open book on a stack of books

The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin

This new book caught my attention due to a 60 Minutes piece on music producer Rick Rubin. Rick produced much of the soundtrack of my youthful adventures to include Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Jay Z, Metallica, Weezer, and The Chicks. I listened to this book, and his deep voice added a soothing meditative texture to the experience. I recommend you treat this book like a daily mindfulness practice. At first, I found the book odd as it didn’t follow the traditional model of ideas, stories, and data to explain and teach a concept. It’s more a series of mindful fortunes cookie one-liners. I stopped listening. I wasn’t ready for it. A week later I began again as I walked to Orange Theory Fitness at 5:45am in the cold dark. Quiet and open, I listened again. Oh, there it was – the space to hear. I wasn’t listening in the right way as this is written more like a daily meditation book than a self-help or educational book on creativity. Each “chapter” is 2- 10 minutes. You can listen to a few nuggets of mindful wisdom – from the source of creativity, nature as a teacher and self-doubt to rules, beginner’s mind, and momentum – then contemplate them quietly and start your day more centered and receptive to create. I found the book a calm reminder that we are each creative beings in our own way, and how simple it can be if we let it be.

The Burnout Challenge:  Managing People’s Relationships with Their Jobs by Christian Maslach and Michael Leiter

I picked this book up due to a recommendation by a friend and senior government official who posted it was something “every manger should read”… and I agree. The opening put a new perspective on burnout with a reference to the canary and the coal mine – do you blame the bird and keep getting new canary’s or do you fix the mine? To be honest, I had a hard time getting into the book and had to put it down. Not because it wasn’t good but because it pulled up past tension of being burnout from working in an unhealthy “mine” where I was also the wrong “canary.” It also caused me to reflect on a time when I became a frog in boiling water – I hadn’t known how much the “mine” had fallen into disrepair until I left. I found the book helpful because it offers a framework for how both the organization and the person can understand and address both sides of the burnout (system and individual):  workload, control, rewards, community, fairness, and values. The book also includes solutions and assessment tools. I found the book refreshing because it called out the blame and shame that exists around burnout – that organizations and their culture often make it about the person. That someone “can’t handle it” or roll out a free online yoga class, rather than taking a clear look at the work system (structure, processes, management, culture) and being accountable to the people who work there. The book also reaffirmed my belief that work is a collaboration or promise between the company and the person, and both need to show up equally… and a person always had a choice to leave. Staying an being a miserable martyr doesn’t help anyone.

Designing You New Work Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Since emerging from the COVID work disruption (uh, transformation), nearly every week I find myself in a conversation with someone who seeks to understand “what’s next” for them and their career. The discussions run from re-sparking their current job in a new structure or rethinking their current career trajectory to contemplating a major change. It seems many folks, myself included at times, have ended up “navigating with a compass that doesn’t actually belong to us” or “we love our work but don’t like our situation.” I mentioned these chats with Heather Jelks, a leadership coach, author, and neighbor, who recommended this book, so I picked it up. The book takes a design thinking approach to understand and create a job that is more meaningful. Each chapter starts with a “dysfunctional belief” and a “reframe” of it to open yourself to new thinking and possibilities. I think it could be a useful tool to help someone think about and breakdown their job into small pieces that are easier to address than the whole. I also like how the book is focused on action as “designers build their way forward.” As the authors wrote, “You need to know when to ask more questions and when to accept the data you’ve generated and commit to a path forward.” The authors give you information; provide tools to help you think and process it personally; and then share how to act on your findings. The book can help you understand what you’re looking for conceptually—as well as how to explore staying but in a new way, accepting “good enough for now,” leaving, or graduate school for a larger jump. I especially like their 3 daily questions to notice what is working at work:  What did I learn? What did I initiate? Who did I help?  Additionally, there is a section at the end that focuses on core things that changed in the workplace due to the pandemic and tips for being more successful in the new permanent remote/hybrid work environment.

Manifest Now by Idil Ahmed

Through my work with several coaches, I’ve begun to learn about and use manifestation. I quickly loaded this Audible-only book without reading much about it. While I was looking for more of a “what is manifestation and how does it work” book, this is more of “here is how to do it with lots of phrases you can use” book. I liked how the author wrote to aspects of your life (work, relationship, health, money) in each chapter and provided starter manifestation statements for that part of your life. While I liked listening to it – hearing her read a statement and say it back in my head – I got lost a bit in the endless options of phrases, one after another. Whereas with a paper book I could mark up a statement I like and go back to it or try one on and go back and choose another. So, all in all it’s a good book to help you get started and fill your head with lots of positive thoughts.  

Happy reading.

Books – May 2023

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