Finding the Weird in Everything

Why do teachers cheat? Why do real estate agents not sell your house for the best price? Why did crime rates suddenly dive-bomb in the 90s? These questions and more can be answered in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. By looking at things as an economist and having large data sets, you can answer practically any question out there. Just be prepared to get answers you were no expected to reach. What does economics have to do with this? It’s about money, right? Actually, economists try to figure out why people do what they do: their incentive to do something.

I found this book really fascinating and got me to think about things in ways that I never had before about sine situations. It sounds utterly absurd at times, but as the authors dive deep into things, it makes complete sense, and you wonder why you never thought about it before. One word of caution when reading this book: abortion is a topic in this book. The authors speak on this in a historical context do not take a side in the debate. If you feel especially strong on the issue, I suggest skipping those sections. It is not necessary for the entire book. From the chapter titles, you can probably figure out where it is discussed.

Finishing the Rat Race

Since it is still the beginning of the year, and I am still convinced that I need to be a better me, I have found another book on habits that I sat down and read. The thing that I really enjoyed about this book was the varying narratives that were found throughout. If you want exciting ways to look at habits, I would suggest The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

What I enjoy from reading this was both the personal aspects of habit-making and breaking and how businesses can use that information against us. One example is how Target can say if you are pregnant or not. The data behind that crazy story is revealed in this book. How did Febreze take over the world of cleaning supplies? That answer is here as well. By working through the various cues in our lives, we can figure out how to find the best places and get into new habits and weed out the bad. The stories are attention-grabbing and fascinating reads on how patterns make up our entire world, whether we realized it or not.

Bad, Science!

As we look toward the future, we must also look to that past to make sure that we do no back the same mistakes, especially when we talk about it from an ethical perspective. We do not want to cause harm, but we also want people to understand what we are saying as scientists, or at least that is what I was always told. Then I bumbled my way into reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.

This is one of the stories of science going wrong. As someone involved in science, I believe that these are things that must be discussed to not happen again. The story starts with how the first-ever human cell line was discovered and then is a train wreck from there. This book goes into the African American population’s distrust of the health care system, which stems from racism and lack of science literacy. It takes this abstract idea that most people have about the ethics behind science and then makes it much more real by adding a face. If you are interested in science in any way, I would consider this a must-read. We have to learn from the past mistakes to make significant innovations in the future.

Why You Do What You Do

Want to know why you do something eagerly but drag your feet on other things? It’s because you have specific motivation themes that guide what you do. In fact, everyone has 27 different themes of motivation in a particular order. To find out all about yours, I suggest reading The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces That Drive Your Best Work by Todd Henry after taking the assessment. The assessment is completely free, and it will tell you your top three themes in order. This assessment will take about 30 minutes to complete, so be prepared to take the time to fill it out. After that, you can pay for a more in-depth analysis of your results and all your themes in order. I am also thinking about making a small “cheat sheet” for those who do not want to read the entire book with each theme’s main takeaways.

Going to read this book, I had no clue what the book would tell me, which I feel is the best way to read this book. After finding my motivation themes, I felt ultimately attacked. Besides telling you just how you work under your motivation theme, it suggests ways of working with other motivation themes and giving both sides of the coin. This is an excellent resource for just a personal assessment or figuring out ways to get the most out of your team. The information is expansive and very useful, no matter what you do.

Because You’re Always On That Phone

In continuing to be somewhat helpful in keeping to your New Year Resolution, I would suggest reading Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. If you read my reflection on my first semester in grad school, you’ll know that I was not the biggest fan of his writing style because it came across as elitist. This go around, there are inserts from a lot of different everyday people, which I appreciated. It was easier to connect with Newport as a reader.

Why am I suggesting this book? Unfortunately, if we spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling through our phones, we will not get the things we want to get done. It isn’t that surprising when social media companies engineer their platforms to be as addicting as possible. I have, in fact, implemented some of Newport’s techniques. Other than messaging applications, I have taken all social media off of my phone. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Reddit. The only way I can get on these websites, per my rules, is on my personal computer. When there are times where I don’t need to be on my phone, I usually put it away (such as waiting in grocery lines) and put it on “Do Not Disturb” and get to work. The only time that I get on my phone during that time is to take photos of something or change whatever I’m listening to on Spotify. The one thing that keeps me from completely separating myself from my phone a lot of the time is mobile games. I have this thing with merging and idle games for whatever reason. I love them. I’m currently trying to choose between my favorites and only keeping those on my phone. It’s taking a bit, but I’m doing it.

If you have any tips for staying off your phone at different times, I would appreciate reading them, and I’m sure others would as well.

Actually Doing the Resolutions

“New Year, New Me” is a common sentiment that you hear every single year, and that lasts for about a week before they disappear. From the gym, from their budget. As this new year is followed by what should objectively be considered the worst year ever, instead of just focusing on goals, we should focus on habits. Why do you not go to the gym after a week? You’re of the habit of not going to the gym. And making habits is hard.

That’s where Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. This book outlines the four steps to make good habits more comfortable to obtain and bad habits harder to get. Instead of just saying what practices you should add to your life (because it’s effortless to admit that you should do something), this book lays out the foundation you need to actually do things. Want to go to the gym? Here’s how you do it. Overall, start small and don’t punish yourself too much. Even if you do not want to read this book, I recommend listening to some interviews with James Clear. Listening to those are what actually got me into wanting to read the book. As we start this new year, maybe this will keep you on track to obtaining all of your new year’s resolutions.

Murder of a Lifetime

I love a good murder mystery and watching the good guys win. Even though I love this, it’s usually in the fictional sense, and no one in the making of the murder was hurt. This type, I dipped my toe into more real-life crime with In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

This classic tells the story of the real-life murder of the Clutter Family in Small Town, Kansas. The story switches from the point of view of different townspeople, the investigation team, and the duo responsible. It’s was intriguing how the story all worked together. You read it as if you’re there in the moment of the events and interact with the twists and turns as they happened. I could hardly put the book down. If you are thinking of reading this book, be forewarned that there is offensive language toward African Americans sprinkled throughout and sexual advances on minors. If these offend and/or trigger you, I would suggest not reading.

Major to Houston

I’m not a massive fan of memoirs. In fact, I would say that I actively avoid them. Unless it is a first-person account of a social issue that I am interested in, narrators of memoirs sound larger than life, and I cannot connect to them. Ironically, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Colonel Chris Hadfield is one of the most down to earth books I have ever read.

Hadfield just has a great way of telling his story and being able to connect with him. He does such a great job of showing that he is just an everyday guy with the same problems as others; he only had a really cool ability to have gone to space. It was also a perfect look at what happens inside NASA and other space organizations, a lot more down to earth than what is often portrayed in books and movies. Even though society may tout him as an extraordinary being, he’s just a person and had to continuously work hard to get to where he was. There need to be more memoirs like this, and I wish I could find them this easily. I just want to hear about Clark Kent instead of Superman.

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