In a year of small steps forward and some steps back, we are profoundly grateful for all of you— the authors, readers, editors, agents, and publishers we have had the honor of learning from and working with. You always remain our greatest teachers. In that spirit, we’d like to share twelve essential lessons we’ve learned this year that we’ll be carrying into 2022.
1. Our Most Important Relationship Is With Our Inner Voice
Mental well-being was on everyone’s minds as we re-entered the world. And, thanks to people like Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and others, we are beginning to end the social stigma of talking about mental health. Thanks to psychologist Ethan Kross and his international bestselling book Chatter, we now have the tools to turn our inner critic into our inner coach. From distanced self-talk to organizing our outer clutter for our inner clarity, Chatter gives us the resources to focus on what we can control.
2. How We Die Can Teach Us How To Live
We don’t have to have a near-death experience to learn how we want to live our lives. Dr. Bruce Greyson, Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia, and author of the book After, gave us a fascinating look into near-death moments and how they can transform our daily lives. After reminds us of the importance of finding little gratitudes each day, and how acting from a place of love in the present can make every day matter—and calls on all of us to consider what it means for consciousness to continue beyond death.
3. The Time To Take Care Of Your Brain Is NOW
Thanks to leading brain health experts and advocates Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, we now know we can have enormous control over our mental capacity as we age. Their gorgeous The 30-Day Alzheimer’s Solution is filled with scientific tips, recipes, and resources and inspired us to focus on eating more of the NEURO 9—green leafy vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, beans, cruciferous vegetables, berries, herbs and spices, and green tea. The promise of radically reducing our risk of Alzheimer’s Disease by 90% is a powerful motivator!
4. Entrenched Systems Can Be More Just
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner is part of a wave of progressive DAs in power for the first time, committed to creating a system that actually works for the people it is supposed to represent. For the People makes the compelling case that transforming criminal justice is the most important civil rights movement of our time and can be achieved if we’re willing to fight for the power to make change.
5. Trees Are Wired For Collaboration And Communication, And So Are We
In Finding The Mother Tree, forest ecologist Suzanne Simard taught us that the forest is alive and connected: that the trees perceive, respond, connect, protect, share, and converse. Suzanne’s New York Times Bestselling memoir (soon to be a feature film starring Amy Adams) is a riveting account of her personal journey to understand the intelligence and communication of trees.
6. An Awakened Brain Is Our Greatest Buffer Against Depression
In The Awakened Brain, Dr. Lisa Miller, a New York Times Bestselling author and Founder and Director of the Spirituality Mind Body Institute at Columbia University, shows us that spirituality is not only a fundamental human experience that transcends cultures, creeds, and borders, but also is built into our genetic structure. Our brains are designed for spiritual awareness. It buffers us from depression, isolation, and addiction, promotes positive traits like grit, resilience, optimism and tenacity, and allows us to more deeply engage with the world around us. “Every human,” she notes, “is endowed with a natural capacity to perceive a greater reality and consciously connect to the life force that moves in, through, and around us.”
7. We Are Missing 50% Of Our Lives—But We Don’t Have To
Our ability to pay attention is unreliable when we’re under stress. In neuroscientist Amishi Jha’s Peak Mind, she takes us on a journey through her cutting-edge research with elite soldiers and first responders, revealing how mindfulness training helps us to be more successful and satisfied. We did her 12-minute-a-day practice and felt enormous benefits like a reduction in our ever-looming pandemic brain fog, and a strengthening of our focus.
7. Hope Is Our Greatest Survival Trait
Naturalist Dr. Jane Goodall and our own Doug Abrams taught us the four pillars of hope—The Amazing Human Intellect, The Resilience of Nature, The Power of Young People, and The Indomitable Human Spirit—in the instant New York Times Bestseller, The Book of Hope. One of the greatest joys of our year was coming together with over 45,000 people for the Activating Hope Summit who answered the call from Jane to “Let us use the gift of our lives to make this a better world.”
8. There Is A Wildness In All Of Us
Seeing the ways we are connected to nature, and understanding our place in the macrocosm of our world, is more important than ever. In the heart-wrenching stories that make up the unforgettable book, Underwater Wild, we swam alongside Craig Foster (star of My Octopus Teacher) and Ross Frylinck as they discovered the wilds of the South African kelp forests. In the revelatory marine science behind the stunning photos, we learned how to track sea hares, cuttlefish, and limpets, and we witnessed strange new behaviors never before documented in marine biology. We realize that a whole world of wonder and an innate wildness within us all emerges anew when we simply observe.
9. All Disruption Is Personal
In Designing Your New Work Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, who run the Design Program at Stanford, showed us how design thinking can transform our present job, and how it can improve our experience of work in times of disruption (and what a time of disruption it has been!). Not only that, but they shared how design thinking can help prevent your Great Resignation. Their designer mindsets and tools have been invaluable as we navigated the many changes of the last year.
10. Never Doubt The Power Of Stubborn Optimism
In The Future We Choose, now out in paperback, Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac, the architects of the Paris Climate Agreement, showed us the two worlds we are choosing between, taught us the three mindsets that we need to face the future, and the ten steps all of us can take to confront climate change.
11. Troubled Times Are Opportunities For Joy
This year marked the release of the never-before-seen footage shot over five days at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala for The Book of Joy. The film, Mission JOY: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times, invited us to join these mischievous luminaries (the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu) and taught us how to live with joy in the face of life’s inevitable challenges.
12. Our Individual Survival Depends On Our Collective Survival
This was such a monumental year—grappling with the effects of the pandemic, political turmoil, natural disasters, and rejoining our friends and families after so much isolation. Many of these books helped us to find moments of joy, and it was our honor and privilege to share them with you. Our motto has long been: Genius is a collaborative process. This year we recognized all the more how much of our survival as a species and global community is a collaborative effort as well. We don’t know how we would have gotten through the year without you. Thank you. We look forward to sharing another year of creativity, connection, and change in 2022.
In celebration of the season, we are making donations in your honor to the Equal Justice Initiative, The Second Harvest Food Bank, The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, Protect the Sacred, and The Tibetan Children’s Village.
Wishing you a healthy and hopeful New Year,