A Few Good Reads: Part 2

Recently I reviewed two cycling books, but this blog is about two different but absorbing books. First, The Happiness Advantage helped me understand success in life; while the second, The Day the World Came to Town, was a great people story about a tragic event, 9/11.

The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor

This book sounded like work, as it related about how to succeed at work, however I was surprised at how useful this book was. The subtitle is “the seven principles that fuel success and performance at work“. If you want to think differently about how you can make a positive difference in your life (not just in work), then read this book. It’s all about positive psychology. It explains how we’ve gotten things back to front: “happiness fuels success, not the other way around.

I liked how practical this book was – principles like “the 20-second rule“. If you don’t make habits, and make them easy to practice, you’re going to fail. Achor picks the example of learning how to play a guitar. He tried learning by practicing every day, but failed as it was too much effort to pull out the guitar instead of crashing on the couch watching TV. Why? It took more than 20 seconds to get the guitar out of his room and into the sitting room. So what did he do? He bought a guitar stand and placed it beside the TV, so his guitar was immediately accessible in the room. Just as easy as watching TV.

Another example relates to looking at the world as a glass half full, rather than half empty. The idea of “falling up” shows how we should bounce back from negative experiences. Losing a match, is a great way to reflect on what you could do better to win the next game. Don’t wallow in your losses.

 The Day the World Came to Town, Jim Defede

I love getting book recommendations. A work colleague from the US recommended this book and I’m glad I took note. This is a story about 9/11 and how the people of a small town in Newfoundland, Gander, reacted to events of that day.

Gander turned out to be a strategic location – once the 2 planes hit the Twin Towers, the US authorities quickly shut down US airspace. That meant 100s of planes in the air had to either land immediately in the US, or else if they were over the Atlantic, decide to land in Canada or return to Europe. Over 30 planes landed in Gander that day, so nearly 10,000 unexpected visitors arriving in a small town of similar size. How do you feed these people? Where do they sleep? How long will they here?

What was great about this book – it’s not just about a tragic day in all our lives, but it plays out over a week after that infamous day. Both the residents of Gander who opened up their homes, schools and hearts to accommodate thousands of stranded passengers. People volunteered their time to help out, bakers made tons of bread, schools and gym halls opened up, locals donated blankets, food, toys.

I liked the mixed narrative of the book – it told the story from about 20-30 individual perspectives. From Lufthansa pilots, to air traffic controllers, to retired locals, to Texans returning from Russia after adopting a little girl, to an Irish lady returning from visiting family, to the CEO of Hugo Boss, to a US Army General who was responsible for security/intelligence in Europe. That day was a leveller – if you were in first class sipping champagne, or a jaded parent with kids, you were all treated the same when you landed in Gander. No time for deference or preferential treatment.

The unknowns were endless: when will we get home? What happened in New York? Do my family know where I am? Are my family or friends in New York ok? Where the hell are we? Some people thought about driving home – even if it was thousands of miles to Texas!

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