book review

The basics of motivational books

English: Motivational speaker Tony Robbins at ...

Tony Robbins at a Twitter conference in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I started this blog, people love giving me motivational books. They are packed with great advice on how to achieve one’s dreams and how to overcome obstacles, but after you’ve read one you’ve read them all. From Tony Robbins to  The Secret, the same rules apply because they are truths that really work. So, I’ve decided to save you time and share the key tips they all have in common.

  1. The easiest way to make money is to tell people how to make money. Most of these motivational books start off with the author describing how they were down in the dumps but then they learned a few things, made millions of dollars, and now they’re going to share those few things with you so that you too can make millions of dollars. But first, give them $29.99 so that they can share those tips. Success begets success.
  2. You cannot control the timeline of your success – all you can do is prepare for it. You don’t know when you’re going to meet a crazy inventor who loves your idea and wants to give you $50k to get started, but don’t you think that investor will be more likely to give you money if you’ve already built a prototype and written a business plan? “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca
  3. You can’t get what you want until you know what you want.You know those times when you walk into the kitchen and then realize you forgot what you wanted? You stand there like an idiot scanning every surface, hoping it will trigger your memory. When you do finally remember what it was you wanted, you see it immediately. It’s usually in the most obvious place. The thing that you wanted was always there, but you won’t find it until you know what it is. Start writing down what you want out of your life, and reread those lists constantly. What you want should always be on the tip of your tongue.
  4. Create a community of support. Find mentors who inspire you and do what they have done. Find colleagues who challenge and motivate you and give them the amount of help that you would like in return. Cherish your friends who are positive, and weed out the people who stomp on dreams or fill your life with unnecessary, distracting drama.

If you would like further reading on this matter, here is a wide variety of motivational books I’d recommend. Each of the books have an amazon link, so if you buy from the link, I’ll make money and then I can achieve the first point in this post 🙂

    

A generous soul

If you have a creative bone in your body you should definitely read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. A handsome and witty blogger recommended it to me. Ok, it was Mike. I just finished the book and it felt like she was my friend commiserating and encouraging me all the way. I love her annicdotes, and was moved to tears when I read this one about giving.

An 8 year old boy had a little sister who had leukemia. He was told she would die without a blood transfusion. The doctor thought he might be a good candidate for a blood donor. That night they ask the little boy if he would save his sister’s life by giving her a pint of blood. He told them he would have to think it over.

In the morning the little boy told them that even though he was scared he would do it for his little sister. The two little kids sat in the hospital hooked up to IVs. The boy was silent. When the doctor came to check up on him, the little boy opened his eyes and asked, “How soon until I start to die?”

I’m Mad about Julia

Cover of "The Artist's Way: A Course in D...

It might seem strange to talk about anger right after announcing my engagement, but I came across this beautiful passage on anger and had to share it. Julia Cameron writes in The Artist’s Way,

Anger is meant to be listened to. Anger is a voice, a shout, a plea, a demand. Anger is meant to be respected. Why? Because anger is a map. Anger shows us what our boundaries are. Anger shows us where we want to go. It lets us see where we’ve been and lets us know when we haven’t liked it. Anger points the way, not just the finger. In the recovery of a blocked artist, anger is a sign of health.

Anger is meant to be acted upon. It is not meant to be acted out… with a little thought, we can usually translate the message that our anger is sending us.

“Blast him! I could make a better film than that!” (This anger says: you want to make movies. You need to learn how.)

“I can’t believe it! I had this idea for a play 3 years ago, and she’s gone and written it,” ) This anger says: stop procrastinating. Ideas don’t get opening nights. Finished plays do. Start writing.”

Sloth, apathy, and despair are the enemy. Anger is not.

I read this passage so many times and underlined almost every word. And then I put stars next to almost every other sentence.

There are two basic expressions of emotional pain: anger and sadness. While men typically express their anger and repress their sadness, women typically do the opposite. Anger has always been a really hard emotion for me to embrace. Sadness feels safer and more appropriate.

Maybe I’m afraid anger will push people away, or maybe I don’t feel like I have the inherent “right” to stand up for myself. But Sadness cannot be the only tool for relieving emotional pain. There’s no sense of empowerment when you are sad. No sense that you are in charge, and you can change the situation.

