The Rewards of Reading


Lose yourself in a good book and boost your overall well-being

I’m an author. I’ve written 2 full length books with a 3rd in the works and several more in the concept stage. There is also a work book related to my day job and all these blog posts. I write about 500 words a day and I endeavor to read about 1 book a week.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that I consider reading to be an essential part of everyday life.  It’s basic to communication, via email or text message, paying bills and even navigating traffic. But did you know that reading for personal enjoyment and learning is not only a good form of low-cost entertainment, but it also brings with it a whole host of other benefits? Here are some ways reading can have a positive impact on your life.

It sharpens the mind

Regardless of your age, the more you expose your brain to information the better it can learn and remember. Research by Live Science.com, has shown that neurons in the brain have the ability to change structurally in response to new experiences. Reading ranks as the number one activity we can do to promote ongoing improvement in our knowledge, vocabulary and intelligence. Keeping our brains active engages our mental pathways, potentially reducing the risk of cognitive decline in old age and could even prevent dementia. In fact, a recent study from Prevention.com found individuals who frequently participated in intellectual pastimes over the course of their lifetimes had an approximately 32 percent slower late-life cognitive decline than those who didn’t.

It reduces stress and improves well-being

In the constantly connected and always on world of today, finding an effective way to slow down is highly important. Enter reading. A summary report from Canada’s National Reading Campaign notes that among traditional relaxation strategies, reading ranks as number one. Curling up with a good book has been proven to reduce stress levels by as much as 68 per cent. And it doesn’t take a lot of time either. According to the report, it only takes six minutes of reading to effectively slow your heart rate and ease tension in your muscles.

Reading has been linked to other positive physical and social effects as well. Book readers are 28 per cent more likely than non-readers to report very good or excellent health, and 15 per cent more likely to report a very strong satisfaction with life.

Social benefits exist for fiction lovers as well. There is evidence that reading fiction helps to promote empathy, boost self-esteem and improve social skills. When you identify with the emotions of a novel’s characters you are activating the same areas of the brain that light up when you experience real-life issues.

It helps children succeed in life

Parents who read to their children positively influence how much their kids like to read. Reading for fun enhances comprehension, vocabulary and attention span, and increases children’s confidence and their motivation to read throughout their lives.

Reading levels among youth are also a key indicator of future success in both education and life. A report by Statistics Canada found that those in the top reading levels in junior high school are up to 20 times more likely to attend university than those in lower reading levels. A similar study indicated that children with higher reading skills went on to have higher incomes and more professional roles in adulthood.

So, why not pop in to your local library or bookstore and see what catches your interest. You might be pleasantly surprised to discover a page-turner that you just can’t put down – plus a rewarding endeavor that is oh so good for you!

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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Why I Write This Stuff


The following is a excerpt from the introduction to my first book – Meekonomics, How To Inherit The Earth and Live Life to the Fullest in God’s Economy. 

I’m not sure why, I think it might have something to do with the current political climate around the world, but there has been a recent up tick in interest in my writing.  So I’m going to start republishing portions of my work on a semi-regular basis here.  Questions and Comments are always welcome, and feel free to click the link above to purchase a copy of the book…

I realize that it is an act of sheer hubris to attempt to write a book called Meekonomics. The meek don’t write books do they? Especially Mennonite kids from Southern Ontario with no formal education in either economics or theology.

I grew up in a small town surrounded by family farms and working class individuals. When I graduated from High School I wanted to be a record producer so I spent 19 years in the music business. In my mid 30s I read two books that unlocked my love of economics and theology; The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein and Simply Christian by NT Wright.  

There followed nearly 8 years of prayer, research and reflection on two things that have driven me for almost as long as I can remember; God and Money.

Although I have always held a strong faith my relationship with money has been an extreme roller-coaster from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. I’m an entrepreneur. I started my first business at the ripe old age of the age of 10, I had an opportunity to become a millionaire before my 26th birthday only to fall victim to an unscrupulous fraudster and ended up bankrupt at 33.

My drive to understand money and reconcile economics with my faith started to take root in the fall of 2005 not long after I first filed my bankruptcy proposal. What I soon realized is that reconciliation of the God and Money issue is not just a personal question, although personal finance is a big part of it, it’s really required on both a micro and macro-economic scale if our society is to survive.

