What Doesn't Kill Us, by Scott Carney

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Has dependence on technology made us weak? (pg xv).


“But barring an urgent need for survival the human body is perfectly content to simply rest and do nothing. Doing things, doing anything, requires a certain amount of energy, and our bodies would rather save up that energy just in case they need it later . . . “ (pg xviii).


“What happens when we think about the body in terms of its preprogrammed responses to the world? In most cases, the strategies that our bodies used to adapt to stress are completely outside of our conscious control. You don’t have to think about sweating when you’re working out. Your body just does it. You breathe harder at altitude when you need more oxygen. Your heart and adrenal glands respond to threats before you even have a chance to think about them - giving you extra power in a moment of need. There is an entire hidden world of human biological responses that lies beyond our conscious minds that is intrinsically linked to the environment” (pg xxix).


“In the last couple hundred years we’ve put all these barriers on ourselves . . . {We’re} like, Oh fuck! It’s cold outside. I’m just going to sit at home and be comfortable. {We} don’t realize that the entire human race has been conditioned to think that the outdoors is dangerous. Or that working out in the cold is lunacy. But guess what? This is something that people have been doing for hundreds of thousands of year. We were made for it” (pg. 153).


Wim Hof is the brainchild and inspiration behind much of what Carney has to say.

There is also a few documentaries on Wim Hof:

He, Scott Carney, also mentions the November Project, a free fitness program dedicated to “Human development and community building through empowering group workouts.”

Grade: C

Reading the Preface and Introduction was sufficient enough for me. Perhaps this idea is better suited as an article with a few links to those he draws inspiration from. Plus, I hate cold water. So there’s that.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Books : Reading Log

The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls

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An English teacher asked me to read this and let her know any thoughts I might have, since she will be teaching it next year. Here is what I wrote her:

 

Book cover:  

Cover it before handing out to students (if I’m a guy, I’m not interested). Plus, the cover does little justice, I think, for the book. So, have the students create a cover that catches the theme, mood, and important symbols of the book. Then, on the back, instead of a synopsis, write a brief explanation for why they designed the book cover the way they did, citing various scenes and/or quotes.  

You could then reveal the actual cover and have them analyze it’s portrayal of the book: Where does it work? Where doesn’t it?  

 

Possible connections: 

 

Favorite Quotes:  

  • “Mom, however, thought it was one of the most beautiful trees she had ever seen” (pg 35). You can do almost an entire lesson on this opening paragraph: 

  • Why does she find it so beautiful? What connections does she have with the tree? 

  • How does the life of this tree relate to her life (continue this imagery throughout the rest of the book)? In the end, does she become a beautiful “Joshua tree” or something else? Explain. 

  • Then, a few pages later, she says, “We gave them a little extra time on the planet, they should be grateful for that” (pg 37) . . . how is this sentiment very Joshua tree-ish?  
     

  • “That was the thing to remember about all monsters, dad said: They love to frighten people, but the minute you stare them down, they turn tail and run. All you have to do, Mountain Goat, is show old Demon that you’re not afraid” (pg 37). When I first read this I thought, “Damn. Dad is a complex character,” and as the story transpired, it became clear that he is also a man who cannot scare his own demons (his mother).  

  • Yet, in the final pages, he says, “I must have done something right”, and Mountain Goat agrees, “Course you did” (pg 279). What is it? What did he do right?  
     

  • “Something in all of us broke that day, and afterward, we no longer had the spirit for family gatherings” (pg 277). This is huge, I think. After all this family had been through, what did this event break the family? What is so special about it? So unique? And/or so devastating?  

 

Thoughts to Consider: 

  • What makes a “good” parent? Is it simply provisions (house, clothing, education, etc.)? Can a parent provide all the things a child needs/wants and still be a bad parent? Can a child be raised in poverty, lacking the necessities of life, and still have good parents? What makes a good parent good and a bad parent bad? 

  • What role does child trauma play on an adult’s life? Is the dad given a pass, or at least grace, because there is a very real chance he was abused by his own mother, or does that no longer matter, once he has children of his own? Explain. 

  • (Sorry, this one is kind of a soapbox🙂) Do you know anything about how your parents were raised? If not, why not? If not, could you find out?  

