All the World's a Classroom
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Since the beginning of this year, I’ve been a member of The Next Big Idea Club, the nonfiction book subscription club curated by Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, and Daniel Pink. Each quarter, a nice blue box arrives with two pristine hardcovers, plus other trinkets (e.g., book summaries, bookmarks, tote bag).
Keep reading to find out more about the club and my reflections on reading the selections so far. First, more details on The Next Big Idea Club.
How The Next Big Idea Club Works
There are three membership levels that you can choose from: Hardbacks, E-books, or Express Membership (you supply your own books). The club reads two books each quarter. Here’s the breakdown of the pricing:
|Membership Option||Billing Frequency||Cost/year*||Cost/quarter*||Equivalent Cost/month|
|*Bold face = actual amount billed|
The Hardbacks subscription—the one I have—comes with a free tote bag and a bonus book. And if you pay the annual fee, you get 10% off.
All of the subscriptions include:
- Access to video shorts by authors, reading guides, and author interviews for current and past seasons.
- Access to a Facebook community forum to interact with authors, curators, and attend live Q&A sessions.
- A donation to kids in under-resourced communities, in partnership with The Future Project.
- For a limited time, you also get one year of Business Insider PRIME ($99 value) included with your subscription.
If you want to check out the club before paying for a membership, you can get a 2-week trial with the Express Membership.
I’ve read 6 books with the club so far and these are the ways that The Next Big Idea Club (NBIC) has added value to my life.
Exposure to New Books and Ideas
As with any good book clubs, NBIC exposes me to book selections I wouldn’t necessarily read otherwise. I would submit that this is the highest value a book club could offer, as it expands the horizon of our reading diet (as opposed to just reading books that are already aligned with our pre-existing worldview).
I’ve appreciated the way NBIC has expanded my exposure to certain issues and ideas, the most impactful being the principles behind building modern-day movements in New Power and the issue on free speech on college campuses in Uncensored . I was always interested in social movements and campus life, but these books introduce new questions to probe, new challenges to push through, and new paths to consider, like the ones in the next two points.
Big Ideas Take Time
Here’s the thing about big ideas: They’re big.
They’re not easy life hacks that you can implement and get results in two days. They need to diffuse into our minds. Their essence and principles need to be extracted. And finally, they need to be tested in our real life applications.
All of this takes time.
Sure, there are actionable steps proposed in each of the book, but the full truth and power of the ideas are not going to manifest fully unless you apply them in a sustained manner over an extended amount of time.
Changing culture isn’t easy, building endurance definitely isn’t instant, creating movements and paving a career may take years, engaging in difficult conversations and learning are lifelong pursuits.
The span of big ideas is measured in lifetime.
Why the long timescale? Because the true work of implementing big ideas is difficult, which brings me to the next point.
From Analysis to Design
One thing emerges for me as I read through the books: With big ideas, there are the easy part and the hard part of the work.
The easy part: Reading the books, critiquing the ideas, and talking about them.
The hard part: Asking how the ideas would inform my life and work decisions, and putting them into practice.
The easy part: Thinking about other people who should read the books and implement the ideas.
The hard part: Reflecting on how I contribute to or hinder the progress to a better world, as proposed by the books.
The easy work is done at an analytical distance. The hard work is internal and will step on our toes.
For me, the question is, how do I move from being a recipient of these ideas to a contributor. From consumer to creator. From analyst to artist.
While discussing the Culture Code , I posed a question to someone who is in a position of power, “What are the ways you intentionally shape the culture of your company?” The person paused to reflect and said that the answer is not fully obvious right now.
I think often there’s disconnect between engaging intellectually with the ideas vs. bringing them to real life. And it’s always easier to apply them to other people.
This question of artistry and design is where NBIC is pushing me to go.
(By the way, NBIC is not without criticism—see this blog post by Diana Senechal, which relates to this and the last point. As a NBIC member, I think it’s incumbent on each person to assess the truth of the principles in their own life and work, and not get too wrapped up in the “bigness” or trendiness of the ideas.)
Community: Where Ideas Brew
Ideas need communities. Communities are where ideas incubate and evolve. For me, the most valuable aspect of NBIC is the community—both the existence and the quality—it fosters.
I have found the Facebook community to be an enlightening space where thoughts get exchanged in respectful and considerate ways (much needed these days).
But of course, nothing replaces the meeting of minds in flesh and blood. I’ve truly enjoyed the NBIC Meetup groups (shout out to Carrie Sheaffer for organizing the Denver Meetup) and spending time with people whose common preoccupation is learning.
Beyond the NBIC-labeled communities, though, I have been in many conversations with others who ask about the club, the books, and by extension, the subject matter of the books. In a way, being a member of NBIC helps me find my tribe in and out of the club. And for this, I am really grateful.
Does The Next Big Idea Club sound like something you’d like? Join or check out the free trial here:
Time for the second installment of my favorite children’s books! The main criteria for this series is simply this: I shouldn’t get tired reading these over and over again.
My little man is growing and showing his preferences too, so I’m adding “Z’s review” on some of the books to show his favorites.
As usual, help me find more fantastic children’s books by commenting! I’m particularly interested in books that show diversity.
1. Barnyard Dance! Pajama Time! And Other Sandra Boynton Books
These books are full of rhythms and so much fun. The characters are also super cute, I want to squeeze them if I could.
Z’s review: I ask for Pajama Time! every night and I have a little dance to ask for the Barnyard one.
2. What Do You Do With a Chance
I love What Do You Do With a Chance and look forward to getting the other two. The book is gorgeously illustrated, deeply reflective, and profound for kids and adults.
