300 Words With Tom Butler-Bowdon
September 2nd, 2010
A new, semi-regular feature begins on my blog today: “300 Words With…” I’ll be interviewing people I admire, especially those who exemplify the spirit of living in more than one world. Their responses will be (in the range of) 300 words. The first person is Tom Butler-Bowdon, who has written the excellent 50 Classics series of books; on self-help, success, psychology, spirituality and prosperity. In the past, I wrote about and interviewed him for USA TODAY.
1. In what ways (day-to-day and otherwise) has your life changed in the years since your first book was published?
It was important because I could start to see myself as a proper writer, and work towards writing full time, which didn’t happen until a couple of years after. I thought my book would ‘set me up’ in terms of a career, but in fact it was just the first step. I had to write four more books before people really began to see me as an authority in the personal development area. Every day I do what I love, whereas before, although my career as a political and policy adviser was exciting, it was never fully ‘me’. Now, there is really no limit to what is possible if I keep at it.
2. You excel at synthesizing large amounts of information succinctly, and in a reader-friendly way. Any tips on how people can accomplish this in their own work?
Because I have had to read, absorb and write about so many books with my 50 Classics series, people always assume I am a speed reader. Actually, I don’t do this and in fact read every word carefully of the first few chapters. I believe that if you give a book this sort of respect, you will truly ‘get’ it. Once you have the essence, you can write about it comparatively easily. Trying to summarize from the first page in a machine-like way is difficult and a drudge, whereas the act of synthesis is basically exercising your natural insight and judgment.
3. What non-work/non-writing activities do you find particularly meaningful in your life?
I enjoy cycling, running, swimming, spending time in nature and with my daughter. Beyond these things that have the power to refresh, what gives me real insight and peace is spiritual practice. This includes meditation (I usually attend a Buddhist group each week), and purposively giving up my day to God. That may sound wacky to a non-believer, but giving control to a Higher Power gives you great clarity and direction. You are like a pen in the hand of the real writer. I also read a range of spiritual literature; everything from Christian theology, such as Rick Warren, to New Thought writers including Catherine Ponder, to Eastern traditions and the Kabbalah. I feel it doesn’t matter where you get your inspiration as long as you get it on a daily basis.