Goodreads Review: Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand

If you want to get in better mood for Valentine’s Day this coming month, read this book, then bring February to bigger life for you! Others have called Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand “delightful” and “thoroughly charming” and I agree.

I don’t feel I’ve spread my genre wings enough in recent years’ reading choices, purposely choosing to study business non-fiction instead, but 2011 is a year I wish to change my habits. Fiction is very pleasantly surprising me again: I have underestimated its inspiration power.

Like love, culture and civility are ageless ~ and funny

Major Pettigrew's Last StandMajor Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book: I congratulate Helen Simonson for a wonderfully rich debut novel. It was a terrific January choice for me, as I’ve challenged myself to read more books this year, and it very effectively shifted my reading habit into higher gear, leaving me eager for more.

An easy and pleasant read set in an English village, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand is at the surface, a ‘second time around’ love story between elders we admire and respect, but then other themes emerge by way of Simonson’s skillful storytelling and character portrayals: The book is a natural for book clubs, or for friends to share. As I began to read, it was a game for me to highlight the words I don’t see too often in text — or hear at all in our stripped-down, technology-tweaked language of today” senescence, scullery, dyspepsia, antimacassars, churlish, lugubrious” the list became longer, a subtle teaching of how words are so integral to our cultures, and a joy to the reader, feeding our belief that we must be better cultured for our own good. Another game could be to count how many times she could mention having tea; that number could be higher, for I did wonder if the British are able to function, and have the most basic of conversations without it! But soon I abandoned the highlighter because the story was building, and I wanted to ‘read deeper.’

The book will cause you to long for more face to face civility in our world, and yet it is humorous, not stiff (Jasmina delivers a gem of a line on page 324: so great when a book gets you to laugh out loud.) Nearly every character reveals a hidden layer of emotional complexity, yet they are instantly, humanly like us if we admit to it, and not too strangely fictional. One of the most delightful surprises in the story for me was Grace, and how her character grows into her name.

The book has a light touch all in all, and you can romp through it quickly, simply enjoying the story, yet it can be so much more if you let it in, completely open to how it might speak to you.

View all my reviews

Why Goodreads?

In short, I’m loving the tribal vibe. Readers are great people to be in-the-know with!

In my quest to read more books in 2011 (36 is my target number, just 3 a month.) I have returned to use my Goodreads.com account more, as a kind of a webby encourager. For me it’s a cool toy to graph my updates into a visual reading habit, and I get a gentle push to finish a book well (always a goal for me) by writing a short review, like this one.

I’m finding the community has grown and flourished there since I first signed up back in 2007, with Goodreads evolving to respond. Here’s some interesting trivia though: Out of 12,506 people responding to a poll there, the majority (49.8%) say they do not participate in book clubs at all… 29.2% responded with “No, I only participate in online book clubs (On Goodreads or otherwise).”

It seems to be a digital distinction, with Goodreads more in the camp of killer apps (love the new barcode scanner).

All to say, I am always pushing Alaka‘i managers to start some kind of book club in the workplace, because reading rocks as the killer app of ‘Ike loa, the value of learning. So if you’ve got digital devotees in your workplace, people who would say, “I’m not in a book club and don’t intend to join one” perhaps Goodreads will work for you too — and them.

Challenge yourself with reading too

Julien Smith reads 40 pages a day to reach 50 books read per year. 2010 was the first time he achieved this, and he is continuing his habit, so let’s give him the last word:

Why in God’s Name You Would Want To Do This?

It feels awesome. It gives you an amazing amount of ideas. It helps you think more thoroughly. It’s better than TV and even the internet. It makes you understand the world more. It is a building block towards a habit of completion. Did I mention it feels awesome?

” whatever, just do it already.

There’s no refrigerator space for inspiration

Here’s a new habit to groom for 2011, our year of better habits:

Make space for inspiration, and not in your refrigerator.

Add it to your language of intention.

It’s become my way to remember something I originally heard from Jason Fried of 37signals, when I heard him say in a podcast that “inspiration is perishable.”

You can’t bottle up inspiration. You can’t put it in a ziplock, toss it in the freezer, and fish it out later. It’s instantly perishable if you don’t eat it while it’s fresh.
~ Jason Fried

So true!

Inspiration is fragile and fleeting, and so you have to capitalize on it, and optimize it when you can whenever you have that chance. To simply capture it, say in a written note on a scrap of paper, or in a voice memo on your phone, usually isn’t enough for it to survive as true, earth shaking inspiration. You’ve let the moment pass, missing that window of opportunity where there was something more. You edited something which should have been allowed to run rampant for a while longer. Rampant, wild and free.

