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.]
All of the high points of your life take place around other people. Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we tested. Government policy should be measured not by increases in gross domestic product but by increases in global well-being. Depression is the costliest disease in the world. Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill were severe depressives. But both learned to function extremely well even when they were massively depressed. The failure of children to control their fast emotional and cognitive impulses is the seed crystal around which the cascade of school failure begins. Self-discipline outpredicts IQ for academic success by a factor of 2, and also solves one of the perennial riddles about the gap in school achievement between girls and boys. It is the queen of all virtues, the strength that enables the rest of the strengths. Left and right are the politics of means— empowering the state versus empowering the individual. Happiness turns out to be more contagious than depression.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it ensues as the unintended side-effect of our personal dedication to a course greater than ourself. The path to this elusive goal begins with controlling our consciousness. Flow is the state in which we are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Those who master their consciousness live a happier life. Consciousness is intentionally ordered information. Its complexity increases as a result of flow experiences. Words enable abstract thinking and increase the mind’s capacity. The fact that the mind rules the body is the most fundamental fact about the process of life. Turn all of life into a unified flow experience. The meaning of life is meaning.
Framers: Human Advantage in an Age of Technology & Turmoil
By explaining, we learn more and faster about the world than those who don’t bother. Only humans can imagine scenarios that never happened—the power of counterfactuals. With causation we get understanding, with counterfactuals we get agency, and with constraints our frames become actionable. [Apple U is the source of Apple’s continued success after Job’s death]. The only bad frame is one that denies other frames. Framers see the world not as it is, but as it can be. Agility of mind is the foundation of human framing.
Incentives are the cornerstone of modern life and understanding them, or finding them, is the key to solving just about any riddle. Unwantedness leads to high crime; abortion leads to less unwantedness, and therefore to less crime. In the KKK and life insurance, dissemination of information diluted power and profit, respectively. Most drug dealers have no choice but to live with their mother because they don’t make much money. Here are the factors that strongly correlate with test scores and those that do not: child has highly educated parents/child’s family is intact; low birthweight (negative)/attended Head Start; adopted (negative)/regularly spanked; IQs of biological parents/IQs of adoptive parents; many books in his home/frequently watches television; things that parents are/things that parents do. The back-white income gap is largely a product of a black-white education gap. It’s the imminent possibility of death that drives fear. The per-hour death rate of driving versus flying is about equal. Teachers, criminals, real-estate agents, obstetricians, athletes, politicians, and CIA analysts may lie. Numbers don’t.
Fully Grown: Why a Stagnant Economy is a Sign of Success
The most important explanation for the US growth slowdown in the 21st century is the decline in the growth rate of human capital per person, which is the result of a fall in birth rates. Rising living standards and women’s reproductive rights explain about 2/3 of the 1.25% point drop in the growth rate of GDP per capita from the 20th to the 21st century. Without R&D, there are no nonrival innovations or productivity growth. Slow growth, it turns out, is the optimal response to massive economic success.
Give and Take
The greatest untapped source of motivation is a sense of service to others. Giver burnout has less to do with the amount of giving than the amount of feedback about the impact of that giving. The perception of impact serves as a buffer against stress. Giving seems to make people richer. People who gave more, go on to earn more.
God at War
Only when we reject the warfare worldview in favor of one in which one sovereign will governs all are we saddled with an understanding of God and his relationship with the world in which evil becomes impenetrably mysterious. The Augustine perspective attributes pain and suffering to the mysterious “good” purposes of God. The reality of evil: No single theological problem has occupied more intellectual energy, time and ink than this one. This way of posing the problem seems to render it logically unsolvable. Since God has delegated power, it follows that omnipotence cannot be equated with meticulous omnicontrol. Evil is evil precisely because God hates it--even more than we do. Neither Jesus nor his disciples seemed to understand God’s absolute power as absolute control. The struggle of nations to dominate or resist Israel is a struggle of other gods with whom these nations are in league to resist Yahweh. The disciples’ questions, like the many assertions of Job’s friends, were based on the false assumption that God is behind everything. God used Satan’s evil to bring about his own demise.
