I recently read a very eye-opening and somewhat disturbing book called Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (Amazon link). It was recommended by a friend, Janelle Monney, who is a prominent executive coach, as well as another mutual friend, Delena Spencer, who is in the financial recruiting space. I highly recommend it and wish everyone would read it!
The findings are relevant for politics, business, criminal justice, and personal relationships. It helps scratch the surface of how we as humans justify our decisions, beliefs, and acts even when it’s not in our or others best interest to do so. As with most things, the actions and behaviors we think are protecting us can end up harming us and others. The book can cause you to question your and other people’s past actions as well as see events through a different lens. Good learning is not always happiness and sunshine, it’s often uncomfortable, embarrassing, painful, and daunting. Such is the human existence!
It certainly helped me gain insight into my own self-justifications as well as identifying others in theirs. The things we do to avoid admitting mistakes and feeling “less than” or “losing face” can be astounding, when a simple: “You were right. I made a mistake.” can go a long way towards healing wounds, finding solutions, and avoiding further damage. Things can deescalate even faster if the other side isn’t too caught up in their own self-justifications so they can hear you, communicate openly, and stop justifying their own story as to why they are right and someone/something else is wrong.
In many cases of conflict, it often seems like the “truth is somewhere in the middle.” Open, empathetic communication can go a long way in getting things back on a more positive track, but as human history has proven that is not easy to do.
Obviously, I highly recommend this book since I’m blogging about it. If you read it, please let me know what you think by leaving a comment or sending a tweet to @aruni.
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: mistakes were made
, mistakes were made but not by me
, resolving conflict
, self justification
| 1 Comment »
I read and took the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment back in 2011, and what it told me my Top 5 strengths were seemed to make sense at the time, although I was surprised at what they call “Woo.” I just joined a new company where strengths are valued, and I had the opportunity to take the assessment again, but this time it was the original version: Now, Discover Your Strengths(Amazon link). It’s a useful tool to help you understand yourself and others.
Interestingly, two of my Top 5 strengths changed from the last time I took it. The two that dropped out were Strategic and Developer and the two that emerged were Includer and Arranger. I was kind of sad to lose the the two I did, but I think I used every bit of my Strategic strength to survive the last 5 years of huge change and transitions so I had to discover other strengths to navigate uncharted waters. I like the Includer strength description because I hate cliques and I love including as many people as I can in my professional and social life. As many of us know, our strengths can also be our weakness and I’ve been known to communicate a lot, try to include people who may not want to be included, and try to arrange things and people who don’t really care to be arranged.
You like to explain, to describe, to host, to speak in public, and to write. This is your Communication theme at work. Ideas are a dry beginning. Events are static. You feel a need to bring them to life, to energize them, to make them exciting and vivid. And so you turn events into stories and practice telling them. You take the dry idea and enliven it with images and examples and metaphors. You believe that most people have a very short attention span. They are bombarded by information, but very little of it survives. You want your information—whether an idea, an event, a product’s features and benefits, a discovery, or a lesson—to survive. You want to divert their attention toward you and then capture it, lock it in. This is what drives your hunt for the perfect phrase. This is what draws you toward dramatic words and powerful word combinations. This is why people like to listen to you. Your word pictures pique their interest, sharpen their world, and inspire them to act.
“Stretch the circle wider.” This is the philosophy around which you orient your life. You want to include people and make them feel part of the group. In direct contrast to those who are drawn only to exclusive groups, you actively avoid those groups that exclude others. You want to expand the group so that as many people as possible can benefit from its support. You hate the sight of someone on the outside looking in. You want to draw them in so that they can feel the warmth of the group. You are an instinctively accepting person. Regardless of race or sex or nationality or personality or faith, you cast few judgments. Judgments can hurt a person’s feelings. Why do that if you don’t have to? Your accepting nature does not necessarily rest on a belief that each of us is different and that one should respect these differences. Rather, it rests on your conviction that fundamentally we are all the same. We are all equally important. Thus, no one should be ignored. Each of us should be included. It is the least we all deserve.
Woo stands for winning others over. You enjoy the challenge of meeting new people and getting them to like you. Strangers are rarely intimidating to you. On the contrary, strangers can be energizing. You are drawn to them. You want to learn their names, ask them questions, and find some area of common interest so that you can strike up a conversation and build rapport. Some people shy away from starting up conversations because they worry about running out of things to say. You don’t. Not only are you rarely at a loss for words; you actually enjoy initiating with strangers because you derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection. Once that connection is made, you are quite happy to wrap it up and move on. There are new people to meet, new rooms to work, new crowds to mingle in. In your world there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet—lots of them.
Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger. Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities. If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting. Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.
You are a conductor. When faced with a complex situation involving many factors, you enjoy managing all of the variables, aligning and realigning them until you are sure you have arranged them in the most productive configuration possible. In your mind there is nothing special about what you are doing. You are simply trying to figure out the best way to get things done. But others, lacking this theme, will be in awe of your ability. “How can you keep so many things in your head at once?” they will ask. “How can you stay so flexible, so willing to shelve well-laid plans in favor of some brand-new configuration that has just occurred to you?” But you cannot imagine behaving in any other way. You are a shining example of effective flexibility, whether you are changing travel schedules at the last minute because a better fare has popped up or mulling over just the right combination of people and resources to accomplish a new project. From the mundane to the complex, you are always looking for the perfect configuration. Of course, you are at your best in dynamic situations. Confronted with the unexpected, some complain that plans devised with such care cannot be changed, while others take refuge in the existing rules or procedures. You don’t do either. Instead, you jump into the confusion, devising new options, hunting for new paths of least resistance, and figuring out new partnerships—because, after all, there might just be a better way.
