David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This books is worth your time. I had the fortune of listening to the audio version which allowed me to enjoy Gladwell reading from the book himself. "David and Goliath" is more about empathy, attention to detail, and the impact of opposition on character than anything else. The stories and facts contribute to the following key ideas:
- Adopt a different strategy to win: when a person or group is left with no other options they may act in a way totally different than what the "giant" might have anticipated. Story of the girl's basketball time and the full court press, David and Goliath (obviously!), French Impressionists, T.E. Lawrence of Arabia, Civil Rights and Brer Rabbit tactics in Birmingham with the police dogs
- The Inverted U Curve: too much of something commonly seen as desirable leads to undesirable outcomes. Story student at Brown University giving up on science, rich Hollywood man struggling to parent, Fresno man and the CA 3 strikes law compared to Winnipeg woman and forgiveness, "Troubles" between Catholics and Protestants and the British General's blunder.
- Sometimes potential weaknesses give us strength: often "giants" are confounded when the weaknesses being delivered leads to other powerful strengths. Stories include the bombing of London and "near misses" leading to courage, Huguenot village in France providing refuge to Jews during WW2, Dyslexic lawyer and Hollywood producer learned listening and persuading skills from dealing with trouble reading, Jay Freireich's brutal childhood helped him push past huge road blocks to save thousands of children from cancer by using cocktails of drugs by shooting them into the shin bone.
Gladwell is a master storyteller and designs his books in such an artful way. One critique I've heard about Gladwell's work is that it is more story than it is science-based and I sort of agree. But that is why I like it! I guess if his interpretations were significantly wrong or dangerous to my understanding than that would be a problem, but as I look at the principals he is sharing and the stories he uses I find they are fully aligned with truth I have found in other areas of my life and reading. If you are looking for a strictly non-fiction book with statistics and rational appeal, this might not be your favorite book. However, if you enjoy excellent storytelling and the exploration of new ideas and perspectives than I think you will love this book.
View all my reviews
Job and the Mystery of Suffering: Spiritual Reflections by Richard Rohr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I have always been somewhat perplexed by the Book of Job. The theology seemed a little odd in the way God gives Satan free reign to mess with this guy, and things just go down hill from there. Rohr breaks down the book in a very readable and pointed way, and I really appreciated his interpretations and take-aways.
"Can a human being love God for nothing?" is the question that "sets the whole drama in motion". Rohr begins at the beginning of the book. Job goes through immense suffering, and his friends come to give him some advice.
"There is no correlation between sin and suffering, between virtue and reward. That logic is hard for us to break . . . the three and eventually four friends of Job are intent on preserving their notion of God, their notion of job, and their notion of justice at all costs. As I see it, they perfectly represent the most common masquerades for true Biblical faith: ideology, orthodoxy, conventional wisdom, and heroic idealism . . . the difference between Job and his advisers is that they want and demand clarity and order from the universe. They want to foresee what God will do. Job wants to see God. They want to preserve a world of correct and coherent ideas. Job wants to preserve his relationship with God, even if its means his "littlement." (p. 33-34)
I love Rohr's breakdown of the different perspectives offered by Job's friends. It is easy to see my own weaknesses and philosophies mingled with the comfortable doctrine presented. A big theme I noticed that Rohr emphasized was the idea that by blessing humanity with moral agency, God allows himself to not be in full control of everything.
"When Jesus sat looking down on Jerusalem and crying over it, the last thing he needes was a pious soul to run up to him and say, "Now, Jesus, don't cry. It's all in God's perfect plan. In fact, it's even prophesied in the scriptures." No. Let Jesus cry. Crying is a different mode entirely than fixing, explaining, or controlling. We need to cry more, I think . . . God remains in love and therefore out of the control mode. When we are not in love, we are invariably trying to control everything --it's a good litmus test." (p. 60)
Indeed, letting go of control seems to be the crux of true faith. "Faith is having the security of being insecure" (p. 74). This reminds me of some very powerful principals of Taoism. Letting go can be more powerful than taking charge. Simplicity is more elegant and useful than complexity. Along those lines comes the idea that our desires are ever present and molding our character.
