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15 Self-Help Books That Will Help You Achieve Your Goals

Admittedly, some may sound nauseatingly cliched, but on the whole, we think the pros of reading a couple of these excellent books far outweigh the cons.

1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Avoiding the very things self-help books get accused of most, Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman’s book on the power of human thought is backed up by years of individual research on topics like happiness and cognitive bias as opposed to the subjective opinions of the author.

While in-depth, Kahneman’s book centres around two systems of thought; with system 1 being the more reactive and 2 being of a more logical and patient mindset. But rather than dismantle one system and favour the other, the author, through numerous tested studies, examines the benefits and weaknesses of both, leaving the reader with a better understanding of how the mind operates and most importantly how we should think in certain situations.

2.  The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Kahneman’s academic book may have set out to cast a shadow on books like Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, but one thing you can’t take away from books like Peale’s is its high-octane prose that, while not substantiated with academic studies, almost doesn’t need to be as long as the reader embraces it in the way Peale believes you should.

Teaching the reader to focus on things that are in their control as opposed to things that aren’t, the book’s samey prose can at times be exhaustive, but with such a simple message,  you could very well put it down after reading the last page and feel ready to take on all those dream-stopping obstacles.

3. The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams by Deepak Chopra

The message conveyed in many self-help books is that the individual achieves one’s pursuits by putting themselves first, but Deepak Chopra’s book believes the well-being of others is equally as important. Detailing some of his core Hindu beliefs, Chopra lists 7 spiritual laws that are essential to achieving a zen-like happiness, all of which are listed below.

-The Law of Pure Potentiality
-The Law of Giving
-The Law of Karma
-The Law of Least Effort
-The Law of Intention and Desire
-The Law of Detachment
-The Law of Dharma

Not only does the book explain how you go about abiding by these laws, but it also stresses that life is like a boomerang and that your actions, both good and bad, will always come around again. A perfect read for those guilty of being too caught up in themselves.

4.  The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

The way we think and how different thought processes can help mould an all-conquering mindset has been written about countless times, but one of the first to cover it was a book published in 1959. Written by David Schwartz, The Magic of Thinking Big stresses how important it is to love yourself in a world that almost requires a mild form of arrogance to succeed.

Not only this but Schwartz thinks that those who think big often attain bigger things further down the line. Of course, having lofty goals and ambitions without a backup plan is never advised, but by visualizing your success and even telling people about your dreams, the drive and determination to achieve them coupled with the hard work itself will be enough to achieve, or at least come close to reaching your goals

5. Feel the Fear and do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Written by Susan Jeffers, otherwise known as ‘The Queen of Self-help’, this book has many celebrity admirers including the co-founder of the designer shoe brand, Chimmy Choo. It’s premise, which as the title suggests, covers the theme of fear and how it stifles our dreams and productivity, suggests that only by stepping outside our comfort zone are we actually embracing our potential.

Selling over 15m copies, since its release, Susan Jeffers, who holds a PhD in psychology from Columbia University, is a regular guest on Oprah, and if you face a career dilemma or find your hopes and aspirations paralysed by fear, then this book is a must-read.

6. There is Nothing Wrong With You; Going Beyond Self-Hate by Cheri Huber

Not only does Huber’s book offer practical and everyday advice, but it also sets out to erode the negative image many have of themselves by analyzing the definition of self-hate and how it proliferates into our way of thinking.

As well as detailing how negative thoughts sometimes lead to vices and life-crippling disorders, the book’s central premise is that meditation can help overcome these thoughts, with Huber stressing that once we embrace meditation, we can see life in a new light. A simple message, but a life-enhancing one nonetheless.

7. Starting Strength, 3rd Edition by Mark Rippetoe

Top of many people’s New Year’s resolutions is going to the gym, yet as we’ve explained in past articles, only 8% of people follow through with their resolutions which is why this easy-to-follow book about barbell training should be an essential read for gym newbies.

Of course, various online forums and websites detail similar exercises, but Mark Rippetoe’s step-by-step account of different exercises is worth the money. Better still, exercise, as you probably know, releases a wave of endorphins to the brain, so buying a book that helps you look and feel good makes this title one of our favourites on the list.

8. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

While New Age spirituality is a whole genre in itself, Tolle’s book, which uses the teachings of established religions and pseudo-science to explain his philosophies, is a favourite of Hollywood celebrities because the book’s central premise teaches us to let go of our ego-driven nature by entertaining the idea of spiritual enlightenment.

The book verges on the melodramatic at times and some of the chapters are unnecessarily long, but if you embrace Tolle’s message the way he tells you to, you may discover a new form of serenity.

9. Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

The New Yorker journalist and bestselling author hit the big time when his book about what brings people success became a worldwide bestseller. Based largely on the 10,000 rule that Gladwell came up with,  (anyone can achieve success if they practice their craft for over 10,00 hours, he argues) Outliers: The Story of Success takes a sociological approach when analysing the primary determinants of inequality and interviews successful people across a broad range of industries.

Gladwell also throws a lot of statistical research into the book and attempts to back up his 10,000 theory by analysing the early practices of successful people like Bill Gates and the iconic British band, The Beatles.

10. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner

Written after the death of his 11-year-old son, Harold S. Kushner wanted to tackle a question many critics have of religion: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Yes, it is a book that defends religion, but even non-believers can gain solace and inspiration from this read, which details various coping mechanisms to help deal with life’s most brutal moments and thus take on life in a fashion befitting of an immortal warrior.

11. Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life by Martin Seligman

Having everything you want in life isn’t an easy thing to accomplish, but that isn’t because the dreams many have aren’t doable. They are, but according to Seligman’s book, our pessimism leads us into a negative spiral of thought were everything becomes blocked and in our minds at least, unachievable.

To counter this problem, the book encourages the reader to pursue a fight with its inner voice, which in time, will gradually deplete the pessimism. Referred to as ‘learned optimism’, it may sound like a simple premise to centre a book on, but with various aspects of life covered, including love, sports and parenting, the book is highly relatable and can turn even the most pessimistic people into full-on go-getters.

12. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

We could all do with improving our social skills and get better acquainted with pitching our ideas and persuading people to give us a chance. Thankfully, Carnegie’s book has you covered, with tips and advice on how better people-skills can lead to a better life.

A favourite with many high-profile figures and celebrities including the likes of Warren Buffet and Eminem, Dale Carnegie’s book, whose own story came from humble beginnings as a farmhand, has sold over 15 million copies and is synonymous with the Self-help genre.

13. The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Cameron’s book is more like a textbook but takes you on a journey that is almost novel-like. As the title suggests, the book is for anyone wanting to tap into that artistic creativity that many have, but few tap into because of time constraints or an innate fear of failure.

But it isn’t only adults that suffer from this. Children and teens do too, and while they appear to have more free time, the reality is most don’t and are flooded with homework instead. Because of this, Cameron’s belief that everyone should hang on to one’s artistic license is highly relevant for people of any age, and especially those who wish to one day make a living as an artist.

14. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Consumed by over 65 million readers, the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s narrative is one which offers hope to people who believe in the beauty of their dreams. And, with a beautifully written spiritual prose, you may just finish the book feeling your life can be whatever you want it to be.

Technically, Coelho’s books is a novel, albeit a short one. Nonetheless, it’s as inspiring as any self-help book and one which has the power to encourage people to not let circumstance or ill thoughts determine their future.

15. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

Not to be confused with the famous Chinua Achebe novel, ‘Things Fall Apart’, Pema Chodron’s book of an almost identical title explores the precarious nature of life and the cracks that always seem to reappear, no matter how hard you try to conceal them.

But such cracks can often feel like they never want to leave which is why the wisdom in the book, eloquently expressed by the Tibetan Buddhist nun, may just help you overcome life’s everyday problems and help you live a life free from the worries and insecurities that plague us.

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5 Ways To Learn New Skills Quickly

1. Find the Right Method For You

When it comes to learning absolutely anything, there are going to be many, many methods available to you and no matter how committed you are to the subject, you need to find the best learning method that suits you. Some people are kinetic learners which means they are better by practically trying things out over say, visual learners who prefer to see things in practice. Do the research into the different ways of learning your chosen task and pick what suits you best. If you have a method that suits your thinking you are far more likely to succeed and in a better time frame as well.

 

2. Obey Pareto’s Law

Pareto’s Law is a concept developed by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto that explains that roughly 80% of your desired outputs will come from just 20% input. In layman’s terms, this means you will get your best results from focussing on a specific thing, so 80% of your income from your shop will come from 20% of your customers i.e. the high spending regulars. This can also apply to learning where 80% of your desired success will come from 20% of the work needed to be done. For example, if learning a language for conversational practices then it’s best to focus on speaking it and not dedicate too much time to writing or reading it. Of course, they are important but if you just need it for holiday, you won’t need these two practices as much as the other one.

3. Learn by Doing

Practical application of any knowledge always helps cement it in the brain. It’s all well and good having a theoretical knowledge of something but if you can’t do it, what’s the point. Think about learning a new sport or riding a bike, you can’t learn those things by watching tutorial videos and having an extensive knowledge of the rules, you have to pick up and play and just get on with it. 

4. Get A Teacher

Having someone coach you through things is far more advantageous than being an autodidact. By having someone impart their wisdom you know what you need to do to keep learning and have someone else observing your blind spots and telling you what to focus on which you might miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

 

5. Focus On The Process Before Refining It

Too many people fail at learning new things because they are obsessed with perfection and quite often spend time trying to perfect minor niggles rather than getting the basics down. Once you have got the practicalities you can then focus on mastering the art but you need to know what you’re doing first. Just sit down and get the work done and you’ll see results.

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10 Ingenious Ways People Have Cheated On Tests

Here, we profile 10 ways students cheat in exams and get away with it.

Not that we endorse cheating…

1. Vitamin Water Labels

Water is a fundamental human right so not being allowed to take a bottle into an exam would be unusual which is why this cheating hack has been all the rage in recent years.

Preferably, the drink should be a Vitamin Water bottle because there’s a lot of text on the labels so if you’re familiar with photoshop it wouldn’t be hard to alter the text with a plethora of relevant information. In other cases, you can scribble the answers on the inside of the label.

2. A Hidden Cell Phone

This trick is something only the bravest can pull off, but in most cases, the risk is most definitely worth the reward. Of course, cell phones are always banned but to get around this make sure your phone stays in your pocket.

