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Monday, December 10, 2018

General Colin Powell — Success

Monday, July 2, 2018

Mark Twain — Courage

Ask yourself what you are afraid of? What fears control your actions? What fears are holding you back? Are you afraid of snakes? Heights? Success? Math? A blank piece of paper? Silence? A blank canvas? The neighbor's dog?

In 1972 I was traveling through the western United States and decided to visit a mentor from my childhood who was living in British Columbia, Canada at the time. Ernie was a lumberjack turned minister and missionary.  He had been the camp director of a Bible camp that I had attended every summer from the age of ten until high school.  He was physically a very strong man.  He could grab a pole with both hands and raise his legs in the air until they were parallel with the floor much like a flag.

I spent a couple of weeks with him in the Canadian Rockies.  One time he took a group of us on a two-day canoe ride on a large lake.  I saw from a distance a grizzly bear fishing for salmon.  On our way home we encountered fog and lost our way.  After going in a circle a couple of times, Ernie stopped the canoes and asked us to bow our heads in prayer.  Despite his strength, Ernie knew that he could not let fear conquer him so he turned to God, the one source of strength that he knew.  

Creative leaders must learn to shake off the chains of fear. Fear can prevent us from taking risks, trying new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking. Each of us must find the courage to do what we desire to do despite our fears.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Frankling D. Roosevelt — Doubt

Throughout my career I have faced doubts about decisions that I have made.  When I accepted my first writing job in health care, I experienced doubt.  I knew nothing about long-term care.  Fortunately, I had a good boss and his encouragement allowed me to work through my doubt.  

Five years later I was offered a position in marketing, and again I experienced doubt despite having built a reputation for hard work and creative thinking within the company.  I knew nothing about marketing and had no desire to be a sales person.  Again, having the encouragement of my new boss as well as a willingness to learn from others, I was able to move beyond the doubt to success.

We all have doubts and those doubts sometimes hinder our success. Have your doubts ever stopped you from doing what you wanted to do?  I have dreamed over the years from starting my own business.  Yet, my fears and doubts have sometimes prevented me from moving ahead.  

 I have often second guessed myself. When I buy something, I always question why I did what I did. When I trade in a car for a new one, I begin to doubt the decision I made. What doubts are preventing you from becoming the person you want to be?

New managers often have doubts about their talents and abilities.  They are uncomfortable with the decisions they are called upon to make.  They are uncertain about whether the employees like them or not.

Beginning writers and artists often have doubts about their talents and abilities. Even seasoned writers who have published multiple books may still have doubts when they begin a new book. "Do I still have what it takes? Can I pull it off again?" 

Fear and doubt are normal responses to a new activity or situation. If we allow ourselves to wallow in self-doubt, we will never move beyond it. We must find a way to believe in ourselves and our abilities.  What are you doing to push through the doubt to success?

Confidence is one of the keys to success. Even when you don't feel confident, you need to act confident. You need to walk tall and proud. Don't let your doubts hold you back. Act confident today.

"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today."
— Franklin D. Roosevelt 

Monday, April 30, 2018

William Butler Yeats - Education

Good morning, Creative Leaders.

Have a very creative week and choose to plant seeds of hope in the hearts of others.

Monday, April 23, 2018

John Quincy Adams — Mentors

Leadership is about relationships — the people whom we inspire and those who have inspired us.  Who have been your mentors? Who has helped you along the way? I believe we must from time to time stop and acknowledge those who have assisted on our journey through life. 

Most people start with their parents and move on to their teachers.  My parents gave me a start by paying for my college education. I was the first in either my mother's or father's family to graduate from college. So I have much to be thankful for. And my teachers have been numerous, whether in the classroom or in books or in day-to-day living.  And don't forget your children and grandchildren. They teach us parents so much. They help us to return to the passion of our youth. 

How about the person who hired you into your current job? He or she saw something in you that others did not.  Most of us have had job interviews where we did not get the job.  How about the person who hired you into that most important first job in your career?  The person who hired me into my first job in health care was a man named Wes Faulkner.  He saw something in me that others did not.  He taught me much about creativity, writing and corporate politics.

I could list hundreds of people who have touched my life from beggars whom I gave a handout to the Presidents of companies. None of us live in a vacuum.  Think about your neighbors. The person who mowed your yard when you were sick. The minister who married you. The banker who loaned you money. 

We have so much to be thankful for. Yet, how easily we forget and feel we have nothing — that we have not been as successful as we wanted.  We need to develop an attitude of gratitude — to give thanks each and every today.

Saying thanks, though, is not enough.  We need to give back.  We need to mentor others.  We need to inspire and motivate the people in our lives — the people we manage as well as members of our family and neighborhood.

Who are you mentoring this week?  Who are you inspiring to learn more and achieve more?  

This week focus on the words of John Quincy Adams:  

"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, you are a leader."

Monday, April 16, 2018

Barbara De Angelis — Dance of Life


Too often we spend our time regretting who we were in the past and the mistakes we made.  Or we spend our time dreaming about who we want to be in the future.  We think about what we would do if we had more money or if we were famous.  And we forget about the present.

