Saturday, February 3, 2018

Reading Listening to books - part 1

(Book reviews are English only)
TL;DR - I'm listening to audiobooks, some reviews below, and I would love to get some recommendations from you.

About two years ago, while attending the first European testing conference in Bucharest, I heard Linda Rising's keynote in which she spoke about her interpretation of Carol Dweck's book "Mindset, the new psychology of success". I really liked the ideas presented in the talk, and so, about a year later, when I re-watched the talk I decided to purchase the book. Lo and behold - there was a free audio-book version, as long as I registered for an Audible account - which I did, and as listening to books isn't really "my thing", I cancelled the registration shortly after.
It took me several months to go through this book, as I just didn't find the time to listen - Most of my listening time is while driving, which happened twice or thrice a week, and it was dedicated to catching up on podcasts, so I just didn't get around to it.
But, then we had about a year ago a team reshuffle, with half of the team at our other office, which is an hour and a half by train, and I was getting there at least once a month since. so, extra 3 hours of dead time? Hey... I still have that Audible app installed with that book I downloaded a year ago!
The second change was when I bought a small mp3 player that can be attached to a sleeve using a clip, and started listening to the podcasts while on my bicycle on my way to work - so now when driving, I have some free listening time. So, after getting another free book from Audible (after a year or so, they considered me a new user and allowed me to have another book if I just signed in to their service), I decided I'm listening to enough books to actually pay for an account.
The experience of listening to a book is very different than reading one - there's no skipping, no control over the speed of progress, and no getting back and re-reading something tricky I think I missed (driving, remember?). However, as a way to make use of the brain time otherwise wasted in commute, it is great that I can concentrate on driving and just hear the book being read to me.
With that being said, Here's a compressed review of the books I've listened to recently:
(Edit: forget about "compressed", it ended up being too long, so it will be one post per book)

Mindset, the new psychology of success, Carol Dweck:
Short summary: "fixed" mindset is bad for you, adopt a "growth" mindset.
What I have to say about it: I started listening to this book with expectations a bit too high. Linda Rising's talk gave me quite a lot to think about and process with regards to how people grow and learn, the importance of refusing to say "I simply suck at this"  and the focus on improvement rather than on achievement. The book, so I hoped, would further expand these ideas to provide some more interesting insights, or elaborate more on the ones I've got. Sadly, it didn't. What I got was a lengthy presentation of the concepts I mentioned, repeated over and over to show how it can affect multiple facets of life. It felt a bit like a sales pitch that goes on and on - I got the idea after the second chapter, really. Only in the last chapter the book gets to deal with a promise that has been mentioned over and over - how to approach changing your mindset. Up until that chapter, mindset seemed like something inflicted upon one by the environment - Parents praising their child on "being smart" instead of praising "putting effort", workplace with personal reviews based on results only and so forth. This chapter is titled "changing mindsets" and does contain some interesting tips. It mentions that simply being aware to this concept is causing some shift in the mindset, and mentions a workshop for schoolkids where the focus is on teaching them how practicing actually creates and enforces new neural links in the brain, thus explaining how one can actually transcend above his current self-image in any given field. It also gives one tip I found quite useful: deciding to do something is nice, but it isn't enough. In order to increase the chance of actually executing a decision, one must create a detailed and vivid plan of execution. Not "I'll write the blog post I've been postponing for over a month", but rather "This evening, after dinner, I'll sit on my couch, close all other windows on my computer, and write a paragraph or two". So, my advice - listen to Linda Rising, she makes the point clear in less time, and there isn't a big gap that I could notice.

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