My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
purchase it at B & N, Amazon or (click on image of cover)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Taking A Second Look At Favorite Books

When I wrote about the Tuck & Patti concert we enjoyed several weeks ago, I mentioned how Patti reminded the audience to listen to old favorite songs over again. This was so that we could look at the songs in a fresh light. Being a Bookhead who enjoys reading I thought that can apply to reading favorite books as well. It was rather fortuitous that at that same time of the concert I came cross a book at the library about rereading books. The book is: Nothing Remains The Same: Rereading and Remembering by Wendy Lesser.

Wendy Lesser begins the book discussing how at one point she was rereading a Henry James novel, The Portrait of a Lady, and that experience had a startling effect on her reading experience. She shared how she had first read the book as an undergrad student and then in her graduate classes. Then the time she spoke of in her first chapter she was rereading it when she was in her forties. She found that she was looking and listening to the book from a totally different perspective from when she read it as a young student.

She found herself understanding the characters of the book in a different manner from the eyes of her own life experiences. In her words, “…I used to be tempted to skip ahead, I now wanted to saunter through the commas, linger at the semicolons, and take small contemplative breaks at the periods. The book was a much better that I had remembered it. More to the point, I was a much better reader of it. Both pleasure and understanding came more easily to me.” (page 2). This reminded me of mandatory readings in my college experience. There was always the temptation to skip ahead to have the reading over and done with. On the otherhand leisure reading that was enjoyable was always a more slow pace taking in fully what the author was saying.
She also makes the point that when rereading a book it is a new experience. “The idea that a simple rereading could also be a new reading struck me with a force of a revelation. It meant that something old wasn’t necessarily outdated, used up or overly familiar.” (page 2) The book then goes through a series of books that she reread and she shares what she learned from each of the rereading experiences. It is interesting how in many cases she remembered when she read the books for the first time and what was going on in her life at that time. Memories are powerful. She then would share how her rereading showed the books from a different perspective as she was at a different point in her life journey.

I have reread a few books over my reading life and I do agree with Ms. Lesser that the different life perspective does add value to the reading experience. I remember reading Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis as a young teen and the impact of his logic and thinking had on my thoughts on the competing worldviews that I was thinking about at the time. Then as an adult I reread Mere Christianity and I was able to understand more of it on a second reading and had a deeper appreciation for his thoughtful writing.

Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning is another book I remember reading when I was searching ideas in high school and then I reread it as I began teaching college students later in life. Again the rereading is affected by being at a differing point on the life journey. I was able to understand the need for purpose more as I had traveled more life experiences than when I was in high school. So Frankl’s book holds so much more meaning to me in my later years.
Of course as a Christian I have reread the Bible and numerous portions of it over and over again. With each time I read a certain passage I can gain new life lessons based on what life experience I am going through at that moment in time. I am sure those of other religious faiths experience the same with their religious writings.

This book piqued my interest in other books I will want to reread in the future. Of course I emphasize the future as I have mentioned my next year of reading will be tied to my soon to start dissertation work on my PhD in Psychology. As I contemplate rereading some of my favorite books I realize I have quite a long list of first time read books that I have facing me as well. Of course that is the life of a Bookhead. At least I have interesting mind growing opportunities as I look at my ever-growing list of books to read. But with this book on rereading I will definitely begin adding to the list favorite books I want to reread.

Reflection: Is there a book you have reread? Think about the experience. Did you view the book differently in the various times you reread it? Are there other books you want to reread? Think over two books you want to reread. Why do you want to reread them?

Monday, September 28, 2015

Persevering After Failure

Last week in my college success courses I teach I shared a true story on what can be learned from failure. The discussion that followed was encouraging as they saw in the story perseverance, learning from wise advice, and that dreams can still come true. Those were the main thoughts the students shared.

