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14 October 2013

Book Review: The five secrets that you must discover before you die

Author: John Izzo, PhD

Once in a while you come across a book that make you look at your life in a totally different perspective. This book, 'The five secrets that you must discover before you die' by John Izzo is one such book

At the outset, the author warns us that the title of the book may be disconcerting. No one wants to think or talk about our death, but the title reminds us of our mortality and provides a level of urgency to the points mentioned in the book. The author and his colleagues interviewed more than 200 people (235 of them) in preparation for this book. All these people were recommended by their peers, relatives, friends and acquaintances as possessing extra-ordinary wisdom. Based on the extensive interviews the authors culled out a set of five key behavioral traits, called 'five secrets' and expounded on them. 

This book is as useful for a 20 year old young man as it is to a 70 year old man. The points covered are very intuitive and the book is embellished with a number of great anecdotes and experiences from their life. As an example, in the prologue to this book, we meet a middle-aged lady named Margeret who tries to live her entire life from the perspective of an 'old woman sitting on my rocking chair on the porch'. Whenever she had a decision to make, she would imaging sitting on the porch as an old woman looking back on here life. She would ask the old woman  to advice on the path she should follow...

Beautiful...

As I mentioned before, people of any age can get value and wisdom out of this book and they will come away with different perspectives. Young people would be exposed to ideas that can form guiding paths of their life. They will internalize the concepts of 'Fighting the good fight'  and to see the 'wood for the trees'. For the middle aged, this will provide tools to benchmark their lives against the five secrets. And as far as older people are concerned, they will learn to find peace in their lives. 

There are four sections to the book. The first section looks at the methodology adopted the author and his team in identifying the people who they will interview for this book. All the people, all 235 of them, were chosen by their acquaintances as the 'wisest people they knew'. The team went about conducting structured interviews with each one of them and culled out the essence of these interviews in the five secrets that they identified.

The operative part of this book are sections two and three. The section two consists of the next five chapters each of which expound on one of the five secrets. This section starts off with a chapter on 'be true to yourselves', the next chapter focuses on 'Having no regrets', the next two chapters discuss the secrets of 'becoming love' and ' Living in the moment'. 

This section rounds off with a chapter on 'Giving more than you take' from the universe.

Each chapter in this section finishes off with a set of four to five questions relating the secret covered in the chapter. Each of these questions are supposed to guide as as we follow each of the secrets.

The third section consists of a single chapter where author explains as to how one can live these secrets on a regular basis. The author provides three strategies that an individual can follow to live these secrets. In the 'Awareness and Experimentation' approach, one continuously remind self to live the key secrets as applicable to them. Another approach is the 'Goal Based' approach, where one can have a goal of living the secrets and tracking the goal achievement on a regular basis. One way in which this can be done is by asking ourselves a set of non-judgmental 'Yes/No' questions relating to some of the goals that we have set for ourselves. The third and final approach is to create a set of rituals in our lives, like daily meditation for example, that we can follow at a pre-specified time.

The final section consists of a single chapter covering some of the wisdom gained from the interviews. In this section, the wise people give advice in their own words.

In summary, the following are the five life secrets

Life Secret 1: Be true to yourself
Life Secret 2: Leave no regrets
Life Secret 3: Become Love
Life Secret 4: Live the moment
Life Secret 5: Give more than you take

(Please note: Some of these links may not work till the 20th of October)

The author points out that there are two fundamental truths to human life. The first is that we have a limited and undefined amount of time. The second is that in this undefined amount of time we are faced with unlimited number of choices on how we use this time and these choices will define our lives. He explains that the two things that human beings want are to find 'Happiness' and 'Meaning'. Happiness means, finding enjoyment and contentment in what we d. Meaning is about finding connections and linkages between your present and future.

This short book packs a lifetime of learning into one small compact book with about 8 chapters spread across 150 pages. The language is simple and easy on the mind. The examples are excellent and the concepts? What about the concepts?

There are some great concepts discussed in this book. In the section on 'Follow the heart', the author mentions that most of us live a life of avoiding what we fear rather than moving towards what we want. We should focus our lives on what we want out of our lives and relentlessly work towards achieving that goal.

Another concept is that of 'Good Tired'. At the end of the day, when we are tired, we should ask ourselves if we are 'Good Tired', tired having done something worthwhile, or 'Bad Tired', having led a dreary life the entire day. We should continually identify what is that which makes us 'Good Tired' and strive to do more of that activity on a daily basis.

As the book points out, 'How we live our day is how we live our life'.

Here are some of the approaches to living the five secrets

Highly recommended. Rating 4/5.

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