"Job is being led beyond ideas and concepts to mere desire. He has been simplified by suffering, which is what suffering always does. He is reduced to pure desire. What we desire enough is likely what we are likely to get. The all-important thing is to desire, and desire deeply What we desire is what we become. What we have already desired is who we are right now. We must ask God to fill us with the right desire." (p. 123).
The quote above sounds like it could easily have come from Elder Richard G. Scott or Dallin H Oaks! I love it. A big thing Rohr talks about is the importance of realizing that the world and our own lives are not about us. Once we really know who we are and understand our divine identity, THEN we can really begin the journey of coming to know and love God. We must come to terms with our own fallen nature, and accept our weaknesses with integrity.
The conclusion of the book deserves more of my time and reflection. I am not sure how much I agree or even understand what Rohr is taking from this but I do feel like the general idea is aligned with how I feel about Job's story.
"God doesn't formally answer a single one of Job's complaints. Only God could get away with this. All God does is offer a radically new perspective which makes the answers unnecessary. God invites Job into a warm and personal encounter with himself." (p. 149)
Back to the original point, there doesn't have to be reasons for everything. God is not a behaviorist! He lets it rain on the good and the bad. Sometimes horrible things happen, but what is the most important is our learning God and His nature. "To see and be seen. That's all any of us desire."
View all my reviews
When politicians say, "We will hold schools and teachers accountable for our children's success" I hear something more like, "We want to blame teachers and schools for the impact of the broken American family unit. We will hold educators accountable for the actions of millions of children who are being raised in unstable conditions including poverty, ultra entitlement, and non-attachment."
Yes, there are bad teachers who are not doing their job. This sad but true reality in the imperfect world we live in. Teachers who clearly have no interest in student success obviously have no place in the classroom. However, there are also lots of really great teachers, who are made less great due to the insane demands placed on them by people and groups hurling around the word "accountability" without much thought or understanding.
On April 25 of this year The New York Times posted this opening sentence in a short article about the state of education and the measures to which the President is taking to bring about something on the education agenda.
The Obama administration announced on Friday that it was developing ratings of teacher preparation programs to make them more accountable for their graduates’ performance in the classroom.
Do you see anything wrong with this idea?
I think it is wrong for reasons beyond the idea of merit-based pay for teachers. What is wrong is the idea that one person should be held accountable for another persons actions, performance, or overall character. This point was made by Dr. Randy Davies in my IP&T class which is all about assessing learning outcomes and testing. Some points he made have caused me to reflect on some additional ideas.
Do we hold parents accountable for the bad choices their kids make? Are governments held accountable for the dumb things people in their country do? Does God hold us accountable for anything other than our own choices? We allow food companies to create garbage and sell it to our children in school, but do we hold them accountable for the high obesity rate in children? We encourage a culture of violence through a variety of ways but do we hold those companies accountable for the deaths of people that can be tied back to such a culture?
And why not?
Because the fact is that it is impossible to be held accountable for the actions of others. By saying "I am holding you accountable for Jimmy's science test score" you are essentially saying "Jimmy has no agency or ability, and because it is ultimately up to YOU to teach him to perform correctly I am holding YOU responsible for how well he does. Jimmy is not accountable for his own choices."
Sounds ridiculous and it is. The parents may or may not have raised the kid in a good way, even though they make bad decisions. Governments are organizations of imperfect people, and just because somebody does something stupid from their country doesn't mean the government itself caused that person to do that thing. Food companies certainly know they are giving kids junk, but in the end it is the kid and their parents who actually pay for and encourage the sales of such stuff.
But don't misunderstand me. Of course there is some degree of accountability an adult has as a member of our society. There is a shared understanding, at least in the culture I live in and understand, that if you are an adult you have some specific things you are expected to do. And I think people should be accountable for those things which are in their power. If you parent a child you should provide the basic necessities of life, including love and attachment. If you break the law you should submit to the full brunt of the penalty assigned to you. You are accountable.
