Book Review · leadership · Self Help · Summer Read · thoughts

Start with Why

51BlNddi+NL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_My kid was playing around on my Kindle and accidentally bought “Start with Why How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek.  By the time I realized how this mystery book had gotten into my kindle library, it was too late to return it.  It seemed a little like a divine universal library message,  so I took the bait and started reading Start with Why on the plane yesterday.

While it’s a little bit dry and more about marketing and business than anything else, the main point, the WHY, is really interesting.  If you enjoy reading Strengths Based Leadership and ClickStart with Why would be a good follow up read.

Sinek talks about how companies like Apple and Southwest generate a super almost cult-like loyalty in their customers and how those customers are so loyal, they will gladly pay significantly more money for a product from Apple or Southwest, because they believe in the WHY of those companies.  The interesting thing, is that the WHY for both of these companies is broad enough to allow a lot of growth and development, but focused enough to keep the companies on track.

As someone hoping to launch a small business in a very saturated market, it was a bit of a surprise to read about how chronic sales tanked GM and how typical marketing tactics tend to bring in single visit customers instead of repeat customers.  According to Sinek, a solid WHY that resounds with people is the path to repeat customers and a loyal client base.  I’m only about halfway through the book, but have found myself asking “WHY” for my job, my business, my blog, everything.  Super fun to see how a single concept can trickle down into so many different thoughts.

Until next time, happy reading and cheers!

-R

2 Stars · Book Review · Bust · Grandparents · Self Help

The Storm: How Young Men Become Good Men by Dan Blanchard

51dpXd9m+UL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Holy freezing in May, Batman!  The weather this month has been nuts.  I didn’t even realize it until now, but The Storm was a great title pick for the last few weeks.  We’ve gone from upper 70’s to snow and back again.  Anyway, on to The Storm: How Young Men Become Good Men by Dan Blanchard.  This was another free Amazon kindle pick and I’m undecided on whether I liked it or not.

The Storm is essentially one very long conversation between a grandfather, Granddaddy, and his teenage grandson, Dakota.  During a walk, the two take shelter in a park picnic pavilion to avoid the rain storming around them.  As they talk, Granddaddy shares his life secrets for success with Dakota, who has started learning his own lessons through trial and error.  While the premise of the book is sweet, the conversation tends to read as a giant checklist of motivational quotes and practices from every great thinker and self-help guru since the dawn of time.

The character development in The Storm is incredibly weak.  We learn that Granddaddy fought in WWII, is still married to Dakota’s grandmother and is estranged from his son, who is Dakota’s father, but we never learn much more about him than that.  We don’t know why he isn’t actively involved in Dakota’s life.  It also bothered me that despite not being around, Granddaddy and Dakota seem to have a strong and open relationship.  It also bothered me that Grandma and Mom remained vague mysterious characters who weren’t mentioned, Dad was stereotypical and Big Brother was the martyr hero type.  Not even Dakota was fleshed out.  We learn he is a high school wrestler dealing with an abusive father and has a pretty girlfriend who tends to be a positive influence.  Aside from his wrestling training and occasional references to the difficulties with his dad, Dakota remained very one dimensional and just wasn’t believable as a teenage character.

My biggest pet peeve with the entire book was how unnatural and forced the conversational style between Granddaddy and Dakota felt.  Granddaddy would ask Dakota if he knew who Michael Phelps was and instead of answering “yeah” like a normal teenager, Dakota would answer like a Wikipedia entry, “Michael Phelps is US Olympic Swimmer who won 28 medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics”.  Multiply that by about a hundred other anecdotes and it got old, quick.

I did enjoy a lot of the quotes in The Storm and I liked the idea of a grandparent sharing so lovingly and openly with their grandchildren.  I just wish there would have been some more personality infused into Granddady and Dakota and that their entire history and family line had been really fleshed out.

Overall, the book was a quick read, it just wasn’t very deep or life changing.  Going to rate this one somewhere around 2.5 stars.

Until next time, happy reading!

