A Perfect Mess

A Perfect Mess is a book by Eric Abrahamson and David Freedman that explores the hidden benefits of disorder.  The book is a short and easy read that recaps the concept of balance when it comes to mess.  Although no deep studies or revolutionary ideas were revealed, the book does confront the concept of "mess" in culture and its implications on our psyche. People who are uncomfortable with their mess will find solace in the book's message and perhaps perfection in their own mess.
  1. There is an optimal amount of mess.
  2. Tidiness can be expensive.
  3. One person's order is another person's mess.  You can never please everyone with order.  For example, you can organize books alphabetically, chronologically, by genre, or by color of the covers.  All are valid depending on your perspective and intended function.
  4. Mess can apply to both home and work, physical space and processes.  From a messy kitchen and desk, to corporate strategies and sales plans.  In each of these areas, there is a functional and optimal amount of mess.
  5. "Plan early, plan twice."

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom is a live lecture by Dr. Christiane Northrup exploring holistic healing. A board certified ob-gyn, Dr. Northrup pokes fun at modern medicine's silo'd healing approach. She examines the American approach, both medically and culturally, towards topics such as psychology, menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding and menopause. Her lecture is a lively and humorous commentary on both modern medicine and women in society.
  1. The body is a manifestation of the mind.
  2. The brain structure of male and female brains is the fundamental cause of differing viewpoints between males and females. Male brains are left dominant, and contains fewer connections to the right brain compared to female brains. This allows male brains to shut off right-brain functions and become hyper-focused on left-brain functions such as logic and analysis. In a female brain, the interconnections between right and left brains are so strong it remains on at all times. This allows female brains to naturally juggle multiple angles during problem solving.  
  3. We all have the power to create health. Our bodies are powerful and self-healing.
  4. Women are lunar, because their bodies and hormones follow the cycle of the moon. There is wisdom in the cycle and women should take advantage of this cycle. During ovulation, estrogen and progesterone levels are high. At this time, a women is at the peak of emotional happiness and open to change and new experiences. Before and during menstruation, a women is at an emotional low due to crashing estrogen levels. During this time, all of her life's negative concerns hits her at the same time. This is the optimal time to re-examine negative concerns and determine necessary action, which she can followup on during the following ovulation cycle. If understood and used properly, her cycle can be a monthly "house cleaning" of the emotions and self-reflection.
  5. Forgiveness means letting go of the past. It does not mean what happened is right. Remember this if you have been wronged and are unwilling to let go because you fear that letting go justifies the unjust act. Forgiveness is a necessary first step in healing and does not justify an unjust act.

Womenomics

Womenomics, by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, is a motivational book targeted at women who seek a work/life balance.  While the advice follows that of other work/life balance books, the delivery is uniquely targeted at women.  The book starts with a discussion of market forces that increase the value of women in the workplace. Then identifies the actions that women should take to build true work/life balance.
  1. With baby boomers retiring, there will be a lack of X and Y generation workers to fill existing positions.  Professional women with education and experience will find themselves highly sought after.  Indeed, women are more educated than ever before, holding over 55% of undergraduate and graduate degrees.
  2. The "female" management style, which is often more collaborative and communication focused, is increasingly important in today's information based work environments.  Studies of Norwegian and British firms have shown that leadership teams with more women generate more revenue and profits than their counterparts.  
  3. Women make decisions on over 85% of household spending. Firms that employ women will be more successful at catering to women's tastes and therefore win more of their spending.
  4. Guilt is a useless emotion.  
  5. The number one demand from working women is flexible hours.  

Outliers

Outliers is a book by Malcolm Gladwell that answers the question: "How did outrageously successful people, these outliers, get to where they are?" Through exploration of athletes, entrepreneurs, and scientists, Gladwell makes the case that these successful outliers is a product of every society through a combination of upbringing, opportunities and timing. The popular notion that personal success is the result of genius and hardwork is faulty. Rather, Genius and hardwork is only the beginnings of a potentially successful life. The person's community and society plays a larger part in determining success.
  1. The perfect birth date for a Canadian hockey player is in January. Due to the January 1 cut-off date for the Canadian drafting season, boys born in January will always be larger than their counterparts during selection. This small difference in size in the beginning then triggers a waterfall of advantages for the January boy. This drafting cut-off has since been updated to four different dates throughout the year. But arbitrarily selected cut-off dates in society can have profound impacts on an individual's chances in life.
  2. Chinese children test better in math because of their language structure and rice-agriculture past. Chinese numbers are all single syllabic and logically constructed. As a result, Chinese-speaking toddlers can easily count to 100 while English-speaking toddlers can only count to the twenties. Math is also a subject that requires persistence, and persistence is a highly-valued Chinese trait as evidenced by folklore and poems throughout Chinese history. Gladwell postures that the importance of persistence was a construct of rice-agriculture, which requires heavy management and rewards the harder working farmer. These two features of Chinese culture, emphasis on persistence and a simple and logical language for numbers, gives Chinese children a distinct advantage when it comes to mathematics.
  3. Disasters are most often caused by a series seven micro events rather than one large event. This was the case for airplane crashes, which are usually caused by some combination of poor weather, tired pilots, decreased visibility, equipment failure on the plane, equipment failure on the airport, and mis-communication.
  4. Twenty-one is the perfect age to be when societal opportunities present itself. Consider Rockefeller and Carnegie who were born in the 1830s and in perfect maturity to take advantage of the oil boom. Or Bill Gates, Bill Joy, James Gosling and Steve Jobs, all born in 1954-1955 and in perfect maturity to take advantage of the computer revolution. A twenty-one year old is young enough to accept the risks of a new opportunity while old enough to appreciate new opportunities. Twenty-one year-olds are also old enough to have earned 10,000 hours of practice in some discipline in preparation for said opportunity.
  5. You don't need to be the smartest, you just need to practice for 10,000 hours. Those who succeed are all smart enough, but not necessarily geniuses. At some IQ mark, increased genius has a diminishing return. Rather, practice of 10,000 hours is what differentiates the winners. This is true in musical "geniuses," computer "geniuses" or even science "geniuses."

Urbanized


Urbanized is a 2011 Gary Hustwit's film that looks at the issues are strategies behind urban design.  The film explores urban design projects from around the world.
  1. Fifty percent of human population live in urban areas. This number is projected to increase to 75% in 20 years.  Countries who manage this migration poorly will end up with many slums.  
  2. Slums are areas without infrastructure such as plumbing, sewers and electricity.  The highest risk of slums is health and sanitation.
  3. Supplying elegant housing can be affordable too.  In the Chile region of Lo Barnechea, low income housing was enabled at $10,000 per unit in an otherwise extremely expensive area.  By involving families in the design process, the builders provided partially finished units that families were happy with.  The collaboration helped builders properly prioritize housing details such as installing bath tubs instead of water heaters, and allow residents to upgrade to water heaters on their own later.
  4. Bus-style subways costs 40 times less than underground subways and has the added benefit of flexibility. As the city grows and shifts, new dedicated bus lanes and terminals can be easily added. An example is the Transmilenio system in Bogota, Colombia. 
  5. Human eyes can see 100m by 100m comfortably.  Beyond 100m the ability to discern detail drops off dramatically.  That is why most established plazas and squares in the old world are within the 100m by 100m size.