Personal Development

Book Review – Flourish by Martin Seligman

flourish pic

Book 12 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

 

Flourish was such a fascinating read. The idea of positive psychology – focusing on building the good, instead of eliminating the bad – really resonated with me. At a very basic level Seligman says that if you spend all your time trying to eliminate things like sadness, depression, and anger you end up empty, which is not any healthier than feeling sad, depressed or angry. So you should spend as much, if not more even, time building on the positive things – what is working well, what are you grateful for, increasing your self-discipline and self-determination. These are the things that will ultimately lead you to living a better, happier life.

The five main components of “flourishing” or what makes up well-being are 1) positive emotion, 2) engagement, 3) meaning, 4) positive relationships, 5) accomplishment

My favorite part had to do with increasing accomplishment or achievement in our lives. I don’t know what that says about me.  Seligman piggybacked on the work of Angela Duckwork, whose PhD work at Penn was focused on GRIT, the combination of very high persistence and high passion for an objective.

I watched a TED talk recently from Duckworth on this topic, so getting into more detail of the research and theory behind it was incredibly interesting.

The TED talk is here. You should watch it. (But after you finish reading this.)

The underlying theory of achievement Duckworth proposed is this:

Achievement = skills X effort

Skills are made up of the cognitive process of automatic knowledge, heavy cognitive thinking about planning, refining, error checking and creativity, and how quickly you can learn new material to make it automatic.

Effort is just how much time you spend on something. And the biggest factor of that is the character traits of self-discipline and GRIT.

Those two character traits are really the only things you have a significant amount of control over when it comes to the formula for achievement.

So if I want to build Prodigy & Co to a massive success and help people change the world, I need to work on my GRIT – and help my clients with their GRIT.

But it also tells me that is what students and kids need to help them become their best selves, and the sooner we can help them increase their GRIT, the better off they will be. (Exciting news on this front coming soon!!)

I can’t wait to see Duckworth’s research on what you can do to actually increase GRIT. She has a book coming out May 3 that I have already pre-ordered.

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Let me know what you think about the achievement formula and GRIT. I’d love to hear from you.

 

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Book Review – Poke the Box

poke the boxBook 10 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

 

I’ve been a Seth Godin fan for a while, but I’ve recently discovered his awesomeness. 

Through a course offered by +Acumen on Udemy, I was reintroduced to Seth’s genius in leadership and thinking differently about life and the world. I love what he had to say, and I highly recommend the course. 

After the course, I started looking into his books and his online AltMBA (which I would love to do!). I ordered three of Seth’s books,The Purple Cow, The Dip, and The Icarus Deception  from Amazon and downloaded Poke the Box and We are All Weird on my Kindle as a part of the Kindle Unlimited program.

I loved that Poke the Box was really written as a manifesto like Seth were talking directly to you. It wasn’t earth shattering ideas or things that I had never heard before, but it was packaged in a way (and from someone I trust) that really gave me the motivation to stop wasting my time and life and just start doing.

It is full of digestible chunks of wisdom and heart and after reading it you will feel compelled to start. I know I was. And you’ll be seeing more from me soon in terms of a newly branded website and a new project to help students excel and thrive.

It’s time to start.

 

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#50BooksIn2016 – The Books (11-20)

I have committed to reading 50 books in 2016 to increase my knowledge of varied fields to up my innovation skills and my ability to make connections between seemingly unconnected ideas. And also because I love books and learning. I’m an awesome nerd like that.

For more on the commitment, check out the original post here.

For books one through ten, check out this post. (Putting all the books in one post was getting out of hand.)

This post will contain books 11-20 along with links to the reviews. Please follow along and let me know your thoughts, whether or not you have read the books.

