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Archive for Book of the Week

How To Find Your Authentic Voice: Louder Than Words By Todd Henry

Louder Than Words is the latest book from Todd Henry. The author behind Die Empty and popular Podcast ‘Beyond the To-Do List’ wrote this volume as us a treatise on how to write authentically, in order to make yourself heard.

Being heard is becoming more difficult every day, as more people, businesses, and products are all competing for attention in an increasingly loud world. The collective clamour of all those people struggling for centre stage turns everything into white noise, making it impossible to focus on any one of those individual voices. Todd Henry fix for this rather troublesome predicament is painfully simple, and in some ways unoriginal: be yourself, use your authentic voice, and you will reach through that noise and successfully convey your messages to others.

Authenticity and being true to yourself is hardly new as cocepts, but for most people they’re difficult tasks. We are taught to write in a general manner throughout school and once we enter the workplace. The overwhelming message the majority of us receive from the world is contrary to the concept of authenticity. Certainly the message I got growing up was very negative in this regard.

Fit in. Be normal. Be ordinary. Don’t make a scene. Don’t stand out from the crowd. It’s lonely on your own, and there are wolves in the forest…

It’s fortunate for me that I really like wolves, because I was never one for fitting in, but for many people this is ingrained: don’t be different, different is bad.

Louder Than Words tackles the question of how to write authentically considerable clarity. Henry clearly demonstrates that it’s all about breaking down the rules we have learned, and creating a personal style of writing and voice. As a writer, I’m totally on board with this – style and voice are two key things every budding writing MUST develop if they want to succeed. But it’s a difficult process. The strategies and points in Louder Than Words are organised and presented in a way that makes them easy to understand. There are also online resources that you can use to help you learn how to write authentically. 

There are times when the material in the book is a little dry. You also have to take the time to consider Todd Henry’s central message, and how it affects your style of writing. It’s perhaps not a book to sit down and read, start to finish, but one to take in chunks so you can absorb and mull over everything before moving on to the next chapter, after you’ve given your brain a rest. It’s a book you can dip back into to reaffirm and further explore elements that particularly stood our for you.

If you’re in the process of developing your writing style, it’s a must read. Even if you’re a seasoned pro, it’s well worth a look. Each of the chapters covers one part of how and why we write. There are also chapters that cover topics like narrative, rejection, setbacks, and fears that you could face. Louder Than Words has strategies, stories and exercises in every chapter to help you along the path to finding your voice. It’s s a great resource on how to write authentically and certainly has some good tips on staying organised, but it’s perhaps not for everyone. If you’re a seasoned writer you may (like me) find it a little…obvious. There are times it feels forced, and other when the information presented doesn’t have a natural flow to it (this is due to the structure of the book). If you’re not as finicity as me, you likely wouldn’t notice, but it bugged me, so fair warning!

Louder Than Words Book Cover Louder Than Words
Todd Henry
Business & Economics
Penguin
August 11, 2015
224

Teaches readers how to develop an authentic voice in their work, regardless of occupation, and argues that developing an authentic voice will lead to success and greater job satisfaction.

Book of the Week: Tribes – We Need You To Lead Us by Seth Godin

This week I bring you a review of Tribes by Seth Godin, and I have to say I’m disappointed. Which is surprising. If you read my review of The Icarus Deception, you will know I’m a fan of Godin’s. He’s an excellent writer and equally inspirational speaker. I’ve read other books by him and follow his blog, so I’m very familiar with his style and stuff.

Disappointing…

Tribes: We Need You To Lead Us is a book I was seriously looking forward to reading. Godin’s insights into tribes and being a leader? This had to be gold, surely? Well, not so much… especially if you follow his blog.

The Icarus Deception had the distinct feel of a fully realised concept, a book in the truest sense of the world, with a central concept and linear narrative. Tribes is a very different animal. I’d read many of the sections in it before, because they were Godin’s regurgitated blog posts. The common theme binding them together was indeed the subject of Tribes, but there was no unity, no order, no sense that he had taken all his thoughts on the subject and ordered them in a comprehensive theory. Rather, it felt like he’d taken what he’d already written, put it together in the order than made the most sense, and called it a book.

