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)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Learning to Thrive in Life

The Christian music group, Casting Crowns, is one my of wife’s favorites. Their latest CD is entitled Thrive. The title song relates well with what I write about in my book, Living More Than OK, and in this blog. Merriam Webster defines thrive as “to grow or develop successfully : to flourish or succeed”. That thought makes me immediately think of Dr. Seligman’s book, Flourish, where he describes how concepts within positive psychology can aid in our humanity so as to develop to fully flourish and enjoy life.

Let’s see what we can learn from the song to be thriving in our lives. First look over the lyrics and take time to listen to the song by clicking on the title:

Thrive by Casting Crowns ( click on title to view the music video)

Here in this worn and weary land Where many a dream has died
Like a tree planted by the water We never will run dry
So living water flowing through God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls With one desire
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Into Your word we're digging deep To know our Father's heart
Into the world we're reaching out To show them who You are
So living water flowing through God we thirst for more of You
Fill our hearts and flood our souls With one desire
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High, Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible
Just to know You and To make You known
We lift Your name on High Shine like the sun make darkness run and hide
We know we were made for so much more Than ordinary lives
It's time for us to more than just survive We were made to thrive
Hey! We were made to Thrive

Mark Hall and Matthew West the song writers look at life from a Christian worldview which is the same viewpoint I look at life from. The ideas though can relate to all people I believe. We all have times where we are living in a worn and weary land. Matter of fact recently I have been feeling that way on many days. It can also be argued that as a country we have been facing worn and weary times, economically, socially, and war-wise with the Middle East turmoil. What is pointed out in the song is that is not the way we were meant to live our lives. Our purpose in life is not to just survive. Being purpose driven we thirst for more than just survival mode.

Just as the definition of thrive states, we need to look at ways to grow. The song starts out with the vision of a tree planted by water so it has a continual source of growth. Throughout the Psalms in the Bible is the idea of thirsting after God. For example in Psalm 42:1 & 2 “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” As well in Psalm 63:1 “O God, thou art my God; earnestly will I seek thee: My soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee, In a dry and weary land, where no water is.” From a spiritual point of view the answer is looking outside of ourselves and connecting with God. Tapping into the Spirit’s power source we do not have to run and hide from life. We can move beyond our ordinary lives and thrive as we are meant to be.

The repeated line at the end, “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible”, speaks to joy, faith, love and endless possibilities. For me this looks back to the initial line where the lyrics say:

“Where many a dream has died”. If we are open to God’s work and power in our lives dreams can be renewed. We can shine in the worn and weary land being lights of joy and love to those around us. God can open new possibilities that are blocked when we settle for living in survival mode instead of thriving mode.

Reflection: What does “Joy Unspeakable, Faith Unsinkable, Love Unstoppable, Anything is possible” mean to you? What worn and weary land are you facing right now? How can you move more towards a thriving life?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Living More Than OK Look at One Nation

As a family we recently finished reading Dr. Ben Carson and Candy Carson’s latest book, One Nation. After several weeks after dinner we would sit in the living room and our daughter read the chapters to us. This was an enjoyable way to work through the book so as a family we could think through the ideas of Dr. Carson and his wife. We had the privilege to meet Dr. Carson and his wife at a San Angelo, Texas book signing a couple of months ago. His wife is delightful as we had about a 15 minute discussion with her that evening at the store concerning the state of affairs in our country.

The first part of the book covers and looks at the roots of problems that are causing America to decline. Topic such as the economy, political correctness, bigotry, and of course health care from a doctor’s perspective to name some of the problems mentioned. The discussion of the problems are well reasoned out. With each problem discussion he provides action steps for readers to consider in helping to correct the problems at the end of each chapter.

After focusing on real problems the country is facing he moves on to discuss more in-depth and overarching solutions to help America regain the greatness it once had in the past. Topics here are such as learning to have mutual respect even when disagreeing. Political correctness implies everyone must all believe and say the same talking points. Respect doesn’t mean we all have to agree on everything. He speaks of learning to compromise which relates well with having a civil and honorable respect for each other. He rightly brings out that both sides in Washington cannot get anything done as they all are focused on doing it “my way” -- then nothing gets done.

