The 5 Essentials: Using Your Inborn Resources to Create a Fulfilling Life - Bob Deutsch, Lou Aronica

As a cognitive neuroscientist, anthropologist, and entrepreneur, Bob Deutsch has spent a lifetime studying people. What he has found is that most of us set the bar too low in our lives, both personally and professionally. We choose not to pursue our greatest ambitions because we feel we are incapable of reaching them. But he has also found that we are each born with the fundamental abilities to live the full, creative, dynamic life we dream about. Filled with great stories and interviews with inspiring people, including Wynton Marsalis, Richard Feynman, and Anna Quindlen, The 5 Essentials opens the door to a way of being more alive than you have ever been.  In this compelling book, Deutsch shows us how to access and use our five inner resources -- Curiosity, Openness, Sensuality, Paradox, and Self-Story -- to open our lives to unimagined possibilities.

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Deutsch has a background in cognitive neuroscience and anthropology and believes that everyone has 5 basic innate gifts that, when tapped into and nurtured, can help develop a truly fulfilled life:

 

* Curiosity --- That knowledge-craving bit of you that is always driven to ask "What's that over there?" 

 

* Openness --- How well you allow yourself to be surprised... do you HAVE to know the details of everything beforehand, or are you okay with surprises once in awhile? How well do you adapt to life's curveballs? Sometimes allowing for surprises leads to a better outcome to a situation than you might have imagined. Deutsch refers to this as "directed serendipity".

 

* Sensuality --- Not talking about sex here, or at least not solely... but more about how actively you engage your senses in general as you move through experiences. Do you note how the air smells in a moment? The particular nuances of flavor in the food you eat?

 

* Paradox --  basically how well you embrace the unexpected... somewhat along the lines of Openness, but also incorporating the idea of comfortably living in life's gray areas, being okay with some of life's questions being a mystery with no clear cut answer, rather than requiring everything to have a black and white explanation.

 

* Self-Story --- Deutsch calls this area "the driving force of your authentic self", the yin-yang compartment of your soul where light and dark, beauty and warts, all sides of your core self find balance. Deutsch explains that when one explores their self story, it "illustrates something fundamental about you."

 

Knowing what you are about helps you to be at the same time very clear about what you are not about. This allows for the possibility of extraordinary growth, because when a new opportunity comes along, maybe even something you've never considered before, your self-story gives you a way to judge if that opportunity makes sense in your very specific case.

 

Self-story also makes you resilient in ways you can't possibly be otherwise. When you truly know what you are about, you know it in an unassailable way. Having a vivid sense of your self-story protects you from being completely thrown off your game in the face of hardship. This doesn't mean that the hardships themselves will be less difficult to endure, but it does mean that you're likely to bounce back from them faster. Those who thrive tend to understand their self stories... at a cellular level, and because they understand what they are genuinely about, they can get back on their feet more quickly when things trip them up.

 

 

Deutsch also describes research he garnered from hours-long focus groups he put together where he challenged people to "go beyond stereotypical or cliched talk" and really delve into who they were as individuals, instructing them to "stop and focus", "own your narrative" (Why yes, there is a healthy dose of self help buzz language in here! What'd ya expect? :-P ). 

 

The idea of these focus groups and of this book, is to get people to work toward a more honest, real, stripped down version of themselves so that they can finally sift through the muck and excuses of daily life and get to a clear vision of the life they TRULY want to live. Deutsch describes this part of the process as "Always Be On Your Way Home".

 

I've developed a strong thesis about popularity.... I call this concept FAP (Familiarity, Appeasement, Power).

{Sorry, it just gave me a giggle that this guy attributes popularity to fapping.... }

 

Through this book, Deutsch gets into the idea of "decentration" (rather than concentration), the idea of forcing yourself to pause, step back, and take yourself out of an equation to properly evaluate it. Step away from the external noise so that you may listen to clues from your internal self / internal monologue. It's a concept whose origin is attributed to Jean Piaget, a 20th century developmental psychologist. 

 

At its heart, this book basically just urges readers to live a life beyond a mere surface-level existence. It's not a bad book necessarily, but it doesn't really cover much new ground or offer any real earth-shattering revelations. For the author being someone who studies the field of neuroscience for a living, I was hoping for something a little deeper but the bulk of what he offers most will have come across before in dozens of other books. Additionally, there was something about the overall "voice" of the book in general I found irritating.