Book Review of Emotional Agility

emotional-agilityI really enjoyed this read by Susan David – and even more so, the feeling of it staying with me through her incredible Twitter posts.

Emotional Agility is all about taking charge of our emotions.  We can’t escape or supress our emotional reactions when life serves us those metaphorical lemons, but we can learn to control what we do with those reactions.  And this is the crux of Susan David’s work – studying the habits of happy people.  And these aren’t people for whom nothing bad has happened.  These were the people who made the metaphorical lemonade.

Although my reading of this was interrupted by hospital trips, I truly loved every minute I spent engaging with it.  First, she starts with the unhelpful narratives we tell ourselves when we encounter hardship and then begins to show how we can ‘unhook’ ourselves from these.  She even talks about the necessity of negative emotions – which are often perfectly normal and natural reactions.  Ignoring these is to our detriment – but so is staying in them.  We need to acknowledge our feelings, question their function (she calls this “what the func?”), question whether this reflects our authentic self and step out if needs be.

The beauty of this message too is compassion.  David begs us to embrace self-compassion and encourages small tweaks in behaviour, proposing that these have the best long-term staying power.  There are fantastic real-life examples throughout and the style and tone is readable and engaging.  She not only focusses on our personal lives, but the latter chapters have great tips for work and parenting.  And it’s perhaps in this final section that the clearest précis of her work is evident:

  • Emotions pass
  • Emotions are not scary and not bigger than you
  • Emotions are teachers that can help you figure out what matters to you

I could not recommend this tremendous book more.


Book Review of Legacy

legacyThis might not seem like a book I would choose – after all, it looks at the strategy behind the success of New Zealand’s most iconic sporting team, The All Blacks.  But its the subheading that reveals its interest: What The All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business of Life.

There are some great lessons here about preparing yourself for success, as well as creating a culture of success in any kind of organisation.  It was a highly engaging and thought-provoking read, that really has little to do with sport.

Each of the 15 chapters has a focus and a practice that assist the All Blacks to maintain their reputation in the game (and outside of it).

Here are some of the messages that stood out to me:

Language and ritual are powerful tools in creating community and culture.  Share these and you will invite others into your vision.

Aim High.  Keep changing and growing.  Focus on being even better than those legends who came before you.

Practice under pressure.

Find the gaps in your game.

Be humble and grateful.  It keeps things in perspective.

Get control of your thinking and you will take control of your story.

A lot of this compliments the reading I have been enjoying so much recently on positive psychology, it is just practically applied here.  And let’s face it – the results speak for themselves.  Worth a look for anyone in a leadership position.

Book Review of Switch – Making Change When Change is Hard

Switch.jpgLet’s face it – change is often hard.  And it is most hard when the status quo has been working for us.  Nobody likes to give up strategies that have been working for us.  And this is the key issue for organisational change – what is good for the organisation can sometimes get in the way of what is comfortable for the individual.

Dan and Chip Heath look at this in depth in Switch.  What I liked most about this this book was the ways to create change that they broke down and classified (see in attached picture.

They begin by looking at the mental aspect of change (they call this the ‘Rider’) and how to get people to understand the need for change, and the ways that can undertake it with ease.  Then they look at emotions (the Elephant) – which let’s face it, often trump our logical responses (you know another chocolate is no good for you don’t you, but who can resist?).  Appealing to emotions can prompt that visceral need for change and can build excitement for change. Finally they look at the small things – how to create a pathway for change to make it easier.  We often under-estimate how powerful a small behavioural change can be.  If I sleep in my gym gear, it’s so much easier to get up and go to gym in the morning. There was nothing complicated about that solution – just clever.  A small change can make a big impact.

The Heath brothers suggest that often you will need to work through all three of these aspects in order to be successful.  Some challenges might only need to consider one.

As usual, there are lots of clever and entertaining examples, and further steps that I don’t have time to outline here.  But this was a pretty enjoyable non-fiction read, and certainly one I can see myself referencing over and over.

Switch 2

Book Review of Who Moved My Cheese?

cheeseNeed to look at change – whether it be in the workplace, in relationships or elsewhere – Who Moved My Cheese is THE book.  It’s a quick read – a parable really about mice (and little men) in a maze who discover the cheese they eat daily has disappeared.  One group of characters embraces change and goes looking for “new cheese”, whilst others find it harder, and take a much longer road to accepting that the old cheese is gone forever.  Sounds crazy – but like me, you’ll be making cheese references for weeks afterwards.

The foreword and discussion pages afterwards help continue to provide context to the parable and ensure it make sense to the reader.  A great way to get across difficult information in a way that doesn’t place blame – it just goes through natural stages of responding to change and asks you if you could have responded differently.

I read this mainly for the workplace implications, but there are ones for my personal life too.  I like “sniff the cheese regularly to make sure it’s not getting old!”.

Book Review of Our Iceberg is Melting

Our Iceberg is MeltingA fable about institutional change, John Kotter tells the story of a penguin colony that finds themselves in trouble.  Their iceberg is melting, and the frozen water will expand and destroy their home.

Initially the penguins are sceptical, but eventually come to see that change is necessary.  The follow the good steps of change management as designed by Kotter and eventually determine a their next steps forward.

It’s an interesting story, and one that acknowledges the complexity of any human interaction.  No matter how well the penguins follow the process that Kotter is espousing here, there are still nay-sayers.  But this is sound, reasonable advice that is told in a very relatable way.  An easy read for anyone in a management position.  You’ll get some good key takeaways.

The 4 Hour Work Week

UnknownHold on to your hats!  This is a book that can change your life.  A friend loaned it to me and I have devoured it in less than 48 hours of concentrated reading and thinking.

The whole concept behind Ferriss’ book, is to acknowledge the fact that many of the ways that we approach work and view our relationship to work are false.  Many of us measure how good we are at our job by how much time we put into it.  This can be a hard image to let go of, and I can speak from personal experience in this.  But the reality is – there are easier ways of getting our work done, and better ways to spend our time than stuck in an office.

Ferriss – in a readable, candid and thoroughly engaging style – reveals the techniques he used to reduce his work time to just four hours per week.  While he is a entrepreneur and businessman rather than a 9 – 5 worker (although he tells you pretty plainly how he escaped this trap and how you can too), many of his techniques and mind-sets can be used to improve working conditions in any kind of job.  I will be instigating his recommendations in regards to limiting the time spent on email immediately.

I’ve now ordered my own copy of this inspiring book to go back through at my leisure, and have a go at many of his challenges.  Some of these – like holding eye contact for longer than we feel comfortable or lying down in the middle of a crowd, simply ask us to get used to bending invisible social rules.  Some – like asking near strangers for their phone number – encourage us to view rejection as simply another part of life.  Others show how simple it can really be to do the seemingly impossible – like contacting a celebrity and asking them a burning question you have about how they achieved their success.

I don’t read a lot of non-fiction – but when I do, you can be sure its because I related to the subject matter.  If you don’t believe me – check him out on his website (www.fourhourworkweek.com) where you will also find a link to his blog.  He is one of those innovative thinkers that make you wonder concurrently – “how did he come up with that!” as well as “why didn’t I think of this earlier!”.  I like his direct and honest approach, and the fact that he is willing to share his secrets and zest for life.  I’ll be adding him to my list of people I would most like to meet…. and with some of his tips, that may even be a possibility…