What a year it's been! I could hardly ask for more, but I won't get too personal here. Instead, I'll focus on what I learned from my favorite books in 2018, and what I hope to do in 2019.
When I judge the world on what I see in the news feed, I start to believe we are hurtling toward destruction. We are not. Instead, humanity has made gigantic strides in the last 100 years. Author Steven Pinker showed me why this is the greatest time in history to be alive using volumes of data that only he can turn into a page-turner in Enlightenment Now.
Enlightenment Now – The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker.
Factfulness continues on the theme that the world is getting better, yet we don’t tend to see that. Journalists and the media choose exciting and unique stories to tell. The most unusual stories get the biggest headlines and the most clicks. That’s why it’s so hard to see the slow progress humanity makes every day.
Yet the world is better today for the poorest people in the world than it was even twenty years ago. It’s significantly better for almost all of us than it was in 1918 when my grandfather was a child. But slow progress does not often make the news and it’s rarely shown in movies. That’s because watching progress is like watching the grass grow. It’s a slow and daily
Factfulness – Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund.
This leads to Atomic Habits by James Clear. My favorite blogger turned author convinced me that progress simply comes down to the right habits and a good process. Being good at anything (from relationships to work and fitness) is a lot more about the process than the profound. Being a good parent is more about showing up day after day than making everything perfect for Christmas. Marriage, in all its complexity, can sometimes be as simple as consistently connecting.
Good habits are a daily slog, but it’s the day to day that adds up to make us who we are. It’s just hard to see the progress when you’re inside it.
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Everything Happens for a Reason
I’ll wrap up this up with one final mind-shifting book. For years I have asked myself the same question when things go wrong. “What is the reason for this?” I have looked for meaning in the things I can’t explain. But “Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved,” changed my mind.
Author Kate Bowler is a historian at Duke Divinity School. She was diagnosed with stage IV cancer at age 35 when her son was still a toddler. The book responds to the idea that if we are good, then we will earn health, wealth and happiness. But what about when bad things happen to good people? To children? Does that mean they were not good enough?
I don’t have the answers, but Bowler made me think. What if there’s not a reason for everything? If there is no reason for poverty, cancer, and climate change then there must be ways to stop them. And the answer to "how do we stop this" is a lot harder to take on than with than "what is the meaning?"
Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler.