Review: Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey

Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey Rising to the Challenge: My Leadership Journey by Carly Fiorina
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although I could not get into Carly Fiorina's first book and have not been following her political campaigns at all, my Women's Business & Leadership Book Club voted to discuss this book, so I picked it up last night. I was very pleasantly surprised by how quick a read it was and finished it today, not wanting to put it down in between.

In this book Carly does not focus on her life at HP (although it's mentioned), but instead focuses on how she took those lessons and others life threw her way as opportunities to help others fulfill their potential, as someone had done for her back when she started out as a secretary.

Since I tend to stay away from politics, it was interesting to read about her decision to run for the California Senate seat, the challenges of campaign life, and then her turning to nonprofit work. Her opinions on politics, what's wrong with it in general and especially against women, and her opinion of current government leaders was also refreshing.

My one criticism of the book is that some chapters tended to meander, move forward and back in time sometimes confusingly, and that the end was a bit too long and preachy. But overall an interesting memoir from a CEO turned politician/activist.

Review: The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy

The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chris Bailey got interested in productivity as a high-school student and decided to take a year off after college to read, research, and experiment with various productivity theories. Although his blog captured his daily trials and tribulations, this book is the best of what worked and a fun way to learn how to become more productive.

Chris stresses that productivity is about accomplishment and not "efficiency" or being busy, and that in our knowledge economy it's as much about managing your energy and focus as it is about managing your time. His book is well organized and written, addressing each of these topics plus many others.

Since the book has too many tips to list, I will share the three I plan on implementing right away:
1. The rule of 3—pick 3 things to accomplish each day and at the end of the day, pick three things to accomplish the next, ensuring these are the top 3 things that will move you forward and that cannot be eliminated or delegated;
2. Keep master lists from where you take your current 3 to-do's, but also keep waiting-for lists, worry lists, and anything else you need to externalize so you free up your mental bandwidth to focus on the present;
3. Take more breaks to recharge and allow your mind to wander, which is where inspiration comes from, and be mindful about where you spend your time and on what, allowing for pauses and check-ins throughout the day so you can course direct if necessary.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone with too much on their plate and/or just trying to figure out how to be organized and more effective in what they do.

Review: It's Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When It Matters Most

It's Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When It Matters Most It's Not What You Say: How to Sell Your Message When It Matters Most by Michael Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Michael Parker's book is a quick read but a valuable one for anyone who needs to use words to communicate and influence—so basically, all of us.

In a short book with lots of fun images, he teaches us the basics of figuring out how to communicate effectively, prepare for it, and present it well so that we get the outcomes we want.

A few major takeaways:
1. we're always presenting and presentation always requires preparation and practise;
2. if done right, taking deep breaths and pausing actually adds to your credibility so take your time;
3. your tone of voice and body language are as important, if not more so, than what you say.

I highly recommend this to anyone who wants to communicate more effectively or get ahead in their career and life.

New Format for Most Posts

For those who have been reading my blog from the beginning, which was amazingly over a year ago, you know that most of my posts revolve around a business book without technically being a review of that book. A few posts were about business topics that resonated with me without being tied to a book, but those were few and far between.

I have to admit that one of the reasons I moved to a once a week posting was that I was finding it hard to write. I still read, both business books and occasionally fiction, but just didn't feel like writing about them, even when I enjoyed the book. The once or twice I tried, I ended up deleting my draft.

Fortunately when writing was easy and I was doing it on a regular basis, I had accumulated so many drafts that I still have 20 more I have yet to publish. But those are just 20...or 5 months' worth. I wasn't sure what I would do afterwards but feared I'd have to shut down the blog.

Goodreads has just given me a great solution. Although I give books star ratings all the time, I haven't often written an actual review and just noticed these reviews can be now linked to your blog. So going forward, unless I'm posting one of the original 20 drafts (which I will eventually), or be compelled to write a new post, I will instead post goodreads business book reviews here. 

I hope you still find them useful and continue reading, and if you've read any of the books I have or have ones to recommend, I'd love to hear from you.

Keep reading and learning,

Failure As Opportunity

I thought I had read (and written) enough about failure, but Pema Chodron, in her book fail fail again fail better proved me wrong.

Her definition of failure is not about iterating, pivoting, or even about business per se, but about life. As Pema explains and her stories relay, failures and mistakes happen to everyone. It's what you do with that experience that will make the difference.

If you embrace that feeling of rawness and vulnerability that comes with failure, not only will you become stronger and better, but the next failure will hurt less. And these moments also give us an opportunity to connect with others, to become better, and to redirect our lives.

Same concept applies to fear and other negative emotions. First recognize them for what they are and not as an indication of a personal lack, and then embrace the lesson it presents. On the other side of fear is opportunity.

As her title suggests, learn to fail better and expect to keep doing it since it's as much a part of life as breathing.

So if we redefine failure as an opportunity instead of a lack or mistake, you lose more by not trying than by "failing."

What have you feared to try? Are you ready to see what opportunity lies on the other side?