Stay-at-Home Book Club: Upstream

*I changed it to “Stay-at-Home” since it has a bit more neutral connotation than “Stuck-at-Home.” đŸ™‚

Today I’d like to recommend a work of narrative nonfiction. Narrative nonfiction is sometimes called “fact-based storytelling,” “long-form journalism,” or “creative journalism” and it is one of my favorite genres. Malcolm Gladwell’s work would fall into this category, as does the work of the Heath brothers, who have brought us books like Made to Stick, Switch, Decisive, and The Power of Moments. 

If you’re looking for recommendations for SIP reading, I recommend all of their books!

upstream

Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen is the newest book by Dan Heath. He wrote this one solo, as Chip is focusing on working with people on “Power of Moments” trainings.

The book follows their effective formula – if it ain’t broke and all… Heath’s thesis is that for effective problem solving, we need to go “upstream” to the root cause, rather than waiting to “put out fires,” just to mix some metaphors. He features examples from a wide range of domains, such as education, healthcare, the criminal justice system, business, inter-personal relationships. And so the applications for the upstream method of problem-solving are wide as well.

I found the book to be relatable, even painfully so. It’s a great book to spark thoughts about relationships, health, work, ministry, raising children, changing some habits, and more.

Since I’m a teacher by trade and I work with youth, I was intrigued by the account of the Chicago Public School system, as well as the drastic decrease in teenaged drug and alcohol use in Iceland. But there were so many other cool stories that I am continuing to think about.

As is the case, now that I’m aware of upstreaming, I’m seeing it everywhere (see: Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or frequency illusion – like when you learn a new word and then “all of a sudden” see it everywhere). For example, in the memorable section on ripple effects and unintended consequences, I thought of how Covid-19 is effecting California’s ability to prepare for our upcoming wildfire season.  Some states have made the decision not to conduct controlled burns, as the smoke may exacerbate respiratory issues. But we’ve also had a super dry winter season, so our attempt to help in one way is rippling out to another issue. And with the need to social distance, fighting wildfires is going to be another challenge. I’m not criticizing the decision regarding controlled burns, but trying to appreciate how living out the upstreaming way of problem-solving is challenging but also necessary. (It also ties in nicely with the “putting out fires” metaphor…sorry, had to go there!)

The audiobook is great for this book as well, so I hope you’ll find a way to read it. Imagine a world in which we all upstreamed!

Have you read Upstream yet? Any other books you’ve been reading that you recommend?

1 thought on “Stay-at-Home Book Club: Upstream

  1. Wow! Thanks for sharing! Had no idea this book was out already! I had heard something about this book earlier this year.

    I just finished Above All by JD Greear. Great read! Really good for passion week as well, and it’s really affirming to know that the head of the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) also shares our heart in terms of planting churches and that everyone is called to be a minister. Some of the stories he uses in other books are repeated, but they are still really good.

    I just got out for Easter Vacation, so I have next week to read some books, will definitely add Upstream to the top of my list.

    Liked by 1 person

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