Podcasts Worth a Listen

There are thousands of podcasts out there – it can be overwhelming to dive in and start listening. No matter your interest, there’s a podcast that covers it. I deeply enjoy reading about creativity and happiness, so these podcasts intrigue and delight me. Many people listen while they’re doing other things – driving, walking the dog, cleaning the house – but with these podcasts, I find I need to listen with a pen and paper nearby so I can take notes; they’re that good. Another bonus:  these all hit the time-limit sweet spot for me, anywhere from 40 minutes to just over an hour. Any shorter and I wonder “What’s the point?” Any longer and I think “Who has time for that?!”  Continue reading

The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons Learned From Extraordinary Lives by Katie Couric

Couric Cover ShotThis compilation by Katie Couric is a delightful and inspirational book – and depending on the reader, it may be completely life changing, or just make the day a little brighter. Either way, it’s not all that surprising, given the book’s obvious title – it’s the best advice she’s ever gotten. Coming from a woman who has spent years interviewing hundreds of notable figures from around the world, she has her pick of thoughtful, successful people to choose from.

Each section of the book contains essays on a theme like “On Passion and Dreams” or “On Rejection and Resilience,” with an introductory piece written by Couric. While the individual essays are heart-warming, inspiring, and moving in all the ways you’d expect, the chapter introductions contained the most substantial content – Couric gives personal anecdotes about the chapter’s theme, and her plucky yet sincere attitude is infectious. The advice pieces are all separate first-person accounts, many of which have been culled from previous publications or speeches. Other, more cynical reviews have said the entries are too pat, too predictable. Well sure, good advice is sometimes like that. The essays are entertaining not necessarily for any sage wisdom, but for their tone and temperament. As though this head of State or Oscar-winning actor has written the reader a nice letter, giving off a “we’re all in this together” as one human family kind of feel.

The book lends itself to highlighting and note taking; each reader will take away something different, find something poignant for their particular place in life.

I’ll leave you with one gem I particularly enjoyed, from Ina Garten:

“You can’t figure out what you want to do from the sidelines. You need to jump into the pond and splash around to see what the water feels like. You might like that pond, or it might lead to another pond, but you need to figure it out in the pond.”


10% Happier by Dan Harris

10% Happier:  How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works – A True Story

Harris Cover ShotI stumbled upon this book while in the middle of a bathroom renovation (more on that next week). I needed an audiobook to help pass the time, and this was advertised on the home page of Audible. I had no idea at the time it was becoming such a sensation. I liked the idea of a first person narrative about someone else’s dabbling in self-help and self-improvement. In our house, we’re not shy about books on self-improvement. I listened to preview, and liked this Dan Harris character. I don’t watch evening news or morning shows, so I have to say I wasn’t familiar with him. (Which made listening to the book maybe more entertaining? I had no idea what the narrator looked like.)

To the nuts and bolts – this isn’t a self-help book, so you won’t really find that here. But what you will find is a candid, wry, humorous take on one man’s journey to find something to keep him afloat. It’s entertaining and insightful, not a combination you find very often.  Harris seems pretty normal, aside from his anxiety and depression being accelerated by wartime reporting for primetime television. His experiences could be those of anyone. Being in the journalism world, Harris had unique access to interview some quite notable figures, everyone from Christian evangelicals to Eckhart Tolle. But what struck me as endearing, is that even after his conversations with these up-and-coming, famous, or infamous people, he still just buys the books and does the homework, like the rest of us do it. And in 10% Happier, he didn’t let the notoriety of any of these folks cloud the way he distilled their message. It either worked or didn’t. I won’t get into specifics over the different avenues that Harris explores, those are part of the value of the story. But what he arrives at in the end makes very good sense.

I can’t recall if it’s in the book, or if it was in an interview I read, but something that made me appreciate Harris, and his book, even more was that he said he originally wanted the title to be “The Voice in My Head is an Asshole.”  And that’s something I can relate to.

Review: Creative Confidence

Creative Confidence:  Unleashing the Creative Power Within Us All

As I mentioned in my New Year, Fresh Start post, I received this book for Christmas. I love reading about creativity and mindful living, so when I came across this title after attending an MSU Business & Bagels event on Creativity, Innovation, and Communication; I thought it would be something I’d enjoy. And…success! (Always fun to find a new go-to tool for sparking creativity.) This book is now part of my arsenal for inspiriting self-confidence and creativity.  (You may recall the three-part series I did last year – turns out, this is an unintended part four!)

Creative Confidence Cover

The Kelley brothers, Tom and David, both come from a background that’s a little unorthodox in terms of career paths. The book touches on their experiences, but in ways that are relevant to how they got where they are today, and why they’re qualified to be writing a book on creativity and confidence. While the material is designed more for career or business-oriented creativity, it seems to translate well into any problem/solution dynamic in life. Any problem can be solved creatively; it doesn’t have to translate into customer satisfaction or a balance sheet. Continue reading

Books for Igniting Creativity and Inspiring Self Confidence – Part II

HappinessCoverThe Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I think there are two kinds of people in this camp:  those that have heard about this book, already read it, and enjoyed it; or those people who think it sounds eerily close to a self-help book and shy away.  If you are in the skeptical group (which I typically am), it may seem a little out there, but trust me on this one.  “A book about happiness?  Wouldn’t that imply that I am categorically un-happy?”  Well, not necessarily.  Author Gretchen Rubin considered herself a pretty happy person, but in the hectic everyday, she began to wonder if there wasn’t something else she could be doing to make her life better.  (Aside from vague slices of advice like “eat more vegetables,” “get more exercise,” and “be nice.”  Those things aren’t exactly informative.)  Rubin decides to devote each month to a different aspect of happiness, and catalogs her findings along the way, so now we can do the same! Continue reading