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!

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Books I’ve Read: You Are A Badass


I have been in a funk recently. Okay, probably for a while now. School, work, relationships, money, FOMO (that’s fear of missing out for those out of the loop), and so many other stressors have really impacted my mental state and my self-confidence. There’s been a lot of crying, anger, sadness, and stagnation.

I finally reached out to a counselor, and talking through some of the things I’ve been feeling has been helpful. But I’m definitely more of an introvert, and much more into helping myself where I can. So lately, I’ve been supplementing those sessions with various self-help methods– exercising and eating better, reading countless books and articles, attempting meditation and yoga, and exploring several spiritual paths (with little success, unfortunately).

I really feel like self-help gets a bad rap. Which is so confusing, because so does going to therapy or taking medication. There’s this stigma about mental health and stress, and EVERYONE has some sort of mental health issues at some point, yet we act like no one should. I’m convinced that even the most zen Buddhist monk has some stress at some point after they decide on that path. They just found a way to help themselves handle it. We here in the West are not good at that part, even though we’re great at creating the stress.

I decided to ignore all the judgment around self-help books and picked up You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero. And I loved it. It’s a little out there, but it’s very real. It doesn’t read like the books that likely gave self-help the stigma in the first place. Yes, she uses profanity. But she does it in such a way that it sounds like your enlightened friend walking you through a break-up or getting laid off or amping you up for a job you really want but are absolutely terrified of going for. Stress can come from positive events too.

So what does she talk about? There are three big themes throughout the book.

She starts with the phrase “raising your frequency.” The first thing I thought when I read that was that I was getting self-help from a hippie yogi– not totally inaccurate. But this mystical phrase is merely a way of saying that positive people attract other positive people and things, whereas negative people attract negative.  A low-frequency person is just going through the motions, blaming the universe or others for the negativity in their life, and not doing what they want or what makes them happy. A high-frequency person is doing things to better themselves, engaging in activities that they enjoy and interacting with positive people, and understanding that life really is all about what you make it, that the only thing working against you is you. To feel better about yourself and get what you want out of life, you have to raise your frequency.

The second big theme is trusting The Universe. Again, some esoteric mysterious mumbo-jumbo– but it isn’t. What she’s advocating is pretty common in many religions, whether it be Buddhism, Wiccan, or Christianity. The Universe can refer to any number of things depending on your belief system. For instance, in the Christian system, this is the same thing as handing it over to God, praying over it and waiting for him to give you a sign or make it happen. Sincero advocates getting in touch with The Universe through meditation or prayer, really just sitting quietly and opening ourselves up to words from God or hints from our subconscious or whatever it is that we experience when we empty our minds of to-do lists and bank account figures and social media drama. This allows us to more easily surrender to forces that we cannot control. When we try to control every little detail, it becomes counter-productive to getting what we want.  It’s subscription to the belief that The Universe/God/your deity or driving force helps those who helps themselves. Take steps to reach your goal, but trust that there are things out of you control and that by doing what you have to, what you want will manifest itself.

The third and most prevalent theme is simply love yourself. Perhaps the most self-helpish phrase in the book, but ridiculously important. You can’t have a high frequency if you tear yourself down. You can’t do what’s necessary to let The Universe know you want something if you’re constantly thinking of all the reasons why you aren’t capable or deserving of a better job, a quality partner, a new car. We are not perfect, but dwelling on our flaws is such a disservice. We have so much power, and all we have to do is open up our eyes to how awesome we are to start using some of it. Let’s be honest. We are all pretty badass.

I reflect on many of the points Sincero discusses on a daily basis. I’ve started “meditating,” really just lying in bed at night or sitting if I feel so inclined, and focusing either on nothingness or on a specific goal. I fall asleep so much more easily, and I feel more focused the next day. I’ve reached out to people who are so much better than me at the whole “trusting The Universe” thing, and people who are very positive and doing their part to help themselves; it’s easy to see exactly how The Universe has helped them. It’s helped me to take steps toward letting go of control on things I really have no control over in the first place. I’ve got a long way to go, but I love what I got out of this book.

Do I recommend this book? Most definitely.

Hitting the… Well, I’m Not Quite Gym-Ready Yet…


So I’ve finally done it… I’ve hopped on the healthy train, and I’m working my way up from the caboose. The myth of the Freshman 15 (or 40, depending on who you talk to…) finally got to me, and I want to prevent a wardrobe reform in the short-term. Clothes are expensive. In the long-term, I just want to be healthy– less money spent on doctors, drugs (legitimate medication, never the illegal kind), and other bad health-related expenses, monetary or otherwise.

Now I’m heading into completely uncharted territory. For one, the only time I ever really “worked out” was at recess in elementary school and in gym throughout the first nine years or so of school. Outside of that, it’s mostly been sitting at my computer or in front of a television or reading a book or doing homework. And those don’t burn too many calories, unless you’re walking and reading as I do every so often. So I’m starting a walk/jog routine three days a week. It’s more like a walk/walk/jog/walk deal right now, but I’m starting slowly. And I’m doing resistance exercises and ab workouts and attempting push ups. The girly kind. I’m working my way up. Eventually, I’ll feel comfortable enough to do some real exercise in the recreation center on campus.

The second problem is eating healthy. Granted, we have a fantastic dining hall on campus with plenty of healthy options, including vegetarian and vegan menus. But I also don’t have unlimited funds in my student account, which I also use for books and gifts and other necessities for college living (like that $60 sweatshirt I bought; it gets cold crossing campus). And dining hall food gets boring after a while. This is the nice thing about the cash flow from the bowling alley, since I’m able to go buy fresh ingredients from the local giant eagle and create my own healthy concoctions. Which means I’ll also be working on something else I’ve never really done: cooking.

I guess that means the benefits of living healthier are two-fold. I get into better shape, and I learn how to cook. Fantastic! Wait… Three-fold. I get to buy new books. I’m very excited about this. And I’ve found some really great cook books in the campus book store. I’m excited about this. Even if my muscles are screaming at me. They rather enjoyed the company of Chair and Couch. They don’t seem to excited about meeting Pavement and the Resistance Bands. I guess they’ll just have to get over it. Wish me luck!

Any good tips for this new journey? Any delicious recipe ideas?