Tag Archives: Book Review

Three Take-Aways: That Wild Country

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I really enjoyed this book.  And learned quite a bit about public lands in the United States.  The format tends to be one section on the history of public lands, followed by the author in that setting in the present.

We have spent a lot of time, since moving out West, in national parks, national forests, national monuments, and BLM land.  This book helped me understand the various types of public lands, the history behind many of them, and some of the current issues facing public land management.

A result is that I tend to take a little bit more patient approach with others in public land settings.  For example, I am a bit more patient with crowds at national parks, since that ensures those places will remain that way (and maybe be expanded).  However, I still believe owners of off-leash dogs who interfere with my Strava PR’s on our local trails to be communists (maybe kidding).

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Public Lands

“Unbeknownst to many, American citizens are collective co-owners of an incredible swath of land across the country.  Approximately 640 million acres of it.  That’s roughly 28 percent of the total United States landmass (an area larger than Alaska, Texas, and New York combined).”

Growing up and residing primarily on the East Coast, I just didn’t appreciate the scale of Federal public lands nor the various types.  Having lived out West here for a bit, I understand all that a little better and can appreciate some of the issues.

  1. Land Transfer Movement

“I’d learned over the preceding months that this idea, the disposal of public lands, had been proposed many times over the previous hundred years by a rotating cast of industrial-age robber-baron businessmen, lobbyists, and powerful politicians.  The stale argument had been resurrected again for the twenty-first century, but this time it was supported by both radicals like Bundy and mainstream politicians.”

Land transfer proposals generally seem to shift land use in favor of one demographic or land user, typically “extractive industries (oil & gas, mining, logging, etc.)” vs. a more balanced approach across different types of users that are mandated under Federal stewardship.

“I explained how, if managed the right way, these landscapes could be shared and enjoyed by all sorts of people.  Many of the nation’s national forests and refuges and BLM lands are multi-use – with hikers and hunters, fishermen and backpackers, horse riders and rock climbers all coexisting in the same space.  In many cases, recreational uses coexist with commodity uses too.  Loggers and bird-watches often use the same forests.  Hikers and ranchers might enjoy and utilize the same desert spread.”

  1. State vs. Federal Land Ownership

“Public land management by states can be very different than that by the Federal government.  As I learned over the course of my journey, the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (the governing agencies for the public lands most discussed for transfer) are both mandated by law to manage their lands with multiple-use and sustained-yield principles, as well as strong conservation and recreation goals.  In most cases, state lands are managed differently.  Many states have laws that require them to manage their land holdings for maximum profit or solely in support of specific beneficiaries, such as public schools.  On top of that, many states allow more relaxed environmental regulations on their lands, making it easier for rampant resource extraction to occur.”

In general, I think I would spend some time scrutinizing the true motivations of anyone lobbying for Federal lands to be transferred out of Federal custody.  I am not sure they are radical, I think they are mostly likely just selfish.

P.S. I really like this shirt.

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  3. Fortune’s Formula
  4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  5. The Conscious Parent

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“In my life, I have given a fuck about many things. I have also not given a fuck about many things. And like the road not taken, it was the fucks not given that made all the difference.” – The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three key take-aways from the book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: The Counterintuitive Approach to Living A Good Life by Mark Manson, that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

The title is certainly catchy.  Maybe a bit gimmicky.  The content of the book turned out to be a little different than I was anticipating.  Not in a bad way.  It just was.  And a lot of the themes are ones that I have encountered elsewhere – not to say they are not relevant or important or presented with a unique perspective here.

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Not Giving A F*ck

This is the theme of deciding what is important and not important in your life. You should care about things that advance your goals and priorities, and care significantly less about those things that do not.  As I have written previously, the harder part and the part I still need to work on is what are those goals.

Again, a bit gimmicky. But the heuristic of saying to yourself “I have no more f*cks to give here” is certainly memorable and helpful.  It has helped me in more than one meeting.

“Most of us struggle throughout our lives by giving too many fucks in situations where fucks do not deserve to be given. We give too many fucks about the rude gas station attendant who gave us our change in nickels. We give too many fucks when a show we liked was canceled on TV. We give too many fucks when our coworkers don’t bother asking us about our awesome weekend.”

