when I stumbled upon this interesting quote and I just couldn’t agree more with it. Indeed, having a bad attitude (and doing nothing about it) is just as dangerous as driving around with a flat tire. My friend Eli would have called it a Trojan horse, outwardly adorned in white linen but there is a gothic apparel underneath it. Push the analogy of the flat tire a little further and we’ll realize that the gravity of the situation at hand is much more devastating than what we actually perceive.

Experts say that when you get a flat tire while driving, the most advisable move to make is to gradually bring your vehicle to a stop and pull it off the road. Don’t continue to drive around with the flat tire because 1. You can easily destroy your vehicle and 2. Your vehicle can lose balance, skid off the road and cause a major accident. Already, a vehicle plying the road is regarded as a potential hazard to the driver (the individual), the occupants of the car (family ties and other closely associated partners) and pedestrians, other vehicles and objects around (other people not necessarily related to the individual). How much more a car with a flat tire! Honestly speaking, if our negative attitudes can be likened to that of a car with a flat tire, then we can’t be indifferent about them. Apart from the fact that we injure ourselves in the process, please pause for a moment to think about the harm we do to others within our proximity. I’m giving you more time to think about something that you did today, yesterday or even some weeks/months ago (and you still haven’t made any efforts to work on it). Have you declared yourself a loser in life because of that test you failed in college? Did you reject that offer because you felt you didn’t match up to the standard (Low self-esteem)? Are you saying your life is in shambles because you grew up in a poor home? Do you still think your friend is looking down on you not because you have any proof of it but you just feel like it (Insecurity)? Do you get defensive whenever someone tries to correct your mistakes? Are you over-exaggerating your failures? I have jumped to conclusion on many occasions and every time I did that, I hurt myself and the person(s) involved. My excuse may have sounded good but once I expressed that negative attitude of ‘over-generalization’, I caused an injury. Our negative attitudes may be similar or different but whatever the case, none of us is ever far from it. However, the fact that we aren’t perfect and that we can’t completely eradicate bad attitudes from our lives doesn’t mean we should accept them and say such is life. Such is life? I’m sorry but making no effort to pull your flat-tired vehicle off the road is complete selfishness. No better word can aptly express that. You get that same effect when you decide to remain adamant about changing your attitude. You’re an accident waiting to happen. You have to get yourself out of the way because when you go down, you may drag innocent lives along with you and that wouldn’t be a pleasant sight to behold.

What do we do now? What’s the way forward? Well, the GOOD NEWS IS…

Flat tires are changeable. Just as flat tires are changeable, bad attitudes are changeable too! There may be competent roadside assistance agencies (experienced people with a positive attitude) ready to help you fix your problem but the onus still lies on YOU. Primarily, You (the individual) must be fully persuaded that your problem can be solved. I’ve heard people say countless times, ‘as for me that’s how I am…I can’t change…I AM ME so LET ME BE’. We already know why it’s unacceptable to be unconcerned about our bad attitudes (please refer to paragraph 2). To add to it, once you keep professing negative statements over your life, you can never fix your problem. Words are powerful. Words have creative powers. Speaking along a particular pattern (a negative one in this context) will shape your actions accordingly and your actions will certainly begin to poison your character. That’s not good. Instead of pronouncing negativity over your life, rise up and speak positively. One of my positive confessions as a Christian when it comes to such matters is ‘With God, all things are possible.’[1] I take that major step to breaking bad attitudes and making good ones. What positive confession will you make to commence your quest?

Flat tires are preventable. A flat tire may not be completely preventable as some circumstances may be beyond our control. However, we can reduce a greater percentage of the occurrence to the barest minimum by avoiding places—rough roads with potholes, broken bottles, nails and other sharp-pointed objects—susceptible to tire punctures. In the same way, avoid places, people or things that have the tendency to trigger the negativities within and around you. If it means avoiding a certain company of friends, please do it. If it means avoiding a particular spot in your neighborhood, please do it. If it means avoiding a particular collection of books or music or TV programs or movies or any other audio-visual stimulant, please do it. Better to accept a positive change than to remain obstinate. For people who hate discipline and only get more stubborn, there’ll come a day when life tumbles in and they break, but by then it’ll be too late to help them. [2]

Attitudes don’t break and form by themselves. It’s not spontaneous. It takes a willful, deliberate effort to work towards making good ones or breaking bad ones. It’s very important to work on our attitudes because it determines how we react to people, places or things. As we know, nature hates vacuum. Air will always fill a vacuum. For that matter, be conscious about replacing a bad attitude with a good one. If you don’t, that space might be rented by a very stubborn tenant and evacuation will become a lot of work than before. Lastly, remember that change doesn’t occur overnight. We are human beings. Growth and development is an on-going process in our lives. Patience. Determination. Anticipation. Balance. Accountability. Persistence. You cannot do away with these major prerequisites if you are willing to effect a change in your life. So I won’t only say ‘With God, all things are possible’ and expect to see some magic happen in my life, I must take corresponding actions based on my confession to start the adventurous journey. Are you currently driving around with a flat tire? What are you waiting for? Pull over—slooooooooowly please—and let’s get to work!