A Square-Peg People Book Review
the five secrets you must discover before you die
by John Izzo Ph.D.
• be true to yourself
• leave no regrets
• become love
• live the moment, and
• give more than you take
What you'd miss if that's all you read is the wisdom behind the "secrets" - and that's where the power lies.
You'd miss the stories - John's personal (warts-and-all) stories and those drawn from the couple hundred wise folks (most) over 60 who were interviewed for the book.
And, as the author states: "I believe that we become wise by listening to other's stories." Oh, YES! So you wouldn't want to miss the stories.
Reading just the list of "secrets" won't get you the hows and whys of putting them to work for you - making use of them.
You'll need to spend some time - be willing to reflect (one of the main things the author recommends for a life well lived) - to get the wisdom that's in this book. John tells us: "Knowledge is the accumulation of facts, whereas wisdom is the ability to discern what matters and what does not matter."
He also tells us what he's found matters to us: "...the two things humans want most are to find happiness and to find meaning."
Happiness being defined as "...joy and a deep sense of contentment." And meaning defined as "...is about connection to something outside ourselves."
The author says "The assumption behind this book was simple: If we could identify people who had lived a long life and found happiness, we would discover the secrets we must discover before we die."
One of the interesting things John says is that these "secrets" aren't so secret, many of us have heard them. "...what makes these five things secret is that only a few people seem to live their lives as if they were true."
A decent portion of the book is devoted to helping us find ways to incorporate the secrets into our lives. The call to reflection is one of those ways, and it is woven throughout the book. An example of this is the "simple technique" of reviewing each day, asking what had contributed to it's being either a good or bad day.
John says "By noticing and reflecting on these simple differences, I am able to have more good...days. This is a pattern I saw again and again among those we interviewed: Happy people know what brings them happiness and consistently make those things a priority."
After each of the "secrets" chapters there are 4 questions offered "...to think about each week to help you live this secret..." - more reflection.
The author's open-ness is touching - he includes many of his own stories about how he came to be interested in the meaning of life, ways he's integrated the five secrets into his own life, and what the research into this book has meant to him.
There are stories, stories, and more stories to illustrate and explain what each secret involves. There's so much wisdom in this book that it's impossible to distill it into a book review. Some of my favorite quotes are:
"I learned from these people that wisdom means reflecting more, asking again and again (and again) whether your life is going in the right direction, and making constant adjustments to move closer to the life you desire to live.
The first thing I learned is that wise people see each day as a great gift.
To leave no regrets we must live with courage, moving toward what we want rather than away from what we fear."
And the frightening opposite:
"For fear of rejection, or failure, or because we are not sure we can succeed, we die with our book, our dreams, our story inside us."
NO! Let's not do that!!!
One of the final chapters of the book, "the secret to life in one sentence or less", presents selected quotes from the people interviewed - in response to being asked for a one-sentence summary of wisdom they'd like to share.
The book ends with a chapter called "interviewing your own wise elders", which includes the questions asked of the book's interviewees. The author said that he had missed opportunities to deeply question his own mentors and hoped "...this might be the beginning of a larger conversation, in which each of us seeks the wisdom of others."
My favorite thing about the book (well, besides the stories - I DO love personal stories!) was the chapter on the secret "become love". A friend and I had a months' long challenge going awhile back where we asked each other every night: "What did you do today to become love?"
We had so much fun with that, and are definitely not done exploring the topic. We really got into it - changing our minds often about how to be love, what it meant, where "I" fits into love, and how to love ourselves. It was great to be reminded of that - and see even more possibilities for discussion through the questions in the book.
This is a Square-Peg book - mind and heart touching. I'd like to join with John in the hope that people will read this book and have big conversations around the questions the author offers.
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