Placing it on silent to avoid detection, you will need to keep a coat or long-sleeved shirt on for this to work. While the teacher isn’t looking, slip one arm out of the sleeve and dip your free arm in your pocket. That way, you can check the answers on your phone.

3. A Camaflouged Calculator

If you happen to be taking part in a test where a calculator is permitted, then a popular method of cheating employed in recent years has been to disassemble the calculator’s components and replace them with a smartphone.

Better yet, any exam which permits a calculator will involve numerical questions that can be discovered quickly on Google.

4. A Rubber Band

If you’re really paranoid about getting caught but can’t bear the thought of having to revise and make any effort, then this rubber band hack may just be for you. Before the days of the test, begin to wear a rubber band in your classes, so people get familiar with your new ‘look’.

On the day of the test, however, you will want to inscribe your answers onto the band. To do this, write the answers on the in and outsides of the band, with each letter being as close together as possible. After you’ve’ done this, the letters are only readable when stretched, making your cheat-sheet of answers look like a hipsterish design on an elastic band when in reality, you’re in pole position for top marks.

5. Cheat Sheet Under Skirt 

Clearly, this one isn’t for boys but if you’re a girl who feels cheating is your only hope then read on.

Wearing a pair of pantyhose, slip your cheat sheet onto the top part of your thigh and after you’ve taken your seat in the exam hall all you need to do is lift the lower half of your skirt up.

6. Hidden Earphones

It’s rare that a moderator would permit headphones, but there is a way around this ban.

Wearing a long sleeve jumper or hoody, weave one of the headphones through your sleeve until it reaches the palm of your hand. That way, you can lean your ear on your hand and listen to any secret recordings, or if you want to be daring, you can even start a handsfree call and have a friend communicate the answers to you.

7. A Plaster

You’d have to be one big meanie to tell someone they’ve exaggerated an injury which is why wearing a plaster in an exam could well boost the success of your cheating endeavours.

Admittedly, peeling off half a plaster in the middle of an exam is not ideal, and it will probably sting a little, but with a full pad concealing your answers, many have taken the risk and pain that comes with it.

8. Shoes

Don’t worry; it’s easier than it sounds. Depending on how cool your moderators are (who let’s face it, are only doing the gig for some much-needed dough), take your shoes off in the exam, making sure the sole is within easy view.

Once taken off, you can look down and have a whole cheat sheet at your disposal from writing an array of information on the sole the night before. To make things easier, it’s useful to purchase a white sole and use a black/blue marker to make sure the text is visible.

9. A Transparent Mechanical Pen

Most pens are only good for one thing: getting down your thoughts. But who needs thoughts when you can insert a piece of paper into a mechanical loop?

Using a thin sheet of paper, jot down all your notes and then loop the contents into the device. From there, you should be able to spin the pen around and see all your answers.

10. Using The Toilet

If all else fails, you can exercise your human right and take a trip to the bathroom. You may have an examiner accompany you, but they can’t go into the cubicle, and rarely will they wait in the bathroom as that would just be plain creepy.

So it’s simple: attach a piece of paper to your chest and when you’re in the cubicle look over all your notes and absorb the stuff you know you haven’t mentioned in the exam.

To avoid detection, it’s better to go no more than once, but in that time you can still refresh your brain and refer to many notes without running the risk of being caught in the less clandestine environment of an exam hall.

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10 iPhone Hacks That No One Knows About

But even the savviest of iPhone users would be hard-pressed to know all these hacks. And whether you need to charge your iPhone that little bit faster or merely want to know a few keyboard shortcuts, we at Lifehack Lane have you covered.

Here are 10 of the best iPhone hacks.

1. Enhance Your Charging Time

How often have you found yourself on the verge of going out only to find your phone barely charged? A lot, right? And because it takes at least half an hour to get a reasonable battery percentage, you’ve most likely left your disgruntled friends waiting.

But that needn’t be the case any longer. By just turning on the Airplane Mode, your iPhone can get fuller faster by having less telecom interference to contend with.

2. Set A Time Limit On Your Music 

If you’re someone who needs the comfort of a relaxing melody before you catch some much-needed zzz, then a feature on most iPhones allows you to set a time limit on your selected music.

Yes, to assure you’re not awoken in the middle of the night, go to the Clock app and after selecting the ‘When Time Ends’ tag, you can swap the alarm clock for a ‘Stop Playing’ option which is automatically linked to your music apps.

3. Amend Mistakes With A Shake Of The Fist

It can be annoying when we’re in the middle of an important text only to realise we made a glaring error and on many occasions, we end up deleting the whole message to start again.

However, with a straightforward shake of the wrist, the iPhone will give you the option of removing your last action while allowing you to cancel the option if nothing needs correcting.

4. Correct Siri 

Have you ever become increasingly frustrated with Siri mispronouncing a word or failing to understand a command? Well, now you can school it until it knows everything you want it to!

To do this, just say, “That’s not how you pronounce (X)” before then telling Siri how to say it correctly.

5. Type Faster 

The saying goes that time is of the essence, and sending a text or email on our iPhone can often take longer than we’d like it to, especially when numbers are involved.