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: strengths finder
, strengths finder 2.0
| Comments Off on Strengths and Weaknesses – How They Impact Our Worlds
The following is a guest post from Bernd Schoner. Schoner was the founder of ThingMagic, LLC, a garage-grown RFID technology company led by a small group of MIT Media Lab graduates. Young and fresh-face, Schoner guided his company through the ups and downs of a start up that ultimately sold to Trimble Navigation, a multi-billion dollar, multinational tech company, where he currently works as the VP of Business Development.
According to Bernd Schoner, author of The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide: How to Bootstrap Your Startup, Lead Through Tough Times, and Cash In for Success
The Tech Entrepreneur’s Survival Guide (Amazon affiliate link) (McGraw-Hill, May 2014), assembling your founding team is a make-or-break move that every business faces. In fact, he says that it “determines the path and outcome of a new venture more than any decision in the life cycle of a company.” In his new book, Schoner sheds light on the six core roles needed for a new tech start up.
- The Primadonna Genius: Not surprising, technical expertise is the one skill a high-tech founding team can’t do without. You need to have a genius or two to get your team off the ground. The genius’ competency can be highly specific. Let’s face it– your genius is your diva. They will ask for things you’re not sure how you’re going to get done. They will potentially ask you to take a chance on them and look you down with that passion in their eye that compels you to say “yes.” If you’re lucky, your genius will not only bring technical expertise to the table, but also a set of commercial contacts too– an entourage of sorts.
- The Leader: Running a new company in a consensus-driven democratic process has its limits, especially when hard decisions need to be made that affect everybody’s lives. Consensus usually requires compromise, which is not necessarily in the best interest of a new tech venture. A founder group with a clear leader in its midst has it easier. Being the leader doesn’t mean more stock or equity, nor does it mean the leader will necessarily be CEO. It just means that the co-founders trust one of their own and are willing to follow, if indeed there is conflict and controversial decisions need to be made.
- The Industry Veteran: Any competent marketer can study an industry, get quick insights into how it works, understand who the key players are, and identify products that may prove lucrative for a small venture. However, it takes a long immersion in the marketplace to call yourself an insider, to understand the subtleties of the competitive landscape, to recognize people as true assets (oftentimes despite their titles), and to look through the propaganda of technical collateral and PR campaigns. That’s why the industry veteran is helpful.
- Sales Animal: Young high-tech companies are at constant risk of forgetting that they actually need to sell the wonderful technology they invented. A Sales Animal on the founder team helps to contain that risk. The combination of technical insight, founder authority, and sales experience is a hard-to-beat advantage in the competitive marketplace.
- The Financial Suit: Professional controllers and CROs are readily available for hire to fill the financial gaps on your team. Remember, though, that financial talent often has its own agenda. Understandably, they are trying to build a career, or make money quickly, or own as much stock as possible by the time your venture is readying itself for an exit. If you can put a skilled co-founder in charge of overseeing the finance function, you may enjoy a little bit of extra peace of mind.
- The Superstar: In the midst of silly little problems like ordering office supplies and keeping the office network running, it is easily forgotten how glamorous the role of high-tech entrepreneur can be. The world wants to think of tech founders as superstars, who are doing what the average man or woman cannot. Groom the superstar on your team and you can use her as the backbone of your marketing, recruiting, and PR strategy. Fortunately, almost any combination of eccentricity, nerdiness, and charisma qualifies a co-founder to become a star.
Every start up is different, but the roles he mentions make sense to me. I think one of the most important roles that some companies overlook is the role of client services. After your Sales Animal has closed a sale, it’s critical to keep customers happy and feeling cared about. Turnover in customer’s is hard on any business, but even harder in a start up where resources are scarce and energy to find new customers is limited. Customers in a technology start-up may be called to serve as references for other potential customers or investors, so in my opinion they should always feel like you are doing your best to do the right thing by them.
What do you think?
| Filed under: book review
, guest post
| Tags: Bernd Schoner
, sales animal
, The Tech Entrepreneur's Survival Guide
| Comments Off on Six Personalities You Need For Your Startup
This year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided. In the US, apparently the retailers decided to start the crazy sales activity just that much earlier and open up Thanksgiving eve. I guess the news folks will tell us if it was worth it. I didn’t venture out or even online to purchase anything on “Black Friday,” Thursday, or whatever. I know people who did. I did venture out today (Sunday) to Target to return some things and get some basics, but there was only the normal crowd there.
At any rate, I’m thankful that I can choose to shop or not shop. I’m thankful for many, many things…mostly that I’m here right now in this intersection of space & time with many wonderful people around me. Plus, I’m easily able to type this post and share these articles with you:
Our Self-Inflicted Complexity – Harvard Business Review
The Fall Of The Alphas – A VC, Fred Wilson (I just now bought the Kindle version of the book)
10 Life Lessons You Should Unlearn – Huffington Post (“Problems are bad. It’s important to stay happy. I’m irreparably damaged by my past. Working hard leads to success. Success is the opposite of failure. It matters what people think of me. We should think rationally about our decisions. The pretty girls get all the good stuff. If all my wishes came true right now, life would be perfect. Loss is terrible.”)
