Best Holiday Reads: Starting With The Foot
I’ve got a bit of explaining to do. In this post, we’re going to start talking about my feet and end with a holiday reading recommendation list that features almost no personal finance or money mindset books.
And if I do my job right, it will all make sense why these are the books to spend your precious time and money on. And, why books…
If you want personal finance book ideas, check out my recommendations page.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, I will earn a commission at no additional cost to you, if you click through and make a purchase.
A book about foot pain, has probably changed my life. Since I don’t suffer from foot pain, by rights it shouldn’t have made it to my ‘to read’ leaning tower of Pisa. But it’s by one of my favourite bloggers, Katy Bowman of Katy Says and somehow my council library decided that this book, of all books by Katy, should be in the collection.
Being the proud owner of two feet, I figured I had little to lose by sneaking a peak inside Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief : The New Science of Healthy Feet.
It must have been fate. While I’ve never suffered from foot pain, back pain has been a totally different story. And it’s something that years of yoga, body awareness and attempted postural adjustments haven’t been able to touch.
The only thing that consistently prevented my lower back pain was the slightly hunched over position you assume while carrying a 20 kilo backpack. So not exactly a useful intervention for a sunset stroll along the beach.
It turns out, I’ve been looking for the answer in the wrong place. You see, the feet bones are connected to the hip bones. If they’re not in alignment they can cause pain elsewhere. I, like the majority of the population turns my feet out slightly (correct alignment is with the outside of your foot facing forward, not the big toe).
When my feet are correctly aligned, it feels weird, pigeon toed even, but guess what? The back pain disappears. Viola. Just like that.
Why? Because the body is a system. When one part is weaker or tighter or not correctly placed in space, then something else needs to compensate. Often pain and discomfort are the by product.
Finding The Answer In Systems Thinking
Finding the cure to back pain in my feet, though thrilling, comes as no surprise to me. My favourite field of study is Systems Thinking. Why? Because it pretty much explains everything about everything.
One of the definitions of systems thinking provided by The Waters Foundation is that it’s:
“…a vantage point from which you see a whole, a web of relationships, rather than focusing only on the detail of any particular piece. Events are seen in the larger context of a pattern that is unfolding over time.”
Basically, it’s a way of looking at a complex and dynamic system (aka life) and trying to understand the relationships between all the various parts and why things happen the way they do.
It’s completely the opposite of our specialisation obsessed, fix the problem rather than looking at the big picture approach to the world.
And it helps provide the ‘why’ behind stuff that happens, whether that’s pain or bad habits, rather than applying a band aid solution to a particular problem. Systems thinking is actually brilliant at explaining why you do the things you do even if they seem rational.
Take food waste, an $8 billion problem in Australia. Conventional wisdom is to buy food in bulk to save money. But when I researched it from a whole system perspective, like what happens when you bring the food home, I actually found that buying in bulk was one of the reasons for an increase in food waste. Which means not saving money in the long run.
The big takeaway from systems thinking is that we often look for a solution to our problem in the wrong place because we focus only the thing we want to change.
Often, the solution lies somewhere completely different to where we think it does.
If you have trouble saving, forcing yourself to spend less will only get you so far. It’s a lot easier and more productive in the long run to change the habits that underlie your spending decisions.
Think a high net worth is the surest path to financial freedom? Think again.
Have back pain? Take a look at your feet.
Hello, It’s The Internet Age
Despite my love of all things personal finance AND a love of reading, I actually don’t read personal finance books pretty much ever.
Systems thinking is the simple reason for that decision. I’ve come to realise that a lot of the things that would make me a better investor, thriftier or add to my skills so that I can earn more aren’t found in personal finance books. They’re found in the hundreds of other genres and books, because life and human behaviour are the ultimate complex system.
A few years ago, I wondered if I would ever read another book again given the existence of the internet. To cut a long story short, one of the great advantages of spending a lot of time with a toddler in the library is that I’m certain books aren’t disappearing anytime soon.
The biggest reason to pick up a book (or download an audiobook for road trips, while cooking or repainting your house) is because you get the full story presented in a organised, structure way. Some big ideas just need 200 or so pages to create a compelling argument that changes the way you think or behave.
Without further ado (congratulations if you’ve made it this far) here’s my best holiday reads recommendations to simplify life, save money and get a winning mind set.
Mindset by Carol Dweck is probably the most useful non-fiction book I’ve ever read. Really, it deserves a whole post to itself. While it didn’t fix my back pain, it’s one of the few books I’ve ever read that I’d call life changing.
Her very simple premise is that there are two core mindsets or beliefs about our traits which shape how we approach challenges. The first is the fixed mindset where we believe that our abilities are predetermined at birth and are pretty well unchangeable.
The second is the growth mindset, where we believe that skills and qualities can be cultivated through effort and perseverance.