In his brother’s keeper chapter he brings out that we need to move beyond the government nanny state to having we Americans, truly care for those less fortunate across the land. Allow the people in their communities to come up with ways to move from the dependency mentality to compassionately aiding their neighbors to be more responsible and rise up to being charitable and compassionate. He makes an important point that a spirit of charity disappears in a Socialist state where an impersonal governments gives handouts paid for by tax payers.

from foter

My favorite section is that America needs to build a more informed populace. He begins that chapter with a verse from Proverbs 14:15 “Only simpletons believe everything they are told! The prudent carefully consider their steps.” I emphasize the same thinking in my book, Living More Than OK, in the essay on Critical Thinking. His chapter emphasizes the importance of education and having an educated populace. To solve the problems we face as a nation we need to have an emphasis on lifelong learning.

Throughout the book he uses his life story as to how a well-rounded education helped him to succeed in life. He points out that it not only helps in financial terms but enjoying life to the full. In other words education and a mindset of learning helps us to keep spiraling up to abundant living. An important part of this process he rightly mentions is the reading of books. He encourages the use of local libraries to read books on a broad array of topics. Of course being a Bookhead I had to say amen to that as my daughter was reading that section of his chapter 11. Dr. Carson’s experience again shows the importance of libraries and reading from when his mother had him and his brother when they were young read two books a week . Being poor they did not have cash to buy books so they made use of the local library. I am glad he continues to promote libraries in his books.

With a public that continues to grow in their learning and knowledge we may be able to turn this Titanic of country around. I must say Dr. Carson and Candy are more positive than I am at present on the issue of the country making a comeback. His final chapters look at the need for vision, renewed understanding on the roots of morality, and the need for positive role models. Many are discussing Dr. Carson as a presidential candidate in 2016. He wisely remains hesitant. He would be a breath of fresh air with his common sense wisdom. His running may help the dialogue of real solutions rise in the discussions that are needed. Part of me still wonders if it is too late with too many Americans not wanting to learn, or to be responsible. It is so much more comfortable for too many voters to sit and take handouts of goodies from the government. Time will tell. I will keep writing about individual personal growth and see what happens in 2016.

Reflections -- What do you think of the current state of our nation? How can an attitude of lifelong learning help in improving your life and maybe America? If you have not read Dr. Carson and Candy Carson’s book do so and encourage others as well to read it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Amazing Grace in the Develop of Our Life

The popular Christian hymn, Amazing Grace, is noted for being the most recorded hymn with Wikipedia stating about 7,000 recordings. In hearing the song do we think over the concept of grace and the impact it can have on one’s life? The song dovetails in my mind to one of my favorite passages of the Apostle Paul’s letters to the early churches. Ephesians 2:8-10 reads: “8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Grace is a major concept in the Christian belief system. It uniquely separates Christianity from other religions. Where other religious systems are focused on man bettering themselves to reach out to God for favor; grace is God looking down towards the brokenness of mankind in love and presenting the work of Jesus on the cross and the power of His resurrection as the way to be in right relationship to God.

Is the initial work of grace in repairing our relationship to God where Amazing Grace ends? That thought is answered in a book, Resisting Grace, (click on book title to purchase the book) by Jon Ido Warden. (click on Jon's name to read his blog) He paints a more elaborate picture of the Amazing Grace of God and how Grace engages with the Christian believer’s complete life journey. I must say one initial reason I was interested in this book as I know the author from my days in Chicago in my undergraduate work at Moody Bible Institute. We lived on the same dorm floor, the famous “9th Floor” of Culbertson Hall. I remember him as a reflective thinker back then so it does not surprise me that he became a Counselor and a writer of a reflective book such as this.
Another reason I found the book an interesting read comes from my Christian Worldview so I was intrigued by his in-depth look at the Grace of God. In his words he describes the book. “This book is about the process of grace. Grace changes us, freeing us from our fears and self-protective mechanisms and develops in us the ability to live freely, fully, and gladly. God does all the work to bring about the change” (page 9). This connects with the scripture I shared at the beginning from Ephesians chapter 2. Salvation from the Christian point of view is a gift from God. God reaches down to human kind in our brokenness to heal and repair. Jon points to the analogies in the Old Testament that describe the sin nature we all carry as being like our being a broken cistern or clay pots that were made for a purpose of holding water but due to the cracks do not serve their purpose. I remember in the beginning of my Counseling program we had to describe our view of human nature. I wrote about the same analogy that Jon speaks of that we are “cracked pots”. I thought of it as it relates to the concept of someone being a crackpot as defined as an eccentric or foolish person with problems. I felt at that time and still do that part of the process of Counseling is moving broken people from being “Cracked pots” to “Masterpieces of pottery” appreciating the beauty and purpose of their lives.

As a Christian, I believe in line with the book, Resisting Grace, that the healing best works with God as the Master Potter, recreating the “Cracked pots” to being “Masterpieces”. I see that process being described in Jon’s book. I appreciate how he follows through how grace relates to all aspects and stages of our life. Just as verse 10 of Ephesians 2 brings out that the work of grace in our lives is God’s handiwork in each believer who is open to the gift of grace. The purpose of God’s grace in the life is to empower the Christ follower to do good works. The good works is not the instrument of salvation but instead it is the result and response of what God has done in our lives. Sad to say many non-Christians point to the lack of good works in the lives of Christians.

Jon ends each chapter with reflective thoughts and questions so it is a book to work through slowly and savor the information he is presenting about grace. One favorite part of the book is from a Counseling perspective, as I noticed many of the reflections and information connects to aspects of psychology and Jon sharing stories of his Counseling practice. One example is his mention of the Johari Window (page 101). The Johari window is a helpful self-understanding concept tool. In the one box is the Known self or also known as the Public self. It is how we are seen by others. It may be a true picture or many wears masks in public. Another box is the Hidden or Private self which is where we keep our secrets from others. This is the person we are in private. The Blind self are the blind spots which are positive or negative traits others may see in us but we often do not see. Then the last box is the Unknown self which Jon describes as the “Only God knows” box. This is the area of our lives where we and others may not understand why we feel or do things. Jon shows how God interacts in all the quadrants of our lives as we are open to His act of grace to fully allow God to be in charge of our lives. That as he states is truly freeing. Some think that Christians are not free but true freedom is resting with an open spirit to what God has in store for our lives.

Of course our human nature of resisting God comes to play in the dance with grace. Even as I wrote the previous paragraph and read Jon’s book I understood why he titled the book, Resisting Grace, as the inner tension of the sin nature wants to go my own way instead of God’s way. That is the root of the problem -- the broken pot is saying, “Why doesn’t someone use me to hold water?”, as it is blind to the open cracks where the water would be wasted by pouring out on the ground. We need that humble surrender to the Creator who can with our openness to the gift of grace refashion our lives to the Masterpieces He wants us to be.

This book is primarily for a Christian who is wanting to understand the process of Amazing Grace in his or her life. Yet I can see where it would be helpful to a truth-seeker who is exploring and wanting to understand what Christianity is all about. Jon aptly and fully paints a word picture of the importance of the unique aspect of grace that sets Christianity apart.

Reflection: What were your thoughts of the scripture passage, Ephesians 2:8-10 listed at the beginning? Look at the picture of the Johari Window – what do you learn about yourself by thinking and reflecting on the four quadrants of your life? Do you see God’s interaction in your life?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Career Passion In The Hundred Foot Journey

From Barnes and Noble website

My wife, daughter and I went last weekend to see the movie, The Hundred Foot Journey. We thoroughly enjoyed it and from the laughter in the theater most everyone did. The cinematography alone inspired us to want to visit small country towns in France. The story opened up a view of the initial clash of two cultures, Indian and French then the unfolding of how although different they learned from each other. The characters were full of a wide range of emotions from of course humor as was noted but also jealousy, prejudice, appreciation, and happiness.

