Monday, June 30, 2014

Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge

Welcome to our Travel the World in Books Reading Challenge. Over the past couple of years Tanya of Mom's Small Victories has enjoyed participating in the Around the World in 80 Books Reading challenge. After  discovering the host blog went down she's decided to bring back this challenge with a new name and new goals. Becca of  I'm Lost in Books  and yours truly are partnering with Tanya in hosting this challenge.  Without further adieu I am excited to bring you:


The Goal

Travel the world in books, of course! Expand your horizons and read books set in or written by authors from countries other than the one you live in. Visit as many different countries in books as you wish.

The "Rules"

And the "rules" are simply this...YOU choose your own adventure! These are your goals but you can change them any time.

1. Determine length of time you will participate in the challenge. Just one month, An entire season, a year or 5 years?

2. Determine how many countries you would like to read about during your adventure. What criteria are you using to determine the number of countries you read about (ex. book setting, author background or both)?

3. How will you track the countries you visited in books? You could create a map in Google Maps, track on your blog or on a Goodreads shelf.

4. Determine your book list or genre if you like. Will you be listing specific books you would like to read? Do you aim to read fiction, nonfiction or a mixture of both?

5. Link up your posts. Linkies will be available for sign up/goals, wrap up, and a linky for each continent for you to add your book reviews whenever you are ready.

6. Please follow each of our 3 hosts by at least one social media or bloglovin, RSS, GFC so you can keep informed of news, updates and events regarding this challenge.

We have a Travel the World in 80 Books Readathon in the works for September! That's it, are you ready to travel the world in books? Grab the button and "arrivederci", "bon voyage", "sayonara" and enjoy your travels!


For my challenge I am going to read 50 nonfiction books that take place in 50 different countries other than my own over the next five years.  I've created a Pinterest board to create my progress.
The challenge begins July 1st, so please head over to Tanya's site to link up your sign up post.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why I Need To Be More Optimistic

I admit it I prefer cynicism and a good negative rant over Pollyannaism any day. My rejection of the happiness movement began when I attended a positivity lecture with a friend at her church while in my twenties. The minister proclaimed acquiring a positive attitude along with donating money to his church would attract good things to our lives. If we believed we would become a millionaire we would become one. If we believed we would find true love we would find it. I remained skeptical while my friend got out her checkbook. Reading Barbara Ehrenreich’s book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America probably did not help my pessimistic tendencies.

Last year while traveling with a co-worker I mentioned I had never read and didn’t believe in the premise of Rhonda Byrne's book The Secret. She spent the next two hours trying to persuade me I was wrong insisting changing her attitude had changed her life. The day after she had decided to become a more positive person an unexpected check arrived in her mailbox. I was not convinced.  

It took Jenn Aubert and her book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!: 100+ Successful Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Tips on What Works, What Doesn't (and Why) ... a Business and Designing a Life You Loveto help me understand the deeper benefits of a positive attitude. She writes:
One of the main traits seen time and again in powerful leaders at all levels is positive framing. It should be no surprise that to manage the roller coaster that is running your own business, you have to keep an outlook that looks for the silver lining in situations. But it goes beyond just having a rose-colored perspective. It is also about seeing things for the way they are and taking the facts as facts rather than spinning stories that are not true or – for that matter – useful. (Pg. 47)
People who frame things in a positive light don’t let negative feelings paint their reality in a negative way. They see things for what they are and learn from them. They understand that they’re in control of their future and can influence future outcomes, learn and grow. (Pg. 48)
During the 2002 recession the company where I work was hit incredibly hard. The owner had been on leave caring for his sick wife and had left the management of his company with his two inexperienced sons. After our company’s bank refused to renew our contract he returned to save his company. Over the next month he contracted a new bank to provide a line of credit and to take over our existing loans all at more favorable interest rates than we had previously. He negotiated long-term notes with five of our major vendors to pay off outstanding payable balances over the next two years. He downsized and cut costs in every area possible. Ultimately he saved his company. I am not sure if any of this could have been achieved if he were not an optimist. A more negative person would have just sold the company’s assets to the highest bidder.

During the great recession my company was again hit hard. Our owners again down sized and cut costs. They mentioned several times how they never would have made in through the great recession if they hadn’t experienced almost losing their company in 2002. They are convinced the changes they made in 2002 had made the company stronger and better able to withstand future financial set-backs. Talk about a silver-lining.

