Monday, March 18, 2019
Monday, March 11, 2019
Monday, March 4, 2019
Monday, February 25, 2019
Monday, February 18, 2019
Monday, February 11, 2019
Monday, February 4, 2019
Monday, January 28, 2019
In one sense, we all are artists. We create the lives we lead. While we may not have any control over what happens to us, we do have control how we respond to what happens to us. And how we respond creates the person we become. When you reach the end of the road one day and you look back at your life, what is the legacy you have left behind. What kind of person have you become? Will you be a grouchy, grumpy old drunk or a kind, caring matriarch? Will you dance with laughter or worry and fret over the fact that your husband never puts down the toilet seat? We all make choices in life and those choices create the lives we lead.
Our lives are a work of art. What color are your memories? How many wrinkles line your dreams? Do your hopes have arthritis? What are you doing today that will create your legacy tomorrow? What decisions are you making today that will form the core of your character tomorrow? Life is about growth and change. What lessons are you learning that will change your life? Your life is a canvas. Pick up your paint brush and start painting. Live the life today that you will be proud of when you are 103.
Monday, January 21, 2019
Monday, January 14, 2019
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
In 2018 I read 44 books. Seventy-seven percent of the books were fiction, 23% were non-fiction. Of the novels, 10 were mysteries, 10 were fantasy, 9 were contemporary fiction, 3 were young adult and 2 were science fiction, Of the non-fiction books, 4 were biographies and memoirs. Eighty-five percent of the books I read were e-books, 15% were physical books.
Here are the 10 best books I read in 2018.
10. True Places by Sonja Yoerg.
An excellent contemporary novel set in Virginia. The story is told from the point of view of various family members including a mother, father, brother and sister. The world of this family is shattered by Suzanne, the mother, discovering a starved young girl, Iris, at the edge of the road. Suzanne takes Iris to hospital and when she recovers into the family home. This simple act of kindness challenges the family to evaluate their relationships with each other.
9. Go by Kazuki Kanishiro
I did find the action to be very predictable. I guessed a key event long before it happened. About a third of the way through the novel, I made the mistake of reading a few of the reviews. One mentioned how the physical details of India were inaccurate. Having never been there, I could not judge for myself, but the review colored my reading of the book. I began to question if the author had ever been there.
Even if the physical details are not accurate, the emotional power of the story makes it worth reading. If you enjoy love stories, you will enjoy this book.
7. Banana Rose by Natalie Goldberg
In many of her books on writing, Goldberg talks about the importance of detail in writing. And she practices what she preaches in this her only novel. She builds the story through attention to detail. I know some people have been disappointed with this book. I was not. I think she did a great job of telling the story. I liked the character of Banana Rose.
Not much happens in the story. We move from one day in Banana Rose's life to the next. The book is framed by the death of a friend. Goldberg discusses the writing of Banana Rose in the book, Wild Mind. She admits that the main criticism of her editor is that the book has no plot. In the rewrite, she added a slight plot, but don't expect great movement.
If you choose to read this book, go slow and absorb the details. The enjoyment is in the details. And read Wild Mind along side it.
5. The Man Who Cried I Am by John A. Williams
Growing up in a small farming community in central Illinois in the 1960's, I had little access to bookstores. The closest was 25 miles away in Peoria. Since I was dependent on our small local library and our church library for books, I subscribed to the Doubleday Book Club. One of the books I bought through the club was The Man Who Cried I Am. I cannot remember if I read it, but I am sure that I probably did not fully grasp the meaning of the book given my small town upbringing.
Somewhere over the years I gave the book away. I purchased the ebook a few weeks ago and was surprised to find the introduction by Walter Mosley, one of my favorite writers. Written in the 1960's, the novel tells the story of a black writer during the last three days of his life. Max Reddick, who is dying of cancer, is in Europe for the funeral of a fellow writer. The book is filled with memories of his life in the 1940's, 1950's and 1960's, including the women he loved, the people he knew and the challenges he faced living in the United States and Europe as a black man. The book skips back and forth in time and the reader must play close attention because there is no warning that a time shift has occurred.