The movie is based on the book by the same name written by Richard C. Morais. The story looks at a family who had a successful Indian restaurant in their homeland that was burned down during political upheaval. The mother of the family tragically dies in the fire. The father leads the family to Europe to settle. By happenstance of car problems they wind up in a small town in France. Then further happenstance and what the father feels is the mother’s spirit guidance, he purchases an old beaten down restaurant for sale with the desire to turn it into an Indian Restaurant with his son as the main chef. The problem is the location is right across from a well-respected French restaurant in the village.
from foter

The movie focuses in on the humorous tension between the father and the owner of the French restaurant, whose husband died so she is a widow who pours all her energies into the French restaurant. The Indian son who learned all he knew of Indian cooking from his mother becomes intrigued by French cooking and desires to expand his talent and knowledge by working at the French Restaurant under the culinary tutelage of the French owner. That increases the tension between his father and the owner of the restaurant.

That is all I will say of the story as this is not a review and my daughter says I always say too much about movies ruining them for others. Kind of like the Geico Maxwell the pig clip, (if you have not seen it click on the link - ), that appears in movie theaters during the ads and spoils the movie endings for those standing before him.

The angle I want to view the movie from is from the career angle. Probably since much of my work over the years has been helping college students on career issues this stood out to me. We see in the movie Hassan who is the Father’s son and chief cook at the Indian restaurant has a natural talent for cooking that was cultivated by his mother in the original restaurant. In considering careers we need to consider and understand the natural talents that we have. Explore your skills and how they relate to the work you do. Some people are stuck in jobs where there is a talent and skill mismatch. Explore on the internet jobs that relate to your skills you are strong in. There are many free skill assessments on the internet.

from foter

Hassan’s attitude about his culinary work captured my attention. He carried a humility about his skills. This allowed for his curiosity and desire to improve to flourish. He could have settled on making his father’s Indian restaurant become more popular in the small town and vicinity. That would have given him a good life most likely. Yet his inner desire to learn and grow as a chef allows him to take the risk to join the team at the French restaurant. In doing so he helps that restaurant improve as well as continues the growth of his culinary skills. In our careers we need that same curiosity to keep growing and learning. This attitude aids in helping conquer boredom in the workplace as well as opening up new opportunities. Our attitude shapes the passion in our work also and you definitely see career passion alive in this movie.

The movie as mentioned earlier brings out happenstance events or as I mentioned last week, life chaos, that affected how Hassan’s opportunities in the town advanced. If the brakes had not failed they would have not found themselves living in that town. If the racial prejudice event had not occurred a major turning point in the French restaurant owner’s life may not have happened. Granted this movie is fiction but the chaotic events are very true to life and fit well with what Dr. Jim Bright brings out in his chaos theory of careers. How do we make the most of the chaos events that come into our lives?

Then one final thought from the movie comes from the final segment of the movie. In keeping with my promise not to spoil the movie I will only mention that a change occurs for Hassan that allows him to reflect over his life values. In the end you see him connecting his career and other aspects of his life to his personal values. In our career journeys to have the most fulfillment in our work time we need to explore our values and see how they connect with the work we are doing. How do those values balance the various aspects of our lives such as work, family. and leisure? For most of us our career journey is longer than 100 feet. It is well worth exploring how well our career journey has gone and how work adds to our life experience.

Reflection: If you have not seen it yet, go see The Hundred Foot Journey as well as read the book. Reflect over your natural talents and skills – how do you use them in your workplace? How curious are you about your career area? Are there areas where you can grow and continue to learn? How do your personal values relate to how you do your work?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Education As A Priority For Living More Than OK

From Foter

As the Summer comes to a close I see activity at the local elementary schools as teachers return to prepare their rooms for the new school year. My belief is that education is important in developing minds to face the challenges of life with critical and creative thinking. Education provides the foundation to prepare young people to explore possibilities for their futures and create new possibilities that are not apparent at present time. I am thankful I had a mother although not well educated herself, due to the time period she grew up in, emphasized education to me. Also I am thankful for the many fine teachers I had who inspired a love for learning. In the past and in my book, I have mentioned my third grade teacher, Mrs. Verna Clifford, who believed in her students and focused on the basics of reading, writing and math to set a foundation for future learning.