Life should not be lived in the future nor in the past.  We must learn to live in the present.  This is where the dance of life takes place.  Where are you living?  Somewhere in the past — remembering all the bad things that happened to you or reliving your glory days when you were on top of your game?  Or are you living in some distant future when you are successful, rich and living the dream?

The future will never happen unless we work hard in the here and now — unless we pay attention to what is happening to us at this moment.  The past will always haunt us unless we can learn to forgive ourselves and move beyond the ghosts.

Hold this thought in your mind this week and ponder what it means for your life.

"The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place." 
— Barbara De Angelis

Monday, January 1, 2018

Harley King — Best Books 2017

In 2017 I read 60 books, 12 less then 2016, but the second highest number since I have been recording the books I read on Goodreads.com.  Seventy-three percent of the books were fiction, 25% were non-fiction and 2% were poetry. Of the novels, 6 were fantasy, 5 were science fiction, 5 were historical, 7 were young adult and 14 were mysteries. Of the non-fiction books, 5 were biographies and memoirs. Eighty percent of the books I read were e-books, 15% were physical books and 5% were audio books.

Here are the 12 best books that I read in 2017.

12.  Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  
The Red Tent
I have been wanting to read this book for years and I was not disappointed. This is the retelling of the Biblical story of Jacob from the point of view of his daughter, Dinah. The most shocking part of the book was the massacre perpetrated by two of Jacob's sons. I checked the Bible and found it to be true and it confirmed my belief that the Old Testament is very violent. As a child I embraced the love of Jesus found in the New Testament, but I still have a difficult time understanding the angry, jealous God found in the Old Testament. The latter part of the book where Dinah is living in Egypt was less satisfying for me. I would recommend this book to everyone including both men and women.

11.  Peony, A Novel of China by Pearl Buck
Peony: A Novel of China
Pearl Buck tells a fascinating story in Peony about the immigration of Jews to China and how they assimilated into the Chinese culture. Her story begins as the assimilation is almost complete with only a few people still dreaming of returning to their homeland. The story is set in Kaifeng, China in the early 1800's. While the characters in the novel are fictional, the synagogue and many of the events did occur.

Published in 1948, Peony still has a powerful message for us today as we continue to struggle with immigration. Hunted, persecuted and murdered in much of the world, the Jews in China were welcomed and encouraged to intermarry with the Chinese. Time and intermarriage ultimately lead to assimilation.

Brown Girl Dreaming
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the emotional impact of immigration and assimilation.

10.  Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This was a great book of poetry. Jacqueline Woodson tells her life story through short poems. I would highly recommend it to adults and young adults.  Woodson shares what it meant to her growing up black in America.
The Girl with Ghost Eyes
9.  The Girl With the Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson

The Girl with Ghost Eyes is a fast, fascinating read. Set in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1898, the novel tells the story of Li-Lin, who can see the spirit world. After the death of her husband, she is pulled into adventure where ultimately she is the only one who can save Chinatown and San Francisco from a spirit monster. It is a tribute to Boroson's skill as a writer, that the reader is pulled into the fantasy world that he creates and and is able to accept the outlandish world without question.

8.  Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Counting By 7sCounting by 7s is a young adult book my 9-year-old daughter and I read together. The novelist tells the story of a 12-year-old girl whose parents are killed in a car crash in the first chapter. As the story unfolds we follow the life of Willow Chance as she learns to cope with death and grief. This is a powerful novel that will touch the heart. I recommend that parents read it with their children so they can have important discussions. I also believe that adults can benefit from reading the novel.

7.  The Thing About Jelly Fish by Ali Benjamin

The Thing About JellyfishThis is a fantastic young adult novel that should be read by adults. I read it with my nine-year-old daughter. The story is very emotional because it deals with the death of a friend from drowning and tells how Suzy Swanson, a seventh grader, copes with her grief. The story also revolves around how friends change and grow apart.

Ali Benjamin, a science writer, fills the book with information about jellyfish that educates without being boring or preachy.  I highly recommend this book to adults, teenagers and 9 - 12 year olds. I also recommend that you read and discuss the book with your son or 

6.  The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan

The Kitchen God's WifeAnother excellent novel by Amy Tan. She tells the story of a woman, born in China before World War II, and who escapes to America before the communists take over. She tells the story of a woman whose mother abandons her and her father at a young age. She is sent to be raised in her uncle's house because her father does not want her in his house as a reminder of the woman who left him.

The girl's marriage to a young man is arranged by her uncle and approved by her father. The man is both physically and emotionally abusive to her. She is forced to have sex with him whenever he wants. He even forces her to have sex at gunpoint. A pilot in the war against Japan, the young man chases women and even brings them into their house. He forces his wife to watch. The young woman gives birth to several children who are either born dead or die young.

After the war ends, the young woman is imprisoned because she attempts to abandon her husband. When she is released, she escapes to American where she marries a man who is much kinder than her ex-husband.

A few days after I read the book, I listened to an interview with Amy Tan who was promoting her new memoir. I was amazed at how closely the woman in the novel resembled Tan's mother. I highly recommend this book to lovers of novels.

