BOOK REVIEW: So Good They Can’t Ignore You by Cal Newport

Ever had THE idea that was going to change the world, your community or at least your life? Well, I have and after reading this book I have discovered that while you may have a million dollar idea, if you lack the time, opportunity and million dollars, it should probably remain just an idea. Otherwise, you’ll lose.

Newport’s book does a fabulous job of discounting what he calls the passion myth. Do what you love and you’ll be happy. Well, I love fly fishing, yet I lack the capacity to adequately make money at it. However, many have had the same level of passion as me, quit their jobs to pursue their dream job and then failed miserably. Newport outlines very well how you can avoid this trap.

Newport doesn’t want us to avoid doing what we love, rather he wants us to not get the cart before the horse. He cites several examples of people who had an idea yet lacked the “career capital” to actually make it happen. They also didn’t research financial “viability” and thus their passion soon turned into a nightmare. They lacked the skill and never thought about whether or not they could financially pull off the venture. Failure ensued.

We seek these jobs of “passion” that are often of the self-employed type because they allow us to be creative, make an impact on the world, and give us control we wouldn’t otherwise have. Certainly, pursue your passion if you must, but go about it the right way. Too many people start with the big idea in mind and then work toward it. Big ideas that actually come to fruition are typically the result of smaller ideas falling into place over the course of many years. He calls it the craftsman mindset and it means we must craft our occupation like a craftsman builds his art.

Back to my fly fishing example. Currently, I am a counselor and will work in this capacity for many years to come. In my spare time I fly fish which requires a degree of skill and practice. It’s more than throwing a worm in the water. As I am doing this, I am building career capital as a fisherman, and at some point in the future (20+years) my skill might be such that maybe, just maybe people will pay me to guide them on various rivers in the area. If not, I will enjoy myself all the same.

Disney’s Frozen & Emotion Control??


Can you believe the hype over Disney’s latest masterpiece, Frozen? People are waiting for five hours to see Anna & Elsa at Disney World. It is a great movie and it can teach us a lot about emotion control. Often referred to as EQ (emotional quotient) we have the ability to be in tune with our emotions in order to make the most of what we are as humans. Emotions aren’t bad but they can be misleading and can be expressed inappropriately.

If you’ve not seen it, there are no spoilers here so don’t worry. In the movie, Elsa has the power to freeze things, and I don’t mean just freeze a small glass of water, she started the winter season in her kingdom. She had a lot of power. Her abilities were discovered when she was a young girl and in order to keep her and her sister safe, her parents told her to “conceal, don’t feel.” You can hear this line in the song by the way.

The idea was that if she suppressed her powers, which were greatly tied to her emotions, then she would be able to control them. Well, by the time she was an adult, she had almost no control over her freezing ability. All the years of suppression couldn’t hold back what was naturally there. She didn’t know what to do.

We often tell our children, and sometimes ourselves, to stop feeling a certain way. This has its place as we sometimes over react and know in our heads that crying over spilled milk all the time is no way to live. So, a proper reaction both intellectually and emotionally is necessary. Help your child construct a healthy EQ by processing the negative event. Don’t just tell your teen to “get over it.” She doesn’t know how to do that.

We sometimes believe that strong emotions are a bad thing, particularly men. However, if we are to be strong, we must conquer our feelings. We must master them because there’s nothing more manly than self-awareness. Otherwise, our emotions will rule us. If a person feels a certain way, he should express that and then think about whether or not the emotion makes sense. Suppression only serves to add the emotion up, and like a soda that’s been shaken, it will eventually explode.

 It is the expression of our emotions that often gets us in trouble. If your teenage son is angry, let him feel that. Let him experience it, but help him talk it out and get a good hold of why he feels the way he does and what he should do about it. Exploding in a rage only helps the person learn to lose control, not master his/her demons.

Like the song says, let it go.

BOOK REVIEW: The Social Animal by David Brooks, The Hidden Sources of Love, Character & Achievement

This is a uniquely written book in that it speaks densely about psychological phenomenon in a fictional/narrative format. Brooks covers our unconscious mind and describes with great clarity the meaning behind all the little behaviors that add up to become our everyday functioning. This keeps it from going very deeply into any one topic but if you are interested in the behavioral sciences this is a fun book to read.

Brooks starts with the meeting of two couples, their relationship and then the children they have. These two children subsequently meet and Brooks takes them through all of their struggles as a couple, right up to their elderly years. During this journey he reflects on their behaviors but also the behaviors of their extended families, coworkers and scores of others they interact with along the way.

From Publishers Weekly

New York Times columnist Brooks (Bobos in Paradise) raids Malcolm Gladwell’s pop psychology turf in a wobbly treatise on brain science, human nature, and public policy. Essentially a satirical novel interleaved with disquisitions on mirror neurons and behavioral economics, the narrative chronicles the life cycle of a fictional couple—Harold, a historian working at a think tank, and Erica, a Chinese-Chicana cable-TV executive—as a case study of the nonrational roots of social behaviors, from mating and shopping to voting. Their story lets Brooks mock the affluent and trendy while advancing soft neoconservative themes: that genetically ingrained emotions and biases trump reason; that social problems require cultural remedies (charter schools, not welfare payments); that the class divide is about intelligence, deportment, and taste, not money or power. Brooks is an engaging guide to the “cognitive revolution” in psychology, but what he shows us amounts mainly to restating platitudes. (Women like men with money, we learn, while men like women with breasts.) His attempt to inflate recent research on neural mechanisms into a grand worldview yields little except buzz concepts—”society is a layering of networks”—no more persuasive than the rationalist dogmas he derides. (Mar.)

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Resolution Failure, Already?