Cheers-

R

 

 

Book Review · Hot Tea Reads · Self Help · thoughts

The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

81Vm2dmzI4L._AC_UL436_Happy New Year Everyone!

Just in time for all of our New Year Resolutions, I just finished the latest offering by Joshua Becker, the Minimalist guru from the blog Becoming Minimalist.  The Minimalist Home is Becker’s 4th book and continues his life’s work to inspire minimalism in the face of today’s rabid over-consumption.  This is by far Becker’s best writing. In the same way his blog posts have developed from personal musings to beautiful inspirations, The Minimalist Home is cleaner, stronger and more genuine than his previous works.  

Utilizing the floor plan of his flagship course, Uncluttered, Becker takes readers room-by-room in a whole house decluttering process.  Unlike other decluttering or minimalist books, Becker focuses on the WHY. Inspirational stories line each chapter, citing minimalism for positive changes in finances, mental well being, relationships and decreasing stress.  Becker also stresses against the idea that minimalists own absolutely nothing or live in snooty modern art-deco apartments full of white square furniture. His brand of minimalism feels authentic and attainable, a returning to our roots of sorts, rather than a total life overhaul.  

Readers who’ve taken Becker’s Uncluttered course may find the material rehashed in The Minimalist Home, albeit in a cleaner, stronger format.  Regardless, the material is a great refresher and this minimalist wannabe (and former Uncluttered participant) found great inspiration in The Minimalist Home.  My particular favorite and most needed chapters were those focused on the garage/yard and arts/crafts, categories not covered thoroughly in the Uncluttered Course.

One of the surprising take-aways in The Minimalist Home was the gentleness in which Becker approaches saying goodbye and letting go of our idealized selves.  Many of us purchase, keep or collect things because of who we want(ed) to be, rather than who we are. By letting go of these idealized self purchases, we can make room for our true selves to grow, bring light or happiness into other people’s lives or just make room to breathe without the imposed expectations (or perceived failures) looming over us in every nook and cranny.  

Becker also gently approaches the various stages in life that require different decluttering processes; new babies, multiple kids, empty nesting.  It’s this gentle approach of moderation and understanding as well as his standard “less doesn’t mean none” that I believe makes Becker’s message palatable to the masses.  He’s not asking you to give up everything and live uncomfortable and unhappily out of a backpack for the sake of minimalism. He’s asking you to take a look at your current self and who you’d like to be and then removing any physical barriers, literally, that impede you from being your best self.

All in all, this book is a quick and enjoyable read.  Ironically, the only part of The Minimalist Home that I did not enjoy was the “tweetable” boxed sections.  For an author and a book that focuses on developing an Iconic Style rather than falling prey to Fast Fashion, the tweet boxes feel a little out of place and will, in my opinion, date the book.  

I highly recommend The Minimalist Home, particularly for folks looking to create a calm peaceful home environment for themselves, their spouses, their children, their guests or even their pets.  I’ve followed the author’s blog for years now and have dutifully read each of his books and taken his course. His message resounds strongly in my soul and I have made many many big changes to my own consumption habits (including a mindful reduction in plastic consumption and mindful gift giving) because of his writing.

Happy New Year, Happy Reading and Cheers!

-R

 

Book Review · Bust · Self Help · thoughts

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

518iXO-fmcL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Hey Y’all!

I’m back from the best summer vacation ever, a 5 day summer camp in Michigan!  It was uh-mazing.  Camp fires, sing-alongs, yoga, morning runs, dance parties, lake swimming, adventure races, great food and bunking with 9 total strangers who became your best friends by the end of the trip.  I literally can’t stop talking about it.

The only (and I do mean ONLY) disappointment from this trip was my book choice.  Girl, Wash Your Face was highly recommended and discussed profusely over Facebook by one of my nearest and dearest.  Her opinion paired with a 92% 5 star rating on Amazon was enough to get me to purchase this book.  I want my $12 back.