Call it what you will; estate or retirement planning, investments, pension plans etc. It all comes down to the storing up of treasures on earth just as Jesus warned us not to do.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. [Matthew 6:19-24]

What you will find in the pages that follow is a journal of sorts. After my bankruptcy I set out to learn all I could about how this whole God and Money thing works. Anyone who has ever gone through something like that knows how devastating it can be. I was wounded, I needed healing and so I used the study of God and Money as the start of my healing process.

As I studied I took notes, those notes became a blog and that blog became this book. Most authors will tell you that they write for a specific audience, my friend Tim Day, author of “God Enters Stage Left” told me he first started writing for his kids as a way to help explain his faith in case he passed away before he had a chance to teach them in person. If I’m being honest I write just for myself, it’s a way to frame my thinking so that I can move forward in life secure and grounded in what I know to be true.

I first published the blog as a way to share what I was learning with my closest friends and family around the world, I never dreamed anyone else would be interested in what I had to say but I soon had over 100 readers on-line encouraging me to go deeper and publish more. The idea for the book came out of that interaction with the on-line community.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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Cast Your Burdens


Life is heavier than the weight of all things – Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve recently become aware of the sheer weight of life.

I’m not just talking about the mental “weightiness” of our lives or the existential weight of the decisions we make on a daily basis. I’m talking also about the basic physical weights and measures of the things we possess and the life that we carry with us wherever we go.

Some statistics:

  • The average North American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years while the number of people living in those homes, the average family size, has gotten smaller.

  • 1 in 4 of those homes doesn’t have enough room in their garage to park a car while 1 in 10 rents extra off-site storage.

  • Over the course of our lifetime we will spend a total of 153 days (or 3,672 hours) looking for misplaced items.

All of this “stuff” is quite literally weighing us down but that’s not all – Psychologists have identified a relatively new pathology known as decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of the decisions we make the more we make them. It is now understood to be one of the main causes of irrational decision making. Judges and other professional decision makers have been shown to make less favorable decisions later in the day than they do early in the day. If you want to win in court, try to make sure your case is on the docket in the morning.

Decision fatigue also leads to poor choices in our personal lives, such as how we spend our money and our time. There is also a paradox inherent in decision fatigue in that people who lack choice seem to want it more while at the same time find that making too many choices can be psychologically draining.

Lastly, research is beginning to show that the single biggest factor causing decision fatigue is not the importance or consequences of the decisions being made but their sheer volume. Deciding what to wear in the morning or what to eat for breakfast contributes just as much to our daily decision fatigue as determining the case of a plaintiff in a multimillion dollar civil complaint. A decision is a decision and fatigue is fatigue.

Ask anyone what they truly want out of life and the answer will more often than not boil down to some form of peace and happiness. Still more research is beginning to show that people who report being the most peaceful and happy with their lives also seem to be the ones who are forced to make the fewest decisions throughout the day. And the decisions they do make whether in their personal or professional lives tend to be of higher quality.

I was recently challenged by a friend and spiritual mentor to embrace some of the tenants of minimalism. At the same time I’ve been reading David Allen’s definitive work on time management and productivity “Getting Things Done”. Both seek to reduce stress and increase enjoyment and productivity by reducing the weight of things in our lives and streamlining decision making.

It seems counter intuitive but by reducing the number of choices we are faced with we actually open up our minds to new possibilities and new ideas and lighten the burden of some of the bigger and more consequential decisions we are faced with. Albert Einstein, one of the greatest thinkers of modern history was known to have 7 copies of the exact same set of clothing, one for each day of the week, and ate the exact same meal for breakfast and lunch every single day. That’s three fewer decisions he had to make than most other people which helped to open his mind for weightier things.

In my work as a financial advisor I see the other side of the coin every day. Lives built on a house of cards of debt, and stress. People are running faster and faster just to remain in one place. We have been sold a lie that the key to happiness is the acquisition of more. And that the truly happy and “together” people are also able to do more with their time. Carrying last year’s model smart-phone is considered a sign of poverty in some circles and simply stopping to relax with your family, without a program or agenda to follow, is somehow seen as sloth or a waste of precious time.

The truth is we need down time in order to maintain our sanity.  There is nothing wrong with staying in and doing nothing, just like there is nothing wrong with carrying and using a still functional smart-phone.

Minimalism and the type of streamlining decision making advocated by authors and consultants like Allen, are not a panacea for all that ails us. But they can be a first step in determining what truly matters, making better decisions and living a more peaceful and fulfilling life.

It’s time to lighten our lives, worry less and live more.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion for people and a desire to teach everyone to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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New Book Project!


writingI’m writing again!