    • We are all so quick to judge our parents, to point out where and how they failed us. Yet, what do we know about their parents? How they were raised? And what obstacles they’ve had to overcome, just to simply provide a roof over our heads? What was their childhood like?  

    • If we don’t know . . . could we ask?  

Grade: B-

I don’t know. I’ve read similar stories that were better told.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Books : Reading Log

Real Talk for Real Teachers, by Rafe Esquith

“Most of the teachers you meet are the best sort of people. They are caring and sensitive. Their value cannot be measured by a series of test scores. But there are some teachers you need to avoid. Sadly, they are in practically every school I have observed. They usually hang out in the lunchroom or parking lot nursing a bad attitude toward teaching, the principal, their students, and often one another. These negative folks do not thrive in solitary confinement, and they invite discouraged young teachers to join their circle of misery. I urge you to stay away from them. These teachers are of no good to you and certainly of no benefit to the students” (pg 14).

“Being tough does not mean being intimidating” (pg 34).

Because I didn’t feel like typing . . .

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“But often - more often than most teachers care to debate - students misbehave in school because they are bored . . . the most effective way to keep a class in order is with an interesting lesson. When activities are fascinating and exciting, you have a more reasonable punishment for bad behavior. The punishment is the missing of the lesson, and very few students want to be left out when they actually believe they are going to miss something fun and stimulating” (pg 64)

“Try to set up your lesson as part of a grand scheme . . . to work toward a bigger picture in your own head and in the minds of your students'“ (pg 65).

Students make mistakes, “but if a door is not left open for possible redemption, there is no motivation for a student to try to do better” (pg 71).

“When people are disagreeable might be the most important time of all to be civilized . . . remember that children are watching” (pg 77).

“This job should be fun. Don’t let anyone cause you to forget that” (pg 96).

“Good students help other people. They are aware of the world around them. Real scholars know that the recitation of facts is a beginning, and not and end, of knowledge” (pg 107).

“The best teachers choose character over reputation. It does not matter what misinformed people think about our performance. It matters who we really are” (pg 111).

“Jealousy is an ugly emotion that often leads to unprofessional and cruel behavior” (pg 127).

“Every hour of every day we teachers make sure the kids see the relevance in what they are doing” (pg 139).

Burn brighter, not out (pg 215)

“When pain comes, it is an opportunity to reflect and grow” (pg 215).

And because he’s this kind of teacher, he gets his students to perform - and understand - this type of work:

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Books : Reading Log

Natural Born Heros: Christopher McDougall

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“Empathy, the Greeks believed, was a source of strength, not softness; the more you recognized yourself in others and connected with their distress, the more endurance, wisdom, cunning, and determination you could tap into” (pg 29).

“On Crete, a grown-up is known as a dromeus, or “runner.” To be considered a full Cretan, you had to be strong enough and resourceful enough to run to someone’s aid. Until then, young Cretans are just apodromos - “not quite a runner” - and the ritual passage into adulthood was celebrated with the festival of Dromaia - “the Running” (pg 48).

“When you’re doomed to fail, how do you avoid living in doubt and despair? By living, not doubting” (pg 52).

From Philip II, Warlord of Macedon: “If I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.”

Spartans to Philip II: “If.”

“We like to think of ourselves as masters of our own destinies, as lone wolves in a dog-eat-dog world, but guess what: Dogs don’t eat dogs. They work together. As do most species. As do we” Or, as we should (pg 205).

“Because being a god on earth is a natural human desire, and saving someone else is the closest we’ll ever come to achieving it” (pg 205).

Truth strength lies beneath the muscles, in the knowledge that whatever challenges arise, we’re ready (pg 208).

“The Natural Method was never about trying to live forever; the goal was to make a difference before you died” (pg 208).

Grade: B+

Every now and then, the many threads that make up the story were a bit confusing - or distracting - but a great read and truly inspiring.

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

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Great read. Not perfect, and I for sure have opinions, which is why it’s a great read. It’s challenging and enlightening and a great promotional tool for discussion on a variety of topics.

