Another book which deserves a thumbs up, five stars or whatever you think is a good ratings system. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz explains why less choice is better for our lives. I had watched this TED clip a while back, in which he explains the concept in 20 minutes but reading the book was still just as educating.
The book tells us that because of the immense number of choices and decisions we have to make in modern day life we are loosing out on more happiness. It explains how and why this happens.
Excerpts from the book:
Many years ago, the distinguished political philosopher Isaiah Berlin made an important distinction between “negative liberty” and “positive liberty.” Negative liberty is “freedom from”—freedom from constraint, freedom from being told what to do by others. Positive liberty is “freedom to”—the availability of opportunities to be the author of your life and to make it meaningful and significant. Often, these two kinds of liberty will go together. If the constraints people want “freedom from” are rigid enough, they won’t be able to attain “freedom to.” But these two types of liberty need not always go together.
Instead, I believe that we make the most of our freedoms by learning to make good choices about the things that matter, while at the same time unburdening ourselves from too much concern about the things that don’t.
Most good decisions will involve these steps:
1. Figure out your goal or goals.
2. Evaluate the importance of each goal.
3. Array the options.
4. Evaluate how likely each of the options is to meet your goals.
5. Pick the winning option.
6. Later use the consequences of your choice to modify
your goals, the importance you assign them, and the
way you evaluate future possibilities.
The conclusion of the book gives us 11 things we need to do with our choices.
1. Choose When to Choose
2. Be a Chooser, Not a Picker
3. Satisfice More and Maximize Less
4. Think About the Opportunity Costs of Opportunity Costs
5. Make Your Decisions Non reversible
6. Practice an “Attitude of Gratitude”
7. Regret Less
8. Anticipate Adaptation
9. Control Expectations
10. Curtail Social Comparison
11. Learn to Love Constraints
I really do recommend this book to everyone even if you just read the last concluding chapter. Life is about our choices and we need to choose wisely without overwhelming ourselves and living in a constant state of regret.
No not me, but it’s the title of Galal Amin’s book. A beautiful autobiography written introspectively and slowly. It is the product of many years of thinking, reading and writing. Even the selection of the cover photo is amazingly accurate. A family portrait with his father in the center, his mother absent and his brothers and sisters sitting around his father subtly tells how much this family has influenced the writer’s life. The mother’s absence in the photograph show how women were not included in this kind of thing too. Their serious looking faces portray the seriousness of the family and of taking a family picture which we now do all the time. We snap using our digital cameras, our phones and our web cams. So much has changed in this author’s lifetime and only by reading or hearing stories like his we can begin to appreciate the changes that have happened in Egypt and the world in the last seven decades or so.
I have always enjoyed Amin’s work, his TV interviews and his articles. He always appears to have given his ideas lots of deep thought and reflection. His arguments are solid and usually well laid so it is easy to follow and see his point of view.
Born in January of 1935, his father had wanted his mother to have an abortion because they already had 7 children, she refused and that is how he came to be. The book is a lovely piece of reading, it is like being told stories by a great uncle about past years. It is broken down in chapters where you can read each one on its own without skipping a beat. From the monarchy to the revolution (I still think it should be called something else, it was not a real revolution), he has an interesting opinion at least worth knowing. There were many things in the book that made me think, and since it is way too long for me to review it as it is I will just point them out.
The amount of classical literature which he had read at a young boy is astounding. It must have helped shaped his future ideas, character and beliefs. I would also assume that it helped in his ability to analyze and come to a conclusion on his own.
One of the interesting points was on the Arab Unity. How Syria, Lebanon and Iraq were very for this idea ( this was of course in the early fifties, post revolution). How countries like Kuwait and the Emirates were never interested in it.
Another valid point, although slightly conspiracy theorist is the question of whether or not the United States was involved or at least blessed the revolution. Amin seems to think so, he also thinks that the Sadat was an American puppet. His argument is convincing although I believe that these things need proof for one to be able to confirm it. He was also against Camp David and stopping the war early. This I totally agree with, I have read other accounts of what happened and think that Sadat meant to stop the war when he did, either because he was told to do so by the Americans or he had already decided before hand that this was what he wanted to do.
In retrospect the author compares between all rulers of Egypt after the revolution. Naguib was loved and respected, the people were shocked to see him go. Abdelnasser ruled with an iron fist, did some good things, did lots of bad things, killed democracy, people’s spirit and did not offer Egypt anything better than the king did. Sadat was unqulaified for the job, appeared to be democratic but turned out to be just as bad and started the fall of the Egyptian Economy. As for our current leader, he’s not better than either, he is faithfully doing what the Sadat and Abdelnasser did only in a less obvious manner.
I also loved the chapter on his life in Kuwait and how little has changed from the seventies to today because it was so true and hit a raw nerve. But perhaps I will do another long post on that later.
He recounts how the world and society has changed in the last 50 years and has become more consuming and interested in the material posessions in life and how this in turn has affected people’s expectations from life. Money is never enough, a husband is never good enough because he can not provide enough, TV and ads bombard people constantly of how life should be, how you should own a villa, drive a car and all that has made people dissapointed.
The final chapter in the book is called Beginnings and Endings (bedayat wa nehayat) which I think is perfectly named. How things have changed at their end from how they started out. He started life with a fiery want to change the world and has realized that that is out of his reach. He tells stories of all of the people he knew and how they were dissapointed in life.
He also describes a time when he was torn between deciding on two very good jobs and an older relative told him that later in life these decisions will not matter much because on the long run the effect of these short term decisions is minimal.
In the final page he says that although life is full of dissapointments it is still filled with happy moments and how there is still joy in life by seeing his children or grandchildren, enjoying a nice meal or having nice company. On his father in law’s birthday, which was a couple of months after he (his father in law) had died, his wife and daughter went to visit his grave. His daughter who was pregnant at the time went into labour and had her son on the same day as her grandfather’s birthday. With this he concludes that a day which carried a sad memory was transformed into a beautiful one.
I personally learned alot and did alot of thinking during and after reading this book. And there is no way I could have done the book justice by this short review. It is full of gems of wisdom that are between the lines, lessons learned and beautiful memories of a man and also of a nation. I give it a five star rating.
I started reading this book a couple of months ago and for the first time in my life it took me more than a couple of weeks to finish a book. It was not the book’s fault it was mine, I was busy and then Ramadan came along so I had to put it aside for some time.
I finished reading it yesterday and felt satisfied. It is a story of love that spans slightly over half a century. Set in latin America in the end of the 18th century till the 1920s. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, spins a gripping, exciting and romantic tale of Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza. Not exactly star crossed lovers but nonetheless separated by Fermina’s choice and then brought back together by Florentino’s perseverence and undying love 50 years later.
I will not spoil it for you but the book is worth the reading time. You will be transported to a different time and a different world where everything is slow moving like the Magdalena river and time is of no importance only love. From the book my favorite passage has to be:
Together they had overcome the daily incomprehension, the instantaneous hatred, the reciprocal nastiness, and fabulous flashes of glory in the conjugal conspiracy. It was time when they both loved each other best, without hurry or excess, when both were most conscious of and grateful for their incredible victories over adversity. Life would still present them with other moral trials, of course, but that no longer mattered: they were on the other shore.