The first lie… – Seth Godin
What “no” means – Seth Godin
Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American
The Paradoxical Traits of Resilient People – Fast Company
And of course a song and music video: Let Her Go by Passenger
“Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go
Staring at the ceiling in the dark
Same old empty feeling in your heart
‘Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast”
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: Black Friday
, Fall Of The Alphas
, fast company
, fred wilson
, harvard business review
, Huffington Post
, Let Her Go
, Scientific American
, seth godin
| Comments Off on Thanksgivukkah and Black Friday
Buddha Stone Statue in China
A movie and a book intersected in my life recently with stories about how God is experienced and perceived by us humans throughout the ages. Life of Pi (the movie, released in 2012) was made from a book written by Yann Martel in 2001. A book written by Deepak Chopra called God: A Story of Revelation(Amazon link) happened to come to my attention through a marketing email, and I read it on my iPhone Kindle reader over the last couple of months. I have been fascinated with stories about God, psychology, and philosophy since I was about 11 years of age.
The movie is intense, full of metaphors, and starts with the statement that once you hear Pi’s story, you will believe in God. I don’t want to ruin the punchline, but it’s worth noting that Pi says “and so it goes with God” when he finishes telling the two versions of his story about the time he was lost at sea and the character listening to his story tells him which story he prefers. One is a magical story of triumph with God’s help, the other reflects the darkest side of humanity and “survival of the fittest.”
Deepak Chopra’s book described the lives of several people of differing faiths and the paths that led them to profess that they heard God speak to them. The people he writes about are: Job, Socrates, St. Paul, Shankara (similar to Buddha), Rumi, Julian of Norwich, Giordano Bruno, Anne Hutchinson, Baal Shem Tov, Rabindranath Tagore, and Einstein. It’s interesting to note that all except one are men. I guess women were too busy raising kids and taking care of their husbands to have the time to wander the streets, write poetry, or be thought anything other than heretical/batty if they proclaimed God spoke to them.
Those on a path to find God usually lead pretty persecuted and misunderstood lives where “bliss,” for lack of a better word is only sometimes achieved after much affliction combined with not “fitting” in to the time they were born. But they all seemed to have felt as if God was within them and inside all living things. Even probably 50 years ago saying things like God was anything other than someone up on high looking down on us (randomly helping us), would result in persecution. However, now as Eastern philosophies blend with Western, it’s not so odd to think that we and everything on this planet are pieces of God. Science has even started to prove that we are made up of vibrating energy. His book states that science moved us away from mysticism/faith to cold hard facts and is now moving us back to the unexplainable and cohesive universal force that keeps things in order.
It seems that our belief in God and what & who God is evolves and changes based on the stories we tell about the human condition. Apparently, the more we explore ourselves & the universe and the more we share our stories, our relationship to and with God changes.
| Filed under: book review
, movie reviews
| Tags: Anne Hutchinson
, Baal Shem Tov
, Deepak Chopra
, Giordano Bruno
, God: A Story of Revelation
, Julian of Norwich
, Life of Pi
, Rabindranath Tagore
, St. Paul
, Yann Martel
| 3 Comments »
I recently read one of the most interesting and eye opening books that I have read in the field of psychology. Admittedly, I have not read that many psychology books. A good friend gave it me and it’s written by psychologists for psychologists. It’s called The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment (Amazon affiliate link). It’s easy to identify overtly narcissistic families (i.e., they include alcoholics, drug addicts, physical abusers, physical long term abandonment, etc.) but it’s harder to identify covertly narcissistic ones. The covertly narcissistic families look quite functional to the outside world, but usually most things revolve around the parents/caregivers and on occasion attention goes to the child but usually when it’s in the best interest of the parent. There is very little empathy or understanding of the child’s emotional needs and feelings. According to the book, covertly narcissistic families can have as strong an impact on survivors of those situations as those from overt ones. Ironically, survivors of covertly narcissistic families can find it harder to understand their struggles because it’s not as easy to understand as “my father beat/molested me, therefore I’m a mess.”
They refer to the story of Echo and Narcissus with the metaphor being Narcissus as the parent(s) and Echo as the child who can never gain the love/acceptance of the parent unless it’s on the parent’s terms because the parent is too busy trying to sort out their own issues. Now apply that to the working world…seriously!
The book isn’t about assigning blame but helps survivors of such families (also work systems) to put into different boxes a) parents did what they did because they were dealing with what they were dealing with and b) child did not get emotional needs met and in fact had to parent/meet emotional needs of parents. The child gets mixed signals and doesn’t really know where he/she stands in relation to the family or parent (boss). Children growing up in the same family can have different experiences based on the perceived threat of that child to the parent’s sense of self. Often adult survivors get those two boxes mixed together and have a hard time separating the two resulting in blaming themselves for not doing everything “right,” inability to heal and put things in perspective. They often have a hard time understanding and properly articulating what they are feeling because their feelings weren’t validated so they feel embarrassed, ashamed, angry, get involved in destructive behaviors, etc. They were walking on eggshells always trying to please their parents/bosses (a constantly moving target). Oddly, many of these survivors are often quite successful professionally, but are unhappy.
I’m still processing the implications of the information in this book for my own self development (as a mother, a daughter, an entrepreneur, an employee, a boss, etc.) as well as prior and potential future work environments or personal relationships. I highly suggest it for those in positions of leadership and for those who find themselves feeling like they can’t ever get it right.
