A Bad Beginning: My 2018 Reading Challenge

Of the 11 books I have read so far in 2018, 4 of them have been 1 star reads. 4! And not one of the remaining 7 books were worth 5 stars. I’m quite dismayed about this beginning. I hope it is not a sign for the rest of 2018!

P.S. My reading goal this year is 118 books, but I’m not sure I’ll make it. Especially if I continue choosing such lousy books! 

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The Auditory Learner

For most of my life I was – or thought I was – a visual learner. I like to read and I used to process convoluted or theoretical passages fairly easily. When focused on something, I could block out all the noise around me. Because of this, I learned to study like a visual learner. I took copious notes, used different colored pens and highlighters for different subjects, and recorded assignments on note pads and on check lists to make sure I remembered them all. 

As I prepared for law school, I implemented all my usual habits. However this time around, they did not work like they used to. I didn’t understand why until I took a Learning Styles test and discovered I am an extremely Auditory Learner. In fact, while Visual Learning came in second, it scored half the effectiveness of when I learned audibly. 

How do you recognize an auditory learner? Here are a few descriptors*: 

  • Talks to self, aloud
  • Enjoys talking
  • Easily distracted
  • Has difficulty with written directions 
  • Memorizes sequentially 
  • Whispers to self while reading 
  • Distracted by noise
  • Outgoing by nature

This list hits too close to home! Who would guess my learning style is the reason I memorize sequentially? It does explain, though, why I’ve struggled so hard over the past few months to study where there is noise. I can’t concentrate even if someone is having a quiet conversation behind me! That is definitely a new problem. 

I am not really sure how to study as an auditory learner. The main recommendation I have seen are study groups, but they don’t work well for me. It is too much like a group project. I’ve started looking up what I’m learning on YouTube and that has been helpful. The Academic Enhancement Program at my school also recommends saying information aloud and then recording it on a tape recorder to play back. 

The weirdest part of transitioning from a primarily visual to auditory learner is how powerless I feel. The old tricks don’t work. I can’t write something out and then understand the subject. I have to talk it through and listen intently. When I read something convoluted, re-reading it doesn’t work. I need to hear the professor explain it to actually get it. While this leaves me somewhat frustrated, I’m glad I know this about myself now. I think it will make next semester a lot easier. 

Then again, I am a verbal processor. Why am I shocked that I am also an auditory learner? 

 

*See https://www.webtools.ncsu.edu/learningstyles/ 


The 3 Books I Chose

Because I know you are all breathlessly waiting to find out how yesterday’s saga ended…here is the result. I decided to highlight: 

Entrepreneurship For Human Flourishing by Peter Greer
Overrated by Eugene Cho
Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton 

 

If you had to pick 3 books that most impacted your life, which ones would you choose? 


How Am I Supposed To Pick Only 3 Books?!

What three books, besides the Bible, have had the greatest impact on your life? Why and how so? asks the essay prompt. Answer in 600 words.

You would think this would be the easiest prompt ever. I did when I first saw it. However, after several days of agonizing, I am no closer to narrowing down three books than I am to cleaning my room. (And both need to happen pronto.) 

But really, how do you approach something like greatest impact? Does that mean books you have read the most? Or books that blew your mind? And what timeline should we consider for the greatest impact? I read so many books each year that the ones that most impact my life change from year to year, and I feel like I could make a case for all of them. Even the one stars. 

For example, is it weird to put down John Locke’s Second Treatise of Government? I did not read it till my junior year of college, but I stayed up till 2 am to finish it because I liked it so much. The book influenced my political philosophy long before I read it. But then really, if I am tracing political influence maybe I should mention Basic American Government by Clarence B. Carson because that is where I first read snip-its of Locke and other political philosophers. Then again, who names books about foundational political philosophy when mentioning books that had the greatest impact? Isn’t that weird?

So I think, what book is foundational to my reading? Good Profit! I read all business books through the lens of Good Profit and my time at AFP. I read that one twice I liked it so much. But…isn’t it really AFP that had the impact on my life, not the book? So is it really one of the most impactful books I have read? 

Perhaps I ought to consider the books I re-read the most. Like…Georgette Heyer! I can see it now. “The Grand Sophy is a Regency romance novel full of wit and charm and it has had the greatest impact on my life.” Um, how ’bout no. 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond – my go-to favorite book of all time? I certainly could make an argument that it played a foundational role in my early reading. Then again, so did the Mandie series and Hardy Boys. That doesn’t mean they deserve a shout-out. 

C.S. Lewis! There is an author whose writings I love and don’t need to be ashamed of. But which writing? The only books of his I have re-read are the Narnia series and Till We Have Faces! But have those had The Most Impact on my life?! Surely Mere Christianity ranks higher. 

So there. I have one. Mere Christianity. When did I read that one again? 

Agghhhhh! In conclusion, I’ve been influenced by too much fiction and I do not know how to answer this essay prompt and blogging about this predicament has not clarified anything at all. 


Happy Birthday, Bethany!

Happy Birthday to my youngest sister! Welcome to 18, you can now vote. 

Image may contain: 1 person, baby and closeup

Wasn’t she just the cutest baby?! 

For less than a month, my siblings and I are now 24, 22, 20, 18, and 16! 


Favorite Business Books

In my last post, I mentioned a book that stresses the importance of good culture for a business. Here are a list of my favorite books that talk about that, either directly or indirectly: 

Good Profit by Charles Koch
Good to Great by James C. Collins
Every Town Is A Sports Town by Don Phillips
Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
And now of course…Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Any other recommendations? 