While Jenn Aubert was interviewing Stella Grizont the founder of WOOPAAH she learned:

Maintaining a positive attitude is deeper than just being optimistic and looking on the bright side. According to Stella what is most important is a belief in your vision and seeing ways to maneuver difficult situations and challenges. While a leader within the Ladies Who Launch organization she worked with thousands of women helping them maintain a positive frame by seeing the possibilities, taking the next step and taking account of one’s previous successes. This valuable tool of reframing situations, challenges and obstacles is a skill that can take you far. (Pg. 48)

I had been missing the true benefit of optimism. I had realized people prefer spending time with positive people and those with a positive attitude were more likely to be hired, make friends and find a mate. But I also thought those who believed in the happiness movement had been brain-washed into thinking all they had to do was be positive and good things would miraculously appear into their life. In reality ridding yourself of negative, trapped and I hate myself thoughts frees up your mind to come up with real solutions.

Perhaps it is time I let go of my own negative attitudes and work towards becoming a more optimistic person.

If you would like to learn more about Jenn Aubert and her book Women Entrepreneur Revolution please see my interview with Jenn Aubert.

Have you embraced the happiness movement?  Why or why not?
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interview with Jenn Aubert author of Women Entrepreneur Revolution

One of my goals for this blog is to read and recommend career books for women. I’ve found a few good ones over the years, but honestly have to say Jenn Aubert’s book Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!: 100+ Successful Women Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Tips on What Works, What Doesn't (and Why) ... a Business and Designing a Life You Love is one of the best entrepreneurship books for women I have read to date. In addition to providing small business and entrepreneurial advice it includes real-life examples from 100 different entrepreneurial women. I’ve never encountered this in a book before. Almost all of the books I've read have been written by men and were about men's businesses. A few years ago I read a blog comment written by a female commercial lender stating all women business ideas were lame – every single one of them. Obviously this commenter needs to read this book.

I will be writing additional posts in the next few weeks based on the lessons I’ve learned from Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready!.  Today I am delighted to share my interview with the book’s author Jenn Aubert:

What motivated you to write “Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch?
Many small moments led to the writing of Women Entrepreneur Revolution: Ready! Set! Launch!. The final 'ah ha' moment happened in the Fall of 2012 after having noticed my book shelf filled with books on business all having been written by men. It was simply an observation. Out of curiosity I went to an online forum of women business owners I belong to and asked them who they were reading, who they were following and learning from, and who are their role models. What surprised me was how few women had noted female leaders and entrepreneurs as role models - other than Oprah. Oprah is fantastic but she can't possibly be the only role model for every woman starting a business. I knew I had to figure out what was going on so. That’s when I decided to take a year and ask 100 women who inspired them and how they've created success for themselves.

Who are your female role models?
I have so many now I feel like I need a board on my wall to remember them all. Each inspires me in a different way. One of my role models is a woman I used to work with when I was in the corporate world. Before she became an executive recruiter she was a co-founder of a biotechnology company and was previous a bench scientist involved in cancer research. She is one of the coolest, most generous, loving people I’ve ever known. I admire her grace under pressure and her ability to lead in a more feminine style.

Others that are newer to my stable of role models is Alexis Maybank of Gilt and Jessica Herrin of Stella & Dot. They both have created significant empires in areas where people thought they were nuts. Alexis is a strong leader in the technology community while remaining approachable. Jessica has created a company that helps women create a flexible living for themselves. Both are also moms.

What is your why and why is that important?
My why is that I want to help women build a sustainable business that will enable them to fulfill every passion and desire they have. My why has been around for years but only recently have I discovered the how to do this. The book is a start. My next venture, LearnSavvy, is the next phase.

What was your biggest surprise or lesson learned from interviewing over 100 women?
I was surprised how willing busy successful women were to take the time to speak to me. They were incredibly kind in giving their time, sharing their wisdom and helping a fellow woman pursue her dreams.

In terms of lessons, many women gave the advice of asking for what you want and need. I realized that I have been terrible at that in my professional and personal life. Over the course of the year and having that piece of sage advice reiterated over and over, I’ve become more brave in my own life in terms of asking for what I need.

Is it possible to attain a work/life balance?
While I was interviewing the women for the book I was franticly trying to find my own balance. I was managing my business and a toddler while interviewing, researching, and writing the book. Trust me, I was asking how other’s were doing it because I felt like I was drowning.

