Reading for Growth and Inspiration

December 27th, 2019

I devoured books as a child. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from reading epic tales in bed, allowing my imagination to flow with every turn in the story. I guess it was a simpler time, when everything was so relatable. I felt my heart ache when Percy finally got with Annabeth, experienced a profound sense of duty when Percy returned to fight in the Deathly Hallows, and developed a thirst for adventure with Huckleberry Finn. These emotional experiences seem to be common among youth of my generation. We were the last group of children to be born without the widespread internet, where our primary source of refuge lied in the books that we so deeply cherished.

However, it appears that this love for reading was lost as we grew up. I realized in high school that the only novels I was reading were from English class. The joy of reading had been replaced by our busier schedules and our constant demand for instantaneous information. To most, the benefits of reading seemed to be expendable, easily substituted and replaced by digital media. After all, we only found joy in reading because of the storytelling, right?

False. The intrinsic value of reading is created by a story’s ability to strengthen your worldview, challenge your imagination, and to inspire your mind. I started to get back into reading with the objective of improving myself through the teachings in different stories and memoirs. With that, I think the most important thing I’ve learned from reading is resilience. I noticed that a common theme among all the texts I enjoy (fiction or non-fiction) have multiple recurring themes and motifs: perseverance, enlightenment, stoicism, etc. All the characters and speakers go through trials and tribulations that they attempt to overcome in their own human struggles. Throughout my final exams, these stories and memoirs inspired me to work for myself and my goals.

I collected a couple of my favorite quotes and passages below.

  1. The Mantra

    "Discipline = Freedom" (Jocko Willink, 2017)
    "Do you wanna be free? Free from pain, free from scars. Free to sing, free from bars." (J Cole, 2014 FHD)

    A good friend of mine has a piece of paper taped above his bed. It has 4 words: “Today Matters” and “Discipline = Freedom”. As Waterloo students in technology, we live in a privileged situation where the amount of work and opportunity you seize is directly proportional to the amount of “success” you encounter in the future. I thought that my friend’s mentality is admirable, but I had trouble understanding this concept of freedom. What is freedom to me? I did some thinking and decided that it’s peace of mind, the state of not having to worry. I kept these two blurbs on a sticky note and referred to it as my mantra. It served as a constant reminder to escape worry through present discipline.

  2. Chinese Wisdom

    “Do not pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.” (Bruce Lee)

    I was in a poor emotional situation going into my finals. I started off resentful and bitter, wishing that the unfortunate circumstance occurred later instead of then. I found myself on a late night walk, trying to clear my head, when I remembered something from my childhood Karate manual. Bruce Lee’s quote made me adjust my mentality. I could choose to remain angry at my current situation, but that wasn’t going to do anything. What happened already happened and there’s no point wishing for it to change. Instead, focusing my efforts on my original goal despite the roadblocks was what had to happen. TL;DR Some dead karate master saved my exams.

  3. Some crazy guy’s rationale for almost falling off a cliff

    “It’s about being a warrior. It doesn’t matter about the cause, necessarily. This is your path and you will pursue it with excellence. You face your fear because your goal demands it. That is the goddamn warrior spirit”. (Alex Honnold, Free Solo)

    In my opinion, Alex Honnold is one of the greatest athletes of our generation. He scaled 3000 feet of sheer Granite on El Capitan without a rope, and somehow made the entire process look easy. His calm and collected demeanor has always been something I looked up to. This passage really spoke to me. I fear failure. Sometimes, I fear failure more than I want success. Alex’s determination reminds me to face my fears, because that’s what I set out to do. I refuse to back down and let my fears consume me.