5.  Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of NIKEA fantastic book about the early days of Nike. Phil Knight started Blue Ribbon in 1962 as a partnership between his college track and field coach and himself. Both invested $500. Knight had a contract with a Japanese shoe manufacturer to sell their shoes in the United States. With an MBA from Stanford, Knight could easily have worked in any large company but his love was running shoes. Shoe Dog is the name given to anyone who loves shoes.

With self-deprecating humor, Knight tells the struggles and the successes of the first 18 years of Nike. He talks about how he almost lost the contract to sell the Japanese shoes and how that same company attempted to buy his company. He tells of the cash flow pro
blems that he faced every year and how his bank reached a point in the relationship where they refused to loan him anymore money even when he had millions of dollars in sales. He shares how lousy of a manager of people he was as well of the stories of how the first employees were hired. These employees built the company with him and ultimately became millionaires.

The book ends when Knight takes Nike public in 1980. He closes the book with one final very personal chapter where he covers the remaining 25+ years. Particularly touching is the story of the death of his oldest son and how he failed him as a father.

This book is a must read for all business people as well as entrepreneurs, runners and anyone who has bought Nike shoes. Knight shares the personnel sacrifice it takes to build a very successful company.

4. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

If you are looking for a great book on business and leadership, then this is the book you should buy and read. Ed Catmull tells the story of the founding of Pixar and its rise to prominence in the world of animation. But the book is also much more. Catmull is a leader who studies and analyzes what it takes to lead other people. He shares the lessons he
 learned. Catmull, as you might imagine, is also a great storyteller, so you won't become bored reading this book. He entices you to keep reading through the stories he tells. This book will be in my top ten books read in 2017.
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Here are a few quotes from the book:

"What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover our problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve." Unfortunately, many managers hide problems from their boss as well as themselves. A leader by definition should be a problem-solver.

"We start from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute. We accept that, without meaning to, our company is stifling that talent in myriad unseen ways. Finally, we try to identify those impediments and fix them." What Catmull recognizes is that many companies unintentionally inhibit their people. Systems and culture often get in the way of creativity. A leader's job is to help clear the roadblocks.

While Pixar was started by George Lucas, the company was owned by Steve Jobs during its early success years. Catmull provides insight into Steve Jobs throughout the book and closes it with a special tribute to Steve. Catmull thinks that Pixar helped Jobs to grow as a leader and manager. He sees Jobs as kinder and gentler then he is often portrayed.

Catmull writes: "Pixar could not have survived without Steve, but more than once in those years, I wasn't sure if we'd survive with him. Steve could be brilliant and inspirational, capable of diving deeply and intelligently into any problem we faced. But he could also be impossible: dismissive, condescending, threatening, even bullying. Perhaps of most concern, from a management standpoint, was the fact that he exhibited so little empathy."

Catmull talks about learning to manage Jobs and to be persistent. He writes: "When we disagreed, I would state my case, but since Steve could think faster than I could, he would often shoot down my arguments. So I'd wait a week, marshal my thoughts, and then come back and explain it again. He might dismiss my points again, but I would keep coming back until one of three things happened: (1) He would say 'Oh, okay, I get it' and give me what I needed; (2) I'd see he was right and stop lobbying; or (3) our debate would be inconclusive, in which case I'd just go ahead and do what I had proposed in the first place."

Catmull also shares his insights into creative teams. He writes: "If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better." He goes on to say: "Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right....It is easy to say you want talented people, and you do, but the way those people interact with one another is the real key. Even the smartest people can form an ineffective team if they are mismatched."

Catmull also spends time discussing trust and telling the truth to each other. He writes: "Telling the truth is difficult, but inside a creative company, it is the only way to ensure excellence....Believe me, you don't want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or matters of policy are being hashed out."

Catmull talks about the importance of making mistakes and learning how to recover. He writes: "Management's job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover."

Creativity, Inc is filled with leadership insights from a leader who has spent his career in the front lines of leadership. Every manager and leader should read and study this book for ideas that will improve their skill at leading teams and organizations. If you read only one book on leadership in the next five years, read Creativity, Inc.

3.  See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng
See You in the Cosmos
In his recordings, Alex shares his trip to New Mexico to attend a rocket festival. He takes a long a rocket he built, hoping to launch it into space with the recordings. In route to the festival, Alex meets Zed and Steve, who help him and drive him first to Las Vegas to help him find his father and then on to Los Angeles to meet his brother. In Vegas, Alex discovers a half-sister, Terra, who joins him on his adventure. When they reach Los Angeles, they discover that Alex's older brother, Ronnie, is in Detroit, so Terra drives Alex back to Colorado, where they discover his mother is missing. Alex has an accident climbing to the roof of his house and winds up in the hospital which triggers an investigation by child services into Alex's home life.

This is an emotional novel that can and will bring tears to the eyes. I read the novel with my 9 year old daughter who was reading it for her book club. Even though it is billed as a novel for young adults, I know adults will enjoy it too. I highly recommend that parents read and discuss it with their children. The book highlights some difficult and emotional issues around mental illness.

