Learning. What would we do without it? We’d be stuck in the present forever. There would be no expansion, perspective enhancing, social change, and enhancement of our work, our world.
Learning lifts us out of narrow, boxed-in thinking and welcomes in new ways to think, to act, to be.
Learning gives us hope. It brings us together.
The best kind of learning resonates in our hearts, our heads, and our hands (is action-oriented).. It gives us new possibilities for moving forward.
Learning comes in as many varieties as there are blades of grass in a meadow.
From that quick, quiet absorption of a new thought to a thunderbolt of holy he##, rock my world, turn it upside down, shake it all around and then settle in with a whole new perspective, great learning is juicy, intriguing and what makes us human.
I’m a learning junkie. Always have been. Always will be.
Which is why, one of the many ways I learn, is to not only read a number of books every year but also to catalogue and summarize them for your dear reader.
Here are all the books I read in 2021, except for my top five favourites (which I’ll share next week) categorized according to:
- women/gender/DEI/theory of change
- conflict resolution/collaboration
- learning and development and
Cheers to the sizzle of learning. Dive into the learning well, learn and be lifted
Women, gender, DEI, theory of change
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- The author of the danger of a single story, captured my attention and inflamed my imagination once again with this little pocket book.
- Fifteen suggestions make up this manifesto, things like “beware feminist light – the idea of conditional female equality – “being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are, or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.”
- Others include questioning culture’s selective use of biology as “reasons’ for social norms” and teach about difference.
- Imagine the world we’d inhabit if these were all fully lived!
- This quick read of a book promotes the idea that being strong can be a weakness
- “Getting better at receiving starts with a mindset shift. I come from a long line of independent (to a fault, as it turns out), problem-solving, pragmatic women. Give me a hurdle, and I’ll clear it, and I’ll make sure that everyone along the way has fresh muffins and is on time for their activities, all the while staying firmly in denial about the reality of my situation.”
- The author recommends becoming an alpha woman. “An alpha woman is strong, confident, and a leader – not necessarily by role or title, but certainly by demeanour. There are two different types of alpha women: accidental and intention. An Intentional Alpha is a woman who consciously chooses to be the leader in her life.” Amen.
Who Moved My Cheese?: An A-Mazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life – Spencer Johnson
- This is another book that had been on my reading list for eons.
- It’s at the other end of the continuum when it comes to theory of change (How to Be an Anti-Racist, Ibram X. Kendi being the opposite end, focusing solely on systemic change) – focusing solely on individual responsibility and mindset if you will. It’s a smart, easy read.
- My hubs gave me this for a Christmas gift and I hunkered down pretty quickly to relax and read it, fascinated by the author’s juxtaposition of her own grandmother (who was born around the same time as Dolly Parton) and Dolly Parton herself.
- I’d recently listened to a Hidden Brain podcast where I learned about the concept of integrated complexity (essentially holding two diametrically opposed things to be true at the same time), and this book underlined that.
- “A wild patience has taken me this far” (quote from an Adrienne Rich poem) – her “deepest strength is that she contains seemingly opposing attributes at once: anger and tenderness, a sad past and hope for the future, both pride and pain from having done a lifetime of work alone.”
- May we all be able to juggle integrated complexity as adroitly.
Conflict resolution and collaboration
The Dance of Connection: How to Talk to Someone When You’re Mad, Hurt, Scared, Frustrated, Insulted, Betrayed, or Desperate– Harriet Lerner
- Another book I’d been meaning to read for ages, I finally dug into this one.
- “Our challenge is not only to be our self but which self” was one of my favourite quotes from the book. It’s not about yin/yang, right/wrong, yes/no – it’s more complicated than that (see the integrated complexity note above).
- “Our need to balance the scales of justice is very strong,” says Lerner, which influences how we do or don’t communicate.
- And I loved her championing “short brave exchanges’ ‘ – what a lovely concept when it comes to hard conversations.
Crucial Confrontations: Tools for talking about broken promises, violated expectations, and bad behavior by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan
- By the same authors of Crucial conversations, this is another classic.
- “Anger isn’t from outer space.” A person does something, we see it, we tell ourself the rest of the story, and we have strong feelings about that, which usually means a value has been violated.
- I took lots away from this book, but one of the key ones was the importance of telling the rest of the story – meaning we tend to stop in the middle of a story and assume it’s the end and end up making all sorts of assumptions.
Remote Inc; How to Thrive at Work . . . Wherever You Are, Alexandra Samuel
- Thoroughly researched and well written, this book is a treasure trove of ideas and resources for working remotely. I used it extensively for the course I designed for the UN on ‘work-life balance during covid.’