Rachel Hollis is not a life coach or a mentor, she is a life-style blog guru and event planner, so Girl, Wash Your Face is not written in your normal self-help style.  This is refreshing but also a little bit annoying.  The chapters and story telling felt insanely disjointed and often repeated across different chapters but with new or different information.  Even after reading the entire book, I had no idea who Rachel Hollis was.  I didn’t know the name of her blog or why it was so famous.  I didn’t know how many kids she actually had.  2 boys?  4 boys?  A daughter?  Where they all adopted?  Some natural, some adopted?  I had no idea where she actually lived or came from.  Based on her voice, she came across as a girl from the deep south with lots of Southern colloquialisms and uber Christian values/sayings.  Surprise!  She’s from a small town in California.  WHAT?  Didn’t see that coming.  Was she a recovering alcoholic?  Someone who realized they were about to drop off that cliff?  Still don’t know.  Granted, none of these are things I know about Jen Sincero, Liz Gilbert or Mark Manson, however none of these authors talked so profusely about themselves in their books.  Hollis’ books is essentially a memoir with a few self-help-isms tossed in.  I love a good memoir, but prefer to read them about people I am interested in and would not have picked up Hollis’ book if it had been billed as a memoir and not a self-help.

Speaking of self-help, let’s get to that.  Hollis essentially starts each chapter with a “lie” she has told herself about herself, something negative and ugly.  This has the power to be profound, but it ends up feeling forced.  Something about Hollis’ writing comes across as insincere and flippant.  The entire book, in my opinion, comes across as immature, vapid and thrown together.  I think most of this comes from her choice to write in a very casual trendy manner, using words and cultural references that will in no way stand the test of time.  I am the same age as Hollis and couldn’t stand the blippy slang she used CONSTANTLY.  (And yes, I just made up a word because I can’t find any other words to describe what would otherwise be bubble-headed basic bitch slang.)

As mentioned before, there were a lot of stories that were repeated within chapters and many of those stories weren’t well fleshed out.  The most powerful story in the book, about her brother’s suicide and how it completely changed her life, wasn’t really given any more emotion or space than any other topic.

Hollis has a lot to talk about and a lot of experiences that really resonate with her readers; her brother’s suicide and subsequent melt down of her family, an abusive relationship, struggles with adoption and foster care, flirting with alcoholism, being a successful working mom, creating her own empire, becoming an author.  But she lets her readers down with her bubble-headed approach to everything.  Yes, be positive, be light, be fun.  But Girl, be smart, be mature, be profound.

All in all, 2 stars.  0 from me, 2 because my bestie loved this book and our discussion about it was very deep and brought up a lot of great topics for us to flesh out around motherhood, career and the need for validation.

Until next time, happy reading!

-R

OOOOHHH and before I forget..Michigan is apparently “The Beer State”.  While there, I was able to try some amazing beer from Founders Brewing Company.  Dirty Bastard, a Scotch, style ale was fantastic.  It was a very strong beer and tasted a little smokey, but good.  Backwoods Bastard, a bourbon barrel-aged scotch ale, was insanely strong.  At 11% this beer went down more like whiskey and was not a great choice for breakfast at the airport!

Bad Ass Women · Book Review · Cupa Tea · Self Help · thoughts · Wheat Beer

The craziness of Amazon book reviews…(And The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and Big Magic)

Y’all know by now that I am a self-help book junkie.  After being waitlisted for so long I forgot they were even on my library’s waitlist, I finally got The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  In a fun surprise, Gilbert actually mentions Manson as one of her favorite bloggers and uses one of his posts in her book.  Super cool to get some reading synchronicity like that, particularly since Overdrive auto-checked out both books to me at the same time.

