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I publish WendellNotes for significant books I read to make their perspective available to friends and GIN subscribers who may not otherwise have time for them. Before I started writing WendellNotes in 2011, book notes were part of my Journal. [Brackets separate my comments from the author's.]

Everything depends on what teachers, parents, and students did, not how much money is spent. PISA scores are a better predictor of who will go to college than report cards. It was measuring aspiration. Finland built a system on trust in which kids achieved higher-order thinking without excessive competition or parental meddling; Without its education obsession, Korea could not have become the economic powerhouse that it is. Korea’s sky-high PISA scores are mostly a function of students’ tireless efforts. The education superpower countries found that performance was mostly a product of hard work. This attitude meant that all kids tried harder and that was more valuable to a country than gold or oil. The real innovation in Korea was their shadow education system—the after school tutoring complex . After WW2 the Finns were desperate to modernize and their leaders agreed that education was the only thing that could save their country from being left behind. They selected highly educated teachers and trained them rigorously. Accountability mandates became unnecessary and  a burden, Most Korean parents saw themselves as coaches. To work, praise must be specific, authentic, and rare. Student autonomy was a symptom of rigor. Thoroughness (in answering all the questions on a test) is more predictive of countries’ scores than socioeconomic status, class size or any other factor studied. Many countries are delaying tracking to later grades. When they do so, all kids tend to do better. Autonomy mattered as much to teachers as cash. Private schools did not add much value. The in-school variable that matters most is the teacher. The principal acts as the filter instead of the education college or the teacher certification system

Download this file (T Smartest Kids in t World.pdf)Smartest Kids in the World200 kB

The most important thing in your life is not what you do; it’s who you become. That’s what you will take into eternity. The soul never thinks without a picture. The more we focus on ourselves, the more we neglect our souls. The soul integrates the will, mind and body. Sin disintegrates them. Conviction is a God-given ache for goodness. The soul’s infinite capacity to desire is the mirror image of God’s infinite capacity to give. The unlimited neediness of the soul matches the unlimited grace of God. What the Bible calls idolatry we call addiction. The soul needs a keeper. I am my soul’s keeper, not its captain. The main thing you will give others is the person you become. Easy is a soul word, not a circumstance word. The soul was not made for an easy life. It was made for an easy yoke. The soul was made to rest in God the way a tree rests in soil. Good habits are enormously freeing--we accomplish good things almost on autopilot. Work is a soul function. A paradox of the soul is that it is incapable of satisfying itself, but incapable of living without satisfaction. Without a grateful heart the soul suffers because the soul needs gratitude.

Download this file (Soul Keeping.pdf)Soul Keeping220 kB

Any child will outperform your expectations if you can find a way to feed his or her passion. Curing autism would be the same as “curing” science and art. All of his other skills would come along naturally as long as he was doing what he loved. He remembers everything he’s ever learned and has all that information immediately accessible to him whenever he wants it.

Download this file (Spark.pdf)Spark121 kB

One of the fastest ways to restore trust is to make and keep commitments—even very small ones. Nothing is as fulfilling as a relationship of trust, as inspiring as an offering of trust, as profitable as the economics of trust, or has more influence than a reputation of trust. Trust is a function of character and competence. The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is today (Chinese proverb). Trust is like a tree. Credibility is based on your track record which consists of your integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. Capabilities are the talents, attitudes, skills, knowledge, and style that inspire confidence. The agenda that inspires the greatest trust is seeking mutual benefit. If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less. The quickest way to decrease trust is to violate a behavior of character, while the quickest way to increase trust is to demonstrate a behavior of competence. The only relationships that have ever been worthwhile and enduring have been those in which there is trust and alignment. You can judge a person’s character by the way he treats people who can’t help him or hurt him. Keeping commitments is the number one influencing behavior.  Trust is the vital component in customer loyalty and brand strength. The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is the key leadership competency of the new global economy.

Download this file (Speed oTrust.pdf)Speed of Trust156 kB

She’s made countless mistakes and committed unthinkable atrocities, yet the church has also shown the world its most grace-filled, life-giving, love-splattered moments. The church is the epicenter of God’s activity in the world. The Jerusalem church was an exceptional situation and was never to be the “norm” of church life. God is too creative to write the same story twice. Perseverance seems to be one of God’s most desired characteristics in the lives of His children and churches. Meaningful repetition is nigh impossible when read or spoken; yet when sung it deepens the truths within us.

Download this file (A Stained Beauty.pdf)Stained Beauty201 kB

The only ways to influence human behavior are to manipulate it or inspire it. People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. Value, by definition, is the transference of trust. Great companies hire already motivated people and inspire them. The Golden Circle is, in practice, a megaphone. A WHY provides a clear filter for decision-making. The volume of the megaphone comes solely from growth of WHAT. Every person has a WHY and every organization has one too.

Download this file (Start with Why.pdf)Start with Why205 kB

[This is the most useful explanation I’ve found of the rhythms of American history and its likely future]. The unity of the utterly divers—cowboy, scientist, inventor-businessman, warrior—constantly reinvents. Socioeconomic cycles are shaped by social and economic failure. Institutional cycles are shaped by wars. To date there have been 5 socioeconomic 50-year cycles: 1) Washington to Adams; 2) Jackson to Grant; 3) Hayes to Hoover; 4) Roosevelt to Carter; 5) Reagan to whomever will be elected in 2028. Institutional 80-year cycles: Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WW2. The next cycle is emerging from the war against jihadists since 2001. The first institutional cycle created the federal government, the second redefined its relationship to the states, the third redefined its relation to the economy and society, and the fourth cycle will redefine its relationship to itself. The source of the current problem is the notion that because expertise is essential, it should govern. We are governed by people who know a great deal about narrow subjects, but few who can see the whole. This is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. The rise of a class based on expertise attacks common sense. The emerging transformations of the 2020s crisis will revolve around the institutions of higher learning. The concept of common sense will have to be reintroduced. The financial problem that will frame the sixth cycle is a surplus of money in the economic system and its distribution. The extension of old age may be the consequence on which the 21st century pivots.