So to toggle between both letters and numbers more efficiently without switching in between, hold the 123 button before dragging your finger across the letter where your number/character is situated. It will then automatically take you back to the alphabet once you’ve let go.

6. Discover How Much Your Phone Knows About You

The fact that modern technology has become more prevalent in society than ever before has often made our reliance and addiction to it that even more creepy, especially when you consider that your iPhone can now tell you every place you’ve ever been to and for how long you stayed there.

So if you go to Settings> Privacy > Location Services > System Services> Frequent Locations, you’ll be able to know every place you’ve visited, and how long you were there for. Kind of cool, huh?

7. I’m Thinking Of Good Vibrations

You’re no doubt aware that you can customise your ringtone, but few know that your iPhone’s settings allow you to tailor your vibrations.

In this neat hack, all that’s required is a single voyage into your contacts book. Once you’ve found someone you want to single out, touch Edit. From there, you’ll see a Vibration option. Click on it, and then choose from the many different options.

8. Save Your Data Allowance By Prioritising Certain Apps

It’s a common problem: You’re already halfway through the month, and you get a text informing you that you’re already 80% through your monthly allowance. But you needn’t fret.

To get around this and preserve your allowance without spending more, prioritise specific apps by deciding which get demoted to the Wi-Fi-only list. To do this, go to Settings > Mobile Data. From there, you’ll be able to determine whether Facebook is more valuable than Netflix.

9. Boost Your Battery Life

While most will tell you that preserving your battery life comes down to double-tapping the button and then deleting all running apps, there’s a more efficient way.

But what is it we hear you cry? Well, it’s simple. Go to Settings > General > Spotlight Search and see who the biggest data culprits are. Incidentally, for those who don’t know, Spotlight Search is that grey search box which appears whenever you swipe down on your phone.

10. Discover Where The Best Signal Is By Dialing *3001#12345#*

By typing *3001#12345#* into your iPhone’s dialer and calling it, you automatically launch the hidden Field Mode.

After doing this, your bar chart-based signal indicator transforms into a more straightforward numerical-based signal signifier and how you determine its strength is simple. A score of -50 is best while those verging around -120, will struggle to make a call.

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10 Top-Tips To Beat Procrastination

1. Choose One Thing

One of the biggest issues with procrastination is that people often feel they have too much to do and don’t know where to start.

This overwhelming feeling comes from giving ourselves too much to do and so by approaching one task single-mindedly allows us to focus on that wholeheartedly and then cross it off the list.

 

2. Start Now!

A thousand mile journey begins with one step. We have to begin a task to complete it and it may seem daunting but that’s not going to go away until it is done.

The sooner you recognize that you need to begin, the sooner it will all be over.

 

3. The 5-Minute Miracle

This is a technique for those who really struggle to focus but is essentially choosing a tiny task that you can do within five minutes no matter how small a chunk it helps towards your end goal.  Once you’ve identified a small action, set a timer for five minutes and spend five minutes working on the task because research suggests that once you’ve started a task, you are far more likely to complete it than not.

Five minutes can rapidly snowball and even if it doesn’t, you’ve at least done something.

 

4. The Power Hour

Similar to the 5-minute miracle, the Power Hour means that you eliminate all distractions and work solidly for an hour. This means that you get a good, concentrated chunk of work done interspersed with short periods of rest (ideally no more than twenty minutes). This technique allows for a period of intense focus without the brain tiring.

You naturally experience mental peaks and troughs so by making the most of these you can increase your productivity immensely.

 

5. Forgive Yourself

If you let past procrastination go, you are more likely to stop procrastinating now.

By practicing self-forgiveness you won’t focus so much on past struggles whilst trying to do work now. Self-compassion is important.

 

6. Pick A Power Song

Pick a great tune that really gets you energized and listen to it before starting a task in order to get yourself pumped.

This will also create a work trigger for your brain and will get you energized everytime you hear that song.

 

7. Identify Why You’re Procrastinating

Sit down and try and understand why you’re avoiding the task and then maybe you can address the issue head-on.

If it’s as simple as it being difficult or undesirable then you realize your fears aren’t as bad as you’ve made them out to be.

 

8. Lose The Unnecessary

Putting things often comes about because of the feeling you have too much to do but people often add things that aren’t really needed to their to-do list.

Find the things that aren’t that important and just forget about it and suddenly the list is a whole lot smaller.

 

9. Give Yourself Incentives

Negative incentives can really work a treat and if you include someone else in it, it means you have that extra support from someone else as well.

For example, tell a friend you will take them for coffee or give them a few bucks if you don’t do a certain thing by a certain time. No one likes losing so you’ll be super keen to get to work.

 

10. Have Fun

If you can make the task fun then do it. By rewarding yourself or keeping your attention you are far more likely to succeed in getting it done.

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10 Life Swaps That Could Drastically Change Your LIfe

But where there’s a will there’s a way and if you have the motivation to improve your life then follow closely as Lifehack Lane guides you through ten small changes that will benefit your overall well-being.

1. Swap late mornings for early mornings 

Research suggests we are more productive and happier in the mornings. That alone should be enough motivation to drag yourself from your comfy bed. After all, there’s only so many hours in the day and to lose them just isn’t worth it.

