I accepted the opportunity to read this book when it was offered by Lisa for the TLC Book Tour. The chance to "break through boundaries" sounded great, and I knew I wanted a vigorous mind. Especially after looking back over my last year's reading--an overabundance of fiction (much of it poor fiction) and a dearth of good nonfiction.
When The Vigorous Mind really came through and provided motivation to improve the quality of my reading (and much more), I was delighted! Yes, I know that I've hinted about it on several posts; I simply couldn't resist. It has been difficult to wait until my appointed date to review the book, and I've been busy applying the philosophy to my own life and reading.
Cummings begins by saying that our society has come to value the specialist over the generalist; she protests this dichotomy throughout the book. She advocates cross-training the brain, developing diverse interests, "curiosities, and enthusiasms," and maintains that individuals who have done so are best able to fight the blahs and even career burnout.
I find it hard to debate that outlook. Cummings, moreover, wants to show us how to become more well-rounded. She encourages looking beyond career and finding activities "that have no apparent connection to your professional specialty." New experiences encourage neuroplasticity, changes in the brain, and these changes can bring surprising advantages to your approach to your profession.
Who wouldn't want to engage in activities that not only broaden their horizons and make them more satisfied human beings, but might also aid them in their career paths?
So how do you accomplish such a thing, a vigorous mind, a Renaissance Mind? Cummings has two techniques that will help us reach our goals:
- "Triumph in Twenty" - devoting 20 or fewer minutes a day to your activity of choice, several times a week (knitting, photography, learning to play an instrument, tennis, palm reading, growing orchids, etc.)
- Kaizen - "consistent, incremental baby steps" - cutting goals down to size and consistently moving toward them one step at a time.
I've taken the author's advice and have composed a curriculum for myself and several beginning courses that I'm in the midst of undertaking. Specific to my interests and subject to change if I so decide. I'm having a ball doing it. I've composed a lift-list of things I'd like to learn or learn about, have made additions to my fitness activities, and have made some personal commitments to myself.
My first and foremost goal at the moment is to increase my reading of nonfiction and to read outside my comfort zone. I'm supplementing books with new magazine subscriptions to The Smithsonian and Mental Floss, among others, and I'm watching documentaries from Netflix on a variety of subjects.
Part One (chapters 1-3) gives some of the reasons that Cummings came to write the book.
Part Two (chapters 4-10) gives the seven imperatives, "global attributes," you might want to cultivate. They include curiosity, individuality, selectivity, empathy, stretch, spirituality, and courage. (I particularly enjoyed these chapters.)
Part Three (chapters 11-13) examines choice and provides insight into way we actually live our lives.
The Vigorous Mind - Ingrid E. Cummings
I'm almost embarrassed by how much I'm enjoying myself! I do need to be aware of what Cummings calls The Law of Unintended Consequences. This weekend I kept talking about the books I'm reading, and not even my family can endure that indefinitely.
Nonfiction. 2009. 316 pages.