Download this file (Storm before the Calm.pdf)Storm before the Calm363 kB

The rich are most at risk for missing life that is real (1 Tim 6:19). Vulnerable at root means woundable. Money can keep you swaddled far beyond your tender years, well into an adulthood or risk-averse entitlement. Idolatry is the use of created things to purse godlike power without risk or limit. The goal of police power is flourishing—actually increasing the capacity for meaningful action in a community. Vulnerability shed by one group of people is inevitably borne oy others’ suffering. The root of the problem is the quest for authority without vulnerability. The greatest paradox of flourishing is that it is only found on the other side of suffering, because of the extraordinary grip of idols over our world. Our competence is helpful—but our vulnerability is transformative. What we are missing, to become like Jesus, is not more authority—it is more vulnerability. Leaders take responsibility for others’ flourishing.

Download this file (Strong and Weak.pdf)Strong and Weak177 kB

Suffering belongs to the person and purpose of God. God reveals his secrets to the prophets in order to draw them into the sphere of decision making. The varying intensities of the divine presence relate to the varying intensities of human need and experience. God desires a place for himself. For God to be fully present would be coercive; faith would be turned into sight and humankind could not but believe. God can be driven away or forced into hiding as a result of what people do. In a real sense, those who hear and see the prophet, hear and see God. The prophets are not simply to speak the word or do it, but to reembody it in the world. The prophet mirrors the life of God. The people not only hear that God bears their sins, but they see that he does so in the person of the prophet.

The bond of all companionship is conversation--the most powerful thing on earth. The emotionally intelligent person is a pleasure to be around and leaves others feeling better. The difference between a shallow question and one that sparks an opportunity for emotional connection is vulnerability. If we acknowledge someone else’s vulnerability, and become vulnerable in return, we build trust. Look to mood and energy to gauge emotions, and then match to show you’re listening. Teaching everyone a technique for listening makes it safer for emotional disclosures to occur. We prove we are listening by looping for understanding. When you prove to someone you are listening, you give them some control over the conversation.

Experts are often untroubled by doubt. Declaration of high confidence mainly tells you that an individual has constructed a coherent story in his mind, not necessarily that the story is true. There was an inverse correlation between fame and accuracy. Bait and switch—replacing “Was it a good decision?” with “Did it have a good outcome?”  leads us to draw false lessons from experience, making our judgment worse over time. Meaningful accountability requires systematic tracking of accuracy. Many equate confidence and competence. Feelings masquerade as knowledge, as thoughts. We need “tacit knowledge,” the sort we only get from bruising experience. Plans are useless but planning is indispensable. Our minds crave certainty and when they don’t find it, they impose it. Brushing off surprises makes the past look more predictable than it was—and this encourages the belief that the future is much more predictable than it is. Avoid conflating facts with values.

Download this file (Superforcasting.pdf)Superforcasting209 kB

As many as 1 million European women were executed for witchcraft. Homes sold on typically fetched about the same prices as those sold by Realtors, but they 20 days longer to sell. Children who grew up watching a lot of TV were more likely to engage in crime when they got older. Seatbelts costs $30,000 per life saved, while airbags cost $1.8 million. Articles published by climate researches in the mid-1970s were predicting the effect of global cooling. Doctors are the leading cause of preventable wound infection.

Download this file (Superfreakonomics.pdf)Superfreakonomics177 kB

All nodes prefer to attach to other nodes with the most connections. Leaders can outsource all kinds of professional skills, but not the interpersonal skills needed to build deep and resilient relationships. Human networks are based on the exchange of social capital, which serves as a vehicle for the transaction of other network commodities such as money and information. The more you have, the more you get—the “Matthew Effect.” People will forget what you did or said, but not how you made them feel. They abide by the “cult of failure” and stress the formative nature of failures, setbacks, and disappointments. Relational capital creates network capital, which increases the return on relationships.  Networks need platforms to form, expand, and strengthen. As finance takes up an increasingly larger share of GDP, investment in the real economy falls. In every system network dynamics eventually lead to greater levels of homogeneity, interconnectedness, and complexity. [Read this in view of the relationship superhubs developing within the Kingdom of God.]

Download this file (Superhubs.pdf)Superhubs201 kB

Missional habits--what we do and say that alerts others to the reign of God--shape our missional outlook. When our lives become questionable, our neighbors invite us to proclaim the reign of God. Habits unleash our values naturally. Discipleship is about changing the behavior of people. Jesus’ purpose in coming was to serve, to seek and save the lost. His method was eating and drinking.

The poor had some privileged delivery system for giving me access to the gospel. Disapproval does not seem to be part of God’s DNA. Shame is at the root of all addictions. “My spirit is so sore. It hurts to be me.” The principal suffering of the poor is shame and disgrace. Assume the answer to every question is compassion. If we long to be in the world who God is, then somehow our compassion has to find its way to vastness. The great encounter with the “father wound” is every homeboy’s homework. The absence of self-love is shame, just as cold is the absence of warmth. We seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.  The opposite of depression is not happiness, it’s delight. Bad behavior is recognized for the language it is: the vocabulary of the deeply wounded and of those whose burdens are more than they can bear. I want to lean into the challenge of intractable problems with as tender a heart as I can locate, knowing that there is some divine ingenuity here, “the slow work of God,” that gets done if we’re faithful.

Download this file (Tattoos on the Heart.pdf)Tattoos on the Heart163 kB