Anyway, both books brought a lot of really good thinking and talking points.  Manson’s book is honestly like having a super in depth life conversation with  your super drunk frat-boy friend, except you’re not drunk and he’s making a lot of really good points.  Yes, the language is over the top, even for me, but that’s part of the book’s magic.  As you read, you totally get the feeling that Manson is speaking to you and that’s EXACTLY how he talks.  As the book progresses and gets into deeper and finer points, Manson tones the language down a bit, but still manages to throw in some random-ass sayings that only a total drunk-ass would come up with.  The last chapter did feel a bit weird and out of place, it probably should have been edited out, but overall I loved this book and think the key to enjoying it is to approach it the same way you’d approach the bar patio picnic table that is currently home to your very drunk friend…with your favorite beer, some fries, and an open mind.

Big Magic,  while totally different from The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck, had the same one-on-one convo vibe.  Although instead of having a convo with your super drunk frat boy friend, this convo is with a beloved mentor/friend who is giving you all of the advice they’ve stored up for 50 years, almost like a retirement speech.  At the end of the book, Gilbert mentions that Big Magic was inspired by her Ted Talk, which really should have been part of the intro or first chapter, as Big Magic TOTALLY reads like a bunch of Ted Talks instead of connected chapters.  So while you read Manson’s book with a beer and fries, Big Magic requires some fruity tea in a delicate cup and scones.  Or mimosas and poppy seed muffins….(or maybe I’m just hungry…anyway…moving on…).  I really appreciated Gilbert’s take on inspiration (you just gotta move in some sort of direction (any direction!) and inspiration will follow), how you don’t always need a college degree before you can become great (just start creating!), and perfection (the enemy of progress!).  When read as multiple Ted Talks bound into a single book, Big Magic is great for quick tips and tricks on motivation, inspiration and short bursts of Gilbert’s own life.

Which brings me to the Amazon reviews for these two books.  While both are highly rated, I was amused by several of the reviews that gave 2 stars.  One reviewer gave Gilbert’s book 2 stars because the author wears perfume, which is bad for the environment or animals or something (who knows, the review was rambly and random!).  It was such a bizarre review, considering that was literally one line in the entire book and Gilbert was only mentioning how when she loses inspiration, she gets herself all fancied up, which in her case includes lipstick and perfume, as a way to attract inspiration.  It’s quite good advice, as most fitness gurus will tell you that putting on your workout clothes will essentially force you out the door on days when you don’t want to work out.  It just cracked me up that someone would focus on a single point and miss so many other fantastic points in a book.  Definitely a review written by a small picture person.

For Manson’s book, many of the 2 star reviews were “due to vulgar language”.  Seriously, if you pick up a book with a title like “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and then you get offended by the language inside the book, it is totally your own fault, as the title was a very LARGE clue to the personality of the author.

In an interesting twist, both books got a lot of reviews that said something like “this book is full of advice for younger people”.  I can see this being true for Manson’s book, my Grandma probably wouldn’t get as much out of it as my brother, but Gilbert’s book felt a lot less directed towards a specific market.  Big Magic seemed to be geared towards creatives of all ages looking for some friendly advice.  Many reviewers seemed upset that neither book offered any practical steps towards not giving a F*ck or finding their own magic, however if you read between the lines, the magic of these books comes from the fact that they don’t give you a cookie cutter recipe to follow.  Sort of like some modern day Mr. Miagi randomness that you have to figure out for yourself.

If you are looking for some practical steps, Big Magic would pair well with The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.  The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck would pair well (ironically, I know) with Brene Brown’s Rising Strong or The Gifts of Imperfection.

That’s all for today, so until next time, happy reading!

Cheers,

R!

Favorite Books · Self Help

My 5 Favorite Books to Jump Start Your New Year

Happy New Year Dear Readers!

It’s that time of year when we call go nuts making resolutions and big plans for the year ahead.  Whether you’re hoping to lose weight, stop smoking, be more social, read more, or take control of your finances, there’s guaranteed to be a book for you!  Here are 5 of my favorite “self-help” books.  Enjoy!

  1. The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything by Joshua Becker
  2. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  3. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
  4. The Life Changing Habit of Cleaning Up by Marie Kondo
  5. The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley
classics · finance · minimalism · Self Help

Wrapping up 2017: The Millionaire Next Door, Madame Bovary and Babbitt

As I finalized my books read list for 2017 the other day, I started reflecting on the year’s book choices and realized many of them were rooted in challenging the status quo, particularly the thoughts and habits built around consumerism and finance.

