When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing

Dan-Pink-book-1
When’s the best time to have surgery? What can you do if you want to get back on track with the New Year’s Resolutions you’ve forgotten about? What is the importance of “middles”? Dan Pink answers all these questions and more in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing.  Pink packs in a lot of research and shares in an entertaining way.

After reading When, I’ve learned that healthcare workers tend to get tired as the day wears on and are apt to make more mistakes in the afternoon, but if they stop before performing a task and go through a checklist for readiness, the number of errors decreases. The same is true of students. Often they’ll do worse on tests in the afternoon and if you give them breaks and a go through a checklist that more or less wakes them up and cues them into the need to be extra careful, then their performance will be on par to their morning results.

The chapter on syncing describes the benefits of working in unison. If you run with others the health benefits are greater than if you run alone. More surprising, if you join a choir and regularly sing with others the benefits equal those of exercising. Most likely you’ll have better blood pressure and other positives.

I learned that there breakfast isn’t the most important meal of the day. Lunch is. There’s no research that proves that breakfast is more important than other meals. Your results may vary.

The book goes into detail on expected subjects like napping, beginnings, midpoints, and endings, but in all the sections, I learned something new. I read the audiobook narrated by Pink. His voice was friendly and energized. The book came with PDF files so you get all the files that are in the book and help you figure out whether you’re a lark or night owl, etc. I’ve come away with a greater understanding of managing my energy levels, but it’s still hard for me to manage a daily nappuccino.

The Radium Girls

2017-04-21-radium-girls-mcarrasquero-002

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore tells the story of the young women who worked in factories painting iridescent numbers on watch and clock dials. In New Jersey and Illinois after WWI, girls were hired to use paint made with radium to make the dials glow in the dark. The technique they were required to use was to lick the tip of the brush, dip it in the paint and paint the numbers. Then they were to repeat. No step to clean the brush.

At the time radium was believed to be an ultra-healthy substance. No safety precautions were taken.

These girls were proud to earn good wages and had a good lifestyle. Proud of their work, when they would go out dancing, they would take the radium dust rub it on their eyelids and skin, which made them glow.

As you can imagine, the women started to get ill. One woman had awful jaw pain, and when she went to the dentist her jaw fell out, which was the first of many ailments that inflicted her and her colleagues. One after another, the girls began to experience horrific health issues. The radium would attack their bones. Others, as you’d guess, got rare, devastating cancers.

th

Statue of a Radium Girl, Ottawa, Illinois

The girls began to take legal action and the two radium companies fought them tooth and nail. The story soon turns to one of courage and tenacity as these women fight for their lives and fight for justice in the courts against two Goliath companies.

In many ways the story is hard to take, but because these women banded together and had great resilience and remained strong in spirit and clung to hope, The Radium Girls was not a depressing story. My only critique is that the author’s scope covering two factories which weren’t that connected, made the book confusing at times. Yet I understand her desire to tell the full story. I think it would have been better if Moore had focused on fewer girls and added an epilogue about the others. I highly recommend reading The Radium Girls.

(Janice, thanks for recommending this compelling, yet sad book.)

The Secret Knowledge

TheSecretKnowledge300_570x861
David Mamet shares his journey from liberal to conservative and offers his understanding of his past beliefs and the strengths of his more traditional views in The Secret Knowledge. The book is well written and Mamet offers insights that never occurred to me. I think it’s good practice to taken in insights from a wide variety of perspectives and with that in mind, I got a lot out of The Secret Knowledge. 

If you’ve seen or read, Mamet’s plays, you won’t be surprised by his forceful writing. He packs a punch, which is probably why he likes boxing.

Published in 2014, Mamet doesn’t comment on the Trump Presidency, but he does examine the 60s, 70s, and on up to 2012. He is well read and thoughtful.

 

 

Pre-Suasion

pre-suasion-9781501109799_hr

If you need to understand effective persuasion techniques, Robert Cialdini’s book Pre-Suasion is a must-read. Cialdini explains how the situation before people decide or act, highly influences what choice they’ll make. For example, when voters received a men email with a small American flag in the bottom corner, they were more likely to vote Republican. If the email asked them to take an action, e.g. click something, fill out a survey, they were much more likely to voter Republican.

Lessons learned include:

  • Your surroundings and associations matter. Research has shown that having photos of your customers in your office helps you create messages that better connect with them. When Cialdini was writing a book intended for a popular audience, the tone was suitable when he wrote at home, but when he wrote in his campus office, the tone was too academic.
  • Multi-tasking is impossible. When we try to multi-task, we’re just switching from one task to the other. When we’re switching there’s a moment when we aren’t concentrating on what we should adding up all these inattentive moments amounts to a meaningful time wasted not concentrating on what we should.
  • Humans, even babies, are quite wired to reciprocate. When you do some small, kind thing for someone they’re likely to reciprocate. My favorite examples on this are that when Osama bin Laden’s captors were getting no where interrogating him. They had given him cookies and tea everyday, but he never touched the cookies. They found out he was diabetic and so the interrogators started giving him sugar-free cookies. After this personalized, kind treatment the body guard answered all their questions.

    In a similar case, the CIA was questioning a tribal leader in Afghanistan who they noticed was quite fatigued. They learned he was overwhelmed with responsibilities including keeping his four wives happy. The CIA gave the man four Viagra pills and soon afterwards the man fully cooperated. Personalized touches work.