Okay, well the truth is I never really stopped, as this blog attests.  But I have not been nearly as active as I was in the past and I have not been working on a larger book length project for over a year.  There are a lot of reasons for this that I won’t go into right now.  Some of my reasons may become apparent as I work on this new project anyway.

For now, suffice it to say two things.

1) After I published Meekoethics I was mentally spent.  That book is deeply personal to me and digging into parts of my past that have shaped me into the man I am today took a lot out of me.

2) I ran out of things to say for a while.  It wasn’t so much writers block as it was just a lack of significant incite to add to the conversation.  I tried for a while to write about leadership but that effort felt strained.  I was reaching for something that I have very little personal knowledge of.  The work felt academic, not personal and if there is one thing I have learned its that I write best when I have some experience with the topic, some skin in the game so to speak and something personal to say about it.  I prefer to write as though I am trying to send a message to my former self and I really don’t have much to say to myself on leadership, at least not yet.

What I do have something to say about is mental health and spiritual well-being.  I won’t get into a lot of the details as to why this is my current focus now, hopefully as I work it through my reasons should become obvious.

chapter1As I did with my previous works, each time I complete a chapter I will post excerpts here for your review and comment. The following is the first such excerpt from the introduction.  Enjoy, please comment and join the conversation so that we can make this a bit of a collaborative effort.

 

Broken – Our Journey to wholeness through anxiety, pain and adversity

I met my first rape victim in 1992. At least she was the first person I knew who was open enough about it to say so.

I knew the statistics, according to the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General Victims Services Secretariat, 39% of Women over the age of 16 have experienced some form of sexual assault.   1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men will experience some form of sexual assault in their lifetimes.[1]

I knew, on an intellectual level at least what that meant. Even in our small town, three or four of the girls in my high-school graduating class, if it hadn’t happened already, would eventually be victims of sexual assault and although I was far from a Casanova myself at least one of the girls I had dated would eventually become a victim.

That last thought turned my stomach.

depressedgirlThe more I got to know this girl the more I realized that the scars left on her soul would likely never heal. She exhibited behaviour that I had seen before, sexual promiscuity, fierce independence, abuse of alcohol and a general liaise fair attitude in the face of some truly traumatic events in her life. I began to wonder if this behavior could point to the fact that the other girls (and a few boys too) I had seen acting in this way were also victims of sexual assault. Truthfully, I may never know but to this day I still wonder.

Eventually my encounters with this young girl began to wane as our lives moved in different directions. I haven’t seen or even thought about her in over 25 years, that was, until today. I wonder if she ever found healing. I hope so, but somehow I doubt it.

I doubt it because in the intervening years I have spent time with a number of other survivors of trauma, some of it sexual in nature and some of it not. As I’ve branched out from my relatively sheltered up bringing in a small town surrounded by a community full of “salt of the earth” type people I’ve begun to see the world in a different light.

I’ve taken off my rose coloured glasses as it were and begun to see the world as it truly is, a dark, dreary and often times, downright evil place full of fear, sadness, trauma and shame. In short, the world is broken. But it is also a world of unsurpassed beauty, a world of love, grace and healing.

This is not a book about sexual assault, although my hope is that all victims of trauma of any kind may begin to find some form of healing within its pages. This is first and foremost a book about God, His perfect plan for our lives, His deep pain at our losses and His deeper compassion for our health and mental well-being. It is a book about repairing our brokenness, healing our souls and journeying into wholeness, no matter the cause or depth of our traumas.

imageofgodDr. Greg Boyd, teaching pastor at Woodland Hills Community Church in Minneapolis Minnesota[2] during a Sunday sermon once called all humanity “infinitely valuable image bearers of the divine.” I have unashamedly stolen that phrase and use it constantly in my discussions about God’s grace with the people I encounter.

We all carry with us the image of God imprinted on our mind, body and soul. Even when we are broken, when we are sad, afraid, and full of shame, we are first and always God’s image bearers. And not just image bearers but infinitely valuable, infinitely worthy and infinitely loved by our creator.

We all carry the scars of our past, there is very little we can do about that. May the pain subside and the image of God shine through each and every one of our lives.