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: echo
, narcissistc family
, narcissistic personality disorder
| 5 Comments »
Elephants at a Buddhist Temple in China
When opportunity knocks where will you be? I imagine I’ll be at my son’s soccer game, making sure my kid’s take baths, cooking, or I’ll be doing their laundry. How do we recognize when opportunity knocks? Entrepreneurs are supposed to create opportunities, right? But really, I think we see an opportunity and we try to take advantage of it. Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who can validate the idea are rare but those who can execute against those ideas to profitability are even rarer. It’s not easy to execute against most ideas or take advantage of most opportunities.
One day I want to write a novel. I want to write a fiction novel and I’d like to write a novel about business. But right now I’m working full time, making sure my kids take their baths, watching their soccer games, going to swim classes, making sure they do their homework, doing dishes, and folding laundry. It’s certainly all great material for that novel I’m going to write one day which may or may not ever see the light of day. I recall my grandfather wanted to write a book. I think he started writing something, but he was too busy doing great entrepreneurial things, helping kids, hanging out with grand kids, dealing with a sick wife (my grandmother), and helping other people so he never finished putting down in words the wisdom that was in his head. He died of leukemia at the age of 82. I bet if he could have blogged, he would have tried it out. He was a brilliant, yet flawed man like most of us humans are.
Opportunity knocked and I went to China. Opportunity knocked and I found a guy who I used to work with, Brian Hurdle, to redesign my blog who just redesigned my twitter page. While flying to China, I read Little Bee: A Novel (about a refugee girl who escaped from Nigeria to England) and The Secret Life of Bees (about a White girl who runs away from her abusive father to live with a bunch of Negro women in the southern US in the 1960s). The first was written by a man, the latter by a woman. The overarching theme of both books from my perspective was “men suck!” Interestingly, little boys did not suck and they too needed protection from men, who ironically were at one point in their lives little boys themselves. What happens between cute, sweet little boyhood and manhood? I don’t know, but I hope my boy stays sweet, thoughtful, and caring. Of course both fiction novels were written for the female audience, which is kind of distressing. But as I was reading them, I thought these are well written novels. Not as superbly written as others I’ve read but well written overall. So after doing some calculations, I figured I need to be a millionaire by the age of 45 to even think of having the time, resources, and health insurance to write such a novel. I’m not too far away from 45….
Any benefactors out there?
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: benefator
, brian hurdle
, little bee
, opportunity knocks
, secret life of bees
| 2 Comments »
Call me crazy, but I’ve joined a book club with currently 14+ moms from the neighborhood. I love reading. I love reading good fiction because I find there is so much tie to real life. I work full time and have two kids so I haven’t had time to really read much for the last 8+ years. I’m hoping that belonging to a book club, something I haven’t really done before, will get me back into reading. I’ve reviewed books before on this blog and mostly they were recommendations from friends that were relevant to what I was going through at the time.
I’m looking forward to being part of a book club where I have a deadline by which to read something. Our first book is called The Help by Kathryn Stockett. See below for link to the book on Amazon. I went to Half Price Books today to see if I could find it and I think because the movie is about to come out they didn’t have any copies on hand.
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: book club
, the help
| 1 Comment »
I recently completed the test in Strengths Finder 2.0 which can be bought on Amazon for around $12 (StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Link to Amazon). It was recommended to me by a long time friend who works at Texas Instruments. His team took the test at his work so I bought it for our Operations/Admin team at my work since I thought it would be a fun way for us to understand each others strengths. I really enjoyed reading the assessment it gave of me and my co-workers.
Following are my Top 5 strengths and brief description of each. I wonder if these are typical of entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, technology entrepreneurs, or other professions. I know that I enjoy having roles that are not fully defined and where I can try new things. I thought these described me fairly well and it was nice to have a way to put in words some of my strengths. It was eye-opening for me as I didn’t fully realize there were others who thought like me or articulated themselves like me, but when I read some of the quotes from people who had the same Top 5 strengths, I recognized myself in some of the things they said.
People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues. “Chances are good that you periodically identify problems others fail to notice. You might create solutions and find the right answers. Perhaps you yearn to improve certain things about yourself, other people, or situations.”
People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason. “Driven by your talents, you occasionally sense you are part of something bigger or more important than yourself. Maybe this conviction influences choices you make in life. By nature, you may be guided by the notion that no one can live life without some help from others.”
People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person. “By nature, you may share a lot of information about yourself with certain people. You might make individuals comfortable enough to candidly talk about themselves.”
People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters. “Instinctively, you occasionally feel comfortable telling certain individuals stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background. Your forthcoming nature might enable some people to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Chances are good that you may help others understand you as a person.”
People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements. “Instinctively, you repeatedly go out of your way to support, inspire, motivate, or embolden various individuals. You likely regard this task as worthy of your effort and time. Driven by your talents, you inspire your teammates with words that bolster their confidence. You repeatedly remind them they have the abilities needed to attain their goals.”
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: communication
, strengths finder 2.0
, top 5 strengths
| 13 Comments »
This post went out accidentally via email yesterday before I had finished editing it. I wanted to let it sit overnight and re-read it before publishing it. Although I had reverted back to Draft in WordPress, Feedburner did not get the message and sent it out. Fortunately, the edits are not major but were more for clarity. However, if you read it the first time, I suggest you read it again because those few changes will likely change your understanding of what I was trying to convey. I also took out some not so relevant sentences and added a couple links to the book on Amazon should you be interested in purchasing it.