The book is full of clear examples and shows you how association, trust and directing attention impact successful persuasion before you even start to persuade.

12 Rules for Life

cms_visual_1007321.jpg_1514167666000_417x640

I can’t say I’ve finished Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos because as I read it I soon realized it’s a book I’ll read again and again. It’s a book that I’ll return to as a source of wisdom and a touchstone to see how I’m going.

Peterson’s style is straightforward and clear, but it contains complexity. His rules may be simple, such as Tell the Truth — or at Least Don’t Lie, but are tough to put into practice once you realize that telling the truth means living the truth. He points out that Adler, the psychologist, noted that “life-lies” are a kind of dishonesty. So whenever you deviate from the truth by saying whatever will help you socially, will give you status though its and exaggeration, or by staying quiet so that you protect your job or curry the favor of someone you deem significant and let lies continue unchecked because you’d rather reap a reward of whatever sort or you figure someone else will speak up or should, then you’re living a lie. So how authentic am I? I won’t be finished with this book till I am completely authentic and transparent with myself and others. Seems like there’s a long road ahead.

Peterson uses literature, myth, well researched psychological insights, and personal stories to illuminate each rule. I came away with a sturdier foundation for courageously getting through and flourishing when life gets tough as it’s bound to.

He looks rather angry in the photo above, but if you’ve seen his videos or television appearances, you’ll see that he’s quite personable. The video’s just over a minute and it outlines the book’s objective.

The rules seem simple, e.g. Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back or Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You. If you just read the rule and don’t read the chapter you may think these ideas are old school and just optional. However, after reading chapter one about standing up straight, I’ve learned that posture for people or animals deeply relates to status and confidence. Yes, this echoes Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk on body language. The two prove the same idea using different evidence.

I was surprised to learn things like the fact that people treat their pets better than they treat themselves. When a pet is sick, most people will administer their medicine as directed, while when they’re sick they slack off. Curious, eh? I think we can all do with an injunction to take proper care of ourselves.

I really appreciated how Peterson integrates the wisdom from earlier thinkers and family or personal experiences intelligently. His analysis of the Bible, myth, literature and research convinced me of his points. He also helped me view the wisdom of Genesis, the Old Testament and other scripture anew. I’m not surprised this book is flying off the shelves (virtual and real).

If you’ve read 12 Rules for Life, what did you think?

 

How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 3.09.01 PMScott Adams’ book How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life feels like a friendly mentor sharing tips for success and life experiences. The tone is conversational and the content wise and helpful.

Adams describes how he formed habits that aided his success. He didn’t grow up with parents who had stellar professional careers. In fact, no one in his hometown did. He didn’t have a checklist of goals for year 5, 10, 15. Actually, Adams asserts that “goals are for losers.” Instead, he advocates systems. When you have a goal, most of the time you’re dissatisfied as you’re not there yet. For a short time you glory in achieving a goal or are bummed about failing. Then you’ll probably find a new goal and will return to feeling insufficient. Most of the time, you sure aren’t riding high.

With systems, like being active or learning as much as one can, most of the time you’re in the zone you want to be in. Eventually, this sort of broader challenge will result in the success a goal promises, but along the way, it’s easier to stay positive.

Adams did not have an easy way to the top. No nepotism was available and he wasn’t stellar at any of his corporate jobs. In fact, he admits, he isn’t an excellent artist or masterful writer, but he is good enough. He advises acquiring as many skills as you can because the more skills you have that put you in the competent range, the better. (You need to be able to do these things in a job, but you don’t have to be among the 1% of those in your field.)

I found Adams’ suggestions made sense and are something I’ll apply. Also, I thought the chapters where he chronicles how he had a rare voice condition that made conversation impossible and thereby hurt his speech-giving career, authentic and helpful as far as coping and searching for a solution to a problem that experts say has none was illustrative and heroic.

The book addresses diet and fitness as well as career success. If you’ve got no energy or are sick are you really that successful? Adams is clear that he’s not a doctor or dietician and that his approach to systems rather than goals worked for him. He doesn’t tell you what you should eat or what activities you need to do. Instead he offers new ways of thinking about your daily diet and fitness routines.

Whether you’re starting out or midway through your career, Scott Adam’s How to Fail at Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life is worth a read.

Secrets to Getting Published

My public library had a great talk about getting published. They got a good crowd of aspiring writers who want to write fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and poetry. The talk was led by an editor and a writer, who does both self-publishing and publishing through an established publisher.

I don’t think I should share all the secrets as their handout was copyrighted, but I’ll share some facts and tips:

  1. Know why you want to get published. Have a clear vision of what you consider success to be. (Getting published, wining an award, getting good reviews or what?)
  2. More non-fiction books are written by first time writers.
  3. Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies, and most of those copies are bought by the author. Ugh. ;-(
  4. Learn to “eat rejection for breakfast.” So develop a thick skin and remember that major writers often got dozens or hundreds of rejection letters.
  5. Adequately test your idea by seeing how people, not just loved ones, think about your idea.
  6. If you do self-publish get your books into different sorts of shops. In a book shop your books is one of many, but in a florist or hospital shop there’s only a handful of other books.
  7. The average new writer spends $3000-$5000 of their own money on preparing their books. Both speakers stressed that you should hire a professional editor. Someone who’s an English teacher or reads and edits professionally is required not just a pal.The cheapskate in me balks at spending so much money, but I’m mulling this over. I do have people whom I trust as good writers and grammarians read my work as a favor, but should I be paying someone? What do you think, readers?