Thinking of education, caused me to have interest in a new Glenn Beck book written with Kyle Olson. The title is Conform: Exposing the Truth About Common Core and Public Education. No matter what side of the argument one is on it is an important book to think through the problems with education. I went through public schools in Barberton, Ohio and appreciated the education I received. Did I have perfect teachers all the time? – no. I would have, if they could have used cloning technology to create more Verna Cliffords. But the majority of teachers were passionate about teaching. That is one problem I have with those who bash public education (which Glenn is not doing). People pick out the bad examples of teachers and paint all public school teachers with the same brush. It would be like going to a grocery store and finding one apple with a bruise on it and asking the grocer to throw away all the apples.

In Conform the beginning starts out with the well documented problem that American students fall behind similar students in many other countries. They point out that studies show that American students “rank 31st in math, 24th in science and 21st in reading globally” (page 7). If we want to continue to be a global leader our education of our youth obviously needs to improve. It is problems like this that Common Core is trying to address. Glenn and Kyle go through the book making sounds arguments that maybe Common Core is not the best solution.

From Foter

I am going to discuss just a couple of concerns that I felt strong about in the book. Again I suggest if you are concerned about education in our country to pick up a copy to read and think through the issue yourself. One problem I have strong feelings about is that the Common Core system encourages “cookie cutter” education and teaching to the test. An example of this can be found on page 87, “If the English portion of a Common Core related test asks one question about Shakespeare but four questions about the Environmental Protection Agency document, it won’t be long before schools tailor their curriculum to include the EPA document. As McClusky puts it “Year after year, questions become curricula”. I have spoken with teachers who lament the teaching to the test dampens their love for teaching. More importantly, many College students have told me that it is all the required testing that turned them off to education. How can we create a love for learning to build creative and critical thinkers in such an environment?

Speaking of the tests, when I was working on my Masters in Counseling many classmates were school teachers. You could hear the anxiety in their voices when they mentioned that the TAKS or TASS tests were coming. You would think it was an invading army with the anxious voices. They would mention how anxious the students were. I would think in my mind “Of course! If the teachers and counselors are this scared of the tests that is going to rub off on the students”. In my discussion with college students many have shared how schools would focus for a couple of weeks in all the classes on the TAKS English for example before the test. How ridiculous! I am not against comparative tests. I think back to my elementary and junior high days. We had national tests but they were never hyped up like they do today. You just took the test and received the results. The emphasis on teaching was not particular national test questions. Instead of looking for new ideas for teaching someone should look back at what worked right in the past before test scores started to slip across the country.

Then a point that raised my blood pressure was on page 112 and 113 where they discuss all the data that is being collected on students to predict possible failure in college and to force career directions on students. I have seen this in action. One institution I worked at used an assessment tool for all incoming freshmen. In our college success course we would go over the results. One day one student came to my office and said the computer report said he would drop out. I asked him if he wanted to finish his Associate in Air Conditioning & Heating. He said yes. So I told him, “who is right – the computer report or you?” He went on to finish his degree. Another student, a girl, was doing poorly in her classes. She told me she did not like the health care program she was in. She actually wanted graphic design but a school counselor in high school told her that her career test showed she should do nursing, (which she did not like but did as the counselor told her to). Glenn is so right on this point. I am a believer in that career tests can be a useful tool but they are not exact predictors as the talking head experts like to make them out to be. Most of these “Experts” who say that students need to know at age 17 what they will do for the rest of their lives, did not know themselves at that age where they would be at age 50. That is one reason I promote to my college students to explore thinking about Dr. Jim Bright’s concepts of the Chaos Theory of Careers. We should be building up students critical thinking abilities so they can shape their own futures instead of following cookie cutter sameness in what computer programs tell them what to do.

