Monday, March 26, 2012

Six Simple Rules for a Better Life, an interview with author David Singer

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting David Singer. He is the author of the book - Six Simple Rules for a Better Life. .

Jess's mission with What You Can Do has always been to break down the world's most pressing issues into tangible steps. That's why were were so interested in David Singer's message. His ideas were very comparable to ours. He took the time to answer a few of our questions.

What inspired you to write the book?
Nothing feels better than knowing that I’ve made a difference in other people’s lives. I’ve always tried to help family and friends. I wrote Six Simple Rules for a Better Life to be able to help a wider audience.

You talk about six simple rules. Was it hard to narrow it down?
Six Simple Rules for a Better Life is highly personal and these “rules” have been ones that have worked for me. Most of them are things I think about all the time: be happy, be nice, be organized, and be healthy are long-time parts of my core being. Being happy, nice, and healthy were ingrained in me by my parents. Being organized is something that developed for me as a young adult when I realized how it helped me to be successful, less stressed, and happier.

Being a lifelong learner is something I fell in love with, a happy addiction that I developed after college. And as part of that learning, a big part of which was from reading, I became absorbed by the stories of leaders—people who have made the world a better place.

I had been collecting all kinds of wisdom for many years and when I began to organize it to write the book, everything I wanted to talk about fit into one of the six rules.

Your section "be a leader" fits right in line with the spirit of what you can do. can you talk a little about simple ways that people could be a leader?
When I was writing the book and told a friend about “Be a leader,” he said, “I don’t think everyone can be a leader.” I explained that I wasn’t talking about the kind of leaders that business books talk about, rather the kind that is demonstrated by the people who changed the world, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa and that the leadership I was writing about includes making the world a better place even in “small” ways. We all have it in us to be a leader.

Being a leader is about volunteering and taking on responsibility. It’s about setting an example in everything you do at home, at work, and in your community. Getting involved in your community is one of the simplest ways to be a leader. There are so many opportunities, so many places that need your help. And a side benefit is that it’s tremendously gratifying to help other people—possibly the greatest secret to happiness.

One of the things that really stuck with me in reading the book was the idea that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Can you talk about that a little for people who may not have read the book?
We live in a world filled with offers for immediate change. “Get rich quick,” “get thin now,” “stop smoking today.” Those quick fixes, when they do work, rarely last. In the same way, we’re encouraged each year to make New Year’s resolutions—grandiose plans, which nearly always fail.

You know how it works—gym memberships spike in January and then those same gyms’ parking lots are empty by February. Instead of creating the once-a-year, New Year’s resolutions type of list, the better way is to create and maintain a running list of goals—an ongoing list of life-improvement ideas.

The key to accomplishing those goals is to then break them down into small pieces, small enough changes that you can stick with them. It takes 21 days to form a new habit, so if you slow down and focus on one new habit every 21 days you can experience many positive changes each year. This slow and steady approach is extremely effective and adds up to the positive changes we all want.

Even if you slow down further (for example, one new habit every month, or every six weeks), you can accomplish a great deal because slowing down to make changes is the secret to making real, lasting change.

One more thing.. Looking forward to more accomplishments is a great motivator and a list of goals is great raw material for our progress. But it’s important that we don’t end up seeing the list of goals as a list of shortcomings. Even someone who would not be officially labeled as a perfectionist could become frustrated by a list of things that they have not yet accomplished—so, it’s important to make a second list—a list of achievements—and to stop and celebrate our progress every day, looking back at all that we’ve accomplished. We deserve it!

What's the next step for the book and for you as a writer?
I’ve gotten fantastic feedback about the book. As I said in answer to your first question, my reason for writing this was/is to help people and even if they get only one thing out of reading the book, that’s great (and most people will get more than one.) The other day I was in a dentist’s chair listening to my iPod and I was thinking, “Would Death Cab for Cutie be happy to know I’m listening to their music right now?” I don’t know how it works for them, but I know I would be happy any minute I knew someone was reading my book because I would know I was helping them in some way.

The book has sold quite a few copies, yet it’s far from being a bestseller. I want to change the world, to make it a better place in small ways, and in as big a way as I can. The more people who read my book, the more people I can help to be happier, healthier, and more—and the world a better place. So, spreading the word is the big next step for the book. I’m doing that through social media, word-of-mouth from people like you, and speaking engagements.

I’m writing more than ever now because of my weekly blog posts. I’m enjoying that and will continue to do that as long as I enjoy it and am delivering information that is helping people in some way. I have a lot of other books in my head, and it’s likely that I will publish more at some point. Right now, I’m enjoying the ride of this one, the incredible gratifying feeling of making a difference for people who are reading it.

To find out more about David Singer, please visit

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