Good Reads 2013


Photo credit: Henry on Flickr

I’ve been reading as much as possible the past few months, simply because I’ve missed making time for learning about bigger topics and exploring themes from new angles. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve had Essay Club and also quite a few plane rides, i.e. excuses to turn off the webernets.

Things I’ve been thinking, reading and writing about:
• Rapid cognition, i.e. snap judgements and the science behind them. What makes someone great at sizing up situations and people quickly and correctly? Is it possible to train myself to be better at this?
• Mentorship
• Vulnerability
• How and why do women and men behave and think differently in the workplace, and how can we better equip both sexes for success?
• Meditation

I’m sure we could have a fascinating chat over coffee about how these themes are all interrelated in my head; this is a work in progress. Maybe I’ll write about it here again as I tie things together and unravel them again. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from some really good books I’ve read in the past six months.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

In my favorite chapter, which revolves around the decision-making process of USMC Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, Gladwell quotes Riper as saying: “You disaggregate everything and tear it apart, but you are never able to synthesize the whole. It’s like the weather. A commander does not need to know the barometric pressure or the winds or even the temperature. He needs to know the forecast. If you get too caught up in the production of information, you drown in the data.”

The crux of the entire book for me is here: “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated—when we have to juggle many different variables—then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.

It seems that the father of the unconscious [Sigmund Freud] agreed: ‘When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves.'”

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

On Mentorship: “We need to stop telling them, ‘Get a mentor and you will excel.’ Instead, we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’”

About a Q&A session Sandberg hosted after a talk, “The men were focusing on how to manage a business and the women were focusing on how to manage a career. The men wanted answers and the women wanted permission and help.”

The Bhagavad Gita as translated / annotated by Eknath Easwaran Ed.

I am only a third of the way through this massive hallmark spiritual text, but here are my two favorite passages so far.

“Those who are motivated only by desire for the fruits of action are miserable, for they are constantly anxious about the results of what they do. When consciousness is unified, however, all vain anxiety is left behind. There is no cause for worry, whether things go well or ill. Therefore, devote yourself to the disciplines of yoga, for yoga is skill in action.”

On the concept of “namaste” or universality, I find this passage exquisite: “There is nothing that exists separate from me, Arjuna. The entire universe is suspended from me as my necklace of jewels.”

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown

I could really write an entire post just on my thoughts and stuff I’m learning through this book. I expected to be lectured by Brown on how be more openly emotional but instead was taken through lessons on shame, parallels between being a good parent and being an amazing partner and also got some science dropped on me regarding men and vulnerability. Amazing stuff. To wit:

“Don’t squander joy. We can’t prepare for tragedy and loss. When we turn every opportunity to feel joy into a test drive for despair, we actually diminish our resilience.”

Brown described a small group session where a woman was complaining about how afraid she was that her man was judging her body during sex. Another man responded to her, “He took a couple of deep breaths and said, ‘Stop making up all of this stuff about what we’re thinking! What we’re really thinking is ‘Do you love me? Do you care about me? Do you want me? Am I important to you? Am I good enough?’ That’s what we’re thinking. When it comes to sex, it feels like our life is on the line, and you’re worried about that crap?’

It’s true. When you want to be with us…in that way [sexually]…it makes us feel more worthy. We stand a little taller. Believe in ourselves more. I don’t know why, but it’s true. And I’ve been married since I was eighteen. It still feels that way with my wife.'”

In the below excerpt, just replace “parenting” with “partner,” “brother,” or “best friend,” and it’s the same fantastic lesson. I want to get this printed on a scroll and hang it up in my house and remember it every day.

“The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto”

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself. I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness.

You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections. We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability.

We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both. We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel. I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude. I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable. When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief… We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here. As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly. I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

This post is the first chance I’ve had to go back and digest some of what I’ve read. (Thanks, Kindle highlights feature!) It’s far too easy for me to tear through a good book and then move on with life or jump into another book before really letting ideas sink in, do additional research or apply/test new concepts.

I’ll be thinking more on all of these topics and hopefully sharing more highlights in the future. What are YOU reading right now? Or what’s the last great book you read?


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  • NOTE: Links to books in this post are affiliate links so if you click through and then wind up buying something, I will earn a fraction of the cost of a cup of coffee because of your purchase. Thank you.

2 responses to “Good Reads 2013

  1. “This post is the first chance I’ve had to go back and digest some of what I’ve read. (Thanks, Kindle highlights feature!) It’s far too easy for me to tear through a good book and then move on with life or jump into another book before really letting ideas sink in, do additional research or apply/test new concepts.”

    Your post has had a similiar effect on me… I am thinking of all the books i have read and the passages that touched me at the time; but have long since disappeared… Time to reread some of them and to record the distillates… Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Thank you for swinging by! Yes, it’s hard to really absorb what we read when we have so many different mediums to interact with every day. I love paper books but switching to ebooks for ones I know I’ll want to highlight has made a huge difference.

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