Last Night in Twisted River
2.  Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving

Please Look After MomJohn Irving is one of my favorite novelists and Last Night in Twisted River has become one of my favorite novels. Irving is an amazing writer and is a master of what I call circular writing. He takes a theme and explores it through multiple lenses. The story circles around and revisits aspects of the story again and again. Since the main character becomes a writer, the reader is given insight into Irving's writing process. I highly recommend this book to all readers of novels.

1. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin

Set in Korea, this novel tells the story of the disappearance of the mother of the family and is told from the point of view of the older daughter, oldest son, the husband and the mother herself. The story provides insight into families and how we often hurt and ignore each other. In the beginning, I was somewhat turned off by the older daughter talking in the second person. Once I was beyond this, I found the story fascinating and highly recommend this novel.

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Welcome!  You will find over 900 inspirational quotes on this site.  Spend some time exploring the different quotes as well as my commentary.  On the right, the quotes are indexed first by subject matter, then by writer and artist.  So spend time exploring and become inspired.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Harley King — Seeds of Hope

We live in difficult and challenging times.  Some have begun to despair that the world is coming to a violent end. I remember another moment in the late 1960's when I felt the world would end. What I have learned over the years is that the world continues.  There are always moments of hope to be found. We must choose to plant seeds of hope.

I believe that everything we do is a choice we make. We have little control over what happens to us. We have little control over the hostile world in which we live. The only thing we control is our response to what is happening. So my choice is to plant seeds of hope with my words and deeds. I choose to celebrate the spirit of love.

We also need to understand that even though we plant seeds of hope, we will not eliminate the hatred and hostility in the world.  So do not give into the false hope of changing the world overnight.  

If we choose to plant to seeds of hope, we will touch the lives of a few people. Every farmer knows, there are different types of soil and not all of it is fertile. I know that sometimes the seeds that I plant fall on stoney ground and the seeds fail to take root. I have learned that I can’t give hope to people if they are not ready to receive it. Sometimes it may take years for that seed to grow. And sometimes the seed is eaten by birds and squirrels. Have faith that some of the seeds you plant will grow and bloom.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Harley King — Gift of Memory

Without memory, we lose all sense of self. We lose the threads and tangles that tell our stories. We lose our history from where we came. We lose our connection to the past. Memory gives our lives meaning and explains who we are and from where we came.

Yet, memory is fragmented, distorted and unconnected. Distorted memories can create false selves and cause us unhappiness. We must reshape our memories into a cohesive story that allows us to enjoy the person whom we have become. We must dig through the ashes of forgetfulness and find the keys to who we are.

Cradle your memories in your arms.  Give them the love and attention that they need.  Memory restores us to the world in which we live.  Choose to cherish your memories.

And as creative leaders, you are fortunate to have the skills and talents necessary to craft memory into a powerful story that touches the hearts and souls of others. Through the retelling of memory life is restored.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Harley King — Best Books 2016

In 2016, I read 72 books, an increase of 17 (31%) over the 55 I read in 2015 and a 50% increase over the number of books I read in 2014.  My overall reading average was 6 books a month. From January through June, I averaged 7 books a month.  From July through December, I averaged 5 books a month.

Seventy percent of the books were fiction, 24% were non-fiction and 6% were poetry. Of the novels, 42% were fantasy, 18% were science fiction and 10% were mysteries.  Of the non-fiction books, 65% were biographies and memoirs.  Sixty-three percent of the books I read were e-books and 15% were audio books.

Here are the 16 best books that I read in 2016:

Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-196916. Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969 by David Eisenhower & Julie Nixon Eisenhower

An excellent memoir by the grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife about the last years of President Eisenhower's life and his relationship with his grandson. I found it interesting that Lyndon Johnson relied for Eisenhower for support and council and that he spent considerable time visiting Eisenhower in the hospital in 1968 and 1969. The books is based on David's memories and the interviews with many people who knew his grandfather. This is the first book that I have read about the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower and I found it a valuable introduction.

15. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Living History
My wife and I listened to this book on our 2,000 mile trip to the east coast. My guess is that Hillary Clinton is a introvert and Bill is an extrovert. Bill is energized by people and Hillary is drained. For me, this is also an explanation as to why so many people hate her. She has learned to overcome some of her shyness, but people don't seem to warm up to her easily. After listening to this book, I find Hillary to be a warm, caring individual committed to helping others. 

Hillary tells the story of her mother and father and how her mother was raised by her grandmother. Her father was raised in Scranton, PA but escaped to Chicago as fast as he could. Hillary came of age when women had more opportunities to go to college. She tells the stories of her college years, meeting Bill and her time in Little Rock, AK. Much of the book is her experiences in the White House and her campaign to be the New York senator.

If more people had read this book, we may have had a different outcome in the presidential election. Unfortunately, too many lies have been told about Hillary. For some people, it is easier to believe the lie than search for the truth.

