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Wednesday, July 04 2012
How to take a class, how to read a paragraph, how to study and learn a discipline. What a great idea for a book series. Drs. Elder and Paul beat me to it though and have put together a series of short books on very practical methodologies for studying and learning called "The Thinkers Guide to - ". Having taught classes on many subjects and for many hours, I always told my students that the only thing worse than sitting in a classroom for 16 weeks, was doing it and not learning anything. Learning of course, being distinguishable from “passing.”
These are practical, well written, and concise guides to how to “get things” out of a paragraph you read or how to identify the “system” of thinking embedded in different subjects.  Students will learn if they are interested, and their interest can be stimulated if they feel like they are getting something.   Key thoughts from several of the books include;
·         All subjects represent a systematic way of thinking.
·         Thinking and learning is not driven by answers but by questions.
·         All academic fields have their own system of logic or meanings. To learn the field is to learn the system. There is an inherent unity in the subject that ties all the learning together.
My favorite was the Thinker’s Guide on How to Read a Paragraph. Who would have a thought to write a book on that? Anyone who has ever read a paragraph, saw all the words, but was a hundred miles away in their mind should read this. These are short, cheap and will hand out lasting benefits. I have made these part of my “go to” manuals on how to get the most out of the subjects I am studying.
Posted by: AT 07:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, June 09 2012
Why things fail is one of the main topics in the book “Adapt – Why Success Always Begins with Failure” by Tim Hartford. Two of the reasons resonated with me because they provide a sort of lens with which you can look at situations and predict their inevitable failure.   These two main reasons are;
1.    They are complex. Complex things fail easily. The reason they do so is because there are so many parts and functions to the thing (be it system, machine, organization) that each part is a target for an unexpected or new condition. New and unexpected things can show up (and will show up) that are provided great opportunity to break something because its complex. Sometimes in complex things, individual parts can get broken that may not destroy the whole thing. That is where the second thing that makes stuff fail comes into play.
2.    They are tightly coupled. Tightly coupled things fail easily. Tightly coupled means that even though the thing is not complex, once failure starts it proliferates so quickly that there is no way to stop it. This is called the domino effect. Dominos are not complex but if set up close enough to one another that each one is quickly affected by the other, failure happens before you can stop it.
Consider that our global banking system was both very complex and tightly coupled and you now know why we have seen systemic financial failure that continues to have enough aftershocks to make you wonder if the big one has even happened yet. Put this lens on for your organization and consider the complexities (targets for the unexpected something) and how tightly coupled the pieces are. This insight into your own propensity for failure may actually help you avert it. You can’t eliminate error, but you should certainly try to simplify and decouple it.
See other book reviews at
Posted by: John Pearson AT 08:14 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Wednesday, May 30 2012
The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal Ph.d. makes a big promise on the cover. To teach you not only how self control works but how to get more of it in your life. The premise is that the “I will” power and the “I won’t” power are managed by the “I want” power. There is a comical component to the book if you can manage some self-honesty and admit that you believe this basic tenant. That we all perceive the future me to have more time, more focus, more desire and more willpower than the present me. Why a diet would work better next month or why next January is a better time to start reading the Bible through is better than starting today is a mystery. We see it that way, but in reality, it’s a myth. The future me will be more of the present me unless immediate modifications are made. The three components of willpower are;
1.    I will power is the power to do what you should do even when you don’t want to.
2.    I won’t power is the power to resist the thing you shouldn’t do no matter how tempting it is.
3.    I want power is the power to remember the thing that you really want in life which drives and manages the other two.
Most willpower battles are the battle between the present and the future. The desire portion of the brain is in constant search of satisfaction (reward) and will take a lesser reward now rather than a greater reward later. That is one of the willpower challenges. The loud voice shouting reward now is louder than the faint voice saying bigger reward later. The section on Olds and Milner’s rats and the discovery of how dopamine works on the brain is worth the time to read the whole book. If you study the Bible you will see science is finally catching up with what the Bible has said for thousands of years about normal human behavior. Of course, the scientists discovered it.
