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Friday, April 11th, 2014
Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ Oh, good. Then we all have something in common. This new book, by a brilliant author, helps you answer this question. Finally. For real.
The book is called Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success. The author, G. Richard Shell, turns your world upside down to help you answer your questions and find meaning and purpose in whatever it is you are doing–or want to do. The paperback will be released this month.
First and foremost: You’re not too old to make your dreams come true right now. Shell spent his 20s unemployed and didn’t start his career until age 37. Today, he is a professor at Wharton, consultant to the Navy SEALS and creator of the Success Course.
You’ve got to read his great book and the Q&A with him below. He will tell you how to see success differently: He says, “The people who are able to unplug from professional life, spend time with the people they love, and gather new, inspiring ideas about what to do next with their lives, may be every bit as “successful” as those who stay on the “track” of an advancing career without asking themselves what they are really accomplishing.
He also gives tips on how to get started on a new path if that’s the direction you want to go. His advice applies to SAHMs just as much as high-profile lawyers. Read my Q&A with him below:
KK: Why do women tend to question themselves and what they’ll do with their lives right after they have kids?
RS: Of course, let’s first note that not all women feel this way. Many are absorbed with raising their children and have no regrets whatever that they have made the choice to focus on the family aspect of social life. But most of us take our perceptions of what it means to be “successful” from our surrounding culture and, for better or worse, our society does not publicly celebrate being a “mom” as much as it does being a celebrity, high-status professional or high-tech entrepreneur. When a woman who has been socialized to aspire to status-based success finds herself spending all her time changing diapers and going to the playground with her kids, she may naturally question if she is on the right path. She loves her children and is ready to sacrifice for them – but it feels like a “sacrifice” exactly because she is thinking about all the other women who appear to be racing ahead on the “fast track” to professional success while she is not. It is much harder for her to imagine the feelings of regret and frustration that high-status professional women sometimes feel about either not having a family at all – or allowing hired help to do the heavy lifting of caring for their kids day-to-day. You need to remember that, from the outside, most people look like they have life all figured out when, from the inside, they actually have significant doubts, bad days and feelings of inadequacy.
KK: How do we get back on track or on a new track of being successful after a break from office life?
RS: Just the way this question is asked contains an assumption I would like to challenge. The people who are able to unplug from professional life, spend time with the people they love, and gather new, inspiring ideas about what to do next with their lives, may be every bit as “successful” as those who stay on the “track” of an advancing career without asking themselves what they are really accomplishing. When people really sit down to think about what a successful life actually consists of, they often conclude that it feature three things: good health, meaningful work and love. If a break from the office routine can help you make progress toward one of more of those three targets, it is time well spent!
Assuming you are going back to work you find interesting and challenging, however, you may need to give yourself some time to make the transition back to the pace of an office job. That is really about energy – so you should be sure to get exercise, sleep and “down time” whenever possible so your battery does not run too low too fast in the first few months of a transition to the office routine. Also, it is very important to seek out some assignments that spark your imagination so you get your motivation locked in. Finally, you’ll need to make time engage with the people around you – not just the tasks. The better your social support system, the more likely you will be able to bounce back quickly when you have the inevitable setbacks and frustrations that come with office politics, people who do not deliver what they promised, and the biases that always seem to creep out to bite you just when you get your confidence back.
KK: How can moms figure out what they want to do?
RS: Moms are no different from anyone else when it comes to figuring out what they should do next. Think of people coming back to the civilian workforce from being in the military or someone who has just had a serious illness or accident that makes it necessary for them to change direction in life. They may face major transitions that feel as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest. But everyone who is urgently asking “What’s next for me?” needs to follow a very similar path in terms of their planning process. In many ways, these are just the people I wrote Springboard for – and the books lays out step-by-step guidance for thinking this question through.
You need to start by surveying your genuine capabilities – what do you do better than most people around you? Can you write, cook, engage with children or young people or organize social events? There are substantial careers in each of these areas of competence (indeed in every single area of competence you can imagine) – from helping people write their resumes to starting your own wedding or event planning service. Target work that uses your talents – at a realistic level for someone just starting out.