- From context setting: “The Covid pandemic moved online meetings from a small slice of our lives to the backbone of most business days. Executives, on average, spend over 70 percent of their days attending meetings. Today we have to “earn the participation and attention of your meeting attendees.”
- To our brains, “Biochemistry plays a role. According to psychologist Susan Pinker, face-to-face conversations release neurotransmitters like dopamine—a key enabler of what we call pleasure—as well as the hormone oxytocin, which facilitates interpersonal communication. Without those chemicals, we experience meetings very differently at a physiological level, in ways that can affect both what we accomplish and how we feel during and after a meeting.”
- To advice: “You can’t tackle your top priorities and focus on your important projects if you’re constantly sucked into all the little details and personal tasks that can easily occupy every minute of your day. You may feel productive when you cross fifty tiny things off your to-do list, but it’s usually better to put that time toward your big, high-priority projects.”
- And empathizing: “Prioritizing your goals is not easy. When you’re working from home, you may well lose sight of your key priorities in a sea of Zoom calls, cats on keyboards, and disruptive toddlers. All those distractions can divert you from what’s really crucial to your career or organization. But working from home can be a benefit, too: when your personal life is all around you, it’s easier to keep your personal goals in the foreground, alongside your professional priorities.”
- What Are Your To-Do Lists Supposed To Accomplish? As the queen of list-making and list loving, I’d never asked myself this question before.
- His answer; control over your workday. “You’ll know what you need to work on and what can be put on the back burner.” A good task management system will make your workday less chaotic. It will help you: meet your deadlines, reveal the day’s top priorities, work on the right tasks at the right time, feel like you’re ahead of the curve, and avoid wasting valuable time putting out fires.
- Productivity Paradox: “We create to-do lists to help us organize tasks, manage our time, and get things done. But because we rely on ill-conceived task management systems, we inadvertently create lists that sabotage our efforts.”
- Call me naive, but I was shocked to learn that 41% of to-do items are never completed. 50% of completed to-do items are done within a day. 18% of completed to-do items are done within an hour. 10% of completed to-do items are done within a minute. Stop the presses: “The problem with this approach is that it fails to address task priority.” Yowzer!
Learning and Development
The War of Art– Steven Pressfield
- I’ve read this book before, but I dug it out again this year because I was embarking on some big new projects and knew I needed some mindset help. The following quotes, which I adore, are front and centre in my annual review notes and strategy.
- “Resistance; I will not let it faze me; I will sit down and do my work.”
- “Maugham reckoned another, deeper truth: that by performing the mundane physical act of sitting down and starting to work, he set in motion a mysterious but infallible sequence of events that would produce inspiration, as surely as if the goddess had synchronized her watch with his. He knew if he built it, she would come.”
- “She understands that all creative endeavor is holy, but she doesn’t dwell on it. She knows if she thinks about that too much, it will paralyze her. Like Somerset Maugham she doesn’t wait for inspiration, she acts on the anticipation of its apparition.”
- “The professional is sly. He knows that by toiling beside the front door of technique, he leaves room for genius to enter by the back. What he did do was maintain his sovereignty over the moment.
Connections-based Learning: A Framework for Teaching and Learning in a Connected World– Sean Robinson
- “Connections-based learning is simply a way to bring your focus back to the most important part of teaching and living: people. As educators, we are not about curriculum development, project development, lesson development. We are about people development. When we’ve forgotten that, we truly have lost the plot.”
- ‘nuf said
Sweet-Ass Affirmations Deck by Rage Create – 60 Hilarious, Unfiltered Motivational Affirmation Cards to Brighten Your Bad Day in 10 Seconds or Less Cards
- I’ll let the cards speak for themselves…
- “The truest form of effective transformation is simply taking action towards a vision, and everyone is capable of this. The problem is we just FORGET to make the right decisions because modern life is insanely fast-paced and distracting.”
- “The fastest way to achieve anything is by taking immediate action with focus. You already know what your dreams are, you just need a quick, sexy reminder to help you move in the right direction when you start to slip off track.”
- “The Perfect Mix of Woo-Woo and “F$ck Yea!””
That’s a wrap for now. Stay tuned for next week when I unveil my top five favourite reads. I hope the ones in this post resonate with you and that you’ve had a haven from this mad year by having cosied up with your own fav reads. Onto 2022 reads.
Now go on and learn, laugh and lead
- Click on the books that call to you to find out more and check out other year’s top reads, including 2020, 2019 and 2018
- Anyone and everyone can learn. Like this trained magpie who has learned how to recycle bottle caps in exchange for peanuts. Seriously!