3. Baby Loves Science Series
These are perfect if you’re building Nerdlandia, like us! These are the three that we own, because they’re basically CHEME001 and CS001, and we are so dorky. They also have one on Aerospace Engineering, Gravity, Structural Engineering, Green Energy. I mean, you can just go crazy and unleash your inner nerd here.
Z’s review: Hey it’s my Choo Choo book! And the babies are cute.
4. Jesus Storybook Bible
This is the best kids’ Bible I’ve come across. The stories are so well-written, freshly delivered, and concise. Very kid and parent-friendly (i.e., not boring). I really, really appreciate the writing of this Bible, not to mention the lovely illustrations–I have never seen Jesus drawn this way and I like it.
Z’s review: I can now say the word ‘Bible” and I love flipping through its pages. (Some I have ripped!)
5. No Matter What
Heartwarming story about the no-matter-whatness of love.
What are your favorite children’s books? Comment with your favorite titles!
Favorite Children’s Books Series
Product links on this post are affiliate links, which means I get credits if you purchase products through them. Would appreciate it if you do!
This is the third post of the Understanding Poverty series.
Imagine entering a room, a banquet hall. You approach a small group of people to greet, but they scurry away instead. People start to turn their backs on you. Your hesitant smiles meet derisive stares.
The message is clear: You are an outsider. You don’t belong. You’re not wanted here.
How would you feel? Shame. Small. Something rotten. What is wrong with me?
Am I not good enough? Not cool enough, not pretty enough, not handsome enough, not educated enough, not rich enough, not talkative enough, not tall enough, not healthy enough. Or, too cool, too educated, too rich, too talkative, too tall, too fit, too womanly, too manly, too light, or too dark.
Now imagine that in the midst of that uncomfortable room, someone comes in and scans the crowd. She makes eye contact with you and her face beams with joy.
Your savior has come. She heads straight to you. You’re drowning, but she’s lifting you up. Someone is actually happy that you’re here. Someone is here who says, You belong.
Outsiders and Their Saviors
I daresay most of us have experienced being an outsider, some more severely than others. We know that strong sense of shame, of being rejected for who you are.
How much do we long for that someone who embraces us as we are? Or, how much relief envelops us when that person comes.
Outsiders and their saviors is a lens through which I’ve been reading biblical stories lately, Jesus’ stories, in particular. Jesus was not only the Savior of the world—in the take-away-the-sin-of-the-world sense—He was constantly a savior in social situations.
Imagine Zaccheus’ wonder, an outsider, cast out by his tribe for working with the enemy and swindling his own people, when Jesus turned his eyes on him. When was the last time someone saw him for who he was? Jesus not only saw him, He let Zaccheus feed and minister to Him. In this meeting, Zaccheus was affirmed and challenged to transform.
Imagine being a leper whom Jesus touched, who had probably forgotten what it meant to be seen or have human contact. Jesus’ healing was not only physical—it was emotional. You are accepted. I accept you.
Imagine being the woman who touched Jesus’ garment. Or being a child who wanted to come near Jesus. They were outsiders, but they found an ally in Jesus.
In fact, more than an ally. They found someone who would eat with them, someone who would touch them and talk to them, someone who would be with them. They found the kinship of God.
Expanding Our Circle
As a Christian who aspires, however insufficiently, to be in the world as Jesus was, Jesus’ example is challenging. To go where no one else wants to go, to be with people most people avoid, is… well, I don’t want to do it.
We like to congregate among likes and we exclude. We like relationships that will give us something. Sometimes we even find our sense of belonging by excluding people.
To a kind of social life that only consists of people who affirm us, Jesus’ love toward those shunned by society is simply provoking. While as humans we may concede to some inside-outside relationship, God’s inside circle is expansive beyond our conception. There is no one whom God does not want to rescue.
Perhaps it would do us good to remind ourselves of our outsider-ness. Go back to imagining that banquet hall, to being rejected, and to being rescued.
Gregory Boyle in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion writes about the gang members he works with,
Homies have been “outside” for so long they forget there is an inside… The toxicity gets so internalized that it obliterates the “me.” You couldn’t possibly have interest in knowing things about “me.”
All throughout Scripture and history, the principal suffering of the poor is not that they can’t pay their rent on time or that they are three dollars short of a package of Pampers. As Jesus scholar Marcus Borg points out, the principal suffering of the poor is shame and disgrace. It is a toxic shame—a global sense of failure of the whole self.
Exclusion by money is as old as time. What never gets old is this: Jesus was born and lived as a poor person. The first public words Jesus spoke was, “Blessed are the poor, for theirs are the kingdom of God.”
Homies seem to live in the zip code of the eternally disappointing, and need a change of address. To this end, one hopes (against all human inclination) to model not the “one false move” God but the “no matter whatness” of God. You seek to imitate the kind of God you believe in, where disappointment is, well, Greek to Him. You strive to live the black spiritual that says, “God looks beyond our fault and sees our need.”
To that diminished sense of self, God says, I am happy to be with you.
To Be Known and Loved
Boyle tells a story of Mother Teresa when she once told a group of lepers how loved by God they were and a “gift to the rest of us.” An old leper raised his hand and said, “Could you repeat that again? It did me good. So, would you mind…just saying it again?”
To be accepted for who we are, fully, isn’t that our greatest need?
Tim Keller writes,
To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.
God goes beyond than tolerating the outcasts—He delights in them. Now if we could be a force of that kind of love in the world…
See related essay: Human Strudel