Chemical Imbalance and the Law

I recently finished Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek. In the book, Sinek demonstrates how work environments impact five different chemicals in the human body: Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin, and Cortisol. Endorphins mask physical pain with pleasure in times of stress or fear (the “runner’s high”). Dopamine rewards goal oriented behavior with a rush of pleasure when we complete something we set out to do. Serotonin releases feelings of pride and pleasure when we feel like people like or respect us. Oxytocin generates a sense of love, friendship, or deep contentment when we see people we like and trust. Cortisol triggers flight or fight instincts in times of high stress or danger.

Since these chemicals impact the way humans survive and interact with one another, they play an important role in work environments. High stress, competitive environments where employees feel powerless and pressured to produce big or risk losing their jobs produce unhealthy, chemically imbalanced workers. This imbalance applies to CEOs and janitors alike, regardless of perceived job pressure. (In fact, the imbalance likely impacts the janitor more if he feels powerless to change the situation.)

In jobs that emphasize short-term results over long-term relationships, workers depend on their survival chemicals: Endorphins, Dopamine, and Cortisol. This creates an environment where people live in a “flight or fight” mentality and are constantly stressed about meeting high goals and expectations. When Cortisol is released, the body shuts down “unnecessary” systems, including the immune system. This impacts a person’s physical and mental well-being. However, because of Endorphins and Dopamine, it doesn’t feel like a constant barrage. It can feel good and even addicting. These chemicals, however, only mask the damage caused by stress, they don’t fix it.

Further, with work environments that foster uncertainty and anxiety come lowered levels of Serotonin and Oxytocin – meaning people feel less appreciated, content, and socially engaged at work. Where jobs are highly competitive, employees view each other as competitors instead of allies. People feel less comfortable sharing ideas, making mistakes, or collaborating on projects. This impacts not only a company’s ability to thrive, but the individual’s.

A prime example of an unhealthy business environment would be General Electric at the end of the 1980s. At the end of each year, the bottom 10% of GE managers whose divisions contributed least to the company’s share price were fired. If the bottom 10% automatically get fired and you see someone struggling, would you help them out? Probably not. You would be putting your own job at risk.

However, more than isolating employees, such environments also foster unethical behavior. When short-term goals matter above all else, things like honesty, integrity, and compliance fall to the wayside. People focus on survival, and when that behavior gets rewarded, they get a Dopamine hit and continue to behave that way. Spread out over time, this behavior leads to corruption and the eventual downfall of a company.

As an avid reader of business books that emphasize the importance of culture, Sinek’s analysis did not surprise me. It shouldn’t surprise you either. People want fulfilling jobs. Humans weren’t designed for constant, high-level stress. It is easy to recognize bad practices in a business.

Yet this stressful, high-pressure, chemically imbalanced environment reflects the very culture that is expected, even rewarded, in the legal profession.

Want to go “big law”? Think long hours and high stress loads. Want to work in criminal law? Prosecutor or defense attorney, someone’s freedom now depends on you. Want to work at a boutique firm, or even start your own law firm? Gotta make sure you make enough to pay off those heavy student loans. How do you pay those off? You take on more jobs, create a higher stress load, and keep going, going, going. For each client, you must strive for justice. Money is at stake. Freedom is at stake. Your ability, or lack of ability, impacts countless lives.

Is it any wonder the legal profession is rife with alcoholism and ranks third in suicides behind doctors and dentists?

The pressure doesn’t begin once you land your first job: it starts pre-law school. Where you work often depends on where you go to law school. The best jobs go to the best schools. Early on driven, goal-oriented people with a natural affinity for Dopamine stand out and get into the schools. Once in the school, the best employers take only the best students. This is the way of the world. You are now competing against your classmates, and because law school grades on a curve, this isn’t a place where everyone can do well. You either receive one of the scarce As, or you don’t. If there are limited As, are you going to help your classmate get one? Not if it hurts your chances. Goodbye Serotonin and Oxytocin, this is not the place for you.

Law school is 3 years. For 3 years, you can survive anything, right? You can survive finals worth 100% of your grade (STRESSSSS!) You can survive competitive classmates and high interest rates on your loans. You can survive…sure, your Cortisol is firing but your Endorphins and Dopamine tell you it is okay. And maybe it would be okay if it actually ended in 3 years, but that isn’t the way the legal profession works. In the real world, law school is child’s play. But this too will be okay, you’ve learned to cope. Probably through alcohol. Definitely through something addictive. Want to make partner in a firm? Want to save the world? Of course you do. Time to get to work. Hit me with the Dopamine.

What happens in the business world when the wrong things get incentivized? Companies become corrupt and self-destruct. Now imagine what happens when you wrongly incentive a whole profession.

Is it any wonder lawyers get a bad rap? Lawyers are stigmatized as ethic-less and money-hungry. Yet the law is designed as an adversarial system where every case comes with high stakes and in law school we are taught to deal with that pressure through isolation and alcoholism. Culturally, we’ve created a chemically imbalanced environment for the very people we entrust with justice. I am sure there are lawyers and law firms that overcome this. There might even be law schools out there seeking balance. It is still a huge problem, however, and not one that only affects those who “have a personality for the law.” Just take a look at our justice system.

I don’t know what the solution is, or if there even is one. I do know that change needs to happen and it needs to start in our law schools.