Growing up, reading is repeatedly forced upon us as part of our academic journey. Whilst this is in no way a bad thing, it’s often the reason adolescents end up shrugging off the practice later in life.
As a child, Vistage Managing Director Nathan Farrugia was lucky enough to cultivate a very different relationship with reading – a phenomenon that, interestingly enough, partially came to be because of his asthma.
But whereas before reading served the primary purpose of transporting Nathan to a different world, distracting him from the woes of everyday life, nowadays books are an intrinsic and irreplaceable part of his personal and professional life, guiding him through career hardships and lending him the necessary tools to live better.
We caught up with Nathan to learn more about his relationship with literature. This is what he had to say.
Reading is a very important part of my life and has different facets to it. As a young child, I escaped into books mainly when I was unwell or couldn’t go out and play because of my asthma. Over time I became fascinated by science books by authors including Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clark, which typically meant I’d spend my pocket money on Science Now magazines and used science fiction books from the charity shops.
Today, my reading is divided into two – reading work-related material, mostly books on leadership, philosophy and decision-making, and books to keep me entertained, including novels, thrillers and classical literature. Most of my time reading, which is about 90 minutes a day, is done during my morning runs as audiobooks.
Every book (except for a few) leaves a positive impact on me, even if it’s one simple message or insight. My favourite books and the ones I typically recommend come from different genres. Starting out in philosophy, ‘Sophie’s World’ was a great introduction, with the words from both classic and modern authors following closely.
I particularly liked reading ‘At the Existentialist Café: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails’ in which the author uses storytelling to guide our journey through the lives of Sartre and his contemporaries on their thoughts on why we are here and what life means. On the other hand, a much more simple, but profound read is ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’, which left an impact on me more than most books I’ve read. Thich Nhat Han beautifully explains how we need to regain control of our own thoughts and experience being the moment, instead of continuously wander off into the future or worry about the past.
‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, one of my favourite early leadership books, has helped guide my younger inexperienced self to be a better leader and indeed, a better person. It’s one book I recommend to anyone who aspires to lead. And finally, ‘Flow’, by M Csikszentmihaly, who showed me what it means to be truly immersed in doing something you love.
Obviously, the books that have had the biggest impact on me would be my favourite ones, so perhaps to mention a few new ones I would include ‘Mindset’, by Carol Dweck, ‘Conversational Intelligence’ by Judith Glaser, ‘The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari’, by Robin Sharma as business related ones that inspired me to lead by example and understand how my thinking shapes my actions.
Then ‘Mad, Bad and Dangerous To Know’, by Ranulph Feinnes, ‘Tales of Endurance’ by Fergus Fleming and ‘Why We Run’ by Bernd Heinrich all inspired me to explore my physical and mental limits and push the boundaries of human performance.
On the spiritual front, ‘The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying’ by Sogyal Rinpoche, ‘The Monk and the Philosopher’ by Revel & Ricard, and ‘Ikigai’ by Garcia & Mirales all contributed to helping answer some of the burning questions about life and meaning, morality and altruism. There are many more I have missed out mentioning.
It would be impossible to suggest a book that ticks all boxes, as our cultures and interest vary to such an extent that any book could be relevant to, or irrelevant to different people. I would therefore say that any book that captivates your imagination or makes you think more deeply is a good book.
Furthermore, if that book can make you take time out to read, it must be of value, with such busy lives that we lead. Reading, in and of itself, is a form of meditation to me. I couldn’t live without it. I would also say that every parent should read to their young children and always support their initiative to read as they grow up, even if it’s a comic book.
In 2020, Nathan published his own book – ‘A Million Steps: Lessons from the limit of physical and mental endurance’ – exploring his record-breaking experience of running 27 marathons in 27 consecutive days in 27 different countries. Get your own copy of the book from Amazon or your local bookstore to learn more about his inspiring journey.
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