The story came from my sharing the book with them, From Failure to Promise “360 Degrees”. I started off with a question: “Is it possible for someone to flunk out of a college and then years later wind up teaching there as a professor?”. After the initial stares some shook their heads no and some indicated yes. That is the reality of the basic gist of the life story, Dr. C. Moorer tells about himself in this memoir about his life from failure to success.
He honestly shares about his high school dream of going to the university to be an auto engineer. He was a good student but various factors interfered in his first year to cause him to go onto suspension, (I won’t discuss the factors here to peak your curiosity to read the book yourself). None the less, he shares about how life happened to him which led to failure. That is what I spoke to my college students about, that life can hit you from left field and bring failure your way. What do you do about it?

There are many principles that can be learned from Dr. Moorer’s story. My favorite is when he accepts advice from his father after he came home dejected from the university on academic suspension. The description of what his dad says is found on page 47, “He asked to speak to me, and I knew it was going to be an interesting conversation , to say the least. “So, you’re finished like that huh?” The dichotomy of his query left me reeling for the right response. “Well, they said I can’t come back for a year or so,” I explained. He quickly followed by asking, “..and then what or now what?” I replied, “I guess I got to go to community college and try to get back in, but I don’t know about my job or engineering…” I said little, but for him, I had either said enough or too much. He calmly but assertively cut in, “Life is hard, ain’t nobody giving away anything. If you really want something worth having, you have to sacrifice for it. It may require bleeding, sweating, and even crying to get it. Just ask the Lord to help you out along the way. Take breaks but don’t break away from it. Everything is going to be alright if you don’t break down like a little sissy every time things don’t go your way.” This was great wisdom from his father who ran a small auto body shop in Detroit, Michigan.

From the rest of the story as the reader follows the progression of his life story up to his present time of being the Dean of the Madonna University School of Business, it shows how he took his father’s advice to heart. He could have played the victim and blamed his professors or maybe that the school did not help him enough. No, he took ownership of his problems. Also his father’s advice showed the values of personal responsibility. I like how he emphasized take a break to gain clear vision of what happened but don’t break away from the future God had for him. You noticed the father did not say. This is unfair! Let’s get a lawyer and start a protest. Instead he encouraged his son to regroup, don’t give up, and turn to God for persevering strength.

Did you notice he is now Dean of the Madonna University School of Business. What happened to his dream of engineering? Sorry no spoiler alert here, you will have to read the story yourself. But it is a learning experience that I discussed with my college students in my college success classes. We discussed how with our dreams and goals we need to be open for shifts to occur. Just as I have shared in the past, Dr. Krumboltz of Stanford University, speaks of how happenstance events can change are dreams and we need to be open to new directions in our lives. This is the same as what Dr. Jim Bright speaks of with the Chaos Theory of Careers that shifts can occur in our life direction. Be open to the shifts if they are opening up new passions and new positives for your life. Some of those shifts or happenstance events start out as failures that come across our paths. That is where we need to listen to Dr. Moorer’s father’s advice in not giving up but taking time to regroup and move forward instead of backwards. Or as I say in my book, Living More Than OK, we need to spiral up to abundant living not spiral down.

Reflection: What does perseverance mean to you? Think back to a failure in your life. What did you learn from the experience?

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lessons In Learning How To Fly

This past weekend I took my wife to hear one of her favorite music duos –Tuck and Patti. It was at One World Theatre in Austin, Texas. If you are ever visiting Austin check to see if they are having a concert. They always have a great lineup of artists. It is a small, warm and welcoming venue where you get a great feel for the artists no matter where you are seated.
The concert was phenomenal. Patti is a pure embodiment of joy. Her voice from low tones to high tones is so smooth and clear. She captures the emotions found in each song they sing. Tuck is a guitar virtuoso. Guitar is my favorite instrument so it was a joy to see an artist who was definitely in flow with his guitar.

Here is one of their songs they played near the beginning of the concert. Take a listen to them by clicking on the title of the song.

