2021 Inspiration List: books, podcasts and more

As this is the last Sunday of 2021 I thought I’d focus this blog on the things which inspired and kept me going during this year. As I said in 2020, I read a lot – and with the never-ending loop of lockdowns we probably all read a lot more – and whilst I carried on with real commitment to my regular schedule of 1930s murder mysteries and books about politics, I got through a lot of new things as well.

And it’s almost done. Photo by Nadin Mario on Unsplash

This was also the year I pretty much quit watching things. There are a couple of notable exceptions (and the family 30 minutes down time after dinner would not be the same without The Simpsons) but it just stopped being something I do on my own. I listened to a *lot* more music, and unlike 2020 spent more time hanging out with people: dating, going to a twice-weekly exercise class, watching the Euros and the World Cup Qualifiers in the pub with friends, at workshops, and back out on a travel schedule.

So it feels like its been a nice mix, and I hope some of these ideas spark some new thoughts with you too. Do let me know what has been inspiring you this year, I’d love to know!

Books

Mostly I read on my Kindle or get things out from the English section of the fabulous library here in Copenhagen, but I do love a Proper Book. Even though this was also the year that I aged disgracefully enough to need reading glasses, I still read every night before I go to sleep. Just these days I have to stay awake long enough to take my glasses off and not crush them.

All the links below are to independent bookshops, but these are available in most formats and places.

Atomic Habits: James Clear

This came out two years ago and I listened to a lot of podcasts and discussions about its content, but reading it genuinely changed my life. There is something simple but compelling about his messages: sort out the things that matter to you, whatever they are; be aware of the time-sinks, infinity pools and dross that this corporate world is sending you and block them out where you can; and find the minimum viable action then just do it. It’s a great antidote to overwhelm.

Four Thousand Weeks: Oliver Burkeman

I wrote about this recently but this was also a game changer for me. Burkeman posits that since the average life expectancy is four thousand weeks, we should find ways to focus on what we really care about. He presents a history of time management and also why it doesn’t really work. Linking this to our collective FOMO, Burkeman talks through why reclaiming your time can’t be done by reorganising your diary but needs to be done by rethinking priorities.

Untamed: Glennon Doyle

Ah the great feminist call to action. I loved this book so much that I read it three times this year. Doyle focuses on naming the ties that bind us as women moving in this world, and talks through how, in her own life, she has untethered herself. It is very clear as to why this makes the world a freer, fairer and better place for all of us – so if you are even vaguely interested in the concept of allyship, read this one.

Podcasts

I remained very much a creature of habit this year and will include those here for anyone new to this journey, but there were one or two notable exceptions:

Rice At Home: This is one of the new additions to my listening and I cannot recommend it highly enough – especially if ‘there’s rice at home’ is something you heard regularly as a child! The team had a few months off in early 2021 and came back strong, looking at black-owned business, entrepreneurship and financial independence from the perspective of peer learning and support.

Afford Anything: the inimitable Paula Pant continued to bring weekly wisdom this year, talking through the choices that we have to make with our money, focus and energy in order to make a life which suits us and where we really move.

Journey to Launch: I listened to this more in 2021 as she is some steps ahead of me. Getting into thinking about side hustles, passive income streams and the ‘what next’ of a financial independence journey is where I’m at, and her passion, personal story and diverse range of speakers is really inspiring.

Choose FI: this was another staple during 2021, though a lot of it starts to feel like conversations we’ve had before. It remains a really good basic resource (though I didn’t think much of their book…) and a great community for when you need dusting off and putting back on the path.

Blogs

I read many fewer blogs this year. I don’t know if people stopped writing after being so productive in 2020 or if I just ran out of bandwith. Lots of old blog friends also moved well past where I’m at and whilst I am super proud of them, I don’t find reading about post-FI useful. The one I did keep going back to was Our Next Life. I love their thoughtful reflections on life then and now, and also on the FIRE community and where we might collectively be going.

Music

Not strictly relevant, but this is where I got a lot of joy and energy from in 2022. So sharing just one, in case it’s something you need to hear.