What’s more, if your office is a 24-hour one, getting in earlier will significantly boost your social life and free up more time for other things as you can leave earlier.

2. Swap always saying ‘yes’ to sometimes saying ‘no’

Saying ‘yes’ isn’t always a good thing. Instead, it can lead to an over-packed diary where getting a moment to yourself proves nigh-on impossible.

But saying ‘no’ every once in a while will free up time and make you feel like your taking control as opposed to constantly feeling torn to attend events out of politeness rather than any real want.

3. Swap your phone every now and then for a peaceful walk 

Thanks to modern technology, we’re always reminded of things. But it can get monotonous, and half the time it pushes your neck to the ground and away from the sights and sounds that make Earth what it is.

So leave your phone at home, look up and walk in a quiet area for 10-15 minutes. You’ll feel better and find yourself thinking of things that you hadn’t given a thought to earlier in the day.

4.Swap self-criticism for self-adulation

In a way, being self-critical/modest is a good trait to have, as it forces you not to rest on your laurels and always to remain humble.

Then again, it doesn’t hurt to offer yourself a bit of praise because if you don’t, you’ll likely never be satisfied with your achievements.

5. Swap sleeping in on the weekends for an early morning workout

Getting into work earlier is one excellent life swap we’d all benefit from, but many view the weekends as a time to do whatever you want- including sleeping in. However, weekends are a precious 48 hours of your life and should be treated accordingly.

So why waste four hours of it by sleeping in till noon when you could have woken at a respectable time of 9 or 10? That way, you can have a great morning workout, an early lunch with your friends and still have the whole of Saturday and Sunday to look forward to.

6. Swap fizzy drinks for water

Fizzy drinks are a dental killer and erode our teeth like no other product. It’s a common problem, with a recent report predicting that 1 in 10 people worldwide will soon suffer from diabetes, so stick to cool glasses of water.

Not only will your teeth stay white and fresh, but you’ll also possess a more radiant skin tone. But if the incentive of a nice pair of pearly whites wasn’t enough motivation to rid yourself from soda pops, take a look at what happens when a tooth gets put in a glass of coke overnight.

7. Swap looking at the past for planning ahead 

No one should live in the past, and though having memories can offer us joy, that part of your life, is gone forever.

However, if you set goals for the future, it’s likely your past will be a place you visit less and less. In the words of the late John. F. Kennedy, “Those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”

8. Swap giving up on your dreams for giving it another shot

The older we get, the more we give up. It’s just the way it is, but it’s an all too familiar rut that can easily be avoided.

So instead of lamenting your failed goals, work towards an attainable milestone. As humans, we all need something to look forward to, and it is usually the thought of our dreams coming true that offers us a child-like excitement that is often lost in the mundane trappings of adulthood.

9. Swap your regimented diet for tasty food

Life is full of rules and regulations, but you shouldn’t let that be applied to your diet as well. And no, that doesn’t mean force-feeding yourself sugar every day. But eating a slice of pizza every once in a while won’t hurt.

That’s not to knock healthy produce, but at times, it can seem more like a chore to consume, and if you want to eat a burger instead of a piece of kale, then go for it! After all, there’s always the gym to burn it all off.

10. Swap excuses and self-inflicted misery for brutal honesty

Honesty is the best policy, right? It is, but it can also be painful. Still, if you want to better yourself, you should start by being honest. If you continually lie to yourself, then you’ll never fulfil your potential.  an excellent way to start is by questioning your effort shortly after completing a task.

Or if you’ve been working on a project, ask someone for their opinion (not your mum). That way, you’re improving with each day that passes.

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How Literature Killed The American Dream

However, as the 21st-century ploughs onward in a period of fewer jobs, less security and greater uncertainty, we look at how great literature took the very notion of ‘The American Dream’ and showed its decay and death to us in gory and painful scenes. Here we look at 15 books that killed the American Dream.

 

1. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Despondent, listless and stuck in a rut where he is surrounded only by the mod cons and stylish objects he buys, the protagonist of this novel lacks meaning or direction until he meets a stranger who shakes up his world and shows him he can find meaning in fighting other men like himself.

This soon morphs into an organisation of angry individuals who want to feel something and are prepared to do anything to attain that. Vicious and sinister, it is a dark look at generation X and where the world has left them as the are inundated with consumerism that gives them something to reach for but never purpose.

 

2. Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller

A classic play that follows a salesman who is so desperate to succeed professionally that he marginalises his family and prioritizes his work only to find he is soon left with nothing when he fails in business as well.

Critical of the pursuit of wealth and the expectations of capitalist society, it reads as a sadsack playbook of how life can destroy you.

 

3. The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Many underrate this novel for what it is, having been forced to read it at school, considering it too short or simply misreading it as a love story gone awry and all too often it takes non-Americans to see its true magnificence but does it show “the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence”?

Many would argue that it portrays the lives of the rich during the roaring 20s, a time of excess and economic wellbeing, but look at the language and how ordinary American speech is elevated to a point of poetry, and you’ll see this novel is far more than what it is on the surface. Gatsby himself has climbed to his position from ordinary origins and shows who Americans want to be as much as who they are.