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage14.  Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage by Jeffrey Frank

This is a fascinating book about two men who worked together for eight years and maintained a relationship for another decade. Ike tried in 1952 and 1956 to dump Nixon from the Republican ticket but ultimately failed. Ike often assigned Dick to do his dirty work and when Ike was ill Nixon along with the cabinet held the fort down. 
Like any marriage, the pair had their good times and bad times. Each felt injured or hurt by the other. Nixon used Eisenhower as his sounding board during his political campaigns and often sought his opinion. The two families were forever entwined with the marriage of Nixon's daughter, Julia, to Eisenhower's grandson, David. 

I am surprised that other authors have not explored the relationship between Presidents and their VPs. I recommend the book to those who love history and biographies.

Pat and Dick13.  Pat and Dick by Will Swift

This book tells the fascinating love story of Richard and Pat Nixon and how their relationship survived the tumultuous world of politics. Without the emotional support, guidance and love of Pat, Nixon would never have become President. She was the force that kept pushing him. When people tried to force him to resign as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in 1952, Pat was the one who kept him going. She said:

"You can't think of resigning. If you do, Eisenhower will lose. You will carry the scar
 for the rest of your life. If you do not fight back but simply crawl away, you will destroy yourself."

Whenever Nixon was depressed and wanting to quit because of the pressure of the outside world, Pat was always there supporting him.

Winning Pat's heart was not easy. She initially had little interest in Richard but he persisted and eventually won her heart.

I highly recommend this book because it tells the love story and the heartbreak of an American Presidential couple.

Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family12.  Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice

This book is Condoleezza Rice's love poem to her mother and father. She tells the story of a very supportive mother and father who sacrificed to give her opportunities she had. Condi grew up in a family of teachers and preachers in Birmingham, AL, during segregated 50's and 60's. One of her friends was killed in the 1963 church bombing. Both of her parents were college educated and strong believers in education.

Her father, John Wesley Rice, was a Republican because the Democrats in Alabama refused to register him to vote, but a Republican did.

This memoir, written after her experience as Secretary of State under George W. Bush, tells her childhood story through her college years, her acceptance as a professor at Stanford, her mother's death, and her years as Provost at Stanford University. The book closes with the death of her father and Condi moving to Washington D.C. in 2001 as the National Security Advisor to George W. Bush.

I highly recommend the book because of the powerful love story between parents and a child that it tells. The warmth and humanity of the book touched my heart.

Dark Currents (The Emperor's Edge, #2)11.  Dark Currents (The Emperor's Edge #2) by Lindsay Buroker

Dark Currents is a fast-paced, action-filled steampunk fantasy populated with characters whose company I enjoy. This second book in the series kept me on my toes waiting and watching for what was to happen next. I would recommend the series to anyone who enjoys fantasy and action with a dose of mystery thrown in for good measure. I read the second and third books in the series in 2016.

10. Escaping Peril (Wings of Fire #8) by Tui T. Sutherland
Escaping Peril (Wings of Fire, #8)
Escaping Peril is the eight book in the series. My daughter and I have read all nine books in the series together and have enjoyed discussing them. She waited for several months for the new book about Peril to arrive. Peril was a character in the first book in the series and my daughter has been fascinated by her ever since. She could hardly wait until book 8 came out. And we were not disappointed. Like the other books, this one took several unexpected twists and turns. If you enjoyed the other books in the series, you will enjoy this one. I would not recommend reading this one until you have read at least the first five. While the book can stand alone, there are so many nuances that will be missed if you have not read the others in the series.

Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life9.  Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins

I read three of Tom Robbins novels back in the 1970's and 80's so I found this memoir humorous and engaging. Robbins is a master of the metaphor and the language. I laughed my way through this book and am glad that Robbins wrote it. I listened to it and believe the humor was even stronger because I heard the words spoken. I recommend it to those who love to laugh and who love the work of Tom Robbins.

8.  Being Nixon: The Fears and Hopes of an American President by Evan Thomas

Being Nixon: The Fears and Hopes of an American PresidentWhen Richard Nixon lost the 1960 Presidential election to John F. Kennedy, I was eleven years old and barely aware of politics. When Nixon won the 1968 election, I was in Jamaica as a college student and read very little news about the election campaign. Nine months earlier I had been knee deep in politics campaigning for Eugene McCarthy in Wisconsin. I even went Clean for Gene by shaving my beard. 1968 was a troubled year. Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis, TN and Bobby Kennedy was shot in LA. Mayor Richard Daley had his thugs beat up the hippies at the Democratic convention in Chicago. When Nixon resigned from office in August of 1974, I was married and studying for my Master's degree in theatre.

What I did not know until I read this book was that Nixon's actions helped to destroy the economy of the Midwest in the 1970's and 1980's. Nixon was a consummate politician who knew very little of economics. He proceeded to sever the dollar's connection to the gold standard, knowing it would bring about inflation. He also irritated the Arabs with his support of Israel during the 1973 war. This led to retaliation by OPEC and the oil embargo which helped to increase inflation as well.

Evan Thomas, in this excellent biography, is focused on emotional and psychological nature of Nixon. I learned that Nixon was very shy and uncomfortable around people. He avoided confrontation and held grudges against those who had done him wrong. He had an inferiority complex and had a love-hate relationship with those he perceived to be a part of the East Coast establishment, especially the Kennedy clan. Nixon was not very self-aware. He did not like to focus on the past. He preferred to look to the future.