The book has very good advice for coming to terms with the fact that your future you (the one you imagine has infinite willpower and total self control) cannot be trusted to act as nobly as you imagine he/she will. You will learn great willpower tools that are both effective and doable.   Getting to the “I want” of your life will require willpower and willpower will require knowing what force is at work challenging your “I want” and how to disable it before it wrecks something.
Read this and other book reviews in the book review section of
Posted by: John Pearson AT 12:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, May 28 2012
Energy management, not time management is the key to high performance. That is the topic of the book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Scwhartz. The idea behind the book is that both the overuse and underuse of personal energy actually diminishes our capacity to accomplish things. That was a radical thought for a time management junkie to swallow but does explain a lot of the fatigue and dissatisfaction with results that they (we) can experience. So, time management, to the extent that it utilizes spiritual, physical, emotional or mental energy, but does not allow time to replenish them actually produces less results than properly utilizing and replenishing energy. Here are the four major energy food groups discussed in the book.
1.    Spiritual strength is the ability to stay committed to the deepest belief and value that a person has regardless of external circumstances.  This really answers the "why" question with respect to what we throw our life at.  Its the objective of the others. 
2.    Mental energy (endurance) is the ability to concentrate and sustain focus.  The power to pay attention to the important things at hand.
3.    Physical capacity is measure in endurance, flexibility and strength.  To work with energy and not just try to motor through the fatigue.
4.    Emotional strength is the ability to function and respond in a broad range of emotions and the ability to bounce back after moments on extreme disappointment, frustration or loss.
The concept to build capacity for all four categories is a simple one that is the norm for physical training. You push all four dimensions past their normal limit then you create a system for recovery.   The recovery system, in part, involves  a group of positive energy building rituals. Rituals are those things you do habitually without thinking about them but they provide much of the recovery necessary to build energy capacity. The authors propose that energy management is the fundamental currency of high performance. If you face the paradox of needing this book’s advice in order to have enough energy to read this book (which I call the early morning need to drink coffee to be awake enough to make coffee syndrome) you will be relieved to find the  “Bear in Mind” section (Cliff’s notes) at the end of each chapter. 
This and other book reviews can be found in the book review archives at
Posted by: John Pearson AT 11:39 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, December 02 2011
By; Crutchfield and McLeod Grant
This book highlights the six practices of high impact non-profits. It’s worth the weed and read if you don’t need info on government grants and you have no intention of becoming an advocacy group, but want to get your nonprofit focused on effective strategies.   Putting forces in motion for good and not just putting forth effort toward good causes creates sustained momentum. For the non government funded advocacy groups, this is worthwhile;
·         Harness market forces and get businesses on board with the mission.   Create meaningful experiences for donors.
·         Outsiders and volunteers can become evangelists for the cause if cultivated properly.
·         Build your network and your knowledge base. As you build your knowledge base, share it with other nonprofits.
The energies of a nonprofit are volunteers, donors and passions. Getting them focused and active on the mission requires cultivation. Sustaining the motion means the story stays told, the evangelists spread the word and the donor get high impact returns. 
Posted by: John Pearson AT 12:23 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, July 05 2011
That is the title of a book I just read by self admitted serial quitter Jon Acuff. He advocates four things that really resonate with me since I spend so much time with people who have a rabid dream gene. I also work with career professionals and business owners who are constantly looking for ways to be more involved in missions. 
Four big things from the book.
1.       Start slow, start small. You need the Nebraska years. I am not going to explain this to you. Buy the book and maybe Jon will send me a royalty.
2.       Don’t quit your day job to pursue your dream until you have pursued it along side your day job so that you could pay your bills. There are these things called Dons. Not going to spoon feed you here either. It’s worth the time and money to read this if you are a dreamer.
3.       Here is the part I like the best. None of his advice will work for you, no matter how noble your dream, without the magic ingredient; known as “hustle”.    The dream does not become reality unless you get up earlier, stay later, work harder and learn to discipline your life.
4.       Finally, be able to define “enough” so that you stop pursuing it and learn to enjoy it.
Welcome to the MJVI blog. Book reviews, mission updates, business insights and other stuff that matters.
Posted by: John Pearson AT 03:35 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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