You can’t refrigerate a blue flame without smothering it.

The best possible time for inspiration to hit you, is when you have space in your life — in the day to day living of your life — to stop everything if you have to, so you can focus on that inspiration and nothing else. If it’s an idea, you can milk it for all it’s worth while your inspired thinking about it is shiny and new, fresh and still untapped of its greatest potential — however you usually get that full blown release to happen.

Some people need to talk it out, which is great, for it becomes this twofer where another person can get inspired too. Me? I have to be able to write it out, writing through a complete mindsweep until I feel mentally exhausted, but never spent, for those are the times I’m most energized and feeling like I’m on fire, and burning as hot and bright as I’ll ever burn — it’s the blue flame stuff: In most fire (because it can depend on the fuel too), the blue flame is the hottest, with the potential to tip into dazzling white fire, and it burns most efficiently.

So ask yourself this: When inspiration strikes, what do you do? Can you always do it? What must you change, from however your work atmosphere now exists, to make space in your day for your inspiration to run rampant, and for however long you need it to?

The part about making space in your day is important: KÄ“ia lā — it’s “about today, the here and now.” You can’t instruct your inspiration to only come around on weekends, or be satisfied with it only showing up once a month or so. Daily inspiration is what’s ‘Imi ola, and living your best possible life.

And have you tried to track it somehow, so you know when you’re likely to be inspired? It’s habit learning you have to incorporate into your trusted system or Strong Week Plan; you simply must. Books for example, always do it for me, somewhere within their once, twice, or third time coming.

It feels so delicious, to indulge in your inspiration!
I genuinely wish you blue flames, run rampant space, and no refrigerators.

Beverly Hills.ish

The most unexpected triggers can inspire you.

It was this Beverly Hills.ish looking car for me a few days ago.

Sweet, sweet ride.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Archive Aloha: Here’s a Take 5 of related postings:

  1. What Your Big Ideas Do Best
  2. PÅ«‘olo Mea Maika‘i: Playlists
  3. Embrace your Systems Thinker
  4. When Learning Gets Overwhelming
  5. Feeling Good Isn’t the Same as Feeling Strong

Managing well is better than Leading

At least it is for me. As Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” It’s advice I’ve taken to heart, because I know myself. I know I’m a manager first, and leader second.

To back it up a bit, every so often I get this question: “Rosa, why ‘managing with aloha?’ Why didn’t you call your book Leading with Aloha?”

It mostly comes up in the Q&A which can follow my presentations, because I do talk about both managing and leading. One of the first to ask it of me was my agent, before my book was published. He’d read my manuscript and felt it didn’t answer the question, and I didn’t change that; it still doesn’t. So the question still comes up.

I have several answers.
My answer to my agent back then, was that I really didn’t feel qualified to write a book called ‘Leading with Aloha.’ I’m better at managing, and had achieved meaningful, make a difference success by managing, and so I could say more about it, and share more stories about it: I felt the stories I included in Managing with Aloha made it more possible for you, and less theoretical.

Another answer is that I simply want to manage more and lead less most of the time, and so I do. I’m better at challenging others to lead, and supporting them so they can.

I love managing. Love. I’ve learned to enjoy leading.
There’s quite a difference between those two statements.

Elevator Inside the Monument

Another answer is philosophical: I really get annoyed with the assumption that leading is better than managing, for I don’t believe it is. Both are verbs, both are needed in business and in our world, and both can be accomplished by every manager under the sun — if they choose to do so within their Ho‘ohana. I don’t believe we’re born into either one, managing or leading. I believe we choose them, and while I’ve defined a way they go together well in an ‘Ohana in Business culture, I do feel you can choose to do mostly one or mostly the other, managing and leading as a team effort with others.

For most of my life, at least up to the point where I wrote Managing with Aloha, I chose managing over leading. I felt I was better at it, ‘better’ meaning that I was more effective with it. I was more effective as a manager because I admired managing, wanted to do it, believed in it, enjoyed it even when messy and complicated, and deliberately chose it. I had no problem managing within the energies created by others who chose leading as their preference. I preferred it.

One of my old bosses introduced me to an audience once by saying, “Every time I felt I had a terrific new idea, one that would again be testament to my brilliance as a leader, there was Rosa, ready and waiting, eager to say, ‘So I guess this is where you need me again, huh.’ She was eager to get to work, and always there to help me make something happen.”

