A geeky book review on “10% Happier” by Dan Harris

If you know me, you know that I’m not a great reader. I’m slow. I often get a few pages along when my mind starts wandering and then I realize, “Wait… what did I just read?” Only to have to go back and read it over again. And if those two things don’t happen, then I simply fall asleep mid-read and don’t get anywhere.

I’ve always loved learning new things, though. So what’s one to do when they can’t read efficiently but they want to keep expanding their knowledge base? Audiobooks! I love listening to podcasts (primarily about video games, work culture, and the Packers) so I thought this might be a good way to get back on track with continued learning.

So I laid out my plan:

1. Find some audiobooks on Audible to queue up on my phone
2. Purchase a waterproof bluetooth speaker to listen to books in the shower (sorry if that’s TMI)
3. Learn!

I started my new adventure with a book by Dan Harris, national reporter and news anchor, titled, “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.” I’ve always heard about meditation being such a positive influence once people start doing it, but every time I considered it or thought I’d give it a shot, I just felt silly or self-conscious (even though I was alone). I figured that if I could knock out the reading limitations with a book that would get me another life skill right out of the gate, it’d be that much better.

After a few mornings of getting the book started, I found myself looking forward to listening more each morning. So not only was I absorbing the material from the book, it was motivating me to get out of bed so that I could listen to more of the book. Bonus! I also realized that I had similar attention span issues with this long-form content as well. So in the middle of a listening session, I’d catch myself thinking ahead to what’s on today’s agenda or thinking about what happened yesterday instead of being mindful and present in the audio. Thankfully, I was able to recalibrate pretty quickly for the most part and only had to scrub backward a few times here and there to catch what I had missed.

I quickly became a fan of Dan Harris over the course of the book. His storytelling ability is absolutely phenomenal. He delivers his book in such a conversational way that it’s like he’s right there with you telling stories (which might be a little weird given that I was in the bathroom every time I listened). I won’t get into the next book I’ve started listening to, but I’m quickly noticing how good Harris is and how important it is to have a really good performer to hold your attention.

Harris begins by talking about his life as if it’s a memoir, but quickly diverted into his initial reactions to meditation and mindfulness. Seeing them as “hippy-dippy” and not really worth his time of day. Feeling silly when he gave it a shot for the first time. The struggles he had staying focused and carving out the time for it. Slowly but surely, Harris then comes around on it and begins to see and feel the impact on his life, outlook, and performance at work. Some truly enlightening stuff. While he won’t claim that it’s an amazing, revelatory thing, he consistently mentions that it makes him about 10% happier (hence the name of the book). Which is a great return on investment when you think about it. If we could guarantee a 10% return on a lot of things, that’d be rad, right?

My next goal is to try and start small and begin daily meditation sessions of five or ten minutes apiece. I’ve consistently toyed around with the notion of different apps to help facilitate meditation like Headspace (Harris even has his own 10% Happier app), but I think I’m going to try going cold turkey first and see how that goes. I’ll be sure to report back on my success or failure, but either way, I’m glad I “read” the book. I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to find just 10% more happiness!