"Oh bother"

While there are certainly people who have an unhealthy amount of anger, and need to learn how to manage it, there’s also a lot of people who need a little anger in their lives. I’m talking about all the doormats, the Igor’s and the Emo kids out there. You know who you are.

My mom started her wildly successful

business of challenging property assessments because she was angry about the local municipality not doing their job, and taking advantage of her. What good would it have done her or anyone to just cry about how unfair her property taxes were? In that case, anger put all three of her kids through college, paid the mortgage, and helped thousands of people save money.

I love the thought of using anger to show you what you want. I love the thought of anger as a pro-active emotion. Take some time today and think about what makes you really angry. Are you angry enough to start doing something about it?

Disposable creativity

“Many of us wish we were more creative. many of us sense we are more creative, but unable to effectively tap that creativity. Our dreams elude us. Our lives feel somehow flat. Often, we have great ideas, wonderful dreams, but are unable to actualize them for ourselves. Sometimes we have specific creative longings we would love to be able to fulfill – learning to play the piano, painting, taking an acting class, or writing. Someimes our goal is more diffuse. We hunger for what might be called creative living – an expanded sense of creativity in our business lives, in sharing with our children, our spouse, our friends.”

Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way (pg.5)

If you haven’t read The Artist’s Way yet, for gosh sake just click on this link and buy it already. Every creative person I know attributes the growth of their creativity to this book. I’m not over-exaggerating. And if you’ve been following the HeSo project for a while now, you’ll remember that when I interviewed Lisa Bourque, a fabulous life coach, she said the book changed her life.

It is Julia Cameron’s opinion that everyone has the potential to be creative and that creativity is a like a muscle that grows the more you use it. Creativity is not just for the arts; it can be used to improve your outlook on life, the way you problem solve, or handle your relationships.

One of her famous exercises is “the morning pages.” The first thing you do every morning is fill three pages of paper. There’s really no wrong way of doing this. If you have nothing to say you can fill the pages with a grocery list.

Sometimes the pages become very negative and your “censor” comes out. Your censor is that voice in your head that tells you everything you do is garbage. Julia suggests that it’s better to let the censor out on these pages so it gets exhausted and won’t distract you when you want to do something more creative and challenging. It sounds silly but when I dabbled with the morning pages before, it really did help me feel more free and confident when I was working on my creative writing later on in the day.

My boyfriend has been doing these morning pages for over a year now (way to go Mike!) The pages have taken many twists and turns for him. They started off as an outlet for his censor, then they became an outlet for his story telling, and now he’s using that time to compose music – something that he’s always wanted to do. Sometimes what we always want to do is the hardest thing to do because we give it so much weight. We think, to do that something poorly would be worse than not doing it at all. By using the morning pages to compose he’s getting the practice he needs without the debilitating pressure to produce something “good.”

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s a void in my life. The BeddyBye project felt very exciting and creative at first, but now as I’m talking to safety commissioners, manufacturers, and parenting associations (I’ll write more about this later) I’ve entered the more taxing, stressful part of the project. I write a lot for this blog, but it’s not the same as creative writing, something I’ve loved doing since childhood (I remember writing stories about how I was born on Mars and raised by apes. I made photocopies and tried to sell them to the kids on my block. I guess I invented vanity publishing!). So I decided to instill some creativity back into my life and embrace the morning pages again.

I started this past Friday. In the morning, before breakfast I spent 30 minutes writing a short story. I used The Writer’s Toolbox for inspiration. The Author, Jamie Cat Callan, offers a bunch of suggestions for first lines. I picked a random one and started writing. The opening line was: “Dad gave me a wink, like we were pals or something.” I ended up writing about a daughter finding out that her parents have had an open marriage for her entire life and she’s just now meeting her father’s girlfriend of 16 years. I don’t know where that idea came from, and for the life of me I would never have thought it up if I just sat at my computer and tried to come up with a story.

The exercise helps you to see that everyone has a wealth of untapped imagination inside them and you just need a safe place to let it out. Knowing that I didn’t need to complete the story, and that it didn’t need to be part of something greater was liberating. It’s what I like to call disposable creativity. I know that sounds terrible, especially in our green-conscience society, but looking at creativity like it’s a finite resource is not productive. I’ve been in many writing classes where people hold on to stories that aren’t working, and I think it’s because they’re scared they won’t be able to come up with anything else, when that’s simply not true.