Next, you need to think back and re-connect with your sources of self confidence. Go talk to people who believe in you. Think back to times when you have overcome obstacles and lived to fight another day. With your confidence renewed, set up interviews with people who are successful doing whatever you think might be fun or exciting to do yourself. People are often very, very generous in helping others think about how to get started in their professional area. Maybe you’ll need to go to school or get specialized training. Maybe you’ll need to apprentice to a skilled person for a time. The most important thing is to start doing things related to the area you are targeting. Once you are in motion, good things happen. You meet people who know other people. You gain experience. You can get a “lucky” break.
Basically, after that, it is a question of trial-and-error. You need to learn from what happens, adjust, and keep moving… Be humble. Be willing to learn. But be persistent.
KK: It’s fascinating that you started your career at 37. What advice do you have for those of us who think we’re too old to aspire toward a new dream?
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RS: The first half of Springboard is designed to help you get over the idea that you are “too old” or “too young” or “too ordinary” to have an interesting life. Indeed, as the saying goes, tomorrow is always the first day of the rest of your life. If you have a “beginner’s mind” about everything you do, then no job is too menial or too basic to get started in a new direction that excites you. The main thing is to pay attention to your inner sense of excitement and fun. I have been a restaurant waiter, a social worker, an improvisational actor, a house painter and a university professor. I love what I do now, but I am using a lot of what I have learned about at earlier stages of my life. And I would probably feel the same way if I reversed the order of my working life. There is a great book called How Starbucks Saved My Life by a guy who went from being a high-status professional to working at Starbucks serving coffee – and he actually got more out of his Starbucks job in terms of personal fulfillment and satisfaction than he did when he had a corner office in a high-rise office building. If you learn to think about life from the inside-out – applying your own true measures of what “success” really means to you, you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that come along compared with living a life in which you let others (or the media) define success for you.
Friday, March 21st, 2014
Did you see author and world-changer Jenny Bowen on Good Morning America this morning? If so, did you get weepy like I did? Oh my goodness. That was sweet. The story goes like this: Jenny Bowen, a former documentary filmmaker, adopted a little girl from China several years ago. The girl was emotionally void–a victim of neglect and abuse at her orphanage.
Jenny simply said she wanted to do something. So she created the organization Half the Sky to improve these facilities all over the Far Eastcountry. She went against Chinese bureaucrats, and she’s still hard at work. She emphasized that if we–you or me–see something in the world that bothers us, we can get out there and do something about it. Big or small, in one house or in one country.
Her new book, Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains, chronicles her journey of adoption, rehabilitating her daughter and adopting another, and her current job to work inside the Chinese government to bring a loving and caring adult into the life of each orphan. This is a book to uplift you and reaffirm your faith in humanity. Pick it up!
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adoption, Chinese adoption, Chinese Orphanage, Half the Sky, Jenny Bowen, orphans, Wish You Happy Forever | Categories:
Best Sellers, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Wednesday, March 12th, 2014
Last week, I posted about the great new book, Thanks for the Feedback. This week, one of the authors, Sheila Heen, tells me what she thinks about calling girls bossy. Is it bad? Is Sheryl Sandberg onto something with her Ban Bossy campaign? And by the way, how do we handle all the unwanted mom-to-mom advice that often feels so judgmental?
Check out the awesome advice Heen has below:
KK: What do you think about the Ban Bossy campaign? How bad is bossy?
SH: Being called “bossy” as a little girl is like most feedback we get as adults–mixed. It undermines the value of the skills it takes to speak up or provide leadership in a group.
But the feedback that we’re being bossy also contains information about how we are impacting those around us that sometimes we should learn from. Maybe someone feels unheard or dismissed or steamrolled. That is important for leaders to understand.
So when my daughter is called bossy (as I was), I want her to hold onto the initiative and being willing to try, and I want her to learn that real leadership is marrying that with empathy and engaging others.
KK: Women are often giving each other advice about babies, parenting and everything else. Why does this hit so close to home?
SH: It’s easy to hear well-intended coaching (“have you tried a wheat-free diet?”) as judgment that you’re doing it all wrong. Particularly when we’re first-time parents, or trying to figure out our second child, our own anxiety about being the perfect parent and not ruining our kids forever can amplify our sense of accusation, even when the mom offering the tip is well-intended.
KK: Why is it often so judgmental?
SH: Because it often is. Every parent is doing some things well (our kids eat healthy and already know their ABCs) and others less so (Noah nap? Never. Yes, he’s a basket case.) These reflect our own values and upbringing, as well as our kids’ challenges and temperaments. In your house, discipline and table manners get instilled early, while next door table manners are nonexistent but potty training is completed before age two. So when we offer neighbor mom “suggestions” for teaching table manners, we are trying to be helpful, but we’re also not-so-secretly wondering why the heck she hasn’t taken care of this before middle school.
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KK: What helps?
SH: Remember that you are in charge of how you hear mom-to-mom advice, and work to extract the judgment and hear the coaching as simply coaching. It’s advice, and it’s your job to decide what’s might work for your kids and your family. The fact that the neighbors do it differently doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. And even when the advice is 90 percent wrong – would never work for your son – that last 10 percent can sometimes be of value, sparking an idea that does work, and the payoff is worth it when you finally toss the last pull-up.
ban bossy, bossy, judgemental moms, judgmental moms, Sheila Heen, Sheryl Sandberg, Thanks for the Feedback | Categories:
Best Sellers, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Friday, March 7th, 2014
Want to build your brain? Want to nudge your child’s brain along? Brilliant New York Time Magazine science writer Dan Hurley says it can be done–at anytime and at any age. Did you see him on TV this week? He told Diane Sawyer about proven, no-gimmick ways to boost brainpower from his book Smarter. Today, he tells us:
“When I was in third grade, I still couldn’t read. My teacher told my mother, “Daniel is a slow learner.” But just three years later, in sixth grade, I earned straight As, and spent the summer afterward typing my first “novel.”
How did I do it? My best friend, Dan Feigelson, became obsessed with Spider-Man and other Marvel comic books and started reading them and drawing their own. Refusing to be elbowed out, I began flipping those pages, putting the words together with the pictures. Soon I was drawing and writing my own comics, and Feigelson and I even made a movie (with help from his dad) starring our invented characters.
It would be simplistic to say that reading Spider-Man made me smarter, but one thing is certain: The old myth that intelligence is forever fixed—that IQ is like a number tattooed on the soul—is dead. Whether already gifted or struggling, diagnosed with a learning disability or just wanting to do a little bit better, children and adults alike can significantly enhance their brain power, according to dozens of randomized, peer-reviewed clinical trials published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. During three years researching my new book, Smarter: The New Science of Building Brain Power, I found strong scientific evidence detailing exactly what works for increasing cognitive capacity—and what doesn’t work.
If you’re waiting for a smart pill, forget about it. Although stimulant medication for ADHD can help some children (and adults) focus enough to learn, they do not raise IQ. Nor do any foods or dietary supplements in otherwise healthy people, as I carefully document in my book. (Don’t shoot; I’m just the messenger.)
So what does work? You don’t need me to tell you that reading to your kids and assuring that they get a solid night’s sleep are good for their minds. Beyond the obvious, though, here are five lessons drawn from my book on 5 No-Nonsense Ways to Make Your Kids (and Yourself) Smarter:
1. Computerized Training
You have probably seen advertisements for Lumosity on television, claiming to offer science-based games to improve mental function. While we have all learned to take such claims with a Costco-sized container of salt, in this case the evidence is there. It’s not as proved as, say, insulin for treating diabetes, but it’s certainly not a scam. A recent study, for instance, found that children who had survived cancer “significantly increased processing speed, cognitive flexibility, verbal and visual declarative memory scores as well as significantly increased pre-frontal cortex activation” after playing Lumosity games for eight weeks. Another study of breast-cancer survivors found that playing Lumosity improved women’s high-level cognitive performance, clearing the so-called chemo fog.
For children and adults with ADHD and other learning challenges, psychologists offer a program called Cogmed, which trains an essential cognitive skill called “working memory.” Many studies published in peer-reviewed journals have found benefits, but a few have questioned how meaningful those gains really are. But compared to the countless kooky psychological interventions that get hyped in the press without any scientific validity whatsoever, Cogmed is legitimate enough that I am enrolling my own child in it. Dozens of other studies of computerized working-memory games have found significant benefits. It’s no panacea, but I consider it well worth a try.