Gangsta: Kojey Radical : perhaps not what you expect from the title but it’s a track about being raised by a single mum and growing into an amazing adult. Love everything about this especially the lyric: I wonder what the answer is / my mama said forgiveness is/ go handle your businesses. Big up all the single mums out there. We got this.

For some beautiful photos of Kojey and his mum you can read this full article.

Hope the last mile of 2021 is treating you well – I can’t tell you what a pleasure it has been sharing this year with you. See you on the flip side!

2020 Inspiration List: books, blogs and more

With a huge thank you to everyone in the FIRE community and beyond who has shared their content and ideas this year. Staying in touch with the community has been even more crucial than before, since isolation has often felt very much like being cut off from everything and everyone. Carrying on with the journey and its ups and downs has only been possible thanks to those brilliant folks, as well as to others who are working on thoughtful, gracious approaches to how we can live more intentionally. Do let me know what I’ve missed or what has inspired you this year – I would love new ideas!

Proper Books

So I read a lot – as a single mum, once the kids are in bed my time is my own (however knackered I am). I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks as these are great for when I’m cleaning / cooking / doing chores: but I read every night as part of my sleep routine. I seem to have an awkward addiction to old detective novels <twirls Poirot-like moustache> but I try and make time for inspiring media as well. These days when there is so much bad news as well, it’s nice to have something which makes you feel better rather than increasingly dystopian, so I’m sharing brief highlights from this year. I also read the Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx & Crake – both of which I recommend without hesitation but since I had nightmares for a week after each of them, you might want to read them *not* during global meltdown.

Quick note on links – I have tried to use independent bookshops here but these are of course available elsewhere.

Personality Isn’t Permanent: Benjamin, Jr. Hardy

Not FIRE related but a brilliant book about exploring limiting beliefs. The main idea is focusing on your ‘future self’ and directing your energy to this future. This is based on anything being achievable, and the things, or characteristics which you think might be holding you back are eminently changeable. I am not sure there is anything new here, but it is well explained and organised, with key points such as ‘just do it’ – taking action, and ‘forcing function‘ whereby humans can adapt to just get on with something, learning and becoming richer from the experience.

Make Time: Jake Knapp & John Zeratsky

I read this after hearing an interview with the authors on the Choose FI Podcast – and found that there was tons of simple and immediately actionable advice. After reading, I immediately reorganised my phone so that time-wasting apps, what the book calls ‘infinity pools’ are either deleted or much harder to find. I also used it to plan out a morning routine which I have stuck to since August: mindfulness, gratitude journaling, and planning out a highlight and simple goals. The value from these changes is immeasurable, and there is more to pick up each time I read the book.

The Unexpected joy of the Ordinary: Catherine Gray

This book really resonated with me. Gray works through the miraculousness of every day life, echoing the idea that comparison is the thief of joy, and investigating evidence about what really makes us happy. Considering how modern life is making us increasingly anxious and depressed, this book invites you to consider a simpler, more mindful way of living in which we are ready to jump off the hedonic treadmill.

Free online content

I continued to devour blogs and podcasts this year, finding regular inspiration and ideas from others on the same path. In particular:

  • I have loved A Purple Lifes incredible blog over the past years, and since she hit early retirement and quitting her job in 2020 I wanted to celebrate her here, and share with you to see what a journey looks like from start to realising-its-not-a-finish.
  • I also love Our Rich Journey. This year they moved to Portugal as a family with two kids similar in age to mine – something we would love to do as well. Their advice is simple and actionable, and their energy is infectious (awkward choice of word for 2020 but I’m gonna stick with it).
  • Financial Independence Europe has a special place in my 2020 heart since I made my podcast debut there this year, but it’s also chockful of relevant advice in a movement which can feel very American. They have episodes on all subjects to do with FI and just with living different, intentional lives.

Other stuff

I watched The Biggest Little Farm on an aeroplane back in February when such things were possible, and loved it (the irony of enjoying a film about conscious care for the earth from my high-carbon plane seat notwithstanding). It’s a story of a family choosing a different life after they lost their jobs, and bought and brought back to life an incredible bio-diverse farm.

Share what inspires you

I’d love to hear what you enjoyed in 2020, or things to add to my reading list for 2021!