Today was my fourth day of morning pages and I’m going to continue for at least 17 more days (research shows it only takes 21 days to form a habit). Does anyone else want to join me? It doesn’t need to be writing, you can start every morning strumming a song on the guitar, drawing a picture, or dancing. The point is to start every day off in a creative, non-judgmental fashion. I guarantee you’ll feel more creative and excited for the rest of the day! If you join the challenge send me some of your work or your reflections and I’ll add it to the blog!

Using your enthusiasm

I just stayed up all night reading a fantastic book. Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie. He’s the guys that started TOMS shoes, a company which donates a pair of shoes for every pair you buy. I must have been living under a rock, because I never heard of the brand before reading the book, but now I’m seeing the little TOMS logo everywhere. In fact, I started the book on the train and I was facing a stranger. Her legs were crossed and she kept tapping me with her bouncing leg. It was incredibly distracting, but when I looked down at her foot I saw that she was wearing a pair of TOMS shoes. Well how could I get annoyed with someone who shops with their conscience? I immediately told her about what I was reading, and she turned out to be a nice person. I would never have talked to her otherwise. It felt like a sign that I was supposed to be reading that book.

The wheels in my brain were rolling last night after I finished the book. As soon as I woke up I did three things. First I called my friend and shared an idea I had to make his new business venture more marketable. He was really appreciative. Then I wrote down my personal business idea. Lastly, I wrote a thank you letter to Blake Mycoskie. I’m realizing how important it is to communicate support. It makes my day when someone leaves a nice comment on my blog, or facebook account. I get giddy when I see a stranger has subscribed to my blog. It makes me feel like I’m not alone. It would have been easy to read his book, say it was good, and then be done with it. But I want him to know that he reached me and I’m grateful for that.

Also, I think it’s important to do things when you’re excited – don’t wait for a better time.  I only slept three hours last night, so I probably should have taken a nap before writing him a letter, or giving business advice, or even writing this post, but I was excited and people can sense your excitement and it gets them excited. Nothing is more powerful than passion. So if you have an idea share it immediately, don’t wait until it’s well thought out and perfectly worded. You can always correct yourself later, but you can’t recreate that first spark of enthusiasm.

I read an advance copy of the book, so it’s not available until September 6th. You can click on the picture of the book to order in advance. When it is available I will be writing a full review, and giving away a few copies on my blog. Not only does he recount his incredible story, he also inspires you with other people’s unimaginable success, and gives tips on how to create meaning in what you do. Stay tuned!

Dressing the part

I read a wonderful little book about living in the moment and enjoying life. Here’s a tip that I really liked from Jamie Cat Callan’s  Bonjour Happiness:

“Yes, even sweeping the kitchen floor can bring you joie de vivre, if you take your time and focus on the rhythm and motion of the broom, the whispering-whisking sound it makes and how this connects you with so many others before you who have swept a kitchen floor. And if you “dress the part,” perhaps by wearing a kerchief around your hair, you can add a little more fun and whimsy to the experience. ( pg. 23)”

I absolutely love this idea. When you dress up it’s almost like a game. My mind wonders and I imagine I’m someone else cleaning someone’s room. Characters and stories start to evolve. I finish mopping and I have an outline for a story already. Don’t worry, it’s not about mopping.

Well this got me thinking. Where else can I dress the part?

I started wearing this beautiful, blue silk scarf I got in Turkey. This is my magic writing scarf. Whenever I wear it I have to write.  Now when I take a break to get some water, I can’t clean the dishes. I don’t want to get my pretty silk scarf dirty. The dishes are just going to have to wait until I’m done being creative.


Here is me writing this very blog entry. That’s my blurry cat, Marla, in the foreground. If I make typos it’s because she’s sitting on the keyboard.

Now I just need to find a magic red beret to wear when am I’m painting. And a magic cute apron for baking. Too bad my birthday just past.

Here’s a link to Jamie Cat Callan’s blog. http://frenchwomendontsleepalone.blogspot.com/. This is someone who really follows her HeSo and exudes happiness and confidence!

