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10 Ancient Books That Can Inspire You Even Today

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10 Ancient Books That Can Inspire You Even Today

In this day and age, many people feel lost. They don’t know in what direction their life should be headed, how to overcome the different challenges that life throws at them, or just how to be relaxed and happy. Oftentimes they try to find outside sources to help them in this. The self-help industry is worth billions of dollars and keeps on growing.

Many people spend huge sums of money to try to get answers to their questions. They often don’t know which advice to choose and how to proceed with changing things that need changing.

If you really want to get to the core of self-improvement, happiness and success, it is time to get back to the basics. A wise man once said, that whatever question people have today, a wise man from thousands of years ago had already provided the answer.

The people of yesteryear lived hard, and challenging lives, but that did not stop them from working on improving themselves, achieving their goals and enjoying the little things.

Whatever question you might have, whatever challenge you are trying to overcome, the answer can most likely be found in the one of the books below. Best of all, all of them can be found totally free on the internet.

1. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of the Roman Empire at a time when the pressure from the barbarians in the North was growing stronger. He spent much of his reign on campaign. Yet he was also a philosopher driven on improving himself and living life as a good person.

As a way to drive his own self-improvement, he started writing a journal for himself. This is what later became the “Meditations”.

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This books contains different quotations of things he was thinking about, different reflections, worries, challenges, snippets of wisdom. He had to face and overcome many challenges in his life and this book contains a summary of what he learned on the way. It can serve as a good source of inspiration for you in the modern world, since many of the challenges were of internal nature. You are most likely facing the same challenges today. If you want answers to common everyday problems, this book provides them.

quote:
Never regard something as doing you good if it makes you betray a trust or lose your sense of shame or makes you show hatred, suspicion, ill-will or hypocrisy or a desire for things best done behind closed doors.”

2. Enchiridion of Epictetus (compiled by Arrian, a disciple of Epictetus)

Epictetus is considered one of the greatest Stoic philosophers of the ancient world. He was a Greek who lived during the time of the Roman Empire and his teachings inspired countless people to live a life of balance.

His sayings were compiled by Arrian, one of his disciplies, in order to serve as sources of wisdom for all the generations to come. One of the basic tenets of Stoic philosophy is to focus on things that you can change and not worry about the rest and this little book teaches how to do that. The advice it gives can serve as useful guide for people struggling in a world of instant gratification and temptation.

quote:
When you imagine some pleasure, beware that it does not carry you away, like other imaginations. Wait a while, and give yourself pause. Next remember two things: how long you will enjoy the pleasure, and also how long you will afterwards repent and revile yourself. And set on the other side the joy and self-satisfaction you will feel if you refrain. And if the moment seems come to realize it, take heed that you be not overcome by the winning sweetness and attraction of it; set in the other scale the thought how much better is the consciousness of having vanquished it.

3. Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle

Aristotle is considered one of the greatest philosophers of the ancient world and one of his greatest most enduring works is the Nichomachean Ethics. It is a hard read, but those who finish it are rewarded with a different perspective on things, most notably on what is happiness.

How will you achieve happiness according to Aristotle? By being a good person, for only a virtuous person can truly be happy.

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quote:
The pleasures arising from thinking and learning will make us think and learn all the more.”

4. Art of War by Sun Tzu

One of the most well-known works from Ancient China is the Art of War, compiled by Sun Tzu. It was originally meant as a guide for generals, teaching them how to win battles and wars, but in the modern world, it has been used in different contexts, for example in the business world. It contains much practical wisdom on what types of tactics to use in order to overcome challenges and can serve as an inspiration for strategy in any walk of life.

quote:
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

5. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu was the founder of Taoism and the Tao Te Ching is the main source of his teachings. The book contains different types of advice for different life situations and for different types of people. It has to be read several times in order to get the full impact of the sayings and to discover how to apply them to your life.

quote:
When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.

6. Parallel Lives by Plutarch

One of the best ways to become a better, more accomplished person is by learning about other great people and how they got to the top. You should adopt their virtues and discard their vices and you too can become great.

This was the main aim of the Parallel Lives by Plutarch. By writing the biographies of great Greeks and Romans and especially focusing on their traits of character, he tried to create a teaching aid for people struggling to find their own path to greatness. By studying what other great people did to become great, you can make your own path to superstardom much easier. Their lives can serve as a source of inspiration.

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If you want to know what it takes to become great, this book is the one you should turn to.

quote:
It is not reasonable that he who does not shoot should hit the mark, nor that he who does not stand fast at his post should win the day, or that the helpless man should succeed or the coward prosper.

7. The Art of Love by Ovid

Since time immemorial guys struggled with one thing: how to get the girl. Two thousand years ago, one man came with the answer. Ovid, a Roman poet, wrote a very detailed manual on how to pick up girls, what to say and what to do. It became such a best-seller, that it angered the more traditional authorities, which had Ovid banned from the city of Rome and sent into exile.

The book is divided into 3 parts, with the first two books giving very practical advice to guys on how to find, seduce and keep a woman, while book 3 reverses the tables and gives advice to women on how to find a guy. The Art of Love proved such a success, that Ovid even wrote a sequel, which dealt with how to fall out of love and mend a broken heart.

quote:
If you want to be loved, be lovable.

8. On the Orator by Cicero

Cicero is considered one of the greatest statesmen and orators of the Roman Republic. Giving speeches was his life and he became very good at it. Speaking in public and generally having conversations is a thing that is still a need for many in today’s world. Cicero wrote one of the greatest manuals on this ever. His advice on how to deliver a speech, move your audience and convince them of your truth is still as pertinent today as it was over two thousand years ago.

If you don’t know how to efficiently engage in conversation or if you need to give speeches, pick up his book as soon as possible.

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quote:
Brevity is the best recommendation of speech, whether in a senator or an orator.

9. Anabasis by Xenophon

During the height of the Persian Empire, one pretender for the Persian throne hired a group of ten thousand Greek mercenaries and marched them to the territory of modern Iraq to confront his brother, the ruler, and try to overthrow him from the throne. However, he died in the ensuing battle, meaning that the Greek troops were now stuck thousands of miles from home, in enemy territory, with no supplies and no friends.

This was the beginning of one of the greatest adventures and stories of courage ever told. Xenophon was one of the participants in the expedition and one of the commanders of the retreat. The troops marched thousands of miles, battling enemies left and right, to finally make it home. The truth is sometimes stranger and more powerful than fiction and this story qualifies. Pick up the book, if you want to read a riveting story full of adventure and one that can inspire you to overcome obstacles that you think are insurmountable.

10. Analects of Confucius (compiled by his disciples)

Confucius is the person who arguably had the greatest effect on the evolution of Chinese society out of anyone. Much of his wisdom is compiled in a book called the Analects. There you have a collection of sayings of this great teacher and philosopher. This book is considered one of the central tenets of Confucianism and can serve as a great source of practical wisdom for many situations.

quote:
The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.

Featured photo credit: Man Jumping In Old Temple Ruins/Ed Gregory via stokpic.com

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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