My best friend of 23 years is an English professor. We met during my first day in the dorm before starting my freshman year in college. I was a business major who didn’t know much about English other than writing seemed to come easily for me even at a young age. I can trace my interest in creative writing back to a 5th grade teacher I had the first year I moved to Lubbock, Texas. I would make A’s and A+’s on my English papers in high school for creativity but practically fail grammar until my freshman year in college when grammar all of a sudden made sense to me. Or maybe I should say I quit trying to make sense of grammar and accepted it for what it was. My best friend is a grammar guru and maybe the combination of taking freshman English and typing her papers for her, because I typed faster than she did, somehow helped me get the practice I needed to improve my grammar and punctuation.
Our professional worlds rarely collide, but when I’m facing a situation personally or professionally, she often has a reference to literature (sadly, my knowledge of great literature is not deep or wide given my business degrees) to help me try to make sense of what is happening. Fiction is fiction but as a writer I have come to appreciate that really good fiction is based often times quite heavily on the author’s direct experience or observation of others. A book that my friend suggested I read a while back when I was going through my personal family transition is called The Awakening by Kate Chopin (wikipedia) [The Awakening (Norton Critical Editions) – Amazon link], but she didn’t think it wise for me to read it while in the middle of my turmoil since the main character kills herself and she was concerned about me. Not that I ever had suicidal tendencies, but it was probably wise I wait to read it because I’ve come to realize that the state of being one is in when they read certain words has a huge impact on how they receive and interpret those words. So I read it this weekend.
The book was banished for decades after Kate Chopin wrote it in 1899 for it’s scandalous depiction of Edna, a married woman with two young boys, and her behavior. I find it scandalous even today given her dramatic moves, an affair with not one but two men (one physical, one emotional), feeling no remorse, shame or guilt, and then killing herself when she can’t be with the man she loves thereby leaving behind two young children. But it was back in the late 1800’s, when most women had no means to support themselves and they had to remain in situations they did not want to be in. The man also loves her but knows he can’t be with her because of the rules of their society and withdraws himself from her life. Since Edna is not able to pursue other opportunities or escape her current life, she resorts to killing herself (you’ll have to read the book to see how she does it) rather than live in a despondent world “without the vibrant colors of love.”
The main character, Edna, was 28 going on 29 when she began the awakening process. I was 38 going on 39 when I started to realize I was waking up to a different perception of myself and the world around me. I remember words I read in an email, I remember my response, I remember the place, the person, the drink, the conversation, the expression, a twinge that when placed together triggered a shift in my being that resulted in my songwriting, journaling, poem writing, emotion laden emails to co-workers, family and friends (i.e., gushes from my writer’s soul that had been behind an enormous dam for a long time). I sought understanding through courses like Landmark (Transformation in Process and Who I Was Being Was Not Exactly Who I Am) and Search Within that both guided the participant to live an authentic life and not what Henry David Thoreau writes in Walden – “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” That was a quote my best friend reminded me of this past weekend. I couldn’t go to the grave with the song still in me, and I hope I don’t die (mostly for my children’s sake) before I release the songs based on my lyrics that I’ve been working on with my songwriting partner. I also hope I don’t die before I find what some people call their soul mate so I can sing him my song, and he’ll understand it just as I will understand his song.
Here are some interesting quotes from the book written by an author who was 32 years old, widowed with 6 kids:
“In short, Mrs. Pontellier [Edna] was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relation as an individual to the world within and about her. This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight –perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.” p. 17
“She [Edna] is not one of us; she is not like us. She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously.” [This was said by Edna’s friend to the man, known to Edna’s husband, who eventually became the object of her love. Edna was not Creole but apparently it was common for young, unmarried men to cater to the needs of married women and flirt with them in that society.]
“Edna began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul.” p. 41
“He [the doctor] observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle change which had transformed her from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life. Her speech was warm and energetic. There was no repression in her glance or gesture. She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun.” p. 92
“Yes,” she [Edna] said. “The years that are gone seem like dreams — if one might go on sleeping and dreaming — but to wake up and find–oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” p. 147
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: book review
, edna pontellier
, english professor
, henry david thoreau
, kate chopin
, the awakening
| 8 Comments »
I just got back from a week long part stay-cation and part away-cation with some friends who live in two different cities. We visited some local Austin famous places like the Oasis and Hamilton Pool. We also saw The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (nice movie). I always feel so blessed after I get to spend time with these particular friends because I’ve known them for 20+ years now. Our kids have virtually grown up together and at one point in each of their lives, they thought they were cousins. It didn’t matter that we looked different, to them they just felt like family. I feel lucky to have them in my and my kids lives.
During this time, I read a very interesting book (that most of the rest of the world already knows about because the movie is now out starring Julia Roberts) Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (Amazon Link) by Elizabeth Gilbert. It was if the author was writing parts of my story! It got enough positive reviews to warrant a movie starring Julia Roberts but it certainly touched a nerve with some of the Amazon reviewers who decided it was self indulgent! One of the moms at a water park we went to saw I was reading it and told me how great it was and she loved it. She told me “just wait until you get to the part when she’s in India.” This is obviously a book that elicits very different responses from people depending where they are in their life/spiritual journey.
