Sunday, February 27, 2011

No excuses—it’s time to create!

By Tiffany Young

For anyone looking for a swift kick in the butt to get started on their novel, painting or any other endeavor, “The War of Art—Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles” by Steven Pressfield delivers.

The book is broken into three books, with the first focusing on resistance. Resistance, Pressfield says, comes down to anything—good or bad—keeping you from your opus (More on finding your opus when I write my review of Thomas Moore’s “A Life at Work”—excellent!).

Many forms of resistance have appeared throughout my life: procrastination, rationalization, fear—Check!
Book two focuses on the professional aspect of creating. The number one rule, it seems, is showing up. You’ve probably heard it before, but that’s what separates the writers from non-writers—writing! Imagine that. Ever met someone that says they’re a writer, but when asked what they’ve written, they haven’t actually started?

Book three is where the book moves from reasons why you may not create and setting yourself up for creative success to persuading the reader that they were made to create and that artworks are from another realm.

This both takes some pressure off the artist, while adding to it at the same time. Relief comes when the realization hits that it’s not even our piece of art being rendered—there are muses or angels or whatever you’d like to call them whispering what to do next—hence screenwriters who say they don’t develop their plots, they just appear as scenes flashing in their mind.

The scary part, however, is in Pressfield’s final pages, “You shame the angels who watch over you and the Almighty, who created you and only you with your unique gifts, for the sole purpose of nudging the human race one millimeter farther along on its path back to God.”

Pressfield essentially tells us we are robbing humanity of something great if we are not contributing to society with our God-given gifts—Wow! I take it back … a kick in the butt would feel better.

Though this book leans toward the spiritually driven, I’d suggest it to anyone struggling with productivity in their unique talents.

Don’t worry about some long, boring book; Pressfield keeps it to 163 pages—most of them incomplete. When he’s finished with one point, he moves on to a new page and a new point with quick and poignant stories to motivate.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

One thing at a time

If you're anything like me, you spend the day tweeting, facebooking, checking e-mail, playing Words With Friends and mostly just being distracted. If you feel like it's keeping you from doing the things you need and want to get done, perhaps reading Leo Babauta's "Focus."

You can download the free book and read it in .pdf format on your computer or print it out.
If Leo Babauta sounds familiar, it may be because his blog Zen Habits has long been successful among GTDers and minimalists.

Babauta came on the blogging scene originally giving GTDers advice on productivity and slowly moved into a more minimalist view, in which he focuses less on goals and more on living a more aware life. His book "Focus" shows others how they can eliminate distractions and focus on the things they love—be that creating, spending time with loved ones or just relaxing.

Some of the things he hit on that I know I need to work on is eliminating phone/online distractions hen I sit down to work on something.

As you can imagine, working in news, I'm expected to have my eye on the pulse at all times, but staring at Twitter and news feeds all day does not help me write articles. Finding a balance is sometimes difficult and I believe he is right in that most of us can eliminate these things, if not entirely, to a certain degree. Could I check e-mails just 4 times a day? Probably so and be more efficient to boot.

Other things he suggests are simplifying your workspace—having just 5 items on your desk available instead of it being cluttered with things you may only need once a day, such as staplers or tape.

I'm a long way from developing most of these useful suggestions in everyday life, but I've pared down my distractions before, and I'm hoping, with the suggestions from this book, I can find balance again.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Run-like you've never run before

By Tiffany Young

If you haven't heard of "Born to Run," well, I'm shocked. This nonfiction book is one of the best I've read. A writer for several running and health magazines, Christopher McDougall, finds, after the age of 40, he can no longer run pain free.
He sees his doctor only to find he needs a lot of orthotics he'd rather not deal with. He's heard of an Indian tribe in Mexico, the Tarahumara (tara-oo-mara), who not only run fast through the jungle, but do it at all ages. How, he wonders, do they not get hurt?

McDougall travels to find out and ends up finding Caballo—the Horse—a white, older guy who has become friends with the Indians and lives in a hut in a town as close to civilization as is near the Tarahumara. This mysterious man tells McDougall all he needs to know about the Indians and running without letting him know anything about himself—who he really is, where he's from and how he came to live outside a jungle in Mexico.

Caballo tells McDougall about a race he is attempting in Mexico—bring some of the best runners in the world to run against the Tarahumara and see who wins. But the race is unlikely to ever happen. The Indians live in a jungle in Mexico, where Americans would have to pass drug cartels and then traipse up and down and along cliffs to get to the race. Who is going to do that? Turns out there were a few who would end up volunteering just to see the fastest people on earth race on their own turf.

I won't tell too much, except that this is a book that shouldn't be missed, even if, like me, you're not a runner. The book isn't so much about running—although you'll learn about that along the way—as the relationships that ensues from those who truly love running. Along the way you may pick up a tip or two about how to run better: Is barefoot running really better?, Why did people evolve to run on two feet, when it seems so slow?, What makes a runner fast?

Be warned—it's inspiring and may make even the least likely of runners want to give running a chance. But perhaps that's your destiny: Were you born to run?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Starbuck's: More than a cup of Joe?

By Tiffany Young

If "It's Not About the Coffee," then Starbucks is about the people according to this book by Howard Behar. Behar, a one-time executive at Starbuck's tells about how the coffee empire's focus is not just about serving the best coffee, but about serving its customers and employers.

While this book is not as good as "How Starbucks Saved My Life," it's a decent book that tells corporate leaders how they should conduct business. It was no competition really, so it's unfair to compare, but the similarity in names makes me compelled to do so anyway. In one, you've got a likable guy fired from his big corporate job slogging coffees at customers all day in a place only slightly more upscale than McD's. In the other, you've got someone who doesn't give away much of his personality. You get the idea Behar has character, but you're not really sure if that's just his view of himself—in other words, you don't get to know him very well.

All that being said, Behar does give 10 principles, which if followed, would make an impact in companies all over:

1. Know Who You Are: Wear One Hat
This chapter has the reader clarify what really matters to them. Behar found out furniture wasn't his true love, but building relationships was.

2. Know Why You’re Here: Do It Because It’s Right, Not Because It’s Right for Your Resume
In this chapter, the reader is encouraged to find a job that they want and will work for them rather than trying to figure out how to move up the ladder.

3. Think Independently: The Person Who Sweeps the Floor Should Choose the Broom
Here managers are encouraged to let those who are doing the work make some decisions in how it's done.

4. Build Trust: Care, like You Really Mean It
This one is obvious, but often ignored. People expect you to actually care, not just say you do.

5. Listen for the Truth: The Walls Talk
This chapter deals a bit with what might be called intuition—listening to that gut feeling when you're all alone and things aren't busy.

6. Be Accountable: Only the Truth Sounds like the Truth
Here the reader is encouraged to acknowledge when they have done something wrong and not sweep problems under the rug.

7. Take Action: Think Like a Person of Action, and Act like a Person of Thought
Sometimes it's just time to act—when it's time to try something even though every single detail may not be worked out yet.

8. Face Challenge: We Are Human Beings First
Everything doesn't come down to money and laws—sometimes it's better to think and act like a person who has feelings.

9. Practice Leadership: The Big Noise and the Still, Small Voice
When success comes it's harder to listen to that underlying voice, but it's a necessity to continuing success.

10. Dare to Dream: Say "Yes," the Most Powerful Word in the World
It's easier to say no than yes, but saying yes can make dreams come true. Try saying yes to great opportunities.

From Michael Gates Gill's story, you do get the idea that Starbucks follows these principles or his work there would never have inspired to write his story telling of how working at Starbucks changed his life.
If you have time, why not read both?