If taught in school (or home), I think it would be great to pare it with these:

Podcast: Silvon Simmons, by Criminal, “My first instinct, to be honest, was they shot this guy and now there’s a coverup.” -Liz Riley, Special Assistant Public Defender, Monroe County Public Defender’s Office.

Short Film:

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Books : Reading Log

Good to Great, by Jim Collins

That’s what makes death so hard - unsatisfied curiosity - Beryl Markham

“Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life” (pg 1).

“The good-to-great companies did not focus principally on what to do to become great; they focused equally on what not to do and what to stop doing” . . . “they had no name, tag line, launch event, or program to signify their transformation” . . . because “greatness is not a function of circumstances. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice” (pg 11).

“Every good-to-great company embraced what we came to call the Stockdale Paradox: You must maintain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, AND at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be” (pg 13).

“When you have disciplined thought, you don’t need bureaucracy. When you have disciplined action, you don’t need excessive controls” (pg 13).

“You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit” - Harry Truman

Never stop trying to become qualified for the job - pg 20

“Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results. They will sell the mills or fire their brother, if that’s what it takes to make the company great again” (pg 30).

“Good-to-great leaders understand three simple truths:

  1. Begin with who, rather than what

  2. if you have the right people on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away

  3. if you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great vision without great people is irrelevant” (pg 42).

“Good-to-great companies placed greater weight on character attributes than on specific educational background, practical skills, specialized knowledge, or work experience” (pg 51).

Good-to-great companies are “not ruthless cultures, they’re rigorous cultures. And the distinction is crucial . . . To be rigorous means consistently applying exacting standards at all times and at all levels, especially in upper management. To be rigorous, not ruthless, means that the best people need not worry about their positions and can concentrate fully on their work” (pg 52).

“To deal with it right up front and let people get on with their lives - that is rigorous” (pg 53).

Good-to-great companies don’t compromise. They keep fighting until they get through it and find the right people (pg 55).

“Letting the wrong people hang around is unfair to all the right people” (pg 56).

“Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems” (pg 58).

“You absolutely cannot make a series of good decisions without first confronting the brutal facts” (pg 70).

“There is nothing wrong with pursuing a vision for greatness. After all, the good-to-great companies also set out to create greatness. But, unlike comparison companies, the good-to-great companies continually refined the path to greatness with the brutal facts of reality” (pg 71).

“The moment a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocrity, or worse” (pg 72).

“Yes, leadership is about vision. But leadership is equally about creating a climate where the truth is head and the brutal facts confronted. There’s a huge difference between the opportunity to “have your say” and the opportunity to be heard. The good-to-great leaders understood this distinction, creating a culture wherein people had a tremendous opportunity to be heard and, ultimately for the truth to be heard” (pg 74).

“What separates people is not the presence or absence of difficulty, but how they deal with the inevitable difficulties of life” (pg 86).

Hedgehog Concept (pg 90)

What are you passionate about?
What can you be the best at?
What can you NOT be the best at?

You may not become the best, but you could - Joanne Colins, World’s Best Triathlete (pg 117).

Building a Culture of Discipline:

  1. Build a culture around the idea of freedom and responsibility, within a framework

  2. Fill that culture with self-disciplined people who are willing to go to extreme lengths to fulfill their responsibilities. They will “rinse their cottage cheese".”

  3. Don’t confuse a culture of discipline with a tyrannical disciplinarian

  4. Adhere with great consistency to the Hedgehog Concept” (pg 124).

“The real question is, once you know the right thing, do you have the discipline to do the right thing and, equally important, to stop doing the wrong things?” (pg 141).

“Good to great comes about by a cumulative process - step by step, action by action, decision by decision, turn by turn of the flywheel - that adds up to sustained and spectacular results . . . good-to-great executives simply could not pinpoint a single key event or moment in time that exemplified transition . . . it was a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create the best future results and then simply taking those steps, one after the other, turn by turn of the flywheel (pg 165-167).

“Good-to-great executives simply could not pinpoint a single key event or moment in time that exemplified the transition . . . it was a quiet, deliberate process of figuring out what needed to be done to create the best future results and then simply taking those steps, one after the other, turn by turn of the flywheel” (pg 168-169).