Nixon was very loving and kind with his immediate family — his wife and daughters. He seemed to compartmentalize his life, behaving one way with his family and another in the world of politics. He was driven to succeed at all costs. Like many of us, Nixon had multiple facets to his personality. One minute he could be kind and supportive and the next yelling and cursing. His closest aides learned not to take him seriously when he went on a rampage. They often ignored his commands. Yet, he was very supportive of the underdog. When the Democratic Vice-President candidate, Thomas Eagleton, was forced out the presidential race in 1972 because of his treatment for depression, Nixon wrote a very kind letter to Eagleton's son.

I decided to read this book when I read where Bill Gates recommended it because it was one of the more balanced biographies of Nixon. And while I have not read any other biographies of Nixon, I would highly recommend this one to anyone interested in Nixon and the time period of the 1950's through 1970's. Evan Thomas tells us both the negative and the positive about the life of Nixon.

Eisenhower in War and Peace7.  Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President when I was 3 years old and left office when I was 11. I have read little about Eisenhower until this year. This is the 3rd book that I have read about him this year and is the first full biography.

Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890 in Denison, Texas, the 3rd of 7 sons born to David and Ida Eisenhower. His father had moved the family from Kansas in 1888 to find work. The Eisenhowers only lived in Texas for 4 years before they moved back to Kansas. Dwight's ancestors originally arrived from Germany in 1741. David's father was a preacher with the River Brethren, an offshoot of the Mennonites. Like the Mennonites, the River Brethren did not believe in fighting in wars.

Religion was a major part of the fabric of Eisenhower family. David would begin the day by reading the Bible to the family. They said prayers before meals and the boys read the scriptures at night. Dwight had read the entire Bible twice before entering West Point.

Dwight's father was a very strict and stern man who did not play with his sons nor take them fishing or hunting. Ike's brother, Edgar, said about their father: "He was an inflexible man with a stern code. Life to him was a very serious proposition and that's the way he lived it, soberly and with due reflection."

Dwight's mother, Ida, had the greatest influence on the boys. She was present in their lives and usually found the humor in most situations. In spite of his pacifist upbringing, Dwight sought and received an appointment to West Point where he was admitted in June of 1911. Eisenhower graduated 61st in a class of 164 and was assigned to San Antonio where he met his future wife, Mary Geneva Doud. They were married on July 1, 1916.

Eisenhower did not have the opportunity to see any action on the battle field during World War I. Between the two wars he held administrative posts in various places. In December of 1926 Dwight was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission under John J. Pershing. In December, 1927 he moved to Paris to continue the work under the Monuments Commission where he explored first hand the terrain of France. This experience helped prepare him for the invasion of Europe.

In October 1935, Eisenhower sailed to the Philippines to serve under Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur delegated the day to day operations to Eisenhower and James Ord. MacArthur only came into the office about an hour a day.

In June of 1942, Eisenhower was given the command of the invasion of Europe. His first task was to establish a command structure. Eisenhower initially made some serious mistakes as the army tried to retake northern Africa before entering France. He had never commanded troops in combat and did not do well as a field commander. He was better at overall organization and in public relations. He was skilled in managing the top brass. Eisenhower was name Supreme Commander where he could devote his time to the political and inter-allied problems. Others were given direct field command of the soldiers. Dwight was promoted to a four star general. The invasion of Europe began in June, 1944. Eisenhower made the final decision when to start the attack. Victory in Europe made Eisenhower an international hero.

In 1952, Ike Eisenhower won the Republican nomination for President against Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee. The 1952 campaign has been called one of nastiest on record at the time. There were bogus claims about a Communist conspiracy in the Truman administration and the GOP launched a negative campaign questioning the sexual orientation of Governor Stevenson. More than 61 million Americans voted and Ike won 55% of the popular vote. He won 442 electoral votes to Stevenson's 89.

Eisenhower served as President during eight years of peace and prosperity. When he left office in 1961, his popularity ratings were as high as when he was inaugurated.

This is an excellent biography by Jean Edward Smith. The book gains momentum with the discussion of Eisenhower's activities during World War II and his accomplishments and failures during his Presidency. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Dragon Seed: The Story of China at War6.  Dragon Seed: The Story of China at War by Pearl S. Buck

This is a brilliant anti-war novel seen through the eyes of a Chinese family of farmers. Buck writes of the invasion of China in 1937 by the Japanese. This is a novel that everyone should read.

Slaughterhouse-Five: The Childrens Crusade, a Duty Dance with Death5.  Slaughterhouse-Five: The Childrens Crusade, a Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut

I have been a fan of the work of Kurt Vonnegut for over 40 years. My favorite book of his is Cat's Cradle. I also heard Vonnegut speak in the 1980s while I was living in the Indianapolis area. I read Slaughterhouse-Five while in college shortly after it came out. I don't remember that the book impressed me that much at the time. And now I understand why: the book is not a linear narrative. It jumps back and forth in time as well as place. It involves space travel, war and eye glasses. While I loved science fiction, this did not seem like science fiction. 

