November 1, 2009

[Education / Learning] 025. Read 40 modern nonfiction books everyone should read – Scratch Beginnings

Posted in Education / Learning at 7:39 pm by Heather

Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream Scratch Beginnings: Me, $25, and the Search for the American Dream by Adam Shepard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scratch Beginnings was conceived as a rebuttal against Nickel and Dimed On (Not) Getting By in America where she stated that we are products of our society. Adam Shepard believed that with enough hard work and dedication, you can work your way up from measly beginnings. So he set out to a random destination in the Southeast selected out of a hat – Charleston, SC – with $25, a sleeping bag and a gym bag. His plan was to have $2500 in the bank, a car and a furnished apartment by the end of the year.

He details the first month or so on a daily basis and including living at the shelter, working from a daily labor company which takes advantage of its workers situation through to his goal, which he accomplished in 6 months instead of a year, and beyond.

The main point Adam makes in this journey is that you can lift yourself up from your bootstraps, but you absolutely need to have a goal and the willingness to delay gratification for that goal. He specifically changes his life and his social opportunities for those things that are free instead of those things that could cost money; he lives on franks and peanut butter crackers instead of going out to KFC, among other things.

But, along the way he also learns that once you’re at the bottom, there is not point not to take a chance on things. He details a story where he walks into a moving company and doesn’t take no for an answer until he has a job, and learns that you can – and need to be – more assertive than you’ve ever been to improve your situation.

Unfortunately, there are many people who are living this way of life and have no urge or drive to get themselves out of that situation, and the author doesn’t shy away of being honest about that side of things. It is good to see that there are a good number that do have the goals and desire to get out of that situation, but it does take a lot of work and learning skills they may never have learned, like budgeting.

I don’t think that I could put myself in that situation. Adam himself says he wouldn’t wish the first 70 days of his project on anyone, when he was living in the shelter, but his book has made me appreciate being blessed with my lot in life and the skills I have learned to be able to survive comfortably.

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October 29, 2009

[Education/Learning] Read 40 Modern Non-Fiction books everyone should read – The Art of Learning

Posted in Education / Learning at 9:30 am by Heather

The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you’ve ever seen the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer or read the book of the same name, you know who Josh Waitzkin is. What you may not know is that after the book/movie came out Josh slowly started turning away from chess and became interested in Tai Chi, eventually winning the 2004 World Push Hands championship.

This book breaks down how Josh goes about learning and becoming top in his field. What he doesn’t mention is the intense determination and drive you need to practice hours and hours a day on something – one character trait I don’t exactly have.

That being said, his detailed explanation of his learning algorithm was very interesting, especially his part about “Making Smaller Circles”. Throughout the book, he relates stories of chess matches and Tai Chi matches, making this a more interesting read than you might think from a non-fiction book.

I definitely recommend it to anyone who’s interested in improving their learning technique, interested in chess, or wants an intriguing read on a plane ride.