Book 11 – The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck – by Sarah Knight

“The power of honesty cannot be overrated. I can’t tell you how many more f*cks you end up giving when you try to beat around the bush. God, even that expression sounds exhausting.” 

life changing magic

Book 12 – Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin Seligman

“The lesson from positive psychology is that positive mental health is not just the absence of mental illness… Positive mental health is a presence:  the presence of meaning… good relationships… engagement… positive emotion… accomplishment.”

flourish pic

My Review Here

 

Book 13 – Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant

originals pic

 

Book 14 – Content, Inc: How Entrepreneurs use Content to Build Massive Audiences and Create Radically Successful Businesses by Joe Pulizzi

content inc

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Book Review – The Second Machine Age

second machine ageBook 7 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

The rapid change in technology over the past few decades is unlike anything prior in human history. The impacts are just starting to be understood, but the future change is expected to be even faster than before, meaning the impacts are likely to continue evolving. Brynjolfsson and McAfee talk about the technology developments, the impacts now and the potential impacts in the future, and provide some potential solutions to some of the pitfalls of this exponential growth.

 

As long as we have written science fiction stories, we have written about machines taking over humans. The book details the advancements of machines and their impact on human labor, providing guidance on what jobs computers may or may not be able to do in the future. There are a few key areas where humans are not likely to lose ground anytime soon. Highly physical jobs will continue to need human labor. Jobs requiring ideation, large frame pattern recognition, and complex communications will also continue to be ruled by humans. (I’m particularly glad to see ideation on the list.)

 

While the increase in technology has brought with it a great bounty in a number of areas, it has also brought with it a great spread between those at the top and those at the bottom. This gap is the largest concern to the authors in terms of the continued exponential growth in technology. Many of the jobs being done by machines now are those previously help by the middle class. Basic manual labor and high-level thinking are the jobs that can’t be done by computers and the wage gap between them is incredibly large.

Some suggestions are provided to help ease the spread without affecting the bounty, mostly around overall increases in the economy and the total number of jobs. Entrepreneurship is highly praised.

After having read the book, I am more confident in my ability to earn money due to my focus on innovation and creativity. Technology is rapidly changing, however. If some day computers can help you innovate your life and your business, I’ll be in trouble.
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Book Review: Subliminal by Leonard Mlodinow

Book 5 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

Subliminal - Copy

Subliminal is a fascinating look at the dual layers of the brain – the conscious and the subconscious – and how everything in our lives is impacted by subconscious processing we aren’t even aware of.

Numerous scientific studies are described and discussed on how this subliminal processing goes on. One of the more interesting things that was found in many of these studies is how often people believed they were behaving or making choices based on one thing, but the researchers could prove the decisions were really based on something else.

A few of big things for me were:

1) The way people group themselves and how much it impacts decision making. Even when the grouping was completely random, and the people in the group together had nothing in common and no real reason to be grouped, they had a significant preference over the people in their group to those in other groups. Significant. Takeaway: You want to be in everyone’s group in some way. Find the commonalities and focus on them.

2) Categorization of things and people (read: stereotyping) can be minimized by maximizing contact with those in the “categories” and realizing how different they all are. Takeaway: go lots of places and meet lots of people – experience the world.

3) People are just as likely – if not more likely – to believe something is true and seek evidence to prove it than they are to rationally and logically seek evidence to prove something. We find reasons to justify that the horse we bet on is the fastest, just because we bet on it. We find evidence of what good drivers we are because we believe we are good drivers. Takeaway: If you believe that you are an exceptional, successful, happy person, you will start to find (and create) the evidence to prove that it is true.

Mlodinow takes some very heady scientific topics and research and makes them easy to understand and enjoyable. It was a great read and I highly recommend it.

 

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Book Review: Headstrong by Rachel Swaby

Book 3 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.
Headstrong

What most impacted me about Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World was the persistence with which these women pursued their dreams and passions in the face of so much adversity. There were many times while reading the stories that I visibly cringed and said out loud things like “Really?” and “I can’t believe that was a thing” and more. I read passages out loud to my partner so he would also know what these women went through. He also cringed, but was more annoyed with me interrupting what he was doing.

Working for free, being denied educations and jobs completely, and not getting credit for their work were the most common challenges the scientists Rachel Swaby wrote about dealt with while advancing their fields in immeasurable ways. For example, Ellen Richards was the first woman ever admitted to MIT, and she attended tuition free so “MIT could claim she wasn’t really a student and that her admission did not establish a precedent for the general admission of females.”  Richards later stated she didn’t fully realize her status at the university and “Had I realized upon what basis I was taken, I would not have gone.”