 

4.The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

A memoir that reads, in parts, like a wistful fairy tale as the author recalls her childhood with warmth about her father teaching her and her sister and recounting grand dreams and ideas to them.

However, it soon emerges as a story of a dysfunctional family filled with broken promises and lack of structure that means that the children must rely solely on their own successes in life.

 

5. American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

Can something that arose from a specific period and a specific profession ever be described as something that reflects the psyche of a nation? An anarchic, depiction of corporate America in the early 90s, it shows the decaying state of capitalism in America and the consumerist obsession that seeps through the echelons of society.

Sick and twisted, it  filled with brand names and sex and social anxiety and points a grubby finger at America shouting “this is what you wanted!”

 

6. Bonfire of The Vanities by Tom Wolfe

A go-getting, high-flying Wall Street trader has it all, with wealth, a mistress, power, and respect but he soon loses all of that through one wrong turn, and he is then plunged into the dark and seedy underbelly of New York City, a side of it he has never seen before.

Showing up the fissures between races and ethnic groups in post-modern Manhattan as well as what excess brings people to do.

 

7. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

The true genius of this novel is that it is many things to many people raging through psychological portrait of racial identity, racism, history, politics, manhood, and conflicted personal growth all the while with a nameless narrator that allows it to revel in the substance of the riffs it pulls upon and layers up and up and up.

Despite not being visible the narrator has a face, and as an African-American, they are rendered invisible by society. By viewing America from a position of such lack of privilege the book twists and turns its way through the notion of the nation.

 

8. American Pastoral

In an elegy for all the twentieth century’s promises of prosperity, civic order, and domestic bliss, SwedeLevov has it all after working in his father’s glove factory as a young man, which he gave up on his sporting dreams for, he now runs it as a multi-million dollar company, with a happy marriage and a beautiful daughter, he just wants to pass everything on to.

However, as she grows older and becomes disillusioned with the status quo of the country, she is soon accused of domestic terrorism and what everything Swede has aimed for now seems so fleeting and pointless. Raging and sorrowful the novel picks apart the notion of American luck and lays tragedy at the door of someone who once embodied that very ideal.

 

9. Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson became infamous for his gonzo journalism in which he would turn up to places and go on a bender fuelled by a cocktail of drugs and then document what he saw through the prism of this chemical haze. A divisive figure in his writing because of this, some people love him others cannot stand the writing it produces.

Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas is the quintessential example of this where he hires a car and drives out to Las Vegas to write about a racing event which he soon ditches to whirl around the city of sin fleeing from killer bats and human eating lizard people that his tripping mind is visualising. Scary in the sense of what drugs can do to a person and darkly comic in how he reacts, it can also be seen as a satire on the American dream. It was turned into a cult film starring Johnny Depp.

 

10. Revolutionary Road

Succeed in a career in order to buy a big house and marry a beautiful wife, and all will be well. Surely these are the ideals of the American dream and Frank and April Wheeler seem to get to the very core of that as they move into the suburbs during the hopeful 1950s believing greatness to be just around the corner.

Soon they betray themselves and each other though as these dreams never quite come to fruition and what they’ve been told they should want doesn’t ever seem to be all that.

 

11. Watchmen

Arguably the graphic novel that redefined the genre as a serious arena for adult readers and truly gripping writing, Watchmen took all the typical tropes of comic book superheroes and turned them on their heads. Playing on cold war tensions, this masterpiece sees legendary creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons turn once infallible superheroes into psychotic, jealous human beings who struggle with the ignominy of middle age and obscurity. Each character has their own social and political leanings that sees them used as pawns in a game of power and greed. It also avoids any cliched endings with the superhero being used as a mirror to the nature of humanity itself as each ‘hero’ discovers they are just as flawed as the villains they once faced.

Turned into a critically acclaimed film in 2009, it is well worth giving the book a spin regardless of views on the movie as it stands as something delightfully unique in its own right. So much so, that it remains the only graphic novel to be included in Time Magazine’s 100 Best Novels.

 

12. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Covering a dark part of America’s history in its dustbowl, it is just about average Americans “just trying to get along without shoving anybody” and that is it. That is what makes such a strong contender for the title of ‘Great American Novel’ as it does not trouble itself with lofty ideals but rather just how one can live a reasonable life.

It shows something lesser than the American dream and carves out a new one, that being just the search for land, dignity, and a future.

 

13. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Sprawling, idiosyncratic, and wrenching, this novel is about comic books and the people who make them. That may sound flippant, as does the title, but it brings in the themes of cultural assimilation and the search for an emotional and moral identity amongst the general public and how pop-culture can affect that.

Comic books are one of the truly American art forms, and by setting the novel in this world, it gives rise to some truly American themes.

 

14. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

A vast and wide-ranging novel that discusses the effect of a mutated gene on several generations of a family, it follows an intersex protagonist delve through the novel’s main themes like nature versus nurture, rebirth, and the differing experiences of what society constructs as polar opposites.

Also looking at the American dream, gender identity and politics, this won the Pulitzer Prize for its epic scope.

 

15. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A story of the ‘immigration experience’ this book is an epic that spans from a Nigeria under dictatorship right through to post 9/11 America that sees the struggles with leaving your homeland, racism, diaspora and identity all come to the fore in this expansive and touching booking that also includes a magnificently woven love story into the narrative.