Learning How To Fly by Tuck and Patti (click on title to hear song)

When your heart is low feel the breezes blow
It's all right you just take your time
There's no hurry now that you're on your way
When you're learning how to fly
No more wandering 'round, step up off the ground
You will find you can glide on by
There's a magic place that is just for you
When you're learning how to fly
You've always known that this was not your home
You've been longing for that place
Where you would not feel so all alone
Well now that time has come for you to fly away
Just breathe on in then breathe on out
And you'll be on your way
Watch the ocean rise, say your sad good-byes
Don't be shy, go ahead and cry
There's a light to guide and you're really on your way
Now you're learning how to fly
Now you are flying, rising, floating
Sailing on this blissful ocean
Everything you've always wanted now
Learning how to fly

Freedom comes while you are soaring
Far away from cares and longing
Take this moment, open up your eyes
You're learning how to fly

Repeat chorus

You are higher now, feeling lighter now
So much joy, you just have to go
Feel the greatest love that you've ever ever known
When you're learning how to fly

You are higher now, feeling lighter now
So much joy, you just have to go
Feel the greatest love you have ever known
When you're learning how to fly
Now you're learning how to fly
You are learning how to fly

Listening to the song I thought of a saying by C. S. Lewis, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” A part of this life in my thoughts is preparing to fly to another realm that C. S. Lewis speaks of. What is ahead on that journey speaks of God’s love in my thoughts and my worldview.

Also as we travel through this life we fly from life passage to life passage. Part of maturity is learning to fly through the time points in our lives. Some of those time points are sad and some are full of joy. I find it important to learn to let go of the weightiness of life cares and concerns to fly lighter and higher to realms of joy.

During a couple of Tuck and Patti’s songs in their concert-- Castles in the Sand and Time After Time; I reminisced back to my days living in Chicago. I savored back to memories of listening to my musical friends, Keryn Moriyah and Lia McCoo in Northside Coffee Houses. Lia’s voice is similar to Patti and Keryn in many songs played a jazzy folk style I enjoyed listening to so much.

One of my favorite thoughts from the concert was when Patti shared an idea to listen back to favorite songs from your past and listen for new gems within the songs. She is so right. I have had that experience many times of listening to songs I enjoyed in the past, and depending where I was at in my life journey the song can take on a whole new meaning. As we traveled home from the concert, my wife and I reflected on that thought in that we heard them last year when they came to Austin and this concert had a totally different feel than the previous year.

If you ever get the chance to hear Tuck & Patti in concert make it a point to do so. Their music is full of positive energy to enhance your enjoyment of living.

Reflection: What does learning to fly mean to you? Look up and old favorite song of yours on YouTube and listen to it. How do you experience that favorite song in the here and now of the present?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Are You Ready For The Real Thing: Life

One of my daughter’s favorite musicians, Toby Mac, came out with a new CD so I was listening to some of the songs off of it. I enjoy his music as well as the messages behind his songs. One song stood out to me as I begin teaching a new group of College students in the College Success course I teach. That song is “This Is Not A Test”. The song in my viewpoint is about experiencing Life with all the real consequences that face us. With teaching college students part of their life in classes is studying for tests to prepare them later for real life in their careers. Yet outside of class in the jobs and relationships they face the real thing of life everyday where there are no retakes or practice runs.

Take a few minutes to reflect over the lyrics to the song. You can listen to a video of the song by clicking on the hyperlinked title.

"This Is Not A Test" Toby Mac (listen to the video by clicking on the title)

Fell out of the sky Hit the ground runnin’ The future is tonight
They’ll never see us comin’ Takin’ by this urgency Won’t let this moment pass The Kingdom is alive We’re steppin’ on the gas We’re checkin’ in, so check it out We’re droppin’ in There ain’t no stopping us now We’ve only got one shot Gonna to take it now Goin’ all in, gonna make it count Won’t look back, gonna set my eyes ‘Cause there ain’t no practice runs in life
This is not a, this is not a test This is the real thing
This is not a, this is not a test This is the real thing
We gonna go til we got nothin’ left This is the real thing
This is not a, this is not a, this is not a test This is not a test
This is not a test We’re checkin’ in, so check it out
We’re droppin’ in There ain’t no stopping us now
We’re breathin’ in, we’re breathin’ out We’re droppin’ in
There ain’t no stoppin’, stoppin’ us now
We’ve only got one shot Gonna to take it now Goin’ all in,
gonna make it count Won’t look back, gonna set my eyes
‘Cause there ain’t no practice runs in life
This is life... So don’t get left behind
This is not a, this is not a test This is the real thing
This is not a, this is not a test This is the real thing
We gonna go til we got nothin’ left This is the real thing
This is not a, this is not a, this is not a test
This is not a test This is not a test
We gonna move, live every second Make it count for you
We gonna move, live every second Make it count for you
(This is not a test) We gonna move, live every second
Make it count for you

So many times the “left behind” feelings occur as we do not take seriously the choices we make in life. We waste time spinning our wheels doing remakes of bad decisions. That may be fine for a quiz where there are multiple retakes but as the song is saying, in real life we don’t have that luxury. The real thing of life especially in the most important times does not come with practice runs. After each choice comes a consequence that alters our life by the choices we make. Granted we can try to make up from the messes of bad choices by making amends and making better choices in the future but that does not negate the initial mistake.

The phrases: “Won’t let this moment pass”; “We’re checkin’ in”; “We’re droppin’ in”; “We’ve only got one shot”; “Goin’ all in”; “gonna make it count” point to what success in life and living the more than ok life is all about. In our decisions in life we need to be thinking critically and with a serious sense of responsibility. It is about actively being engaged in our environments and understanding the power of each choice we make to create our futures. If we plan to make our lives count then it there needs to be an understanding we must be involved in life and making the best possible choices.
Then I also appreciate how the song ends with, “We gonna move, live every second, Make it count for you”. Life is not about being passive but active in “we gonna move”. There is no impact in life is we just sit on the sidelines passively hoping life to just hand us something. Sitting passively we either get dumped on with something negative or just nothing good ever happens. He challenges the listener to make life count even to the point of living each second, (“seconds” makes me think of another song but that will be for next week). Really the choice is ours as we can let life pass us by or make the most of it by living life as the real thing.

Reflection: Have you had times where you thought life was passing you by? What was happening in your life then and what choices were you making? How are you moving in life right now? How can you make your moments count?

Monday, August 24, 2015

Quotes Challenge the Mind and the Heart

I enjoy quotes. Often in emails to students I will sign off with a motivational quote to help them in their life journey. An uplifting quote can aid in perking up a difficult day or be an encouragement with struggles you may be facing. There are numerous quote websites you can go to search for quotes with many of the sites listing the quote on a creative background. There are also books of quotes you can purchase and one that I have in my library is a book of heartfelt thoughts – Thoughts Spoken From The Heart: Over 500 Thoughts That Bring Meaning To Your Life written by Lolly Daskal. These are not quotes from various people rather these are meaningful thoughts from her heart.

I came across Lolly Daskal’s writings by happenstance of noticing her topics coming across my Twitter feed. She does writing for, Fast Company and Psychology Today. She is founder of Lead from Within, a global leadership, executive coaching, and consulting firm based in New York City and has over 30 years of experience. Her website is where you can check out some of her articles.

I would like to share with you samples of her quotes from her book that stood out to me.
“Instead of waiting for confidence, act as if the change you desire has already taken place.” This one stood out to me, as it reminds me of Dr. Alfred Adler, the famous philosopher and psychiatrist, who used the “as if” technique in therapy. If a client wanted to be more confident what would that look like? He would encourage them to go out and act like they were confident even though at the moment they did not feel like they were confident.

“Passion is the secret to many success stories.” This thought by Lolly Daskal reminds me of the many books I have read over the years of successful people. When you study the lives of those successful be it in business or the arts they have an underlying passion in their life that they follow. It makes me think what am I passionate about?

“Self-confidence is not about the impression you give to other people, but who you are on the inside.” Recently I saw a t shirt that read “I’m Different”. We are each uniquely created people with our own talents and strengths. Our self-confidence needs to come from a healthy pride in knowing who we are and accepting of ourselves. Granted I add we need to continually grow to improve but be proud of your unique God given strengths.

“Never compare yourself to someone else. You never really know their life behind closed doors.” It is so easy to compare our lives to others and think that the grass must be greener in their pasture. It is best to compare your life with how you want to improve by looking at yourself in the mirror instead of trying to be like someone else. It is possible the person you think is so together is looking back at you wishing they had your life.

“Make your values your guiding star for life.” This quote reminds me of how ancient mariners would often use the stars to guide their ships. What are the stars you use to guide your life? Lolly so rightly brings up in this quote the importance of having solid values to guide our lives. As I have mentioned in the past we each look at life from a world view and mine is the Christian worldview. So the basis of my values are principles found in The Bible and in trying to follow the life of Christ as much as possible. We each need to think through what values are guiding our lives.

I hope in sharing a small sample of the quotes in Lolly Daskal’s book that will encourage you to seek our quotes in your life. Some quote websites will even send quotes to your phone daily. Do stop by her website listed about and check out some of her articles she has posted.

Reflection: Which of the 5 quotes from Lolly Daskal spoke to you the most? What is one of your favorite quotes? Do a search on quote websites and choose a thoughtful quote for your day.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Reading Matters in Tech Distracted World

This past weekend I was at a training day for my work as an adjunct professor at a local college. The main speaker and one other session I attended lamented the struggle of getting college students up to the challenge of reading for their classes. This reminded me of the “surprising book facts” graphic shown above that a friend recently had posted on Facebook. The stats on reading were concerning to me as someone who loves reading and promotes reading to students. There was no source listed so I wonder if some of the stats may be too high but sad to say from other reports I have read on reading in America I don’t think they are too off.

How do we get the message out that “reading matters”? I would like to share some thoughts from a small book by David Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading. It is based on an essay he wrote for the LA Times on August 9, 2009. The books seems to be a response to a young family member saying to him that “reading is over”. In our modern culture of less and less reading being done, it is easy to feel that reading is over. That is where I feel it is important for those who love books and know the importance of reading to promote the importance of reading and that it makes a difference.

Ulin shares how he grew up in a house full of books so he was aware of books from a young age. I like what he states about what drew him to reading, “ their nearly magical power to transport us to other landscapes , other lives.” (page 10). That is one element I remember of books I read in Summer reading programs as a child. From my small town in Ohio I was able to learn of diverse other places and peoples in the world. He shares how reading impacted other writers as well. He lists a long quote about reading from a writer Frank Conroy’s memoir , “Safe in my room with milk and cookies I disappeared into inner space. The real world dissolved and I was free to drift into fantasy, living a thousand lives, each one more powerful, more accessible, and more real than my own.” (page 12) I response to that Ulin states, “…you get a whisper of the power of books to change us to alter our emotional DNA. The key is to think about reading as a journey of discovery, and excavation of the inner world.” The idea of inner space relates well to my early reading experiences. I felt like I was in a different world.
Other important points about reading he brings out is “Reading is an act of contemplation, perhaps the only act in which we allow ourselves to merge with the consciousness of another human being… This is what Conroy was getting at, the way books enlarge us by giving direct access to experiences not our own.” (page16). This thought relates to deep mindful reading which is truly an act of contemplation. That is what is so relaxing about reading and yet it is building up our minds and imaginations.

This strengthening of the mind is weakened by the modern habit of surfing the internet. Ulin describes research that discusses how high tech Web surfing impedes comprehension and concentration. He quotes a section from Carr in The Shallows where a UCLA researcher describes the results of studies on those who surf the net : “That ‘our growing use of the Net and other screen based technologies,’ has undermined “our capacity for the kind of deep processing that underpins mindful knowledge acquisition, inductive analysis, critical thinking, imagination, and reflection.” (page 133). To me that describes our dumbed down population lacking in critical thinking which I mention in my Critical Thinking chapter of my book, Living More Than OK. All those good mind qualities mentioned can be strengthened by committing to the habit of reading. Think over the final statement in the “surprising book facts” I posted at the top of this post. Just reading 1 hour a day for 7 years in a subject can make you an expert. One hour doesn’t seem like much but multiply it out 7 times 365 days a year and you have 2,555 hours of reading. Also consider the graphic below about students doing reading 20 minutes a day which I felt was an eye-opener. Clearly it can be seen that reading matters!