The women in Headstrong won Nobel Prizes, create brand new fields of scientific research, cured diseases, and completed research that changed the course of history (like the development of in vitro fertilization and research that spurred the creation of the EPA to protect the environment).

I am not sure I would have the courage to grit to persevere through the many setbacks these women encountered to continue my work. It is likely because of these women (and many others in many fields) that I’ve never had to endure that kind of sexism.

Headstrong was incredibly humbling from that perspective. It was also a generally very informative and interesting read learning the stories behind some of the greatest scientific discoveries in history. I highly recommend it!

 

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Book Review: The Medici Effect by Frans Johansson

Book 2 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. Find out more about the challenge here.

medici effectThis book was recommended to me recently by a friend when discussing how connecting ideas leads to greater innovation. I mentioned the books How Breakthroughs Happen by Andrew Hargadon and Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson (both excellent books) and my friend mentioned The Medici Effect.

Given this lead to the book, I shouldn’t have been so surprised by the overlapping concepts between the three, yet I still was.

Many of the stories used to illustrate the concepts of random combinations creating successful innovations, such as how Magic: The Gathering card game was created or anything relating to Thomas Edison I’ve seen multiple times, not just in the books mentioned here. On one hand, it helps solidify the concepts, on the other, more variety would be nice.

Of the three, if you were to only pick one, I would recommend Where Good Ideas Come From. The Medici Effect has some interesting and fairly practical ways to find and spend more time in what Johansson calls the “Intersection”, but Johnson goes much deeper with the concepts in Where Good Ideas Come From. Hargadon focuses more specifically on the business benefits of innovation, so it certainly has its place in innovation cannon and I would still recommend it for that reason.

Overall, the main thing I realized after reading this book is that I need to expand the universe of books I plan to read this year if I truly want to have more access to the small worlds of Hargadon, the Intersections of Johansson and the serendipity, exaptations, and adjacent possible of Johnson.  So my book list will be expanding and changing. It is 58 long (& strong) right now, so I will pick and choose as I go, but I’ve added more science, technology, and history and will likely cut out some of the business and innovation books. Or, maybe I’ll get to them all this year, as I am ahead of schedule for now.

 

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Book Review: The Future of God by Deepak Chopra

Future of GodBook 1 for my #50BooksIn2016 challenge. 
Find out more about the challenge here.

I picked this book up randomly at a Barnes & Noble a while back. (Yes, they still exist and I still go to them.) I’ve been struggling with my own feelings of religion and spirituality, and without getting too far into the weeds on that – another time and place, perhaps, the back cover of the book seemed as though it could shed some interesting light on my internal debate.

In the end, it did, although it took a long and winding road to get there.

Overall, I liked the concept of the book and what it had to say about God in our lives in modern society. In a very small nutshell, the premise of the book is that God (and religion) has fallen out of favor in modern society for numerous reasons, but there is a way to bring him back into our lives. In fact, we must bring him back if we are to not fall into utter chaos and despair as a society.

The long and winding road to get to the way we can begin to experience God again has a lot to do with a rebuttal to staunch atheism as espoused by Richard Dawkins and a few others. I think this rebuttal was the main premise of Chopra writing the book, and while that discussion was interesting on some level, it wasn’t what I was looking for. I could have selected a few chapters and gotten what I was searching for much quicker. Although saying that somehow feels like it goes against some of the main principles Chopra discusses such as “letting go” and “releasing expectations”. I just finished it, I need some time to practice.

Chopra’s main premise is that God is consciousness and existence and Being, and that alignment with this brings ultimate self-awareness or oneness or “enlightenment” as it is more commonly know. He provides daily practices, such as the mentioned “letting go” and “releasing expectations” and describes why they are important. He discusses evil in the world and how to comprehend it in terms of this God that is consciousness. While I’m not sure I bought into or understood it all, I like the direction he goes.

In general, I would recommend the book if you are on a spiritual journey that isn’t tied to a specific religion, although it could still be helpful if you are more a believer in the principles of a religion than the hard and fast rules of a religion. He does speak out about that type of religious belief.  I found the last third or so of the book on Knowledge of God to be informative and certainly a basis to begin seeking God, although not the final word. But a true spiritual journey shouldn’t have a final word, should it?

