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Life 101: Books That Changed My Life and Blog

Articles about blogging tipsOne of my long time favorite authors, , has most of his books online for free. These include:

Life 101, Do It!, and How to Survive the Loss of a Love changed my life. I keep them near me in my office, dog-eared and worn having traveled the world with me. If you want to be self-employed, a freelancer, or consultant, or be successful in general on your blog, get Wealth 101.

Life 101 especially had a profound impact on my attitude and behavior in life. In a section on Master Teachers In Disguise, McWilliams explains about how the things we fear are the things that motivate us through our lives. Instead of fearing mistakes, for example, use them as a tool to change your attitude about them to find the power within them.

Mistakes are valuable if, for no other reason, they show us what not to do. As Joseph Ray told us, “The Athenians, alarmed at the internal decay of their Republic, asked Demosthenes what to do. His reply: `Do not do what you are doing now.’ “

In Hollywood, mis-takes are common. (“That was wonderful, darlings. Now let’s get ready for take two.”) Give yourself as many re-takes as you need. Stars do it. (“I didn’t feel quite right with that one, Mr. deMille. Can we take it again?”) Why not you?

A Hollywood song (lyrics by Dorothy Fields) sums it up: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again.” Or, to quote an African proverb, “Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

Life is filled with loss, from the anxiety over losing your keys or breaking a precious family heirloom to ending a relationship or losing a family member, loss is a just a normal part of our life. Yet, we don’t know how to handle it. How to Survive the Loss of a Love is a book I’ve returned to over and over again through the years. I’ve given dozens and dozens of copies to friends and family and recommended it many times to help people go through it and get past it.

All of his books are inspirational, but more importantly, they are motivational, teaching you how to move through life tapping the power of your inner strength and faith.

What Do These Books Have to Do With Blogging?

A year ago, I was digging through Life 101 trying to find the words for a speech I was going to be giving on motivating bloggers to write with passion and commitment. As I quickly read through the fast-paced writing, I realized that McWilliams was writing blog-style. Short sentences and paragraphs that concisely convey their points without unnecessary fluff and babble. Brilliant!

I flipped to the front of the book and started rereading it again with a new perspective.

Here is the start of the first chapter in the book:

I call this book LIFE 101 because it contains all the things I wish I had learned about life in school but, for the most part, did not.

After twelve (or more) years of schooling, we know how to figure the square root of an isosceles triangle (invaluable in daily life), but we might not know how to forgive ourselves and others.

We know what direction migrating birds fly in autumn, but we’re not sure which way we want to go.

We have dissected a frog, but perhaps have never explored the dynamics of human relationships.

We know who wrote “To be or not to be, that is the question,” but we don’t know the answer.

We know what pi is, but we’re not sure who we are.

We may know how to diagram a sentence, but we may not know how to love ourselves.

That our educational system is not designed to teach us the “secrets of life” is no secret. In school, we learn how to do everything–except how to live.

If that’s not the start of a well-written blog post, I don’t know what is. Its visual, energetic, short and to the point, and makes powerful statements that compel a reader to keep reading, and to act upon what they are reading. It makes them think.

You want a great example of blog writing, read Life 101.

Blogging is about confidence, confidence in your subject matter and self-confidence that keeps you returning to your blog, persistently publishing and confronting comments and comment spammers. Blogging is about overcoming your fears. It’s about making mistakes and learning to live with it. It’s about the courage to say what needs to be said, no matter what anyone else says or thinks.

Life 101 and Do It! address the issues of what gets in our way and stops us from moving forward, especially when the path is a creative one that requires courage and faith in our abilities. It’s so easy to turn back when someone says something nasty in the comments or insults your expertise. Self-doubt plagues many bloggers, especially those who blog from the heart.

If we don’t do something because we’re afraid of the guilt, we are, in fact, being motivated by fear and guilt. If we do good because we fear what might happen to us if we don’t do good, the act of good is tainted with fear. As a transition–especially when breaking a habit–it’s a beginning, but we must move beyond that or we find ourselves in the trap of not feeling guilty because we’d feel guilty if we felt guilty.

So what can we use to motivate ourselves to do good? Do good because good is the right thing to do. Not right as “conforming to law and morality (or else),” but right as “in accordance with fact, reason, and truth.”

