Chasing the Scream PDF Summary

Chasing the Scream PDF SummaryThe First and Last Days of the War on Drugs

There’s a high chance that everything you know about addiction is wrong.

Why?

Because you have been methodically brainwashed by the so-called War on Drugs.

Chasing the Scream is here to settle the score.

Who Should Read “Chasing the Scream”? And Why?

If you want to find out more about how the War on Drugs started and who, in fact, was behind it, then there are not many books better than Chasing the Scream.

If you don’t have the time, then do yourself a favor and at least watch Hari’s TED Talk.

It will definitely change how you think.

About Johann Hari

Johann HariJohann Hari is a Swiss-born writer and journalist.

A regular columnist for The Independent, he was deemed one of Britain’s most influential leftists before two high-profile scandals in 2011 severely marred his reputation.

First, it was discovered that he had plagiarized some of his sources, and then that he used different accounts to vandalize the Wikipedia articles of some of his criticizers.

However, Hari’s books published since then – Chasing the Scream and Lost Connections – have been widely praised and debated.

 “Chasing the Scream PDF Summary”

Chasing the Scream was published in January 2015, exactly one century after the quiet commencement of the War on Drugs.

Now, War on Drugs – just like War on Poverty or War on Terrorism – is such a universally accepted war that it’s difficult to think what could be wrong with it.

In fact, it almost sounds like something nobody should have anything against. However, Johann Hari was a bit skeptical about that. And if we’ve learned one thing summarizing books here, it’s undoubtedly that it’s always good to be skeptical about things that people accept without thinking twice.

And Johann Hari wanted to think things many times over; in fact, he wrote Chasing the Scream because he didn’t think he could think of a satisfying answer to some quite interesting and vital questions:

Why did the drug war start, and why does it continue? Why can some people use drugs without any problems, while others can’t? What really causes addiction? What happens if you choose a radically different policy?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions either – and, believe us, chances are you don’t – then read ahead!

You’ll be shocked by some of the answers.

“Many of our most basic assumptions about this subject are wrong,” notes Hari. “Drugs are not what we think they are. Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is. The drug war is not what our politicians have sold it as for one hundred years and counting.”

Harry Jacob Anslinger

Remember that marvelously comical scene from Dr. Strangelove when General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) tries to convince Group Captain Lionel Mandrake (Peter Sellers) that water fluoridation is a Communist plot devised to sap Americans from their bodily fluids?

Well, believe it or not, the war on drugs seems to have started in a somewhat similar manner.

Just a century ago, people regularly drank cocaine-infused Coca-Cola and bought medicines which incorporated drugs such as heroin. Hell, you could even buy a tin of heroin from a department store if you were a high-society lady!

However, on December 17, 1914, the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act was approved in the United States, the first drug controlling regulation in the world. Even though the act made prescribing drugs for the treatment of addiction illegal, it was still legal to distribute cocaine if you were a registered seller well into the 1930s.

And then Harry Anslinger happened to the world.

The guy – a staunch supporter of criminalization and prohibition of drugs – was the first commissioner of the US Federal Bureau of Narcotics. And he held that position for more than three decades, from August 12, 1930, to May 1962!

Now, Harry seems to have hated a lot both drugs and communists.

And he was so obsessed with them that sometime between the two world wars he made a startling connection which at the start must have been evident to him and to nobody else in the world.

Namely, that communists were smuggling drugs in the United States so as to make Americans addicts and undermine the strength of the United States.

OK, Harry!

We dig ya.

And apparently, that’s precisely what every country in the world said after Anslinger made his case before the UN in the 1950s.

Only without the sarcasm.

The War on Racial Minorities

But why was Anslinger so interested in suppressing drugs? Did he care so much about the American people?

Of course he did.

Only in his mind, the phrase “American people” seems to have had somewhat limited meaning, encompassing everybody but the African-Americans, the Hispanics, the Chinese, the communists, etc.

What we’re trying to tell you is not that the man who banned drugs was a racist; it is that he banned drugs because he was a racist.

In other words, he used drugs as an excuse to put many entirely innocent people – mostly African-Americans – in jail for, say, smoking marijuana.

Here’s how scientific were Anslinger’s claims about drugs:

1. “Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
2. “Colored students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with (white) female students, smoking [marijuana] and getting their sympathy with stories of racial persecution. Result: pregnancy.”
3. “The increase [in drug addiction] is practically one hundred percent among Negro people.”

Think today is in any way different?

Think again:

“More than 50 percent of Americans have breached the drug laws,” remarks Hari. “Where a law is that widely broken, you can’t possibly enforce it against every lawbreaker. The legal system would collapse under the weight of it. So, you go after the people who are least able to resist, to argue back, to appeal—the poorest and most disliked groups. In the United States, they are black and Hispanic people, with a smattering of poor whites.”

The Birth of the Modern Junkie

Have you ever thought about how the junkies of pre-war US looked like?

Probably not.

And even if you did, almost certainly you can’t picture them in any way different from the ones living in your street. Namely, small-time thieves who regularly prostitute themselves for money and who are unable to function in any way whatsoever.

However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Before the Harrison Act and Anslinger’s all too personal war, drugs were cheap enough to allow many drug addicts to live quite normal lives.

However, once drugs were criminalized, their prices went up, and the living standard of drug addicts went severely down.

In fact, the word “junkie” itself may originate from this time (the 1920s) either because early addicts collected and sold scrap metal (junk) to pay for their addiction or because they bought narcotics which suddenly people started referring to as “junk” (not earlier than 1925).

The irony is rather staggering:

It was the War on Drugs which (practically out of nothing) created its enemy: criminal drug gangs; not the other way around.

The War on Drugs Today

In Ghettoside – an excellent book – Jill Leovy points out that “gangs are a consequence of lawlessness, not a cause.”

Well, as we explained above, the exact same thing seems to have happened with drug gangs.

Interestingly enough, it is still happening.

You see, drug dealing is a pretty lucrative, which also means a pretty risky, business. In other words, whether you’re cultivating, transporting or selling some drug, you’re pretty vulnerable to attacks at all stages of production and distribution.

However, if someone steals your drug from you, you can’t complain to the police about it, can you?

So, the lack of government laws – the lawlessness – incites you to implement some laws of your own. In other words, even if you want to merely transport cocaine and do nothing more, there’s a high chance that you’ll be unable to earn money from it unless you have a gun.

Or, better yet, a gang.

And the more gangs they are, the violence between them is more brutal; it is, after all, their only way to solve their problems; anything different means they will all go to prison.

And arresting drug dealers doesn’t help with violence reduction either; on the contrary, stats show that it aggravates things.

Why?

Because it creates a power vacuum.

And someone will almost certainly try to exploit it.

The Solution: Decriminalization

No, Hari is not talking merely about decriminalization of possession; he is talking about decriminalization and legalization of drugs altogether.

Here are some of the benefits we should expect if such a thing ever happens.

Humanization of Addicts

This is probably the most important benefit of them all: the humanization of addicts.

Even though these are human beings with serious problems (read more in the Key Lessons section), according to our present laws, these are criminals.

It is obvious that people who cause pain need discipline; but people in pain need a helping hand.

That’s why the governments of several European countries (Switzerland, Netherlands, Germany) have decided to set up supervised injection sites (SIS). These are centers where addicts can go and have their daily fix in sanitary conditions.

And in 2001, the Portuguese government decriminalized possession of any type of drug up to ten days; interestingly, it was the only European country to report a decline in drug use in the years which followed.

The Reduction of Drug-Related Crimes

As we explained above, legalization of drugs will, in turn, make stealing drugs a crime. This will have an enormously positive effect on the amount of violence among drug-related gangs. Put simply, you don’t need guns to protect yourself when you can call the police to protect you.

Furthermore, legalizing drugs should put in question their very existence. After all, when pharmacies and stores are able to sell drugs, their prices will suddenly go down.

Economic Rewards

Speaking of money, legalizing drugs should be enormously beneficial for the government as well.

Johann Hari has calculated that it should not only save the government about $40 billion dollars (usually spent on arresting and jailing dealers), but it should also earn it at least as much via taxes.

All in all, that’s more than $80 million dollars on a yearly basis!

Key Lessons from “Chasing the Scream”

1.      The War on Drugs Was a Pet Project of an American Racist
2      “The Opposite of Addiction Isn’t Sobriety – It’s Connection.”
3.      Drug Decriminalization and Legalization May Solve a Lot of Problems

The War on Drugs Was a Pet Project of an American Racist

Drugs weren’t illegal before the First World War.

In fact, they weren’t illegal in the sense they are today even during the decade after it.

But, then, Harry J. Anslinger became the first chief of the US Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics. And he started an all-out attack War on Drugs.

In fact, he criminalized drugs so that he can settle some scores with the people he hated: African-Americans and communists.

And then he convinced the world to do the same.

“The Opposite of Addiction Isn’t Sobriety – It’s Connection.”

Have you ever wondered why people whose injuries are so severe that their pain must be alleviated with opiates don’t become addicts even if given loads of diamorphine for weeks?

An interesting experiment with rats may explain why.

Namely, if you put a rat in a cage with two bottles – one filled with water, and the other filled with water and heroin – there’s a high chance that the rat will only drink from the heroin-laced bottle until it dies.

However, as Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander realized in the 1970s, if you make that cage a healthy environment (a sort of a Disneyland for rats) and the rat is not alone, then this doesn’t happen.

Hari’s conclusion:

It isn’t the drug that causes the harmful behavior—it’s the environment. An isolated rat will almost always become a junkie. A rat with a good life almost never will, no matter how many drugs you make available to him. As Bruce put it: he was realizing that addiction isn’t a disease. Addiction is an adaptation. It’s not you—it’s the cage you live in.

Drug Decriminalization and Legalization May Solve a Lot of Problems

Above everything else, the decriminalization and legalization of drugs could help transform drug addicts from criminals in need of discipline into human beings in need of a helping hand.

But, in addition, legalizing drugs should also reduce drug-related crimes and earn the government billions of dollars!

So why are we still in a war when everybody should benefit from the peace offer?

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“Chasing the Scream PDF Summary Quotes”

The opposite of addiction isn’t sobriety. It’s connection. Click To Tweet It is a natural human instinct to turn our fears into symbols, and destroy the symbols, in the hope that it will destroy the fear. It is a logic that keeps recurring throughout human history, from the Crusades to the witch hunts to the… Click To Tweet It took me a while to see that the contrast between the racism directed at Billie and the compassion offered to addicted white stars like Judy Garland was not some weird misfiring of the drug war—it was part of the point. Click To Tweet Problem drug use is a symptom, not a cause, of personal and social maladjustment. Click To Tweet Wouldn’t it be better to spend our money on rescuing kids before they become addicts than on jailing them after we have failed? Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Johann Hari’s career may have been marked by difficult-to-explain plagiarizing and sockpuppeting scandals in the past, but he arguably makes amends with Chasing the Scream.