I won’t quote some of passages (that I desperately want to) here because my blog is read by many people…not just women age 30+ going through a mid-life awakening and search for meaning. This is a non-fiction account of the author’s experience of taking one year ‘off’ to find God/herself. She does not have kids and received a hefty book advance which makes this a much easier endeavor. She spends 4 months in Italy (eating), 4 months in India (praying), and 4 months in Indonesia, specifically Bali (loving). She writes about divorce, marriage, God, spirituality, crushes, love, food, different cultures, depression, not wanting to live, yoga, meditation, physical intimacy, soul mates, etc. The only character in India who the author says she uses his real name is Richard from Texas. Richard has an interesting take on soul mates (see quote below) and apparently he builds houses in Austin. I SO want to run into Richard from Texas some day! Given I live in Austin, it might happen. Now for some quotes:
“Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline. Looking for Truth is not some kind of spazzy free-for-all, not even during this, the great age of the spazzy free-for-all.” p. 2.
I’m not going to type it all here, but the top of p. 49 she talks about how she tried to make sense of her depression and why she would feel this way from chemical, diet, seasonal, to being an artist/writer, to her situation, to her parents, to xyz and she concluded it was probably a little bit of everything and things she didn’t even understand.
“Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword.’ On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where ‘all is correct.’ But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, ‘all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.’ Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous.” p. 95
“The Bhagavad Gita – that ancient Indian Yogic text – says that is is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” p. 95
“The classical Indian sages wrote that there are three factors which indicate whether a soul has been blessed with the highest and most auspicious luck in the universe: 1. To have been born a human being, capable of conscious inquiry. 2. To have been born with – or to have developed – a yearning to understand the nature of the universe. 3. To have found a living spiritual master.” p. 124
“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it….[they] shake you up…tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you [have] to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it.” p. 149
“To know God, you need only to renounce one thing – your sense of division from God. Otherwise, just stay as you were made, within your natural character.” p. 192
“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” p. 260
“The Yogic sages say that all the pain of a human life is caused by words, as is all the joy. We create words to define our experience and those words bring attendant emotions that jerk us around like dogs on a leash. We get seduced by our own mantras (I’m a failure…I’m lonely…I’m a failure…I’m lonely…) and we become monuments to them. To stop talking for a while then, is to attempt to strip away the power of words, to stop choking ourselves with words, to liberate ourselves from our suffocating mantras.” p. 325
Yes, this is a great book to read for those of you on a journey ‘to understand the nature of the universe’ which is a means to understand yourself.
| Filed under: book review
, new york city
| Tags: austin
, bhagavad gita
, eat pray love
, elizabeth gilbert
, richard from texas
, soul mates
, virginia woolf
| 3 Comments »
“What’s love but a second hand emotion. Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken.” So go the lyrics of Tina Turner’s famous song What’s Love Got To Do With It (wikipedia link). Check it out on YouTube if you haven’t heard it in a while. I kept thinking of that song when I was reading a book recommended to me by someone, who I’ve come to respect greatly, with decades of experience in the field of psychology. The book is called Living Like You Mean It: Use the Wisdom and Power of Your Emotions to Get the Life You Really Want (Amazon link) by Ronald J. Frederick, Ph.D.
It’s a valuable book for any manager/leader/entrepreneur to read because it discusses in simple terms how many of us have challenges processing our emotions and using them as tools to get a better understanding of what is happening inside of us and outside of us. So many of us have been trained not to fully feel our emotions or stop them because we have been judged, place judgment on them, or simply feel we can’t deal with them right now. We are a bundle of feelings and they surface, just like thoughts, to give us data points to help us navigate this crazy world. I was speaking to one of our entrepreneurs at the Austin Technology Incubator recently and he said something like “I don’t have time to feel right now.” I could relate to that statement because when I was running my companies, I put many things on the back burner and one of those things was my feelings. The same thing happens when you are parenting little kids who take so much of your mental and physical energy…you feel like you have to keep up a front of having it all together so the kids don’t see what you are processing. But you know what? Even if they don’t see it, they feel it. Of course your ‘gut feeling’ is always right there but sometimes we ignore it and defer to the ‘powers that be’ when if we had only listened to it earlier we might have taken action earlier and ended up in a better place earlier.
Dr. Frederick used very powerful examples based on his client’s stories that many people can relate to. It’s hard to summarize this book, so I’m just going to highlight some key quotes/takeaways:
He says that “in general the spectrum of our emotions is actually made up of eight primary feelings and their related shades and combinations,” which are Anger, Sadness, Happiness, Love, Fear, Guilt-Shame, Surprise, and Disgust. (p. 54-55). He lumps Guilt-Shame together as one category but makes a distinction that I found very enlightening. Guilt is feeling bad about something you did and shame is feeling as if you are a bad person.
The fear of feelings is apparently common. “In fact, most of us are afraid of our feelings. We’re afraid to feel the full extent of our emotions and afraid of being emotionally alive and present with others. We’re afraid of being vulnerable, of drawing attention to ourselves, of looking like a fool. We’re afraid of being overwhelmed, of losing control, of getting out of hand. We’re afraid of being seen for who we really are.” So “We distract ourselves, push our feelings aside, stuff them back in, and hope they’ll go away. But they don’t. They keep trying to get our attention, to be heard, to be responded to — that’s their nature. They reemerge as the sense that something is off, odd, or not right; as worry, irritability, restlessness, anxiety, or depression.” (p. xiv-xv).
