I’ve had the pleasure of reading Benjamin Hardy’s work for several years, having stumbled across his writing before he published his first book. I was utterly blown away by Slipstream Time Hacking, and he has only improved since then. I would call him a “must-read” author, and he’s given us an instant classic with Personality Isn’t Permanent.
I read this book literally in one sitting and wanted to review it immediately.
Aha, so this is what someone can do with a doctorate in psychology!
The premise is that Personality Isn’t Permanent - we can determine what character traits we want to develop, we can change our behaviors and beliefs, and we can design our own lives. Hardy backs this up with psychological research and examples of various people’s life experiences, including his own. He describes himself as a loser who played World of Warcraft 15 hours a day, until he decided to change his life. Now he’s a married father of five kids and he has a PhD and a couple of best-selling books.
There are a couple of points in this book that a lot of readers will find challenging. The first is that personality tests are worthless. The second is the idea that it’s possible to transform trauma, using traumatic experiences as material to build a better and stronger self-image. My suggestion would be that most people can finish reading a short book even when they don’t automatically agree with everything in it. I’ve been through the process of reexamining personal trauma, and Hardy is right, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept!
Personality Isn’t Permanent, and this is a fabulous finding. It’s the path to freedom. This is an inspirational book, one that is worth pondering with full engagement.
When you decide who you’ll be and the life you’ll live, you can have anything you truly want. You can become an outlier.
If you experience resistance through your reading, take heart. You’re on the brink of facing the truth of who you are.
Right now, you don’t truly want what your future self wants.
Your future self is an acquired taste.
Peak experiences are rare for most people, but can happen regularly. You could have a peak experience today if you choose to. You must be intentional. You must be courageous. You must move your life in the direction you genuinely want to go.
Thinking about yourself, what would happen if your future self came to you and told you that everything you want to see happen was going to happen? Would you believe them?
This book came to me at a really helpful moment, a time when I was struggling with whether I had it in me to fill the role I was in. The idea of The Alter Ego Effect is basically to pretend you’re someone else when it’s time to do something that doesn’t come naturally to you. I really think Todd Herman is onto something here.
I invented a persona for myself when I was 11. Her name was Veronica Vanderbilt. She was in her early 20s, she lived in Beverly Hills, and she drove around in a cherry-red convertible. She had everything a little kid doesn’t have: money, a driver’s license, the right to vote, her full height, and every other privilege that adults take for granted.
Now that I’m actually an adult, I don’t want to be Veronica anymore. I don’t particularly want to live in Beverly Hills, I hate driving, and if I did drive I wouldn’t choose a red convertible. Pretending to be her - an extroverted, wealthy young blonde - gave me feelings of freedom and possibility.
Though now that I think of it, I have grown up to become a blonde who lives in Southern California... Hmm...
What The Alter Ego Effect asks of us is to figure out what we really want, and imagine what we could feel like if we had it. The perfect job? A conversation with someone? The opportunity to pitch? What if what is holding us back is nothing more than a self-image that doesn’t match what we want? What if we just never ask? How would the world be different if each of us stepped forward and went after our dreams?
The Alter Ego Effect is a great, short, fun, approachable and uplifting guide to creating an alternative persona for yourself. If you aren’t going to go after your dreams, maybe your persona will?
Admitting you want something isn’t egotistical. It’s honest.
This is a sleep book by a woman, for women. (Take ‘women’ to mean ‘people with proportionally more estrogen, progesterone, etc.’) Shelby Harris is a psychologist and sleep expert, and also a mom of young kids. She gets all the social, parental, and technological pressures that impact our sleep. The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia may actually help where nothing else did.
I read a lot of insomnia books because I have a parasomnia disorder, and I’m always looking for new tips. Not every insomnia book mentions more serious problems like mine, and it did come up, but I will give the caveat that what worked for my night terrors isn’t really addressed here in explicit detail.