I’d have to systematically go through his whole blog to know exactly how much was existing content and how much was new, but well over half of it was not new to me. And while I read his blog regularly I do not read it frequently enough to suppose I’d already read everything he had to say, on any subject. Further to this, the book is flimsy. It’s a small book, with reasonably large print, and few pages (only 131). Consider that The Icarus Deception had 256 pages, and you begin to see my point. It’s half the length, and what length there is can’t be directly compared because the dimensions of the pages themselves are considerably smaller.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…

In short, Tribes lacks substance. It could have been a fantastic book from an excellent author. Unfortunately Godin seems to have fallen into one of the pit falls of publishing a Blog Book – a book comprised of existing blog posts on one topic. Rather than using his existing material as a solid first draft, and then expanding, editing, and revising it into a cohesive whole with a single thread, it appears to have been published pretty much as is.

This leads to a lot of repetition.

Think of how often you blog on a particular topic and have to say the same things, albeit with slightly different phrasing, over and again with each new post. It’s not sloppy writing when you’re blogging, it’s ensuring your audience knows what you’re talking about. They might not have read previous posts. They might not have read them recently. And the need for certain salient details are necessary in every post for the sake of clarity and flow. A book works very differently, because clarity and flow apply to the whole, not just the sum of its parts. The result of this is the impression that the book was cobbled together. And while each individual chapter has a lot of interesting and good information, it was (for me at least) overshadowed by the annoyance of having to read the same stuff over and over. Of not really having a single train of thought linking one chapter to the next. 

Worse still, I didn’t feel the book lived up to its promise. 

Consider this excerpt from the blurb:

There are tribes everywhere, all of them hungry for connection, meaning and change. And yet, too many people ignore the opportunity to lead, because they are “sheepwalking” their way through their lives and work, too afraid to question whether their compliance is doing them (or their company) any good. This book is for those who don’t want to be sheep and instead have a desire to do fresh and exciting work.

The impression is that the content will show you how and why you’re being a sheep. It will introduce you to a revolutionary new perspective. It will finally enable you to get your arse in gear and actually lead. To be the top dog, herding the sheep, rather than one of the flock. Had I not read his stuff before, I’d have got a lot more out of it. As it was, the repetitive nature of the book, the fact it was all so familiar to begin with, and the total lack of a cohesive argument, theory, call to action, or even a series of actionable steps in a plan of attack, left me disappointed.

If you’re unfamiliar with Godin’s work, it’s worth the read. But then again, so is his blog, and that’s free. I really struggle to find any discernible benefit to paying for the paperback. And I’m a self-confessed bibliophile!

Tribes Book Cover Tribes
Seth Godin
Business
2008
131

Tribes are everywhere, in companies large and small, and their members are hungry for connection, meaning, and change--in other words, for leadership. For the first time, explains Godin, everyone has an opportunity to lead, not just bosses. In "Tribes," he explains how.

Book Of The Week: Die Empty By Todd Henry

Die Empty by Todd Henry is just what I would expect from such an impassioned speaker. It’s well written and provides a thoughtful, and though-provoking, commentary giving it your all. Always doing your best work. 

There’s a very personal tone to the book which is evident throughout. Todd is clearly invested in this subject and walks his own talk. He comes across as genuine in his beliefs, and advice, which lends a little book a lot of depth. Included in the book is a lot of advice about how to best approach and conquer your goals. This includes practical advice and ideas on how to assess if you’re really giving it your all. Todd asks that we consider whether we’re putting 100% into what we do. More than that, he questions whether you’re focusing that 100% in the right direction. Sometimes we’re giving it our all, but our focus is on the wrong thing, so we’re not getting the desired results. Not because we’re not trying hard enough, but because we’re looking in the wrong direction.

Die Empty

This is an excellent book to read if you’re unhappy with your progress. If you need to shake things up a bit. Or if you’re looking for a different approach, or if you just like books on personal and career development. The title, Die Empty, refers to the key question of the book: 

How do you set in motion a course of action that will allow you to unleash your best, most valuable work while you still can?

Todd answers this query with a combination of practical advice and a reasonable number of anecdotal stories. He doesn’t shy away from detailing his personal struggled in order to demonstrate what he’s discussing. His background means there is a rather ‘coachy’ feel to a lot of what he says. Todd is a motivational speaker and life coach, and it shows. This isn’t a criticism, but if it’s a style you don’t enjoy you may not appreciate it.