It is, undoubtedly, the high point of his career.

The book is so great that Noam Chomsky called it “wonderful,” Bill Maher “terrific,” Naomi Klein “thrilling” and Stephen Fry “screamingly addictive.”

And do visit its site: it contains recordings of all the interviews inside the book just in case you’re wondering if some of them are plagiarized. (Kudos to rationalwiki.org.)

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12 Rules for Life Summary

12 Rules for Life Summary

An Antidote to Chaos

Ready for a dose of Jordan Peterson?

Even if you’re not – here it comes!

Tight-packed in the form of his 12 Rules for Life.

Who Should Read “12 Rules for Life”? And Why?

There’s probably nobody as famous as Jordan Peterson in the intellectual world nowadays.

Which means that each and every one of his moves is carefully inspected by a host of people – both his two million (and counting) active followers and as many criticizers.

12 Rules for Life, however, is a much lighter and less controversial read than we’ve come to expect from Peterson.

It feels as if it is mainly aimed at teenagers and young people who are trying to find their way in life.

If you are one of them, based on many testimonies,

About Jordan Peterson

Jordan PetersonJordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist and cultural critic – quite possibly, “the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now.”

He studied at the University of Alberta, where he obtained a BA in political science in 1982. After a year off in Europe, he returned to Alberta and received a BA in psychology in 1985.

Six years later, he earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from McGill University where he remained as a post-doctoral fellow for the next two years. He then moved to Harvard University, where he became an associate professor of psychology.

He published his first book, Maps of Meaning, in 1999, two decades before he published 12 Rules for Life.

In the meantime, he became an Internet celebrity, propelled by his argumentation against the Canadian government’s Bill C-16.

Find out more at https://jordanbpeterson.com/

“12 Rules for Life Summary”

As Jordan Peterson explains in the Overture to his 12 Rules of Life, this book grew out of one of his most interesting hobbies.

Namely – answering questions posted on Quora.

Well, one time he tried answering the question “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”

His answer – which then included 40 rules – was, to say the least, quite popular.

As Peterson explains, it “has been viewed by a hundred and twenty thousand people and been upvoted twenty-three hundred times. Only a few hundred of the roughly six hundred thousand questions on Quora have cracked the two-thousand-upvote barrier.”

So, in other words, he had already written this book before he had even started writing it.

To complete it, he just combined some rules and dropped out the redundant ones.

And he came up with the 12 rules for life.

Key Lessons from “12 Rules for Life”

1.      Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back
2.      Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping
3.      Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You
4.      Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today
5.      Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them
6.      Put Your House in Order
7.      Pursue What is Meaningful, Not What is Expedient
8.      Tell the Truth
9.      Assume that the Person You are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t
10.      Be Precise with Your Speech
11.      Leave Children Alone when They are Skateboarding
12.      Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

Rule 1: Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back

For his first rule, Jordan Peterson casts a cold look upon the nature and the “society” of the lobsters. But you probably already know this, since it has already been made stupendously famous via his debate with Cathy Newman.

The main reason for the analogy: the basic chemistry of a lobster’s brain is not that different from the chemistry of your brain.

And we know for a fact that, after a fight, “a lobster loser’s brain chemistry differs importantly from that of a lobster winner.” And this is “reflected in their relative postures,” which depend on the serotonin/octopamine ratio: more from the former makes you stand up straight and enthuses you with confidence.

Rings a bell?

It should – if it doesn’t.

Because it basically echoes Amy Cuddy’s exceptionally popular TED Talk: “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.

Now, the rule makes much more sense: if octopamine makes you slouch when you’re feeling bad, then stand up straight, and the serotonin wills start flowing:

So, attend carefully to your posture. Quit drooping and hunching around. Speak your mind. Put your desires forward, as if you had a right to them—at least the same right as others. Walk tall and gaze forthrightly ahead. Dare to be dangerous. Encourage the serotonin to flow plentifully through the neural pathways desperate for its calming influence.

Rule 2: Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible for Helping

We live in a scientific, materialistic world and we are pitifully unaware of the fact that there are different ways to understand it.

However, for most of history (back to, say, Newton), humans understood it in a profoundly different way, i.e., via myths. And myths had the power to give their lives some meaning and orientation.

Now, interestingly enough, the fact that we are aware that the universe has no obligation to make sense to us (Neil deGrasse Tyson) makes us cruel to, well, ourselves.

We are capable of inventing meaning even for our dogs and cats – but we are incapable of doing the same for us. And statistics show this: “People are better at filling and properly administering prescription medication to their pets than to themselves.”

And, as Peterson says, “that’s not good. Even from your pet’s perspective, it’s not good. Your pet (probably) loves you, and would be happier if you took your medication.”

Peterson analyzes the Genesis story in order to find an answer to the question of why we prefer our pets to ourselves. And – after few pages which concentrate on the order/chaos dichotomy – he finds it.

And it is the same Viktor Frankl discovered while going through the Hell of Auschwitz. Namely, the ones who go forward are the ones who have something to go forward to.

He whose life has a why can bear almost any how,” Peterson quotes his favorite philosopher Nietzsche to make his point once again.

How this relates to Peterson’s second rule?

Well, if you believe your life has a Meaning – with a capital M – then you will have to treat yourself as someone who deserves it. And if that’s the case, you will be able to recognize your problems.

And consider them accordingly.

Just like you would your dog’s.

Rule 3: Make Friends with People Who Want the Best for You

A highly personal lesson dipped in Jordan Peterson’s childhood experiences.

And as simple and obvious as a lesson can get: “Friendship is a reciprocal arrangement.

Peterson goes on:

You are not morally obliged to support someone who is making the world a worse place. Quite the opposite. You should choose people who want things to be better, not worse. It’s a good thing, not a selfish thing, to choose people who are good for you. It’s appropriate and praiseworthy to associate with people whose lives would be improved if they saw your life improve.

People who don’t want to improve are not exactly people you want to be around with. By definition, they can’t be helped. They will merely drag you down to their level to make themselves feel better, using you as an object instead of a human being (contra Kant).

If you spend your time around them, you are not helping yourself and, thus, you are not helping the world either.

Because the people who don’t want to improve are the same people who will give a cigarette to a former smoker or beer to a former alcoholic.

They don’t want to make the world a better place by improving; they want to make the world a worse place and, thus, simulate improvement.

To hell with them!

Make friends only with people who want the best for you, people you’d easily recommend to others for

Rule 4: Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today

We’ve told you before that happiness may be a relative category.

In other words, that how you feel at this moment depends not on how close you are to some definitive state of things (i.e., Happiness with a capital H), but on how better off you feel when compared to those around you.

Regardless of the fact that happiness is not precisely Peterson’s cup of tea – it’s a fact that, for millennia, this may have worked for people in one way or another.

Nowadays, it’s all but a recipe for disaster!

Why?

Because, nowadays, you have the media and the Internet continually feeding you with images and news about the best of the very best.

And it’s only sensible to come to terms with a simple fact: no matter how good you are, there will always be someone better than you out there.

Look at it this way: millions of kids are at the moment playing basketball and dreaming of becoming the next LeBron; only a handful or one or even no one will do that!

What does that leave for the rest of the bunch?

Misery.

That’s why Jordan Peterson advises you to introduce a Copernican revolution inside your existence. It’s time to stop being the object revolving around some objects with a stronger mass; it’s time to become the object around which everything else revolves.

In other words: don’t compare yourself to other people; compare yourself with, well, yourself from yesterday. If you’re better than that guy – then you are on the right track!

Rule 5: Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them

Parenting is an art.

And the most artful part about it is learning – and, then, communicating – the rules of it.

It’s only obvious that not everybody can be a good parent. What separates the good from the bad is their capability to guide their children on the road of improvement.

Because children are born into chaos. They learn the rules of life by constantly hitting walls – both literally and metaphorically.

A parent’s job is to organize the metaphorical part of his/her child’s existence in a way which will give it some meaning.

And that, in Peterson’s dictionary, doesn’t mean “happiness.”

After all, a child will always feel a little happier when given a candy; but that doesn’t mean that you should give your child candies all the time.

Your purpose as a parent is to be the superego to your child’s ego: to be the link between the chaos of the child’s world and the order of society.

If a child receives no feedback, then the chaos into which it is born will permeate well into his or her adulthood; and society will punish it, much less mercifully than you.

However, if it receives too much feedback, then the order will limit too much its potential; society will punish that as well.

The lesson here: set clear rules and proper discipline for your children; because if you don’t – society will.

Rule 6: Put Your House in Order

This one of Jordan Peterson’s rules goes back to Voltaire’s Candide.

If you recall, the book ends with a conviction that the only way to counter the evils of this world is by cultivating your own garden. That way, Voltaire believed, you can free yourself of the “three great evils: boredom, vice, and poverty.” And contribute to a better future of everybody.

Jordan Peterson rephrases this thus: put your house in order before you start philosophizing about how we should put the whole world in order.

Don’t blame other people for your own troubles, because, chances are, you haven’t taken advantage of every opportunity coming your way.

“Don’t blame capitalism, the radical left, or the iniquity of your enemies,” Peterson goes on. “Don’t reorganize the state until you have ordered your own experience. Have some humility. If you cannot bring peace to your household, how dare you try to rule a city? Let your own soul guide you.”

The actionable lesson: “Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong.

Rule 7: Pursue What is Meaningful, Not What is Expedient

Life is suffering.

Many ancient religions and mythologies have tried articulating that in some of the most famous stories we have inherited from our ancestors.

There is basically no way around it: no matter what happens, one day the people you love will inevitably die; and you will as well.

There’s an easy solution to this problem: hedonism. “Pursue pleasure. Follow your impulses. Live for the moment. Do what’s expedient. Lie, cheat, steal, deceive, manipulate—but don’t get caught. In an ultimately meaningless universe, what possible difference could it make?”

However, there’s also a more difficult answer, one which makes much more sense. Namely, if suffering is real – and no one can deny that – and if it is that painful to live with suffering, then certainly the worst thing you can do is cause someone else’s suffering.

And we know this intuitively: even if we don’t know what is good, says Peterson, we certainly know a priori, what is bad.

Well, Meaning – once again, with a capital M – must be doing good; and doing good is the negation of doing bad.

“If the worst sin is the torment of others, merely for the sake of the suffering produced—then the good is whatever is diametrically opposed to that. The good is whatever stops such things from happening.”

(No, that’s not diametrically opposed to tormenting others, Jordan.)

Rule 8: Tell the Truth

This rule is Jordan Peterson’s gospel to the Truth.

