The Agilist’s Bookshelf

Langer, Ellen J., Mindfulness, 25th Anniversary Edition. Da Capo Press, 2014.

In the preface to the 25th anniversary edition of Mindfulness, Ellen Langer writes, “Mindlessness is pervasive. In fact I believe virtually all our problems…either directly or indirectly stem from mindlessness.” If that is true, this book offers insight into both the source of our problems and the potential to overcome them.

In Part One, Langer defines and examines “mindlessness”— a state of rigid over-reliance on outdated, incomplete, and therefore false mental models. She identifies multiple sources of mindless behavior, including erroneous beliefs in constraints, an education system that values outcome over process, and the power of context to determine our behavior and expectations. Mindlessness leads to narrow self-image, inability to adapt, and stunts our potential.

Part Two defines mindfulness as a life-affirming practice that contributes to good mental and physical health. Mindfulness means the ability to create new mental categories and adjust old categorizations, openness to new information and multiple points of view, and having a process orientation rather than a results-oriented outlook. Chapters cover mindful aging, creativity, mindfulness on the job, decreasing prejudice, and the confluence of mindfulness and physical health.

Agile Coaches may find its insights valuable to deepen their understanding of why Agile principles and practices work. Although Langer cites dozens of academic resources and studies, Mindfulness is written for the layperson. Summaries of experiments are clear and concise, and where data are inconclusive, Langer identifies the shortcomings and possible alternative interpretations. However, it is not a recipe book for mindfulness. The reader will find no instructions on how to be more mindful here; and will have to take a mindful approach to applying its lessons.

Friday 5: Books on my reading list

  1. Avengers of the New World – a history of the Haitian Revolution.
  2. Inverting the Pyramid – a history of soccer tactics.
  3. Paddy Whacked – a history of Irish-American gangsters.
  4. The Resurrectionist – an Edgar award nominee for Best First Novel.
  5. The Insider’s Guide to Match Fixing in Football – Declan Hill’s analysis of how and why match fixing occurs.

A little heavy on the history. Maybe I should pick up some philosophy or science when I get done with one of the histories.

Friday Five: Books That Changed my Life

  1. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. I had already cut a lot of meat out of my diet, but this book pushed me the rest of the way to become a vegetarian.
  2. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It didn’t make me a left-winger (I already was that), but Zinn showed me an alternative way of looking at U.S. history.
  3. Lord Foul’s Bane by Stephen R. Donaldson. Until high school, mystery was my favorite genre, with science fiction and fantasy distant seconds. In tenth grade, an upperclassman gave me his copy of Lord Foul’s Bane and I pretty much abandoned mystery for the next two decades.
  4. The Monkey’s Raincoat by Robert Crais. Shortly after we got married, I mentioned to my wife that I was getting bored with science fiction and fantasy. She recommend this modern classic of hard-boiled detective fiction and it not only rekindled my love of mystery, but also channeled my writing in a new way.
  5. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. I read this book in tenth grade and although I’d had aspirations to write fiction before, suddenly I knew why. I wanted to tell a story that powerful, that evocative. If not for Hemingway, writing might have been just another hobby that I lost interest in somewhere along the way.