Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: Finding Success in Balance

June 2nd 2017

Finding Success in Balance

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Author: Apryl Schleuter

My Journey To The Cheerful Mind

I’ve read a number of books that talk about work / life balance but never a book as focused on it as this one.  The author, Schleuter, includes her life story and tells of her many challenges of learning and finding the life balance she now has and teaches as a life coach. I found this book is more about Schleuter’s journey to find her own life balance than it is about the “how to” aspect of work / life balance.  She certainly includes advice but it takes quite a while to get to that by eventually having steps and recommendations after her stories of discovering these for herself.  It’s definitely a different style of book where the advice is given along with a detailed description and story of the author’s challenges and in most cases, failures to accomplish what she was after.  Schleuter does overcome these challenges, but her own evidence shows this takes her years and many jobs to ultimately find what she is after.  I had a hard time taking this in, since over and over I thought to myself, the author doesn’t know what she is doing, what can I learn from this?  In the end, there is good lessons learned and teachings by the author, but I’m not sure the journey of getting there helped me in any way, as this is something that would be unique to any individual and each person will find their own path if they continue on such a trial and error as the author here does.

There is sections on career and life, relationship, finances, fun and free time.  All are good and worth the read for, but depending on how much back story you want to know, you can probably skim through these sections pretty quick to get to the meat of the book, which is the advice, her lessons learned and her now active practice as a life coach running her business, the Cheerful Mind.

Also, there is a lot of discussion dedicated on managing stress, as it seems to be the bane of Schleuter, through her life.    I’ve always been fortunately to enjoy many hobbies, sports and pass times that seem to kill my stress levels.  I’m also quick to engage in any work I do, so its easy for me to enjoy a LOT of activities, so I really struggled to relate the many stress inducing challenges the book describes and wants to help with.  The author goes through quite a journey to find ways of reducing to only a tolerable level of stress in many cases, but it seems that stress is still a continuous barrier for the author.  I guess if one struggles with this, it would be easier to relate to, but for me, stress is just a non-factor as I handle and eliminate stress very successfully.

However, there are techniques to learn and some of the methods that work for her are:

  • Meditation
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic

Aside from meditation and yoga, these all require outsite intervention, which I don’t believe is really handling the problem of stress at all.  My methods are completely different and easier for me to do without outside help so I didn’t put much though to these as they don’t do the same thing for me at all.  However, the journey to handle stress and manage it for yourself will always be unique and knowing more ways and possibilities for that useful if you need to explore this for yourself.

Despite not connecting closely with everything in this book, just because Schleuter’s lifestyle is very different from mine (even though we are both engineers), the book covers some great topics, provides sound advice and explores a journey of the author’s story in getting to her point of work / life balance, which I commend and recommend anyone to strive for.  So, its easy to recommend this book, its a fast read and helpful in many ways.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

 

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | No Comments »

Book Review: Cameleon

November 4th 2016

Life-Changing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has a Personality or Knows Someone Who Does
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Author: Merrick Rosenberg

Well, this book is quite interesting and a very different than so many than I read.  Although I don’t care for the subtext on the cover, I do believe that the underlying content of this book can be life changing and the wisdom has certainly helped me a tremendous amount in my life.  Ultimately this book is all about behavioral styles, specifically, the DiSC model that is often hard for people to learn, remember and apply.  I am fortunately to have learned and applied DiSC from Manager-Tools many years ago and I’ve used it heavily in my career and life to work with others much more easily and understand them.  So, while I can’t say I learned much new ideas behind these styles in this book, I can say that this book teaches them VERY well, demonstrates through excellent examples and uses stories to teach the content, which is going to be a very good way to learn them for many people.

DiSC ultimately has four behavior styles and while everyone has some combination of all four, and uses different styles at different times, we also tend to have stronger most natural tendencies in one of the quadrants or styles of DiSC. Rosenberg uses birds to be metaphor’s for each style and they are:

  • Eagle
  • Parrot
  • Dove
  • Owl

Eagle

A bird of action, that is quick to take charge, look at the big picture and be in control of any situation, no matter what the circumstances.

Parrot

An often excited, forever optimistic and easily distracted bird that enjoys story telling, simply enjoying flight and to socialize with other birds.

Dove

A peaceful and kind bird that cares about others and wants to see everyone getting along.  Dove’s don’t like to be in the spotlight themselves, but love to bring out the best of a whole team.

Owl

A super logic bird that will take the time to think, reflect and decide what to do, only after considering all options and having all the information at their wingtips.

Overall Thoughts

Rosenberg includes 22 separate stories with the birds learning and realizing various lessons about understanding and working better with one another.  Throughout these fables, the Chameleon character reminds me a bit of Yoda, he seems to always be in the right place at the the right time with words of wisdom and questions that drive all the birds to new levels of understanding of the various styles.