“The Millionaire Next Door”, was recommended by my mentor as a tool to frame how we were setting our financial goals as a family.  I expected a “get rich quick” theme or endless lecture similar to Dave Ramsey or Rich Dad, Poor Dad.  What I got instead was a life changing paradigm shift.  The Millionaire Next Door really opened my eyes to how we personally and culturally define “success”, how we measure ourselves against a name brands and labels, and most notably how research shows that the “rich” among us are not the ones buying big flashy expensive new things.  Without a doubt, this book changed my life.

While The Millionaire Next Door sat brewing in my brain for several months, I picked up Madame Bovary, a classic French novel written in 1856.  The story follows the beautiful Madame Bovary who drives her family to ruin with her boredom and endless search for meaning in frivolous material pursuits.  Unfortunately for Madame, the unhappiness she finds in her very normal and simple life cannot be cured by her many debt-inducing purchases, the birth of her only child, nor the affairs with handsome interesting young men, leading poor Madame to commit suicide while her husband and child deal with the fallout of her selfish decisions.  While the language can be a bit old fashioned, Madame Bovary is every bit as relevant today as it was 160 years ago.

The universe popped “Babbitt” into my hands shortly after Madame Bovary.  Sinclair Lewis did an amazing job capturing the mind and emotions of a middle aged man who had already achieved significant wealth and success but was caught between his desperation for his youth, more money, further success, his endless lust for acceptance by his peers and being happy.

I absolutely hated Babbitt and his grandiose speeches, his wishy washy nature, his constant need to be loved, admired and respected by his peers.  His constant scheming, planning and ladder climbing left me grossed out and I felt like nothing Babbitt did ever felt genuine or true.   Again, a credit to the author, who created a character so wholly flawed you can’t help but feel sorry for him, even though you hate him.

Until next time, may you find the time to curl up with a good book and a pot of tea!

Cheers!

Bad Ass Women · beach read · Mimosas · Self Help · Summer Read

The Doctor Is In

If there is one type of book I can’t resist, it’s a good old fashioned self help book.  I just can’t help it.  They’re fun, easy to read and occasionally you’ll find a gem in the heap of unconventional life advice.  Self help book are like the flea market of literature.  You never know what treasures you’ll pull out of the pile.  We’re at the beach again this week and my trusty Kindle companion has been Dr. Ruth Westheimer.  Prior to reading “The Doctor Is In”, my knowledge of Dr. Ruth consisted of: cute little old lady with a funny accent giving sex advice.  Post read, I want Dr. Ruth to be my spirit animal. the doctor is in

At only 4’7″ tall, this German Jew refugee has led enough life for ten people.  After escaping Germany on a kindertransport and earning a degree in housekeeping from her Swiss boarding home, she relocated to Israel, becoming a sniper (!) for the Israel army.  In Israel, she became a teenage bride and migrated to France with equally young husband.  After a brief marriage, Dr. Ruth chose her education over marriage and spent the next five years in France.  After another marriage, the birth of her first child and relocating to America, Dr. Ruth found her home and a slew of degrees in New York.  It wasn’t until her 50’s that this wickedly funny therapist found her calling and catapulted to fame on her radio show.  The rest as they say, is history…a history spanning over three decades, 35 books, and countless tv and radio shows.  Dr. Ruth is now a staple of American pop culture!

With a history like hers, it would have been very easy for Dr. Ruth to settle where she was and stick with her lot as a child refugee, a migrant house keeper, a poor single working mom.  Instead, she made the best out of every situation, often edging her way into opportunities, experiences and adventures that were both interesting, scary, and worth the risk she took to get there.