The basic idea behind this book is that changing any one factor will not solve sleep problems by itself. That is 100% true. The premise is to use tracking methods and very specific behavioral techniques to improve the ratio of time spent in bed to actual time asleep.
This stuff works. I know because many of the things I did to resolve my sleep issues show up in here.
I kept meticulous records of my sleep - with more detail than the sleep diary in the book - and I am sure that if I hadn’t done this, I never would have figured out the root cause.
I became very careful with the timing of when I ate and hydrated. Start early and cut off three hours before bed. (If you get night terrors, or your kid does, please don’t eat anything right before bedtime!)
I ruthlessly eliminated naps and forced myself to go out in bright sunlight and stay awake if I needed to.
I took up running, dropped my extra weight, and got fit.
I cut out soda, anything with high fructose corn syrup, and basically all junk food. Then I increased my vegetable consumption fourfold.
One of the most important points in the book is to distinguish between sleepiness and fatigue. This would have been really helpful for me to know 15-20 years ago. “Tired all the time” doesn’t always mean insomnia or a sleep issue; it may be fatigue, and fatigue may be a sign of something else.
I encourage anyone with sleep issues - which is apparently about 2/3 of all women - to read The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia. Take its recommendations seriously, do all the steps, and keep records of your results. If you respect the process, you can free yourself of the problem.
Even as a psychologist and a sleep expert, I’m not immune to a poor night’s sleep now and then. I just know how to prevent it from becoming a regular occurrence at this point in my life.
One of the goals of insomnia treatment is to have you think less about your sleep overall—just as you probably were not too focused on it in the past, before your sleep problems began.
If you’re looking for a clutter book, they tend to come in three types. There’s the type written by the ‘born organized’ person who loves label makers; there’s the reformed hoarder; and then there’s the seen-it-all professional who has clearly borne witness to all kinds of family drama. Peter Walsh is that third type. Let It Go is the book to get if your struggle with clutter is easy compared to the struggle over it with your relatives.
By the way, that first type of organizer? Is a lot like a young trainer at the gym who has never had an injury or carried extra weight. They may have studied hard and they may have a lot to offer, but there’s a certain level of emotional connection that may not happen.
What distinguishes Let It Go from other clutter books is that it has guidelines for how to have certain types of discussions with family in specific situations. Walsh even offers some personality types that are relevant in all scenarios, not just dealing with clutter, and will undoubtedly provoke some amusing reactions. This may be a “mind blown” perspective shift for a lot of people who know their family makes them crazy, they just aren’t sure exactly why.
Any organizing book can tell you to sort your stuff, toss some, and donate the rest. These books are very helpful for the literary type who aren’t hindered by emotional attachments but more by executive function issues, like categorizing or sorting what “belongs” in which room. This book stands out because it has so much solid advice on, frankly, negotiating with the family wingnuts.
I’ve been thinking about clutter and minimalism lately because a friend of mine finally called me for coaching after a three-year standing offer. Why? Her elderly dad is coming to visit for the first time in many years, and she wants to impress him. It wasn’t getting evicted for failing her habitability check that did it; it wasn’t the offer of free help; it was love. This is what we should keep in mind when we sort our stuff: Who are we doing it for, and are we as careful to preserve the stories as we are the heirlooms? Are we keeping the right legacy alive?
Many items you need to shed are firmly glued to you with a sticky layer of memories, sadness, anxiety, and guilt.
Always remember that the stuff you own influences how you think.
I am Perfectly Confident that this is a book that will influence my future decisions. Don A. Moore has done the enviable job of writing an instant classic, a highly readable book that should set him up well as a thought leader.
Having read this work, though, it makes me wonder whether having read it might convince someone - though surely not me, ho ho - that they are now making wiser decisions than they were before, without actually doing anything differently.
I have reason to question my own judgment after the way this year has gone. I made a series of errors in planning around this pandemic, the worst of which was the stupendously bad risk that ended in my nearly dying of COVID-19. While it can be hard to tell whether something was risky when the outcome is good, it’s easy to tell when the results are terrible. I’d really like to get better at avoiding more bad outcomes, especially since we’re all now facing the kinds of risk that can kill.
