5 Books and a Ted Talk to Overcome the Pandemic

5 libros para pandemia
Foto base por Ed Robertson de Unsplash

The warmer weather is here, the reopening plan is underway and people all around us are getting vaccinated. Is it really happening? Is the end of the pandemic nearing? It has been long and tough. Most of us are ready to move on, resume our lives where we left off. The COVID19 pandemic has been the most transformative episode of thisgeneration and the first true global event. With the benefit of hindsight, I know that I can’t go back to where I was more than a year ago, I don’t want to go back. During this time I have tried different things, gained new perspectives and learned something about myself. I put together the following list of 5 books and a Ted Talk because I believe they helped me maintain a positive outlook during lockdown, not as a way to cope but as a process to come out on top. My hope is that they contribute in a small way to your own process.

  1. The Obstacle is the Way. By Ryan Holiday. A crisis is a difficult point in time where a decision needs to be made. We tend to see crisis as events that could have been prevented but crisis are an intrinsic part of any process; without them learning, innovation or growth are not possible. «You never let a good crisis go to waste» said Barak Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. In this book Ryan Holiday looks at the the philosophy of the stoics and reviews how monarchs, innovators, presidents and athletes have turned adversity into opportunity. This crisis will past but many others will come later; It is not a curse but part of the definition of being alive. It helps you understand that a problem looks different once you learn to accept the things you cannot change and focus your energy on the things you can.
  2. Mindset. By Carol S. Dwek. My philosophy professor taught me that all people could be divided in two: those who leave the tea bag in and those who don’t. This book talks about a more profound distinction: fixed vs. growth mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that you are born with a prearranged set of abilities; that if you are not good at math; for example, it would be very hard for you to develop this ability. People with a growth mindset, on the other hand, are more open to try new things and experiment as they believe that you can learn and develop new abilities throughout your life. In this book Carol elucidates, through her research, that our brain continues to evolve throughout our entire life and many traits such as intelligence, creativity or sports abilities are highly influenced by how we perceive ourselves. The good news is that a fixed mindset can be changed too.
  3. Late Bloomers. By Rich Karlgaard. In an ideal world, we discover our talents and interests at an early age, we are able to study at the university of our choice and we achieve financial success in our twenties. We are obsessed with the early achieve story and at the same time we feel the pressure of not being in the same category. The truth is the majority of people will mature later in life. This is in part because the executive function of our brains will not be fully developed until our late twenties or even later. Human cognitive abilities form a balancing act between our crystalized intelligence (abstract knowledge) and our fluid intelligence (knowledge accumulated through experience). Both abilities increase during childhood, then crystalized intelligence starts to diminish whilst fluid intelligence continues to grow in adulthood. Late bloomers receive bad press for no reason: they tend to retain more of their childlike curiosity. At the same time, they are more compassionate, exhibit more resilience and are calmer in stressful situations which leads to insight and wisdom. If you are just going to read just one book from this list I suggest you read this one: It has the potential to start a revolution in how we see aging, employment and entrepreneurship.
  4. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. By Scott Adams (The same guy that created the Dilbert comic strip). This book is a journey of self discovery, through his own story of failures Adams provides the clues to finding your edge in life. Where to start? Think about the things you naturally gravitate towards, think about what you loved when you were a child, these are powerful indicators of what to aim for and where to start building your skill stack. Most of what happens to us in life we can’t control but when you add a new skill you double your chances of success (not a mathematical fact but you get the idea) Your skills could be unrelated but when you combine them (i.e: your skill stack) you become unique. He urges us not to establish goals, he says that goals are for losers; what you need is to create systems conducive to delivering consistent results. For example: don’t focus on losing weight, learn how to eat right and create the system to do it with the least amount of effort. According to Scott Adams he was not the funniest, the best cartoonist or the most accomplished executive; however, he combined these skills to create one of the world’s most successful comic strips.
  5. Skip the Line. By James Altucher. It is said that to master any discipline you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. But in an ever changing world where entire industries appear and disappear, careers extend, the volatility of the market forces you to change or you discover your passion late in life, you need a better strategy. James Altucher builds upon the idea of the skill stack: When you are developing new skills you don’t have to start from zero; perhaps, you can leverage what you have done before «borrowing» hours form previous experiences. Even better, he proposes the 10,000 experiment rule: a set of strategies to exercise your creative muscle and test new ways of doing things. When you approach challenges with the mindset of an explorer you
    don’t fail, every unsuccessful attempt provides new information. Repeat this process many times and the compound effect will lead to positive and unexpected results. Skip the Line is not about cheating, is about accelerating your learning process through experimentation.
  6. The Super Mario Effect (Tedx Talk). By Mark Rober. In 2017 Mark Rober created an experiment to show that anyone could write code. He created a digital puzzle that was answered by 50,000 of his YouTube followers and he measured the results. The real experiment however, was to understand how reframing the learning process could lead to better results. In one version of the puzzle people’s score went down by 5 points for every failed attempt. In the second version they didn’t lose any points. Even though these points had no value, the individual results were not going to be shared with anyone and there was no consequence whatsoever in the real world, people were more willing to try more times (and therefore, had a better success rate) when there was no penalty. He arrived at a profound insight: What would have happen to the learning process if we were not concerned with failure? How much more could we learn? He called this the Super Mario Effect, (inspired by the Mario Bros videogame) that is, when you focus on rescuing the princess and not the pits, to stick with a task and learn more. And of course, to have fun along the way.
To learn more:

The Obstacle is the Way. By Ryan Holiday
Mindset. By Carol S. Dwek
Late Bloomers. By Rich Karlgaard
How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. By Scott Adams
Skip the Line. By James Altucher
The Super Mario Effect. By Mark Rober
Photo by Ed Robertson

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