This is not a preachy post, don’t worry. This is a book I am currently reading. I have had this book on my shelf for some time now. I’ve also heard a lot of people talking about it, and some YouTubers I really like also recommend this book – so I always meant to read it, I just couldn’t find the time. Oh wait, now that I have used this phrase let me tell you what I think about it. I despise people who constantly keep saying “I couldn’t find the time”, myself included. Some of us are busier than others sure, I accept that. I am not saying all of us have equal freedom in distributing our time as we please. What I dislike about the people who say this (again, I am including myself in this list) is that these are often also the people who like the idea of being busy. You know the sort. The kind of people who wear their schedules on their sleeve like some masochistic badge of honour. The kind of people who brag about how little they sleep, or how their kids have forgotten what they look like, or the ones who constantly joke about having to get a divorce because they work so hard. I always associate this phrase with that brand of unlikeable human being – and so I’ve come to dislike the phrase too.
The thing that pushed me to read this book before its time (I had a bunch of other books lined up before I was going to touch this book) was my dog. He’s a cutie but a bit of a menace. Of all the things he could have developed a fondness for, he likes chewing up books. Well, actually paper, but that includes books too. Older and mustier books are his favourite. Those we have to keep out of his reach. But the ones he can reach, he does take time out from his busy schedule of terrorising everyone at home to get some quick reading (chewing) done. He had already ripped the cover in half when I rescued the book from him. I have decided to finish the book before he completely destroys it (for some reason he remembers the books he has started eating and always prefers to go back to those books before picking out new ones).
The premise of the book is that there are different aspects of our personality – what the author calls our Adam I and Adam II. Adam I is the outer self focused on worldly accomplishments like good grades, a high paying career and what not. Adam II is the more sedate inner self that isn’t really focused on all of this. What Adam II wants instead is to like itself for nobler qualities – like being a dependable person, being a humble person, having faith in yourself that you are living life according to principles you hold dear. We need to nourish both Adams in order to live a fulfilling life.
The book challenges our newfound ideas of ‘authenticity’ and says people nowadays focus too much on their internal cues and not enough on their circumstances or external cues. We spend so much time thinking about what we want, how we can make ourselves happy, how we can be the most ‘authentic’ version of ourselves, that we forget to focus on some of the more important aspects of our personality, things that are not necessarily determined by our internal strife. Basically, this idea of ‘Big Me’ has taken over our lives when in fact other qualities (such as humility, hard work for the sake of hard work, helping others, having a purpose in life other than yourself) are more likely to make us happy. But what is “happy”? The book says happiness is so often associated with a fleeting emotion of positivity or giddiness, when in fact, it is more like a long lasting contentment and pride in yourself.
I like the way in which the book highlights different versions of what a ‘fulfilling life’ looks like by talking about real world examples of people who have lived according to their Adam II principles. I like how the book doesn’t just set out one kind of successful life. The author doesn’t sugarcoat anything either – it isn’t as though if you live as per Adam II you’re going to have an easy life. Most of the times you’re not. Like the first woman he talks about has a very successful and long political career, but this comes at a great personal cost. The second woman he talks about isn’t even what we would consider to be a ‘conventionally successful’ person. She had no public life. Her only claim to fame is being the mother of a president of the United States. Her Adam II shines through in how she has raised her children and how they carry with them the lessons she teaches them throughout.
What I like best is that it reinforces the idea that life is a single player game, and everything outside of your head is just white noise. Faith seems to be quite central to having any sort of meaning in your life.