In the last few years there have been many studies on emotions leading to a better understanding of how the brain works. “We now know that emotions can play a more powerful role than thoughts in bringing about well-being and lasting change. Our feelings can arise much faster and be more intense than our thoughts. At times, no matter what we do to suppress them or how hard we try to control them, they’ll have the edge. In addition, recent discoveries in the field of neuroplasticity…reveal that emotional experience actually has the power to rewire our brain!” (p. xvii). “In recent years, technological advances have enabled scientists to understand more precisely just how the brain functions. Joseph LeDoux, in his fascinating book The Emotional Brain, clearly illustrates how the neural connections that run from the emotional parts of the brain to the thinking parts of the brain are actually much stronger and more numerous than the connections that run in the other direction. This helps explain why at times emotions are able to overwhelm our thoughts and dominate our thinking and why it can be difficult to control strong emotions through rational thought alone.” (p. 18).
There are so many ways we avoid our feelings that I can’t type them all here but I recognized myself in many of the descriptions including things like “Overthinking issues, getting ‘stuck’ in your head. Having to be in control or being overly self-sufficient (otherwise, your strong facade might crack and allow your emotions to come through).” (p. 78)
The amygdala is a cluster of neural circuitry deep inside our brain and is a storehouse for significant emotional memories. It also gauges the emotional significance of events and it’s the place where fear originates so it has the ability to overwhelm rational thought and overlook reality. It has the ability to hijack the brain. (p. 90).
He discusses letting yourself actually feel the emotion through it’s entirety. When you don’t, it never gets really dealt with and you keep reliving it instead of letting the emotion come through like a wave to its natural conclusion. It’s a process and doesn’t happen overnight. Attaching a label to a feeling (e.g., anger, sadness, etc.) dampens the fear response and decreases emotional distress. (p. 94). He also gives tools to help you name and process the feeling.
As a business person and a parent, understanding and paying attention to your feelings about situations can help you make better decisions in all aspects of your life. I know so many entrepreneur’s who look back and wish they had listened to their ‘gut feelings’ during critical times but they were too afraid to do so. I’ve been there and done that! The maternal (parental) instinct (based on feelings) is strong and I’m not sure if there have been any studies done but I’m guessing that instinct has saved many a baby’s life.
We shouldn’t be afraid of our feelings because they “1. Impart information. 2. Provide insight. 3. Give us guidance.” (p. 135)
Here’s to your emotional health and well-being! I’ll end this post with a quote the author has on p. 131 that starts Chapter 7 of his book: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk to bloom.” – Anais Nin.
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: anais nin
, austin technology incubator
, joseph ledoux
, living like you mean it
, ronald j. frederick
, the emotional brain
, tina turner
, what's love got to do with it
| 3 Comments »
I took the kids to Barnes & Noble a couple of weeks ago to look at books and play with the train set in the kids section. When I can’t think of anything else to do, I go there because I can get a Starbuck’s hot chocolate or passion tea lemonade and hang out with them while they look at books. My son happened upon a book series on display called The 39 Clues (there’s even an official website!) and for some reason he decided he wanted the books. I think there are 9 in the series and he was excited because the 9th book took place in the Bahamas which was a place they were about to go to with their dad. Although he’s not quite the recommended age (9 to 12 years) for the books, I was thrilled he wanted to read them. He’s a good reader, but he really hasn’t been that interested in sitting down for any length of time and reading a book. He loves any and all things sports related and usually prefers to play Wii NFL Madden football than read a book. He asked me almost every day since the day he saw them if the books were here…well they arrived today.
This book series seems to be about kids searching out clues around the world to unlock and discover the secret to their family’s powers. It’s apparently a New York Times bestselling series and it comes with special clue cards.
Being the frugal mom/person that I usually am, I told him that I would go check them out online first before buying them and of course they were cheaper online at Amazon so I ended up buying him The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze Of Bones – Library Edition (39 Clues. Special Library Edition), The 39 Clues Book 2: One False Note, The 39 Clues Book 3: The Sword Thief, and The 39 Clues: Card Pack (v. 1) (Amazon Links). It will be interesting to see if he likes them and gets hooked.
As for children’s chatter, I love listening to my kids having conversations with each other. The things they talk about are so funny and interesting. While driving around running errands with them after work today, they decided to ask me how babies are made and I explained to them as simply as I could how a baby gets inside a mommy’s tummy. They grasped the concept but not really the details as I didn’t get into the mechanics of how it happens. [My daughter usually says she does not want to have babies. I ask her why and she says because her tummy would get big. But then a few minutes later, she’s playing with her baby dolls! My son hopes to only have boy babies because other than his sister, he much prefers hanging with his buddies.] Anyway, they laughed and then started talking to each other about turning into sand. My daughter said she wanted to turn into sand after she died. My son said that according to the Chinese, you become an animal after you die. He asked me if that was true and I just told him that some people believe certain things and no one really knows what happens after someone dies. My daughter kept asking her brother if he wanted to turn into sand and after a while he agreed that he would also want to turn into sand. She then smiled a victorious smile because she got her brother to agree to something she wanted to do. I feel so blessed that they usually get along really well with each other right now. They really seem to look out for each other and make sure the other is OK. I hope it lasts and I can’t wait to overhear their next sandy conversation.
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: Amazon
, barnes and noble
, maze of bones
, one false note
, the 39 clues
, the sword thief
| Comments Off on The 39 Clues and Children’s Chatter
I recently finished reading Outliers: The Story of Success (Amazon link) by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell also wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Amazon link) and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Amazon link). I have not read either of the other two but have heard much about them. They were and continue to be top sellers. I was sent a copy of Outliers by I’m guessing a publicist several months ago when I was more actively blogging. I didn’t get around to reading this one until just recently and it was a very interesting read. My overall takeaway is that I’m screwed. I’ll never be an outlier, but my kids might have a chance.