However, there is a limit to how far one's accountability extends.
A parent may teach their child how to play the piano but in the end the kid refuses to learn and never acquires the skill. Perhaps a military officer trains a soldier who then later disobeys orders and gets a handful of people killed. Or, on a really macro level - what about Jesus Christ? The Master Teacher had many individuals who sat at his feet who then later clearly exhibited a lack of understanding of Christ's message. Does this mean the parent, military officer, and the Savior are BAD teachers? Does this mean we need to hold them more accountable and test their subjects more? Of course not.
I know I am being a little annoying, and maybe a little simplistic. But really, the fact is it is hard to face the fact that we are responsible for our own actions. As much as we want to throw the blame on others, or tell a story of good vs. evil that spins in favor of our preferences, the fact remains that we can not be accountable for the agency of other free agents.
So please, stop staying "we will hold them accountable". It makes no sense, and is actually an irresponsible
This is sort of a rant, and not very well organized or edited. Let me know if you see some holes or have feedback for me. Let's learn together!
Stories are what help us understand the world. Stories are at the core of who we are. And through the sharing of good stories is how we come to see a new perspective, get motivated to achieve new things, and connect to ideas and people.
There is SO much out there about the importance of story. Talking any more about the power of story here is really not worth it. If you don't believe me, check out resources like The Story of Telling,Framing the Story, or just Google "The Heroes Journey" if that isn't something you were taught in English class.
What isn't discussed as much is the power of the human story that can be accessed in short films for organizations.
Customers are barraged by polar opposites when it comes to video marketing such as strange click-bait videos ("2,000 ton snake chases puppy!") or banal infomercials that last 20 minutes long. You know better though right? You know that a catchy music track, some quick editing, and maybe some nice shots can go a long way. But even a pretty well-crafted video is still missing out on what really gives content the life necessary to make a difference.
Enter the Human Story.
In an exhaustive study of most-shared articles and content on the Internet, Wharton Business School Assistant Professor Jonah Berger discovered an amazing thing about what makes content more likely to be shared. The answer? Human emotion. Feelings.
Sam Malcolm summarized Berger's discovery nicely; "Naturally contagious content usually evokes some emotion, so rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings. In particular, we need to focus on high-arousal feelings such as awe, excitement, amusement, anger, and anxiety". In addition to this insight, the TED Ads Worth Spreading White Paper gives a some points in this regard:
"Visual media, like Internet video, amplifies . . . emotional responses. The effect is so profound that web giant Google consulted with anthropologists to understand and catalog our reactions. It’s all the stuff that makes the world go around: human moments, human myths, transcending our limits, transcending our prejudices, rediscovering ourselves, laughing at ourselves, and believing in our dreams.”
So lets look at a video example and talk about how the creators focused on the "human moments" in order to make a great Human Story video.
This is a real story, with a great subject. Not only is the video made with thoughtful shooting and smart editing, but it evokes some of the emotions discussed above including the following:
The filmmakers obviously cared for their subject in how they crafted the story and interacted with the subject's environment. Contrast this with a traditional ad featuring a model or actor who is following a script and trying to make a very clear point. Instead of this route, the filmmakers told a great story and the sponsor was shown at the end.
Another important point is that Pfizer's brand is directly connected to the story though never explicitly shown in the meat of the video. The brand and the story are closely related but you never hear the name "Pfizer" or see obvious Pfizer products or services being marketed, and yet the emotions and general feeling of the film are connected to the brand and the direct call to action to share your own story on GetOld.com gives you a way to share the emotion and connection experienced. Pretty powerful.
The Bottom Line
Brands are moving towards human story videos like the one shared above. The content is at the front, and the brand takes the visual backseat. This approach clears the path for viewers to connect on a deeply human level to the stories of what truly great brands can offer in products and services. Videos like these aren't for every organization, but when done correctly they can be incredibly powerful in establishing a brand's presence,image, and impact.
Here are a few more examples we enjoyed:
I am a graduate student in Instructional Psychology and Technology at Brigham Young University. I enjoy writing, hiking, and spending time with my family.