2. Music Lessons
Piano lessons aren’t just a way to make your children hate you; they might also make your children smarter. A study published in February, involving 60 children between the ages of 5 and 6, found those who were assigned to music lessons showed significant improvements in IQ after just 12 weeks, compared to those who didn’t receive the music lessons. Another recent study found that children who received music lessons for 18 months showed increases in their memory.
Of course, as parents know, some children enjoy music lessons, and others hate them. My older daughter begged for a guitar and never practiced, then begged for a ukulele and never practiced. Those stupid instruments are still gathering dust in the corner of our dining room. But there is hope: The younger one says she’s ready. Check back with me in a year.
Physical exercise is the best-proved way to improve cognitive performance in both children and adults. Aerobic exercise is now considered a cornerstone of cognitive therapy in older adults, and resistance training to increase muscle strength has also been shown to help.
In children, a study published in January found that children with lower cognitive abilities improved significantly after a brief cardiovascular workout, while those with higher abilities showed little change. Another study, analyzing the combined results of eight previous studies, also found evidence of benefit.
Now you know why professional hockey players are such geniuses, right?
4. Mindfulness Meditation
How can sitting quietly and doing nothing make you or your child smarter? The cognitive benefit of mindfulness meditation is that it builds the ability to pay attention, to maintain focus. Studies by Michael Posner of the University of Oregon have found that mindfulness meditation not only improves attention but also increases the formation of connections between brain cells, and can even help young people quit smoking. A study published last year by researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, even found that mindfulness meditation can increase test scores on the Graduate Record Exam.
My book opens with the story of two immigrant children, Danny and Julie Vizcaino, who were left behind a grade in elementary school and considered themselves “dumb” until a teacher started a chess club. In a couple of years, both of them were nationally ranked chess players, and both went on to graduate from universities.
Only a few studies have looked at whether teaching chess to children can actually enhance their mental abilities, but it’s a much better bet than having them play Sudoku, Scrabble or other word games—none of which have ever been shown to increase cognitive abilities. What’s special about chess is that it demands focus (like mindfulness meditation); that it requires careful, deliberative thinking; and that the level of play gets progressively harder as skills improve.
Whichever activity you choose, the most important thing is that you and your child understand that intelligence is flexible and can be increased. As Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck has shown, simply explaining to kids that their intelligence is malleable and depends on how hard they work will improve their grades.
I know, it sounds like something out of a Disney movie, but hey, I’m the guy who got smarter thanks to Spider-Man, so what’d you expect?”
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Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
Today’s the big day for writer genius Jennifer Senior
. Her big release, All Joy and No Fun
hits shelves. She tackles some big parenting ideas–issues that we all have but never speak of. For example, why does happiness decline so much once we have children according to vast amounts of scientific research? What’s up with over-scheduling our kids when all of that running around makes us miserable?
Her article in New York Magazine
, where she is on staff, first stirred up the topic. The book goes into detail after fascinating detail about how our kids change our lives completely. She studies real families all across America to explains why this phenomenon happens and tells us what to do about it.
The point of this tome seems to call to parents, “Hey you, it’s hard. And you are not alone!” Oh boy, just read the part about teenagers. Hint: Adolescence is harder for parents than it is for kids.
I asked Jennifer exactly what her goals are with this book and which topics she thinks push the most buttons. Get a great feel for All Joy and No Fun by reading the Q&A below.
KK: How did you get the idea to write about such a controversial topic?
JS: Okay. This is the part where I quite possibly reveal myself to be completely delusional when I say: I didn’t – and still don’t! – consider this topic controversial. I mean, what’s controversial about examining the ways that kids affect their parents? All of us are profoundly influenced by our kids. It’d be nuts to think that our kids are born and we remain the same.