With a notable range across different societies and reflections of global tensions, this book is a modern story of the world we live in.

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10 Long Books Well Worth The Time

Here we look at a few of those big books (over 600 pages) that are definitely worth your time and that you should not miss out on.

 

1. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Despite its length, this novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Telling the story of brotherly love and the limits of human endurance in a heartbreaking and compelling novel that is essential reading.

A coming of age story, the novel follows the lives of four friends in New York City after they have graduated from college. Despite its length and difficult themes, it became a bestseller, showing the strength of this novel.

 

2. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

This novel actually went one better than the first on this list as it actually won the Booker prize. Starting out as a mystery set in the 1800s, it develops out into a sprawling think piece on destiny and predetermined paths of fate represented by star signs and heavenly bodies.

The plot follows Walter Moody, a prospector who travels to the fledgling West Coast of the South Island settlement of Hokitika, near New Zealand’s goldfields in 1866 to try to make his fortune. Instead, he stumbles into a tense meeting between twelve local men, who draw him into the complex mystery behind a series of unsolved crimes

 

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

A sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and fate, this tragic and enthralling novel takes us through the backroom parlors and dusty old antique shops of the rich and well to do of contemporary America.

A bildungsroman of how a young man descends into a life of crime it is a thrilling read right the way through.

 

4. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

Born at the exact moment India gained independence from Britain, Saleem Sinai inexplicably shares his story with the trials and tribulations of a nation trying to stand on its own after colonial rule. Set against the backdrop of real historical events, it sees the painful secession of India and Pakistan as well as war between the two countries and war between the latter and Bangladesh. As the protagonist bounces around the sub-continent, it shows how his country shapes him and how its people shape India.

So revered is this book that it won the Booker Prize in 1981 and then went on to win the Booker of Bookers (a prize determined to find the best book amongst all Booker Prize winners) both in 1993 and 2008. Although under the guise on an intricately detailed narrative of magical-realism and self-discovery, this is actually a story of a nation so vast and colorful all its glories can not be told even in this whopper of a novel.

 

5. Middlemarch by George Eliot

A controversial choice for those who may remember having to study it at school or college but there is a reason that this is lauded as one of the finest pieces of literature in the English language.

Middlemarch provides a complex look at English provincial life at a crucial historical moment and contains an exploration of some of the most potent myths of Victorian literature.

 

6. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Epically long coming in at around 900 pages plus a further 100 pages of footnotes, this book may not be easy going but it is a fantastic read following the narratives of pot smoking tennis prodigies and the occupants of a local rehab center where parallels are drawn and mirrored, and yet nothing is brought to a solid conclusion.

The novel offers up no answers, no definitives, and little set structure and yet the way it presents the lives of people stuck in ruts of drug abuse or otherwise is both engaging and enthralling.

 

7. 2666 by Roberto Bolano

Taking place in a Mexican border town, the lives of several characters become intertwined by dark goings on and disappearances, and it soon builds to a crescendo of apocalyptic proportions.

An absolute sensation upon publication, it marked Bolano out as one of Latin America’s most important novelists of the age.

 

8. Underworld by Don DeLillo

A non-linear narrative that just sees ordinary, working class Americans reacting to historical events over a 40 year period where it shows the American aesthetic and experience over those decades how the ordinary are caught up in the great events of history that shape a nation and our world

As the opening line states, “He speaks in your voice, American, and there’s a shine in his eye that’s halfway hopeful.”

 

9. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

To look at the sheer size of this book might put a few off but for those who take the plunge they will be treated to an epic journey that is semi-autobiographical and tells of an Australian fugitive who goes on to lead a life nothing short of jaw-dropping as he finds himself in India as a Bombay, slum doctor, then a gangland gun runner to an unwitting participant in the Afghanistan war.

 

10. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

One of the great Russian novels, this story tells of infidelity and unhappiness within a family of high-achievers set against the backdrop of feudal Russia. A pinnacle in realist fiction it takes in social, political and historical issues in Russia and it also points at social hypocrisies and the different treatment of men and women.

Often cited as a perfect novel it is considered one of the best ever written by many authors.

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The Coolest Characters From Literature

Yes, a novel’s protagonist can make or break a book because readers want to be able to get into the minds of the character and to do so the character needs to stand out and be well-written which is why we at Lifehack Lane have decided to profile 10 literary characters that are beloved the world over and explain why.

1. Atticus Finch- To Kill A Mockingbird

By most definitions, Atticus Finch isn’t your average stud. He doesn’t have elongated hair and a sun-dappled torso that would shame Chris Hemsworth. He probably wouldn’t be able to charm the pants off you either, but does that matter when you happen to be fighting against racial injustices that have been endemic in not just your hometown but country for centuries? You’re damn right it doesn’t.

Atticus Finch is a certified boss and top-dog lawyer who teaches us, as well as his children, that while one’s propensity to judge is innate in us all, we should never allow such judgments to cloud our opinions on others if they are not based on sound reason. He’s a beautiful human being and one which- even to this day- the world is still in short supply of.