From Foter

These are just a couple of points that tapped into my thinking on education. Glenn and Kyle were very good at presenting arguments about the problems with Common Core. I do wish they would have spent more time presenting solutions. That is weak point in the book. Parents need to be more involved in promoting the importance of education in the lives of their children. If we keep saying they are the future of the country what are we doing for them to help them prepare for progressing in that future?

Reflection: What was your education experience like growing up? Who were your favorite teachers and what made them your favorite? What did you learn from them?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Golden Time in Alaska

Last week my wife and I enjoyed an Alaskan weeklong cruise on the Golden Princess of the Princess Cruise line. When we did a Caribbean cruise several years ago most of the people on the cruise spoke of the Alaskan cruise being a “must do” cruise. After experiencing Alaska upon the Golden Princess, I had to agree with their sentiments. With my Living More Than OK concept I don’t like telling people what they should do, but I highly encourage everyone in their lifetime to see the splendors of Alaska.

Seeing nature on the Alaska cruise made for a needed break from the Summer heat of Texas. Seeing the majestic beauty of God’s creation was the highlight of the cruise. For my wife the favorite part of Alaskan nature was going on the whale watching excursion. The humpback whales were very active in feeding while we were out on the small boat activity. The captain of the small boat would follow the circling of the seagulls to find the whales. The seagulls had a sense of where the whales would be feeding and would swoop down to get leftover fish for their lunch. We also had the chance to see some killer whales on that excursion as well.

For myself, the favorite excursion was a 40 mile scenic railway ride in Skagway up to the Yukon territory of Canada. Seeing the trees, mountains, and streams was refreshing way to view the wild and beautiful nature of Alaska. I tried to imagine how they built the railroad there in the late 1800’s. The tour guide mentioned that this particular railroad was an engineering feat in its time. This railroad tour helped me capture a sense of wonder about the creation in Alaska.

We always enjoy meeting a variety of people and cruises are a wonderful place to meet people. The crew and the staff of the Golden princess were friendly and helpful which I believe helped create an atmosphere on the ship of friendliness. One could strike up a conversation with about anyone. One man from California had been on Alaskan cruises numerous times and gave us insightful tips on where to do photography on board when the ship toured through Glacier Bay. With my wife and I being Christians we met with a group of about 9 Christians on Sunday morning. By midweek that group grew to 14. The fellowship of meeting with a group with the same worldview where we could share our mutual appreciation for God’s creation in Alaska was an important part of each day on the cruise. Then there was a delightful elderly couple we met from Louisiana that made our time special as well. New Orleans is one place we have wanted to visit but have never made the time to get there. With our meeting Clarence and Vilma from the suburbs of New Orleans changed that. On the last day of the cruise she gave us their address reminding us they have spare rooms so we would have no excuse not to come. So if you enjoy meeting new people a cruise is a perfect way to do that.

Then with my being a Bookhead, reading is part of the cruise experience. The Golden Princess had a small library on board that I frequented. I read a couple of my books I brought along and then I picked up a Jim Patterson novel, Tick Tock, out of their library to enjoy reading as well. In Ketchikan we stopped in the town bookstore, Parnassus Books. If you are ever in Ketchikan and enjoy books stop by. Their specialty is books on Alaska and they carry a variety of little gifts in the store as well. I have included here a picture from their store window, “Snack, Nap, Read” fits well with the cruise ship experience of good food, rest and reading. I was glad to see that Princess cruise lines promote reading with their library and a book club activity they had on board. I was too busy with other books to be involved with that, but the next cruise with them I will make it a point to try out the book club.

That wraps up my thoughts on the golden time we had on the Golden Princess cruise to Alaska. Hope you enjoyed some of the pictures from the trip. I have heard people say they would never take a cruise. Years ago I was one of those people. Give a cruise a try and you will see it can be one of the most relaxing vacations you ever experience.

