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Recommended reading | Atomic Habits by James Clear

Recommended reading | Atomic Habits by James Clear

My last blog post was about how to develop good habits (if you haven’t seen it, you can check it out HERE).  Life becomes so much easier when you make it a habit of doing the things that need to be done!

A book that really helped me to take practical steps towards building good habits, as well as stopping bad habits, was Atomic Habits by James Clear.  I have always known the power of small, incremental changes – the compound effect – and this book reminded me of this.  By starting with seemingly minor actions or behaviours, these minor actions soon turn into deep rooted habits, hopefully good ones!  James Clear personally experienced the power of ‘atomic habits’ – tiny changes that compounded into remarkable results – through his personal journey from sustaining an awful injury at college and his journey to full recovery and beyond, going on to achieve amazing things.

One thing I particularly love about this book is how the author talks about not only the external stimuli that tend to affect our behaviour (and hence habits) but also our internal states – our thoughts, feelings, emotions and how these affect our behaviours and habits.  If you know me, you know that I’m all about the inside out approach.  If we want to truly flourish, we have to first master the internal game for it to reflect externally.

He starts by explaining ‘The Fundamentals’ and then goes into his habits framework, ‘The 4 Laws of Behaviour Change’ which align with his four-step model of habits – cue, craving, response and reward.

The Fundamentals

Here the first fundamental discussed is the impact of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’ – a philosophy of searching for a tiny margin of improvement in everything we do – is explained, using the example of how this approach was applied by a new performance director of the British cycling team (Dave Brailsford) to help the team improve their somewhat dismal cycling performance.  By finding literally hundreds of teeny, weeny improvements to make – things like teaching the team to wash their hands properly to prevent catching a cold – the compound effect of all these teeny, tiny improvements eventually ended up having a remarkable effect.  The British cycling team went from not winning the Tour de France in 110 years and only winning an Olympic gold medal once since 1908 to winning 178 world championships, 66 Olympic or Paralympic gold medals and winning 5 Tour de France events in the space of TEN years.  Woah!  For me – gobsmacking. I was all ears (well, eyes) after this!

I also love how James believes in systems versus goals. I am all for systems to make life easier!  As he explains, goals are about the results you want to achieve while systems are about the processes that lead to those results.

The second ‘fundamental’ is how our habits shape our identity.  James tells us that the most effective way to change our habits is to focus not on what we want to achieve (our desired results), but on who we wish to become.  Again, music to my ears, I am totally aligned with this way of thinking, I 100% believe that to make any change in our lives, we need to first BE the type of person who can make that change happen.  Focus on being, as opposed to having the outcome!  The outcome will naturally follow!

The 4 Laws of Behavioural Change

Most people want to know “How can I create a good habit?” or “How can I break a bad habit?”  James Clear’s habits framework, which he explains throughout the book, is a simple set of rules to help you create good habits or break bad habits.  I personally LOVE using this framework because, as always, I find it so much easier to create systems to use in my daily life so I can use most of my energy and brain power on other things!  Using this framework really simplifies things for me when I’m trying to create good habits or get rid of bad habits.  I simply go to this set of rules and run through how I can apply them to whatever it is I am trying to achieve, whether that’s developing a good habit or stopping a bad habit.

The 4 Laws of Behavioural Change are as follows and below each law is the recommended strategy James recommends to use for that particular Law.

HOW TO CREATE GOOD HABITS

1 |  Make it obvious by

– Setting implementation intentions “(I will [behaviour] at [time] in [location]”
– Using habit stacking “(I will [desired new habit] after [current habit]”
– Designing your environment (make the cues of good habits obvious and visible)

2 |  Make it attractive by

– Using temptation bundling (pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do)
– Joining a culture where your desired behaviour is the normal behaviour
– Creating a motivation ritual (do something you enjoy immediately before a difficult habit)

3 |  Make it easy by

– Reducing friction (decrease the number of steps between you and your good habits)
– Priming your environment (prep your environment to make future actions easier)
– Mastering the decisive moment (optimise the small choices that deliver outsized impact)
– Using the Two-Minute Rule (downscale your habits until they can be done in 2 minutes or less)
– Automating your habits (invest in tech and one-time purchases that lock in future behaviour)

4 |  Make it satisfying by

– Using reinforcement (give yourself an immediate reward when you complete your habit)
– Making “doing nothing” enjoyable (when avoiding a bad habit, design a way to see the benefits)
– Using a habit tracker (keep track of your habit streak and “don’t break the chain”)
– Never missing twice (when you forget to do a habit, make sure you get back on track immediately)

HOW TO BREAK BAD HABITS (this is the inversion of the above)

1 |  Make it invisible by

– Reducing exposure (remove the cues of your bad habits from your environment)

2 |  Make it unattractive by

– Reframing your mindset (highlight the benefits of avoiding your bad habits)

3 |  Make it difficult by

– increasing friction (increase the number of steps between you and your bad habits)
– using a commitment device (restrict your future choices to the ones that benefit you)

4 |  Make it unsatisfying by

– getting an accountability partner (ask someone to watch your behaviour)
– creating a habit contract (make the costs of your bad habits public and painful)

 

Hopefully the 4 Laws and their associated strategies above are self-explanatory but I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits which explains each Law and strategy in great detail, also providing loads of examples.  I use many of these strategies myself with one of my favourites being ‘habit stacking’ – I simply think of a habit I currently do and then ‘bolt on’ my new desired habit onto that, for example, ‘I will drink a large glass of water after I wake up.’  Or, ‘I will take my supplements as soon as I finish eating my dinner.’  I find this strategy works really well and saves me having to try and carry out the habit on its own at some other time!

So if you’re wondering how to create a new habit, then try using these 4 Laws. Simply ask yourself:

1. How can I make it obvious?
2. How can I make it attractive?
3. How can I make it easy?
4. How can I make it satisfying?

And if you’re trying to figure out how to break a bad habit, ask yourself the inverted version of the same questions:

1. How can I make it invisible?
2. How can I make it unattractive?
3. How can I make it difficult?
4. How can I make it unsatisfying?

Like James Clear says in his book, “your habits are shaped by the systems in your life”.

Use this framework to create easy systems in your every day life because all these little habits you practice every day, over time, will amount to a big result – and you want it to be a good result!

 

P.S. You can download my FREE HABITS TRACKER below to write down the habits you want to develop and track them over a month (just print out a copy each month) – you will see patterns and trends start to emerge and know immediately where you are doing well and where you need to improve (by implementing James’ Laws and strategies!)

Recommended reading | The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Recommended reading | The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is definitely one of my favourite books of all time and has a special place in my heart.  I love to go back and read this (or listen to it) every couple of years.

I listened to the audiobook before I read the actual book and I was at one of my lowest points in my life when I did.  I had been working like a maniac at work non-stop for about two years and it had now taken its toll on me.  I had surpassed the constant fatigue and migraines stage and after feeling really dizzy and literally collapsing one day, I ended up in bed with labyrinthitis, a condition that affects the inner ear and balance organs which made it feel like the world was spinning around me.  I couldn’t even stand up straight, let alone walk or go anywhere, so I was stuck in bed until the world and my body felt normal again.  It was not a fun time at all.

I was determined not to feel sorry for myself, I knew this would only make me feel worse and delay my healing.  I wanted to make the best use of the time I had on my hands and take my mind off my sorry state and so rummaged for the audiobooks I had in my library.  Pretty much all of my books were personal development related and were just too much for my brain to take in at that point.  I needed something that wouldn’t require my already fuzzy, spinning brain to think too hard!  The only ‘light read’ (or ‘listen’ in this case) I had available was The Alchemist.  I had heard it was a great book but had never got round to listening to it.  Now was a good time to.  And so I lay there and pressed ‘play’.  It was exactly what I needed to hear.

What’s it about?

In a nutshell it’s about following your destiny, pursuing your dreams, finding and living out your purpose – your ‘personal legend’ as the author called it.  And it’s all told through a fable, or parable if you like, by a boy who decides to leave his simple but comfortable and routine life as he knows it, to follow his destiny, to discover his ‘personal legend’.

I can tell you that by the time I finished this book, told through such a beautiful tale (I felt like I was there, living it) I was determined to wave goodbye to my own pathetic existence and seek out my own personal legend!

Here are ten life lessons I learned from The Alchemist.  This little book is packed to the brim with golden nuggets and each time I read it, new things pop up for me!

1 |  Don’t get to the end of your life and regret that you didn’t follow your dreams and live the life you really wanted to live

2 |  Sometimes we need to step out of our comfortable but boring, routine lives to see what else is out there in life for us, even if we can’t see exactly where the journey we take will lead us to

3 |  There’s always a sacrifice to make when you want to reach for more in life – but it’s only temporary! The long term rewards are worth it!

4 |  Challenges, setbacks, obstacles will always come your way and test you to the max when you’re moving in the direction of your dreams – you’ve got to push through them and keep going.

5 |  The journey is just as (if not more) important than your destination – your character is being refined with each step that you take, the journey enables you to become the person you need to be when you eventually reach your desired destination

6 |  Our greatest lessons come from the simplest of things in life – don’t live on autopilot – open your eyes to what’s around you and what it’s trying to teach you or where it’s trying to lead you to

7 |  You need courage, faith, resilience and determination to keep going for your dreams

8 |  Being afraid of change has cost many a person their dreams – embrace change

9 |  Listen to your heart – it will always guide you IF you take the time to listen to it

10 |  It doesn’t matter how long it takes to reach your destiny, just keep going in the direction of your dreams – don’t stop!

 

My biggest lesson from The Alchemist?  Don’t believe ‘the world’s greatest lie’

What does the author call the world’s greatest lie?

‘That at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what happens to us, and our lives become controlled by fate.’

That’s the world’s greatest lie.  We are always in control.  We can always change our story – if we choose to.

 

Why do most of us never choose to follow our dreams?

These are the four reasons why most of us never choose to follow our dreams as described by author Paulo Coelho:

  1. We have been conditioned since childhood to believe that everything we wanted to do is impossible
  2. We are afraid to or feel guilty to hurt those around us by abandoning everything in order to pursue our dreams
  3. Fear of the challenges and setbacks we will meet (and meet them we will)
  4. The fear of realising our dream

Isn’t it interesting how fear seems to be the one thing that holds us back from living the life of our dreams?  Not only do we fear failing to reach our dreams but we fear reaching our dreams too, so many of us actually fear success!

The overall message of this book is that there has to be more to life than our robot existence through life that most of us experience.  Living the same year 60 years in a row and calling it a life.  Being able to predict what tomorrow, next week, next year, ten, twenty years down the line will be like.  It takes courage to dare to step out of the ‘norm’ and do something that fills our heart with joy rather than just pays the bills and gets us a nice little holiday once or twice a year (the only times we look forward to and enjoy).

I read somewhere that most of us will give more thought to what we’re going to wear today than what we’re actually doing with our lives.  A rather sobering thought!

The Alchemist is the most beautiful tale that really got me thinking deeply and will get you thinking too.

What are you doing with your life?  Are you living out your purpose?  Or someone else’s?  Are you letting life just happen to you?  Or are you the master of your fate, the captain of your soul?

It’s never too late to discover your personal legend.  And I can’t recommend this book enough to set you on your way.  If it’s good enough for former US President Bill Clinton (who was spotted reading it) and the other 175 million people who have bought copies of The Alchemist, it’s definitely worth a read!

Speaking of living with purpose, check out my blog post on ‘How to discover your purpose‘ which includes a free worksheet to help you do just that!

 

Recommended Reading | ‘Worthy’ by Jamie Kern Lima

Recommended Reading | ‘Worthy’ by Jamie Kern Lima

I’ve spent the last couple of days reading this book by Jamie Kern Lima and just had to feature it this week as part of my ‘Recommended Reading’ blog series where I share books I’ve loved and learned from.

The book title (as well as the gorgeously shiny book cover!) says it all:  WORTHY.  A topic I’ve certainly explored to some extent before, but not in as much depth as Jamie went into in her book.  I emerged from reading it feeling years wiser, and freer!

First up, this book is a must for your library if you love personal development, self-discovery and have ever struggled with feeling worthy.  And sometimes, I think unworthiness can manifest in ways you don’t even expect.  I identified with some myself.

I downloaded the audiobook, finished it and loved it and promptly ordered the hard copy – after all it looked so lovely and shiny, I wanted it to take pride of place in my growing library, and when I listen to a book I really love and has a great impact on me, I have to read it and highlight key take aways.  And to top it off, 100% of the book proceeds are going to charity – so a completely guilt-free purchase 😊

One thing that I love about Jamie is that she is so real and down to earth, listening to her audiobook was like listening to an old friend – she even paints the picture of her inviting you into her home, giving you a lovely hot mug of coffee or whatever you want to drink and sitting on the couch with you for a good chat.  And it really felt like that.  So one thing that struck me was “wow, she is soo nice, down to earth and approachable for a billionaire (she founded IT Cosmetics and went on to sell it to Loreal for over a billion dollars)!”

I’ll be honest – I hadn’t even heard of Jamie a week ago (I know, I must be living in a cave) but heard about her new book ‘Worthy’ via a workshop I attended.  I searched it on Amazon and found her first book ‘Believe IT’ and started listening to it straight away.  What a story of strength, courage, belief and perseverance (also a must read – blog post coming soon on that book!)!  Then lo and behold, I come across an event called ‘Becoming Unstoppable’ that she’s hosting in a couple of days’ time – an all day Saturday event with speakers throughout the day like Tony Robbins, Brendon Burchard, Mel Robbins, Ed Mylett, Lia Key, Oprah, the list goes on.  What. An. Absolute. TREAT!!  So of course, I abandoned my plans for Saturday and instead sat glued to my screen and watched all the amazing speakers share golden nugget after golden nugget around the subject of becoming unstoppable and believing in your worth.  Well nearly all the speakers … being based in the United Kingdom and the event being in the United States, there was of course a time difference and by the time it got to nearly 2am in my part of the world, I just couldn’t keep my eyes open!  But I was pleased to be able to fill in the gaps with the replay afterwards!

So why do I recommend this book?  Because it talks about a subject I think the majority of us face, some more than others.  She begins her book with the stats, like 80% of women not believing they’re enough, and 91% (!) of women and girls not loving their bodies, and even dedicates her book to them.  With such worrying stats, digging deeper into why so many of us don’t feel we are enough is a topic well worth exploring.

This is a book you really need to read a few times to truly assimilate the information and also ponder over how it applies in your own life and what tools and strategies you can use to overcome any feelings of unworthiness.   The topic of worthiness really struck a chord with me because it’s my own belief that we are all born to flourish, to be all that we were destined to be, and to flourish you need to first believe you are worthy and deserving of it.

I’ve picked out my top 5 take aways from ‘Worthy’ to share with you and I would love to hear what your top take aways were too!

1  |  Self-worth vs Self-Confidence

This was only a few pages in and was a big revelation to me, I had never properly considered this before.  Jamie explained how we can be self-confident (externally) but still have low self-worth (internally) – she described self-worth being the essential foundation on which you build self-confidence.  What a realisation!  It explains why trying all the external tips and tricks to improve your self-confidence can still leave you feeling inadequate on the inside.  Work on the inside and it will manifest on the outside!

2  |  Unlearn the lies that keep you feeling unworthy

The second part of ‘Worthy’ delves into all the lies we often tell ourselves and believe (which eventually become our limiting beliefs) and it’s these lies that keep us from discovering our greatness, keeps us playing small.  Lies like

  • waiting for the perfect time / weight / person / event … before you take action
  • you don’t deserve better
  • you need to please everyone else around you at the expense of yourself
  • you can’t be yourself, the ‘real’ you

and many more lies that become our limiting beliefs. By addressing each and every lie you’re telling yourself and replacing it with the truth, that you are worthy, period – you don’t need to earn it! – you can put yourself back on the path towards living with purpose and a knowing that you are worthy of greatness!

3  |  Trust your intuition

I loved this as this is something I am passionate about.  We all have that still inner voice deep within us that is there to guide us, to show us the next step to take in our journey.  We need to learn to be still enough to listen to it, to trust it.  Nowadays we are so obsessed with getting external advice and validation that we fail to listen to the advice that matters the most – our own intuition which knows exactly what’s best for us.  I love how Jamie said she puts all advice she gets from people though the ‘filter’ of her own intuition, or knowing.

4  |   There’s enough room for everyone

This is a limiting belief I used to struggle with – when starting my online space for example, I couldn’t help but think ‘there are sooo many people doing the same thing, and so many are light years ahead of me, what difference could I possibly make, what’s the point of even trying?’  But Jamie reminds us that there is only ONE of us, no one else can do whatever we do like we do.  And this is why it was so refreshing to read this book and be reminded of this truth.  I remember once booking a hotel on a hotel comparison site and there were literally dozens and dozens of hotels to choose from, it took me ages to finally select one and book it.  And I had a realisation.  These hotels are all in the same industry but doing their thing in their own unique way.  There is someone out there that likes what one particular hotel offers over another.  There’s enough room for all these hotels to do business and succeed.  And it’s the same with us.  There is enough space for us all to flourish!

5  |   Metamorphosis

I saved my favourite for last!  How many times have we heard of the analogy of the caterpillar transforming into a beautiful butterfly?  But Jamie explains the process more fully – I had no idea that when the caterpillar goes into its cocoon, it completely liquifies – turns into liquid, like whaaaaat?!   I can imagine that must be a painful, yet necessary, process.  It then eventually transforms into a butterfly but even then, its wings are wet and its very survival is at stake.  I found this truly fascinating (I clearly wasn’t paying attention in science classes!).  I love to learn from nature and the transformation of a caterpillar into a butterfly is one of my favourite lessons.  This deeper insight explains why our own transformation can seem so looooong, so painful, sometimes unbearable.  And on the other side, there are often even more challenges and obstacles to face before fully transforming into a butterfly.  It’s all part of the journey.  Just keep going.

 

All in all, I think you can tell that I loved this book and I’ll be recommending it and sharing it far and wide.  I have had my own struggles with feeling unworthy in some areas in my life and I know I am not alone.  For example, Imposter Syndrome is experienced by most people, many of them at high levels of success … and yet they feel unworthy of it, an imposter that is enjoying the benefits of success that they feel they don’t deserve.

This book reminds you not to believe those lies!  You are WORTHY by default, you don’t need to earn it!

Have you read ‘Worthy’?  What was your favourite take away?  

Recommended reading | ‘Hero’ by Rhonda Byrne

Recommended reading | ‘Hero’ by Rhonda Byrne

I love Rhonda Byrne’s books – I find that they are so simply told and yet hold so many golden nuggets that can literally change your life forever.  Have you ever listened to her audiobooks?  I remember listening to one and thinking ’wow!’.  So much effort is put into telling the story along with great sound effects too that transport me right into the story!

And ‘Hero’ is no different.  It’s one of my favourite Rhonda Byrne books.  I listened to the audiobook first and then bought the hard copy book because I wanted it in my ‘real’ (!) library, not just my virtual one. 

What’s to love?

I love this particular book because we can each relate to the ‘hero’s journey’ Rhonda Byrne describes and builds upon throughout the book.  There are several (12) real-life characters, who have achieved great success, that talk about their own ‘hero’s journey’ – the ups, the downs, and everything in between that they all had to experience before they reached success.  It’s a great reminder to us all that life is a journey, success is a journey and that to get any measure of success, we all have to go on our own hero’s journey, not only to discover success at the end of it, but to discover who we needed to become to get there.

Why should you read it?

If you’re trying to achieve great things in your own life, then you need to be the hero of your own story instead of wait for a hero to pop out from somewhere and put those great things in your lap – it’s not likely to happen!  This book reminds you that you’re not alone in sometimes feeling hopeless or fed up of trying and failing, you will be able to relate to at least one person’s story in this book, maybe more.  Personally, I got inspiration from everyone’s stories in different ways.  These people had the same doubts I often have, faced similar challenges to me and in many cases their challenges were way bigger than any I have ever faced and yet they chose to push through them, learn from them and continue with their journey.  How much easier should it be for me, then?  It made me realise that my challenges were nowhere as bad as I imagined and that that this was just part of the journey, to help me grow to the next stage.

My key take-aways from The Hero

If I had to sum up my top 5 key take aways from The Hero, they would be as follows:

1  |  There is no shortcut to success, you need to make that journey

If achieving success (whatever success means to you) was easy, everyone would be successful, right?!  But not everyone is willing to set off on that hero’s journey or keep going, especially when the going gets tough.  It’s only those that are willing to take the risk of setting off on their own hero’s journey and keep plodding on, come what may, that eventually reach their desired destination.  There is no shortcut!