After reading countless self-help books written by numerous bad-ass women, I can say that Dr. Ruth without a doubt, takes the cake.  While most self-help books for women encourage confidence and taking risks, Dr. Ruth’s age and background bring a depth of energy, experience and reality that can be somewhat lacking in other books of this sort.  Yoga books in this genre, in particular, can be harder to connect to.  The author’s story can feel out of touch or out of reach, particularly when they pack up their life and spend months at yoga retreats in exotic locations.  As an ambitious woman with loads of impatient energy and an honest writing style, Dr. Ruth is easily relatable.  We’ve all employed a sneaky trick or two to catch a man,  plotted and schemed for way to advance our careers or relationships, and jumped into things head first while still feeling totally unprepared , scared, worried, and impatient.  This complete relatable-ness makes reading “The Doctor Is In” comparable to sharing secrets with a giggling grandmother over mimosas at a bridal shower.  It’s fun, it’s enlightening and it’ll leave you in a good mood.

Happy reading my friends!

 

 

 

Bad Ass Women · Favorite Books · Grab a Martini · Self Help

How to Dress for Success by Edith Head

how to dress for successWe’ve gotten quite a few graduation announcements and invites this year and I’ve been so excited to mail off Congratulations cards with a few little gifts tucked inside.  Of all the gifts I received over the years, there are several books that were literally life changing and would make fantastic graduation gifts.  One of those books was How to Dress for Success by Edith Head.

This book changed my entire approach to fashion, shopping, personal style and gently nudged me on the path towards minimalism.  Prior to reading this book, my closet was full of ill-fitting fast fashion, a thousand different styles for every body type but mine, and a bunch of clothes that I would never wear.  This book opened my eyes to the reality of doing more with less.  While Edith Head never even mentions the words “capsule wardrobe” or “minimalism”, the concept is clear: a few quality pieces of clothing that fit well, are well kept, and accessorized properly can make a killer wardrobe.

For those interested in classic vintage style, this book is a gold mine.  With that said, much of the book is full of old school wisdom that seems more appropriate for the 1950’s than today.  However, the concepts, ideas and suggestions are perfect for young professionals looking to make their mark as stylish and well groomed without breaking the bank.

 

 

 

Self Help

My Super Secret Weapon…How to Win Friends & Influence People

how to win friendsLast week I had the task of presenting to a group of people who had previously been given incorrect information about my project.  Setting the record straight is never easy and it was a daunting task that left me nervous and sweaty right up until show time.  It took me a good month to create the 30 minute presentation, which luckily, went off without a hitch.   Many of the guests thanked me afterward and their smiles and friendly conversation were a sign that the presentation had hit its mark.

When one of the guests asked for advice in her own similar campaign, I immediately recommended she read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  My entire presentation was guided loosely by the advice contained in this 80 year old book, starting with “Smile” and “Remember names”.

Knowing the topic was already heated and folks were bringing reactions to previously incorrect information with them, it was particularly important to follow “The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it”, “let the other person save face”, and “show respect for other person’s opinions”.  Starting an argument with these folks, tossing the previous informant under the bus, or belittling their concerns would win me no friends and would definitely not earn me their trust or respect.  Instead, I used a few more of Carnegie’s timeless gems by “talking in terms of the other person’s interest” and “making the other person feel important” while also “appealing to the nobler motives”.

With the entire presentation designed to defuse the situation by avoiding being argumentative, respecting and understanding people’s current concerns and reactions, and letting them know they were important to me, I was able to get the result I wanted: an audience who had overridden incorrect information with correct information.

This book not only gave me the tools to run a smooth presentation, it changed my entire life.  By nature, I am an observer and often waited for people and things to come to me.  As you can imagine, there was a lot of disappointment in observing opportunities headed my direction only to lose them because I didn’t know how to meet those opportunities head on or blew the networking tied to those opportunities.  After reading “How to Win Friends and Influence People”, I stopped waiting for things to happen and instead applied the skills from this book to go get them or at least meet them half way.  More than any other book, I recommend everyone read this one, particularly high school students and college grads starting the interview circuit.

Until next time, happy reading!