He proves through a series of statistics, research, and anecdotal stories that outliers basically have to a) be born at the right time, b) have access to the right resources, c) have the right support/encouragement, and d) have had 10,000 hours (approximately 10 years of experience) in a particular skill when a bunch of economic factors line up. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Bill Joy, founder of Sun Microsystems, had about 10,000 hours/10 years of coding under their belts due to a series of fortunate occurrences that enabled them to start their businesses at the right time. They were both born around the same time as was Steve Jobs. In Rockefeller’s day there were 14 other Americans including Andrew Carnegie and JP Morgan born within nine years of each other who were part of the top 75 all time richest people in the world.
I’m too old now to figure out how to get 10 years in of doing something like coding to make me an outlier. I have no idea if I was born at the right time. I do happen to like the year I was born. It’s a cool year. Currently my set up is all about encouraging/supporting my kids and as adults we don’t usually get that same kind of encouragement/support. The only thing I have been doing for a long time in different forms and fashions is writing. I took a huge break from singing. I have a lot of hours logged into thinking too much (not sure how useful that is) and I’ve been in the business world for some time. So my conclusion is that the odds are stacked highly against me being an outlier, but that’s OK because the odds are currently in favor of my kids being outliers. Well, I think most kids at their age have the potential to be outliers.
My son loves to play soccer and practices at least 3 times per week with games on weekends. My daughter loves swimming but only gets to practice once per week. My son wants to be a professional soccer player. At his age, I think I was lucky just to know how old I was let alone what I wanted to do when I grew up.
I also learned the importance of cultural ways of communicating in urgent situations. He describes how several plane crashes could have been avoided if the Korean pilots were not playing to a cultural notion of not defying their superior. It was worse fate to contradict a sleep-deprived captain or challenge a New York sky control person that risk death. I can see that playing out in all sorts of relationships…business and personal. I come from a culture where despite living most of my life in America, we were taught to respect our elders and not challenge them. I had/have a challenging nature so I had a harder time communicating in my family, but I also picked up some of those ways of communicating so I can appear passive when I don’t necessarily think/feel passive. In certain cultures, communication is rarely direct. It’s often implied and those who are seen as being in positions of authority or someone you don’t feel you can challenge, the person in the perceived lower position ‘hints’ or talks in non-threatening ways to influence the person in authority. Cultures who aren’t used to that can make false assumptions about people who communicate that way.
There were several other interesting chapters in between but my final takeaway that I could relate to had to do with the color of your skin. Malcolm Gladwell is 1/2 Jewish and something like 1/8 Black Jamaican. His great-great-great grandmother was bought by a White slave owner in Jamaica who favored her. They had a son whose skin color let him escape slavery and get an education resulting in him marrying another ‘mulatto,’ as they call people of mixed race, and their kids were protected from slavery. Gladwell’s mother had an opportunity to study in Europe and she met his dad. The South Asian culture (as I believe the African culture is too) is very much into skin color. The lighter your skin, the better off you are or shall we say are perceived as more socially elite. People are still judged by the color of their skin. I notice it much less now than I used to even among my South Asian peers, but it’s still there. I’m often the only brown person in a business meeting and often the only woman too. Fortunately in the technology entrepreneurship world, there are a good number of South Asian brown men so I don’t always feel out of place in that regards.
So, Outliers was a good, fairly easy read with interesting factoids and observations. Now I will wonder if my kids will be seen as Outliers some day. They are already outliers to me!
| Filed under: book review
| Tags: andrew carnegie
, bill gates
, bill joy
, jp morgan
, korean pilots
, malcolm gladwell
, tipping point
| 2 Comments »
I’ve been asked several times by people what business books I read, and honestly I don’t read too many of them. This could partly explain why I’m not a millionaire yet. Maybe I have ADD (which many entrepreneurs purport to having in some form or fashion), but a book really has to get my attention and ones presented in fable or story form seem much easier for me to read. I used to devour books (mostly fiction), but with all I have going on, I’m lucky if I can get through one book every few months. However, as things have started to settle down a little bit in my life (knock on wood), I’m trying to read more books.
Fred Wilson did a post a while back listing the books he recommends for entrepreneurs (e.g., Atlas Shrugged, Shakespeare) which resulted in a guy named Zachary Burt creating a wiki for people to list recommended books for entrepreneurs. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse, is on this list and one of my favorites. I used to give all my Intro to Entrepreneurship students a copy of Siddhartha as a good-bye gift. It’s one of the few books I’ve re-read at different times during my life and each time I take away something slightly different and more.
I wrote a post a few weeks ago about a book I read during a much needed break called The Happiness Hypothesis and I just finished Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. I plan to write about books more often on this blog and highlight any connections I see between the content of the book to entrepreneurship and parenting. The books will range from business related, to fiction, to classics, to possibly space exploration but I believe you can learn something from one book that later can help you assimilate (consciously or un) something you experience in the real world or read in another book. I also plan to update the design of this blog and add a page listing book recommendations.
If you have any books you think I should add to my pile, please let me know in the comments or by emailing me. I will be linking to Amazon for books I read and for full disclosure, if you happen to buy a book from that link, I will eventually get a small dollar % of that purchase. To date in the three plus years I’ve been blogging, I have yet to receive a check from Amazon so I don’t anticipate writing about books will be a lucrative endeavor!
| Filed under: book review
, Just For Fun
| Tags: books
| 1 Comment »