Recent Reads

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Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg

I don’t know if this is true, but there are those who like Sheryl and those who don’t, and those who fall in the former have read her book, while those who fall in the latter have only read things about her book.

I first read Sheryl’s book in December, and I liked it so much that I just reread it. I think of her as a mentor (Sheryl, if you’re reading this, I know to never ask the “Are you my mentor question?”), and her advice is what prompted me to pull on my big girl undies and ask if I could return to a full-time schedule while working from home after the recent birth of my child. In addition, every time I second guess myself, feel insecure about the work I’ve done, or engage in self-flagellation to the point where I’m tempted to throw in the towel, I remember Sheryl’s admonition to lean in…and I do.

With my economics background, I’m well-aware that one cannot have it all. It defies the laws of eonomics, and in my opinion, the laws of reality. But, this book reaffirmed for me that we can potentially have the things that mean most to us and by leaning in, we can make this happen.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo

If you look at my workspace, it’s pretty tidy. That’s because I firmly believe that cluttered space = cluttered mind. I picked up this book, however because clutter. is. everywhere. else. in my house. Marie says there are two types of tidying: the kind where you put back something you’ve been using and the kind where you’re doing full-area sweeps for out-of-place objects. The goal of this book (and mine as well) is to eliminate the latter type. What I like most about the KonMari method of tidying, which is what this book is about, is that it places the person’s desires and what brings that person’s joy above all else when deciding what to keep. I believe Marie when she says that her clients never rebound: when you’re the one making decisions on what to keep, based on what makes you happy, you don’t reverse your decision the way you might if you followed someone else’s rules (“throw out anything you haven’t worn in 2 months” and so on).

I got the Kindle version of this book out of the library, but I liked it so much and have plans to implement her method, so I’ll be picking up a print copy the next time our family’s Amazon purchase day rolls around.

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The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Where the War of Art talks about Resistance, what it is, and how it is the biggest roadblock to attaining your goals, I consider The Power of Habit to be a practical, how-to manual on identifying the triggers for our habits and how to change them so that the things we want to do become habit, rather than the things we don’t care to do. There’s too much in this book to give it justice in a paragraph, but if you’re looking to make long-term changes in your life, I recommend this book.

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Book Review: Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art

pressfield_the_war_of_artThis isn’t a programming book. This book isn’t aimed at programmers. In fact, it’s a book aimed at artists, encouraging them to just do, but the overall message is applicable to programmers as well.

What do I mean when I say just do? Well, I could easily sum up the book in two sentences: Anytime you attempt anything that elevates the self, you will face obstacles that are fantastic at hindering your progress. Those who overcome these obstacles are the ones who are successful. And to be successful, you need to do. The artist needs to paint. The writer needs to write. In my case, I need to code.

I don’t think I’m any different from you. I’m not perfect: I procrastinate, I find excuses, and sometimes, I just don’t do what I need to do and I can’t find it in me to care. In The War of Art, Pressfield refers to this abstract concept of obstacles as Resistance, or

In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit Resistance.

Giving this thing, this entity, this whatever a name makes it real, and when something is real, it is easier to see it as the enemy. It is easier to recognize its effects on me, and therefore I’m more able to take action against it. And now that I know what resistance is, I find that my most potent weapon against it is the following anecdote from the book:

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. At eighteen he took his inheritance, seven hundred kronen, and moved to Vienna to live and study. He applied to the Academy of Fine Arts and later to the School of Architectures. Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.

It was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas. This amazes me, so much so, that just this thought is enough to get me to stop playing games, put down the phone, and get back to work.