Let us quote its most beautiful part:

To tell the truth is to bring the most habitable reality into Being. Truth builds edifices that can stand a thousand years. Truth feeds and clothes the poor, and makes nations wealthy and safe. Truth reduces the terrible complexity of a man to the simplicity of his word, so that he can become a partner, rather than an enemy. Truth makes the past truly past, and makes the best use of the future’s possibilities. Truth is the ultimate, inexhaustible natural resource. It’s the light in the darkness.

In other words, just like God does at the beginning of John’s Gospel, we too have the power to organize the chaos of the world into something much more tangible.

Lies are only temporary and do service only to those who use them to manipulate. Truths don’t serve anyone per se. They can’t, since they are as they are, regardless of our interests and feelings.

So, they serve the world.

Your duty: “Tell the truth. Or, at least, don’t lie.”

Oh, if only it were as easy?

Rule 9: Assume that the Person You are Listening to Might Know Something You Don’t

This one’s pretty much self-explanatory.

If you are merely telling somebody something, then the existence of that person is irrelevant. You might as well be talking to yourself in the mirror.

The problem?

You’ll never get anywhere with that kind of attitude.

For a simple reason: you are sabotaging your own improvement. There’s no way you know as much as you think you do – no matter who you are.

So, why don’t you start learning something from those around you?

Instead of a talker, become a listener; you’ll do your talking later; in the meantime – you may actually learn something.

And this reminds us of one of our favorite movie scenes.

Watch it straight away.

And don’t be a marketing rep; be a human!

Rule 10: Be Precise with Your Speech

Ah, good ol’ Wittgenstein!

If you talk about something you don’t understand, then you are contributing to the Chaos which engulfs the world.

You must, in fact, confront it!

Precision and specificity – just like truth – turn the Chaos into something treatable.

If you don’t know the specific destination you want to reach, there’s no way you’ll ever reach it. And being ambiguous about something is not much different from providing a wrong map for someone and telling him/her that following it will lead him/her to the right location.

Naturally, that will never happen.

Rule 11: Leave Children Alone when They are Skateboarding

Look aide, lefties: this is the part you are definitely not going to like at all!

It starts quite innocently: modern parenting is overprotective. And it is: called helicopter parenting, it risks raising children who are not prepared for life, but protected from it.

So far, so good.

However, according to Jordan Peterson, there’s a difference in what overparenting means for boys and what it means for girls.

Why?

Because boys and girls are different; and because, if not for overparenting, they would develop their sexual differences even more visibly.

So, let them do!

Why should we feminize boys and masculinize girls – when their differences are so natural? After all, “if they’re healthy,” says Peterson, “women don’t want boys. They want men.”

Now, correct us if we’re wrong, but isn’t this somewhat contradictory to Rule 5? We know people who would be ashamed of hearing their sons got expelled from school

How do you know when to put your foot down?

Or is it, unfortunately, not as apparent as Peterson proclaims it to be?

Rule 12: Pet a Cat When You Encounter One on the Street

So, all in all, suffering is an inescapable part of life.

There are two paths you go from here: either you are going to blame the universe, or take the sins of the world upon yourself.

If the former, you are never going to be happy; you’ll become resentful and bitter and a pain to be around with.

If the latter, there are, once again, two paths to choose from: either you are going to be smashed by the burden, or you are going to stand up straight and carry it.

And the best way to deal with your burden: to pet a cat when you encounter one. That is – to enjoy the little beautiful and good things happening all the time around you:

If you pay careful attention, even on a bad day, you may be fortunate enough to be confronted with small opportunities of just that sort. Maybe you will see a little girl dancing on the street because she is all dressed up in a ballet costume. Maybe you will have a particularly good cup of coffee in a café that cares about their customers. Maybe you can steal ten or twenty minutes to do some little ridiculous thing that distracts you or reminds you that you can laugh at the absurdity of existence.

Peterson’s way of dealing with suffering: watching a “Simpsons” episode at 1.5 times regular speed – “all the laughs; two-thirds the time.”

We promise we’ll try that.

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“12 Rules for Life Quotes”

It took untold generations to get you where you are. A little gratitude might be in order. If you're going to insist on bending the world to your way, you better have your reasons. Click To Tweet You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself. Click To Tweet ’No tree can grow to Heaven,’ adds the ever-terrifying Carl Gustav Jung, psychoanalyst extraordinaire, ‘unless its roots reach down to Hell.’ Click To Tweet Ideologies are substitutes for true knowledge, and ideologues are always dangerous when they come to power, because a simple-minded I-know-it-all approach is no match for the complexity of existence. Click To Tweet So, listen, to yourself and to those with whom you are speaking. Your wisdom then consists not of the knowledge you already have, but the continual search for knowledge, which is the highest form of wisdom. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life will, undoubtedly, help some; it will also, undoubtedly, irk others.

In our opinion, there’s plenty in the book to justify the behavior of each of these two parties.

Because, unfortunately, as much as Peterson is trying to convince the world in the opposite, language is not precise.

And he’s not exactly telling the truth when he’s saying that his words have only one interpretation.

They have many.

Fortunately, some are encouraging and uplifting.

So read the book because of them.

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Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers PDF Summary

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers PDFThe Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping

This is not just another book about stress.

In fact, it’s probably the only one you should read.

Since it’s written by a renowned scientist and a brilliant science writer and since it will not only expose many of the other stress-related books as fakes, but it will also offer you science-backed tips on how to control your stress levels.

And since, let’s face it, there’s not another book on the market which actually explains “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.”

Who Should Read “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”? And Why?

Even if it certainly looks that way – trust us – we didn’t oversell “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers” in the introduction above.

So, if you feel under a lot of stress and want to understand its origins and learn a few coping mechanisms – this is the book we recommend.

It’s a book we most warmly recommend to anyone who is even remotely curious about human behavioral biology and the inner workings of the human’s body.

About Robert Sapolsky

Robert SapolskyRobert M. Sapolsky is an American neuroendocrinologist, a professor of biology and a widely revered science writer.

Born in 1957 in Brooklyn, New York to Soviet immigrants (hence the surname), Sapolsky obtained a Ph.D. in neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University, after spending some time in Kenya to study the social behavior of baboons and a few years more working in the lab of noted endocrinologist Bruce McEwan.

Dubbed “one of the best science writers of our time” by none other than Oliver Sacks, Sapolsky has authored seven bestselling books, including “The Trouble with Testosterone,” “A Primate Memoir,” and “Behave.”

He is currently the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor at Stanford University

“Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers PDF Summary”

All animals – humans notwithstanding – possess basically the same stress-response mechanism, grounded in something aptly called the “fight-or-flight syndrome.”

“Aptly” because we practically don’t need to explain it: when in the presence of great physical danger, your only two choices are to either fight back or flee.

Now, if you are a lion attacked by another lion, there’s a good chance that you’ll try not to be a coward; however, if you are a zebra and you happen to notice a lion lurking in your vicinity, well, you better run!

Strangely enough, as far as the biology of the response is concerned, it matters not whether you fight back or flee: in either case, vast amounts of energy are delivered to your muscles, so that you are able to fight or run away.

If you want the response of your body broken down a bit, here’s an explanation of what the fight-or-flight syndrome actually does inside you!

First, your liver and your fat cells release glucose, fats, and simple proteins, and feed the muscles you’re going to need the most during the next few minutes; so, if you are a zebra, you suddenly get super leg muscles!

At the same time, your blood pressure, your breathing rate and your heart rate increase dramatically in an attempt to acquire and send more nutrients and oxygen throughout your body.

Chances are you’re not going to eat anything or have sex with someone while a lion is chasing you down the African savannah, so – in an attempt to conserve all the energy it possibly can – your body shuts down both your digestive and reproductive functions.

What happens next is the most interesting part if you have that misfortune of being a human: the minute the danger passes, the stress-response mechanisms shut down, and everything’s suddenly back to normal, regardless of the fact that you had been in a life-or-death situation just a few moments ago.

And why is this interesting?

Well, because, as Sapolsky notes, even though “zebras and lions may see trouble coming in the next minute and mobilize a stress-response” they “can’t get stressed about events far in the future.”

So, in a way, their fight-or-flight apparatus is finely tuned to their ways of life.

Because as great as it is to have super legs when you’re running for your life, it’s all but pointless to keep having them – and have problems eating and reproducing – even when you’re trying to calmly lie down or graze in the savannah!

And because:

Sustained or repeated stress can disrupt our bodies in seemingly endless ways… Many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused or made far worse by stress.

That’s where we, the humans, come in.

You see, we have – fortunately – developed the very same mechanisms to cope with danger, but we have – unfortunately? – developed a highly complex brain as well!

The result?

We get stressed by a job interview or the taxes, by a tight deadline or an expected visit from our parents – the same way a zebra does when attacked by a lion; and, what’s even worse, we do that not in the immediate presence of this danger, but way in advance of it!

So, basically, we have mastered the art of wasting our body’s energy on the wrong places and at the wrong time while leaving some other parts of us completely bereaved of energy when they need it the most.

Let’s go back to our example with the zebra.

If the stress-response mechanism causes its digestion and reproductive functions to shut down, what do you think it will happen to it if this fight-or-flight syndrome grows into something of a chronic nature?

You’ve guessed it: serious, serious problems!

Now you probably get why zebras can’t get stress-induced ulcers and why men regularly get them!

And you finally understand why you had problems maintaining your erection that night before the interview for that coveted job.

Key Lessons from “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

1.      Stress-Response Mechanism = Fight-or-Flight Syndrome
2.      How to Treat Stress: Few Practical Bits of Advice
3.      Stress Is Bad… But Let’s Not Stress Out Over It

Stress-Response Mechanism = Fight-or-Flight Syndrome

Humans and animals share the same fight-or-flight mechanism.

In a nutshell, this means that in the presence of great physical danger, our bodies react in much the similar manner: they release vast amounts of energy and direct it to the most important centers at the moment to prepare us to either fight back or flee.

This is basically what stress is.

However, humans react in much the same way even in the absence of danger, namely, even if merely thinking about it.

And that’s very bad.

How to Treat Stress: Few Practical Bits of Advice

Stress can be reduced – but it’s impossible to eliminate it altogether.

There are no magical cures for it, but there are a few things that seem to help:

#1. Exercise: self-explanatory; demonstrated to reduce stress in numerous studies.
#2. Socialization: the more time you spend with friendly people – the right people – the less time your body will think that it needs to fight someone or flee from somebody else.
#3. Predictability: as we explained above, only humans can stress over future events; which is especially dreadful, since sometimes these events don’t happen at all; so, try to establish predictability when you can so that you can prepare your body in advance.
#4. The 80/20 Rule: Be aware that the first 20% of your efforts should reduce about 80% of your stress.
#5. Find an outlet: find something that gets you back to normal; it can be anything depending on the person; in our case, is playing or watching soccer.
#6. Serenity now: OK, that didn’t work that well for Frank Costanza! But something similar worked more than perfect for both the Stoics and the numerous people who know the Serenity Prayer by heart.

