The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance

This is yet another book recommended by Scott Fawcett, inventor of DECADES golf. It’s written by Josh Waitzkin who was the kid featured in In Search of Bobby Fisher movie that came out in _____. He was a chess prodigy, and though he never conquered the world, he was among the best of the best.  That’s a lifetime accomplishment, right? But after he was done with chess, he moved into Tai Chi Chuan. While there is the peaceful side of the Tai Chi moves, there is also serious competition, violent competition, that is a part of it. Waitzkin became a world leader in that field as well. That alone is a great story, but what he adds in learning theory, what to do in the effort to be truly great, is nothing short of phenomenal. I recommended this book to my Dad, and it’s his new favorite book. 13.5 stars. Mike says, check it out.

The Art of Scoring: The Ultimate On-Course Guide to Short Game Strategy and Technique

I think the way that I learned about this book was through a golf learning program called Decades Golf, taught by Scott Fawcett. I believe he said this book was one of his go to’s. Like Fawcett, he believes that if average golfers kept their swing the same and made no other improvements, walking around the course with a pro would lower their score by 5-10 shots, as they would make better decisions. Great short game tips throughout. Turns out he is one of the most expensive golf instructors out there, charging $500 an hour for a lesson. I’m happy to have paid $10.99 for book on Kindle, and I think I’ll stop there.

Walking in Wonder: Eternal Wisdom for a Modern World

My friend Tom recommended this book to me this year. Tom is a fellow superintendent who plans to retire at the end of 2022. He is a talented leader, a musician, and on top of that, a very reflective person. He found this book meaningful to him as he was embarking upon his new journey of no longer being one of the epicenters of the world of education.

As I write this, I have just finished six months of being retired and not working. While I have dabbled in some consulting things, I already know a few things about this new life that Tom is going to find out. My life is incalculably more sane. I am able to devote my full attention to matters at hand at home. And my email and my phone traffic have decreased by 95%. That’s all beautiful, but it does mean that I am now rarely distracted by pressing matters that take me away from . . . me.

Tom recommended this book because it deals with topics of balance, aging, wonder, the beauty in landscape, solitude, and more.

John O’Donahue is a famous Irish poet. I have been accused by those who love me of being illiterate, and my lack of knowledge of anything O’Donohue has ever done might be exhibit 243B in that case. But that didn’t stop me. But I do recoil a little at poetry. Understand poetry requires a slowness in my mind that I am working on, but I have so far to go on. This book is a mixture of conversations O’Donohue had with others and poems written throughout his life. And like Mikey of Life Cereal fame, I surprised even myself by not just liking it, but truly finding a great deal of meaning in it.

I’m grateful to Tom for the recommendation, and if you’re interested, try it. You’ll like it.

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being

Martin Seligman is on a mission to change the very nature of psychology. While he looks at drugs and Freudian psychology as techniques that can at least mask and perhaps address the problem, he sees positive psychology as a way for everyone to grow. He does not want to treat PTSD, instead he wants to promote PTSG (Post-Traumatic Stress Growth). In his book he defines Well-Being (he used to use the term happiness, but he believes well-being is a better and more inclusive term) as having these five elements:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Meaning
  • Positive Relationships
  • Accomplishment

And he gives research proven techniques for how we all can improve our sense of well-being. He has worked extensively with the military, and they have adapted his techniques in a big way. He has tried to work with schools and has experienced . . .  just some success. Working with a military structure that has at least some unity is easier than working with nearly 14,000 school districts around the nation.

I wrote a blog post about how I learned about Seligsman’s work and my reflections on its impact. I highly recommend the book, and you can check out my blog post here.

You can purchase the book on Amazon.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

What a life. Those of you who watch the Daily Show (Jon Steward/Steven Colbert/Trevor Noah) know what intelligence, empathy, humor, and wit and takes to lead that effort. Trevor Noah has all of that.

But I expected this book to be laugh out loud humorous. He finds a way to lighten it, and there’s humor there, but it’s a hard story.  Growing up in South Africa as the secret child of a black mother who grew up in Soweto and a white father of Swiss/German descent is something nobody would wish upon anybody. Noah writes, “During apartheid, one of the worst crimes you could commit was having sexual relations with a person of another race. Needless to say, my parents committed that crime.”

It’s the story of a loving and totally giving mother and a challenging young man for whom life could have easily gone a different direction. But it did not. It is honest, brutal and it gives great insight into Apartheid (and the American South) from someone who we love seeing in our homes during The Daily Show.

You can’t put this book down, and Trevor Noah truly honors his mother while shining a stunningly bright light on all the wrong hardships he and his family endured.

Get it on Amazon here.

Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Smart, Sexy, and Fit – Until You’re 80 and Beyond

Younger Next Year is a book I keep coming back to. I forget who first turned me on to it, but I read it in my mid-fifties, and it continues to inspire me.  The bottom line is that at some point, sometime in our forties or fifties, our bodies want to get old and decay. It is time, and they are ready to fade. We can’t stop it, but we can do a great job of slowing it down. Some of the quotes that have impacted me:

  • “So how do we keep ourselves from decaying? By changing the signals we send to our bodies. The keys to overriding the decay code are daily exercise, emotional commitment, reasonable nutrition and a real engagement with living. But it starts with exercise.”
  • “In short, we have adopted a lifestyle which—for people designed as we were designed—is nothing less than a disease. Think about that. Our lifestyle—especially in retirement, especially in this wonderful country—is a disease more deadly than cancer, war or plague.” That lifestyle comes about because, relative to our ancestors, everything is easy now. Food is plentiful, we live comfortable lives, and the threat of true danger rarely appears in our lives. It’s not what our bodies are expecting.
  • “Biologically, there is no such thing as retirement, or even aging. There is only growth or decay, and your body looks to you to choose between them.”
  • “You can control the cycle [of stress, inflammation, and repair]. Commuting, loneliness, apathy, too much alcohol and TV all trigger the inflammatory part of the cycle. But daily exercise, joy, play, engagement, challenge and closeness all trigger the crucial repair.”
  • “Do serious strength training, with weights, two days a week for the rest of your life.”
  • “Aerobic exercise does more to stop actual death, but strength training can make your life worthwhile.”
  • “Do serious aerobic exercise four days a week for the rest of your life.”

Obviously, this stuff is really hard. It’s way easier to decay and grow truly old. I am choosing to fight. I hope this effort will help counteract whatever life throws at me, and I’m not going down easy.

 

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

I’m not sure why I haven’t added this book until now. I’ve been reading it and re-reading it for years, and it has helped me through many a stressful time. I love the references to all of the world’s major religions. The main premise is rather Buddhist in nature, seeking the end of suffering through quieting the mind, but Tolle employs wisdom from many religions in explaining the path. I feel that I can go to this book and open it up to any page to find wisdom and guidance. Some of the passages I have highlighted over the years include:

  • Enlightenment is not only the end of suffering and of continuous conflict within and without, but also the end of the dreadful enslavement to incessant thinking. What an incredible liberation this is!
  • Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.
  • When listening to another person, don’t just listen with your mind, listen with your whole body. Feel the energy field of your inner body as you listen. That takes attention away from thinking and creates a still space that enables you to truly listen without the mind interfering. You are giving the other person space — space to be. It is the most precious gift you can give.

Another book in my bibliography on meditation is 10% Happier, which is a much lighter version, kind of a sports center version, of the power of meditation.  I recommend it as well, but The Power of Now is the true source for me. And true enlightenment is like Calculus – we can approach it the answer, but even the best at it don’t quite get there. I have a long way to go, and I am grateful for this book.