Good things to read.
How to Talk to Kids So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. This book recommendation doesn’t apply to you because you don’t have kids, right? Wrong! We’re all just grown-up kids, some of us more than others. It is continually amazing to me how many “inituitive” things about parenting I was doing completely utterly bass-ackwards. This book helped me become not just a better parent but a better human being. Protip: it also works on adults. Like gangbusters. Learn to relate to kids and you will accidentally master how to relate to adults. Trust me on this one.
Predictably Irrational. News flash: people don’t behave rationally. Understand the most common patterns of irrational but common behavior here, lest they be used against you by marketing weasels, or worse: your coworkers, your boss, or your family. My favorite? Loss aversion. Knowing about these patterns lets you avoid accidentally falling into these patterns and doing what “feels” right, but is The Wrong Choice.
59 Seconds. Why does this self-help book work when so many others fail? In a word, science! The author goes out of his way to find actual published scientific research documenting specific ways we can make small changes in our behavior to produce better outcomes for ourselves and those around us. It’s powerful stuff, and the book is full of great, research backed insights. I have changed a few of my own behaviors based on the data and science presented in this book.
Good things to watch.
The Wire. I know, I know, it’s totally Stuff White People Like, but The Wire is electrifying and scary and scratches at the soul of American cities, for better or worse. If you can only watch one thing on a screen, ever, watch this. All of it.
Breaking Bad. A show that’s not afraid to depict the harrowing impact of crystal meth and drug money on micro and macro levels. It’ll give you an ulcer in the nicest possible way. Plus it has a recurring olive green Pontiac Aztek — what’s not to love?
Brazil. I first saw this movie in a beautiful art deco movie theater in Richmond, Virginia with my mother at age 14. It was, and is, a haunting view of the future that was presented as semi-safe satire, but felt every bit as claustrophobic and suffocating as I knew the real world to be as my teenage self. And even as an adult, the future depicted in Brazil always remains a possibility in my mind’s eye just around a few odd corners — who knows what could happen if we’re not careful?
Good things to use.
Smartphone. The ultimate Batman utility belt item is your smartphone. What else can be a phone, portable gaming device, GPS, digital camera, web browser, email client, music player, video camera, book, watch, alarm, flashlight, scanner, level, ruler and more all in one device that fits in your pocket? Pick an awesome new model and learn how to use it effectively for all the above.
Leatherman Squirt PS4. Because you can’t use your smartphone to cut stuff. Yet. This is an essential set of eminently tiny and carryable tools: pliers, scissors, knife, file, flat and phillips screwdriver. The best tool is the one you have with you, and I use mine all the time.
The Internet. Sure you use the Internet, but do you really know how to use the Internet? How do you tell if an article on a web site is credible? For that matter, how do you know if the Wikipedia page on a certain topic is credible? The ultimate skill for the next century is not blindly clicking and reading web pages, but learning how to become an intelligent, scientific skeptic that can research and evaluate the zillion sources of data you’ll get on any topic.