What I Don’t Know About Big Changes Resulting from Small Decisions

Remember when Buckaroo Banzai drove through the mountain? He explained how the solid parts of matter — the atoms, quarks, neutrons — only make up a fraction of what people consider to be the whole thing, and that most of a thing is empty space. That’s how I’ve often looked at our lives. Sometimes it seems like life is a series of a small number of significant moments upon and around which the rest of our time hangs. When we look back, sometimes the most important  things we do or that happen to us occur without fanfare or invitation. Choices made without much thought, decisions we expect to be small, made on the spot, wind up leading to consequences broader and with greater impact than expected.

Take this one, for instance: I was paying my phone bill a few months back when it occurred to me that dang phone service was costing me too much. I investigated options through my carrier to see if there were changes I could make to my plan to lower the bill. There weren’t, really. No biggie. It had been my choice to sign up with the plan and get the phone I have; I couldn’t be upset the company was charging me the rate I’d agreed on. What did bother me, though, was how little I was getting in return for paying one of my largest month bills. Again, no one’s fault but mine.

“I’m paying over a hundred dollars a month just to be able to scroll through Facebook wherever I am?” Seriously, I said it out loud to myself. That’s when I decided to make sure to get a better return on my phone investment.

Thinking how I could make better use of the tool the phone is supposed to be, I recalled educational apps and podcasts I’d accessed in the past. What could I do with the phone, how could I use it to be an asset rather than a liability? I started with the TED app.

The very next day, while eating lunch in the break room at work, I watched TED Talks. One of them was Shawn Achor’s “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” I was inspired by his talk to check out his book, The Happiness Advantage. I was impressed enough, I bought the book. Then I read it. Then it changed my life.


Not the same way The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai changed my life, but it made an impact, pretty much right away, on my behavior at work. What I read and learned from The Happiness Advantage set me to explore other books and resources related to positive psychology. I instituted new habits, and, yes, found myself to be happier. Not only at work, but also at home and in all aspects of my life.

I have plenty more to say about The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, and the pursuit of self-improvement. The point I wanted to make here, though, is it was a small, simple change because of a brief moment of realization that brought about major adjustments in my life. Take care with your moments. Consider your choices carefully. Don’t be surprised, either, if something great comes around when you don’t expect it.

Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Hexed (Iron Druid Chronicles, #2)Hexed by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even better and more fun than the first Iron Druid book. I like how the author mixes up the action so the story isn’t just following a linear outline from one point to the next. The different episodes could almost be individual short stories, but crafting them together, despite the fantasy setting, make the way things unfold more realistic. Some scenes overlap from the first book, others clearly set things up for future stories, including the next one, obviously. Hearne’s cast of supporting characters is broad and enjoyable, from the old Irish widow to the book store employees to the witches, vampire, werewolves, and gods. I wasn’t sure at first how I felt about Hearne’s including Christian figures like The Virgin as mythical beings, but I believe the point he is making (similar to Neil Gaiman’s) is that it’s the faith of believers that create such beings, and if I as a reader have no issue with a fictional Coyote or Brighid, an educated reader like myself should also appreciate a fictional Virgin or Jesus.

Like others who are speedily discovering this series, I can barely wait to start the next book. I expect it to be fun seeing what Hearne does next with his characters.

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Currently Reading

Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs (Dover Thrift Edition!).  One of those I’ve never read before.  I’m near the end, probably finish tonight.

A few years back I became interested in catching up on classic adventure literature, provoked, best I can figure, by Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.  At about the same time, I’d indulged a love of old radio shows, especially The Shadow and The Green Hornet, and heroic pulp   fiction, picking up the entire Doc Savage series from ebay, as well as most of The Avenger and The Spider books.  Coincidentally, I owe another Spider for deepening an interest in period heroics by loaning me a copy of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist.

This was back around 2002/2003.  I know this, because the special order sticker is still on the copy of Tarzan I’m reading.  I was working in a bookstore/music store (“the more things change…”), which means I wasn’t making a lot of money, but also means I got a discount on my books.  Since the store didn’t stock a lot of the books I was wanting to read at that period, I ordered in the cheap Dover editions of things like Sherlock Holmes stories and The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu.  I’d found a copy of one of Sax Rohmer’s other Fu Manchu books in our local used bookstore, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Sure, you could make a good case that the books are racist, but then have you ever read Tarzan?

I suppose I like these books in a similar way I like rock music from the 60’s and 70’s:  in part, because of the history.  It’s interesting to me to pick up the perspectives of writers from other times.  Worldviews change; so do tastes in literature.

So back then I did get around to reading a number of classics I never made time for before, including  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Then I discovered Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files, and my interest shifted to more contemporary stuff.

As I’ve gone through shedding most of what I’ve owned these last couple of years, I’ve committed to finally getting around to reading some of the books I purchased, even years ago, but never read.  It’s been fun.  I’ve come across some things I wish I had read sooner (Charlie Huston’s Already Dead was excellent; Derby Dugan’s Depression Funnies was delightful), and some I can’t believe I ever had any intention of reading.  And now I’m at Tarzan.  It’s in the middle somewhere, but I’m glad to be finally getting to it.

Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ‘n’ Roll by Rick Coleman

Eh.  Plenty of history in this book, which does present a pretty wide view of race relations as well as the development of pop music in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s and not solely focused on Fats Domino.  Which is a good thing, since Domino is one of the least interesting and less admirable figures of the period covered in the book.  I didn’t find the writing to be particularly engaging and felt like I had to trudge along through some of it, but the information is worth knowing.