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#50BooksIn2016 – The Books (1-10)

I have committed to reading 50 books in 2016 to increase my knowledge of varied fields to up my innovation skills and my ability to make connections between seemingly unconnected ideas. And also because I love books and learning. I’m an awesome nerd like that.

For more on the commitment, check out the original post here.

For books 11 through 20, check out this post.

This post will contain books one through 10 I read along with links to the reviews. Please follow along and let me know your thoughts, whether or not you have read the books.

Book 1 – The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for our Times by Deepak Chopra

“Faith sees the divine in every aspect of creation.”

Future of God

 My review here.

Book 2 – The Medici Effect: What Elephants and Epidemics can Teach us about Innovation by Frans Johansson

“Everything connects in one way or another. The trick is seeing how things connect and then knowing how to use those connections”

medici effect

 My review here.

Book 3 – Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World by Rachel Swaby

“The materials of science are the materials of life itself. Science is a part of the reality of living; it is the what, the how, and the why of everything in our experience.” (Rachel Carson quoted in Headstrong)

Headstrong

My review here.

Book 4 – Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Americans believe in the reality of “race” as a defined, indubitable feature of the natural world. Racism – the need to ascribe bone-deep features to people and then humiliate, reduce, and destroy them – inevitably follows from this inalterable condition.”

Between the world and me

I don’t really feel like I can adequately review this book, or really even comment. It is such a raw and emotional account of something that I could never possibly understand that I feel like any commentary I provide would be deficient on so many levels.
It is absolutely worth the read to gain some small perspective on this hugely important issue of racism today. None of us can every truly understand how something feels unless we experience it ourselves and Coates does an amazing job of detailing his experiences and background to provide a glimpse into what racism feels like. I don’t know that I have ever read anything that has given me such insight into how someone else perceives the world.

 

Book 5 – Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior – Leonard Mlodinow

“Our brains are not simply recording a taste or other experience, they are creating it.”

 

Subliminal - Copy

Book 6 –  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

“I began to see that the pen and the words that come from it can be much more powerful than machine guns, tanks or helicopters. We were learning how to struggle. And we were learning how powerful we are when we speak.”

Malala

 

Book 7 – The Second Machine Age: Work Progress and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee

” We predict that people who are good at idea creation will continue to have a comparative advantage over digital labor for some time to come and will find themselves in demand.” 

second machine age

My review here

Book 8 – The Stranger: Albert Camus

stranger book

Book 9 – On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks by Simon Garfield

 “In other words, maps hold a clue to what makes us human… They reflect our best and worst attributes – discovery and curiosity, conflict and destruction, and they chart our transitions of power.” 

on the map

 

Book 10 – Poke the Box by Seth Godin

“I’m not encouraging you to be bold and right.
I’m not encouraging you to figure out how to always initiate
a smart and proven and profitable idea.
I’m merely encouraging you to start. 
Often. Forever.
Be the one who starts things.”

poke the box

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#50BooksIn2016 – The Commitment

This year, I’ve committed to reading 50 books.

#50BooksIn2016

In all of the reading and research I’ve done on creativity, innovation, and breakthroughs, the most prolific theme is around making new and random connections between seemingly unconnected ideas. To up my innovation game and increase my knowledge of disparate worlds so that I may begin to make more of these connections, I have made this reading commitment, which is not quite a book a week all year (that would be 52, if you are counting).

My list of potential books spans multiple different fields (and includes some fiction, as well) and already numbers beyond 50. I am sure new books will be published this year I want to read more or I will be swayed by recommendations from friends and colleagues, so the list is fluid and flexible. This goal isn’t meant to be a hard and fast rule that binds me, but a goal that pushes my boundaries for disciple and learning. I will read what I am most interested in at any given time.

As a part of the process, I will be posting each book as I read it and will write some level of review when I have finished them. Some will be more detailed than others, depending on the content and my feelings about the book. I will be posting quotes on Instagram and Twitter as well, using the hashtag #50BooksIn2016.

I just finished my first book, The Future of God by Deepak Chopra, and that review will follow shortly.

I hope you will follow along and gain something from my reading and reviews. Feel free to join me with your own reading commitment, whether 50 books, 24, 12 or 1.

Here’s to continued learning and connecting ideas!