Stolen Focus by Johann Hari (Review)

Strangely enough, I had a hard time focusing on Stolen Focus. I skimmed through the first five chapters of this 14 chapter book. I confess that I focused on chapter topics that interested me and on information that basically reinforced my current views on attention and concentration. Regrettably over the years, my ability to sit still for 60 or 90 minutes and read a book has greatly diminished. To a very large extent, I blame it on the distraction of social media and the Internet.

Hari’s book basically confirmed what I already know – – it is very hard to be focused and to apply attention for any great period of time. Everyone has certain addictions – – for me, its carbohydrates, salt etc. I am easily distracted. As I write this, I hear a TV in my living room, I am mentally composing a checklist of things that I need to do tomorrow and I am thinking about getting ready for a trip next week.

From this book, I learned why I and everyone else become distracted. What I did not necessarily find out was how to eliminate distractions and improve my concentration.

Shown below are my notes from the book:

Teams took ordinary people and got them to read much faster than they ordinarily would; with training, and with practice, it sort of works. They can run their eyes over the words quickly and retain something of what they are saying. But if you do then test them on what they read, you’ll discover that the faster you make them go, the less they will understand. More speed means less comprehension.

Scientists then studied professional speed readers – – and they discovered that even though they are obviously better at it than the rest of us, the same thing happens. This show there’s just a maximum limit for how quickly humans can absorb information, and trying to bust through that barrier simply busts your brain’s abilities to understand it instead.

The scientists investigating this also discovered that if you make people read quickly, they are much less likely to grapple with complex or challenging material. They start to prefer simplistic statements.

Scientists discovered… When people think they are doing several things at once, they are actually – – “juggling.” They are switching back-and-forth. They don’t notice the switching because their brain sort papers it over, to give a seamless experience of consciousness, but what they’re actually doing is switching and reconfiguring their brain moment to moment, task to task and that comes with a cost.

The more he studied flow states, the more Mihaly noticed something else crucial about them. They are extraordinarily fragile and easily disrupted.

When you are approaching death, I thought, you won’t think about your reinforcements – – the likes and retweets – – you’ll think about your moments of flow.

We all have a choice now between two profound forces – – fragmentation, or flow. Fragmentation makes you smaller, shallower, angrier. Flow makes you bigger, deeper, calmer. Fragmentation shrinks us. Flow expands us.

The proportion of Americans to read books for pleasure is now at its lowest level ever recorded. The American Time Use Survey – – which studies a representative sample of 26,000 Americans found that between 2004 and 2017 the proportion of men reading for pleasure had fallen by 40%, while for women, it was down by 29%.

Gallup found that the proportion of Americans who never read a book in any given year tripled between 1978 and 2014. Some 57% of Americans do not even read a single book in a typical year.

… the collapse in reading books is in someways a symptom of our atrophying attention, and in someways a cause of it. It’s a spiral – – as we begin to move from books to screens, we start to lose some of the capacity for the deeper readings that come from books, and that, and turn makes us less likely to read books.

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin (a review)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found this book to be very inspirational. I write a blog. I write commentary on Pickleball and post it to a community of Pickleball players on Facebook. I maintain a journal. I assist a nonprofit with communications and marketing. I would like to live a more creative life.

There is a lot of good advice and observations to think about. This is almost like a step-by-step handbook on how to find, develop, craft and deliver a work of art whether it is a painting, a book, a song or a building design.

Highly recommended for any writer, musician, painter, architect or anyone desiring to improve their creative abilities. Five star book for this reader.

My notes from this book:

Look for what you notice but no one else sees.

Broadening our practice of awareness is a choice we can make at any moment. It is not a search, though it is stoked by curiosity or hunger. A hunger to see beautiful things, hear beautiful sounds, feel deeper sensations. To learn, and to be fascinated and surprised on a continual basis.

Read the finest literature, watch the masterpieces of cinema, get up close to the most influential paintings, visit architectural landmarks. There is no standard list: no one has the same measures of greatness.

There’s a reason we are drawn 

to gazing at the ocean

It is said that the ocean provide

a closer reflection of who 

we are than any mirror.

If we focus on what’s going on inside our cells – – sensations, emotions, the patterns of our thoughts – – a wealth of material can be found. Our inner world is every bit as interesting, beautiful, and surprising as nature itself. It is, after all, born of nature.

Sometimes disengaging is the best way to engage.