“The other frequently observed doom loop pattern is that of new leaders who stepped in, stopped an already spinning flywheel, and threw it in an entirely new direction” (pg 181). The flywheel is two things: consistent and coherent (pg 182).

Walt Disney “installed a remarkable constancy of purpose that permeated every new Disney venture - namely, to bring happiness to millions, especially children” (pg 196).

Get Out There : Normalize Greatness

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I recently listened to a discussion with Kim Chambers on REI’s podcast, Wild Ideas Worth Living, and it kinda charged my life.

Kim Chambers was 30 years old, an athlete and a powerful executive, when she slipped and fell down a set of stairs. The injuries she sustained changed the course of her life. Not only did she prove doctors wrong about being able to be an athlete again, but she became one of the most accomplished marathon swimmers in the world, after never swimming competitively in her life before the injury (via)

She attributes her success, largely, to the company she kept. By inserting herself into a world of adventurers who were, at their core, just ordinary people who were doing amazing things, she found herself surrounded by a society who had normalized great achievements. Suddenly, doing great things wasn’t so impossible. It was ordinary, if not expected. “If you want to do something that changes your life,” she says in the interview, surround “yourself with people who believe in you.”

This idea, of normalizing great achievements really struck me. Encouraged me. And challenged me to get out to surround myself with people and stories of people who do amazing things. To get comfortable with living a bit more wild, and free.

To help get my mind and body kickstarted into a new way of thinking and living, I bought a few books (and a bike), and I’ve just recently finished the first, Out There: The Wildest Stories from Outside Magazine. Here are few of my favorite stories, in order of appearance:

  • They Call Me Groover Boy, by Kevin Fedarko, “What’s it like to be captain of the ‘poop boat’ and steering three weeks of human waste through some of America’s gnarliest whitewater? Read and find out.”
    (no video for this one:)

  • The Hell on Earth Fitness Plan, by Nick Heil, “In 2008, {Nick} heard about Gym Jones, a back-to-basics workout center with a (very) tough love ethos run by former climbing star Mark Twight. We’re still somewhat surprised Nick lived to tell the story.”

  • Open Your Mouth and You’re Dead, by James Nestor, “The freediving world championships occur at the outer limits of competitive risk. During the 2011 event, held off the coast of Greece, more than 130 athletes assembled to swim hundreds of fee straight down on a single breath - without (they hoped) passing out, freaking out, or drowning.”

  • Quoosiers, by Eric Hansen, “The Quidditch World Cup sounds dorky, and make no mistake: it is. But these sorcery-loving Harry Potter fans play pretty tough, as Eric Hansen found out when we sent him to captain a bad-news team of ex-athletes, ultimate Frisbee studs, slobs, drunks, and some people he knows from Iceland.”

  • The World’s Toughest Bike Race is not in France, by Jon Billman, “The rules are simple: Start pedaling at the Canadian border, and the first fat tire to hit Mexico wins.”

  • Reversal of Fortune (Lucky Chance), by Elizabeth Weil, “Maybe you’ve never heard of Lucky Chance - born Toby Benham - but the Australian climber, circus act, and all-around stunt monkey was testing the limits of BASE jumping in 2011 when he survived a horrible mountainside crash in France. What happens when a highflier falls to earth? He starts over.”

The book is broken into three parts: To Hell and Back, Let the Games Begin, and Consumed. The last section appropriately spends time reminding us that there are indeed lines to our extremes, and when we cross them, bad things happen. Sometimes really bad things.

I absolutely loved this book, especially the middle story, “The Hell on Earth Fitness Plan,” from which my (I think) a better title for the book comes: Prove you’re alive (pg 166). A few pages later, Heil writes, “Changing your body is just mechanics; it changing your mind that presents the real challenge. If the mind is not first trained to enjoy hard work, to relish suffering, to address the unknown, then no program, no amount of training can be effective . . . the muscle we are interested in training is inside the skull” (pg 171).

Damn. That’s good.

To find a group of people with a similar mindset, who believe hard work and simple sufferings are normal, then suddenly, great things are happening. Because that too is normal.