So, all these years later, I decided to listen to Slaughterhouse-Five and loved it. The voice of Ethan Hawke set the tone for the book and allowed me to better appreciate the non-linear narrative. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Sometimes listening to a story is even better than reading it.

4.  Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
Shoeless Joe
I read the Iowa Baseball Confederacy by Kinsella back in the 1980s, but never read Shoeless Joe. I have, though, watched Field of Dreams on multiple occasions. I usually don't like to read books after I have seen the movie, but decided to give this one a try. I found myself initially visualizing the characters in the image of the actors in the movie, but it was not a hindrance since I love the movie. All the major movie scenes are in the book, but a couple of characters in the book were cut from the movie — Ray's twin brother and Eddie Sessions, the farmer who sold the farm to Ray. Also the movie changed the character of J.D. Salinger to Terrence Mann.

The book at its core is about the nature of obsession and how people pursue their dreams against all odds. The book and movie are both motivational and inspiring.

I discovered after reading the book that W.P. Kinsella was Canadian. He did earn a Masters from the Iowa Writers Workshop. I recommend the book to all lovers of dreams and baseball.

3.  Middle Age: A Romance by Joyce Carol Oates
Middle Age: A Romance
Joyce Carol Oates, a master novelist, is one of the most prolific writers of her generation. This is the second of her novels that I have read. Both novels start with an event — in this case the death of a neighbor and friend — and follow the impact on various people. The event triggers in each character an opportunity to re-evaluate his or her life. Some are more successful at this then others. This is a book worth reading by one of the great American novelists. Don't let the insipid title get in the way of picking up this book. There is more nuance and depth to this book then the title will lead you to believe.

2.  The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a brilliant novel by Kelli Estes. Set simultaneously in the 1880s and present day, Estes tells the tragic historical story of how the Chinese were driven out of northwest Washington by white men. The heart of the novel is the story of Mei Lien and her family who are forced out of their home in Seattle onto a ship that is bound for China back in the 1880's. Mei Lien discovers that the Chinese are not being taken to China, but that the plan is to throw them overboard when the ship is far enough from shore. When she tells her father, he makes the decision that she needs to jump overboard while there is still opportunity for her to swim to shore. Mei Lien is rescued by a white man who ultimately becomes her husband. Mei Lien's tale is the story of racism and the anti-Chinese hysteria that ran through the villages and towns on the west coast of Washington before it became a state.

Wrapped around Mei Lien's story is the story of present day Inara who discovers an embroidered sleeve and attempts to find out its historical importance.

The message of the story is very relevant today amidst the current immigration and anti-Muslim hysteria that has overtaken many people in this country. This is book is a must read for everyone who cares about people.

This novel is Kelli Estes' first published novel and has been fourteen years in the making. Estes writes: "In the fourteen years between quitting that job and selling this novel, I wrote six manuscripts, attended countless writing workshops and conferences, and raised two boys who are now in school all day, which allows me to focus on writing."

I highly recommend that everyone read this novel for a better understanding of a tragic time in American history and the pain that racism causes. Racism touches everyone and is not just about blacks and whites, but is also about Asians, Hispanics and anyone who does not fit the perceived norm.

The Sacrifice: A Novel1.  The Sacrifice: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates  Another fantastic novel by Joyce Carol Oates. She has the ability to create a realistic fictional world that feels right out of the pages of life. I would highly recommend that you listen to the reading of this story by multiple actors. This book provides a serious look at racism in America through fiction. Everyone should read this book.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Gloria Steinem — Dreaming

Most of us underestimate the power and importance of dreaming — whether we are talking about day dreaming or sleep dreaming. Sleep dreaming is one of my favorite times, especially in the twilight world between being awake or being asleep. Dreams can feel so real and meaningful. 

Years ago I kept a dream journal where I would record my dreams. I have documented proof that I dreamed of marrying my wife a month before I met her. So I do believe that dreams can predict the future. I have experienced the excitement of possibilities. Dreams are small windows into our souls.

Day dreaming is a way to explore your options and to find the right path. Day dreaming helps creative leaders make decisions and take action. As Steinem says, day dreaming is a form of planning, a way of preparing for what is to come. Our minds are very powerful and we can see things with our mind's eye before they happen.

Have you ever gone to sleep thinking of some problem and woke up with the answer? You need to learn to harness the power of your dreams to help you creatively solve problems. You need to increase your involvement with dreams. 

My wife at a very young age discovered that she had the ability to consciously change her dreams. If she did not like where her dreams were going she would change them while dreaming. Today we call it lucid dreaming.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Irving Stone — Hunger

Many people treat the creative spirit as a luxury, something that is not needed to live life. And they are quite wrong. Creativity is a crucial part of living. If I did not have an outlet for my creativity, I would either go crazy or die. Creativity is at the very core of who I am. 

If I go too long without writing, without putting words on paper, I begin to feel a hunger growing inside me. I have a strong need to create, to produce something either through writing or drawing. It is as important to my life as water, air, food, shelter and companionship. Without it my spirit would shrivel and die. 