Re-reading even a well understood paragraph or page can be revelatory. New meanings, deeper understandings, inspirations, and nuances arise and come into focus.

Reading, in addition to listening, eating, and most physical activities, can be experienced like driving: we can participate either on auto pilot or with focused attention. So often we sleep walk through our lives. Consider how different your experience of the world might be if you engage in every activity with the attention you might give to landing a plane.

To create space for inspiration, we might consider practices of quieting the mind: meditation, awareness, silence, contemplation, prayer, and any other ritual that helps us fend off distraction

Collecting seeds typically doesn’t involve a tremendous amount of effort. It’s more a receiving of a transmission. A noticing. As if catching fish, we walk to the water, bait the hook, cast the line, and patiently wait. We cannot control the fish, only the presence of our line.

Number one seed, number two experimentation, number three craft and number four completion.

It’s generally preferable to accumulate several weeks or months worth of ideas and then choose which of them to focus on, instead of following an urge or obligation to rush to the finish line with what is in front of us today.

We are performing for an audience of one…

Living in discovery is at all times preferable to living through assumptions.

There is no telling where the next great story, painting, recipe, or business idea is going to come from. Just as a surfer cannot control the waves, artists are at the mercy of the creative rhythms of nature. This is why it’s of such great importance to remain aware and present at all times. Watching and waiting.

Loose Balls: The Short Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto (Review)

Sports nostalgia tour of the American Basketball Association whose heydays were in the late 60s and 70s. The league had some great players like Dr. J, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and others. Interesting stories about how they tried to create the league. Poor Pat Boone was one of the early investors and almost went broke. There were some smart owners and many greedy ones. George Mikan was the ABA’s first commissioner and insisted that the league’s headquarters be situated in Minnesota where he lived.

So many characters Marvin Barnes, Johnny Neumann, John Brisker etc. played in the league. The book details many of their antics. I remember Rick Mount, one of the best shooting guards in college at Purdue. Unfortunately his college game did not translate that well into the pros.

The financial status of the teams and the league were always in peril. They did not have a national TV contract like the NBA. Many coaches and players suffered returned checks or did not get paid at all.

I did not realize or remember that ABA teams played NBA teams in exhibition games and competed fairly well. There were some excellent ABA coaches including Hubie Brown, Larry Brown, Stan Albeck and Doug Moe. (Even Wilt Chamberlain was an ABA coach but not a very good or devoted one.)

There are a large number of amusing anecedotes and stories. This is a very entertaining sports book about a very interesting time in professional basketball.

This Could Be The Last Time

Well, this could be the last time

This could be the last time

Maybe the last time

I don’t know

The Last Time by the Rolling Stones

Once I lived in a time of firsts, first grade, first date, first kiss, first love, first job, first house… Youth created the illusion of an unlimited future and an infinity of repeat experiences, opportunities and time. 

Now I exist in a time of lasts, last job, last meeting, last look, last conversation, last vacation, last healthy day, last goodbyes, last breath… Realities of limited time and few opportunities…No guarantees that tomorrow will be the same as today. Or that I may have a tomorrow. Moments may never repeat. Family and friends may leave me. Or I leave them.

Sports Break

Caitlin Clark from Iowa was the best college basketball player that I saw this year. She may be the best women’s basketball player that I have ever seen. I don’t remember another female player with her shooting range and passing ability.

Though LSU won the NCAA Women’s Tournament yesterday, I don’t think they would have beaten South Carolina.

Best Matches from 2023 WrestleMania

  1. Rhea Ripley beating Charlotte Flair for women’s title
  2. Kevin Owens and Sammy Zayn beating the Usos for tag team title
  3. Edge beating Finn Balor (The Demon) in steel cage match.

To my surprise, I enjoyed yesterday’s ESPN Pickleball Challenge featuring John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Andy Roddick.  The levels of performance got better as the four legends played. I think the telecast helped improved the pickleball brand. I enjoyed McEnroe’s antics. Great job by the young woman who was the referee!

Phillies are 0-3.Too early to panic…

I’m slightly prejudiced for being a “homer” but Joel Embiid deserves to be the NBA MVP. He rarely has a bad game and most games I watch, he dominates.

Not sure who is the biggest disappointment give their career starts: Ben Simmons or Carson Wentz?

Still prefer “old guys” Michael Wilson and Tony Kornheiser as sports commentators ahead of Colin Cowherd, Steven A. Smith, Jim Rome etc.