May 2, 2006

Jack Covert Selects: Jack Covert Selects -- Stumbling on Hapiness

By: Jack @ 5:01 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Stumbling on Happiness
by Daniel Gilbert, 270 Pages, $24.95 Hardcover, Knopf, May 2006, ISBN 1400042666
May I have your attention? This is important. My job is to recommend the business books that you must read. This is one of those books.
In the wave of Freakonomics and other books of that ilk comes a book about happiness. The author is a Harvard psychologist and says,
...Despite the third word of the title, this is not an instruction manual that will tell you anything useful about how to be happy. Those books are located in the self-help section two aisles over, and once you've bought one, done everything it says to do, and found yourself miserable anyway, you can always come back here to understand why. Instead, this is a book that describes what science has to tell us about how and how well the human brain can imagine its own future, and how and how well it can predict which of the futures it will most enjoy. This book is about a puzzle that many thinkers have pondered over the past two millennia, and it uses their ideas (and a few of my own) to explain why we seem to know so little about the hearts and minds of people we are about to become. The story is a bit like a river that crosses borders without benefit passport because no single science has ever produced a compelling solution to the puzzle. Weaving together facts and theories from psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics, this books allows an account to emerge that I personally find convincing but whose merits you will have to judge for yourself.

As you can tell, Daniel Gilbert conveys a complicated subject quite clearly. This made for a difficult review because a summary doesn't do it justice.
Here's another example of how well this book is written. In an early chapter the author is talking about the frontal lobe and predicting the future:
But why should we want to have control over our future experiences? On the face of it, this seems about as nonsensical as asking why we should want to have control over our television sets or our automobiles. But indulge me. We have a large frontal lobe so that we can look into the future, we look into the future so we can make predictions about it, we make predictions about it so we can control it--but why do we want to control it at all? Why not let the future unfold as it will and experience it as it does? Why not be here now and there then? There are two answers to this question, one of which is surprising right and the other surprisingly wrong.

This book is brilliant. It's well-documented with thirty pages of notes supporting the theories. It's a book that will be talked about by people everywhere. Trust me on that.
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