My response was that it made us a good team, for it did. He was a great leader. Because of my attitude about ‘proactive followership’ I learned an awful lot about leading without having to do it myself back then — most of the time.

You see there eventually gets to be a point of managing well, where to be great at it, you have to try leading. You have to get braver, and bigger, and more vocal. They seem to be times you’ve got to go out on a limb somehow, and take a chance your managing hasn’t yet proven. There’s a first time for everything, a time when there will be no past experience to look back on.

During those times, leading well is about all you can do, and leading truly seizes those starring roles. If you’re the appointed star, you’ve hopefully got enough managing well behind you in other performances and venues, so that others allow you to inspire them, and create new energy in that void of uncertainty. You’ve earned the right to be listened to, and they take a chance with you.

And let’s kick out that word ‘appointed’ in the last paragraph: Leading needs no title. It doesn’t require any positioning on an org chart: It responds to need.

But again, that’s been my own experience. I can only be an expert, or a teacher, with what I know to be true because I’ve experienced it too. In my case, I mostly qualify experiences as “Aloha pukas” [a puka is a hole] — voids in managing, or voids in leading, so I’ll know what to fill them with, or at least where to start.

Any mastery starts with you, and your Alaka‘i initiative, doesn’t it.

That’s why I’ll sometimes switch gears in my writing, and talk about self-management and self-leadership, both of which I believe to be integral to managing well. We have to begin our mastery by working on ourselves first: How can you possibly presume to manage, or to lead others, if you don’t first manage your own behavior, and then manage your own ideas?

I’ll be honest: When I founded Say Leadership Coaching, ‘leadership’ crept into the name of my business because I allowed the good-intentioned marketing advice I got at the time to usurp that position management should have had. And why not? Leadership is a good thing too, isn’t it?

However what I’ve always taught is to invest most of your learning in managing well, and leading well will naturally follow. You’ll lead when you’re compelled to, versus when anyone else says you’re supposed to. I say ‘managing well is better than leading’ because I do feel it has to come first. The greatest leaders I’ve had the privilege of knowing personally managed well in much bigger doses; their leading was the flourish. It was the icing atop a cake which had already been nourishing us.

Can you start to lead in small shifts at a time, with what you’ve already learned to manage well? Of course you can, and I hope you will.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Archive Aloha: Here’s a Take 5 of related postings:

  1. Who leads? You do. In the Sweet Spot
    Quote: “The trouble with all or nothing is that it is often too intimidating to choose all, making it much too easy to choose nothing.”
  2. Reprise: The 10 Beliefs of Alaka‘i Managers
  3. “What’s in it for me?” is a Self-Leadership Question
  4. Leadership is Why and When and
  5. Management is What and How

Goodreads Review: Under the Tuscan Sun

I did finish Under the Tuscan Sun!

My goal had been to do so before the week was over :)

Here is the short review I wrote for Goodreads:

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in ItalyUnder the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Before finishing this book, I’d queued up a posting for my blog, Talking Story, about how books can come to you more than just once, and that there is at least a twice: One you decide to buy — what were the reasons? And two, you finally read it completely at the time you were probably supposed to. It’s this divine providence that books seem to have; they just do. Such was the case for me with this book, feeling I’d read it now at the right time, for I’ve had several false starts with it. I’ve loved it for sense of place reasons, for as lyrical and descriptive as her writing is, I’ve no desire to buy more of what Mayes has written; she’s already satisfied me with this one. I skimmed over the recipes she shares, occasionally more interested in whatever short story she offered as recipe preface, and I’m positive I’ll never try them out myself, but still, this book did feed me in another way.

Mayes writes, causing me to find a kindred spirit:

Growing up, I absorbed the Southern obsession with place, and place can seem to be somehow an extension of the self. If I am made of red clay and black river water and white sand and moss, that seems natural to me.

Sense of place is a compelling concept for me (evoking the Hawaiian value of Nānā i ke kumu in Managing with Aloha) and in this book we are witness to how Mayes’ sense of place spans and weaves together her living in the south (mostly Georgia), her working in San Francisco, and this central story, of her connection to Tuscany in Italy. In the beginning, she introduces the story as her chance to a second life of sorts, and isn’t that something we all dream of?

View all my reviews, and connect with me there on Goodreads if you have an account!