In their weekly podcast, Steven Levit and Stephen Dubner discuss a variety of topics and one of their most famous shows is devoted to commitment devices. This involves any concept that forces your future self to behave in a manner consistent with what your current self hopes to be.

It’s the New Year and everyone is still obsessed over his or her resolutions with diet and exercise being among the biggest. In another two weeks, they’ll be forgotten most likely but right now is a good time to discuss and assess them so hopefully you won’t fall back.

Paying a gym membership or going to weight loss meetings are both examples of commitment devices. While you want something to change, the rewards of not changing are often greater than the future payoff and the current consequences aren’t all that bad so you stay home or just give up.

You can even generate your own commitment device. Part of their podcast was devoted to a man (I’ll call Brian) who despised Oprah Winfrey. Additionally, he wanted to develop some better living habits that primarily involved his physical health. So, Brian wrote a $700 check to Oprah Winfrey and enlisted the help of a friend. Where Brian to fail in his challenge that spanned several weeks, his friend/judge was to send the check to Oprah. He mistakenly put milk in his coffee and left it up to Oprah. As of the podcast, she hadn’t cashed it.

To begin a new commitment to your marriage, I suggest the Couple Checkup. It is an assessment that can show the strengths and weaknesses in your relationship, which will thereby give you a place to start working.

BOOK REVIEW – David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

In David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell considers the characteristics of those who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to become champions. 

Gladwell is one of my favorite authors and he does not disappoint in David and Goliath. I always finish his books with a tremendous sense of clarity of the world around me. In classic Gladwell fashion he challenges conventional thinking on how we consider obstacles and disadvantages.

He begins with the most famous of underdog stories, David & Goliath. He outlines the obvious vs the not so obvious advantages and disadvantages that cause this true story to be one we still discuss today. God was certainly with David, and while it appears on the surface that he should have lost, there are many reasons why his win was inevitable. 

His stories involve common people doing extraordinary things and even historical accounts of wars, scientific studies and law. What do you think it means to face discrimination, cope with a disability or lose a parent? Are these advantages or disadvantages? Many are willing to give up in the face of these, but Gladwell shows how the potential loser can end up being the obvious winner. 
You will be encouraged and enlightened. 

I want my child to have what I didn’t. LOL!

I think it’s hilarious when I hear people who were born after 1975 say, “I want my child to have what I didn’t.” Granted, there were poor people then who struggled and did without, but the majority of Americans, even what you’d consider poor, had more than any previous generation. My dad worked to give me what he didn’t have; a house with running water and heat. Yes, those are things people in a civilized society need and deserve. However, for those who had Little Debbie cakes served to them every afternoon and a beta player or VCR, to your lament over luxury, I say, “Give me a break.”

If you’ve ever seen a Duck Dynasty episode you may have heard one or more of the family members speak fondly of the poverty they endured growing up. “We didn’t know we were poor.” I’m afraid that the standard of poverty for some today means having anything other than a smart phone, jeans that cost less than $20, and owning only one video game system. 

Going without teaches you a lot of things. It teaches humility, self-reliance, and an appreciation for what you do have. It teaches that you don’t need thingsto be happy which forces you to look at your family and get along; things that really matter.

Having too much can teach you a lot of the wrong things. It can teach entitlement and a dependence on others and things for your happiness. It does not teach hard work but rather that luxury can simply be handed to you if you ask the right way.

What did you do without? Maybe you did without some comforts and are working to ensure a better lifestyle for your family so they have fewer worries which will enable them to succeed beyond your level. That’s good. 

Maybe you did without some basic teachings like empathy, commitment and honesty. That’s what’s missing in our homes today. Instead of more and more toys for Christmas, our kids need things that you can’t touch; they need character.

Where are Our Principles?

I was listening to the “This American Life” podcast where they interviewed a woman who had a list of seven things you should never talk about in general conversation. It was just her opinion, but I found it amusing. Listen to the podcast here, and find out what she considers to be boring topics.

What intrigued me most about this story was not the list itself but rather the fact that she had a list. She had a principle that said, “I draw the line here.” 

A principle involves a person’s basic view and practice of life according to the values they possess; what they believe is right and wrong. 

Our society’s principle supply seems to dwindle each year. It is a lack of principles that steers poor parenting and makes spouses feel justified when their actions are nothing but selfish. Wonder why your family is dysfunctional? Can you name the principles you live by?

I was raised in the 90s so very little is sacred to me, and boy do I miss out sometimes. I crave uninterrupted dinner time with my family and the foundation that a strong Biblically based worship service offers. It is the sacred that grounds us and makes us human in a world that is ever-changing for whatever random reason it has decided upon at the moment. Without principles, we commit to nothing and believe in whatever we are told. 

A movement that is beginning to lurk into sacred territory is that stores are opening on Thanksgiving Day. Blogger Matt Walsh handles this topic extensively in his post, “If you shop on Thanksgiving, you are part of the problem.” For those families and individuals who are hurting, it is the unfulfilled promise offered by consumerism that maintains your pain and emptiness.

In the podcast, Mrs. Matthiessen, as she prefers to be called, gave me a nice chuckle about a lesson that we all need to consider long and hard. What are the guiding principles in your life? What do you say no to?

BOOK REVIEW: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This is an incredible book if you’re looking to understand yourself, your children or human nature in general. The first half has some very insightful scientific studies involving brain research. These studies show that our actions are brought about less by well thought out decisions and more by simple habits we develop over time. The second half has incredible stories about people who changed their habits, or the habits of others, in order to create a winning team or start a nationwide revolution.
The intent of this book is to help people understand their behaviors and work to improve them. I highly recommend it.