…The cure for guilt and resentment? Forgiveness. The preventative? Acceptance. The best reason to do good? Loving.

And if you forget any of this, the Master Teacher will be there, just before you veer off-course, asking gently, with that first twinge of guilt or resentment, “Would you rather be right or be happy?”

Your answer will always be respected.

If we used McWilliams’ example, our choices would be easier. Would you rather be right when you respond to a nasty commenter, or would you rather be happy? Responding to our readers from a place of love rather than guilt, fear, resentment, and anger is the moral high road not enough bloggers should take.

Blogging is About Persistence

Blogging is about persistence, and DO IT! Let’s Get Off Our Buts is a great book for working on procrastination and your personal obstacles that keep you from succeeding in whatever you do.

In the opening of the book, McWilliams says bluntly that the reason we need to read this book is depressing because it’s our fault we don’t succeed:

The reason we aren’t living our dreams is inside ourselves. We pretend it’s people, things, and situations outside ourselves that are to blame.

I love his opening paragraphs in the next section. Does this sound familiar with your blog?

This was going to be the best opening chapter you could possibly imagine, but so many things got in the way.

I was going to spend lots of time writing it, but, well, you know how time goes!
note: find quote

I was going to get lots of touching and poignant and humorous examples of people not getting things done, but I never got around to interviewing the people.

I was going to gather lots of wonderful quotes to illustrate my points, but I left the quote book at home, and this chapter is being written at a lecture hall outside Carmel, California. (Besides, I think the dog ate it.)

If this page goes to press without a quote, it will be most embarrassing.

I was going to make sure that this chapter was so informative, so readable, and so wonderful that if you were reading it in a bookstore, you’d buy the book, or, if you were reading it in a library, you’d check it out, or, if you were reading it at home, you’d decide, “Boy, I’m certainly going to enjoy reading this book!” but I decided to watch this movie on TV last night, and I was going to work on the chapter afterward, but then I went out for ice cream, and I was tired, and decided to start fresh in the morning, but then I slept late, and then I went out for breakfast and took a drive past an aquarium and decided to stop in, then I went for lunch, and then thought I’d take a nap and start fresh in the evening, but then I started watching a documentary on TV, then, of course, it was time for dinner, then I was invited to the movies, and I don’t want to be rude to my friends, and besides I sort-of wanted to see the movie anyway, then I was going to go right back and work on this chapter, but then I remembered how good the ice cream was the night before…

Which brings us to the most famous world that is our favorite excuse starter: BUT. It’s a start to the many excuses we can give, but also a stopper to living our life fully. In naming the book as he did, these are the “buts” McWilliams wants us to get off of.

If this sounds like your approach to your blog, you need to read this book.

Blogging is About Making Money

Blogging is also about making money. Wealth 101 followed in the tracks of the other Life 101 series, specifically addresses the challenges and phobias we have about what we are worth. Literally, how to put a price on our heads.

As a blogger, what are you worth? Are you worth only your blog posts, the content you write and publish on your blog? Or is it the worth of your experience and expertise that people would be willing to pay for?

Unfortunately, a problem many bloggers have is how to monetize their blogs. Not how to put ads on their blogs or how to have their blogs make money, but how to have their blogs help them make money.

As McWilliams explores the issues of wealth, he brings up the issue of finding the value in earning the wealth, using the example of learning:

In the end, it’s not what we have or do that matters it is what we take from what we have and do, what we internalize, what we make our own. The process of making something our own is called learning.

Like the boy eagerly shoveling through the horse manure “because here’s got to be a pony in here somewhere,” so, no matter how manure-like life can get, there’s got to be a lesson in there somewhere. “No matter what happens to me, I’m going to learn something useful from it,” is a fundamental attitude of wealth.

Here we’re not necessarily talking about the institutions of higher learning (which, alas, have become for more and more people a place to hide from what they need to know), but the learning we get in that greatest classroom of all life.

Part of the problem with earning wealth is realizing you are worth it, and deserving of wealth. Years ago, I worked with a business partner who had a very clear cut comfort zone when it came to income. The moment the business exceeded that line in the financial sand, the next month he did things to sabotage the business, lower income right back to that level. I was stunned at how unaware he was of his comfort zone even when I showed him the numbers. We all have our comfort zone, but really achieving wealth means pushing those barriers in our head that stop us from making more.

