6 Hard-Hitting Book Passages That Had a Profound Impact on My Life
Books don’t change your life, ideas do.
Books, more often than not, won’t change your life. If they do, it’s only marginally. After all, many of us share in the feeling of forgetfulness only after finishing a book. We hardly remember more than the main idea a week later.
If you really want a book to change your life, you’d probably have to read it over and over again. Really study the material and practice what the book preaches.
But let’s be honest. We seek novelty. Rereading an entire book seems…wasteful. Perhaps it makes you feel as if you’d be missing out on some valuable information in another book. I know it makes me feel that way.
See the problem here?
Still, books are of extraordinary importance. They gift us with knowledge and a new perspective. And if like me, you are hard-pressed to reread an entire book, perhaps it’s better to revisit those old passages that dropped the single dime of wisdom that you needed. The most profound ones. The ones that spurred goosebumps down your spine. The ones that made you go, “Eureka!”.
I think that rereading those passages that tickled your mind, is your best passageway towards retaining that information. They are short, easy to revisit, unintimidating, and refreshing. It gives you something to study, remember, and engrain in your mind.
It’s not books that change your life. It’s their piecemeal ideas that do.
By practicing such a strategy, I believe you’ll receive great returns on your mental investments in the most optimal times. That being said, here are some of those passages that had the most profound impact on me.
The passages that I feel actually transformed my perspective on the world and my life.
“Fear is the mind-killer”
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune
Whether we like it or not, fear plagues all of us in one way or another. The fear for change. The fear to take risks. The fear to lose something or someone. Fear keeps the mind and body from expansion and growth into greater things. Fear stagnates us and keeps us in place. Fear is the mind-killer.
We’re often advised to overcome or face fear. However, hardly are we told how to — as if pure willpower is enough.
Rather, as Herbert writes here, let fear pass into you and through you. Allow yourself to feel the fear. Understand it. Sit with it. Become comfortable with its uncomfortableness.
Let it pass through you and behind you so that all remains is you and what you want. Often it’s the desire for more that instills the fear in us in the first place. Once you let the emotion of fear subside, only then will you be able to think rationally.
The courageous man doesn’t lack fear. The courageous man simply knows how to deal with it.
“I set my own standards”
“But you see,” said Roark quietly, “I have, let’s say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I’ve chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I’m only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards — and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one.”
― Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead
Life is short. We are all mortal. The Stoics preach the practice of meditating on your death. They say death is your motivation to live urgently and fully. What Rand says here reiterates that notion and more.
It comes down to self-respect and control of one’s own mind. It’s almost unavoidable that we live off the ideas of other people so long as we work and study in institutions. We lack originality. The reality is, the majority of us work for a very vast portion of our life. This causes Rand to raise the questions:
When life is so short and we spend so much of our life working, why work for anyone’s values other than your own? Why drive your work based on the ideas of another without innovating for yourself? Why not be selfish and begin your own legacy?
Joy stems from living a virtuous and meaningful life based on how you see it and you alone. That you are actively doing all that you can to create the most joy for yourself without impeding anyone else’s creativity. Recognize your power as a human.
Realize that all is finite. Believe that your ideas hold merit. Allow those ideas to become your legacy. Allow those ideas to drive self-discovery and innovation. Allow those ideas to raise the probability of you doing something uniquely amazing and impactful.
Find a way to adopt an outlook that allows you to see the work you do as a point of enjoyment and benefit to your short existence.
“In each band you join, you will play a distinct part”
“As life goes on, you will join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage, or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you will play a distinct part, and it will affect you as much as you affect it.”
― Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto
Many of us yearn for more meaning in our lives. Meaning and purpose fuel our existence and ignites the fire within each of us to live fully. Yet, we often struggle to find our unique place in this world. We feel like we make hardly any impact. We struggle with the idea that we might provide no value.
What Albom says here makes us reflect upon everything that has been or is a part of our life. Upon reflection, we realize that everything that we are is a sum total of everything we’ve experienced or have been a part of.
Likewise, we make that same impact on everything and everyone we touch. We all offer some sort of change. In that sense, it makes us feel more empowered to be alive and walking amongst other great minds.
