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Book 354 - A Year of Magical Learning

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Reflection Title: Big Things Come in Small Packages!

Book – The Rise and Reign of Mammals: A New History, From the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to Us by Steve Brusatte

Book Description:

We humans are the inheritors of a dynasty that has reigned over the planet for nearly 66 million years, through fiery cataclysm and ice ages: the mammals. Our lineage includes saber-toothed tigers, woolly mammoths, armadillos the size of a car, cave bears three times the weight of a grizzly, clever scurriers that outlasted Tyrannosaurus rex, and even other types of humans, like Neanderthals. Indeed humankind and many of the beloved fellow mammals we share the planet with today—lions, whales, dogs—represent only the few survivors of a sprawling and astonishing family tree that has been pruned by time and mass extinctions. How did we get here?

Beginning with the earliest days of our lineage some 325 million years ago, Brusatte charts how mammals survived the asteroid that claimed the dinosaurs and made the world their own, becoming the astonishingly diverse range of animals that dominate today’s Earth. Brusatte also brings alive the lost worlds mammals inhabited through time, from ice ages to volcanic catastrophes. Entwined in this story is the detective work he and other scientists have done to piece together our understanding using fossil clues and cutting-edge technology.


Team Mammal! I’ve never been prouder to be a mammal than I am right now after finishing this book. All of us, from humans, to elephants, to bats, to whales, to lions, to sloths, to marsupials, to horses, to lemurs, and everything in between are simply incredible. The unique ways that each of us have evolved over time to survive and thrive in this ever-changing world is truly remarkable. I’m in awe of team mammal!

Quick summary of some of my findings:

1. Teeth and Jaws - I’m going to never miss a dentist appointment every again because our teeth and jaws are our key to survival.

2. Big Brains need Big Calories – access to reliable food sources is always key.

3. Being able to regulate our internal body temperatures ourselves vs being subjected to the environment was a game changer

4. Mammary glands, ie producing milk, is why we are called mammals…I had no idea.

5. Our Ear bones are actually former jaw bones. That is wild. We used to hear through our jaws and I guess still do to a certain extent.

6. Birds are dinosaur descendants??? What?

7. Whales once walked this earth as hooved creatures like a cow. Mind blown!

8. Mammals were around during the time of the dinosaurs.

9. When temperatures rise, mammals get smaller. When temperatures cool, we get bigger. – Every wonder why the tallest people live in Scandinavia and the smallest are around the equators?

All those things listed above were cool to learn about, but the most mind-blowing new thing I discovered was how mammals survived the asteroid that wiped the dinosaurs off the face of the earth.

We survived because we were small!!

We weren’t just small; we were like rodent sized. That’s right, we, the mighty human beings, are descendants of rodents. Our ability to burrow, hide, and eat all different kinds of food sources with our amazing teeth allowed us to endure and survive. I’ve always heard the joke that rats will be the only thing still around after the apocalypse, and that probably isn’t too far from the truth. Turns out that we are descendants of the “rats” that survived the asteroid impact that took out like 90% of the preexisting life on earth. Wild…right?

This mind-blowing new piece of information got me thinking about my own life as a small human. I’m not a tall person. I’m only 5’5 and weigh 130 pounds. I’ve always been the smallest guy in damn near every room I have ever entered my entire life. I’ve never loved it if I’m being honest. I don’t think I’ve ever really let it hinder my growth or evolution in this life, but I know what people think of me when they first meet me. If they are a male, they immediately think, oh this guy isn’t a threat. I can see it on their faces. As a small man, you get dismissed pretty quickly in this life by everyone taller than you. If the person I meet happens to be a female, I can feel them unconsciously dismissing me as a potential mate due to my physical stature.

I can’t blame any of them because being small is seen as a sign of weakness in this world. David vs. Goliath is a fun story, but we all know that 99 out of 100 times Goliath wins. We think if you want the best odds to survive and thrive then you should be big and specialized. If I’m being honest, deep down inside I’ve always felt that they are probably right, which is why I think I’ve always been so competitive my whole life.

Not so fast my big, tall, and specialized friends…you all may want to think twice about your strategy because bigger is not always better. After reading this book, my paradigms just shifted 180 degrees. I’m now proud as hell to be the smallest guy in the room, because we are fighters! We adapt and we endure because we must. We are the generalist fox because we have no other choice. We, the small, instinctively must constantly learn, move, and adapt in order to survive, and survive we do.

Next time you want to be dismissive to someone or something smaller than yourself, keep this in mind. Big things come in small packages! You may not see it, but don’t forget that nothing in this world is ever too big to fail. It is just a matter of time. Being big and specialized makes you fragile. Being small, nimble, and adaptable makes you anti-fragile.

We are ready for the fight, are you? In case you forget, just remember that the strongest person any of you will ever meet just so happened to be a 1lb 1-ounce little girl named Emilia Quinn Sears.

PS – A question popped in my mind after typing this reflection. I wondered, what is the average height of a centenarian (meaning someone that lives past 100) male! The answer…5’2! Interesting

Question: How might thinking small help you to do big things in life?



What is The Year of Magical Learning? - An Introduction

YOML Podcast Discussion - Coming Soon

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