Non-Fiction

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!”.

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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.

Book Review of The Making of Men

I first came across Dr Arne Rubinstein at the Positive Schools conference mid year. He making o fmenreally impressed me with his session about the importance of creating Rites of Passage for young men in the modern world, as well as how he ran the session. Initially, I was uncomfortable with the sharing and small groups, but of course by the end of it, felt much closer to the people around me. After all – according to Dr Rubinstein – ‘nobody ever liked each other less by knowing each other more’.
Between this, and a scheduled visit to my school this week, I made my way through his The Making of Men. Despite similar subject matter, I enjoyed this much more than the Carr-Gregg I finished just before it. This is a positive book full of advice about how to assist young men to be the best they can be. It’s informed by research as well as Dr Rubinstein’s personal experiences as a medical doctor and in the field. The entire last section outlines Rites of Passage in more depth and is well worth a look for parents and educators.

Book Review of The Prince Boofhead Syndrome

This iboofheads a work read – and a pretty straight-forward one.  Definitely aimed at parents of boys this is Dr Michael Carr-Gregg’s follow up to his book on raising girls, The Princess Bitchface Syndrome.

This is likely to be a supportive read for parents, reinforcing a lot of good common sense ideas, whilst also addressing the sense of entitlement that is unfortunately plaguing our young men.

Nothing earth-shattering here, but a solid straight-forward read with some good advice.

Book Review of Positive Education: The Geelong Grammar Journey

Oxford_PosEd_coverThis was wonderful work read charting Geelong Grammar’s journey to embed positive education into their curriculum and school ethos. It’s wonderfully done – laid out in a way in which those of us who are interested, could follow their steps and hope for the same kinds of wonderful outcomes.

I’m really inspired by what I read here. It covers details on the PERMA model, character strengths and all the things I would love to embed in my current workplace.

A worthy investment.

Book Review of Angela Duckworth’s Grit

gritThose of you who know me, know that I generally prefer fiction to non-fiction when it comes to my reading.  Although there is plenty of great non-fiction out there, and I have certainly been enjoying the books on Positive Psychology I have been picking up lately.

But when it comes to Grit by Angela Duckworth, I have no hesitation in saying that this is a book everyone should read.

Duckworth’s work was of interest to me as the longer I teach, the more aware I become that talent isn’t enough.  Time and time again, especially in my Year 12 classes, the most ‘talented’ student – the one with the greatest natural affinity for language – is trumped by one who works hard and works SMART.  The question I had was – how can I help each of my students to become that smart worker?  The one who succeeds in a way that surpasses their expectations?

Duckworth’s key mission here is to break down for us how some people achieve high levels of success – much higher than the average person.  She is particularly interested in understanding how they were able to do this, and how we can actually teach this to young people.  So it’s a great book for teachers and parents.

The bottom line is – Grit.  Those with Grit go further and do better than those that don’t.

But Grit does not just mean perseverance.  To truly have Grit – Grit that will lead us to success – she concretely discusses four things we need. The first is interest – high levels of interest.  We can only be truly gritty about things that deeply matter to us. But she tells us we can stimulate and develop interest, giving terrific advice for how to do this with children and even as adults.

After interest, we need to practice.  But we need to practice purposefully and strategically.  It’s not enough to work hard – we have to really consider what strategies will actually lead to improvement.  As a teacher we often see students working hard, but completing tasks that do not develop the needed skills.  Instead, Duckworth talks honestly about how painful practice can be and how to do it well – how to embrace negative feedback and seek coaching and set powerful goals.

After practice, she suggests that purpose helps separate high achievers as well.  If you have both passion and a sense of purpose about your work – if you love your chosen field and thin that you are making a difference – you are almost unstoppable.  Your motivation levels cannot be higher.  Sometimes even a few tweaks in thinking can assist us to re-evaluate and find the purpose in our work.

The final quality is hope.  This links in pretty strongly to Carol Dweck’s work about the Growth Mindset. We have to have hope – the belief that we can improve through the strategies that we have put in place.

Each of us will find some of these things difficult.  For example, having hope at times is hard.  Overcoming failure with a positive attitude sometimes relies on self-talk rather than a natural response.  I like how Duckworth acknowledges this – it’s all part of the process.  You don’t just HAVE Grit, you can learn to be grittier.  And that’s the message for us all.  We can all be better at those things we care about.  And what is more empowering than that?

 

Book Review of 10 Conversations to Have With Your Son

This is a work read – a book used by some high profile schools as part of their pastoral care programs.10 convos

Helping boys to be confident, caring and aware young men who aren’t held back by fear or stereotypes is a big ask – but a worthy one.  And Dr Tim Hawkes recommends some crucial conversations men really should be having.  You can see in the image attached to this post, that it covers everything from love and intimacy, to financial literacy.

There are also some great activities throughout.

My only real concern here is how conservative and hetero-normative it is.  All mentions of sex and romance are male-female – and we know that this approach is now going to alienate a significant proportion of the young population.  Something a little more open about gender identity and sexuality would address a few more issues and be more modern and appealing to all.