Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Additional read - The Happiness Advantage

(Additional read)

Thanks to Rachel, from Res Life, I added an additional good read that I will suggest to you to think about. The Happiness Advantage is based on the latest research in neuroscience, which says it isn’t success that leads to happiness but the other way around!  Yes, this new thought is based on the research of Shawn Achor, a native Texan who uprooted his life (for twelve years) to study at Harvard University (and some of those years were in a “res life” position), overseeing one of the student houses as an advisor.  Achor shares his seven principles, and here they go: 
1.) Start believing - you can’t fool yourself into happiness by denying reality. However, study after study shows that positivity fuels success.  Positive employees outperform negative employees in terms of productivity, sales, energy levels, turnover rates and healthcare costs by as much as 30% (pretty compelling huh?). 
2.) Think again -“We think work is the opposite of happiness. Studies show that people who view work as less of a “job,” which is a chore and takes away from their free time, and more as a “career” or “calling” are exponentially more likely to feel fulfilled. 
3.) Practice positivity - practicing positivity, it becomes the default pattern. He advises jotting down three things you are grateful for each day or daily journaling about a positive experience. Soon, scanning for the positive rather than the negative will become second nature.
4.) Use failure to fuel success - if workers begin conceiving of failures, mistakes, setbacks and stress as an opportunity to learn and grow, they are in a much better position to pull themselves out of the conflict.
5.) Focus on small goals - begin with manageable goals that you are confident you can accomplish. Then keep pushing the bar further and further.  
6.) Use the 20 second rule - Eliminate as many barriers to your good habits as possible, make positive habits 20 seconds easier to start and bad habits more difficult.
7.) Seek social support - investing in the people around us and our own happiness is the best predictor of career success.  Begin by changing your own attitude. Brighten and say hello when you see people in the hallway and elevator. Make an effort to recognize the contributions of members of your team every single day. And when work is particularly stressful, spend more time with family and friends rather than less.  Better feedback is hard to find. 
How can we all embrace these seven tenets?  Watch the Tedx for more on how we move the average person to be above average – focusing on the positive and not the negative: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXy__kBVq1M
A great read perfect for a workplace book club read.  Thanks Rachel.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts

When the student said, “I had to read this book for class” ... I thought “oh no, yet another text book to read.”  Instead, as the book went along, I understood why the student enjoyed the book.  The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts is a series of memoir stories by Maxine Hong Kingston that tells the story of the 20th century experiences of Chinese-American women living in the United States, specifically in California (you know how I feel about the “left coast”) occurring after the revolution in China.  When I was looking up information on the book I also learned from the Modern Language Association that the book is among one of the most used book for university courses in the US.  The book contains five short stories which are all interconnected.     While I could go through each of the stories, I won’t… but I would say the theme throughout, is clearly the struggle of women gaining a voice.  Nowhere more aptly presented than in “At the Western Palace” – the story of two sisters, Moon Orchid and Brave Orchid.  One sister stayed back in China long after her husband abandoned her and their daughter to go to the US, and find a much younger American to be his wife (though he did provide significant monetary resources to the two).  Meanwhile Brave Orchid, who was living in the US, challenged her sister to find her husband and reunite, reminding him of his responsibilities to his first wife.  Brave Orchid did everything she could to insist Moon Orchid get her husband back to his “rightful” family!  Finally Brave Orchid succeeded and forced her sister to go to her former husband’s office (where he was a doctor), draw him out of the office under false pretense to the middle of the street, and present herself to him.  It happened… the outcome much more unexpected than Brave Orchid would have expected, her sister fell to the challenge and was threatened by her husband to leave.  The reunion was the beginning of the end for Moon Orchid, who like her name “faded into the breaking of dawn,” so much so that she ended in the sanatorium where she lost her mind after losing her soul and meaning in life.  Weak vs. strong women, how to find a voice that fits the individual and understanding how that voice can be heard, the past haunts the present, women in the old China never choose, but women in the new world will learn to choose, the confines of China suffocates you when you try and escape it to a new land….  Pretty rich heritage for the reader to learn about, for sure.   Good read!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A good way to begin the books with a young children’s book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (the pen name for the real author Daniel Handler).  Not into reading twelve books in a series (I always tell the RAs – your favorite BOOK, no s on the end of that) but I have a feeling I will at least read the last of the books as the first book was pretty compelling. The story begins with three children (Violet, Klaus and Sunny) learning that their parents had been killed in a house fire, potentially an arson, by the executor of their parent’s will, Mr. Poe.  He informs the children that they will be placed in the custody of a distant cousin, Count Olaf.  Olaf mistreats the children and forces them to do chores around the home, even though the children are in no way ready to do the type of work Olaf is requiring.  Olaf brings his acting troupe into the home and expects the kids to feed the group prior to their practice session.  Things get so bad that the children seek the counsel of Mr. Poe, who is pre-occupied with his work to pay attention to the children’s pleas.  He thinks the children are just complaining that they must do some work around the home.   Klaus is able to guess the plot that Olaf plans to craft in order to get the family fortune – marrying his 14-year-old sister!!!  The children try to stop Olaf’s plan… Olaf will marry Violet on stage during a play by using the real marriage wording in the presence of a judge (who will read the nuptials)!  And to the nightmare of the children it all falls into place according to Olaf.  When Olaf announces to the audience the show is over and he has fooled all by really marrying Violet (Mr. Poe was in attendance and totally outraged by what has happened, finally – huh?).  But alas, Violet was coy enough to learn the law on valid marriages, she had signed the license with her left hand, not the hand in which she in fact “legally” writes!  The judge rules Violet is correct and the marriage nullified!  Olaf is to be arrested, until the lights in the theatre go off, and he escapes… hence there will be another 12 books to go!  I clearly understand why the book has the title it does… there are so many unfortunate events that happen throughout.  This is a really well written “mystery” story – great for young adults, even older adults as well!  Good read.   

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Seriously… I’m Kidding


What an interesting way to begin the new RA favorite books by reading Ellen DeGeneres’ book Seriously… I’m Kidding.  I actually listened to this one as we came out to PA for a weekend of fun in the sun.  Well, none of that happened.  The sun never came, and the weather people were wrong, it only topped up with a high of 60, see what happens when you don’t come out the weekend before and it hits 75!  Life is random, huh? Well so was Ellen’s book…  The book was a series of monologues that gave the reader a look into the very humble and caring Ellen.  I have always enjoyed her “self-effacing” style in which she downplays herself and helps to show that she is no different than any other person.  Over time Ellen has become much more of an advocate demonstrating her advocacy for difference and being kind and nice to everyone in our society.  She offers a number of “treat others like you would like to be treated” stories.  She even provides a number of happy accomplishments in her own life, like being named a “Covergirl” – and who would have thought a 50 year old lesbian would be representing the company, certainly not Ellen.  Her best moments within the book were her “funny” moments on how we don’t usually communicate what we really mean and her relationship with her mom and her wife.  The book had 57 chapters of short escapades and stories that were not connected.  As a book I laughed out a number of times, but not throughout.  I have to say I was somewhat expecting more from the book as her show is pretty funny.  Maybe because I was at the gym or driving the car I was less focused on what she was saying, or maybe I just got bored.  This wasn’t her best material.  In fact if you want to laugh out loud, I’d still recommend Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants.  This is a very quick read/listen.  Probably better to use the money to donate to one of Ellen’s causes than pick this one up.  While I do appreciate and value her commitment to others and being nice, I could have spent time talking to an elderly religious woman to give me the same message, sorry Ellen, not trying to sip you, I just missed the “HA-HA” moments…