Stress Is Bad… But Let’s Not Stress Out Over It

There is a strong relationship between stress and some illnesses and a moderate one in the case of some other diseases.

However, stress is almost always just a part of the equation.

So, please stop giving money to people who say otherwise:

Everything bad in human health now is not caused by stress, nor is it in our power to cure ourselves of all our worst medical nightmares merely by reducing stress and thinking healthy thoughts full of courage and spirit and love. Would it were so. And shame on those who would profit from selling this view.

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“Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers Quotes”

Sustained or repeated stress can disrupt our bodies in seemingly endless ways. Click To Tweet

What goes on in your head can affect how well your immune system functions. Click To Tweet

Many of the damaging diseases of slow accumulation can be either caused or made far worse by stress. Click To Tweet

If you’re running 26 miles in a day, you’re either very intent on eating someone or someone’s very intent on eating you. Click To Tweet

Hope for the best and let that dominate most of your emotions, but at the same time let one small piece of you prepare for the worst. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

We absolutely adore Robert M. Sapolsky!

So, it’s kind of difficult for us to be objective about any of his books.

We won’t be about this one either: already in its third edition, this is far and away the best book on stress out there!

Sapolsky knows his stuff, and he has a way with both words and images. So, there’s not only plenty you’ll find enjoyable here – but there’s also plenty you’ll never forget.

10/10!

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I Contain Multitudes PDF Summary

I Contain Multitudes PDFThe Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

I Contain Multitudes” is a verse written by Walt Whitman, used, obviously, in a strictly metaphorical sense.

Well, Ed Yong borrows it to talk about something much more literal.

Of course it’s a book about microbes!

Who Should Read “I Contain Multitudes”? And Why?

“I Contain Multitudes” is a book about the microbes which live inside your body, which means that it’s basically a book about you.

Merely glancing through it, you’ll be surprised by the sheer number of things you don’t know about yourself – let alone by the fact that cleanliness was not exactly next to godliness!

So, germaphobes, gastronomes, and geeks – please, be Ed Yong’s guests!

About Ed Yong

Ed YongEdmund Soon-Weng Yong – more popularly known as Ed Yong – is a British science journalist and beloved popularizer of science.

After receiving a Master of Arts degree in Natural Science (Zoology) from the University of Cambridge, Yong was awarded an MPhil from the University College London for his thesis on the human resolvase in 2005.

Ed Yong is a permanent staff member of “The Atlantic,” and his work has appeared in numerous magazines; his blog – Not Exactly Rocket Science – is published as part of the “National Geographic” blog network.

Critically acclaimed and popularly well-received, “I Contain Multitudes” is his first book.

“I Contain Multitudes PDF Summary”

Animals might be evolution’s icing,” paleontologist Andrew Knoll once said, “but bacteria are really the cake.

And what a cake they are, ha?

But, that description is straight to the point in more senses than one!

Consider it first chronologically: microbes are here for almost the same amount of time as the Earth itself! Being single-celled, microbes are naturally the first forms of life to have ever developed, about 3 to 4 billion years ago!

To put that into perspective, the Earth is barely half a billion years older; modern humans, on the other hand, appeared about 300,000 years ago.

Which, in other words, means that if we think of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years of existence as if one calendar year, then homo sapiens appeared about 30 minutes ago, and microbes have been around ever since March!

Interestingly enough, even though microbes and humans have spent such a small amount of time together, they’ve managed to build a quite flawless type of interaction!

What do we mean by that?

Simply this: out of the 69 trillion cells in your body, 39 trillion are microbial. In other words, about 57% of you is microbes!

And if you think that’s one of those yuck-kind of facts, consider this: your health has depended on each and every one of those 39 trillion microbes ever since you were born!

You may not know what B. infantis is, and it’s certainly of no help to you if we tell you that you can read more about in the Wikipedia article titled Bifidobacterium longum.  

However – who would have thought? – unless that B. infantis bacterium planted itself firmly in the gastrointestinal tract of the baby you, your earliest food intake would have been a lot less nutrient!

Because, you see, even though breast milk contains human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), babies can’t digest them.

And that’s where B. infantis comes to the rescue, processing HMOs and turning them into digestible proteins. Some of these proteins are anti-inflammatory, which means that they assume a role in our immune system afterward!

Speaking of the immune system – did you know that it is actually microbes which calibrate it?

Let’s pause to note how peculiar this all is. The traditional view of the immune system is full of military metaphors and antagonistic lingo. We see it as a defense force that discriminates self (our own cells) from non-self (microbes and everything else), and eradicates the latter. But now we see that microbes craft and tune our immune system in the first place!

In other words, children should be exposed to dirt and dust in their early age, because that’s the only way the organism can adjust its internal “immunostat,” i.e., the thermostat-like functioning immune system.

In case your “immunostat” has been exposed to too few microbes in your childhood years, then it may end up being a bit jumpy later, overreacting to even the smallest of threats like pollen. Hence, serious allergic reactions!

So, you need to balance your alliances with microbes the best way possible.

Because strictly speaking, there aren’t good or bad microbes by themselves – but there are good or bad environments for different kinds of microbes.

A killer in one environment, a microbe may become a rescuer in another. And thanks to science – now we know enough about some of these microbes to use them to our benefit.

Check our “Key Lessons” section for some other interesting microbes-related trivia!

Key Lessons from “I Contain Multitudes”

1.      Microbes Created the Earth’s Atmosphere
2.      Superpowers Due to Microbe/Animals Symbiosis
3.      Microbes, the Puppet Masters

Microbes Created the Earth’s Atmosphere

A million microbes can fit on the head of a single pin!

However, even though they are that small, this doesn’t mean that they are insignificant as well. On the contrary: more or less, they are the reason why we are able to exist on this planet.

You see, microbes were the first organisms who taught themselves to photosynthesize, that is, use the power of the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into oxygen and sugar.

The latter they used to feed themselves and go on evolving; the former created an atmosphere suitable for the life of more complex organisms.

Superpowers Due to Microbe/Animals Symbiosis

Some microbes have superpowers by themselves, being extremophiles capable of surviving in the most extreme environments.

However, a much more interesting case is when certain microbes and animals form symbioses which provide the single-celled organisms with food and the larger animals with a superpower.

Consider, for example, the bobtail squid. This animal lives in a symbiotic relationship with Aliivibrio fischeri, bioluminescent bacteria which inhabits the special light organ in the squid’s mantle.

The bobtail squid feeds the bacteria sugar and acid and, in return, the bacteria produce light which matches the amount of light hitting the top of the mantle. You’ve guessed it: this makes the squid practically invisible for anyone below it!

Microbes, the Puppet Masters

Our darkest fiction is full of Orwellian dystopias, shadowy cabals, and mind-controlling supervillains,” writes Edward Yong. “But it turns out that the brainless, microscopic, single-celled organisms that live inside us have been pulling on our strings all along.

That’s right: the microbes in your body are capable of controlling your brain from time to time! However, so as to save you a nightmare or two, we’ve opted for an example from, ahem, the much less nightmarish world of microbes and rodents:

The brain parasite Toxoplasma gondii is another puppet master. It can only sexually reproduce in a cat; if it gets into a rat, it suppresses the rodent’s natural fear of cat odors and replaces it with something more like sexual attraction. The rodent scurries towards nearby cats, with fatal results, and T. gondii gets to complete its life cycle.

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“I Contain Multitudes Quotes”

All zoology is really ecology. We cannot fully understand the lives of animals without understanding our microbes and our symbioses with them. Click To Tweet

Your right hand shares just a sixth of its microbial species with your left hand. Click To Tweet

Within 24 hours of moving into a new place we overwrite it with our own microbes, turning it into a reflection of ourselves. Click To Tweet

Much of modern medicine is built upon the foundations that antibiotics provide, and those foundations are now crumbling. Click To Tweet

So, here’s the irony: toilets that are cleaned too often are more likely to be covered in faecal bacteria. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

In a million tiny ways,” – states its blurb – “’I Contain Multitudes’ will radically change how you think about the natural world, and how you see yourself.

We know that many blurbs state unsubstantiated claims such as this, but in the case of Ed Yong’s marvel of a book, this is more than true! God knows how many new things we learned from it, and how many of these things will effectively change the way we act and behave in the future!

Bill Gates more than shares our opinion, calling the book “super-interesting” and describing it as “science journalism at its best.”

It really is.

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDF Summary

The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDFQuick: what do Osiris, Prometheus, Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus, King Arthur, Luke Skywalker, Frodo and Harry Potter have in common?

Answer: Everything.

They are all variants of the same story.

Joseph Campbell has all the details.

And he shares them under a beautiful and fairly suggestive title: “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Who Should Read “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”? And Why?

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces” combines Joseph Campbell’s revolutionary understanding of mythology with Jungian psychology in a way which makes both of them not just comprehensible, but also irresistibly alluring.

However, even more than people involved or attracted by either discipline, the book should interest novelists and screenwriters, since Campbell breaks down the universal myth of the hero in a way which makes his scheme usable as the background for almost any work of art.

Don’t believe us?

George Lucas used Campbell’s scheme to write “Star Wars.”

About Joseph Campbell

Joseph CampbellJoseph Campbell was an American mythologist and author.

Born in New York City in 1904, he was educated at Columbia University in medieval literature, before continuing his studies in Europe, Paris, and Munich specifically.

Here, influenced by the work of Freud and Jung, the art of Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, and the literary works of James Joyce and Thomas Mann, Campbell developed an interest to pursue the study of Sanskrit and Modern Art, something which his alma mater rejected.

Even though this meant that he would never obtain a Ph.D., in 1934, he became a Professor of Literature at Sarah Lawrence College, a position which he held for the next 38 years, until 1972.

He died fifteen years later, just a few months after completing the widely revered series of interviews with Bill Moyers, “The Power of Myth.”

“The Hero with a Thousand Faces PDF Summary”

The basic premise of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is remarkably simple: every important myth you can think of shares the same fundamental structure.

And the reason why this shouldn’t strike anybody as odd or fascinating is even simpler: myths are manifestations of humanity’s deepest (and, thus, usually unconscious) urges and needs, fears and desires.

And since humans everywhere share the same psychology, the myths of many cultures through many different times must be the same as well.

Of course, it’s easy to say such a thing and much more difficult to prove it.

Hence, “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” which not only lays out the structure of the monomyth (in its first part) and the cosmogonic cycle (in its second part) but also offers hundreds of different examples from hundreds of different cultures as evidence to back the scheme.