Good Food Revolution
Nearly half of African Americans born in the year 2000 are expected to develop type II diabetes. Four of every 10 African Americans over the age of 20 have high blood pressure. Healthy foods that are not as energy dense can cost more than 10 times as much. Vegetables and fruits are rapidly becoming luxury goods. Fresh fruits and vegetable are rarely offered because they are highly perishable, require a large amount of refrigerator space, and sell poorly relative to processed food. Many also do not know how to prepare fresh food. A single worm bin could yield several thousand dollars in products before expenses. Our breakout sessions included beekeeping, community-project design, vermiculture, aquaculture, composting, marketing, animal health, youth leadership, and the essentials of gardening. All of the innovations at Growing Power came from relationships. Urban agriculture is not yet reliably profitable.
Good Jobs Strategy
Operational excellence [discipline] is the best and most sustainable way to provide superior returns to investors in the long term. Customer satisfaction and financial performance depend on managing operations and customer interactions. Most retailers view store labor as a cost-driver, not a profit-driver. Managers pay more attention to the costs of more labor than to the benefits. It over-weights the measurable and under-weightis what’s hard to measure. Involving employees in continuous improvement is in the DNA of operationally excellent companies.
GRACE, The Forbidden Gospel
Israel’s transgression was their persistent unbelief in the goodness of God. After Pentecost and the early church, then came religion with its rules, regulations and traditions and swept the earth for almost 1500 years of what we know as the Dark Ages. The reformation and the restoration of the knowledge of God’s goodness brought about the end of the Dark Ages. 1 John 1:9 was not intended for Christians! Whenever the Bible (after the cross) talks about a sinner, it speaks about a person that has not been born again. (John 3:9)
Gravitas: The Monastic Rhythms of Healthy Leadership
Spiritual authority is the grace to influence others in redemptive directions. Concentrated amounts of time in the presence of God change us. Jesus faced 3 temptations: to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful. Practices form a container to hold the day. No one gives that he does not have. Leadership is incarnational. We have succumbed to the original deception of Eden: that God isn’t being truly good. We are loved beyond all reason and understanding. We produce what we are becoming. Prioritize presence over productivity. The first casualty of multitasking is presence. Priority management, not time management is the right quandary to solve. Managing your organizational culture is your first and greatest priority as a leader. Sin was not original or the original position of humanity. Eden is what God is restoring. The most fundamental spiritual practice is paying attention. Soul space is the ability to look around and see what’s happening, to tune in to God’s agenda. Silent prayer is a form of hospitality as you “host” the Holy Spirit. Articulate your own spiritual rhythms. You will carve out a river bed for the “living water” to flow through your life
Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow
We as a culture are—for the first time ever— focusing on the medical problems of the aged and the basic mechanisms of aging. Longevity is a stronger influence on improved individual and societal economics even than education. Aging is really a cluster of diseases, processes, conditions, and system errors that result in loss of years and quality of life. Improvements will most likely at least double our prime years. Since 1992, the labor force participation rates of those 65-69 have risen steadily from 20.6% to 38.3%. Memory loss is the most feared condition associated with aging.
Before the worldwide pandemic faded in 1920 it killed more than any other outbreak of disease in human history—more than ¼ of Europe, an estimated 50-100m people. For most of 2500 years, the treatment of patients by physicians made little progress. Science is undemocratic--consensus doesn't matter. In biology, nearly all activity depends upon form and physical structure—what is called “stereochemistry.” Public health experts monitor the antigen and each year adjust the flu vaccine to try to keep pace. The first casualty of war is truth. Society is ultimately, based on trust. [I may never skip a flu shot again.]
Effort builds skill and makes it productive. You can grow your grit from the inside out. Passion for your work is a discovery, followed by a lot of development, and then a lifetime of deepening. Routines are a godsend when it comes to doing something hard. Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. Wise parenting is both supportive and demanding; neglectful is neither; permissive is supportive but undemanding; authoritarian is demanding but unsupportive.
The main motive for the explosive growth of Christianity in the first 3 centuries was primarily that pagans were impressed that Christians healed the sick and cast out evil spirits. It’s extraordinary and ironic that the scientific world is opening up to belief in prayer, while many Christian theologians remain skeptical. We have too frequently turned the good news into good advice. We are tempted to preach law rather than grace. There is something in us that makes us want to find the right technique for every task. Serenity is a sign of trust and sureness.