Near the end of the book is an important thought that booklovers need to reflect on in promoting reading. “Lately, I’ve begun to think of this as the touchstone of a quiet revolution… Reading , after all, is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage. It connects us at the deepest levels; it is slow, rather than fast. That is its beauty and its challenge: in a culture of instant information, it requires us to pace ourselves…In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment to let the narrative prevail.” (page 151). If we know reading matters we need to speak up and promote reading, support our local libraries, and local bookstores in our towns. Reading has enriched my life over the years and will continue to be one of my favorite natural highs that make life a living more than ok experience.

Reflection: Why does reading matter to you? What do you think of the thought that reading one hour a day for 7 years can make you an expert? How can you promote reading?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Waiting to Read My Dream Booklist

From time to time I have mentioned one struggle with working on my Ph.D. in psychology while balancing work and family. It is that my reading focuses in on my research and classes leaving little time for enjoyment reading. I do enjoy my research reading as most of it relates to Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s flow theory that I am passionate about. My problem is there are so many other books on other topics I would love to read but just do not have the time. That is where in my side reading of books about reading I found in the library a title, relevant and interesting to my present life. The book is So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading. It is written by Sara Nelson. I found out through Wikipedia that she is currently editorial director for Amazon books. She has a rich history in the book industry as a former editor of Publisher’s Weekly and editor for the book section of Oprah’s Magazine. She obviously is a person with a passion for books and reading.

Her book was a quick read for me that I could fit in between my studies and breaks between clients in my counseling practice. So Many Books, So Little Time is about her attempt to read a book a week over a span of a year. It reminded me of a professor I had when I was working on my Master of Divinity in the Chicago Area. He encouraged us to read a book a week outside of our studies. I liked the idea but with my work schedule and classes I hardly ever did it.

Sara Nelson’s book opened my mind to make a commitment to work on the books I have been missing during my doctoral work. After my dissertation is finished one of my main commitments will be to try to read a book a week for a year. Of course I still have some months before I can even start that stage but the important thing is that reading this book refocused my mind on looking forward to reading throughout a year. I easily have 50 books on my Dream Booklist.

The enjoyment in reading this book was that it wasn’t just a summary of the books she had read. Instead she brings the reader into her life throughout the year of balancing her professional life, her family life and her reading life. For a passionate reader there are tips on selecting books and insights into the publishing industry that add interest to the book.
One of many standout thoughts in the book came at page 84, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans, John Lennon once wrote. Put another way: Any writer who is honest will tell you that she usually comes up with her best lines or her important transitional paragraph not when she’s sitting in front of the computer, watching the clock, or using the word count mechanism in her word processing program, but when she is stepping into the shower, making dinner, or cleaning the cat litter. Getting lost in a book is the same way; try to force yourself to get engaged with something and you probably won’t. But take your time and have patience, and you’ll slide almost unknowingly into the right thing.” This reminded me of Dr. Krumboltz’s thoughts on happenstance. With reading it relates as well, to moving into flow in reading. It happens with the right material that the reader finds interesting and is challenged in reading through the material.

If you are a Bookhead who enjoys reading you may want to see if your local library has So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson. The book will encourage you in your love of reading and challenge you to keep reading a priority. She also shows that readers can have a life as well. They are not stuck in their favorite reading chair all the time 24/7.

Reflection: Some of the books Sara read were re-reading of books. Are there any particular books you have read in the past that you want to read over again? What are some books you would want to read if you made a passionate reading commitment for the next year?