The book describes in layman terms about fallacies and delusions that we fall into to maintain our beliefs. For example, the sunk cost fallacy - if we are watching a terrible movie, we are unlikely to walk out in the middle of it because we paid for it. We believe we should get our money out of it, even if it means wasting our time to watch a movie we're not enjoying. This book doesn't delve as much into the science of it as many brain books out there. And if you've read a few of those, you'll find the same information in this book except with more stories. This book doesn't provide much guidance on how to avoid these fallacies and delusions. For example, if you feel like having a cold beer, is it because it's a hot day or you just saw a beer commercial? Are you doing something you want to do or doing something that advertisers primed you to do?? The book is good for developing an awareness of these things and examining the decisions you make.
This is a great book for someone interested in being a writer and even someone interested in just knowing how writers are able to create page turners. David Morrell is known for writing "First Blood," which is often mistakenly referred to as "Rambo." The tone is conversational and even modest for someone who has written bestsellers. Th book is filled with useful advice and humorous stories.
If you know something about Big Data, this is the next book to read. The authors are knowledgeable and engrossed in technology and convey well how we're entering an age of personalized technology (e.g., your phone knows when you're home and reminds you of your tasks). I would skip the last chapter, which is fanciful thinking from the authors of what they expect to see in the year 2038.
I'm a fan of Isaac Asimov and just read "The Currents of Space" the second time. Years ago when I read all of Asimov's books, I thought the Galactic Empire series were not as good as the others. I later read somewhere (maybe in Asimov's memoir) that this series had a different publisher, and he accepted much of their changes despite his better judgment. This included changing the book titles (The Stars, like Dust; The Currents of Space; and Pebble in the Sky), which is why this series is slightly different from the rest of his books (Robot series and Foundation series).
If you like Isaac Asimov, read the books in chronological order (Robot, Galactic Empire, and Foundation). The Galactic Empire series is still good. Since it's been so long when I last read this book, I have forgotten the plot. In the usual Asimov's style, the reader is left guessing until the end. The only thing I didn't like about the book is that I think the pace is slow.
The author calls it "organizational health." I prefer to think of it as an authentic organization. Health gives the impression that it's a matter of following a regiment of good habits. Whereas authentic implies that it has to come from within the individuals. The book applies to leaders of an organization, not so much to workers. If you're not a manager, you would not even get to practice the first discipline of building a cohesive team (build trust, work through conflicts, commit to decisions, be accountable, and focus on results). The other three disciplines really need to come the top leadership of the organization - create clarity in purpose and direction of the organization, over communicate that message, and reinforce that message.
This book is like many other books when talking about how the brain works and how its functioning could be enhanced (e.g., exercise, do new things, and solve problems). It is different in that looks at the advantages and disadvantages of the middle-aged brain. As we age, we may not be able to remember things or solve math problems as quickly as we used. Because of this, people think the middle-aged brain is declining. Surprisingly, the book reveals that the middle-aged brain can be at its peak. The brain has reorganized since its youth. It has built up patterns of connections and it acts and thinks differently. It is smarter, calmer, and happier. When a young worker is freaking out over a problem, an older worker is thinking, "Calm down. We've gotten through worse problems than this. First, let's figure out how bad the situation is." The middle-aged brain is using both sides, whereas the younger brain is using the untamed emotional side.
This book reassures us that as we age, our brain does not necessarily become progressively worse. We have more experience and knowledge, which have been applied repeatedly over time, strengthening connections in our brain. We make better judgments and decisions. It could be called wisdom, intuition, or gut feeling; these snap judgments come from our years of experience. We need to appreciate the advantages of a more mature brain rather than focus on the one negative aspect (forgetting things). It is also important that we exercise and keep our brain in top shape.
This book explains the science of how skills are built -- in the brain, myelin wraps around nerves and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. The more you practice, more myelin is built. The brain is like any other muscle -- it gets better and stronger with continued practice. The key is that the practice be purposeful and deep. A student studying a topic shouldn't just read the chapters a few times. The student needs to do practice exams. Identify the wrong answers and keep working on those problems until she can get 100% on them. Developing talent is about "knowing" what you're doing (like why is something right, not just memorizing equations or why does a swing cause the ball to go in certain direction, not just perform exactly the same swing over and over). By "knowing," you can feel a move is wrong or hear a musical note is off immediately.
There are also plenty of stories of how people "became" talented. People don't become world-class athletes and musicians overnight. They weren't prodigies who created classical pieces on their first try. They were usually exposed to the field at a young age, they were motivated to continually develop their skills, and there were coaches and mentors in their lives who knew the right encouragement to give to get them to do better. This is valuable book for anyone who wants to be an expert in a field or who is a parent/teacher/coach. An interesting observation was that many of the world-class people didn't have professional teachers/coaches in the early years of their learning. They had the right teachers/coaches who kept them committed to deep practices.
I think this book could have included specific techniques for improving skills. I noticed the author has another book "The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills." I haven't read it but it probably complements this book.
This is a book for aspiring linguists. It's interesting to know how the English language got so weird, like why some words change vowels to change tense (sing and sang) and some words just have something added at the end (wait and waited). The author explains the influences of Germanic, Celtic, Welsh, and Latin languages. It was also fascinating to learn that while we feel English makes sense and seems "normal," it's actually quite the oddball compared to other European languages. Other languages have two or three genders: feminine, masculine, and neutral. It's common in other European languages to refer to inanimate objects as either male or female. The author also gives examples of words like "ask", "question", and "interrogate" coming from Proto-Germanic, French, and Latin influences, respectively. Proto-Germanic words are simple, brute. French is polite. Latin is commanding. Hence, why there are so many Latin terms for law and legal contracts. If you don't have a deep fascination for linguistics, it's a little hard getting through the parts that cover the evolution of sounds and words from period to period or how the word "daughter" is similar with examples given in German, Norse, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, and a dozen other languages.
It requires some patience to listen to a book written over 400 years ago. Language has evolved and it may require listening again to some parts to understand the context of archaic syntax and words. It was worth it -- to be familiar with such known quotations:
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.
O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.
A part of star-cross'd lovers take their life.
Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow.
The title "Die Empty" gives the impression on how to be ambitious and driven to achieve all your dreams. This was more about methodically improving yourself and picking the things that are important. He gives an example of how his son had hurt himself by trying to jump two steps at a time going downstairs. He freaked out from the crying and was ready to enact a new rule of "no jumping on stairs". Then he stepped back. This was the first time it happened. Obviously, his son felt the pain of making this mistake and would unlikely do it again. We lose sight of the value of learning from our mistakes and growing our wisdom from those experiences. We create rules for ourselves and others. Then they never learn from experience; they only suffocate from all the rules surrounding them. It's through these insights that you learn what actions you can take so you start to feel more fulfilled at the end of each day.
I didn't realize that Mark Twain had such a witty and whimsical writing style. The book is filled with random stories of seeing life from a different perspective (not really a handbook). It contains silly suggestions like "Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." It's an entertaining little book.
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