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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.
Speaking of the daily slog, there is the slog we all go through when we try something new. It’s the time in between when a project is new and exciting and the time it takes to master it. Seth Godin calls this time the dip.
I tend to stop inside the dip, when progress feels so slow it’s almost barely moving. When the new and shiny gets hard and boring I search for the next thing instead of sticking it out. Ironically, it’s inside the dip where progress is made.
The Dip* – A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin
Which 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
Progress in 2019
All this brings me to what I’d like to focus on in 2019.
Progress – The more I learn the more I see that there are solutions to most environmental problems. New companies and technology are emerging every day. Most of the businesses are small and their products are unproven, but I believe enough will
Historical perspective – To see progress we need to understand how things used to be. I plan to bring in more tidbits from history to put where we are today into context.
Design – Good design is essential in everything from homes to products and websites. A re-designed website and newsletter are coming soon. Plus an online shop that will feature all the best sustainable products you've been asking me for.
Happy New Year in 2019!