Your Life Isn't for You

A Selfish Person's Guide to Being Selfless

Seth Adam Smith (Author)

Publication date: 09/22/2014

Your Life Isn't for You
Social media star: In November 2013, Seth s blog post entitled œMarriage Isn t for You garnered more than 30 million hits and resulted in interviews on Good Morning America, Fox News, and media coverage around the world. Heartfelt and moving: Smith wri
  • Social media star: In November 2013, Seth's blog post entitled "Marriage Isn't for You" garnered more than 30 million hits and resulted in interviews onGood Morning America, Fox News, and media coverage around the world.
  • Heartfelt and moving: Smith writes candidly, and at times with disarming humor, about his struggles with addiction and depression, his suicide attempt, and the happiness he discovered by focusing on others.

In Your Life Isn't for You, Seth Adam Smith expands on the philosophy outlined in his popular blog post "Marriage Isn't for You," which received over 30 million hits and has been translated into twenty languages (and counting). In this inspiring, funny, and moving book-a welcome antidote to the modern obsession with self-Seth shows how his philosophy of living for others can enrich every aspect of your life, just as it has his.

Seth writes not as an expert but as a flawed human being sharing what he's learned-and learned the hard way. He reveals how, years before his marriage, his self-obsession led to a downward spiral of addiction and depression, culminating in a suicide attempt at the age of twenty.

It was the love and support Seth experienced in the aftermath, which he so poignantly depicts here, that opened his eyes to the dead end (literally) of selfishness. With a mix of humor, candor, and compassion, he reflects on the experiences in his life-his difficult missionary stint in Russia, his time as a youth leader in the Arizona desert, his marriage, even a children's story his father read to him-that led to his conviction that the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.

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Overview

Social media star: In November 2013, Seth s blog post entitled œMarriage Isn t for You garnered more than 30 million hits and resulted in interviews on Good Morning America, Fox News, and media coverage around the world. Heartfelt and moving: Smith wri

  • Social media star: In November 2013, Seth's blog post entitled "Marriage Isn't for You" garnered more than 30 million hits and resulted in interviews onGood Morning America, Fox News, and media coverage around the world.
  • Heartfelt and moving: Smith writes candidly, and at times with disarming humor, about his struggles with addiction and depression, his suicide attempt, and the happiness he discovered by focusing on others.

In Your Life Isn't for You, Seth Adam Smith expands on the philosophy outlined in his popular blog post "Marriage Isn't for You," which received over 30 million hits and has been translated into twenty languages (and counting). In this inspiring, funny, and moving book-a welcome antidote to the modern obsession with self-Seth shows how his philosophy of living for others can enrich every aspect of your life, just as it has his.

Seth writes not as an expert but as a flawed human being sharing what he's learned-and learned the hard way. He reveals how, years before his marriage, his self-obsession led to a downward spiral of addiction and depression, culminating in a suicide attempt at the age of twenty.

It was the love and support Seth experienced in the aftermath, which he so poignantly depicts here, that opened his eyes to the dead end (literally) of selfishness. With a mix of humor, candor, and compassion, he reflects on the experiences in his life-his difficult missionary stint in Russia, his time as a youth leader in the Arizona desert, his marriage, even a children's story his father read to him-that led to his conviction that the only way you can find your life is to give it away to others.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Seth Adam Smith

Seth Adam Smith is an internationally acclaimed Alaskan-born writer. In 2013, his blog post "Marriage Isn't for You"; received over thirty million hits and was translated into over twenty languages. A survivor of a suicide attempt in 2006, Seth has learned that true healing comes from focusing on others and sharing "the northern lights of life." He frequently writes about these topics on his website, SethAdamSmith.com.

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Table of Contents

  1. The Selfish Giant
  2. Winter within the Wall
  3. A Melted Heart
  4. Look Out the Window
  5. Lift Another
  6. Knock Down the Wall
  7. Finding Life on Red Square
  8. A Light in the Wilderness
  9. The Resurrected Russian
  10. The Legend of the Northern Lights

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Excerpt

Your Life Isn’t for You

1

The Selfish Giant

Images

In one degree or another we all struggle with
selfishness. Since it is so common, why worry
about selfishness anyway? Because selfishness
is really self-destruction in slow motion.

NEAL A. MAXWELL, AUTHOR

I was born with a frighteningly large head.

Seriously. It scared the nurse.

Not long after my grand entrance, she measured my head and whispered, “No, that can’t be right.”

She measured it again. “It’s not possible.”

She measured it a third time and then looked up at the doctor. “Do you realize that this boy has the biggest head I have ever measured?”3

It was a symbol of things to come. From ill-conceived notions in my six-year-old brain about my ability to create and control a bonfire behind my house to fanciful ideas that made me think I could befriend particularly aggressive wildlife,4 my big, egotistical head was always getting me into disastrous trouble.

Yes, my giant head was always getting me into trouble. But luckily, my family was always there to bail me out.

I think my father realized that if he didn’t do something (beyond the usual punishments), then his son’s self-centered ideas could very well lead to self-destruction. My dad needed something that could possibly rewire his child’s brain—something that would definitively teach the child: Selfishness, bad. Selflessness, good.

But what? Clearly, his child didn’t understand physical punishment, nor did he seem to understand words like “No!” “Stop!” or “You’re going to burn the house down!”

No, my dad needed a different, more covert approach. He needed to teach me virtues without my knowledge. That’s when it hit him: what better way to teach virtues than to read from The Book of Virtues? Surely this eight-hundred-page monstrosity contained the remedy for even the most obstinate of children.

And so, for the one and only time that I can remember, my dad sat down and read a bedtime story to my sister Jaimie and me.

The story was “The Selfish Giant,” and it was written by the Irish author Oscar Wilde. Now, I’m a lover of literature. I love all kinds of stories, novels, and works of nonfiction. But looking back, I don’t think that any other story has had more of an impact on my life.

The story is about a Giant with a large, beautiful garden. While the Giant was away, the local children would gather in his garden and play. “How happy we are here!” they cried to each other.

One day, the Giant came back. “What are you doing here?” said the Giant angrily, and the children ran away. He built a high wall around his garden to keep out any would-be trespassers. In time, the Giant decided to tear down the wall.

As my dad continued to read the story, it soon became apparent that he had never actually read it for himself. I knew this because as he reached the end, he started to get choked up.

Jaimie and I exchanged nervous glances. What was happening to Dad? Seriously. Our dad was the Stonewall Jackson of emotion. He had served in the Marine Corps and worked in the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). He carried out drug busts with a German shepherd named Happy.5 My dad had seen some crazy stuff and rarely showed his emotion. Getting choked up over a children’s story? Something was clearly wrong.

“Uh, Dad?” asked Jaimie. “Is everything OK?”

“I’m fine,” my dad replied. He hurriedly finished the story and closed the book. “Good night.”

Whatever lesson my dad had tried to teach was tossed aside as we grappled with the fact that our ex-Marine father was probably having an emotional breakdown. We sat in silence, staring at The Book of Virtues as though it were the Book of the Dead.

It seemed to stare back at us.

“The book broke Dad,” Jaimie whispered.

We agreed that the book was evil and resolved to never read from its dark pages. Which is partly why I’ve carried it with me ever since.6

But apart from the very real possibility that the book has dark, magical powers, there is another reason why I’ve held on to it for all these years. You see, as strange as it was to see my dad get choked up over a children’s story, it wasn’t the first time I had seen him express emotion. The first time had been a couple of years earlier. Actually, I can give you the exact date.

November 9, 1989.

I was absently playing with my toys when I wandered into my parents’ room and found my dad sitting in his chair, positively glued to the TV.

I followed his gaze. What I saw confused me. It was a news report from a foreign country; despite the weather being overcast, cold, and gray, a crowd of people were laughing, smiling, and dancing. The reporter was saying things like “this is truly amazing,” “a new beginning,” and “a great day.”

“What’s happening, Dad?” I asked.

“They’re tearing it down,” he said, his voice heavy with emotion.

I looked back at the screen and saw it: a wall.

The Berlin Wall.

Years later, I would learn the significance of the Berlin Wall. It was built at the height of the Cold War, a forty-year period of icy relations between the Soviet Union and the United States. The Soviets had built the wall to keep East Berlin (occupied by the Soviet Union) separate from West Berlin (occupied by England, France, and the United States). The wall quickly became a hated symbol of the political tensions between the Soviet Union and the West.

After living in Berlin for two years (1966–1968), my dad had become well acquainted with those political tensions. He firmly believed that the United States and Soviet Union would never see eye-to-eye. In his mind, the only way that wall would come down would be through all-out war. So when he saw images of West Berliners helping East Berliners tear down the wall, he almost couldn’t believe it.

“The war is over,” he whispered.

Ultimately, my dad’s inexplicable emotion over these two walls is what prompted me to hold on to the story of “The Selfish Giant.” I wanted to know why. Why did a children’s story about a giant knocking down a wall mean so much to my dad? Why did a news report about people tearing down a real wall make him shed tears?

The answers to these questions didn’t come until almost fifteen years later—when I suddenly and painfully realized that I had been living the story of “The Selfish Giant.”

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