And if one cannot find a group, be the group.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Books : Reading Log : Inspiration


Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, by John Taylor Gatto

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“The logic of the school-mind is that it is better to leave school with a toolkit of superficial jargon derived from economics, sociology, natural science, and so on than with one genuine enthusiasm. But quality education entails learning about something in depth. Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working alone with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not posses.
Meaning, not disconnected facts, is what sane human beings seek, and education is a set of codes for processing raw data into meaning” (pg 3).

I was recommended this book by a mother of one of my students. I’m glad I read it, but mainly because I found myself disagreeing with it - vehemently. Which, at times, I like.

I will, however, have to buy her a new book. I forgot it wasn’t mine and wrote too many curse words in the margins.

Here’s a few examples why:

"Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do . . . this power to control what children will think lets me separate successful students from failures very easily (pg 7), but bad teachers require this, foster this, and do little about it when it happens. F U John Taylor Gatto.

“Don’t be too quick to vote for radical school reform if you want to continue getting a paycheck” (pg 9), and don’t expect to change the world if your chief concern is getting a paycheck. F U John Taylor Gatto.

“School is a twelve-year jail sentence where bad habits are the only curriculum truly learned. I teach school and win awards doing it. I should know” (pg 19). F U John Taylor Gatto. The fact that you “win awards” and think this way IS the problem - YOU are the problem. F U.

“The truth is schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders” (pg 21). F U John Taylor Gatto.

“At the core of this elite system of education is the belief that self-knowledge is the only basis of true knowledge” and that is why it fails. Why anything fails, if it believe self to be the one, true determiner of truth and happiness and purpose. F U John Taylor Gatto.

“I’m confident that as they gain self-knowledge they’ll also become self-teachers - and only self-teaching has any lasting value” (pg 31). Nope. Ever been inspired by someone? Their words? Their life? Their teachings? Nope, never? Interesting.

“I can honestly say I have never once heard an extended conversation about children or about teaching theory in any teachers’ room I’ve been in” (pg 40). The problem isn’t them. It’s you. Because I can honestly say that I have never NOT been in an extended conversation about children or about teaching theory because THAT’S WHAT GOOD TEACHERS DO!!!! F U John Taylor Gatto.

“The United States has become a nation of institutions, whereas it used to be a nation of communities” (pg 56). Seems a bit unfair, and largely untrue. Salem anyone? How was that for a community?

“Parent, for the most part, are lied to or told half-truths, as they are usually considered adversaries. At least that’s been true in every school I ever worked in” (pg 64). Again, the issue is you.

“Perhaps it is time to try something different. ‘Good fences make good neighbors,’ said Robert Frost. The natural solution to learning to live together in a community is first to learn to live apart as individuals and as families. Only when you feel good about yourself can you feel good about others” (pg 71). This IS the problem of education - and our culture at large. IT ISN’T ABOUT YOU!!! We find our purpose and “feel good” not by serving ourselves AND THEN others, but by serving others! Then we find ourselves. F U John Taylor Gatto.

Here are some good ones:

“Sometimes the problem is the problem of mastering solitude” (pg 30). That’s pretty good.

“Aristotle saw, a long time ago, that fully participating in a complex range of human affairs was the only way to become fully human” (pg 47). Good on you, Aristotle. Good on you.

“What’s gotten in the way of education in the United States is a theory of social engineering that says there is one right way to proceed with growing up” (pg 68). Agreed. Whole heartedly. This, to me, points to purpose rather than a system. Change the purpose, change the system. But yes, Mr. Gatto, I agree.

A quote from Christopher Lasch: “The people who think globally do so by abstractly and statistically reducing the globe to quantities . . . If you want to do good and preserving acts you must think and act locally” (pg 80). Perhaps, Mr. Gatto, you should stick to quoting others.

To help compensate, I suggest reading:

  • End of Education, by Neil Postman

  • There Are No Short Cuts, by Rafe Esquith

  • Walking on Water, by Derick Jensen

  • Teacher Man, by Frank McCourt

These are my kind of teachers.

For more one . . .

Education : Reading Log

Creativity, INC. Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull

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“What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problems, we marshal all of our energies to solve it” (pg x).

“If we made something that we wanted to see, others would want to see it, too” (pg xi).

“We start from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute. We accept that, without meaning to, our company is stifling that talent in myriad unseen ways. Finally, we try to identify those impediments and fix them” (pg xv).