We all need food for the body and food for the spirit. Creativity provides the food for the spirit. Is your spirit growling with the need for creativity?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Francis Bacon — Mystery

Life is mysterious and full of questions with few answers. The job of the creative leader is not to provide the answers but to help his audience to explore the questions at even deeper levels. 

Life at its core is spiritual in nature. The artist connects the spiritual with the mysterious and fills the heart with joy. Our challenge as writers, artists and creative leaders is to reach deep within our spirits and share the magical mystery of the heart.

What spiritual questions are you exploring in your art? Your writing? Your acting? Your dancing? What is the mysterious hidden within your creation? What is the song sung from your heart?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Theodore Roethke — Being, not doing

I must confess that being is very difficult for me. For years I have been caught up in the culture of doing — setting goals and working to achieve those goals. I find it very difficult to sit and just be. I must at the very least doodle. If I go on vacation, it often takes me a week to relax and forget my day job. But I still feel I must be doing something. Write. Draw. Read. Produce something of value. Rarely can I just be.  I simply cannot sit and doing nothing.  My thoughts continue to flow.

How about you? Are you caught up in the culture of doing or have you learned like Roethke to enjoy just being?

Here is my favorite Theodore Roethke poem. I love the first three lines. This is a poem to be read out loud. Listen to the interaction of sounds.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

Monday, November 14, 2016

William Thackeray — Reflection

This is a very profound statement by the English novelist, William Thackeray. The world that we see is a reflection of ourselves. 

I tell a story in my seminars about a little girl who lives in the mountains with her parents. One day the little girl has a fight with her mother and she runs out of the house. When she reaches the edge of the cliff, she stops and yells at the top of her voice: "I hate you. I hate you." 

To the girl's surprise she hears a voice shouting back at her: "I hate you. I hate you." This frightens the little girl and she runs back into the house and tells her mother that someone out there hates her. 

Her mother realizing what happened tells her young daughter to go back outside and shout, "I love you." The little girl tiptoes back outside and nervously tiptoes to the edge of the cliff. She calls out: "I love you. I love you." Echoing back out of the valley, she hears the words, "I love you. I love you." 

 The message is quite clear: what we send out is what we get back.  What we expect to find in the world is what we find. If we think the world is a negative, hostile place where our enemies are seeking to destroy us, we will find examples to prove our world view.

If we think the world is helpful and supportive, we will find examples to prove our vision of the world. The world we see is a reflection of the person we are. Have you looked in the mirror lately? What kind of person do you see?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Linus Pauling — Curiosity

Are you curious about the world around you? Are you searching for new information and ideas? Are you asking questions and looking for answers? Are you challenging the status quo? Do you doubt what people accept at truth? 

Do you question the world around you? Do you ask: why? how? when? where? Do you challenge the assumptions of others? Do you challenge your own assumptions? Do you challenge your beliefs? Do you question your habits? Or do you simply accept what was taught you? 

Do you accept without question the statements of experts? Do you question what you read in the newspaper or hear on television? Are you willing to think differently than those around you? Do you hang out with people who think like you do? Or do you surround yourself with people who think differently than you?

Creative leaders seek out new ideas and new ways of seeing the world. We need and want answers to our questions. Part of our thrill in life is learning something new — figuring out something we didn't know.

Creative leaders need a strong sense of curiosity about the world they inhabit. They should not satisfied with the pat answers of the past. The challenge is in finding new answers to some of the age old questions.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Anwar el Sadat - Fear

Many years ago I read these words in In Search of An Identity, the autobiography of Anwar el Sadat, President of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, and since then I have been sharing his words with my audiences in my motivational speeches on leadership.

Fear is a powerful tool for destroying the soul of a person and the spirit of a creative artist. Rulers have used it for centuries and so have parents. "You better behave or the bogeyman will get you."

Ask yourself what you are afraid of? What fears control your actions? What fears are holding you back? Are you afraid of snakes? Heights? Success? Math? A blank piece of paper? Silence? A blank canvas? The neighbor's dog?

In 1972 I was traveling through the western United States and decided to visit a mentor from my childhood who was living in British Columbia, Canada at the time. Ernie was a lumberjack turned minister and missionary.  He had been the camp director of a Bible camp that I had attended every summer from the age of ten until high school.  He was physically a very strong man.  He could grab a pole with both hands and raise his legs in the air until they were parallel with the floor much like a flag.

I spent a couple of weeks with him in the Canadian Rockies.  One time he took a group of us on a two-day canoe ride on a large lake.  I saw from a distance a grizzly bear fishing for salmon.  On our way home we encountered fog and lost our way.  After going in a circle a couple of times, Ernie stopped the canoes and asked us to bow our heads in prayer.  Despite his strength, Ernie knew that he could not let fear conquer him so he turned to God, the one source of strength that he knew.  

Creative leaders must learn to shake off the chains of fear. Fear can prevent us from taking risks, trying new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking. Each of us must find the courage to do what we desire to do despite our fears.