While the world has changed a lot in the last 50 years, much of it remains the same. The hearts of people are still corrupt, mean-spirited and violent. The forces that assassinated Kennedy and King are still with us. Now crazy people kill young children. Racism and violence are still with us.
This book should be read by all who have trouble understanding what it means to be a minority in the United States and by those who fail to understand what is behind the Black Lives Matter movement.
4. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
My ten-year-old daughter read it in school so she read it to me. This is an amazing novel that parents should read with their children.
3. The Accidental President: Harry Truman and the Four Months that Changed the World by A. J. Baime
Years ago a workshop facilitator asked the group I was in: "Who was president when you were born?" I like most of the people in the class had no idea. The thought had never occurred to me. When I discovered it was Harry S. Truman, I began to read books, eight in all, about him including the comprehensive Truman by David McCullough. I have even read the boring Meeting at Potsdam by Charles Mee. I was not expecting to learn anything new about Truman and was surprised when I did.
The Accidental President is a surprisingly exciting book to read. Baime takes the reader through the first four months of Truman's presidency. He faced challenges that few, if any, presidents have faced upon taking office. The U.S. was fighting a war on two fronts in Europe and in Asia. He was thrown into negotiations with two savvy politicians, Churchill and Stalin, over the fate of Europe. He learned about the development of the atomic bomb and had to make a decision about whether to drop the bomb or not.
People often say that Truman was unprepared to be President. He had only been in the Senate for two terms. Truman was never in Roosevelt's inner circle and Roosevelt kept him in the dark after he was elected Vice-President in 1944. He became President with little knowledge of what was transpiring in the international arena. Yet, Truman was prepared in several ways. He was a student of history and what other leaders had done in difficult situations. He was a decision-maker and did not hesitate to make the difficult decisions. He had a natural instinct for politics. He also had a strong moral character, yet knew when to compromise.
Baime opens the book by taking us through the day when Roosevelt died and Truman stepped into his shoes. He follows this up with a section that shares to story of who Truman was and where he came from. Even in this section, I learned somethings about Truman that I was unaware of. Baime then proceeds to walk us through the riveting first four months of Truman's presidency and the challenges he faced.
I highly recommend this book to anyone in business who finds himself in the midst of a crisis. I also recommend the book to anyone interested in politics, history and the presidency.
2. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene WeckerThe Golem and the Jinni is a great first novel by Helene Wecker. Set in New York City in the early 1900s, the novel combines the mythology of both the Jewish and Arabian worlds with the real world of recent immigrants to the United States. Wecker has done her research on historical New York and the immigrant cultures portrayed. The book took seven years to write. At its heart, this novel is love story with ups and downs and barriers to overcome. Can mythical creatures from two different worlds find happiness together? Be sure to put this book on your reading list.
I have read five of Sujata Massey's books prior to reading The Widows of Malabar Hill. Four of those books involved Rei Shimura, a half American, half Japanese antiques dealer and set either in Japan or America. My favorite was The Kizuna Coast set in Japan after the real-life tsunami. Sujata was born in England to parents from India and Germany, and was raised mostly in St. Paul, MN.
I have also read India Gray, a collection of short stories involving characters from India. My favorite short story, Outnumbered at Oxford, introduces Perveen Mistry in England. I could not wait to meet Perveen again in The Widows of Malabar Hill. And I was not disappointed. This novel is rich in historical detail. The novelist fills in what happened to Perveen prior to traveling to England to study law and what happened after she returned.
Perveen's family had migrated from Iran to India where they are a small religious minority (Zoarastrian). Perveen becomes the first woman in India to practice law. Her character is inspired by real life women who became the first female lawyers in India.
I highly recommend this mystery novel for its rich historical detail and its powerful female character.
Monday, December 17, 2018
Monday, July 2, 2018
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today."
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
Monday, April 30, 2018
Monday, April 23, 2018
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
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
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.
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
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.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the emotional impact of immigration and assimilation.
10. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
9. The Girl With the Ghost Eyes by M.H. Boroson
8. Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
7. The Thing About Jelly Fish by Ali Benjamin
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 daughter.
6. The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
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
A 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 problems 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.
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
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.
2. Last Night In Twisted River by John Irving
1. Please Look After Mom by Kyung-Sook Shin
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