Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to Ruin Your Life

I work in a University library, in the Interlibrary Loan Department.
I process book requests for other libraries, find them in our own stacks, and then package and ship them out.
I also am in charge of the "POD" books. That is, "Purchase on Demand".
These are books that our patrons request that fit a certain criteria (and our reviewed by my superiors), deeming them valuable for us to purchase for our own collection.

A few weeks ago, this POD came through my desk.

I'm often pretty intrigued by the random display of books that people request. Some of them are embarrassing; some noble, some spiritual, some typical, some really weird ("200 Years of Dolls"? What in the world, lady?).
This one caught my interest, however. As a 23-year-old (almost 24, what!?) I thought, now hey. I don't really want to ruin my life. I might need to know these things.
I decided to request the book myself. I also told my best friend Becky to look into it, so she did.
And we've been talking about it ever since.
It's not rocket science. Actually, it's pretty straight-forward, no-brainer information when you read through it.
And yet so many people get it wrong.

These are the chapter titles:

If you want to ruin your life by thirty, then...
1. Overlook the law of cause and effect
2. Get off to a bad start
3. Ignore God's purpose for your life
4. Refuse to take responsibility for your actions
5. Neglect your gifts and strengths when choosing a vocation
6. Disregard what the Bible says about sex and marriage
7. Stop learning
8. Isolate yourself
9. Refuse daily wisdom


But all of that is obvious, right? No, not so much.

He pulls out this nugget of wisdom right away, in chapter 1:

"There is not a single person who would answer yes, if asked the question, 'Do you want your life to be miserable when you are older?' Yet the majority of young people engage in decisions every day that are leading to that very end. This is evidence of a great disconnect in modern thinking...Every young man or woman has an image in their head of who they will be in several years, but that image is hardly ever the natural outcome of the life they are living. The truth is that most young people are comforted with a future perception of themselves that is based on the solid evidence of nothing."

Honestly, it's a brilliant analysis of my generation. There is a disconnect in modern thinking.

There's also a severe case of selfishness in...well, every generation. It's a common trend of humankind.
In chapter 3, he talks about our purpose.
One of his main points is that in discovering our purpose, we cannot start with self.
You have to start with God.
When you start with self to discover purpose, you become selfish. And when "self" becomes the core, the center of your life, you are well on your way to ruining it.

The Price of Beginning With Yourself:
"As I have talked with men who have abandoned their families, so many times they responded to me, 'Don't I have a right to be happy?' The answer I always give them is, 'No, you don't have that right.' The real question they are asking is, 'Don't I have a right to be selfish?'"

It's a hard thing to reckon with. "Happiness" is the shallow goal of every human-being, the justification and reasoning for so many selfish, destructive actions.
Yet it's near impossible to rip that greedy desire from our selfish fingertips.
Mine included.

The chapter title that caught my attention the most was "Refuse to Take Responsibility for your Actions".
How many people do you know that shrug off blame, make excuses, fight tooth and nail to be right?
No one likes to be wrong. But what's even better than being right, is being teachable. 
Of all the characteristics he could have chosen, he chose teachability as the most valuable one to possess, and also to find present in your husband or wife.

I also like "Stop Learning".
Having finished college last year, I know what it's like to suddenly stop being in school. It's a very strange feeling. I also think there's a misconception among many young students, that they'll be "free" from learning once they graduate for the last time.
For some, that will indeed be the case. They'll pretty much stop growing altogether.
But for me, I want to continue to pursue knowledge and learn new skills and learn, learn, learn.
If you're not going forward, you're going backwards, right?

In the first chapter of this book, he talks about a sad, heart-broken widow who contemplated taking her own life. At the last moment, she saw a man across the lake working hard, plowing his field.
She felt a glimmer of hope, and was impressed by the man's focus and hard work. She decided to go home to her children, who had already lost their father. They didn't need to lose their mother, as well.
Five generations later, her great-great-grandson said this:
"My great-great-grandmother was unusual for several reasons -- including the fact that she conscientiously prayed for her descendants down through a dozen generations. Ours is a heritage of faith, for which I, for one, am deeply grateful."
While there is no way that young woman could have seen five generations down the road, she did not allow selfishness to consume her life and the lives of her precious children, and the many children to come.

Our choices are significant. Not just for us, but for future generations. Generational sin, generational grace, all of those things are real.
We can be so shallow-headed at times.

All that to say, everyone I know should read this book.
For the author, it started as a simple graduation address for high school students.
Now, it's an encouraging book that every 20-something should read.
Before you hit your twenties, your life is led by your parents. They house you and clothe you, they guide you, they make your food and pay your bills and make all of your major decisions.
But from here on out, it's on you, bub.

"Life in the twenties is characterized by a continual introduction of new places, new people, and new experiences. Every day is met with a higher level of intent and alertness...[and] the speed of life increases with every year.
Thirty will be here before you know it."

This book is short and simple, and full of wisdom and encouragement. And while it doesn't contain any ground-breaking new material or breath-taking insights into the human condition, it speaks the truth. We all could use more truth.
In this generation's silly, disconnected thinking.

My thoughts for today. :)
Don't ruin your life.

In love,


  1. Sounds like an awesome and thought provoking book!

  2. Thanks for that great book review, Caitlin. I think I'll get that as graduation gifts this year. It sure sounds like the stuff we hammered and hammered and hammered at our house during our training years. Time for the "entitled generation" to get a wake up call and look at where they're headed! Keep reading and reporting, girl. Love you!