Book review: Hardwiring Happiness

Book cover for Hardwiring Happiness by Dr. Rick Hanson

Every day, we have to make hundreds of choices, if not more. One of the most important ones we make is at the beginning of every day. We must choose our disposition. We can choose to be happy, or we can choose to be miserable.

Researchers have proven time and again that those who choose happiness tend to live healthier, more successful, and overall better lives. The Happiness Advantage is one of my favorite books that examines this correlation.

For most of us, we have to make a conscience decision to be happy. It is not something that comes naturally. But what if we could make happiness our default operating condition? Dr. Rick Hanson explores how one can achieve this state in the book Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence.

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Where it all began – The Caramel Brulée Latte

2021 Starbucks Holiday Cup

Earlier this month, Starbucks sent me a notification for my free birthday drink. It had been a while since I was there. So long, that I couldn’t remember the last time I went. Well, I’m sure I could find out by looking at the purchase history in their app, but you get my point. I don’t spend a lot of time at Starbucks. But since they were offering, who am I to pass up a free drink?

For nostalgic purposes, I treated myself to a Caramel Brulée Latte. Why a Caramel Brulée Latte you ask? Good question, and one that doesn’t have a simple answer.

What follows is the story of my relationship with the Starbucks Caramel Brulée Latte, and how it led me into drinking and making my own coffee.

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Book review: Delta-v

Book cover for Delta-v by Daniel Suarez

Daniel Suarez has been near or at the top of my favorite authors ever since I read Daemon and Freedom. I enjoy how he combines action and suspense with believable near-term science fiction concepts.

In his latest novel, Delta-v, Suarez explores the topic of space exploration and the various options that are currently under evaluation such as colonizing Mars, asteroid mining, and space hotels. Around this backdrop, he creates a techno-thriller around the first team that is selected and sent to space to mine an asteroid in hopes of providing a method to sustain the human race.

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Four Ingredients, Infinite Possibilities

artisan sourdough bread

I started baking bread about a year ago. At that time, I had pretty much cut bread out of my diet. I was convinced carbs were the enemy. But if that was indeed the case, carbs being the enemy, how come humans have been eating bread for thousands of years without adverse affects?

Then it hit me, maybe it had to do with the “modernization” of the process. If I could control the ingredients and the process, then maybe I could return to eating bread.

It’s amazing how simple the bread baking process is, yet how complex the outcomes are. A video I watched recently had a great quote about bread making that sums up the concept. A baker explained what captivated him about the process in four words:

Four ingredients, infinite possibilities.

Yes, that’s right, four simple ingredients – flour, water, salt, and yeast – can produce an endless number of results.

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Book review: Trampled By Unicorns

Book cover Trampled By Unicorns: Big Tech's Empathy Problem And How To Fix It by Maëlle Gavet

In case you haven’t noticed, the big tech companies continue to grow in power. That growth is allowing them to not only generate massive amounts of wealth for investors but also shape society. When I say big tech, I’m not just referring to the public companies that make up what is known as the FAANG group of stocks that includes Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and of which I would also include Microsoft. My definition of big tech also includes privately held companies known as “unicorns”, companies that have rapidly went from zero to $1,000,000,000 valuations such as Nextdoor, Udemy, Instacart, SpaceX, Stripe, and the like.

As someone who works in technology, it’s great to see companies in this space have success. However, that success has not come without controversy. The more we learn about how these companies operate, how they make money, and how they exploit their users, the more we should be concerned about the impact they have on the world around us. It’s a multi-faceted problem that Maëlle Gavet explores in her book Trampled by Unicorns: Big Tech’s Empathy Problem And How To Fix It.

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Social media: Bringing us together or pulling us apart?

One of the great promises of social media is that it connects us with our friends and those closest to us. Using it, we can broadcast important events that take place in our lives, we can tell others what we’re doing at any and all times of the day, we can share pictures, we can re-establish friendships with those we’ve lost touch with, and we can stay in touch with those where distance separates us.

On the surface, it sounds great. By doing these things, social media should be bringing us together. It should be making us closer with our good friends, keeping us in touch with those far away, and reconnecting us with those we’ve lost touch with.

I would contend that the promise is not translating into reality. I would argue that social media isn’t having the effect of bringing us together but instead is pulling us apart.

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Book review: The Road

Book cover for The Road by Cormac McCarthy

I’ve read a few Ryan Holiday books including Stillness Is the Key, Ego Is the Enemy, and Trust Me I’m Lying, which is one of my personal favorites. I also read The Daily Stoic, which inspired me to sign-up to both of his daily newsletters – Daily Stoic and Daily Dad.

It was through Daily Dad that I learned about The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Holiday has made numerous references to the book in the newsletter, so I figured it would be worth adding to my reading list.

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Putting Your Own Mask On First

If you’ve ever paid attention to the safety demonstration on an airplane, there is the part where they talk about what to do in case of a loss of cabin pressure. You are instructed to reach for the oxygen masks, to pull to extend the tubing, and to secure the mask over your nose and mouth. Then they give you a very important piece of advice, which is to put your own mask on first, BEFORE helping others.

That last piece of advice is important not only in case of an airline emergency. It is an important piece of advice that we can apply in our everyday lives. If we’re not taking care of and looking after ourselves, how can we expect to care for and help others?

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Book review: The Midnight Library

Book cover for The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Are you living the life you want? If you could make different choices in your life, would you? If you could see how your choices turned out, would you want to experience your ‘alternate’ life to see if it was everything you thought it would be?

That’s the premise of The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Here’s the summary as written on his website:

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

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Ruthless efficiency

Efficiency, for lack of a better word, is good. Efficiency allows a business to optimize resources. Optimizing resources leads to lower costs and higher profits, which are the foundations of a market economy. Therefore, pursuing efficiency should be a goal of business.

Pursuing efficiency is all well and good until the drive to optimize crosses a line. That line where the benefits of efficiency are no longer distributed equally, resulting in higher levels of inequality between the have’s and have-not’s. At that point, we’ve entered the realm of ‘ruthless efficiency.’ The point where there is a lack of empathy and compassion regarding the effects optimizing has on others.

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