Welcome to the journey.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [Jesus, John 16:33]

 

[1] Full statistics available from the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres www.sexualassualtsupport.ca

[2] For more information on Woodland Hills Community Church and Dr. Greg Boyd visit www.whchurch.org

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated a small farm, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, and has written 3 books on Economics, Ethics and Spirituality.  He has presented his ideas to business owners and leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He brings to his work a passion to people to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsproject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

 

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Blessed Are Those Who Wield Soft Power


softpowerPolitical values like democracy and human rights can be powerful sources of attraction, but it is not enough just to proclaim them. Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

It is not my usual practice to write a review of a book that I have not yet finished. However; the events of the past several weeks and months leading up to the “peaceful” transition of power in the United States have compelled me to break with my self-imposed tradition.

Over the Christmas break I have been reading through Joseph Nye’s “Soft Power” which was originally published in 2004 at the end of the first term of President George W. Bush. I can’t help but notice a stern warning in these pages against the type of world we may be entering into in the next few weeks. We are standing a crossroads in history in which a populist leader threatens to lead his nation, and by extension the entire world, into a dark age of intolerance, unilateralism and regression the likes of which we have never seen before.

The policies of the Trump administration could set America’s social progress back 50 years and all but destroy their international reputation as an open, welcoming, tolerant and democratic society. As a result the world’s only military superpower could find itself losing key international policy debates in such economically significant and security related decisions as environmental protectionism, nuclear proliferation and terrorist financing to the interests of Russia, China, the European Union and non-state actors like ISIL and OPEC.

This simply cannot be allowed to happen.

flagworldThe term “Soft Power” was coined by Joseph Nye in 1990 in his book “Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power”. Mr. Nye is the former dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the former Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs under President Bill Clinton and is currently a University Distinguished Service Professor at Harvard. His credentials in international affairs are beyond reproach. He actually developed the concept of Soft Power over a long carrier in academics and government which began in the late 1970s but only started using the term extensively after it first appeared in the aforementioned book.

He wrote:

When one country gets other countries to want what it wants this might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.

Ever since its founding the United States has enjoyed a large proportion of what is now known as soft power. The ideals of democracy, liberty and justice that undergird the US Constitution have been beacons of hope for hundreds of millions of people world-wide for nearly 200 years. It is this soft power, more so than its military or economic might that has helped transform the world from a collection of feudal empires into a largely democratic and capitalist one. American soft power, the attractiveness of democracy and an open society, far more so than the threat of nuclear annihilation or economic isolation is what eventually ended the Cold War.

eagleBut the tide is changing and I fear that a Trump administration and other populist movements around the world are only going to serve to accelerate this change, diminish American influence and usher in an era of instability and violence similar to that which caused two World Wars during the first half of the last century.

The countries that are likely to be more attractive and gain soft power in the information age are those with multiple channels of communication that help to frame issues; whose dominant culture and ideas are closer to prevailing global norms (which now emphasize liberalism, pluralism, and autonomy); and whose credibility is enhanced by their domestic and international values and policies… To the extent that official policies at home and abroad are consistent with democracy, human rights, openness, and respect for the opinions of others, America will benefit from the trends of this global information age. But there is a danger that the United States may obscure the deeper message of its values through arrogance. – Joseph S. Nye Jr; Soft Power, The Means to Success in World Politics

Professor Nye wrote those words in 2004, at a time when America was going it alone in an unpopular war with Iraq. At that time when the world looked at America they saw a country that, while it may have started to betray some its founding values in the name of security against religious extremists it was at least consistent in its application of those values at home. Any damage caused to America’s soft power was limited to its politicians and foreign policy. Today I am afraid that the hypocrisy of the Iraq war pales in comparison to the hypocrisy apparent in Trump’s domestic policy. These policies have the potential to betray the very founding principles of “life, liberty and justice for all.”

Just as the Cold War was won through diplomacy and the effective wielding of soft power, I fear that the next war, cold or hot, will be lost through the ignorance, arrogance and cultural ineptitude of populist movements that have no regard for the soft power of liberalism and pluralism that has served progress so well for so long.

Lauren C. Sheil is a serial entrepreneur who has been in business for over 25 years. He has operated farming operations, a recording studio and a music manufacturing plant, has written 3 books on Economics and Christian Ethics and presented his ideas to business owners and ministry leaders from all over the world. His latest book “Meekoethics: What Happens When Life Gets Messy and the Rules Aren’t Enough” is available on Amazon.com.

Mr. Sheil is currently a Financial Security Advisor and Business Planning Specialist with one of Canada’s premier financial planning organizations.  He is passionate about helping entrepreneurs to live life to the fullest while Eliminating Debt, Building Wealth and Leaving a Legacy.  

He can be reached at themeekonomicsporject@gmail.com or by calling 613-295-4141.

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