This week, our choices are:
The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World by Dorie Clark, Harvard Business Review Press
The pandemic has been a double-edged sword, trapping us in nearly constant worry about the next news to drop, the next thing to do, while beckoning us to rethink everything and think longer term. And that feels like a metaphor for so much of our lives. As Dorie Clark writes in her new book, The Long Game:
The truth is, none of us can predict the future. But we can identify goals we want to head toward, or potential vulnerabilities we want to avoid.
Those could have been the words from almost any public health expert over the past two years, but Clark’s words here are, as her entire book is, “intended for professionals who want more out of their lives and work, and who are willing to take the harder path to get there.” Contrary to popular belief, that does not require moving at exponentially faster speeds, but in slowing down, in clearing time on our calendar for white space rather than stuffing as much as we possibly can into it. Yes, Clark writes:
We need to be nimble, and adapt when circumstances change. But long-term thinking is what undergirds everything and enables us to make those adjustments.
Clark freely concedes that she hates being patient, but you’ll learn why it was (and is) worth it. The other thing she hates is information hoarding, so she lays out all she knows in this book, all “the key concepts and strategies that undergird the process of long-term thinking” that she’s uncovered in her own life and her work with others. (DJJS)
Mama Bear: One Black Mother’s Fight for Her Child’s Life and Her Own by Shirley Smith, with Zelda Lockhart, Harper
This one was published last week, but I didn’t want to miss out on highlighting it!
I'm reminded of the importance of vulnerability and acknowledging others' vulnerability when reading Mama Bear by Shirley Smith. While she frequently mentions being urged and supported by God to share her story, by writing this book, she provides the same sort of guidance and support for other women coping with discrimination, trauma, and other long-lasting complications of human life and motherhood. The book is specifically helpful for Black women, who haven't been able to take a deep breath for generations. Smith shares her own stories of postpartum depression, of the self-directed searching you have to do and abandonment issues you have to overcome when you grow up with an absent or drug-addicted parent, but she also advises readers on cultivating supportive communities, building spiritual practices, and other ways to overcome the challenges of the past–even if her challenges aren’t your own.
You have to go backward to go forward. You have to figure out what the bricks that are piled on your chest are made of. You have to investigate your past to find out what is causing your Energizer bunny behavior, your people-pleasing chaos, your superwoman act, in order to be able to make healthier choices.
The main issue raised by the memoir is the struggle associated with a baby born prematurely, but the issues go much deeper than the medical concerns–besides unpacking the long-lasting effects of childhood trauma, she also brings to light the systemic issues that make motherhood statistically more difficult and dangerous for Black women than other races. Smith's life was often strained in all ways—emotional, physical, and mental—yet she maintains an extraordinary strength as she shares her story. Her experience is just one of many examples of why Black mothers need to be seen and supported. Beyond her affective book, Smith is CEO of the nonprofit My Kota Bear that "[brings] awareness, education and support to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) Families in our communities.” (GMC)
Renewal: From Crisis to Transformation in Our Lives, Work, and Politics by Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton University Press
Anne-Marie Slaughter’s first book, Unfinished Business, provided a clear examination of our still too patriarchal, male-dominated workplace and its traditional leadership structure, and some of the tenets of traditional feminism, describing how both could be updated to be more inclusive for the benefit of all workers. In The Chessboard and the Web, she returned to her foreign policy bona fides, but remained focused on people, explaining how we can and should shift focus from exercising power over others to exercising power with others, and move our governing philosophy from that of a government for the people to a government with the people. In both books, she demonstrated that she is not a narrow “either/or” thinker, but has a broader “both/and” understanding of our world—not necessarily a win-win world, but one where mutual benefit is possible. Her new book, Renewal, is similarly expansive and clear in its vision and critique, but also intensely personal, using stories of a crisis in her own career as a springboard to look more fully at those we face as a country. It offers a hard look at and an honest assessment of our country’s history, because as she writes “The ‘re’ in renewal, the looking back, cannot be avoided.” But she also believes that there is a lot we should carry forward with us, and that the work of renewal is also a responsibility and opportunity for each of us as individuals.
The “nation,” after all, is not some abstract thing floating out there; it is all of us. We must see ourselves differently if we are truly to see our country differently.
Anne-Marie Slaughter has an uncanny ability to see the entire forest and all the trees within it, along with the overall environment it exists in. In this case and all others, if you see her name on a book, get it and read it as soon as you can. (DJJS)
Saving Us: A Climate Scientists case for Hope and Healing in A Divided World by Katharine Hayhoe, One Signal Publishers/ Atria
We all have individuals in our lives with whom the words “climate change” provoke long rants and an uncomfortable shift in the conversation. There are those aunts and uncles, or maybe even siblings, we know not to bring up politics or climate change with. Climate change shouldn’t be political, but these trigger words can create anger and tension, no matter your original intention.
Grounded in her personal experience, facts, and research, Katharine Hayhoe, a recently appointed chief climate scientist at The Nature Conservancy, delivers a book that is far from the “Earth is burning” read; it’s a wonderful guide in how to have meaningful conversations, and speak about a subject that is affecting humans worldwide and, yet, has become so polarizing. Traveling the country speaking on these topics, Katharine knows more than most about how to navigate these treacherous waters and finds a common ground to attain a similar goal, protecting our home, Earth. To do this, she says to tap into what you know and who you are.
How you connect with others doesn’t have to fit any mold, example, or pattern. Whoever you are, you are the perfect person to talk about climate change with others who share your interests and values.
Hayhoe packs an informative and interesting read that many of us should look through to better acquaint ourselves on some of the most important topics of our time in order to hold meaningful conversations—even with those who don’t want to have them. (EPP)