Since the first part is the much more interesting and influential part of the book – borrowed from Joyce, “monomyth” is Campbell’s term for the underlying scheme of the hero’s adventure – we’ll leave the cosmogonic cycle out of our discussion for now, and, hopefully, extend our summary in the recent future.

Let’s begin with Campbell’s summary of the basic structure of the hero’s journey:

The usual hero adventure begins with someone from whom something has been taken, or who feels there is something lacking in the normal experience available or permitted to the members of society. The person then takes off on a series of adventures beyond the ordinary, either to recover what has been lost or to discover some life-giving elixir. It’s usually a cycle, a coming and a returning.

These – the taking off, the adventures, and the returning – are the three main stages of the hero’s journey, and Campbell dedicates a chapter to each; each of these chapters is further divided into several sections outlining different phases of that respective stage.

Nicely illustrated, the hero’s cycle looks like this:

The Hero with a Thousand Faces Summary

Of course, not all heroes pass through all stages (in fact, a hero rarely does), but there is basically no myth of a hero which includes an episode that won’t fit into Campbell’s beautiful scheme.

Here’s what it says, broken down, section by section:

#1. DEPARTURE

A hero’s journey starts with a call to adventure: the hero is summoned by someone to venture from his normal world into the world of the unknown for one of many different reasons.

Sometimes, this call is just too strange or dangerous or ethically problematic, so the hero refuses the call. However, after some hesitation and in the presence of just enough evidence (say, Hamlet seeing the Ghost of his Father), the hero eventually agrees.

Once he/she embarks on the adventure, his supernatural aid – the mentor – appears or becomes known to him.

With the help of his aid’s advices or magical talismans, the hero is able to cross the first threshold and finally enter the unknown, the field where the laws of the normal world don’t apply anymore (aka: “that creature was actually a vampire!”)

A minor setback or danger may appear at this stage, such as Jonah – or Geppetto – ending up in the belly of the whale.

OK – not that minor in real-life terms.

#2. INITIATION

But that’s when the real adventure commences!

The Hero is now in a world of “monsters,” treading the road of trials. After several heroic endeavors, he encounters the goddess or the temptress – either way, the woman who will make or break him (remember Gilgamesh?)

Now, comes the center point of the journey: the hero meets the person/figure which holds the ultimate power over his identity or life. Campbell calls this stage the atonement with the father which means that if you had known the contents of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” and taken it literally before watching “Star Wars,” you would have guessed one of the most famous twists in cinematic history!

Apotheosis is an Ancient Greek word meaning deification, which makes this stage self-explanatory.

The ultimate boon is the goal of the quest: the thing due to which the hero’s journey started in the first place. It can be the Holy Grail or the elixir of life – or just some type of knowledge. But once the hero obtains it, the journey is complete.

Time for coming back.

#3. RETURN

Sometimes, however, the hero may refuse to return: the grass is greener on the other side for me, he thinks, so who cares about the people awaiting the boon.

And sometimes, returning from a journey may be just as difficult as going on one: so, at this stage, the hero must perform the magic flight.

If it doesn’t go well – say, he is wounded or weakened – he may need to be rescued from without by a supernatural aid, a beloved person, or a completely unassuming figure.

Next follows the crossing of the return threshold after which the hero usually shares his boon with his original community.

Now, he is the master of two worlds, both his brutal physical force and his inner spiritual understanding of what it means to live in a human society.

In some cases, he makes one more step upward, achieving the freedom to live by the total annihilation of his former fear of death.

Key Lessons from “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”

1.      All Heroes are the Same
2.      The Basic Structure of the Monomyth
3.      Why All of This Matters

All Heroes are the Same

The main thesis of “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” is there in the book’s title: Osiris and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad, Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter are all just different manifestation of the same character, the Archetypal Hero.

The Basic Structure of the Monomyth

The universal pattern of the hero’s journey – the monomyth – can be summarized, in Campbell’s words, thus:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered, and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

Why All of This Matters

Because, to quote Campbell, even though “there are of course differences between the numerous mythologies and religions of mankind,” once the similarities are understood, “the differences will be found to be much less great than is popularly (and politically) supposed.”

Campbell’s hope?

Unification in the sense of mutual human understanding.

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“The Hero with a Thousand Faces Quotes”

Regrets are illuminations come too late. Click To Tweet

Not all who hesitate are lost. The psyche has many secrets in reserve. And these are not disclosed unless required. Click To Tweet

Instead of clearing his own heart the zealot tries to clear the world. Click To Tweet

Wherever the poetry of myth is interpreted as biography, history, or science, it is killed. Click To Tweet

Perhaps some of us have to go through dark and devious ways before we can find the river of peace or the high road to the soul's destination. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

Soon after the release of the first “Star Wars” film in 1977, George Lucas stated that his script was influenced in large part by “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”

Since then, numerous different authors have used the same recipe to recreate the story of the hero, in more than one way, in more than one medium.

“Indiana Jones,” and “The Matrix,” “The Beauty and the Beast” and “Lion King,” “Community” and “Lost” – they all owe their structure to Campbell’s monomyth.

Just a few reasons to consider “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” one of the best nonfiction books of all time!

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Feeling Good PDF Summary

Feeling Good PDF SummaryThe New Mood Therapy: The Clinically Proven Drug-Free Treatment for Depression

If you suffer from some mild form of depression – or even anxiety, PTSD and substance abuse – “Feeling Good” can help you possibly even more than medications.

But even if you suffer from major depressive disorder, please read this book and use its suggestions in combination with your medications.

It does help.

Who Should Read “Feeling Good”? And Why?

According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people around the world suffer from depression. In more comprehensible terms, that is almost equal to the whole population of the United States, and it amounts to about 1 in every 25 people!

If you are one of them, “Feeling Good” is certainly a book that should be on your radar. It’s the book which basically introduced the world to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), according to Wikipedia, “the most widely used evidence-based practice at improving mental health.”

Which means that Burns’ subtitle is not an exaggeration.

We certainly hope the same will prove true in your case as well.

About David D. Burns

David D. BurnsDavid D. Burns is an adjunct professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

He is primarily known as the popularizer of Aaron T. Beck’s cognitive behavioral therapy through his “Feeling Good” bestselling series of books.

Burns is the recipient of numerous awards and honors.

“Feeling Good PDF Summary”

About half a century ago, David D. Burns received an M.D. from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Three years later, he went to the University of Pennsylvania to start his training as a psychiatric resident.

Fortunately for him, a guy named Aaron T. Beck, now regarded as “the father of cognitive therapy,” was doing his pioneering work in the field during these very years.

Contrary to what Freud and most psychoanalytic approaches taught at that time, Beck was all but certain that depression wasn’t an emotional state, but a cognitive problem.

He devised this theory by working closely with depressed people and realizing that most of them had actually a lot of friends and had managed to achieve a lot in life but were still stuck in an emotional prison which made them feel as “losers” and “loved-by-no-one” outcasts.

Now, how could that be? – Beck thought.

Or, to rephrase that, if an emotion is an uncontrollable natural reaction to an external event, then why are some people so unhappy even though, rationally examined, the events which trigger this unhappiness are, at worst, agreeable?

His answer: because thoughts predate – and, even more, create – feelings.

And that’s the first of the three principles of cognitive behavioral therapy:

#1. To formulate it once again, this time in the words of Burns, “all your moods are created by your ‘cognitions,’ or thoughts.”
#2. Consequently, depression is nothing more but the result of negative thinking, i.e., “when you are feeling depressed, your thoughts are dominated by a pervasive negativity.”
#3. Your negative thoughts function the same way the mirrors in amusement parks do: “negative thoughts which cause your emotional turmoil nearly always contain gross distortions.”

To sum up – no matter how naïve it may sound:

Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking.

Now, since feelings, in turn, influence your thoughts, depression is actually the result of a wicked Catch-22: the worse you feel, the more grotesque and misleading your thoughts are, which creates even more depressing and dispiriting feelings.

Fortunately, there is a way out?

So, “what is the key to releasing yourself from your emotional prison?”

Simply this: Your thoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that your thoughts are accurate. Unpleasant feelings merely indicate that you are thinking something negative and believing it. Your emotions follow your thoughts just as surely as baby ducks follow their mother.

In simpler words, according to cognitive behavioral therapists, depression is not an emotional disorder, but a thinking problem.

And can be solved by challenging the suffering person’s negative thoughts, i.e., cognitive distortions.

Burns lists eleven of them:

#1. All-or-Nothing Thinking. Technically known as “dichotomous thinking,” all-or-nothing thinking is when you portray yourself in black-or-white terms. It’s obviously not true that it’s worthless if it’s not perfect.

#2. Overgeneralization. If something happened to you once, it doesn’t mean it will happen to you again. And even if it happened to you twice, the third time may be the charm!

#3. Mental Filter. Also known as “selective abstraction,” mental filtering means being unhappy because of that lost point on your exam even though you got an A. Really?!

#4. Disqualifying the Positive. Nothing good ever happens to you? How about the fact that your boyfriend kissed you lovingly this morning, or that you were promoted just a week ago! All of that matters!

#5. Jumping to Conclusions. This can come in at least two different forms: as mind-reading (“I know she doesn’t like me…”) or fortune telling (“I can feel something’s bad about to happen!”)

#6. Magnification. This is when you start worrying about your lifetime reputation because everyone saw you spilled your coffee on your shirt this morning. Also known as – somewhat unscientifically, but quite fittingly – “catastrophizing.”

#7. Minimization. Ah, the other side of the “binocular trick”: shrinking things until they become insignificant, be they other people’s imperfections or your own qualities.

#8. Emotional Reasoning. Your emotions are not true; if they were, then how would you explain the fact that you wanted to smack your sister on the head with a frying pan that time she invaded the privacy of your room? Consequently, if you feel like a dud, that doesn’t mean you are a dud.

#9. Should Statements. This is when you try to improperly motivate yourself by saying “I should do this” or “I must do this.”

#10. (Mis)Labeling. “Personal labeling,” writes Burns, “means creating a completely negative self-image based on your errors. Mislabeling involves describing an event with words that are inaccurate and emotionally heavily loaded.”

#11. Personalization. Personalization means assuming personal responsibility for an event contrary to the evidence. Burns calls this distortion “the mother of guilt.”

If you want to learn more about cognitive distortions, read here.

And then start doing something about them!

Key Lessons from “Feeling Good”

1.      Your Feelings Are Actually Mirroring Your Thoughts
2.      The Three Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
3.      The Real Founder of CBT: Epictetus

Your Feelings Are Actually Mirroring Your Thoughts

Most people think that they should believe their gut.

In other words, that if their feelings tell them that something is true – this guy is bad, that girl is the love of my life – it is inevitably true.

The problem?

