Bill Gates, like fellow entrepreneur Elon Musk, is an avid reader. As he explained on his blog, Gates.Notes, “reading books is my favorite way to learn about a new topic. I’ve been reading about a book a week on average since I was a kid. Even when my schedule is out of control, I carve out a lot of time for reading.”  And to keep up, Gates schedules ‘reading retreats’ twice a year.

One book that made a huge impression is When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi. Gates called it “the best non-fiction story I’ve read in a long-time.” He tweeted:

— Bill Gates (@BillGates) March 12, 2017

Intrigued by his strong recommendation, I downloaded When Breath Becomes Air and read it in two bursts.

After years of study, hard work and dedication, Paul Kalinithi hovered on the brink of a brilliant career as a neurosurgeon/scientist. Then he discovered he had lung cancer and the future, meant to be filled with a growing family, work he loved, and writing – he had already proved himself a talented writer, dissipated like warm breath in cold air. He was 36-years-old.

In his short memoir, Kalinithi documents, with grace and understanding, the sudden, brutal shift in his world, and the consequences of that shift. At times, I wondered how he could push himself forward, but I think it came down to his values. He recounts how, on several occasions, his oncologist asked him to consider his values before making decisions.

Values, as a concept, may have lost meaning in recent times, possibly because the word is overused by politicians and leaders who hawk “family values” or “(insert nationality) values” when they seek to push specific buttons.

For me, Kalinithi’s story is a compelling reminder that we need to re-focus on the true meaning of the word, i.e what is important to us, what do we cherish, what do we value? Only then can we discover how best to live rich lives, be they long or brief.

Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon

Other readers will take away different learnings from When Breath Becomes Air. In fact, I’d say one reading isn’t enough to discover all that this gem of a book has to offer. I think Bill Gates would agree.

YouTube Channel: Stanford

 

Featured image via GatesNotes

h/t CNBC