Last week I finished off the Secular City. The last third of it was disappointing because he started equating the work of the church with politics and those two are not a healthy combination.
However, I also loved reading an amazing book over the last several days: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. I downloaded the ebook because that was the cheapest option and it would have taken a month or two for it to be shipped from Amazon UK...
His main thesis is that people are often wasting their lives away on busy-work and not living as they themselves truly desire. However--as he goes on to show--it IS possible to live well in every sense (in terms of work, play, family, service, traveling, sports, etc) if you decide to live by a somewhat different set of rules and priorities. It is a revolutionary book and he had some invaluable suggestions on both a details/micro level and on the big picture/macro level. He also had a helpful acronym that organized his ideas: DEAL
Definition: Define what your ideal life would look like. Imagine you had $100Million in the bank and could do whatever you wanted. What would you do? For Tim, he wanted to become a world-champion kick-boxer, tango-dancer, motorcycle racer, world traveler and linguist fluent in 6 languages, and he went out and did all of this--all by age 29. He goes on to show that most people can actually start doing the things they really care about most if they would simply define them, and then make them a priority and cut out the wasteful things in their lives.
Elimination: Among other things, he advocates a "low information" diet. This point really hit home with me because I definitely spend too much time simply doing passive reading of magazines and surfing the internet--often with nothing to show for how I spent my time. Tim doesn't even read the papers or news online (I'm not going to go this far) and recommends only reading books that are actionable and will help you achieve your goals. He reads an hour of fiction every night before going to bed for pleasure and to help fall asleep. He basically recommends cutting out all the stuff you spend time on that is wasteful and isn't directly related to your goals; disciplining yourself in terms of time and money as well.
Automation: Tim literally works four hours a week running his online web business (hence the name of the book). He has purposefully automated it to such a degree that he can do email once a week for an hour and spend the other three hours working on marketing and promotion, for example. He has sales of at least $1M/year. The key is being intentional about getting yourself out of the loop and creating a self-sustaining system that brings in enough revenue to support whatever you truly care about and want to focus on in life (e.g. working for International Justice Ministry and putting child pedophiles in jail, as my friend Kalen wants to do with his life!)
Liberation: After Defining your life passions and what you truly want to DO and BE, Eliminating the stuff that just wastes your time and keeps you from doing and being what you want, and then succesfully Automating a revenue stream that will allow you to do whatever you'd like (ideally anywhere in the world) you are truly Liberated to a live a life that mosts people could only dream of.
You don't have to have a huge amount of money to do all this. Sure, like many "gurus" with a plan, an acronym or 7 habits, everything he recommends isn't for everyone. However, I think most of what he says makes sense for me and I'm planning on following many of his recommendations. One of the first things on my list is becoming decent at Hungarian. So we shall see--it's all about results.