Working on the formatting of these posts. My import from Wordpress was a whacky mess, like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
Working on the formatting of these posts. My import from Wordpress was a whacky mess, like gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.
I'm working on a writing project inspired by James Altucher and his idea that we have four bodies to care for; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. This framework has made me reflect on my role as a parent and how I've changed emotionally.
When I first had kids I felt emotionally weak. Like a scrawny thirteen year old (which I was) entering a gym full of weights (which I did) and struggling with weights too heavy (which I tried). As a parent I didn't understand what it took emotionally to raise kids and felt bad when I failed. I was an adult, didn't I know what to do? Shouldn't emotional maturity grow as your kid does? That person had no idea what to do.
Then I found my emotional alter-ego. The Cowboy.
The Cowboy sits high in his seasoned saddle, moving cattle from Tulsa to San Antonio. Over the plains he's seen a hundred times, he feels the change in air pressure as he crosses the hills. The dry breeze. His hat and spirit are both firm but not brittle as they ride along with the cattle.
Suddenly, a calf breaks away from the herd. In the past this was trouble for the young cow-hand. This made his heart race and grip tighten. He became worried and started to mentally run through the list of things that could happen to the animal. The calf could break a leg or run off a cliff. It could crash into a wolf den or impale itself on a hidden danger in the sagebrush. The young cowboy would gallop full steam to return the calf.
Full disclosure, I enjoy most of what David and Goliath author Malcolm Gladwell writes. While there have been some critiques of his newest book, this isn't one of them. Most of those reviews stem from the idea that Gladwell plays too fast and loose with the ideas, but this is his strength. He's not an academic, though he uses their tools. Gladwell is like the architect who dreams up the grand buildings and then passes things on to the engineers to see if they can be built.
David and Goliath is the story about how inherent strengths also have inherent weaknesses. My car seats seven people (strength) but it gets poor gas mileage (weakness). Gladwell pivots from obvious examples like this to the angle of looking at the social sciences and cherry picking ideas that fit within this context, like how your school choice might affect your success.
I wrote about the idea of big fish in a little pond at People Smarter Than Me. Gladwell suggests that going to the best school may be a poor choice. For example, most economic professors at elite institutions were once students at elite institutions. John List is one now, but wasn't one as a student. Instead, he got his Ph.D. at the University of Wyoming and taught at the University of Central Florida. Gladwell's suggestion is that being a big fish and spreading your fins helps you grow more than having tasty - intellectual -food to eat. List may have done this well because he was a big fish in a little pond.
Gladwell also shares the idea that maybe 30% of entrepreneurs are dyslexic. His hypothesis is, because this group had so much trouble learning to read, they adapted and built other skills like listening, summarizing, or negotiating. They developed those skills while their peers worked on becoming better readers. When I reading this, I thought about John Saddington's journey and announcement that he's an autist. If our weaknesses force us to build unique strengths, then we can say our successes are driven - in part - by those weaknesses?
There are many examples like these in the book, the personal ones about specific Hollywood executives and lawyers fit better than the larger ideas like the IRA and civil rights movements and the book tends to deflate a bit in the latter third.
My year of reading more books than ever continues to plow along unabated like the winter winds of Ohio. Neither the turning of the pages or falling of the snowflakes can be stopped by mortal forces. Except that the seasons will change and kids will vomit. Other than that my reading can not be stopped.
In all serious though, reading has become habitual this year, if I'm ready to read. That is, when I have a good book queued up on my Kindle or I sit down with a good hardback. I've also taken Stephen King's approach of reading in grocery store lines and parking lots when a spare ten minutes presents itself. My default, hey I've got a few minutes is now to read. And one of those books is about parenting
The full quote from the post title is, "Ninety percent of married couples expect a decline in marital satisfaction after the birth of their first child" and comes from All Joy and No Fun by Jennifer Senior, a book that I drooled over when first seeing it.
This book was it. It looked like the book that would answer all my questions about parenting. It would be a page turning panacea that would help me figure out the maze of parenting. Except that it wasn't.
It turns out that parents expectations are often true. Kids rob you of your sleep, deep hair color, and peace of mind. Senior reports that 80 percent of mothers think they don't have enough friends and 67 percent say they are multitasking most of the time. I can anecdotally support both of those figures.
This is from my morning drive, one my car thermometer said was -18.
I can't only read something. I need to read something and then read it again and then tie it to another idea like a boat moored to a dock. All this happens through taking notes and my notes wind up in Evernote.
Jamie Rubin had another wonderful post about taking notes without marking up books, but his method isn't for me. For one, I have a free account that I don't want to fill up with photos and secondly, I don't like the way photos look. I want a single note with all the ideas from a book in a summary view that I can read easily.
The books I read fall into two camps and I use my notes differently with each. For hard copies, most of the books I'm reading are borrowed copies. I take the Mr. Money Mustache approach of viewing the public library as one we all share and can't mark them up, and I often don't want to, so what do I do.
My method involves paper and pencil. As I read a book, I'll write down ideas and page numbers on paper and then after a bundle of pages are sticking out the end of a book like arrows from a quiver, I'll transcribe them to Evernote. This is not an easy or quick process. It takes time to do this and I'm writing the same notes twice. But this second time is important.
The repetition matters because the more I play with this information, the more often I run through the words mentally, the more I remember them. If I'm reading the words, then writing the words, then typing the words I get exposed to them three times. Once They are in Evernote I also note the page I found them on.
You know what they say about real estate, location, location, location. See what I did there? Clark's suggestion is that the most powerful words should be at the beginning or end of our sentences and paragraphs. In that sentence it's the most important thing, location.
That sentence could read, The most important part of real estate is where you locate. Not the same for sure. Some of the reason is because we've lived with the first location expression for so long it's become familiar, but upon Clark's guidance, I would argue its familiar because of the structure. Clark suggests that the period acts as a stop sign, making you pause on the word before. My Disney princess daughters understand this when they say "Best. Day. Ever."
Cal Newport is another favorite writer of mine. A great example of how blogging with focus helps you develop a writing niche. In So Good They Can't Ignore You he writes.
I was observing a lesson by one of the student teachers I mentor, and she made a very basic mistake. She was having the students work their way around the room to a number of stations, but put them in different parts of the room. Instead of the students moving clockwise around the room, the students moved like lottery balls through the room. It led to some major turbulence in her lesson but we talked it over and changing this small part of her lesson will make it better next time.
That same night I was putting a new set of chains on our snowblower tires. It was just as rough as the student teacher's lesson. I was banging my knuckles and my hands were getting cold. I poked a hole in my jeans while working the garage and my jacket needed washed after crawling around the floor and sticking my arm around the snowblower.
We were both rookies at what were doing that day - her with teaching, mine with installing the chains.
At one point my wife stuck her head out the door to ask if I needed help. I told her I didn't. I could have used an extra set of hands to do it more quickly, but not to learn how. I had to fail on my own. Together we could have done it but I wanted to know how to pull the slack on the chain, how to clasp one side before the other, and how to orient the chains based on what wheel they were on.
In my discussion with the student teacher we mentioned much the same thing. During her lesson, I and her mentor teacher noticed that the way she was directing the students would lead to a lot of disruption, but we had to let her fail on her own so she could understand the nuances of the problem.
Most of the writing I do is on this blog, but I've done some writing elsewhere too this month.
First, I've started a new site, People Smarter Than Me. I realized while reading books, watching TED Talks, and listening to podcasts that there were a lot of brilliant people and I wanted to share some of the things I've learned from them. One of those smart people is Tyler Cowen, who linked to one of my first articles - Will A Computer Hire You? I also wrote about how to negotiate (or at least talk with) your kids, and what the future of education might be.
I also wrote a guest post for Jamie Rubin about my thinking behind 27GoodThings. Jamie's a great blogger. He's never writing "10 ways that you haven't read on Lifehacker to brew coffee and coca-cola" or other nonsense. His posts are clear, consistent, and carefully done. It's amazing he let me in the door for a guest post. He's my go-to guide for thoughts on writing, Evernote, and technology.
I've been regularly updating the books I've read page on this blog. I posted an overview of those yesterday, but I like the way that page looks compared to what I formerly used on Goodreads. The biggest takeaway for my reading more has been to prioritize reading. Instead of opening Twitter or Feedly when I have a few extra minutes, I'll open the Kindle App on my phone.
-- Here's 10 other reasons to buy a Kindle. --
The start of a new year always provides a bit of motivation and that's been the case about my goal to read more books. Along with an abnormally cold Ohio January, I've torn through more books this month than any other. Here's what I've ready so far.
The Circle. I read this at the same time as Average is Over (see below) and the two books blew my mind to the point that I nearly needed the singularity they both address to put me back together again. The Circle follows Mae Hollands as she joins a Google/Facebook/Apple like company in California. She goes from working in a water pump plant to being one of the most popular people in the country thanks her to constant connection using zings (like tweets), smiles, frowns, and other data that people share. I wanted the book to take a Children of Men course, going from the pristine campus Mae works on to the gritty back streets where revolution festers. It didn't. Instead, it took things in a nice and steady direction of what the future might be, small changes over time that led to big differences. Which I guess is how things would happen anyways. I agreed with the small changes in the book, but was appalled by what the culmination of them looked like.Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation. If The circle was a focused fictional account that might be true, this is the non-fictional macro view. I enjoy reading Cowen because his logic is well deduced and this book was no different. It was my favorite book of his so far and covers many areas using mostly chess as a model for the future. Cowen's main premise is that the greatest chess teams in the world are those that combine computer and human, and someday that will be true of the greatest workers in the world too. He also suggests that income inequality will rise, but so will the standard of living and things won't be bad at all. Here are 5 things I learned.2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. I've posted my review, but I'll mention again that this book can help you do anything better. Rachel Aaron started by asking herself how she wrote best. She found the recipe included knowing what you want to do, knowing what you need to know to do it, and knowing when you can do it best. That simplified formula is something that we can apply to anything. From studying a new subject to snacking on the right foods at the right time.
In addition to this being great content, it also showed me that now is a great time for reading materials to be just the right length. This book weighs in at 64 pages and Do The Work at 109. The stories that each of these told fit nicely into those smaller page counts.My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey. Another book I've posted a review for, but I'll add this. This book was the equivalent of a great sport announcer. If you watch any sports you know that there are some commentators that are former players and they understand the game well. In football this is the guy who, during the replay, shows a key block or position of a player that led to the success by one of the teams. That's what Taylor did in writing this book, only instead of sports, it's about a brain during a stroke.A Short History of Nearly Everything. I was listening to this audiobook and it's going to take a long longer than a short time to get to nearly everything. Bryson is funny and smart and finds details in the crevices of history that made me wonder why history in school wasn't taught this same way. Back then I would have been entertained by 12 year old girls who discovered fossilized sea monsters and feuding geologists. This book, like some of Bryson's others, is long. It's like being at a buffet and while there is delicious food, you're just too full. I stopped reading this part-way though I'm sure to return to it someday.
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants. If Bryson is the mammoth buffet, Gladwell is the good meal. I've read his other books and enjoyed them greatly. I've read that his book got some push-back and there is some resistance to his calling attention to the 10,000 hour rule, but so far it's enjoyable. Most notably the beginning where Gladwell suggests that Goliath was afflicted with acromegaly, a syndrome that causes excessive growth and poor vision. I'm listening to the audiobook and it's as well narrated as What the Dog Saw.
Can you comment on anything you've read lately?