Categories
Review

“Refuse to Choose!”

Barbara Sher

My friend Madi has been telling me to read “Refuse to Choose” for a while. (Well, not just me—recommending this book is something of a leitmotif for her.) And, at long last, I finally got to it.

Very early in the book, I had two very clear thoughts:

  1. I am not the target demographic of this book.
  2. Madi really, really is.

Which is a very interesting combination. I actually quite like how early on I was able to come to the first conclusion—we’re talking, “reading the first few pages while browsing in a bookstore” level. And there’s an honesty to that—Sher knows who she’s writing this for, and wants to make sure they know that the book is for them, pretty quickly. Which isn’t to say that I, as someone who, again, isn’t the target demographic, don’t find anything useful in this; at very least, it’s a solid insight into the way my friend’s mind works, and for that alone I’m glad I read it.

But further, for the people this book was meant for, wow is it ever meant for them. I could see, very clearly, just what made Madi love the book.

In short, this book is for and about what Sher calls Scanners. I’m not one—I’ve known since elementary school, if not earlier, that I wanted to Do Computers when I grew up, and I’ve never deviated from that. Scanners are the people whose minds don’t work like that—if they have that deep level of interest, it can change focus over time, or perhaps they have a handful of interests that all equally captivate them, or maybe (as Sher describes herself) you’re interested in everything. If any of that is ringing true to you, I highly recommend this book—it goes through some of the difficulties that you can find yourself facing, and provides some helpful tips for how to deal with them. (And, I want to stress, those difficulties aren’t “your brain is bad and you should feel bad, the solution is to Just Be Better”—it’s much more in the area of “society expects you to want to focus on one thing forever, and your brain just doesn’t work like that, so let’s go through ways you can make the world work for you.”)

And if you, like me, aren’t a Scanner… well, it’s still worth a read, to help you understand the Scanners in your life. Check it out.1

  1. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.
Categories
Review

“Atomic Habits”

James Clear

My life is in flux at the moment. I’ve just recently started a new job, and as a very direct consequence, have to change up some of my outside-of-work doings as well. Happily, I decided to start my project list by going through some of my backlog of books, and alphabetical ordering landed me on this loan from a friend. It’s a good one for times of flux.

As a longtime fan of Cortex, I can’t say that there was anything groundbreaking in this book. Just about everything in it I’ve read or heard in some form or another before, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s one thing to know this stuff, and another to have it all put together in one place, coherently summarized.

So as not to be taking bread out of the mouth of James Clear,1 I’m only going to reiterate one of the core ideas. If you want to encourage yourself to do something, make it easy to do; conversely, if you want to discourage yourself from doing something, make it hard to do. The single best example of this is eating healthy: if you want to eat less junk food, buy less junk food. It’s a simple concept, but it’s hiding something clever: if you buy the junk food, you have to have self control all the time to not eat it. And that, perceptibly, wears on you; by the end of a long work day, you may not have the mental energy left to resist.

On the other hand, if there’s no junk food in the house, there’s nothing to resist. Instead of resisting the urge to open a bag of chips, you’re resisting the urge to… drive to the store, buy a bag of chips, drive home, and open a bag of chips. That doesn’t take much resisting.

And meanwhile, the amount of self-control it takes to not buy it in the first place? Just make sure not to go grocery shopping while you’re hungry, and it’s not that hard at all. How much of your day do you spend in the grocery store, after all?

Atomic Habits is a very good executive summary of several thought technologies like this, and I highly recommend it. Check it out.2

  1. Or however that phrase goes.
  2. This is a Bookshop affiliate link – if you buy it from here, I get a little bit of commission. It won’t hurt my feelings if you buy it elsewhere; honestly, I’d rather you check it out from your local library, or go to a local book store. I use Bookshop affiliate links instead of Amazon because they distribute a significant chunk of their profits to small, local book stores.