Reflection: Here is the link to the Princess cruises click on it or search for another cruise line you are interested in and imagine yourself on one of the cruises.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Living More Than OK by Successful Reading books

Before taking a break from my blog for a week of rest in Alaska I was wondering what to write about this week. Through a library loan I was able to track down a book on reading I had been searching for, Successful Reading: Key to Our Dynamic Society by Maxwell H. Norman. So in keeping with some of my recent discussions on reading I will share some important thoughts from his book. This book has helped me select the books I am taking on our cruise.

In the preface he points out that the need for reading has grown as knowledge in the world has expanded. From a career standpoint he states that many of us may do several career shifts so there is a continual need to learn and grow in new knowledge areas. Reading brings flexibility to our lives and the ability to cope better with the continual changes. One timely thought even though the book was printed in 1968 he speaks of the importance of a strong democracy depends on a literate society for citizens to make sound critical thinking decisions. I mention this concept in my book Living More Than OK in my critical thinking chapter. We can only improve the society for the better by rational understanding of facts and issues and making sound decisions instead of irrational emotionalism that guides the Alinsky type tactics found in our present government. The present administration just reacts to chaos not letting a crisis go to waste instead of critical thinking to solve problems.

Norman views the successful reader as the students who do not complain about their reading assignments or the business people who know the importance of keeping up with business journals. To him these readers see how, “Books can provide escape from the monotony of everyday existence… they taste the joys frustrations of the laboratory and the creative thinking of great minds” (page 2). There is a great love for all literature and understanding of the importance of reading in self-growth which I believe is the basis of being a Bookhead.

In the successful reader there is seen in his text three characteristics that he keeps considering throughout the book. The first is that the readers have a purpose driving their reading. There is a reason behind why they are reading. Then that progresses to the characteristic of concentration. The reader with a purpose can better focus his or her mind in their reading. This improves the third characteristic of comprehension. Reading is not just to glance mindlessly at pages of words. With the purpose in mind linked to the power of the mind’s focusing powers we better understand what we are reading for a meaningful reading experience.

As to the purpose that varies on the types of material we are reading. The examples that Norman presents are on a Summer day reading a thriller novel as an enjoyable escape for the mind. James Patterson novels come to my mind as an example of this type of reading. A strong reader may go through 200 pages of a novel in one evening with this purpose of reading. Then Norman switches to a purpose of a student having to read for Philosophy a short reading of Aristotle’s Ethics. This will probably take just as long as the novel but with reading much fewer pages to fully understand the information for a class. It all depends on the purpose. I know my journal article reading for my PhD classes take longer to read than a lighter novel or non-fiction book for pleasure.
The emphasis of the book is reading for learning. This learning is not just in the scholastic sense but reading to learn because of curiosity of various aspects of the world such as history, technology, social issues, and philosophy. There is also reading for pleasure and relaxing. This is using reading to escape the boredom of everyday life and exploring topics of interest in books and magazines or expanding your creative mind in the vast array of fiction novels. Norman also speaks of reading for personal growth and self-understanding. This is the area of reading where my book, Living More Than OK fits into with a desire for individuals to grow in various aspects of their lives.

His encouragement at the end of the book is to build a reading program into our weekly time schedule. To the question of busy people who say when can I find time to read he responds. “The basic answer to this question is a philosophical one, a deliberate decision on your part, a determination of values. Can you afford not to read?” (page 134). If you can read 30 minutes a day that is 3 ½ hours a week. In a month that equates to about 14 hours to read. Then in a year that would be about 168 hours of reading. Think through how that investment of time could improve your creative and critical thinking. Think how that investment may help you in your career by having greater knowledge. It all boils down to our personal choices in how we use our time. Mortimer Adler is quoted in the book on his thoughts on reading, “Reading … is a basic tool in living of a good life.” ( page 160). I would go beyond that by saying that reading is a core tool in the continual Living More Than OK experience to help us keep Spiraling Up To Abundant Living.

Reflection: Do you believe reading can be of help in living a successful life? Do you think about your purpose when reading a book? What do you think of the question “Can you afford not to read”? How could an increase in reading by everyone improve the world we live in?