McWilliams explains it better:

Many people think wealth is having what you want. We have found, however, that a good many people already have what they want or at least what they said they wanted at some former time and still don’t feel wealthy. They want more, but they’re not sure what “more” is.

Yes, they have a shopping list which usually begins with “a million dollars” and continues with this and this and this and this and this and a little of that, please, if you’re not too tired. To quote one of the most absurd terms coined in the past century: “They want it all.”

As we said before and will say againthere is simply too much “all” and not enough time this time around. We can have anything we want, but we can’t have everything we want. (Even if it were practical, the concept of “having it all” is a strange one. As Maurice Sendak pointed out, “There must be more to life than having everything.”)

Knowing what we truly want not what other people think would be best for us, or what our family expects of us, or what our culture has programmed us forbut what we truly want, is a significant aspect of wealth.

He summarizes it with this powerful quote from Don Herold:

Unhappiness is in not knowing what we want and killing ourselves to get it.

Does that sound familiar? I’ve read about a lot of bloggers who feel that way.

[NOTE: Wealth 101 is available on McWilliams site, but is currently under construction. You can directly access the pages via a directory, though the text is still needs a bit of clean up.]

Blogging is About Winning and Losing

I recommend How to Survive the Loss of a Love for bloggers dealing with the decision to stop blogging or to sell their blog.

The book deals simply with the concepts of loss and recovery, offering great tips and personal tools to help you go through the process.

I suggested this book to a fellow blogger struggling with changing their blog’s purpose and content. She felt so conflicted, she told me, torn between leaving something that meant so much to her, losing readers and the relationships created with that blog, and starting something new and exciting. She spent so much time focused on the past, she barely had energy to deal with the present and future.

While grieving is normal, you will eventually have to put a time limit on it.

Let Go of the Loss and Move On

At a certain point (and that point differs from loss to loss and from person to person), it’s time to leave the loss behind and move on.
Don’t be surprised if you actually miss the process of mourning. Some people mourn the loss of the mourning process.
Let go of the past. Look forward to the future.
You will, of course, occasionally look over your shoulder, but, for the most part, focus on the future and keep moving ahead.
Let yourself enjoy the excitement of uncertainty.
from Chapter 62: How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Peter McWilliams

After reading the book and following its advice, my friend called, her voice filled with new confidence. “You were so right. I was drowning in the loss of my old style of blogging that I couldn’t move forward into the new relationship I was forming with my new format. The blog is still my blog. I just had to go through the grieving process as part of the shift from the old to the new!”

You can read all the books by blogging experts all around the world, but sometimes the best books to help you blog are the ones unrelated to blogging. Blogging is about the expression of life, thoughts, and experiences, of creativity shared. If you are in your own way, how can you blog forward?

when we know that the cause of something is in ourselves, and that we (ourselves) are one of the few things in this universe that we have the right and the ability to change, we begin to get a sense of the choices we really do have, an inkling of the power we have, a feeling of being in charge–of our lives, of our future, of our dreams.
Peter McWilliams, Life 101: Everything We Wished We Had Learned About Life in School-But Didn’t

Here are more of Peter McWilliams’ books:



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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, the author of Blogging Tips, What Bloggers Won't Tell You About Blogging.

19 Comments

  1. Posted June 25, 2008 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing, I always like to see other people’s book list.

    I’ve just posted mine yesterday. I’ll pick up Do It! and see what’s in it. It has a great review in Amazon.

  2. Posted June 25, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Gosh this is a long post. Very interesting, as I was just thinking how I’d like to read something inspiring and motivating – reading your book first, though. I prefer to own the books, curl up on the sofa with them, rather than read them on the internet, but it’s great that they’re available free to all.

  3. Posted June 25, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    @ scatterbrain:

    This isn’t nearly as long as I usually post. :D But thank you.

