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Check It Out

Courier Article by Sean Davis
Sunday, March 7, 2010

Year of the Tiger Brings Hope for Change

It is the year of the tiger, and the Chinese believe transformation is the hallmark of such a year. With change comes uncertainty, but we are not bound to be unready if we prepare and use the tools necessary for success.

In his manifesto "You Are Not A Gadget" Jaron Lanier presents his take on the modern world, and the directions we may be headed. A veteran of the earliest days of the Internet, Lanier gives a practical analysis of the state of things. Most important of his assertions is the warning not to get lost in the mob. Be an individual and avoid the hegemony offered by those promising the wisdom of crowds. Through examples like MIDI (musical instrument digital interface), Lanier points to how allowing for universality sometimes leads to the sacrifice of quality. The author argues we must be careful not to adopt that which we cannot later change.

Sacrifice is a central theme in "Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is Hard" by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. The authors argue that the human mind is a split between the rational and emotional teams and they are competing for control. Using sections of the book titled "Direct the Rider" and "Motivate the Elephant" the Heaths give the reader practical ideas to hold onto when fighting to overcome their irrational selves and make change possible in their lives. The authors give tips to help manage one's surroundings and influences that may help promote the change one craves. By creating an atmosphere of change one can truly revolutionize one's life.

Another book with practical advice and hope for revolution is "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right" by Atul Gawande. The author argues that so many failures could be avoidable were more people to use checklists as a preventative for making mistakes. Gawande, a surgeon and professor at Harvard Medical School, relates several stories where checklists made all the difference in saving lives. He also provides insight into how other disciplines would benefit from implementing their own checklist system.

Perhaps the banking system could have profited from the use of checklists, but author John Lanchester may argue for a more complex answer. In his book "I.O.U: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay" Lanchester paints a picture of over-wrought leveraging systems created to make billions from the seams of the financial system. The author argues that these systems make perfect sense when underlying systems work as they should, but we live in an imperfect world where the improbable may well happen. In a sense these investors are gambling entire GDPs on the chance that nothing bad will happen in the near future. As recent events have proven, the future is never a guarantee.

With trying times often comes self-doubt and the feeling one has no control of the future. In "MOJO: How to Get It, How to Keep It, How to Get It Back If You Lose It" Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter provide a detailed examination of what they call your Mojo. The authors ask the reader to understand their own Mojo so they may be able to grow it into the rock of confidence needed to believe in oneself. Through taking control of one's story, acceptance of personal attributes, and understanding oneself, a Mojo is made. How strong it becomes, or what it is morphed into is entirely in our own hands.

The year of change is upon us. The question then becomes whether that change be positive or negative. With insight, wisdom, and a little bit of hard work success is attainable even in this bleak age. It is only a matter of time before we collectively get back our Mojo.

Sean Davis is a readers' advisor in the Reference Services Department at Central Library.