Feelings are not merely transitory, but they are also just a reflection of your thoughts.

Consequently, almost all of your bad feelings are actually negative thoughts.

The Three Principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an evidence-based practice for improving your mental health, is based on three principles first developed by Aaron T. Beck:

#1. Our emotions are created by our thoughts; how you are feeling at the moment is actually the same as what you are currently thinking about;
#2. Depression is an emotional prison created by constant negative thoughts;
#3. The majority of our negative thoughts are not true, i.e., they are cognitive distortions.

The Real Founder of CBT: Epictetus

As Burns points out, CBT is actually as old as philosophy, since it shares some of its beliefs with Stoicism.

In other words, thinkers as ancient as Epictetus realized that our happiness doesn’t depend on the external events themselves, but on the way we decide to feel about them.

So, if you are feeling depressed, find some solace in Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations” or Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life.”

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“Feeling Good Quotes”

Every bad feeling you have is the result of your distorted negative thinking. Click To Tweet Your thoughts create your emotions; therefore, your emotions cannot prove that your thoughts are accurate. Click To Tweet Your feelings result from the meaning you give to the event, not from the event itself. Click To Tweet Every time you feel depressed about something, try to identify a corresponding negative thought you had just prior to and during the depression. Click To Tweet By learning to restructure (your negative thoughts), you can change your mood. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

When a book is written with an objective to help you, the only question that really matters is “does it in practice?”

A 1989 article says it does. And a 2005 study published in the “British Journal of General Practice” confirms this.

It’s something scientists call “bibliotherapy” and we strongly advise you to try it by reading this very book.

At worst, it has no side-effects.

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The Fabric of the Cosmos PDF Summary

The Fabric of the Cosmos PDFHow many times have you encountered upon a book whose subtitle or blurb claims that everything you know about something – success, economics, the world – is altogether wrong?

Chances are: too many to remember them all!

Well, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” doesn’t need a subtitle or a blurb with such a claim (though it does have the later).

But we guarantee you that’s what you’ll be saying to the many people to whom you’ll give this book as a gift.

In other words: prepare to be shaken to your very core!

Who Should Read “The Fabric of the Cosmos”? And Why?

You may be one of the many people believing that physics is not about everybody and that only those who understand equations should dabble with it.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos,” however, is so abundant with perfect analogies and appropriate metaphors that, in addition to being “a must-read for the huge constituency of lay readers enticed by the mysteries of cosmology,” it should also be a comprehensible read for almost anyone.

Be warned, though:

If you have come here without at least some average understanding of physics, then your whole worldview is about to be radically altered.

Bear in mind that very few things in this book are scientific speculations (and, obviously, they all come with an appropriate footnote).

Most of it is cutting-edge science.

And it’s thought-provoking and, well, breathtaking!

Brian GreeneAbout Brian Greene

Brian Greene is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist, dubbed by “The Times” as “the new Hawking, only better.”

After graduating from Harvard University in 1980, Greene earned a doctorate from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar seven years later. Ever since 1996, he has been a professor at Columbia University.

Published in 1999, his first book, “The Elegant Universe,” was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize nonfiction and earned a Royal Society Prize for Science Books.

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” appeared five years later, followed by the children’s book “Icarus at the Edge of Time” (2008) and “The Hidden Reality” (2011).

“The Fabric of the Cosmos PDF Summary”

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” is a gargantuan 5-part 600 pages’ long exposition on the nature of the Universe and some of its most eluding secrets.

So, don’t expect a summary which will do the book enough justice.

We’ll just take a brief look at two of the concepts Greene explores – space and time – and tell you why this very sentence is wrong.

On the flip-side, just like Greene’s previous book (“The Elegant Universe”), NOVA adapted “The Fabric of the Cosmos” into a 4-part documentary series hosted by Greene himself.

As you can see from the full playlist, Greene discusses a few more things:

You may know Sir Isaac Newton as the guy who robbed God of his job when he rendered all motion comprehensible and predictable through his laws of motion.

However, that wasn’t the only thing Newton did.

Among the many other, he also initiated the great debate on the nature of space and time.

In Newton’s opinion, space and time were basically axioms, things which exist in and of themselves as absolutes, “without reference to anything external.”

Newton’s life-long archrival, German philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, couldn’t disagree more: “space” and “time,” in his opinion, were no more than language tricks, just convenient words to talk about ordering and positioning.

In other words, according to Leibniz, space and time are relational categories, and we can’t think of them in the absence of objects.

It would be as if we’re talking about an alphabet without letters!

Both parties traded blows, but then, in 1689 Newton delivered the most damaging one: the water bucket argument.

The argument is relatively simple: take a bucket filled with water and hung it by a cord. Then twist the cord tightly on itself and release. The bucket should start spinning rapidly.

Now, even though the relative motion at the first stage is the greatest, the surface of the water will remain flat.

After a while, however, as the water starts to spin in the bucket, its surface will become concave. And it will remain so even when the bucket is stopped.

The conclusion?

The concave surface can’t be the result of a relational interaction between the bucket and the water since the water assumes different shapes regardless of whether the bucket is spinning or not.

Leibniz conceded defeat:

I grant that there is a difference between absolute true motion of a body and a mere relative change of its situation with respect to another body.

However, as we found out about two centuries later, Leibniz shouldn’t have: it seems he was the one who was in the right.

First Ernst Mach, in the second half of the 19th century, decided to join the discussion by reintroducing Leibniz’s concerns.

In his opinion, Newton’s experiment doesn’t prove that space and time are absolute, but merely that the water is not moving in relation to its immediate surrounding, i.e., the bucket.

But it can be moving in relation to something else – the fixed stars, for example:

Newton’s experiment with the rotating vessel of water simply informs us that the relative rotation of the water with respect to the sides of the vessel produces no noticeable centrifugal forces, but that such forces are produced by its relative rotations with respect to the mass of the earth and other celestial bodies.

And then came Albert Einstein and simply blew everybody away when he proposed that not only Leibniz and Mach were right, but also that the relativeness of space and time was linked and relational to an absolute: the speed of light.

Think of it this way:

You can measure the speed of an object if you divide the distance it travels over an interval by the duration of that same interval.

However, all experiments suggested that the speed of light is always 671,000,000 mph in a vacuum with respect to any reference frame!

But, how can that be?

Shouldn’t the speed of light from the lights of a moving car be faster than the one from the light bulb over your head: the former moves over a greater distance for a shorter period of time.

Strangely enough – it is not.

And as Sherlock Holmes says, “once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

After Einstein, the thing which remained was that space and time must work together to adjust so that the speed of light remains the same!

And that’s how the idea of spacetime was born, a continuum in which space and time are relative, but together they form an absolute.

The consequences of this are too numerous and mind-blowing to list them in a sentence or two.

But be sure the check them out!

Key Lessons from “The Fabric of the Cosmos”

1.      Spacetime Is as Real as You
2.      Gravity Is a Warp in the Spacetime Continuum
3.      Quantum Mechanics Is Incredibly Strange

Spacetime Is as Real as You

Brian Greene has picked just the appropriate title for his work: “The Fabric of Cosmos.”

Why?

Because one of the things we’ve realized during the past century or so is that spacetime is real, i.e., there are billions and billions of particles all around you constantly coming into existence and disappearing.

So, thinking about spacetime as fabric may mean something more than a simple analogy!

Gravity Is a Warp in the Spacetime Continuum

Gravity itself is a consequence of the curvature of spacetime, i.e., a warp in the spacetime continuum created by anything that has some mass and energy.

It is gravity which gives us weight.

So that means that if you put a scale under the feet of an object in free fall, the scale won’t register any weight.

Quantum Mechanics Is Incredibly Strange

We didn’t even get to speak of quantum mechanics.

But that may be for the better, because if we speak of it, who knows – we may disturb the whole field.

Just joking!

But appropriately:

Believe it or not, quantum particles assume characteristics only when observed!

For now, let’s leave it at that.

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“The Fabric of the Cosmos Quotes”

Absolute space does not exist. Absolute time does not exist. But according to special relativity, absolute spacetime does exist. Click To Tweet

Observers moving relative to each other have different conceptions of what exists at a given moment, and hence they have different conceptions of reality. Click To Tweet

Our entire existence - everything we do, think and experience - takes place in some region of space during some interval of time. Yet science is still struggling to understand what space and time actually are. Click To Tweet

Scientists have now established that, through the wonders of quantum mechanics, individual particles can be – and have been – teleported. Click To Tweet

The quantum uncertainty ensures that the microworld is a turbulent and jittery realm. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

According to the “Science” magazine, “The Fabric of the Cosmos” is the best exposition and explanation of early 21st-century research into the fundamental nature of the universe as you are likely to find anywhere.

In addition, writing for “The New York Review of Books,” Freeman Dyson – a guy we’ve mentioned here, in relation with another great science communicator – recommended Greene’s book “to any nonexpert reader who wants an up-to-date account of theoretical physics, written in colloquial language that anyone can understand.”

One of the very best books you’ll ever read on any scientific subject.

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Astrophysics for People in a Hurry PDF Summary

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry PDFAre you in a hurry?

Do you, nevertheless, want to know something more about the universe you live in?

Well, then it’s time for few lessons in astrophysics by none other than Mr. Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting you the summary for –

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”

Who Should Read “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”? And Why?

Carl Sagan – the man who made many people fall in love with science in the 1980s – had a habit of saying that astrophysics is the science of humility – in addition to science itself being a character-building endeavor.

Sagan’s widely beloved successor Neil deGrasse Tyson believes in these very same things.

And he shares Sagan’s exceptional capacity of making this clear via illustrative simplification of many seriously complex and even counter-intuitive scientific concepts.

Which is why “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is not only a book about people who don’t have enough time to learn more about the universe but want to.

It’s also about those who have time but don’t want to.

In fact, if you ask us, it is especially about the latter.

Neil DeGrasse TysonAbout Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, popularizer of science, and, since 1996, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, fully reconstructed during his tenure.

An author of numerous essays and books – “Death by Black Hole” being the most famous one up to “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” – Tyson is probably best recognized as the host of “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey,” the sequel to Carl Sagan’s ultra-popular 1980 series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage”

Tyson has received numerous awards, including NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2004 and the Public Welfare Medal awarded to Tyson by the National Academy of Sciences in 2015 for his “extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science.”

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry PDF Summary”

It’s quite difficult to summarize a book such as “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry.”

Not only because the subjects it deals with are grand on any scale – the creation of the universe, its structure, dark matter, dark energy, etc. – but also because Tyson presents them in a way which makes the presentation dependent on both his style and his analogies.

Once you conceptualized these, you’ll never forget what they are, in fact, standing for and explaining.