“What are you wrong about right now?” This is one of the questions that arose in Perfectly Confident that stopped me in my tracks. There is probably something I’m wrong about at all times. My brother might tell you that it’s my belief in his dog Penny’s ability to speak the word ‘hello’ - but then that’s a zero-sum argument and if I’m not wrong, then he is. I’m willing to be wrong about certain things, like whether a friend will repay a loan or whether a recipe is worth trying. But what am I seriously wrong about, in terms of blind spots and strategy and errors in judgment?
I started keeping a page in my day planner called ‘Decisions.’ In it I write down pending decisions that we haven’t acted on yet (usually things that include my husband, since I don’t tend to get stuck often on purely personal decisions). When the decision is made, I write down what it was and a brief rationale of why. It has been pretty interesting to be able to scan that list over the course of a year. Writing down your decisions and your estimate of how they are likely to turn out is a very intriguing exercise recommended by Moore. I’m going to take him up on it and start estimating my outcomes as well.
Perfectly Confident is a wonderful and compelling read. It’s short enough that it could be shared with a reading buddy, and if you’re married, I definitely advise having a conversation about it with your partner. It’s also an excellent choice for work teams. I liked this book so much that I will read anything Don Moore writes, and I’m perfectly confident that will be just as fun and informative.
Is it wise to believe that you, blessed among the many, will beat the odds and get lucky?
Document your reasoning for making a decision, based on its expected value.
...self-fulfilling expectations of your success are not overconfident. They are accurate and they are wise.
Ask yourself why you might be wrong.
Please do savor the anticipation of a bright future. ...We live in a time of outrageous plenty.
Eat Sleep Work Repeat is a pretty solid description of a lot of our workdays, even during stay-at-home orders. The only correction I would make is that I’m probably not alone in often eating while I work. When I quit my day job in 2010, I lost 15 pounds the first year just from not snacking at my desk. Anyway. Bruce Daisley is here to show us all how to replace the negative factors of our work lives with something nice. Yes, all of them!
Personally, I have it made. I can work from home, barefoot, next to an open window. This was literally my dream when I was 24. All the things that used to bother me about work are, at least temporarily, gone: The commute, getting up early to fuss with my hair, the dress code, wearing a badge, the burnt popcorn in the break room, and, worst of all, freezing all day most days. Now I can wrap up in a blanket when I need to and nobody even knows.
Isn’t it weird how the things we dislike about “work” usually aren’t related to the work itself? It’s the conditions that get us - that, or the friction of human interactions.
This book is arranged in short sections that are focused on specific, easily manageable changes. Some examples would be taking an actual lunch break, or banning phones from meetings. Much of the book deals with ways that colleagues can help each other create a better work environment that is both more efficient and more fun. Eat Sleep Work Repeat is the rare sort of business book that can be shared at work and embraced by anyone who picks it up. Let’s all try to spread the word about some of these cultural changes so they become the norm... whenever we go back to having a norm.
Is it reasonable to expect to enjoy your job?
We’re overwhelmed with demands and expectations placed on us by others, but we have come to accept it all because we assume that’s the way it is and has to be.
Quite simply, when we laugh we’re willing to show our truest selves to others and be more open to the quirkiness of others.
Leading Without Authority is an automatic classic. This is not a motivational business book in the traditional sense. It’s more of a tell-it-like-it-is guide to why some people are really hard to work with, which can be so refreshing. Read the right way, Keith Ferrazzi’s book can help deal with not just frustrating people at work, but frustrating people at home, too.
What I love about this book is the concept of co-elevation, that improvement is a group project. I can’t become a better person without having a positive effect on others. Helping others, in turn, is a form of self-improvement. Any person at any level has the power to reach out and try to solve problems in the workplace, no matter how pernicious.