As for how I got here: In 2010, I wrote a story for New York Magazine that tried to figure out why so many studies – across such a wide variety of academic disciplines – said that children don’t improve their parents’ happiness. I read about this finding in 2006, before I had a kid, and it struck me as bonkers, because all I wanted at the time was a kid. After I had said kid, my understanding became more nuanced, but this research still struck me as both totally right and dead wrong. I wanted to delve deeper into it, and I did. I suppose the magazine story was characterized as “controversial” at the time, but again, I never saw it that way, and I think those who made it to the end of my story didn’t either. (I mean, what parent doesn’t find the experience a mixed bag? Especially now, when there are no norms about anything?) But there was only so much one could say about that subject. What really interested me, in the end, was the broader question of how children shape their parents lives. I was, and remain, genuinely shocked that there aren’t several zillion books devoted to this topic.
KK: How do you think your research can help readers–moms of young kids in particular?
JS: What I’m really hoping is that my research will help people say: Whoa, so I’m not alone? It’s a sense of identification, really, that I’m hoping to provide.There’s no normed knowledge out there about our parenting experience. We’re all improvising, all doing it in our separate silos, all wondering whether our feelings are typical, without realizing that there’s actually tons of research out there that tells us what we’re feeling and experiencing is typical—the research is just scattered in all sorts of different places. So, for instance, in my chapter about how children affect your marriage, I’m really hoping that some woman will be sitting in bed somewhere, reading the book, and she’ll suddenly elbow her husband: You see! I told you there was a reason I was feeling this way! I don’t care that you do the yard work and shovel the driveway! I’d much rather you took the kids off my hands for a couple of hours. It says right here that most American women find child care more stressful than the chores you do.
KK: What is the main message you’d like to convey about modern parenting?
JS: That it’s precisely that: Modern. People think they’re supposed to know what they’re doing, when in fact “parenting,” as we know it, is only 70 or so years old. Before World War II, kids worked on behalf of the family’s welfare. Now, kids don’t work, and parents work twice as hard to support them. They treat their children a future investments. But the future, by definition, is unknowable, which means we are all working entirely without a script. Normlessness creates a lot of tension. We’re not sure what we’re raising our kids for, and we’re certainly not sure how to negotiate this new task within the setting of a modern marriage, with both parents working, which is now the norm.
KK: Have you made any personal parenting changes since writing and researching All Joy and No Fun? Which one(s)?
JS: Somewhere along the way in my research, I came across a piece of data I never used in my book but saw played out repeatedly in kitchens across the United States. It’s this: Parents who are good at self-regulation may not themselves be happier, but their children are happier. So I do try, mightily, to keep my temper at bay, even though I often fail.
And there’s one bit of research that is in this book that I seriously take to heart. It says that if parents hash out their divisions of labor before their first child is born — not just in broad terms, but with hyper-specificity —there’s much less conflict between them. Now, my husband and I weren’t organized enough to do that before our son was born. But I’ve discovered that I can still use this technique. Specifically: If the weekend is ahead of us, and I know I have three tasks looming — things I must must must do — I now warn my husband ahead of time and tell him what I need. And vice versa. We negotiate in advance who needs what time to do whatever. And you’d be amazed how much tension that eliminates. Before coming across that research, I had a much more passive approach: The weekend would come along, I’d tell him there was something I needed to accomplish, and he’d get very tense, like I’d sprung it on him. Now, he’s really relaxed about stepping in, because he’s been forewarned. And vice versa.
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KK: Do you have any advice for moms who are struggling with the issues you raise such as constant guilt and all of this concerted cultivation?
JS: Yes! Don’t go bananas. Give yourselves a break, and give your kids a break. n terms of guilt: Remember, national time-use surveys say you spend more time with your children than your mothers spent with you (or women did in the 1960s, for that matter, when most weren’t in the workforce). And in terms of anxieties about concerted cultivation: We may have all sorts of notions about what will put our children in good future standing, but I’d like to point out: When I was in high school, it was considered essential that we all learn Japanese. That didn’t turn out to be the case. One can’t predict the future. We have no idea what our kids’ jobs will look like. Their jobs probably haven’t even been invented yet. Can you imagine Larry Page and Sergey Brin as children, looking at their parents and saying, “One day, I’m going to make all the information in the world searchable. And I will call my company Google.” Their parents would have rolled their eyes.
All Joy and No Fun, happiness, Jennifer Senior, kids, New York Magazine, over-scheduled, overscheduled, unhappy parents | Categories:
Best Sellers, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors