Yesterday I finished two books: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline by Brian Tracy and Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. I like to read three normal-sized books between the long biographies I’ve been reading1, and these two were a perfect change of pace. I don’t plan to reread either book on a set timeline, but I know I’ll pull both books off the shelf a lot in the future.

No Excuses!

I decided to read2 this when I came across it in Audible Channels3 self-improvement list. It definitely has the self-help guru tone, but I never found it off-putting. The book centers on self-discipline, and I’ve read other books that hit these same points in other ways, but I liked Tracy’s methodology. I like to have a couple techniques I can reference, depending on the particular rut I’m in, and I think this book has many ideas that will resonate when the time is right. I found it very motivational in general.

Bird by Bird

Anne Lamott’s book is an irreverent and realistic look at writing, primarily geared towards the fiction writer. While I don’t feel like I will ever seriously write fiction myself, the tools she provides are valuable for any creative endeavor. Like Excuses, I found this book very motivational. Some other writing books that fit this same bill: The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron; and The War of Art and Turning Pro: by Steven Pressfield.

Lamott also includes my favorite anecdote, which I’ve not heard widely shared. I’ll close with it.

Here is the best true story on giving I know, and it was told by Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre. An eight-year-old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him if they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.

The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girl’s IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”

Gets me every time.

  1. Currently the three volume Last Lion series by William Manchester and before it the wonderful four, soon(ish) to be five-volume biography by Robert Caro. Caro is an absolute genius. ↩︎

  2. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll always say read, when I may sometimes mean listened. ↩︎

  3. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, there are some channels with full books you can stream for free. Good books too. ↩︎