As he explains in the preface, that’s Tyson’s very goal: to make you “culturally conversant in [his] field of expertise.”

And, as you can see for yourself in this video, he is quite good at doing that:

Now, we have only about 1,000 words to recount you briefly the history of nearly everything and, of course, we are going to need to rush through Tyson’s presentation.

Which starts where it all started – including time itself.

The Big Bang.

About 13.8 billion years ago, when the universe started expanding from a very high-temperature and high-density state, creating space, time, physical laws and everything else.

Speaking of physical laws – let’s get one thing straight.

Tyson is quite adamant in insisting that most of the things he talks about are undeniably true. “The power and beauty of physical laws,” he writes, “is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion.”  

So, it’s a fact that the Earth didn’t exist for the first two-thirds of the time the Universe has existed and that it was first formed about 4.5 billion years ago.

Even more interesting, it took billions of years for the earliest plants to appear on the planet and almost a billion more for the earliest apes.

In other words, homo sapiens has been around for no more than, say, 300,000 years, which means only about 0.006% of the time the Earth is around.

And that’s where things get even more interesting: during this time, humanity – basically “stardust brought to life” – has discovered numerous physical laws and has devised hundreds of theories to explain their origin and meaning.

So, it’s basically as if the universe is learning about its beginnings through us!

While explaining Einstein’s prediction of gravitational waves and the importance of their first ever detection in 2015, Tyson beautifully summarizes this full circle.

Namely, when the now-detected gravitational waves were generated (by a collision of black holes in a galaxy 1.3 billion light-years away), there were only single-celled organisms on this planet.

And while these gravitational waves were traveling, the Earth would manage to “evolve complex life, including flowers and dinosaurs and flying creatures, as well as a branch of vertebrates called mammals.”

The primates branched out of these mammals, and then – in the last 10,000 years – “a single branch of these primates would develop a genetic mutation that allowed speech, and that branch – Homo Sapiens – would invent agriculture and civilization and philosophy and art and science.”

Then came Einstein and he devised the theory of relativity which predicted the existence of these gravitational waves.

A century later, people developed technology powerful enough to see these waves, and humanity “would finally catch up with the prediction, just days before that gravity wave, which had been traveling for 1.3 billion years, washed over Earth and was detected.”

Now, that’s beautiful!

But, as deGrasse Tyson, demonstrates: it’s merely the beginning.

Since as much as we know – or, as in this case, have probably predicted well enough about the universe – there’s much more that we don’t know.

Take dark matter and dark energy, for example!

They make up most of our universe, and, still, we know nothing about them except for the fact that they exist.

It’s basically as if we know nothing about water.

So, there’s still plenty to learn.

And all of it promises to be a magnificent adventure!

Key Lessons from “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”

1.      You Drink the Water Genghis Khan Once Drank
2.      Isaac Newton Robbed God of His Job
3.      The Cosmic Perspective

You Drink the Water Genghis Khan Once Drank

We mentioned water at the end of our summary.

Here’s an interesting fact about that all-important substance:

Every cup that passes through a single person and eventually rejoins the world’s water supply holds enough molecules to mix 1,500 of them into every other cup of water in the world. No way around it: some of the water you just drank passed through the kidneys of Socrates, Genghis Khan, and Joan of Arc.

Wow!

Or, maybe, ugh?

Isaac Newton Robbed God of His Job

Even after it was conclusively proven that the Earth is not the center of the Universe, philosophers still believed in some divine presence, because some of the planets’ motions were inexplicable.

Then Isaac Newton came, and he rendered all motion comprehensible and predictable.

What should the Creator do now? – asked the theologians. And if there’s nothing he should do, doesn’t that mean that he might as well not exist?

DeGrasse Tyson – and many other astrophysicists – don’t think that these are difficult questions.

According to them, the facts prove conclusively: even if God does exist, he has absolutely no explanatory value.

The Cosmic Perspective

If you ask us, the most important chapter of this whole book – the culmination to which all other chapters build to – is the last one, “Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective.”

What it all boils down to?

First of all, that “the universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.”

And secondly, that the Earth is a nothing more than a mote. But “it’s a precious mote and, for the moment, it’s the only home we have.”

How important is this revelation, this cosmic perspective of our existence?

Well, let’s see what Tyson has to say on the subject:

Now imagine a world in which everyone, but especially people with power and influence, holds an expanded view of our place in the cosmos. With that perspective, our problems would shrink—or never arise at all—and we could celebrate our earthly differences while shunning the behavior of our predecessors who slaughtered each other because of them.

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“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry Quotes”

The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you. Click To Tweet

We are stardust brought to life, then empowered by the universe to figure itself out—and we have only just begun. Click To Tweet

The power and beauty of physical laws is that they apply everywhere, whether or not you choose to believe in them. In other words, after the laws of physics, everything else is opinion. Click To Tweet

We do not simply live in this universe. The universe lives within us. Click To Tweet

People who believe they are ignorant of nothing have neither looked for, nor stumbled upon, the boundary between what is known and unknown in the universe. Click To Tweet

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Our Critical Review

“Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is mostly a collection of Tyson’s “Natural History” essays published during the decade between 1997 and 2007.

Because of this, most of it may be familiar to fans of Tyson’s work.

Even so, none of it should be boring to anyone: exceptionally well written, full of Tyson’s recognizable wit and even more recognizable analogies, “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is both an accessible and illuminating work.

So – as “BBC Sky at Night” advises – don’t rush through it.

Take your time and savor each chapter.

This book can radically alter your opinion about, well, everything.

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You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems PDF Summary

You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems PDF“I’m no expert” shouldn’t be an excuse to avoid tackling a big problem.

On the contrary – it should be a stimulus.

Because, Tapiwa Chiwewe says in an inspirational 2017 TED Talk, “You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems.”

Who Should Read “You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems”? And Why?

A nine-minute lesson in anything is always worth the time.

Hell, you need more just to take a shower!

So, do yourself a favor and skip the rationales in this case: just listen to Tapiwa Chiwewe’s inspiring TED Talk.

Even if you don’t like it, you’ll lose nothing more than 518 seconds!

Tapiwa ChiweweAbout Tapiwa Chiwewe

Tapiwa Chiwewe is a manager at IBM Research Africa with a Ph.D. in Computer Engineering from the University of Pretoria.

He began his career in academia, serving as a junior lecturer at his alma mater, but soon he moved on to CSIR (the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), where he worked as a senior engineer in the mechatronics and micro manufacturing group.

In 2015 he joined IBM Research, where he has worked on several large-scale projects, related to solar system design, asset maintenance optimization, and, most relevantly, air quality management.

“You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems PDF Summary”

Let’s start this summary with some staggering statistics.

Namely, according to data from the World Health Organization, in 2012, household and ambient pollution was responsible for one in seven deaths worldwide, mostly, of course, in low- and middle-income countries.

Yes, that means that malaria and HIV/AIDS bring about fewer deaths than pollution; and that even in Africa, more children die from air pollution than from, say, childhood malnutrition and unsafe sanitation.

Even more, according to a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, this comes to a huge economic cost as well: almost half a trillion US dollars in 2013 alone!

Now, Tapiwa Chiwewe is a South-African computer engineer, who works as a manager of the advanced and applied AI group at IBM Research Africa, and, really, shouldn’t know – or even, as brutal as it may sound, care about – these things.

After all, there are many people in the world who are much more competent than him in the field and who, consequently and deservedly, earn money from doing just that.

And that’s what Tapiwa Chiwewe believed as well for most of his life.

However, one day, while driving to work in Johannesburg, he noticed “a haze hanging over the city,” and, as he soon realized, this haze was actually “an enormous cloud of air pollution.”

Appalled by the possibility that his beloved city of “bright and vivid sunsets” may be overrun by “a dull haze” in the future, Chiwewe decided to do something.

Of course, knowing absolutely nothing about pollution, the first thing he could do was fairly simple: learn.

And that’s how he discovered the information we listed in the introduction to this summary – in addition to, we suppose, hundreds and hundreds of similar facts.

But, obviously, that wasn’t enough: it merely proved to him that air pollution was a serious problem, and that, if untreated, it may result in an ecological catastrophe of biblical proportions.

So, Chiwewe started consulting city officials and local scientists to get to the bottom of the problem and help them find a solution together.

What he learned during the process was something nobody should ever forget:

Even if you’re not an expert in a particular domain, your outside expertise may hold the key to solving big problems within that domain. Sometimes the unique perspective you have can result in unconventional thinking that can move the needle, but you need to be bold enough to try. That’s the only way you’ll ever know.

So, you already know that this story has a somewhat happy ending.

Unsurprisingly – let us not forget, we’re dealing with a computer engineer here – the happy ending, in this case, is an “online air-quality management platform.”

Designed by Chiwewe and fed with weather and air pollution records provided by the experts, the platform uses AI and ML algorithms to detect and predict pollution trends in real-time.

Its success?

A 120-day pilot program demonstrated “a tight correlation” between the forecasting data and the data gathered on the ground.

In other words, the platform could indeed see into the future!

The benefits are numerous, and it would suffice to merely list them:

Citizens can make better decisions about their daily movements and about where to settle their families. We can predict adverse pollution events ahead of time, identify heavy polluters, and they can be ordered by the relevant authorities to scale back their operations. Through assisted scenario planning, city planners can also make better decisions about how to extend infrastructure, such as human settlements or industrial zones.

Chiwewe’s beautiful point:

The platform was the product of a collaborative effort.

Just as he couldn’t do it without the experts, the experts wouldn’t have been able to do it without him.

And he was – and still is – no expert.

So, the next time you come across a big problem – especially one which may affect you or the wellbeing of your children – don’t absolve yourself from responsibility because of a lack of expertise.

As Chiwewe’s actions have shown, you really don’t have to be an expert to help others solve even the biggest problems out there.

Key Lessons from “You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems”

1.      Air Pollution Is a Serious Problem
2.      Your Outside Expertise May Hold the Key to Solving Big Problems
3.      We Should Tackle Big Problems by Collaborating

Air Pollution Is a Serious Problem

The World Health Organization attributed almost 14 percent of all deaths worldwide to household and ambient air pollution.

In other words, air pollution is responsible for more deaths than HIV/AIDS, malaria, or malnutrition.

It’s a serious problem – and it needs to be solved!

Your Outside Expertise May Hold the Key to Solving Big Problems

Tapiwa Chiwewe is a computer engineer, but he didn’t want to sit idly aside once he noticed the smog-covered skyline of Johannesburg.

So, he contacted experts and government officials to get to the bottom of the problem.

The result?

He learned a lot from them, but they learned a lot from him too!

Namely, that it is possible to use Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning algorithms to predict pollution trends.

So, together, they built an online air-quality management platform which basically works the same way the weather forecast does!

