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Billy's Book Bag - November Edition

Three books Genii Earth recommends you consider reading and why.

The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort to Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self

by Michael Easter

What physical endeavor would you choose to take on, knowing you only had a 50/50 chance of accomplishing it?

This ’50/50′ practice is one of many physical endurance practices suggested at the onset of “The Comfort Crisis” by Michael Easter. Easter breaks down the modern quest for comfort and its negative impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. He shares scientific research, cultural anecdotes, and personal experiences that help unravel the consequences of our increasingly comfortable lifestyles, inside the story of his five-week grueling hunting/camping expedition in the Arctic tundra of Alaska.

Easter puts forth the idea that our bodies and minds evolve to thrive under challenging conditions. He argues that the very comforts we seek in our daily lives contribute to a decline in resilience, adaptability, and overall health. Easter challenges prevailing cultural norms and societal expectations that prioritize convenience and ease over the potential benefits of discomfort.

Easter breaks down how our ancestors faced physical challenges that kept their bodies and minds sharp, in contrast to the ways we optimize for comfort today. He insists that embracing challenges and stepping out of our comfort zones can lead to personal growth, increased resilience, and improved mental well-being.

Easter takes us all over the world and shows us a wide variety of practices of those who live happier and healthier lives. Two practices that stuck with me are: 1) think about death at least three times a day and 2) get into nature at least three times a day. He posits that we have moved away from death as a natural part of life and therefore increasingly fear it. He suggests that coming to terms with dying on a daily basis gives rise to an exceptional capacity for living a full life. Living a full life means being with nature and experiencing our interconnectedness to everything.

The only critique I have of the book is its hyper-masculine tone. Easter could have benefited from presenting a broader view of how his concepts might apply to women, older generations, and the developing bodies of youth.

Nonetheless, this book has me reconsidering the role of discomfort in my life, and I am embracing challenges to enhance my overall well-being. I am giving “rucking” a try. Rucking is the practice of hiking/walking with weight on your back, much like our ancestors. I am starting with 10 lbs. We’ll see how it goes!


#futuregen: Lessons from a Small Country

By Jane Davidson

What is the role of government in ensuring a sustainable future?

Jane Davidson, a former Welsh Government Minister for Environment and Sustainability, answers this question, presenting a vision for a more sustainable future on the planet for generations to come, grounded in the Welsh example.

The book delves into the concepts behind the Welsh “Future Generations Act,” a groundbreaking law enacted in 2015. This legislation requires public entities to consider the long-term impact of their decisions on future generations and pushes for a more holistic and systemic approach to governance. One of my favorite aspects of the book is Davidson’s repeated evocation of Donella Meadows, one of the most influential voices in system thinking. Davidson’s vision for Wales is a systemic and timeless transformation that positions it to be resilient for future generations.

I also appreciated Davidson’s descriptions of and relationship to nature throughout Wales, which is the compelling force behind her drive to create unprecedented change there.

Davidson breaks down complex environmental and political concepts into accessible and digestible nuggets. She recounts the challenges faced and lessons learned during her tenure in government, providing a unique insider perspective on the intricacies of policymaking in our time.

The book is also a call to action. She urges us to reflect on our own roles in shaping the future. Davidson emphasizes the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic issues, advocating for a more integrated and sustainable approach to development. My favorite quote: “Others tried to characterize this effort as an overly environmental one that ignores the pressing societal issues of our time… but I say, on the contrary, environmental issues are deeply societal issues.”

The book is deeply rooted in centuries of Welsh experience. However, Wales’s governing body, the National Assembly, is less than 30 years old in a country of fewer than 4 million people. I wonder about the applicability of the lessons from “FutureGen” globally.  Davidson’s work inspires us to consider how our own communities, regions, and nations can adopt our own strategies to create a more sustainable and resilient world for future generations.

If such groundbreaking legislation can be implemented in a country the size of a small U.S. state, it gives me hope that we can begin anywhere to help take progress everywhere.


(Review written by guest contributor, Joseph Friedman, Genii Earth Director and Partner)

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

by Oliver Burkeman

Can we really manage time? And if we can’t, why are we always trying to do so?

These are a couple of the core questions Oliver Burkeman is asking. If you’re looking for how-to tips and techniques to increase your productivity and efficiency, look elsewhere. But don’t worry; you have other options. When I googled “books on time management,” there were 1,740,000,000 entries!

Burkeman confesses at the outset that although this book is yet another one of those 1.7 billion, it is “written in the belief that time management as we know it has failed miserably…” The title ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ (that’s about what you get if you live to be eighty) points to his real topic—helping us answer poet Mary Oliver’s question, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

To be a good steward of one’s precious life, he argues that time is precisely the wrong thing on which to focus. “At the end of your life,” he writes, “looking back, whatever compelled your attention from moment to moment is simply what your life will have been about.” The important insight here is that although time is not ours to control, our attention is. What we choose to attend to is a commitment we can make consciously. These choices and these commitments lead us into the future we wish to enact. As Genii Earth founder Will Hewett stated in a TED Talk, “Time bows to authentic commitment and stretches to accommodate it.” Building on this insight, Burkeman continues to explore the deeper motivations of our attempts to “manage time.”

Attempting to “manage time,” he points out, results not in the efficiency and productivity of which we dream, nor in the blissful feeling that we’ve finally got it all under control. Rather, it results in anxiety and burnout and in increasingly long, never-fully-completed task lists. His project is to explain why that is so and to explore an alternate way of approaching our lives that will be more satisfying and more consistent with the fact, as he writes in the book’s introduction, that “in the long run, we’re all dead.”

At the book’s end, Burkeman shifts from his philosophical exploration of time and mortality and turns the inquiry over to the reader. He provides a list of five questions to guide an inquiry into the truth of his assertions. Moving from thinking to doing, the book concludes with a description of ten practices that are designed to support “embracing your finitude.” Some of this involves the inner work of managing your attention. For example, “Focus on what you’ve already completed rather than what’s still left to complete.” Others are quite practical, such as “Embrace Boring and Single-Purpose Technology [e.g., a Kindle Reader].”

Another wonderful feature of Burkeman’s book is that, although the topic is deep, it’s a quick read. I used only a tiny fraction of my 4,000 weeks to enjoy it cover to cover!

If you enjoyed this, would you share it with someone important to you?