This past year I’ve taken on my friend Grant Anderson’s practice of “reading” via audiobooks. My current life leaves very little time to sit down and read an actual book, but I do have plenty of time to consume audio books. I “read” while working out, commuting, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, grocery shopping, cleaning the bathroom, etc. There are plenty of mindless tasks where engaging my mind through a book helps me learn, pass the time, and more fully engage. I’ve discovered the beauty of a library card and their audiobooks checkout via download and iPhone app. I’ve “read” numerous books through the Hennepin County library this year for free even though I’ve never been to the actual library. For the books not available through the library an Audible.com account has been a great investment.
Here is a quick review of some of what I have been reading and learning:
Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability, shame, and wholeheartedness has been transformative for me as an educator, leader, social justice advocate, parent, partner, and human being. I find myself thinking about lessons from Brené Brown on a daily basis. If you have not read these books, I recommend you begin by checking out her two TED talks. If you’re at all intrigued by her content and her awesomely vulnerable and humorous storytelling then get the books. They just deepen the conversation and the lesson. It is important to note that I actually read both of these in print. I also bought three copies as gifts for my father, my sister, and my partner.
The idea of a fixed vs a growth mindset is a simple idea that I have blogged about previously. Dweck is a psychologist who developed the concept and her book just applied this simple but profound idea over and over again in different contexts (parenting, coaching, athletics, teaching, loving, and more). This idea has also started coming up for me in conversation on nearly a daily basis. This past week alone it has provided clarity or guidance on supervisory challenges, admissions decisions, orientation framing, mental health, resilience skill building, and parenting.
This book was an assigned reading for a seminar I attended led by Dave Ellis. This is a workbook full of guided reflection activities to help the reader identify priorities, overcome obstacles, reframe challenges, and focus on moving forward. I found the first 30 pages on identifying what you want to be particularly useful for me. The activities in the first 30 pages took me about 2.5 months to complete because of all the reflection and thinking it pushed me to do. The end result was greater clarity (and some big surprises) about what was important to me and what was not.
I “read” these two books back to back. Made to Stick is about how to get an idea to be remembered and internalized. Switch is about how to make change stick. The simple summary is that you must engage people not just cognitively and intellectually but also emotionally and inspirationally. The further details, examples, and metaphors have been helpful and are great for any educator or leader.
The Power of Less – Leo Babauta
This book is by the author of the blog Zen Habits. It describes a shift in philosophical approach from busy to productivity. He argues that the key to being more productive is by doing less. The author continues to challenge the reader to find what the absolute essential is for us in our priorities, a specific tasks, a goal, or a process. This has helped me fight my tendency to do what is immediate vs. what is important by setting limits. Those limits have helped me be more productive, more creative, and more focused. A great read for anyone who has found themselves getting lost in the weeds.
Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
This famous and powerful last lecture talk from dying Carnegie Mellon professor led to this book. Randy recorded his thoughts and stories on a series of bike rides during his last days and then passed them on to a writer who cleaned them up and published them in this format. I’m fascinated by the wisdom to be learned by others who have gained perspective that I do not have either through years of life or circumstances. Randy is a fascinating and quirky person. Not all of his lessons fit for me but many of them do. This is wise, touching, smart, and well told.
Love and Logic – Foster Cline and Jim Fay
This is another book I actually read in print. One of the wisest people I know, Debra Rowe, recommended this years ago. Once I became a parent I realized that I kept thinking about little snippets from her and thought I would go right to the source of some of her wisdom. This has been the cornerstone of my co-parenting. It has served us very well in that manner but it has also surprisingly served me well as a supervisor, educator, and leader. The simple lesson is that Helicopter parents make sure that their children don’t experience any negative consequences from their decisions. Drill Sargent parents make all the decisions so their children don’t experience any negative consequences. Love and Logic parents let their children make as many decisions as possible and let them experience the consequences (positive and negative) so that they learn.
I have a long list of books to read but these are the ones that are rising to the top of my list due to strong or recurring endorsements. Any suggestions?
Falling Into Grace – Adyashanti
Happiness Advantage – Shawn Achor
Good to Great – Jim Collins
Flourish – Martin Seligman