    I’ve been reading books on my handheld computer now for over five years. I love it. It’s very hard to go back to a real book. It’s lighter. I control the font size. And it’s backlit, so I can read long into the night without turning on the light or bothering my husband. He loves the fact that I can read in bed and he isn’t disturbed by the sound of page turning. It’s small. I can carry dozens if not hundreds of books on it, which makes traveling much easier and I’m never stuck without a book.

    I don’t like what I’ve seen of the Kindle and other book readers, but the joy of reading on a handheld computer (Palm) where I can read from a variety of formats and not be restricted to specific types, is wonderful. I snuggle anywhere and everywhere with it at all hours of the day and night.

  4. Posted June 25, 2008 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    The reason I blogged was to share my loss to others and how I learned to live with it. I found out that a lot of readers face loss one way or another. It was an eye-opener for me and encouraged me to develop that niche.

  5. Posted June 26, 2008 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle,

    I’ve never heard of this author, but now that you’ve shared so much of his work, I can see he’s a must read. Thanks for providing all of the links.

  6. Posted June 26, 2008 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Thanks! I’m putting a couple of these on my Treo today.

    I always love reading your blog. You’ve taught me a lot.

  7. kriz66
    Posted June 26, 2008 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Hi, my name is Maria Cristina and I loved your blog. The best!
    Sorry my poor English, but I’m from Brazil. I’ve looking for plugins and other sugestions for prevent the plagiarism and I found many things here.
    Thank you and congratulions for your blog. It’s very special!
    Bye!!!

  8. Posted June 26, 2008 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    My blog it’s that above.
    Bye!

  9. Posted June 28, 2008 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi and thank you. I love blogging and although I seem to get the people dropping by, few leave comments. The nature of my blog has changed in the last twelve months, I used use it to advertise my digital scrap products but I have stopped designing and now it has lost it main purpose. Although I love blogging and would hate to give it up, I seem to have lost direction. Any ideas?

  10. Posted June 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    @ Sandra:

    Read Life 101? :D

    Honestly. That’s my best advice past reading my blog as it is stuffed with blogging butt kickers to help you get right back on the path.

    We all get in that flat place which is why I always turn back to the books mentioned in this article to give me the courage to keep keeping on.

  11. Posted June 28, 2008 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Lorelle and thanks for your fast reply. Yes I will read Life 101.

  12. Posted July 2, 2008 at 4:52 am | Permalink

    Good things get better as you wait!
    I bought your book and really believed it never left the publisher’s out mail box.
    I finally got it, and read it right away. It answered many of my questions and made me a better blogger.
    Thanks Lorelle, I am waiting for your next one.
    Thanks Mike

  13. Posted July 2, 2008 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    @ Mike:

    Always glad to help and glad you finally got the book. Good luck with your blogging and remember, honesty and integrity will win out in the long run with your blogging experience.

  14. bob
    Posted July 5, 2008 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    I just took a class from a David Lane at Mt. San Antonio College. David helped Peter write Life 102 which is one of his lesser known books. Peter had quite a challenging life by what I’ve read with his association with John Roger and MSIA. His death at such a young age was a real loss to the world.

  15. doni
    Posted July 21, 2008 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I often learned from what you wrote because of not having the person’s other method that could be better than our method your self. thank you for information,when we met again.

  16. Posted March 6, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for sharing one of Peter McWilliams’ most extraordinary works. I am so glad his words have helped change your life. He’s changed my life, so I do hope you’ll visit my little tribute to this big man!

  17. Posted March 18, 2010 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    Ms. Lorelle:

    Today I posted your blog onto my site for Peter McWilliams. I was able to actually read more of it, and I
    was quite impressed with your thorough, thoughtful approach. I love how you’re able to apply Peter’s teaching
    to something that you love so much.
    Please also email me sometime, I’d love to hear from you.

    Sincerely,
    Peter’s Page
    Tribute Page for Peter McWilliams

    • Posted March 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, however, I do not do link exchanges. The link in your comment’s name will take visitors interested in you and your comment to your site. Thanks.

  18. Posted May 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I was very glad to see a Google search turn up this blog as a result. As a new WP blogger many of my posts will likely come from the inspirations I’ve learned from Life 101 that I have owned since purchasing from a high school book sale in 1990. Mine too is also dog-eared and post-it bookmarked for easy reference.

    Your blog was a great read with snippets from the other 101 series, thanks much!


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