Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday FiveSpot presents... Books that changed our lives

Happy Friday!

One of our Friday FiveSpot features is posing questions to the Founding Fivers about things that have inspired their Five. This week's question is:

What is one book that inspired you to pursue your Five or changed the way you look at your Five? How did it inspire you?

Here's what Alyson and Tera had to say...


Dr. Wayne Dyer’s, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, really did change my life in profound ways just by doing what the title suggests

At the time when I read it, I was going through a tremendous amount of grief over losing several loved ones and the fear that my very ill husband may not get better. But I was also tired of feeling that way—of being so sad, scared, and hopeless all the time. So I picked up the book (having first seen it on his PBS special) and when I got to the part where he says, (and I paraphrase here): “One of the most important decisions you’ll make about your life is whether you live in an abundant universe—or one filled with shortages . . . Do you see your life as full of endless opportunities—or one of competition where there’s only room for a few to succeed?” I was struck by the question and quickly realized I’d chosen the latter. So I decided to try out the other way, thinking: what could it hurt?

So instead of seeing myself as a “victim of loss, abandonment, and grief” I looked upon those hard times as my greatest opportunity for growth and change. Instead of viewing myself as a hapless pawn in the big game of life, I looked upon the world as an endless highway, with plenty of lanes for me to merge in, find my place, and enjoy the ride. And dang if it didn’t work! It wasn’t long before my life really did start to change in ways so truly measurable and amazing, I wouldn’t go back to that old way of thinking for anything. If I’m going to have a self-fulfilling prophecy it may as well be a positive one!


The summer after my sophomore year of high school I participated in a special summer program called Missouri Scholars Academy. In this three week program, we attend classes on a college campus and got to choose and "major" class and a "minor" class. For my minor, I chose the class in time travel.

We did a lot of wonderful things in that class, but the thing I remember the most was reading the short story A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury. In this story, a hunter from the future goes back to prehistoric times for the thrill of killing a T-Rex. The hunter panics and runs off the elevated path he is not supposed to leave. When the hunting party returns to the future, they find changes to the language, the buildings, and even the recent election. Upon examining his boots, the hunter discovers a butterfly crushed to the bottom.

This story is the origin of the chaos theory term the Butterfly Effect, the idea that one teeny-tiny change (like a single butterfly smashed by a boot) can have a major effect on the course of the future. I think this idea colors the way I view everything in life, including my Five. Even the smallest choice can have the greatest effect. One bottle in the recycle bin instead of the landfill might seem insignificant, but that bottle might get recycled into a reuseable grocery bag, that saves the production of countless plastic bags, that saves gallons of petroleum, that reduces our dependence on foreign oil, that prevents a future worldwide oil crisis. Seems like a pretty important bottle now, doesn't it?

The Butterfly Effect seems like a perfect parallel to the whole idea behind Living Your Five. We're talking about taking small steps in the direction of the five causes we care most about. Who knows what kind of magnified return we might see on our efforts in the future? One small step might change the world.

Thanks, A and T! Now it's your turn, dear readers. :-) What books have you read that have shaped the way you view your Five?


  1. Oh, Alyson, I'm so sorry you had to go through all that loss. But I'm so proud of you for turning hardship into opportunity. After my mom went into the hospital with a scary illness last summer on the same day I got my starred review from PW, I started viewing life as one-up-one-down. I like your outlook better, so I think I'll have to pick up a copy of Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life. Thanks for sharing.

  2. The books that have forever changed my life and played huge roles in my Five are:

    Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST WAY

    Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin's SKINNY BITCH

    Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY taught me how to stay the path of my writing journey as an artist/writer by ridding my world of the "wet blankets" and "crazy-makers" placing well-meaning (at times not-so-well-meaning) but deadly doubt in my plans to write-for-publication.

    Rory and Kim's SKINNY BITCH gave me my new vegan lifestyle and a way to pay it forward by being kinder to the earth and all its creatures while also being kind to my body by monitoring with care what I consume.

    Sexy, Sassy, Smart Life-Altering Book Wishes --- D. D. Scott

  3. Wow, Alyson. That's incredible. You're awesome, girl...

  4. I've never read A Sound of Thunder, Tera! I'll put it on the list. Thank you!

  5. Alyson - Oh wow, Alyson. I can't begin to imagine what that time must have been like for you. I think it's a wonderful testament to who you really are that you were able to embrace something so positive and empowering during such a difficult period in your life. That's what makes you... you. :-)

    Tera - The Butterfly Effect is such a neat way to describe chaos theory. (I always think of the scene from Jurassic Park where he's doing the water droplet example.) I love how you naturally applied The Butterfly Effect to your Five to think about how little things can have a snowball effect later. That's awesome!

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  7. Hey Alyson,

    It's odd how we often find the brightest diamonds in the darkest times. I love Dwayne Dyre and I will go out and get this book NOW. Thank you.

    A book that changed my life drastically was "Diet for a Small Planet", because it made me aware (for the first time) that our food choices affect not only us, but the resources of the planet. Not that you have to be vegan. Even a moderate change in daily eating habits can make a significant difference. Something a kin to the Butterfly Effect Tera mentioned in her inspirational reading.

    Thanks to both you awesome ladies!

    Elizabeth Fais

  8. Elizabeth - One of my favorite life-altering books was co-written by Frances Lappe Moore who also wrote the Small Planet book. It's called The Quickening of America and is about participative democracy. An excellent read!

  9. Okay I missed last week as I was in Nashville, but traveling gave me a bit of time to think about my five things. So here goes:

    1. BIG FRIENDS, LITTLE FRIENDS - For the past year, I have had a little friend - nine years old and from a tough background. I vow this year, though, to extend the help I offer her to her brother and sister.

    2. UNDERFUNDED SCHOOL DISTRICTS - As an author, I do a lot of school visits. This year, I am committed to trying to visit more underfunded schools, reducing or even eliminating my fees so that I can reach these underserved communities.

    3. GRATITUDE BEFORE THE DAY BEGINS - Each morning, I will think of five reasons I am lucky. And I vow to carry the upbeat way I feel when I do this on into my day - no matter the stresses - spreading a bit of optimism to those around me.

    4. PASSING ON THE PASSION - I am lucky to work as an author. I love my job and look forward to the time when I can sit at my desk and write. I hope to pass on to others the persistance to search for what they love most in this life and the courage to pursue it.

    5. SPREADING THE LOVE - I've discovered its easy to take those around us for granted. So I am committed to letting those who are there for me know how much I appreciate their kindnesses. "I love you" and "Thanks for all you do" will be my mantra.

  10. Tera- I loved your "Butterfly Effect" and how you apply it!

    Elizabeth- I love Wayne Dyer too--he is positivity in motion! I hope you like the book- and thanks for suggesting yours!

    Kathleen- I LOVE your five--all of them! Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. It really is so inspiring to read all your posts! So sorry to hear what you went through Alyson, though it is so encouraging to see when people really embrace to light even in the darkest of times and to allow it to make so many great changes in their life.

    I'm going to have to check out both the books Alyson and Tera mentioned. I love what you said about the Butterfly Effect. Even something as small as a smile to a stranger could make a difference because you've no idea the positive impact that could have on their life that day and how it might change their actions.

    I can't really think of a particular life-altering book I have read. Although there is one, for the life of me I don't remember the title - I read it in grade 5 and it was about this young boy who didn't have the best family and he got caught up in this older, drug-taking girl's world and ended up living on the streets. It just made me realise at the time that not everyone is so fortunate in life and there are people out there suffering, so if we have the ability to make a difference, we should do what

  12. Kathleen - Thanks for sharing your Five! If you can post it on the next Honorary Fivers post (October 2nd), that'll help us keep track of all of our Honorary Fivers. :-) Can't wait to hear about all your progress on your Five!!

    Brodie and D.D. - Cheers to you for sharing the books that inspire you!