You might have heard of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset theory in a real world application last time you were at the playground. “Good job” is the parenting phrase of the century based on the idea that to teach resilience and perseverance to children, we praise the effort they put in rather than the outcome.
And children is where her research started, but Mindset goes much, much deeper to explore the two mindsets in all areas of life.
Fundamentally, the book undermines the notion that its talent that determines success and that you should do the stuff you find easy instead of working on the stuff you find hard.
Personally, it’s been a game changer for me because I realised I have a fixed mindset. When the going gets tough, I tend to bail assuming I’m not cut out for [fill in the blank]. According to my straw poll (because I just couldn’t stop talking about the book while reading it) this is a common affliction.
Though interestingly I found that while most people agree with the ideas behind the growth mindset, they praise their children and talk to themselves using the fixed mindset.
If you only have time for one book, this is my top pick.
Get Your Sh*t Together Review
A late addition to the book list is Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight. If you’ve ever been annoyed at yourself for just not being able to get it together, then this is the book for you.
It’s a very practical and funny guide on how to get your sh*t together in all areas of your life including cleaning, careers, being places on time and finances.
I listened to the audiobook version which is read by the author and found her tone sassy in a fun way and I’m pretty sure my cooking has tasted better for it this week. I didn’t even get annoyed at all the swearing, which I thought might get old after the fiftieth time.
Instead, for the last week I’ve been following my husband around the house, going ‘come on, let’s just get our sh*t together about this’ while pointing to a pile of unsorted paperwork from January.
The book sets out a pretty simple way of doing just that. Identify your problem, set a goal, break it down into a small, manageable chunk and get it together. And hearing it all from a self-proclaimed anti guru was pretty refreshing.
There’s no ‘live your best life ever’ in this book, but that’s a good thing.
The Capsule Wardrobe: 1,000 Outfits From 30 Pieces Review
In January, I KonMari’d my wardrobe and it was awesome. Not quite life changing, but now at least I know I have 56 shirts, 28 pairs of pants and 17 dresses and can grab out the exact one I want in a jiffy. The problem is, I still feel like I have nothing to wear.
It turns out, picking out a co-ordinated, stylish outfit requires more than simply being able to see every shirt, skirt and accessory you own.
That’s where The Capsule Wardrobe by Australian author Wendy Mak comes in. According to the stylist, we only wear about 20% of what’s in our wardrobe anyway, so 30 pieces is all that’s necessary to create a thousand looks. It’s a pretty simple concept really, buy 80% simple wardrobe staples and 20% bling that gets updated regularly, then mix and match the key 30 items.
This strategy will not only banish wardrobe clutter for ever, but help make dressing simpler and quicker while you look more stylish. As someone who does not enjoy spending a lot of time figuring out how to get dressed, it’s a win / win. It would also be great for travel.
The beauty of the book is that it explains how to pick the best items to include in the capsule, provides nice diagrams and has a table with all 1,000 combinations (although this is 100 pages of the book so may annoy some readers). It’s also adaptable for work, after 5 and casual dressing, plus the Australian slant means there’s plenty of warm weather options.
If you want a post-KonMari take on how to create a varied look and dress better while not spending more money on clothes this is a solid, actionable read.
A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life Review
Despite the 3.5 billion Google searches done each day, curiosity isn’t portrayed as much of a virtue. Just think back to Adam, Eve and the tree of knowledge. But that’s a shame really, because as I’ve previously written, curiosity may be the secret to a rich life.
That’s the thesis of A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. Focused on the exploration of a rather niche subject – curiosity – movie producer Brian Grazer devotes the whole book to how the power of inquisitiveness can deepen and improve us.
The result is actually very interesting and entertaining while at the same time being useful. The authors offer a bunch of ways in how you can apply curiosity to everyday situations to make your life better and accomplish the things you want. And they work!
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy Review
I mean, I assume you have been shopping around for a life philosophy, right!? And what better place to look for one than ancient Rome. Because that’s so totally 21st century.
Actually, human nature hasn’t really changed in thousands of years. We’re as good at making ourselves miserable today through our insatiable wants and worries as we were back then. So ancient lessons are as applicable today as they were when the toga was a national costume.
In fact, the techniques have even been cleverly incorporated into modern Cognitive Behavioural Therapy so next time you visit a shrink or psychoanalyst you might already be getting a dose of stoicism.
In A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy, professor of philosophy William B. Irvine distils the practical insights and psychological techniques of stoicism into a roadmap for improving our lives.
The book was written to help us all avoid misliving. That would be lying on your death bed and realising you went after the wrong things. Got distracted by hedonism and in the end failed to have a good life.
The beauty of this book is that it presents philosophy in a simple and actionable way that can actually make your life better through sections on releasing worry, only focusing the things you can control and being grateful for all that you have.
Finally, it even helps explain why anybody could find joy in lugging around a 20 kilogram backpack over some of the highest mountains in the world. Just in case you’re wondering, by the way.
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What are your holiday reading recommendations?