2. Hank Chinaski- Women

Described by Time magazine as the “laureate of American lowlife”, Charles Bukowski’s autobiographical novels based on the life of fictional character Hank Chinaski divide literary scholars and readers to this day, with some believing his nihilistic, simple-to-read prose is Whitman-esque and an ode to the forgotten blue-collar workers post-WWII while others simply deem his work as garbage.

Whatever your opinion, there’s no denying that Bukowski was a welcome addition to a literary world awash with underlying snobbery, and his hedonistic novels, such as Post Office, Factotum and Women are funny, insightful and unpretentious reads that paint a character adept at kicking ass and doing as he pleases.

3. Dean Moriarty- On The Road

On The Road has almost become synonymous with the word wanderlust because it is essentially a story dedicated to the experiences that come from being young and on the road, and never has a novel managed to capture that sheer elation that comes from such an experience as Jack Kerouac’s famed autobiographical novel.

Changing his name to the fictional character Dean Moriarty, Kerouac describes a young writer desperate for experiences and ideas and aims to find them via the medium of travel. Though the novel can often seem like it’s going nowhere, Moriarty’s character is a wise dude, with lines like “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world” making us want to run away with him ourselves and absorb his poetic genius.

4. Holly Golightly- Breakfast at Tiffany’s 

We’ve all come across a woman like Holly Golightly, and Truman Capote knew that which was why he penned a character as alluring, admired and incredibly complex as Holly- someone every man wants to marry but likely never will.

But that’s one of the best things about Capote’s literary creation. She’s feisty, ambitious, independent, and though slightly skewered in her morals, she wants to forge a better life for herself at a time when women were still perceived to be beautiful objects and little else.

5. Don Quixote- Don Quixote

If you ever have the time to read Cervantes near-1000 page masterpiece Don Quixote, we highly recommended it, if not for the funny tales then for the man himself: a literary knight blinded by his own delusions of grandeur.

Yes, he may be an idiot at the best of times, despite sage counsel from his loyal chaperone Sancho telling him that he is crazy, but crazy is also good and Don Quixote lives life to the edge and has a child-like imagination that allows him to believe a set of windmills are charging knights.

6. Holden Caulfield- Catcher in the Rye

Is there any teenage protagonist cooler than Holden Caulfield? Probably not, because despite various YA authors attempting to write their way to the next best thing, they just don’t come close to Salinger’s honest account of the teenage experience.

The character is realistic and his anxieties about not just growing up but life, in general, leave us all asking ourselves the same questions about our existence- just without wearing an oversized red hat.

7. Jay Gatsby- The Great Gatsby

To many, Jay Gatsby was the anthesis of the American Dream, and he dressed with a swagger and ease that would make even the most fashion-conscious green with envy, with signature gold ties, and pink suits serving as a representation of the character’s fascinating, though irrevocably complex mind.

What we love most about Jay, however, is his sheer want to be loved. His wealth was acquired, we learn later in the novel, to impress the woman of his dreams, and to fulfil her every fantasy when she was his all along. He’s an excellent character who seemingly has it all, but in the end, we realise that having it all is nothing without love, and you almost find the character even more compelling when Nick Caraway finally finds this out.

8. Midori Kobayashi- Norweigan Wood

Haruki Murakami’s greatest and best-selling novel Norweigan Wood is a tour de force in coming of age storytelling and one of its main characters, the love interest of the protagonist, Toru Watanabe, is equally as brilliant. Gregarious, beautiful, funny, honest. Midori is the cool girlfriend we’ve all had or at least have known about through other friends’ partners.

Proving soothing company following his best friend’s suicide, who happened to be dating Midori before he died, Toru’s want for answers and sound solace take him on a quest for existential discovery we all go through at one point in our lives, though few of us are lucky to be aided by the mind of someone as wise and hip as Midori.

9. Patrick Bateman- American Psycho

Let’s admit it: Bret Easton Ellis’ nightmarish imagining of a psychopathic yuppie in his famed book American Psycho is someone we couldn’t help but find disturbingly cool, and when he came to life thanks to the talented Christian Bale, many people of both sexes found themselves quite liking the guy.

He’s handsome, charismatic (albeit in a creepy way) and has an 80’s record collection that even the most ardent of music aficionados would appreciate (Huey Lewis and the News never gets old). But there’s only one problem: he’s also a disgusting human being who murders women, children, animals, homeless people, prostitutes and anything with a pulse.

However, he does have amazing hair and a neat apartment in the city. Best of all? He might not even be a serial killer.  He could just be like many other people on this earth: A fantasist. Whatever he is, readers and movie-goers were probably left wondering why an Earth they could still relate to Bateman’s narcissistical traits.

10. Stoner- Stoner

When young farmhand William Stoner leave his humble beginnings and embarks on a degree in English literature at the local university you’d be forgiven for thinking John Williams’ 1965 campus novel, much like the protagonist, would be nothing more than the dull words of an academic’s ramblings. But Stoner is anything but.

Beautifully written without relying on a hint of superfluous language, Stoner hits us with the hard-hitting truth that life can often be a perpetual slog, devoid of much joy and instead plagued with disappointment and mundanity. Indeed, there is nothing spectacular about Stoner’s life other than his brilliant mind; and that isn’t a bad thing, it’s just the reality of most people’s lives, and we thank Stoner for schooling us with such a simple, yet poignant message.