2  |  There are different stages to the hero’s journey, honour the process

The hero’s journey is not an easy one to make but it’s so worth it in the end if you achieve your dreams and goals!  The book is split into four parts:

Part I – The Dream – which talks about that niggling feeling you get, that restlessness you experience when you want to follow your dreams and find your purpose and live it, rather than continue living a meaningless, mediocre life going through the motions.  It talks about answering to that ‘call to adventure’ despite the risks it might entail or the sacrifices you may have to make with no guarantees at the end.  This is probably one of the reasons I love this book so much, because BLOOM is so big on dreaming and on living life with purpose – on realising there is more out there if you’re willing to go out and find it!

Part II – The Hero – talks about you, the person – the hero of the story, your story.  What sort of mindset you need to have to be the hero of your own story, how you need to think and act.  I loved hearing about the different people in this book and it became clear that there are certain characteristics you need to have to be able to fulfil your dreams – self-belief, persistence, commitment, perseverance, discipline, resilience, and many more!  Again, this resonated with me so much because at BLOOM, becoming the person you need to be to achieve your goals is hugely important.  It’s not easy to be disciplined, to be focused, to persevere … and it wasn’t any easier for the characters in this book.  It’s inspiring to realise that they struggle with the same things we do, they just chose to work on and improve themselves, no matter how difficult it seemed.

Part III – The Quest – oh yes, we can all relate to this stage!  This basically describes the journey – the struggle, the maze, the labyrinth, the going round in circles, the frustration, the challenges … definitely something we can all relate to!  And yet, in spite of all these obstacles and challenges, we get to choose how to respond to them, just like the characters in the book did.  To me this was probably the most important and most relevant part of the book.  It’s easy to dream big dreams but when you’re down in the trenches trying to make those dreams happen, this tests you to the very core of your being!  Reading about the many challenges the characters faced and how they chose to respond to those challenges, inspired me to do the same when I faced similar issues in my life.  Too many of us decide to give up too early.  Just a slight whiff of an obstacle and we’re quick to throw the towel in.  The hero’s journeys of each of these people will inspire and encourage you to keep going in your own journey.

Part IV – Victory – making it to the other side and being able to look back and see that every challenge and every obstacle you faced was put there to test you, to mould you, to shape you, to make you a better person – the person you need to become to reach your dreams.  Realising that there is more to success than reaching your own dreams but helping others do the same. 

Reading through these different stages makes you see the bigger picture in your own journey, rather than the little step you’re currently stuck on.  If you’re stuck in The Quest, realise that Victory is the next stage, if you choose to keep going!  So, honour the process, and take it one step at a time. 

3  |  You’re stronger than you think

This is something that often came up for me.  It’s usually during a particularly challenging time that we discover just how strong and resilient we actually are.  We need to tap into this inner strength and power that we have deep within us and allow it to propel us towards success in our own journeys, and not just wait for dire circumstances to happen to us to reveal that inner strength we had all along.

4  |  Persistence pays

Whilst there were many characteristics that all the characters in the story shared to reach success, one particular characteristic stood out from the others for me, and that was persistence.  Each and every one of them persisted in their journey to reaching their dream, they refused to give up – they each found a way over, under, around or through whatever obstacle came their way!  If there’s one characteristic you want to work on if you want to achieve success, it’s persistence!

5  |  Each and everyone of us is a hero

It’s too easy to think that living a wonderful life of purpose, freedom and joy is reserved for the privileged few while we just get to watch from the sidelines.  And yet each and every one of us has the power within us to create and live the life of our dreams.  We just need to believe in ourselves more, know that we have what it takes and be willing to do what it takes to create and live that dream.  We are the heroes of our own story and we get to write that story.  Reading about the disadvantaged backgrounds many of the people in the book came from and the challenging circumstances they had to face helps you realise that if they can make it, so can you!

In conclusion

This is an easy read and the author has very cleverly turned the life experiences of twelve successful people around the world into really captivating, inspiring and encouraging life lessons for us all to learn from and apply in our own lives.  I listen to or read this book at least every couple of years, especially when I’m going through a particularly hard time in my own journey and feel like packing it in.  Then I realise … I get to choose to be the hero of my own story.  Or not.  And you get to choose too!

Have you read The Hero by Rhonda Byrne?  What was your key take away?