The book is very easy to read, short stories, with simple but powerful lessons in them all, that are very easy to relate with in the real world as well.  In some ways the stories and characters seem a limit childish at times, but it never really takes away anything from the book, just because it is simple and easy to understand, which I can’t say DiSC is easy for people using its classical models of learning it.

Rosenberg also summarizes every chapter with tips from that story and there are TONS of great couple line points to remind you of the various benefits of using and applying DiSC methodology to help you with your relationships, your career and life.  All in all, its a good book with good lessons and I personally love the DiSC model so the content earns a 5 stars from me but the book overall is a solid 4.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews & Learning & Relationships | No Comments »

Book Review: Rapid Teamwork

July 25th 2016

5 Essential Steps to Transform Any Group into a GREAT Team
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Author: Sean Glaze

I love fables for making a point and I like how much easier it is to connect with the characters, to engage in the book, and to ultimately learn something from it.  I’ve read some other great fables such as The Five Dysfunctions of a Team and The Goal and I really enjoyed this one as well.  Rapid Teamwork wasn’t quite as breakthrough in the guidance and story as those examples but hits on a great topic, teamwork and does it in a setting where the teamwork isn’t all that bad in the first place, but not nearly as good as it CAN be.

The story is about a manager, Greg Sharpe, who’s quickly thrown into a new challenge to take his team to an offsite rafting trip for some ‘unconventional’ lessons to learn.  Sharpe’s new boss and mediocre business performance have him rather worried on on edge, but realizes through the teaching from the guide during the trip, what he and his executive team need to do to become highly productive and with stronger relationships and unity in their workplace.

The 5 Essential Steps

  1. Goals and Gear
  2. Rapport and Relationships
  3. Expectations and Encouragements
  4. Accountability and Adjustments
  5. Toasts and Transfer

These steps are not just described like many self help books, but instead experienced by Sharpe and his executive team during their rafting adventure.  Their guide expertly teaches them as their experience unfolds on the waters and they all seem to realize how the steps can make a real difference for them as a team.

Overall, I think the book is great. Its a pretty short read, teaches valuable lessons and the adventure of rafting is one I could quickly relate to.  My adventurous spirit hoped for much more excitement and descriptions of the events on the water but nothing will compare to reading the Emerald Mile for a water adventure book. Perhaps a lot of people think that these type of “offsite teambuilding” events can be a bit cliche and unsuccessful in the real world, and while I don’t disagree, I do know they depend highly on a skilled coach / guide or teacher to make them work, and this book shows an example of that, where it just works.  I’ve experienced some of the same teambuilding, so I know there are many such events that do work.

Anyway, if you’ve needing or wanting to understand how you can improve your own team, I’d recommend grabbing this one for your next flight or session out in your hammock (which you should have one, by the way, haha).

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | No Comments »

Book Review: Hidden Strengths

September 1st 2015

Unleashing the Crucial Leadership Skills You Already Have
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Author: Thuy Sindell and Milo Sindell

This book is a concise and straight forward leadership development book with a bit of a twist to the normal personal development focus.  Most of us know that focusing on weaknesses can be less fruitful than focusing on our strengths, as in “Now, Discover Your Strengths” and I’ve certainly used that coaching people for personal development.  This book adds the advice to also not focus only on your strengths but instead, find the ‘hidden strengths’ that you can develop and gain more broad capabilities with less effort and time.  This is done by the help of a skills assessment by the author and then a breakdown of 28 skills in 4 main categories:

  1. Leading Self
  2. Leading Others
  3. Leading the Organization
  4. Leading Implementation

The Sindell authors provide descriptions of each of the 28 skills, advice on how to use and develop them through numerous stories or case studies of business development where the characters develop hidden strengths to improve their roles in leadership.  These hidden skill stories give believable evidence of how everyone has more hidden strength to draw upon and use in our personal development journeys.  The only thing I didn’t like about these short stories is that they seem too easy in some of the cases where skills focus made significant impact in just days or a few short weeks in most cases.  I personally haven’t ever found this to be the case, they usually develop and cause impact over the course of many weeks, or even months or years.  Skills just don’t have that immediate of impact in organizations and in all the people I’ve coached, it typically takes longer for them to even practice and develop the skills.  Hidden strengths I think is a great place to find opportunities for personal development, however, lasting skill development should not be understated, it needs to be practiced and practiced to get good at to truly develop into a strength that can be applied in one’s leadership.  This is especially true since leadership skills reveal themselves often at the point of adversity and challenge.

