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Resilience in the face of adversity
Most of today’s popular examples of success suggest that achievement is a linear path from scarcity to abundance. What if we embrace the struggle?
Welcome to What We’re Reading. Each month, we’ll curate a list of books―from perennial classics to new releases―chat with authors, and review titles with the hope of co-creating a community of well-read makers. Discussions around work, creativity, and entrepreneurship are constantly evolving; here, we aim to create a space for different ideas and approaches to be in conversation with one another. Whether you’re already an avid reader or wish you read more, we hope you’ll feel inspired to read along with us.
This month, we’re reading three books about transcending scarcity, creating from struggle, and catalyzing career growth. Each selection takes a look at cultural narratives around resiliency and what it can look like to use every challenge as a catalyst for success.
Most of today’s popular examples of success suggest that achievement is a linear path from scarcity to abundance. Many of the stories we see in mainstream media further uphold the belief that prosperity should be earned as quickly as possible, and that any personal and economic obstacles must be overcome and forgotten—the quicker the better.
But what if, instead of regarding setbacks as unpleasant nuisances on the path to success, we embraced the idea that struggle is a necessary and important component of growth and positive change?
Generally, we are hardwired to avoid uncertainty and hardship. When we find ourselves in times of crisis, we tend to focus our attention on moving forward, wishing away our struggles and seeking escape from the pain we find ourselves facing. But rejecting the obstacles in our path can sometimes mean we’re unable to glean jewels from the rubble.
Resilience depends on developing and practicing a capacity to sit with struggle and uncertainty. As many individuals facing struggle know, setbacks can provide deep knowledge and, ultimately, build strength.
If you’ve ever found yourself in a sticky financial situation—maybe you’ve put your life’s savings into a venture that failed or quit a cushy job to chase a dream that didn’t exactly pan out—then these books might prove to be helpful guides in building a new relationship to success—one that sees hardship and success as interdependent.
These titles offer a very important reminder that obstacles are integral to (not separate from) the path of creative and professional abundance. We hope these books will inspire resilience in the wake of uncertainty as you grow towards your personal and professional goals.
In a time when stories of hardship and trauma consume our consciousness in higher definition than ever, we have a chance to collectively understand how these challenges can shape creativity.
In Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, Edwidge Danticat merges memoir and essay to tell stories about artists from countries in crisis that were able to create from the adversity of exile. What makes this book such a special account of immigrant triumph is that it urges readers to draw on the power of their experiences, tell the truth of what haunts them, and give new life to stories and ideas that might not otherwise be heard.
While Danticat acknowledges the guilt that accompanies writing from the other side of suffering, this book serves as a powerful reminder that honest and successful creation is always informed by experience.
Though the book is written for immigrant artists, its wisdom can apply to any realm. Whether it’s building a company or product that addresses a past trauma or challenge, or finding ways to bridge artistry and entrepreneurship with social good, the role of past hardships can play a crucial role in innovating for the future.
Through this book, readers are reminded that setbacks make creativity all the more necessary. Danticat brings to light the truth of hardship and inspires a desire to create—even from places of despair. Create Dangerously asks readers to reconsider suffering as a catalyst for meaningful expression.
This next book takes a more pragmatic approach to analysing economic and financial challenges. Mullainathan and Shafir, a behavioral economist and psychologist, respectively, offer up important research that looks closely at scarcity―how it operates, how to navigate it, and what people can do to attain success when material and financial resources are in shortage.
What makes this book so impactful is that it excavates the underlying, systemic causes of economic struggle, as well as day-to-day methods that can be outstandingly useful to better achieving success in the face of scarcity. This knowledge is particularly impactful for those building businesses and ventures with the hope of creating a more equal, just world.
These days, we’re encouraged to do whatever it takes to increase our productivity, grow our income, and reap the rewards of a wealth-centered future. As we know, however, there are very real barriers that prevent some individuals and groups from accessing the financial and material resources needed to achieve economic prosperity.
These chapters challenge those in power—whether policy-makers or business owners—to take a closer look at the big picture barriers that keep people in poverty, while also offering useful, practical advice for those experiencing scarcity.
This book not only validates the circumstances that affect low-income Americans, but also explains the psychology behind it, providing a thorough account of why people confronted with scarcity think and behave as they do.
The underlying goal of this book is to empower readers. Through understanding how economic inequality works, readers can better plan for the future. In these pages, readers will learn how to counteract common thinking and behavioral patterns, and become better equipped to break scarcity cycles in their own lives and communities.
Having What Matters is a useful guide for defining what success looks like on a personal level. So many self-help books rely on inspiration tropes that basically reiterate common sense. This book, in contrast, sets itself apart.
Monique Greenwood provides vulnerable anecdotes from her own life to give clear examples and step-by-step advice on how to use adversity as motivation for achieving your goals. This book is an especially great resource for those seeking a detailed and comprehensive guide to building the life they want.
Greenwood encourages her readers to derive meaning from what they love. In many ways, Greenwood takes a similar approach to success as Marie Kondo does to tidying up: if it doesn’t bring you joy, ditch it.
If you’re looking to create a life of meaning through personal and professional success, Greenwood’s book is filled with useful, detailed advice for shifting your perspective a full 180. Many of us tend to think that pursuing our dreams means working harder, but these chapters remind us that mentality can do wonders, that we don’t have to exhaust ourselves to win, and that affirming our self-worth can radically change the outcome of our pursuits.
Though it’s written with Black women readers in mind, Having What Matters is a must-read for any woman, especially those looking to move beyond their current realities and achieve the extraordinary.