Tuesday, January 13, 2015


As we become uber specialists knowing more and more about less and less, we become a little like that guy at the gym who only works biceps. He can't brush his teeth so his workouts aren't going to help with the ladies, and everything else looks like it is about to snap. TED.com helps provide connections to other ideas. Talks of 18 minutes from experts in various fields (with coaching and support on presentation skills) touch on 'ideas worth spreading' in a digestible format. They have recently extended the concept to books. TED books aim to expand slightly on the talks but still be in a format that can be read in one sitting. I just read my first TED book on 'The Art of Stillness' by Pico Iyer. 

Most books seem to have a single core theme or idea. Once you have got through the first few chapters you get the point. The rest of the book is padding. When a book offers multiple ideas we often tend to forget them because we only read it once, rather than chewing on the ideas and coming back to them again and again. Tyler Cowen is favourite of mine who has also tried to break this mould. I can strongly recommend two of his 'single sitting books'. 'The Great Stagnation' talks about the different requirements of a growing country bursting its Industrial Revolution, unshackling itself from poverty, and then a refining country starting to look at the how of living. 'Average is Over' is a fascinating discussion of what happens when average is no longer required? With computers and robots doing all the unskilled labour, what work will be required by others? This is not a new question. Keynes thought we would be working 3 hour weeks by now. He didn't quite factor in how afraid we are of free time. This connects to Pico Iyer's book and the value of learning to go nowhere. 

The concept of introducing space in order to enjoy life extends widely. Musicians talk of the beauty of the space between the notes. Some religious leaders talk of God being the spaces in between what we know for sure. One of my favourite examples comes from Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen. He talks of always ensuring any talk you give is comfortably shorter than the allotted time so that you leave the audience interested in finding out more. Living in Japan, he connects his ideas to the Japanese saying Hara Hachi Bu which means eat till you are only 80% full.

Even if that means you have to stop mi

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