CBR14 BINGO: Mind, because this book is about training your mind to “think like a monk.” Also, my mind was greatly relieved when I decided I didn’t need to finish it.
I went into this book with complete sincerity. I’d been feeling extremely stressed and caught up in too many pointless non-problems, so when I remembered we had a copy of Think Like a Monk, I thought my problems were over! I even vowed to read carefully, not rushing through in an effort to finish quickly and knock off another Bingo square. For the first few pages, I even noted action items and tabbed pages I wanted to revisit later to really get the most out of it. Alas, by about page 40, I could no longer suspend my cynicism.
It’s not that the advice in this book is bad. Yes, socializing with negative people will make you negative. Venting all your problems ad nauseam doesn’t do anything to solve them and often makes you feel worse. Finding what you love to do and making a career out of it is the way to go (duh). The problem is that all the advice is so completely generic that it’s been the subject of countless self-help articles that are a mere Google search away.
Who is Jay Shetty and why does he feel qualified to tell us how to think? Shetty says he grew up in a family where his career options were limited to three: doctor, lawyer, or failure. Nevertheless, after graduating from college, he decided to forgo the more lucrative options and instead go to India to be a monk. He spent three years living a monk’s life (meditating, shunning worldly possessions, helping others) before one of the more senior monks suggested he could best help the world by leaving the monastery and sharing his experiences with others. Is it possible that Shetty is so insufferable that even monks can’t put up with him? Maybe, but I have no proof of that. At any rate, he took the senior monk’s advice and moved back to London where he built a living giving talks at big corporations for anywhere between $100,000 and $200,000 per engagement (thanks, Google) telling people how to be more monk-like.
Let me be clear: I do not begrudge a guy earning a living. And nowhere does he say you have to be poor to have a meaningful life. I just have a hard time taking a guy whose net worth somewhere between $4 million and $12 million (thanks again, Google!) and still refers to himself as a monk seriously. (“These days I still consider myself a monk, though I usually refer to myself as a “former” monk, since I’m married, and monks aren’t permitted to marry.”) It reminds me of the time I was in a B&B in Italy and the owner, a self-proclaimed Communist, started telling me about the other two properties she owned. I never realized how lucrative Communism–and now Monk Life–could be!
Ok, but the information is helpful, right? And it’s presented in a format that’s entertaining and informative? Jay Shetty has two ways of presenting information: Sharing fables he learned from the monks and quoting celebrities. In the first half of the book (the half I managed to get through) he quotes, among others: Tom Hanks, Albert Enstein, Jim Carey, Chuck Palahniuk, Pablo Picasso, and, in a most unfortunate case of bad timing, Ellen DeGeneres. My problem isn’t with the content in this book so much as that Jay Shetty appears to never have had an original thought of his own.
“But Kim,” you say, “Surely you are familiar with self-help books and know their modus operandi. What did you expect?” First of all, I’m not completely opposed to finding help from a book. I very much enjoyed Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly, for example. Second, Think Like a Monk found its way into my library under false pretenses. I mistakenly believed that my husband bought a copy based on positive things he’d heard either through a podcast or online. It turns out that was not the case at all. Jay Shetty gave a talk at my husband’s company (cha-ching) and he somehow ended up with a free copy of the book. There it sat on a shelf looking like a legitimate purchase when in fact it had weaseled into our home! Damn you, Jay Shetty!
Seriously, if you enjoy reading self-help books with generic advice that won’t do you any harm but don’t offer anything new, then go ahead and read Think Like a Monk. If you can finish, you have more monk patience than I have.