“The obvious payback of exceptional people are that they innovate, excel, and generally make your company - and, by extension, you - look good” (pg 23).

“The responsibility for finding and fixing problems should be assigned to every employee, from the most senior manager to the lowliest person on the production line” (pg 50).

“When downsides coexist with upsides, as they oftedn do, people are reluctant to explore what’s bugging them, for fear of being labeled complainers.” But, “if left unaddressed, {it} could fester and destroy Pixar”. Or anything (pg 63).

“Our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions” (pg 64).

“It would be a mistake to think that merely gathering a bunch of people in a room for a candid discussion every couple of months will automatically cure your company’s ills” (pg 104).

“If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy - trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it - dooms you to fail” (pg 109).

“How do you make failure into something people can face without fear? . . . If leaders can talk about our mistakes and our part in them, then we make it safe for others . . . Being open about problems is the first step toward learning from them” (pg 111).

“When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work - even when it is confounding them” (pg 113).

“One of the most crucial responsibilities of leadership is creating a culture that rewards those who lift not just our stock prices but our aspirations as well” (pg 123).

“Originality is fragile” (pg 131).

“Fear makes people reach for certainty and stability, neither of which guarantee the safety they imply” (pg 148).

“If you don’t try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead” (pg 169).

“Confirmation Bias: the tendency of people to favor information true or not, that confirms their preexisting beliefs . . . If our mental models are mere approximations of reality, then, the conclusions we draw cannot help but be prone to error. A few words uttered by someone close to us can carry enormous weight, for example, whereas the same words uttered by a stranger won’t resonate at all. At our jobs, we may interpret not being invited to a meeting as a threat to us or to our projects, even when no threat is intended. But because we often don’ see the flaws in our reasoning - or our biases - it’s easy to be deluded while being quite convinced that we are the only sane ones around . . . once a model of how we should work gets in our head, it is difficult to change” (pg 181, 182).

“There are limits to data, and some people rely on it too heavily. Analyzing it correctly is difficult, and it is dangerous to assume that you always know what it means. It is very easy to find false patters” because, “a large portion of what we manage can’t be measured, and not realizing this has unintended consequences” (pg 219).

“People want decisivenss, but they also want honesty about when you’ve effed up. It’s a huge lesson: include people in your problems, not just your solutions” (pg 228).

“If you’re sailing across the ocean and your goal is to avoid weather and waves, then why the hell are you sailing? You have to embrace that sailing means that you can’t control the elements and that there will be good days and bad days and that, whatever comes, you will deal with it because your goal is to eventually get to the other side. You will not be able to control exactly how you get across. That’s the game you’ve decided to be in. If your goal is to make it easier and simpler, then don’t get in the boat” (pg 228).

“While everyone appreciates cash bonuses, they value something else almost as much: being looked in the eye by someone they respect and told, ‘Thank you"‘“ (pg 272).

Personal Project Days:
The allowance “to work on anything they wanted, using Pixar’s resources to engage with whatever problem or question they found interesting . . . any idea that sparked their curiosity, they were free to pursue.”
”Just give people time, and they come up with the ideas . . . that’s the beauty of it: It comes from them” (pg 281).

Thoughts for Managing a Creative Culture:

  • There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.

  • Be wary of making too many rules. Rules can simplify life for managers, but they can be demeaning to the 95 percent who behave well. Don’t create rules to rein in the other 5 percent - address abuses of common sense individuality. this is more work but ultimately healthier.

  • Don’t confuse the process with the goal. Working on our process to make them better, easier, and more efficient is an indispensable activity and something we should continually work on - but it is not the goal. Making the product great is the goal.

Disconnected: How to Reconnect our Digitally Distracted Kids, by Thomas Kersting

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Our devices have become such a part of who we are that we may be losing sight of who we are.
- Thomas Kersting

“We and our children do not have control over electronic devices and screens; electronic devices and screens have control over us” (pg ii).

“In 2007 Small began researching technology’s impact on the brain and discovered that when research subjects spent as little as an hour a day online, the activity patters in their brains changed dramatically. According to Small, ‘the human brain is malleable, always changing in response to its environment.’ Dr. Small explains that the brain is very sensitive. Every stimulation the brain receives causes a complex cascade of neurochemical electrical consequences. With repeated stimuli the neural circuits in the brain become excited and if other neural circuits are neglected they will be weakened. A young person’s brain, which is still developing, is particularly sensitive and is also the kind of brain that is most exposed to modern technology” (pg 4).

“the more we become used to just sound bites and tweets, the less patient we will become with more complex, more meaningful information. And I do think we might lose the ability to analyze things with any depth and nuance” (pg 4).

“This lack of face-to-face interaction, particularly for children, is evident in their reduced social and communication skills, making it difficult for them to handle the everyday bumps in the road of life. The end result: a substantial increase in stress, anxiety, and self-esteem issues” and “if young folks spend most of their time communicating through text messaging rather than face-to-face, the brain will weed out the neural pathways that are necessary for becoming a good face-to-face communicator” (pg 7, 9).

Chapter 2: Cyberspace Children : A Full-Time Job

“In 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation released the findings from a 2004 study” that “revealed that the average eight to eighteen year old spent six and a half hours per day using electronic media” (pg 15). In 2008, that number “had risen by over an hour, to seven hours and thirty-eight minutes per day, seven days a week” meaning “the average kid in America was spending more time per week plugged in to electronic devices than the average full-time worker was spending at work.”

Between 2004 and 2008, YouTube and Facebook had been introduced to the world.

What’s even more alarming “is that the Kaiser study did not include smartphone or tablet use because they weren’t relevant in 2008 . . . In October of 2015, Common Sense Media conducted the most up-to-date, large-scale, probability-based survey to explore young people’s media diets. The findings were that the average American teenager now spends nine hours per day, or sixty-three hours per week, immersed in electronic media, not including school-related technology” (pg 18).

Chapter 13: Social Media and the Development of Self -Esteem

“Our children are on the receiving end of hundreds, even thousands, of narcissistic photographs from their peers, which can cause them to start questioning the quality of their own life when compared to everyone else’s” (pg 26).

“Children need to experience rejection at times in order to develop a sense of “self” by overcoming adversity and learning from it“ (pg 18).

The word ‘self’ is the crucial part of self-esteem, it is not ‘others’-esteem. But that is what is happening” because they’ve lost their sense of purpose. A sense of purpose can be defined “as ongoing motivation that is self-directed, oriented toward the future, and beneficial to others” (pg 28).

Chapter 4: The Multitasking Brains of Kids

“High multitaskers fail miserably at counting the correct number of passes btween the girls wearing white tee shirts because their brains can’t help but be distracted by the girls in black along with other distractions happening in the video. Low multitaskers have no problem counting the correct number of passes between the girls wearing white” because high multitaskers use “twenty times more of their brain . . . than low multitaskers.” But they’re using the wrong part of their brain, “the part known as the visual cortex. Low multitaskers needed only a small amount of brainpower to complete the task, and it was the area of the brain they were supposed to be using, the pre-frontal cortex. In other words, the high multitasking students were actually worse at multitasking than the low multitasking students” (pg 36, 37).

Chapter 8: Raising our Children to be Leaders Instead of Followers

“It is our job as parents {and educators} to do what is right for our children, not to allow outside influences to decide that for us. When I have these conversations with parents they sometimes become defensive because, let’s face it, no adult wants to admit that they were peer pressured into anything” (pg 73).

What is the right age to get your child a smartphone? When you feel comfortable with your child watching pornography (pg 73).

“A leader is someone [who] leads by example and has the integrity to do the right thing even when it is not popular. A good leader has positive influence over others, inspiring them to become a better person and example for others to model their life against” (pg 74).

Chapter 10: Using Mindfulness and Meditation to Reconnect Our Disconnected Kids

Five rules every parent should follow:

  1. Keep your child’s room clean of screens

  2. Your child’s phone is your phone

  3. No electronics during dinner

  4. Limit screen time for entertainment purposes (including TV) to two hours per day

  5. Be a role model

Grade: A+

Sure. At times, he’s extreme, because that’s what sells books, but he’s also right. Not perfect, but right in that he raises the question, sounds the alarm, and looks to the adults to act and parent/teach like adults, and that in and of itself is what makes this short book worth the read.