Try, anyway. Usually it’s the small stuff that rankles on us more. We can sort of learn to accept larger issues - like my first job at a mortgage bank, where I knew they sometimes foreclosed on people - but daily friction with our coworkers can become nearly intolerable. That’s usually why people quit, because there is that one person (or boss) they just can’t stand any more.
Part of the reason why is that we feel like we’re expected to pretend these interpersonal issues don’t happen. Meanwhile, the person who is bothering us - and possibly everyone - may have no idea! We only know how other people perceive us if they tell us.
Ferrazzi encourages us to approach the people we’ve written off and figure out a way to work with them. Leading Without Authority has a bunch of examples of how much this oogs people out, how they’d basically do anything to avoid this type of conversation, but then how they did it and managed to make a real connection.
I have tried this and I have to say, it does usually work. There are people out there who are unapologetic jerks, and it can be funny to have a conversation with them about their methods, because they have no problem admitting their part in things. Other times, the person everyone is whispering about is totally oblivious.
One of these successes involved the guy who always came to the potluck but never brought anything. I hate nothing more than when people talk smack about someone behind their back and refuse to confront them directly. I said to him mildly, “Usually when people come to a potluck they bring something, like a bag of chips or some paper plates.” “Oh?” he said. He was from Ukraine and, guess what? This was a completely new custom to him, so how was that his fault? From that point forward, he always made sure to bring a contribution.
Start with the assumption that people are nicer than you think they are.
Another occasion that went much better than I expected: I worked at a campus with limited parking. There weren’t enough parking permits to go around, and they only lasted a year. The person in charge issued new permits, and suddenly several people found out that their permits had arbitrarily been canceled with no notice. (!) Mass outrage. I suggested that at least a form letter should go out to tell people, if not some other systemic reforms, but nobody wanted to confront this infamous Revoker of Permits. I volunteered as tribute. I emailed her, and she literally invited me to her office for tea and cookies. She had an entire collection of beautiful teapots and an oak dining table she had brought from home, complete with cloth napkins. I made my suggestions, she instantly agreed, and then we just hung out and ate cookies together for a while. Not much of an ogre.
If you ever find yourself lying awake at night, going over a bad interaction at work or just dreading going in the next day, you need this book. Maybe everybody does. Leading Without Authority is most excellent, and I can vouch that its premise even works for lowly administrative assistants.
Having just started a new job in a new field, I can verify that the job-hunting approach in #ENTRYLEVELBOSS is accurate. Listen to Alexa Shoen, because she knows how this is done.
For some reason, the old methods persist. Every conversation with someone who has just been laid off is the same. “There are no jobs out there.” That basically ends the conversation. They’ll wind up taking the first opening that they hear about, a random position at a random company, and keep trudging along until the next round of layoffs.
I personally just got a job that I applied for while I had COVID-19, and if someone with a lung infection can do well in a panel interview, chances are that anyone can. That is, of course, if they are using an effective approach, and not simply emailing their crusty old resume around every now and then.
I asked a friend who is successful in my field if I could see his resume, and used the same format. Then I had him look it over. After that I passed it to a friend who is a manager for another tech company. I also went to a workshop and had a couple of sessions with a career coach, who helped me figure out some highlights to share at interviews. In all three cases, I wound up adding and emphasizing aspects of my resume that I hadn’t realized were important.
I applied for three jobs - only three. The first one never replied, the second one sent a quick rejection, and the third one went from application to start date within six weeks.
My experience validates Shoen’s emphasis on targeting very specific jobs, rather than sending out the maximum number of applications. This is really important. The job you want, at the company where you want to work, may not be advertising all its openings in places where you would see them. It’s also possible that you can set up a profile and fill out an application at your desired employer before the job you want opens up - that’s what happened to me.
I got a job that didn’t even exist when I applied for it.
That kind of thing happens all the time. I’ve also seen people close to me have positions created for them because someone wanted to bring them aboard. Employers want motivated people to come to them and say, “I can solve this problem for you.”