We are all a mosaic of everyone we meet, everything we experience, and every idea we absorb. We all serve a purpose in every situation. As Albom says, we all play a distinct part.
Once you recognize this notion, perhaps you’ll see that you constantly are making an impact in this world — no matter how small. Simple recognition of that is enough to gift you with a little bit more personal meaning and usefulness in your outlook on life.
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies”
“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.
It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Building off the last passage, we all desire to make an impact. We want to leave our mark on this world. That is impossible without change. But, many of us want to make a big change. To be remembered for many things and extraordinary feats.
Rather, you should focus on the small things that you can change. The little actions that shift the world ever so slightly.
Bradbury’s passage inspires us to approach everything we do with the intention to make whatever it is we’re working on a little bit better. To go to work and contribute a piece of your mind.
To come home and lift up the hearts of your family. To wake up and decide to change up your static routine. Everyone has something to give, be it emotional growth to others, contributions to the environment, or an idea to the world. Be like the gardener and be intentional about the mark you leave on this world.
“It’s us. Only us.”
Existence is random. Has no pattern save what we imagine after staring at it for too long. No meaning save what we choose to impose. This rudderless world is not shaped by vague metaphysical forces. It is not God who kills the children. Not fate that butchers them or destiny that feeds them to the dogs. It’s us. Only us. Streets stank of fire. The void breathed hard on my heart, turning its illusions to ice, shattering them. Was reborn then, free to scrawl own design on this morally blank world.
― Alan Moore, Watchmen
One constant I see many people struggle with is the ability to take ownership of their circumstances. They like to attribute the effect of something to some specific external cause other than themselves. As if everything is just outside the realms of their control.
That’s simply not true. We always have a choice. We can always decide whether to take positive or negative action. Our life is compiled of a ton of tiny decisions. We shouldn’t ascribe the cause of any happenstance to anything other than ourselves. There’s always something within the confines of our power to be done.
As Moore writes here through Rorshach’s existential character, the world is morally blank and painstakingly random. It’s up to us to design our reality in the way we see it and we alone see it. It’s up to us to give a world void of meaning with a meaning of our own.
Every problem is none other than yours. It’s up to the people to fix it. It’s up to you to fix it. Not God’s or nature. Just you. You alone have the power to shape your destiny. You alone determine your reaction to the entropy of the universe.
Therefore, when you find yourself laying blame for a consequence your facing based on external action, simply ask yourself: What is it I could have done differently?
“For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg”
But the world is so full of people, so crowded with these miracles that they become commonplace and we forget… I forget. We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from the another’s vantage point. As if new, it may still take our breath away. Come…dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly. Dry your eyes… and let’s go home.”
― Alan Moore, Watchmen
Watchmen is so filled with deep philosophical themes and passages that I just had to mention another passage from Moore’s graphic masterpiece. Dr. Manhattan’s character adopts the view of an all-powerful being who sees the world as nothing but mere coagulation of atoms and quarks.
It is through this lens that he not only elaborates on the meaninglessness of existence but also its preciousness. From his nihilistic perspective, he realizes that life is unbelievably rare and unique. It’s this rarity that establishes the true wealth and privilege of simply being alive.
Sometimes we just need to take a step back and remind ourselves of the miracles that we are. When life begins to lack novelty, the notion of us being miracles anchors us back to a reality that everything, in essence, is beautiful. The fact that we can breathe, walk, interact, and perceive is all that we need in this world to fill our hearts with gratitude for having experienced it at all.
If Moore’s passage here has done anything for me, it’s that there is always something immediately around us that can be appreciated. Something that can lift up our spirits and withdraw us from a pit of despair and fill us with awe.
You probably noticed that none of these passages originate from a nonfiction book. This was done on purpose.
It must be understood that fictional books have the potential to provide great academic value to the reader that can parallel (perhaps to a greater degree) the value presented in a book filled with only facts.
Fiction books tether our emotions to a story that can beautifully deliver a message straight to our souls. A message that we simply needed to hear all along.
Highlight these messages as you read any book because surely there are many passages out there that’ll speak to you as these passages have spoken to me.
Revisit them, reread them, feel them, and let them become a part of who you are.