Books I’ve Read: The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin


Though I think of myself as an intellectual, I still enjoy Facebook quizzes and find some truth in horoscopes. And more scientifically, I seek clarity through personality frameworks. So after learning from her book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and her podcast Happier that she also had a framework, I naturally wanted to know more.TheFourTendencies

The Four Tendencies correlate to the response to expectations, both inner (self-imposed) and outer (imposed by others). They break down as follows:

  • Upholder: Meets both inner and outer expectations
  • Questioner: Meets inner expectations, resists outer
  • Obliger: Meets outer expectations, resists inner
  • Rebel: Resists both outer and inner expectations

Expectations can include things such as working out, meeting a deadline at work, following a doctor-recommended routine, or even just following through with commitments like getting together with a friend.

Personally I am an Obliger, and had no problem guessing these even from the limited description above. I’m quick to meet expectations of others such as keeping my weekly appointment with a personal trainer or helping a friend with a project of theirs, but I struggle when it comes to my goals (creating an Etsy shop, reading and blogging more, adding yoga/meditation into my day). There is also some overlap between the Tendencies, and unfortunately, I lean toward Rebel; meeting my own expectations is that much harder.

the-four-tendencies-summary-frameworkBut fear not! In this book, Ms. Rubin provides strategies to accomplish things while working with your tendency instead of against it. For instance, as an Obliger I can and should seek accountability (through an app, a friend, or some other system) so that I have some outer expectation to meet, instead of just relying on my own desire to accomplish something. I’ve started to add these little things into my life, and I’ve already noticed a difference!

She also gives advice on how to work with the various Tendencies and how to navigate a relationship with them as well. Got a Rebel child? Try this! Questioner boss? This might help. I love the application that is not only possible with this framework, but that is provided in this blueprint. It’s wonderful to have both the clarity of what I am and an action plan to start living up to the potential of my Tendency.

This is not the be all end all of personality frameworks. Ms. Rubin acknowledges this throughout the text, in the appendix, and even on her blog. But it is helpful to have another piece of the puzzle. I can use both the knowledge that I am an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs system and an Obliger in the Four Tendency framework to better accommodate myself in various aspects of my life. Both offer valuable insight into me!

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely. Knowing ourselves better is the first step to finding success in anything. Pick up a copy! (Or listen to the podcast or read her blog, as this framework is a recurring theme in both; it’s your choice!)

 

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Books I’ve Read: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


Hello again! I have lapsed once more in posting, but alas, I have finally finished another book. Since probably around the time I posted last (January… ahem), I’ve been working on The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s not a particularly long book, the font is fairly large in size, and it’s quite a casual read. I just have been cramming all kinds of things in and was reading slowly. Like one chapter a week on average slowly. Which is very slow for me.

The Happiness ProjectSome of you may recall that I’ve also been listening to podcasts which include Ms. Rubin’s Happier. So when I walked into work and saw The Happiness Project on our communal bookshelf, it was a no-brainer; I had to pick it up.

Happiness is such a buzzword lately, and there are so many different strategies to get there. Some say to focus on gratefulness, others say to drop all but your passion, and some say to just hang out with people more and invest in experiences. And Gretchen Rubin tried all of them. Over the course of a year, she charted myriad resolutions she pinpointed– through an unfathomable amount of research– that were supposed to make a person happier. She established rules, discovered secrets and truths, and found out a great deal about herself as she worked her way through this very disciplined endeavor. It was awe-inspiring.

It was also a bit daunting. The discipline required to do what she did has felt so far out of my reach since I graduated high school. The only thing I do on a daily basis is make myself a cup of coffee before work. And maybe (definitely) spend way too much time scrolling through Facebook. Endeavoring on a project with charts and gold stars and things just… so far out of my capabilities.

The nice thing is that none of the things she was working on were very big at all. She did not take a year off to travel the world, she didn’t quit her high-paying elite job to chase a passion into an uncertain future (she actually did… but not during this whole project). Instead, her happiness project consisted of small things like not nagging, clearing clutter, and embracing silliness. All of these things have been shown to increase happiness.

This all may seem too good to be true, but I can attest to the strategy behind it all, which is really “cultivating an atmosphere of growth.” As I mentioned in a previous post— and likely as demonstrated through the books I’ve been blogging about– I’ve really been focusing on improvement in a variety of areas. From health and wellness to professional development, I’ve been learning and expanding my experience. And I have to say that I really do feel happier than I have in quite some time.

Perhaps my favorite part is all the references Ms. Rubin provides. From classical poetry through to modern scientific studies, the resources for happiness theories seems endless and encouraging. The variety implies that there truly is a way for anyone to be happier, and that makes the concept all the more powerful. And not only does she provide all of her research, she’s also established her own resources like the podcast, a website with an example happiness chart, and even app, which I most definitely did not ( totally did– https://www.betterapp.us/share/1vV2QpTIckPnJBk-) download.

So of course, the question is would I recommend this book? My answer to that is that I’m going to be returning it to our communal bookshelf to pick up another of her books on the four personality tendencies (she talks about these in The Happiness Project; the next one is aptly titled The Four Tendencies, so keep an eye out for a blog on that in the near future).

Get happy, my friends.

Books I’ve Read: The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg


I’m really excited that this is happening even sooner than I thought, but I got to a point where I really wanted to get the information this author was providing.

The Education of MillionairesThe Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg is a dissertation against traditional higher education. He rails against the cost, the structure, and the lack of real measurable skills that are associated with a college degree, and demonstrates through real-world examples just how successful one can be by learning skills that are not taught in a classroom. Many of his examples are multi-millionaires without a degree or even a high school diploma.

This book really spoke to me personally because I went the traditional route. I graduated high school and then immediately went to college, taking on a large amount of debt to be able to pay for a piece of paper that certifies I know things. But then… I stopped. I was lost because I didn’t see the value in the classes I was taking. I felt like I chose the wrong path. I became first disengaged, then lapsed into what was likely depression. Once I made the choice to withdraw from school, I immediately felt better. And though it took some time, I found a different path that I’m walking now. I’m still taking classes because for the job I want, I do need that piece of paper. But I think these are more relevant, and I’m supplementing with books, articles, industry info, and networking, taking my education into my own hands. I think Mr. Ellsberg would approve.

The premise of The Education of Millionaires is this: there are certain skills that will help you become successful, either as an employee or as an entrepreneur, and these cannot be or are not taught through academic papers and homework assignments on a college campus. College is cerebral and theoretical. These skills are hands-on and applicable. There are 7 skills he outlines, including networking, marketing, and “bootstrapping.” And they don’t necessarily cost thousands of dollars; in fact, many cost nothing. It’s a very Good Will Hunting type of philosophy.Good Will Hunting Libray Fee Quote

Now for all the academics out there or those who really did need a college degree, or who really did find great value in their college experience, he doesn’t outright condemn the whole university system. He admits that there a definitely benefits to higher education, and especially if you are going into medicine or engineering. But he disagrees that every single person needs to go to college and get a degree. He opposes the fact that society has created this notion that all 18-year-olds need to take out massive loans for an esoteric education that no longer guarantees a job.

The nice thing about this book is that, even though I read the whole thing, I’m not finished with it yet. Ellsberg provides a wealth of resources for teaching yourself about these skills, so I’ll be going through those in the weeks to come.

So would I recommend this book? I definitely would, especially to high school juniors/seniors or anyone who couldn’t/didn’t get a college degree and feels stuck. Parents, employers, educators, and really anyone who could potentially influence the education or employment of anyone else. The information is engaging and useful, and the writing style is very casual (read “contains some explicit language”). Pick up a copy!

2018 Thus Far


We’re about a month into a new year now, so I figured it was safe to write about it without being cliche. As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted a book blog in a minute, but I hope you’ll understand why.

I feel like I’m in a period of major self-improvement. The books I was reading and reviewing were part of that, and they’ve really started to have an impact on my mentality and even some of my habits (though I can’t quite kick the snooze button habit in the morning… I’m going to really buckle down on that one at some point). Here’s what I’ve been doing lately.

Volunteering

I got involved about 2 years ago with a program in Cleveland called Seeds of Literacy, which is an adult literacy program helping people get their GED. In the Cleveland area, the functional illiteracy rate is 66%, meaning math, reading, and/or language skills are below a 4th-grade level. When I first heard this statistic, I was dumbfounded, and I wanted to do something. So one or two evenings a week, I go to their east side location, I sit down with adult learners, and I help them help themselves to a better life. It’s truly inspiring watching people gain skills that will open up the world to them. I had to stop going for a bit due to job changes and scheduling conflicts, but back in September, I decided it was time to get back in it. I’m so glad that I did. I invite everyone to check them out, whether as a volunteer or donor or to point someone who could use their services in the right direction.

Learning

Along with the books I’ve blogged about here, and future ones which will be up soon (I hope), I’ve been taking classes at Cuyahoga Community College. It’s been a slow process, as I have to find the time and money to be able to further my own education, but I think this is going to be a great semester. I’m looking forward to finishing up an associates degree with a focus on business by the end of the year (but don’t quote me on the time frame… life happens). This will hopefully put me on the path to some of my larger goals, which I’ll talk more about at a later date.

I’ve also been listening to podcasts, which I never thought would interest me; I hate talk radio and talk shows and all that kind of stuff. But I now have about 5 on rotation, two of which I listen to almost daily if I can.  I started with a podcast called Lore, which explores the origins of urban legends and creature tales. I find it fascinating, and the author/narrator Aaron Mahnke does a wonderful job of telling the story without judging the origins. In fact, he lays it out in such a way that it’s completely understandable how some of these outlandish ideas came to life. I’ve listened to similar podcasts since where the narrator was much more condescending to the originating cultures and peoples, so this was a wonderful first find.

The other one I’ve been listening to is Happier with Gretchen Rubin. This one may be a little more on the popular radar, as she is a bestselling author and quite a prominent figure on LinkedIn and the like. She and her sister dole out tips and exercises for living a happier, more fulfilling life, and avoiding negativity and bad habits. I’ve been trying to incorporate more of these kinds of activities into my own routines, and I’ve noticed a significant difference. If I could just work on the snooze button which Ms. Rubin protests vehemently almost every episode, I think I could achieve that much more.

Being Healthy

This one was somewhat prompted by the Biggest Loser competition we’re having at work, but it’s definitely an improvement over where I was. When I started this job, I was faced with an issue I’ve never really had: a sedentary work environment. All of my other jobs have had me on my feet– bowling alleys, food service, and of course, running around Cedar Point. Property management has me sitting in front of a computer all day every day, and it was really taking a toll on my physique. So in recent weeks, I’ve taken to focusing more on my eating habits, incorporating healthier food choices and also eating smaller portions. I’ve also been combining this with more gym time (though I’ve slowed down a bit the past week or two… 4 times a week was a little much after no gym time in weeks). My boss has also offered the opportunity to try out some really cool classes through Fitworks, such as kickboxing and a yoga/pilates combo. I never realized how out of shape I was until I started going to these classes with her. But it’s been such an amazing transformation. Combined with a new fitness tracker, I’ve been on a roll to a healthier me. I want to be able to keep this up more than anything.

Networking

I’ve been on a professional development kick as of late as well, brought on by both the realization of what I’d like to do with my professional life and a promotion. I’ve been spending a lot of time on LinkedIn reading all kinds of articles about business trends, company habits and tips for employee and customer engagement, etc. I’ve been requesting to connect with people in my intended industry to hopefully pick their brains about how to do what they do, and I’ve also been connecting with other professionals through an app called Shapr. You swipe through a few profiles of professionals every day, and if they want to connect too, then you can make plans to meet up or just message about your goals and how you can help each other. I will say that I’ve met a number of people in the network marketing industry, which I’m not so sure about just yet. But I’ve also connected with CEOs and traditional entrepreneurs with great ideas and insight. I recommend giving it a shot if you’re looking to expand your network.

So this is where I’ve been in my absence from the WordPress universe. If you have any recommendations on things I should try next or any questions on the things mentioned in this post, just let me know in the comments. And keep an eye out for another book blog in the coming weeks. Cheers to a dynamic 2018!

Books I’ve Read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg


I feel like I’m going through a quarter-life crisis at the moment. Confused about my goals and purpose in life, flying by the seat of my pants into most things, juggling work and relationships and school and hoping to somehow throw gym time and cooking time and the ever elusive good night’s sleep into the mix. It’s fun.

I’m thinking more and more that this is why I’ve suddenly changed direction with my reading habits. Where I used to get lost in Harry Potter and Game of Thrones, I’m not getting lost in The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. I’m looking for something, and I’m not quite sure what.

The Power of HabitMost recently, I picked up The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and found that to be rather intriguing. I found it fascinating how well it meshed with my last read, Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, with a number of similar themes though they were often applied to different spheres. However, the concepts in each could certainly be used to better oneself, career, or business. The Power of Habit is especially well suited to this, going a little deeper into why strategies that were also presented in Uncommon Service can be so effective.

I liked the anecdotal quality of Habit, with plenty of real-world examples of how cues, routines, and rewards drive anything and everything, from personal bad habits up to toxic corporate culture. I like that it demonstrates how those habits can be changed. It definitely helped that there’s was a decent amount of scientific research to support these ideas as well. The development of Febreze, the renewed success of two football teams under Tony Dungee, and a complete overhaul of an international company’s culture all came down to small habits, minute changes in routines and rewards that are triggered by a cue. These are just a few of the more impressive and recognizable stories about the power that habit has over our lives.

Would I recommend it? I think this is a great read, especially if you’re looking to change something in your life– getting healthy, eliminating vices, improving productivity, etc. It’s easy to get through and has some neat tips on identifying and adjusting habits. Definitely a good read.

 

 

Books I’ve Read: Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss


Ever since I started working, I’ve been in customer service. Every position has focused on the thankless task of answering people’s questions, catering to their wants and needs, and cleaning up after their indulgences. And I absolutely love it

Not all of it, of course. It’s hard getting yelled at about things you have no control over (the weather, for example). It’s hard when you want to but can’t solve a problem due to lack of autonomy or lack of resources. It’s hard to put energy into tedious tasks that have been outsourced from the customer to you, and with little thanks from those who no longer have to bear that burden. There is no glory in customer service, it seems.

But Uncommon Service by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss, which was not what I expected in terms of focus, seems to give hope that the trenches of customer service have more potential for greatness than it appears.

Uncommon Service

My favorite part is that it somewhat confirms what so many front-end employees often learn quickly but back-end management tends to be ignorant of: bad service is not necessarily the fault of the employees. Negative feedback only occasionally centers on the attitude of a specific employee. More often than not, people are complaining about service or product offerings, production time, quality, and price– all things that base level employees can’t change.

I was surprised by this book because I was expecting ways to be a better customer service representative. Instead, it told me that I’m likely already doing the best I can and that the system I’m working in probably needs some help. It’s a nice confidence boost.

Uncommon Service goes way deeper though. It isn’t just about treating employees better to get better interactions out of them, and it certainly isn’t about catering to every customer’s whims. Instead, it’s about creating a system of excellence, within which employees can only provide excellence. It’s beautiful because it takes the impetus off of each individual and puts it on the whole.

There are many ideas that might seem counter-intuitive, like striving to be bad at parts of your business, but it makes a lot of sense when they explain why– and provide compelling examples. Huge names like JetBlue and Zappos regularly make appearances as poster children for some massive changes and heavy-lifting strategies that really make it easier to be great at service.

Overall, it gives some great insights into the pitfalls of customer service-oriented businesses and how to avoid them with grace and even panache. Whether you’re just starting a small business or transforming a flailing massive corporation, the strategies and arguments in this book are exciting and compelling.

Would I recommend this book? Most definitely! Especially if you’re involved in business, customer to CEO.

Books I’ve Read: Yes Please by Amy Poehler


As always seems to happen when I feel good about where I’m at in life, things got crazy and overwhelming and not so fun. So I decided that I was due for some me time and in that time, I finally finished another book.

I had started several heavy books like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and Walden and a book called What Language Is. But all of these are sitting on my nightstand partially finished, too dry for my mind at the time. And so, at the suggestion of my boss, I picked up Yes Please.

Yes Please

 

I very rarely find a television series that I really love– as in watch in order to completion and then go back and do it again, or pick a favorite episode, especially when I’m feeling down. Parks and Recreation has become one of these series. Humor that isn’t too over the top, a strong story line, and loveable characters are some of my favorite elements of the show, and the Leslie Knope is the best at all of these.

 

Imagine my joy when I found out that Amy Poehler is Leslie Knope off the set too! The optimism and related but off topic insights translate well from on-screen Leslie Knope to on-paper Amy Poehler. The honesty on everything from her experimentation with controlled substances to her lesbian temptations was fascinating to me, as I’m so used to everyone talking about their sterile “American Dream” upbringing, esp

 

 

ecially in upper middle-class suburbs like the one Poehler was raised in.

While it took me some time to actually finish the book, it was an easy read, and quite pleasurable. Light enough that it made laugh after stressful days in customer service, and deep enough that it really made me think about my life and what I’d like to do. Working for the government and being an improv comedian are not likely lucrative paths for me, but being a genuine person and jumping into new opportunities are definitely on the list.

Would I recommend this book? Yes please and thank you.