Creating a Life You'll Love: Notable Achievers Offer Their Secrets for Happiness - Mark Chimsky-Lustig

This inspiring collection, drawn from the best commencement speeches of recent years, is the perfect gift for anyone venturing out on their own for the first time or making a new life transition. Such notable contributors as Barbara Kingsolver, Thomas J. Friedman, Anna Quindlen, and Molly Ivins reveal important life lessons about navigating successfully through life and being true to oneself. Their advice is illuminating, surprising, thought-provoking, and funny. Creating a Life You'll Love is essential reading for everyone who is seeking the secret to living life wisely and well.




Formerly an editor for publishing houses Harper and Little, Brown & MacMillian, Mark Chimsky-Lustig is now an award winning poet and regular contributor to Huffington Post. In this first volume (of a series of themed essay collections he's compiled), Chimsky-Lustig brings together the commencement speeches of numerous successful people in the arts and sciences -- Barbara Kingsolver, Tom Hanks, Anna Quindlen, David McCullough, Ken Burns, Tess Gerritsen... just to name a few. Within their speeches, the reader is given words of inspiration and encouragement to go out and grasp the life of their dreams. Though originally geared at college students, readers of any age can likely find something uplifting within these pages. 


A rundown of the essay highlights:


* Barbara Kingsolver encourages you to find and develop a sense of community, wherever you plant yourself. 

David McCollough urges you to not only learn facts, but to honestly comprehend them.Take them in, use them to teach you empathy for others. Make learning a passion central to your life. Do work that you believe in, work that energizes you. And always work on expanding your vocabulary. 

* Molly Ivins says to raise a ruckus, have fun, and express gratitude to those who have helped you along the way to your successes. 

* Anna Deavere Smith reminds you that live requires stamina, perseverance and flexibility. She, like Quindlen, encourages you to find a community to bolster you while you're on your life's journey. She also reminds you that life is rarely clear cut, black and white... so don't fear those grey areas. 

* Tom Friedman, like many others in this collection, urges you to find work you love, pay attention, be a good listener, and "learn how to learn" -- learn to love the process of learning, don't get caught up in the instant gratification that gadgetry brings, but learn to enjoy more manual processes simply for the experience it offers. He also points out that healthy skepticism is good, but not when it veers into deep cynicism, so watch for that. Oh, and call your parents once in awhile, yeah?

* Genevieve Bell says to live in the present. Allow yourself to be vulnerable once in awhile and also keep yourself open to the opportunity to be surprised by life from time to time! Be honest, be brave, and don't be afraid to admit that you don't know everything. :-)

* Karen Tse inspires by reminding that "chaos precedes creation", so don't lose hope when things get messy. Embrace doing small things with great love. Approach your hardships with courage and the determination to overcome. 


It's one thing to be happy and joyful when things are going right, but when things are going wrong, that is the most important time for you to step forward with courage and realize that courage is also the ability to have radical self-affirmation in light of whatever else is going on in your life, to believe that you'll get through to the next level. 


~ Karen Tse



* Ken Burns, legendary historian / documentary filmmaker -- no surprise here -- wants you to learn your history to prepare for your future (not just your personal family history but history at large, that is). He also recommends that you NOT pigeonhole yourself into too specific a skill set, keep things flexible to broaden your potential opportunities and experiences. Pursue quality over quantity, overall excellence over momentary successes. Have your heroes but also strive to be one for someone else. Write hand-written letters of love and thanks. Journal your thoughts. Always practice communication! Live a life of service. Develop and maintain an unwavering enthusiasm for life. He also echoes Friedman's thoughts on skeptics vs. cynics. 

* Ray Kurzweil echoes the others, urging you to find work that honestly challenges and inspires you. Learn knowledge, but also create it. Don't give up. Don't give in. 

* Dana Goia's speech focuses on the importance of having a love of the arts in your life. Not just for the individual, but also for the human race as a whole. 

* Muhammad Yunus points out that rather than following crowds, you should define and follow your own path, embrace your own uniqueness. Become socially / globally aware and pursue global action towards making the world better through small, manageable everyday actions. 

* Harold Prince wants you to pursue social activism. Make your mark immersive, be active out in the world rather than just blogging or tweeting about something. Pursue art for art's sake. 

* Wendell Berry urges you to be a fearless, self-determined, self-starting, consciously aware being who embraces individual thought. Pursue constant education of the self, but also remember not to make work all-consuming in your life, make room for play and silliness as well. 

* Anna Quindlen says to be fearless and to welcome differences between yourself and others. Celebrate variety in life! 

* David Levering Lewis encourages you to pursue constant self-education. Always be on the pursuit of knowledge in not only arts but also science, technology, and democracy. Don't just blindly follow someone or something for the sake of going with the crowd! 

* Tess Gerritsen gives you the solid advice to surround yourself with good, honest people. Don't muck up your workplace with bitterness or petty gossip. Read constantly. Educate yourself on current world affairs. Take yourself out of your comfort zone from time to time. Experiment with things completely foreign to you (because you just never know what might be your next favorite thing!). Don't be afraid of failing or changing your mind career-wise because it's not unlikely that you could have at least 2-3 career changes within your lifetime. 


Be critical about what you consume from the media. Because what you put in your brain is as important as what you put in your mouth. Whether food or information, insist on the truth. Don't swallow propaganda, even though it is quick and easy to digest, the equivalent of those fast-food outlets we see on the highways. The truth is often a lot more complicated, but like real food, worthwhile food, in the end, it's a lot more satisfying.  


~ Tess Gerritsen


* Tom Hanks -- his whole speech is amazing but the overall message is to just live a life of service, to make yourself helpful where you can and to be kind. 



Okay, Hanks' speech flat out put a knot in my throat. But also among my favorites were the ones by David McCullough, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver (my second favorite in this collection, I'd say) and Ken Burns. There were a few that personally struck me as a tad bit on the phoned in side -- Molly Ivins' speech had a good message but something about it felt a little too over the top for my tastes. Overall though, an incredibly heartwarming collection! So much so that after finishing this book, I immediately got online and ordered all the others in the series. Perfect gift book for any graduate or anyone, really, who is needing a boost in spirit or motivation! 


Something to note about this series -- with each book in the collection, all profits from the book are given to a different charity. With Creating a Life You'll Love, all proceeds were sent to organizations dedicated to HIV / AIDS research & education. 


It was also neat to learn that Barbara Kingsolver was the creator of the Bellweather Prize for fiction. Had no idea!