What I found was there is no one answer to the question, “How do you balance family and work?”. Everyone has their unique ways to integrate the two, knowing that true balance will never happen. That’s the one relief that came out of talking to over a hundred women. That no one really has the answer - the magic solution - to “having it all.” And quite frankly, it’s ok.

The key is to honestly do the best you can, ruthlessly prioritize what you most value and let go of things that just aren’t that important. There are only so many hours each day so honor that time and focus on what is most important to you.

What do you know now that you did not know when you were 18?
I think at 18 I was more focused on what I should do and be. I planned on majoring in International Relations thinking that I wanted some high paying corporate job traveling the world. I realize now that you can create the income you want in such a variety of unique ways while living a life that really fits you. You don’t have to have an MBA, wear a suit and sit in the corner office to make a really fabulous life for yourself. But that’s all part of life. It takes doing a lot of what doesn’t fit to figure out what does. It’s like dating, you have to go out with a lot of guys to find just the right one.

Is there anything else we should know about you or your book?
I’ve been surprised to hear from women who are not business owners, that they have gotten so much out of the book. I’ve heard stories of women being inspired to take more risks in their corporate roles and of women taking more bold steps in their philanthropic work. It truly warms my heart that this book is helping women everywhere become the best versions of themselves.

Thank you Jenn.  I am already looking forward to your next project - LearnSavvy.

Who are your female role models?  Please share in the comments below.

Disclosure: I was given a copy of this book prior to this interview.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Sunday, June 01, 2014

How to Compete With a Bully

It’s been awhile since I've written about the human resource manager (and family friend of our company's owners) who personally attacked me at work:

I had run into her as she was walking out of a heated meeting with my boss. Upon seeing me she went into a tirade about how I was the worst manager my company had. This incident along with continued difficulties working with her have plagued my career and self-esteem ever since. This was also the impetus behind my be strong challenge a couple of years ago.

As for the manager herself, she has slowly lost power in my company. After she recommended two of my employees be fired during last year's salary review I went to our President and complained. I learned she’d already informed him my employees weren't up to her expectations and he was now furious. He had told her he would never allow her to fire them and neither would his father or brother. He was angry she was still talking about this. From now on he wanted her focusing on the projects he assigned her and to stop causing trouble in my department. He must have talked to her because she avoided me for at least a month afterwards and hasn't complained about my employees since. I still find it difficult working with her and have to remain on guard or I am blind-sighted when she does whatever it takes including lying to make sure she looks good.

Then a couple of days ago we were both in the restroom at the same time. She told me she had injured her knee in a boot camp exercise program and could now barely walk. Looking at herself in the mirror she burst into tears. She said she never felt this frumpy before in her life. She asked if I ever felt frumpy. Careful not to provide details, I truthfully responded with yes - every day. She pointed out how my hair was not grey while hers, according to her son, could use a good coloring. We then had a real conversation about aging (we both turn 52 this year), dieting and exercise. I ended up recommending she make an appointment with my orthopedic.   

She is now visiting my office regularly giving me updates on her knee. I started thinking this is nice, if she were like this all the time I might actually be able to work with her. Then all of a sudden I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu. I’ve felt this way before. Growing up my parents used to fight every day. Eventually it would get so bad something big would happen – there would be a big scene, my mother would seriously threaten to leave or would leave. Then they would make up and life at home was calm. I would think this is nice, I wish it would stay like this. Of course it never did and I’d eventually wake up to the screaming again.  I then realized it won’t be long before this manager is back to her previous shenanigans.

I thought about her telling me how she was competing with the other members of her boot camp class when she hurt herself. I thought about all the conversations we've had over the years and realized most of them included a competition –  a competition where she did or said everything she could to come out on top.

I was thinking about this today as I read Carolyn Hax’s advice in her column Dad Can't Stop Daughter From Measuring Herself Against Sister. Carolyn responds with:
The only reasonable path Younger sister can take to feeling good about herself is to do the best job she can at being Younger. Using anything or anyone else as a point of reference is bound to fail. 
And so I decide how I’m going to compete with the HR Manager in the future - I am not. I’m going to work on being the best me (a 52-year old accounting manager) can be and not worry about her. She has her own demons to wrestle with. If I’m content with myself and my work she will not be able to rattle me. 
Have you ever competed with a bully at work?