Die Empty Book Cover Die Empty
Todd Henry
Business & Economics
Penguin
2015-04
240

Most of us live with the stubborn idea that we'll always have tomorrow to do our most important and valuable work. We fill our days with frantic activity, bouncing from task to task, scrambling to make deadlines, and chasing the next promotion. But by the end of each day we're often left asking ourselves, 'did the work I do today really matter?' Die Emptyis a tool for people who aren't willing to put off their most important work for another day. Todd Henry explains the forces that keep us in stagnation and introduces a process for instilling consistent practices into your life that will keep you on a true and steady course. 'You have limited number of days on Earth. This book sends an urgent message: make them count!' Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startupand The Art of Non-conformity 'In a field crowded with rivals, Todd Henry stands out as a unique and original voice. I love Todd's outstanding thoughts on how each of us possesses a career-in-potential, and it's our challenge to bring it forth so that we can 'die empty.' If you can read this book and not be inspired, you need a 100 percent full-body-and-soul transplant.' Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Artand Turning Pro 'It's a veritable page-turner of insights and new ways to think about how to soak the most creative juices out of your life.' Twist Image 'If you've pondered a life list, books you want to write, trips you want to take, creative projects you want to begin, don't allow those visions to die with you. Let Todd Henry help you make it happen.' Aaron McHugh's Insights Into Work, Life, & Playblog 'Most of the advice is sensible, easy to implement, and a reminder that best efforts are more rewarding than mediocre ones.' Success

Book of the Week: Rising Strong by Brené Brown

I have come to the wonder of Brené Brown in reverse order. Rising Strong is the first of her books that I have read, and as I understand it, it follows on from The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly. I have previously heard snippets of an audio book of hers (I believe it was Daring Greatly, but don’t hold me to that!) and I immediately wanted more. As her latest release, Rising Strong was the first to cross my path in an actual book store, and I snapped it up on sight. In hindsight, I think it would have been beneficial to read them in order, and I will be going back and doing just that, before re-reading Rising Strong to get the full benefit.

Regardless of the order in which I read it, I got a great deal from this book. It came to me at a time I was seriously struggling. I was trying to pull myself up and get back on track after a (seemingly unending) series of falls. The premise of the book is simply this: if you live a full life, you are bound to fall down. It’s inevitable. There’s no avoiding it. You will have failures (or perceived failures). You will lose people and things that matter to you. You will be brought low by thoughts, fears, feelings. By the things the world does to a person in the course of an ordinary life.

Falling is not, in itself, failure.

Falling is perfectly natural.

The trick is accepting that, learning from our falls, our failures, and rising strong.

That is this book in an overly simplified nutshell. It doesn’t sound like much. But Brown’s insightful analysis and keen sense of the human condition bring depth, poignant understanding to an otherwise simple sentiment.

It’s easy to say that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s easy to say that which knocks me down only makes me rise stronger. But actually living this belief is something very different. 

It’s actually very difficult.

The Rising Strong Process (In A Nutshell)

The process outlined in Rising Strong comes in three steps: The Reckoning; The Rumble; The Revolution.

Respectively these stages refer to: learning to recognise our thoughts, feelings, and actions, or ‘story’; owning that story and getting really honest about ourselves, past and present; changing the ending – taking what we have learned and using it to shape a new, stronger, braver story for ourselves that enables us to live a full and wonderful life.

I thoroughly enjoy Brown’s writing. Her style is easily read, and despite tackling some difficult topics easy to follow. She injects her work with a flare of her own Texan personality. I will admit, there is quite a lot of this. If you’re at all averse to books that stay true to the personality of the writer, rather than offering a neutral narrative anyone can relate to, it may not be for you. I loved it. I love the sense of truth and reality that comes when a writer writes as their full self and doesn’t censor aspects of their personality to suit the general masses. But if you don’t like bad language, country expressions, and the use of autobiographical anecdotes to illustrate points you may find it grating.

Brown uses a lot of case studies, stories, and quotes throughout. At times, these are perhaps a little much, but they do enable the reader to directly relate the theory she is putting forth to real life events. I believe this is absolutely necessary, otherwise the book would be a pretty fancy but not much help on a practical level. I found it immensely helpful and very interesting. I’ll pick up her other books as soon as I can, and revisit this review with further thoughts!

Rising Strong Book Cover Rising Strong
Brené Brown
Courage
Random House
August 27, 2015
301

The physics of vulnerability is simple: If we are brave enough often enough, we will fall. This is a book about what it takes to get back up and how owning our stories of disappointment, failure, and heartbreak gives us the power to write a daring new ending. Struggle can be our greatest call to courage and Rising Strong, our clearest path to deeper meaning, wisdom and hope.

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