The book is in three main parts to lead your through these discoveries and examples:

  1. What are hidden strengths?
  2. Finding your Hidden Strengths.
  3. Hidden Strengths into action.

So, overall I enjoyed reading the book.  Its 78 pages is  a pretty quick read and the free skills assessment with the book will have you thinking carefully about how you can too, develop some of your hidden strengths.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: Hidden Strengths

Book Review: Creative Anarchy

February 16th 2015

How to Break the Rules of Graphic Design For Creative Success

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Author: Denise Bosler

I received another offer to review a book just recently and couldn’t pass it up.  The cover and title sounded very interesting to me and certainly with my graphic design and 3D animation business, I thought there would be many things to learn and discover in the book.

First, the book is a large book and about 140+80 pages (more on that later) and a quick thumb through it leaves you impressed with the many visuals and color pages, yet scratching you head as to how its put together.  The reason; This is NOT an ordinary book.  And I loved that aspect of it.  From the first few pages to the back of the book, you quickly encounter the fact that the book reads from both ends and has what you normally expect at the start or end, quite out of order.  This showed me the creative aspects and anarchy topic of the book right from the first few pages, which I thought was just great.  The first half is about graphic design rules and what is typically done and why. It flows through 10 rules, exploring each topic with examples, tips and content to learn.  I found most of this information fairly uninspiring, but nonetheless, good information and some useful tips and examples, as well as at least few new points of knowledge on each of the 10 rules.

The back of the book (flip it around and read it backwards) then covers the anarchy aspect, labelled, Break the Rules.  These chapters cover:

  • advertising
  • branding
  • posters
  • publication design
  • promotions
  • packaging
  • interactive

They include many inspiring stories, examples and exercises you can do to expand your thinking and designs into what is beyond the normal rules of design.  It sparks a lot of ideas reading through the many examples and business cases described, so should help instill new ideas and methods to any design artist or creative individual.

The thing that left me wanting were branching into other graphic areas, like animation, computer illustration and 3D design.  Animation was not even mentioned and 3D came from a sense of physical 3D, not computer graphics or 3D printing.  As a 3D artist doing graphic design solely  in 3D animation, I was disappointed that these areas were not covered in a current book on design and creativity.  However, there is more than enough references to other styles and methods that this did not take away from the book and the creativity it helps tap into.  There were a number of examples of design for websites, but again, there was very little coverage of workflow and usability, which I consider to be the critical piece of creative design as a software developer.  I think concepts from the rest of the book can be applied here as well, but I would have loved to see more on the design aspects and creative aspects of software and computer imagery.

Overall, I think there is a lot to learn from this book and although it covers traditional print design thoroughly without exploring new design concepts like 3D print or animation, I think it has more than enough to spark new creative vibes and gives a load of examples and inspiring content to help any designer bring some new methods and ideas to their own workflow.  The whole concept then of breaking some of the rules to find that creative success is an excellent one and nice to see that this book make a great example of what it is teaching by breaking the rules itself.

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: Creative Anarchy

Book Review: The Martian

February 10th 2015

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Author: Andy Weir

I rarely read fiction compared to the many non-fiction titles I devour.  Anyway, I had caught up on books I brought with me while travelling recently and so needed something new to sink into while doing some business travel.  I have to say, most of the fiction rack didn’t interest me at all, either romance or books about someone’s dog it seems.  At the time, I thought The Martian was the best of the worse, since nothing really interested me.  Anyway, I was quickly taken into the depth of this intriguing book and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Basically, the first chapter tells you the start and end of the whole book, which I couldn’t quite figure out why so much climax was put in at the start.  It definitely hooked me though as I quickly learned the astronaut, Mark Watney is left for dead isolated on Mars after a freak space accident with his crew, which they had to abandon him (having every indication and belief that Mark was in fact dead).  Mark quickly reveals how ingenious and inventive he is as he saves himself from death and begins what will be a very long isolated adventure on Mars.  From obvious limitations of food, water, air and company, Mark seems to face everything Mars can throw at him with his engineering mind set to solve each problem and move past it.  I certainly connected with the engineering aspect and some of the science behind his many inventions (I’m certainly no space junky however), and the author has certainly down his research in making every scenario, every experiment and every problem as realistic as you could expect, which I felt really help to draw me into the Martian world.  Mark logs his adventures from his own perspective and the book jumps between his solitude on Mars and the other parties involved from NASA to the crew to families back on Earth.

The whole story is quite an amazing adventure and the incredibly resourceful Mark Watney makes the whole book amusing and gripping. He is one of my favorite characters I’ve ever read and I just couldn’t put the book down.  Each setback and problem, left me wanting to see Watney escape and figure out yet another impossible problem.  Its brilliantly written and I hope to see more books from Weir, as this is his first.

So, I hope you pick up a copy if you have any interest in space, science, adventure or even human ingenuity and resourcefulness, as this book has all of those.

 

Posted by Mike King under Book Reviews | Comments Off on Book Review: The Martian

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