He got my attention, that’s for sure.

For more one . . .

Education : Reading Log : On Parenting

Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions that Matter the Most, by Steven Johnson

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“Think about the long list of skills we teach high school students: how to factor quadratic equations; how to diagram the cell cycle; how to write a good topic sentence. Or we teach skills with a more vocational goal: computer programming, or some kind of mechanical expertise. Yet you will almost never see a course devoted to the art of and science of decision-making, despite the fact that the ability to make informed and creative decisions is a skill that applies to every aspect of our lives” (pg 13).

“When we look back at the tragectory of our lives, and of history itself, I think most of us would agree that the decisions that ultimately matter the most do no - or at least should not - rely heavily on instincts and intuition to do their calculations. They’re decisions that require slow thinking, not fast. While they are no doubt influenced by the emotional shortcuts of our gut reactions, they rely on deliberative thought, not instant responses” (pg 15).

Complex decisions . . .

force us to predict the future
often involve conflicting objectives
harbor undiscovered options
are vulnerable to failures of collective intelligence (pg 26-28)

“Our minds naturally gravitate to narrowband interpretations, compressing the full spectrum down into one dominant slice. Cognitive scientists sometimes call the anchoring. When facing a decision that involves multiple, independent variables, people have a tendency to pick one “anchor” variable and make their decision based on that element” (pg 44).

“The power of diversity is so strong that it appears to apply even when the diverse perspectives being added to the group have no relevant exprtise to the case at hand . . . Just the presence of difference appears to make a difference . . . diversity trumps ability” (pg 53).

“Storytellers suffer from confirmation bias and overconfidence just like the rest of us. Our brains naturally project outcomes that conform to the way we think the world words. To avoid those pitfalls, you need to trick your mind into entertaining alternative narratives, plot lines that might undermine your assumptions, not confirm them” (pg 118).

“Hard choices are often hard because they impact other people’s lives in meaningful ways, and so our ability to imagine that impact - to think through the emotional and material consequences from someone else’s perspective - turns out to be an essential talent” (pg 122).

Grade: B

At times I had to remind myself to keep reading, that not all information worth learning is entertaining, and that there should be at least a few nuggets available. And indeed there were. I just wish it was a bit more inspirational in the process.

Why Courage Matters : The Way to a Braver Life, by John McCain

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The standard of courage are “acts that risk life and limb or other very serious personal injuries for the sake of others or to uphold a virtue” (pg 14).

“Courage is like love. It must have hope to nourish it” - Napoleon, pg 20

“Courage is what Winston Churchill called, ‘the first of human qualities . . . because it guarantees all the others” (pg 39).

“It is love that makes us willing to sacrifice, love that gives us courage” (pg 43).

“You must do the thing you cannot do” (pg 47).

“All problems, personal, national, or combat, become smaller if you don’t dodge them” (pg 49).

“It takes courage to defend your own dignity; sometimes it requires extraordinary heroism. Yet often its wellspring is anger and wounded pride, a source we can’t always relay upon to incite us to action. I am familiar with that kind of courage, and it took me many years to recognize its limitations. It can be used up more quickly than you might have imagined when your sense of honor is self-absorbed, inert, not galvanized by empathy for the experiences of others” (pg 106).

“It takes great courage to defend the dignity of others . . . they are the uncommon people” (pg 107).

“One needs to feel that one’s life has meaning, that one is needed in this world” (pg 118).

“It’s not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it” (pg 157).

“Shame hurts, but it is a useful wound, perhaps the most indispensable condition of a good life. our self-respected, our salvation, depends upon our sense of it” (pg 170).

Grade: A

Not perfect, and perhaps better when read alongside Humilitas and The Road to Character, but still a worthwhile, easy read.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck

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“The exodus across the plains in the fifteen years before the Civil War, when more than 400,000 pioneers made the trek between the frontier at the Missouri River and the Pacific coast, is still regarded by scholars as the largest single land migration in history.” Pg 15

Grade: B

I found his account of historical events riveting, with his actual journey to be a bit boring. But this book came highly recommended by a friend I trust, so maybe it’s just me.