“The idea of not giving a fuck is a simple way of reorienting our expectations for life and choosing what is important and what is not. Developing this ability leads to something I like to think of as a kind of ‘practical enlightenment.’ “

  1. Most Things Are Unimportant

Most of our lives are pretty small and unimportant in the grand scheme of things.  We would prefer not to think about this too much.  I would also add that our view of the world tends to be pretty limited and incomplete.

“All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop. Our lives today are filled with information from the extremes of the bell curve of human experience, because in the media business that’s what gets eyeballs, and eyeballs bring dollars. That’s the bottom line. Yet the vast majority of life resides in the humdrum middle. The vast majority of life is unextraordinary, indeed quite average.”

“It’s these dynamics that plague us now. We are so materially well off, yet so psychologically tormented in so many low-level and shallow ways.”

  1. Problems & Negative Experiences = Meaning

This is a theme that I have encountered more and more in my recent reading.  And I wholeheartedly agree with the idea.  Problems are a feature, not a bug.  I stole that from somewhere.  

I really enjoy solving problems.  Even better.  I really enjoy solving problems on teams with people I respect.  This has been a good self-learning for me as I try to set some goals.

“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

“Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others. The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships. Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance. Seriously, I could keep going, but you get the point. Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.”

“Problems never stop; they merely get exchanged and/or upgraded. Happiness comes from solving problems.”

“True happiness occurs only when you find the problems you enjoy having and enjoy solving.”

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  2. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  3. Fortune’s Formula
  4. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  5. The Conscious Parent

Three Take-Aways: Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction

Reading Time: 2 minutes

“Superforecasters are perpetual beta.” – Superforecasting

This is meant to be more of a book report, than a review.  In particular, I want to highlight three lessons from the book, Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by  by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner that I found impactful.  This also serves as a way for me to recall influential points in the book.

Forecasting is near and dear to my heart. Although I have evolved my view a bit over the years.  One thing is for certain in my financial forecasts.  I am wrong.  It’s just a matter of how “wrong”.  But in many cases, the most important part of forecasting is not the absolute accuracy of the forecast, it is the discipline and planning the forecasting process instills.

Three take-aways from the book:

  1. Forecasting Is Not Mystical

“Foresight isn’t a mysterious gift bestowed at birth. It is the product of particular ways of thinking, of gathering information, of updating beliefs. These habits of thought can be learned and cultivated by any intelligent, thoughtful, determined person.”

This kind of reminds me of how strategy is sometimes viewed.  Forecasting and strategy have a bit of mystical aura.  In practice though, both are bit less sexy than most folks think.  They are hard work. They are an incremental process.

If you think someone is going to hike up to the mountain top and come down with the answer, prepare to be disappointed. If someone tells you they can go to the mountain top and come down with the answer, be highly skeptical.   

  1. Forecasting As A Skill

Similarly to the first point, forecasting is a skill.  And skills require consistent practice to build and maintain.

“Superforecasting demands thinking that is open-minded, careful, curious, and—above all—self-critical. It also demands focus. The kind of thinking that produces superior judgment does not come effortlessly. Only the determined can deliver it reasonably consistently, which is why our analyses have consistently found commitment to self-improvement to be the strongest predictor of performance.”

One of the tools I use to assist in my forecasting practice is the Stagger chart – that I learned about in Andy Grove’s book, High Output Management.

  1. An Ensemble Approach

Good forecasters assimilate lots of external information.  Constantly.  And update their views accordingly.  See my incremental comment earlier.

“Now look at how foxes approach forecasting. They deploy not one analytical idea but many and seek out information not from one source but many. Then they synthesize it all into a single conclusion. In a word, they aggregate. They may be individuals working alone, but what they do is, in principle, no different from what Galton’s crowd did. They integrate perspectives and the information contained within them. The only real difference is that the process occurs within one skull.”

And asking questions is an important part of getting additional information.

“Practice “constructive confrontation,” to use the phrase of Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel. Precision questioning is one way to do that.”

And do not expect a consensus view (a major pet peeve of mine).

“A smart executive will not expect universal agreement, and will treat its appearance as a warning flag that groupthink has taken hold.”

A few other recent book reviews:

  1. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less
  2. Fortune’s Formula
  3. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
  4. The Conscious Parent