Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Five for Thought....

I've embarked on a "Five for Footprint" where I've challenged people to reduce their carbon footprint by 5%, which comes out to reducing your emissions for one day by not driving to work, or foregoing that paper cup, etc one day out of every 20. Taking that small step reduces your impact in that area by 5% which sounds pretty impressive. Heck I'd love to get 5% for my savings right now. In this blog post, I'm going to pursue "Five for Thought" where I share five books that have shaped my thinking in the area of responsible living for me, and I think they'll spawn some thoughts for you as well.

The first two are non-traditional "business books" that chronicle the history of two companies that challenge the conventional wisdom that you cannot do good and do well.

1. Raising the Bar by Gary Erickson, the founder of Clif Bar & Co. The pivot of the story centers around Erickson's decision to turn down an offer of $60 million dollars and instead grow the business on his own and on his own terms. He outlines the philosophy guiding Clif bar the company and details his white road, red road version of the road not traveled.

2.Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. This is more of a traditional biography of a person and a company, it offers similar lessons from Raising the Bar. So why include it? One example is an exception, but two is a rule. These are both very successful companies that treat their employees and the planet well.

Both the above books provide a framework for running good companies. They listen to what the market wants at a deep level, which is more important than the soulless methodologies of tradition business education. Andrew Stanton, director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo says he throws away marketing reports. That's because he's trying to satisfy the customer in himself.

The next two books are related in that they deal with human psychology and shatter the myths of what make us happy.

3. Stumbling on Happiness by Dan Gilbert. The central tenet of this book is that we as humans are incredibly poor at predicting what makes us happy or unhappy. What we think will make us happy usually doesn't last, and what we think will devastate us and debilitate us, we usually get over. Even the most terrible things. I recommend this book because it helps you evaluate the wants that bombard us and help us assess whether we will be truly happy if we get this or that. Much of our consumption is in the pursuit of happiness, but most times we leave disappointed. This explains why. The other reason I like this book is the author, a professor at Harvard has a great story of his own. HIs life followed an untraditional path which should give hope to students everywhere trying to figure out their lives and worried they won't. Can you imagine that there is a full Professor at Harvard who doesn't have a high school diploma, well don't imagine. Gilbert's that person.

The next book questions whether homo economicus exists in the way that we think s/he does. Are we as rational cold animals as we claim? No, we are irrational, self-delusional animals.

4. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. This book gives clear examples of our irrationality is not an isolated case of that someone else, but instead is us. Behavioral economics is an incredibly important branch in that it allows us to craft policies for who we are, not who we wish we are. Our limited senses and distorted time frames impact our decisions. Understanding our limitations let us thrive.

The last book in the "Five for Thought" is a classic of the voluntary simplicity movement. I don't follow everything that the program suggests, but it does influence how I live my life.

5. Your Money or Your Life: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book is a blueprint for a life more full and one that has less impact on the planet. The book is about personal finance, or more accurately, financial independence. The personal finance movement is very much tied to the sustainable life movement and it starts here. Structured as a series of exercises, the book always returns to ask you "what do you do that deeply contributes to your happiness" and if it doesn't get rid of it.

These are five (of many) books that made me think about how we can live better. Presumably fiction has played a role in my thoughts, but that will have to be for another blog post.

I've decided I'm going to treat this as a blog meme, I'll going to tag the following to share with us what books influenced them Arduous Blog and My Open Wallet.


At 9:23 AM , Blogger Dianna said...

i've read a couple of those. i'm going to pick up Your Money or Your Life again, i haven't read it in years and i could use some of its perspective right about now.


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