How do we let fear stop us?

I’m a coward. I wrote the first post about a month ago and it took me that long to make it public.  Was it hard to start a blog? No, that took about three minutes. Was I editing, and fine-crafting my writing? Definitely not. The truth is I made it very clear what my goals are, and by making them public I stand to make myself a public failure if I don’t achieve those goals. Isn’t it enough to have a good idea! Why can’t I just stop there?

I made plenty of excuses. Here are some of them:

Maybe I should try making money before pretending to be an expert.

I’m going to Spain for a month. How am I going to blog while I’m there? It’s not like they have the internet way over in Europe, right?

My computer’s really old, I should wait until I get a new one.

I can’t spell, and I get comma happy,,,

I need to dust under the couch. In fact my apartment is so dirty I’ll never have time to maintain a blog.

It’s a (insert day of the week here) and everyone knows it’s bad luck to start a blog on a (insert same day here).

BUT my boyfriend kept at it, and I couldn’t stand him coming home every night with that expectant look. “Did you start your blog yet???” He would ask EVERY day. Sometimes twice a day. So really I just started it to get him to stop bugging me.  If I ever make money from this, I will owe him a huge chunk. Shoot! Did I just put that in writing?

Well, let’s take a look at why we are ruled by our fears. And, yes, I know I’m not the only one. I am currently reading How to Do What You Love for a Living by Nancy Anderson. Ignore the cheesy cover, it’s actually really insightful. In addition to the great exercises and anecdotes she gives, she analyzes why we stay in jobs that we hate. Here are some of the basic fears that control our lives:

1. Fear of poverty

2. Fear of Criticism

3. Fear of loss of love

4. Fear of old age

5. Fear of death

If you think those fears don’t effect you think again. When I first read the list I didn’t think they applied to me. After all, I’m not poor, I’m pretty confident, I’m surrounded by unconditional love, I’m young, and I’m not dying anytime soon (knock on wood). However, when I read over the descriptions again with an open mind my head was bobbing up and down so much I hurt my neck. I’m just going to go over the first two. If you want more info read the book yourself. Click on the picture of the book to connect to Amazon.

When considering a new job, or a big change have you ever been slowed down by  indifference, worry, indecision, overcaution, and/or procrastination? These are all symptoms of a fear of poverty. And this fear can effect people with money even more than people without. When you know what’s at stake it’s a lot more scary. What does money mean for you? For me, it means control, independence, and freedom. Remember the first time you went to a store with your own money? Remember how good it felt to get exactly what you want and not have to beg your parents for it? When I was 12 I won a $100 and I spent it all on candy at CVS. I got what I wanted and didn’t have to ask for it. If I don’t have money, how will I ever get what I want? I will be at the mercy of other people’s charity. How would you feel without money? Bad enough to continue doing something you don’t like?

Have you experienced self-consciousness, lack of initiative , lack of ambition, and an inferiority complex? I can hear you saying yes. Well then you have suffered from a fear of criticism. I remember going to a brainstorming meeting with my brother. After hearing the initial pitch, I had some ideas but I thought they were pretty lame. I decided I would observe for a while, let my ideas mature, and then maybe share them. As the meeting went on people kept sharing the ideas I had but never vocalized, and everyone would applaud and say, “that’s brilliant!” At first I thought those people were just idiots, and I shared this with my brother afterward. He then said something that shook me to the core. “Are they idiots, or are you just under-estimating yourself?” That’s one point for my brother. How often do you hold back what you’re thinking because you’re afraid someone will think it’s dumb, unoriginal, or not funny? The more successful, powerful people I meet the more I realize they are not smarter, more talented, or hard-working than the rest of us underlings. They just speak up. In middle school I was upset that I didn’t get a solo in chorus and I asked my teacher why she choose another girl instead of me. My teacher told me that I had a better voice, but that the other girl was louder. I probably would have gotten a lot further in life if I just learned that lesson back then.

And so, I am going to finish this post with a wonderful quote from Nancy Anderson. A sentiment that is guiding my entire HeSo project. “When you know exactly what you want and have the emotional strength to go after it, your mind and heart work together as you give your plan enough time to come into being.”