Whoever you are, you have skills that someone wants. You can fill a role that nobody else can do quite as well as you. Just because you might not be a fit at one place (or several) doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be perfect elsewhere. Don’t give up - read #ENTRYLEVELBOSS and do whatever you need to do to change your approach.
You will never again find yourself at a dead end, panicking without a plan.
It is extremely unlikely that you are the one truly unemployable person on this earth.
Project 333 is the kind of great idea that doesn’t even feel like an idea. People tend to forget that someone like Courtney Carver actually innovated something. The more simple and elegant a solution is, the more it seems obvious - yet it sure wasn’t!
The premise of Project 333 is to take a break from what might be an out-of-control closet and only wear 33 items for three months. That’s where the ‘333’ comes from.
I know precisely one person - one of my clients - who probably has fewer than 33 items in her wardrobe.
Then there’s my husband. I just asked him, and since we’ve been WFH he has been using:
5 pairs of shorts
1 pair of shoes
= 11 items.
Carver’s book includes 33 chapters (of course) exploring the technicalities of the project. She offers a few examples of people who have tried it out, with lists of which items they included and what color.
This is fascinating stuff, and there could probably be a companion volume to Project 333 of just color grids of various people’s capsule wardrobes.
I used to be an inveterate thrift store shopper, and I had so many clothes that my closet rod snapped and dumped everything onto the floor. It turns out that being ‘organized’ and cramming everything in on special hangers is... heavy.
So was the unconscious burden of keeping clothes across six sizes, never knowing which size I’d be wearing three months later.
The more I worked with my people, the chronically disorganized and the hoarders, the more clarity I got about my wardrobe. I had a lot in common with my clients.
Buying things for the pattern or the fabric even if I didn’t wear them
Keeping gifts even if they didn’t go with anything else
Hanging onto old clothes even if they didn’t fit
Trying on several things, not realizing that most of them always wind up back in the pile
Always having a reason to keep something and never having a reason to let something go
I call this the ‘bottom up’ method. Look at what we have and work from there. What I gradually learned was a more systemic ‘top down’ method, figuring out what is actually needed.
The concept of designing a wardrobe was totally lost on me. This whole idea of choosing only things that work on my body type and interchange with each other... huh? How do people do that??
I’m exactly the audience for a book like Project 333.
Courtney Carver is right. Working with a minimal wardrobe really is better and easier. There are so many more interesting and important things to think about rather than what we’re wearing every day. Especially first thing in the morning, it’s a huge improvement to be able to grab something and feel right about it on the first try. Getting ready to start the day is one of the toughest times for the chronically disorganized. Project 333 is an ideal way to cut down on complications and have at least one area of life go smoothly.
Dress for the life you have right now, and you will move through it with more ease and grace.
This is Marie Kondo’s best book. I read it with a certain amount of trepidation, because I found several ideas in her previous books to be impractical or actively dangerous. It also amazes me that her clutter work is so broadly popular, because I have yet to see a hoarder like one of my clients actually complete the KonMari method. Joy at Work, on the other hand, should work for anyone.
Where this book shines is in its focus on time, rather than stuff. The reason for organizing papers or office supplies is to free up time, which can both improve one’s professional reputation and allow for an earlier end to the workday.
Joy at Work also highlights relationships and communication more than Kondo’s earlier books. Most of what constitutes “work clutter” is probably more about people irritating each other than about the arrangement of physical objects. This approach would be great for another household management book, if she ever chooses to write one.
There is a section on meeting management which obviously comes from someone with a full calendar. Here is an area where even one reader who is willing to share this material can delight everyone else in the office. Yes, let’s all have fewer and shorter meetings and excuse anyone who doesn’t need to be there.
The only thing that Joy at Work is missing, in retrospect, is a section on telecommuting. That could really be a book of its own, with chapters on how to balance homeschooling, electronic device sharing, and varied schedules. Maybe it could be called Joy in Spite of It All.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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