Discovering The Important Stuff

In the last post I took a rather lengthy look at finding ways to avoid distraction in order to be creative. The post was called Escape for creativity and free me from distraction. The thought process from this occurred after listening to a video by travel writer Pico Iyer called ” Where Is Home.”

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Firstly, the video can be viewed Here. It’s a terrific speech based on creativity, meditation and finding home. It covers a lot of very useful and interesting concepts and is well worth viewing.

In this post I’d like to touch on something else Pico talks about in the video. He tells the story about losing his home in California to one of those terrifying Californian fires. When I say he lost everything I mean absolutely everything. There was nothing left to salvage at all. This got me pondering the question: If my house was on fire what few important things would I try to salvage.

If you had a fire in your home, what handful of things would you try to salvage from the fire before it turned everything to ashes?

The question is obviously based on that all loved one’s, any people at all and pets are already out and safe. It takes a bit of thinking about, but is a very useful exercise for discovering what’s important to you and what you value.

After a fair bit of thought, the first thing I realised was that the things I’d want to salvage were all in one room of the house – my study.

In the book The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang the author quotes another Chinese author called Li Liweng from his book on the Art of Living. Whilst talking about the charm of a house and the house interiors being down to the art of individuality, he states familiarity as being even more important.

” Familiarity, I feel is more important than individuality. For no matter how big and pretentious a house a man may have, there is always one particular room that he likes and really lives in, and that is a small, unpretentious room, disorderly and familiar and warm. So says Li:” – The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang (p.265)

Importance of living

This was certainly true in my case as I spend at least 50 percent of my home life in the study. Now and again I visit the other rooms of the house fleetingly, but the study is definitely the room I spend the majority of time in.

The Important Stuff

The list turned out rather easy to make as I found most things could be replaced. Even some of the perceived important stuff could be replaced. I found at the bottom of the important items would be the computer back up disk, identification such as passport and the important address book and details of all my business and life affairs.

The real important stuff had to do with memories, experiences and the wisdom of others.

1) Photos – (The memories of your life, family and places visited captured on photograph)

2) Journals – (The memories of your life, thoughts and ideas captured in writing)

3) Books – (The thoughts, ideas, excitement and wisdom of others captured within the pages of books)

Not once did I think about a piece of furniture, best china tea set or my finest clothes.


After participating in this exercise I now realise why this Jim Rohn quote was always so meaningful and one of my favourites.

” There are three things to leave behind: your photographs, your library, and your personal journals. These things are certainly going to be more valuable to future generations than your furniture ” – The Treasury Of Quotes by Jim Rohn (p.66)


Wisdom In Various Guises 

I could get the photos and journals out in the event of a fire, but I had no chance of getting all of those books out. However, for as long as I can remember I have always highlighted the excerpts of a book that strike a chord with me. Those parts where all of a sudden you sit up and say: does the author know me, has this been written for me. In other events it might be that I came across a great idea or I read something that helped solve a problem at the time. By the way, this can apply to a book of non fiction or fiction.

So I thought that even if I couldn’t save all of my books, I must save the parts that have meaning to me. These parts would either come as ideas, learned lessons or new experiences read about that I can implement in to my own life. Thinking about all the wisdom in my library alone had me excited. The sad thing was that this wisdom and life changing stuff just sits on my book shelf within the pages of my books. It’s time to see the important information as one.

I used to think that unless I was reading a non fiction book or the ” how to” – self – help type books, then I was wasting my time. This is actually not so and I always feel far happier and learn more from the pages of novels and short stories. The reading of novels I believe can greatly improve life quality.

So with this is mind and having found pretty much what I value, it’s now time to get them in to my life more. This is when the art of life design comes in to play. Doing the important stuff – the stuff that makes you happy and eliminating as much of what you don’t want as possible.

Living Life By Your Values

Discovering your values is massively important in life and living by them a vital ingredient for happiness.

Values are a topic that Paul McKenna comments on in the book ” I can make you happy ”

” Whether you are close to your goals or far from them, you can be happy everyday provided you are living your values. Your values are the principles and states that you hold in the highest esteem. For some people it might be their religious beliefs, for others their families. You may have values like loyalty or integrity or career success. Your own happiness is founded in your own personal values. Values are what give meaning to your life.” – I Can Make You Happy by Paul McKenna (p.115)


It was an interesting exercise and I was quite surprised to find how little I’d want to salvage from a fire. From my point of view it just goes to show how little material possessions really matter.

Further confirmation (if needed) about how little material possessions really matter come once again from the book ” I can make you happy ” by Paul McKenna.

Back To The Important Stuff

” I have worked with a number of people who were approaching the end of their lives and been privileged to learn from their insights. None of them looked back and wished they had had more money, more cars or bigger houses. All of them were most grateful for the love of their families, for the beauties of the natural world and for the joys of friendship. They all wished they had worried less and laughed more.” – I Can Make You Happy by Paul McKenna (p.115)


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