And that magnificent thing happened because Chiwewe didn’t want to remain quiet, freeing himself from responsibility with phrases such as “I’m no expert.”

He actually wanted to do something.

And he got the opportunity.

We Should Tackle Big Problems by Collaborating

Just as genius isn’t born in isolation, great ideas rarely emerge where there is no interaction and collaboration.

So, when they read the story of our times, may future generations remember not exceptional men with extraordinary biographies, but united humanity with life-affirming goals and imperishable dreams.

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“You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems Quotes”

Even if you're not an expert in a particular domain, your outside expertise may hold the key to solving big problems within that domain. Click To Tweet

Sometimes the unique perspective you have can result in unconventional thinking that can move the needle, but you need to be bold enough to try. Click To Tweet

Sometimes just one fresh perspective, one new skill set, can make the conditions right for something remarkable to happen. Click To Tweet

Our willpower and imagination are a guiding light, enabling us to chart new paths and navigate through obstacles. Click To Tweet

So… the next time you find that there's some natural curiosity you have that is being piqued, and it's about something you care about, and you have some crazy or bold ideas… ask yourself this: Why not? Click To Tweet

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Our Critical Review

Even though Tapiwa Chiwewe oversimplifies some of the barriers non-experts face when moving from one field to another, “You Don’t Have to Be an Expert to Solve Big Problems” is still a powerful message.

The bottom line is you lose nothing if you try.

And resistance and motivation shouldn’t distract you; on the contrary, they should motivate you even further.

Concise and thought-provoking.

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Behave PDF Summary – Robert Sapolsky

Behave PDFThe Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst

What if you are a Conservative or a Liberal not because of what you read and how you read it, but because of the structure of your brain?

Esteemed neuroendocrinologist Robert Sapolsky claims that the latter is most probably closer to the reality.

And he argues this convincingly and attractively in his exceptional “Behave.”

Who Should Read “Behave”? And Why?

Robert Sapolsky is certainly one of the most famous neuroscientists today – if not the most widely quoted and the most commonly revered in the general public.

So, students of biology and neurology should consider “Behave” one of their obligatory readings for this summer. The same goes for those interested in behavioral psychology as well.

Finally, people who simply want to understand themselves (and their selves) better will find on these pages numerous examples of what it means to be a human.

And why they behave the way they are.

Robert SapolskyAbout Robert Sapolsky

Robert Sapolsky is an American neuroendocrinologist and author.

Born in New York to Soviet immigrants in 1957, Sapolsky received a summa cum laude B.A. in biological anthropology from Harvard University in 1978. He obtained his Ph.D. in neuroendocrinology at Rockefeller University in his birth town, under the mentorship of Bruce McEwan.

Since then, Sapolsky has authored numerous articles and books, the latter of which are especially well received by the general population. Among them “The Trouble with Testosterone” (1997) and “A Primate Memoir” (2002)

Sapolsky is currently the John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor at Stanford University

“Behave PDF Summary”

We’ve treated you before with some nice selections of the best books on human behavior; the only reason why “Behave” is not among them is the fact that we only found the time to read it now.

In other words – you won’t read too many books more appealing or more thought-provoking than “Behave” by Robert Sapolsky.

First of all, because it is a book which is essentially about the way you think.

Yes – by you we mean the person reading this sentence at this very moment.

Because, Sapolsky tells us, we kid ourselves if we think that we are independent ghosts in the shells of our bodies.

Not many things could be farther from the truth:

Human behavior is very much dependent on the way our brain – a biological entity – functions and doesn’t function.

Want to know a lot more about that?

Well, please, be Sapolsky’s guest at Stanford and learn everything you want to know about Human Behavioral Biology in no less than twenty-five ninety-minute lectures:

The point, in a nutshell, is that we are all products of numerous factors beyond our control.

And we’re not merely thinking about the environment we grew up a few years ago, but also the dietary habits of the Neanderthals whose DNA was mixed with that of our most distant ancestors.

And, of course, the very structures of our brains.

Two important parts you’ve probably heard a lot about already are the amygdala and the frontal cortex.

The former, located in the cerebral cortex, is a remnant of the most ancient days of our existence and is responsible for your deepest fears and your most aggressive behavior; the latter controls it.

In laymen’s terms, your amygdala and your frontal cortex are in a constant war.

If either of them starts malfunctioning, you will be unable to control the effects.

Take, for example, Charles Whitman, the Texan Tower Sniper.

In 1968, the 25-year old Whitman murdered his wife and his mother before he started to randomly shoot at people at the University of Texas.

Just like the protagonist in Edgar Allan Poe’s famous gothic story “The Tell-Tale Heart,” as he put in a note left next to his wife’s dead body, he couldn’t “rationally pinpoint any specific reason.”

Many years after the events, forensic investigators did:

Whitman had a tumor which pressed on his amygdala inciting him to an aggressive behavior he was unable to control.

An even more famous case is that of Phineas Gage, whose frontal cortex was completely destroyed when an iron rod punctured his skull.

Fortunately, he survived.

However, he was – to quote his friends and colleagues – “no longer Gage.”

Namely, the once-gentleman Gage turned into an impatient mood-swinging man constantly swearing and shouting.

Why?

Simply because without the frontal cortex, his brain lacked the mechanism to inhibit the outbursts of his rapid-firing and fast-thinking amygdala.

In fact, it may be mostly because of an overdeveloped amygdala that some people are violent and others racists.

When faced with flash photographs of people with different color, almost every human reacts adversely: that’s the amygdala warning you that the other guy is not one of your own.

However, if given the time to think over, most people reverse their decision, because the lenient and rational frontal cortex tunes in and starts scolding the amygdala for making such a rash decision.

We like to believe that it’s something along these lines:

Hey, Amy G., why are you stressing out our boy for no reason whatsoever? Sit back a little bit and chillax… It’s the 21st century! We’re not 10,000 BC anymore…

However, in some people, due to difficult poverty-ridden violence-laden childhoods which have taught them to be fearful and protective, their amygdalae are much more developed than their frontal cortexes.

So, the amygdala strikes back:

Geeze, Fronty, when will you give up?! I tried listening to you when I was a kid, but that bruised our boy’s body and hurt his heart for just too long! I’ll react to everything now!

In other words, our brain constantly develops – the frontal cortex way until our mid-20s.

The environment in which it matures strongly influences its structures which ultimately shapes our behavior.

And behavioral differences are not culturally conditioned in individuals only; they are culturally conditioned in whole nations as well:

Why should people in one part of the globe have developed collectivist cultures, while others went individualist?

The United States is the individualism poster child for at least two reasons. First, there’s immigration. Currently, 12 percent of Americans are immigrants, another 12 percent are children of immigrants, and everyone else except for the 0.9 percent pure Native Americans descend from people who emigrated within the last five hundred years.

And who were the immigrants? Those in the settled world who were cranks, malcontents, restless, heretical, black sheep, hyperactive, hypomanic, misanthropic, itchy, unconventional, yearning to be rich, yearning to be out of their damn boring repressive little hamlet, yearning. Couple that with the second reason – for the majority of its colonial and independent history, America has had a moving frontier luring those whose extreme prickly optimism made merely booking passage to the New World insufficiently novel – and you’ve got America the individualistic.

Why has East Asia provided textbook examples of collectivism? The key is how culture is shaped by the way people traditionally made a living, which in turn is shaped by ecology. And in East Asia, it’s all about rice. Rice, which was domesticated there roughly ten thousand years ago, requires massive amounts of communal work. Not just backbreaking planting and harvesting, which are done in rotation because the entire village is needed to harvest each family’s rice. The United States was not without labor-intensive agriculture historically. But rather than solving that with collectivism, it solved it with slavery.

In other words, only a small part of your choice to be liberal-minded or a conservative, a capitalist or a communist is decided by the objective reality.

Or, better yet, all of it is decided by it.

The only difference is – that the objective reality for one person is significantly different from the objective reality of another person.

But in that case – is there any difference between objective and subjective reality?

And doesn’t this mean that morality is subjective as well?

Key Lessons from “Behave”

1.      Your Amygdala and Your Frontal Cortex Are in a Constant War
2.      If You Are White, You Probably Think that Rap Is More Violent Than Death Metal
3.      Empathy and Compassion Are Not the Same Thing

Your Amygdala and Your Frontal Cortex Are in a Constant War

Your brain consists of many different parts and neuro-connections, but the most important among them are the amygdala (a remnant of the very old animal inside you) and the frontal cortex (the sapiens, rational element inside your brain).

The frontal cortex inhibits the activities of the amygdala, which usually acts rashly in a fight-or-flight manner.

If the amygdala is overdeveloped, a person will probably be less societal and more protective of him/herself.

And it can be overdeveloped in adults who’ve spent their childhoods in violent and poor environments.

If You Are White, You Probably Think that Rap Is More Violent Than Death Metal

Your brain (which is biologically, historically, and societally conditioned) controls many of the things you think about the world, some of them as intimate as your taste in music.

Your amygdala, for example, doesn’t like anyone who is not your family, so the less someone looks like he or she is, the more aggressive the reaction against him or her.

And this spills over in categories such as aesthetics as well.

For example, studies have found out that white people consider rap music more violent than even death metal music because their amygdalae associate the former with the African-American culture, and the latter with white traditions!

In other words, to them, a black man whistling “Slayer” (if that’s even possible) no threat; but an African American man rapping Nas – now that’s someone you should be wary of.

Empathy and Compassion Are Not the Same Thing

People tend to confuse empathy and compassion.

Robert Sapolsky shows that not only these two are not the same thing, but they are practically opposites.

In other ways, our amygdala controls our empathy, and it’s difficult to train it to feel anything towards people who are unlike us.

Compassion, however, is a rationally-conditioned sensation – a better angel of our nature – and you can activate it when you need to give a little boost to your humanity.

And there’s nothing wrong that you’re willing yourself to do such thing.

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“Behave Quotes”

You don’t have to choose between being scientific and being compassionate. Click To Tweet

Testosterone makes people cocky, egocentric, and narcissistic. Click To Tweet

if you’re stressed like a normal mammal in an acute physical crisis, the stress response is lifesaving. But if instead you chronically activate the stress response for reasons of psychological stress, your health suffers. Click To Tweet

Things that seem morally obvious and intuitive now weren’t necessarily so in the past; many started with nonconforming reasoning. Click To Tweet

In other words, the default state is to trust, and what the amygdala does is learn vigilance and distrust. Click To Tweet

Our Critical Review

It’s no exaggeration to say that ‘Behave’ is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read,” wrote David P. Barash in “The Wall Street Journal.” Dina Temple-Raston, in “The Washington Post” shared his opinion, describing it as “hands-down one of the best books I’ve read in years.

We couldn’t agree more.

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