Ardent Audible listener with a long commute!
Last New Year's Day, as I was taking down Christmas decorations, I listened to Andrew Mellen's "Unstuff Your Life! Kick the Clutter Habit and Organize Your Life for Good" (2010). I had decided 2013 was the year I would work on organizing my home, starting with holiday lights, ornaments, and decorations. It ended up taking me a week to box it all, but at the beginning of December, I knew it really worked. The house was festive, and thanks to the other tips in that book, it's well on the way to being uncluttered.
That was such a success, I decided to start 2014 out with another self help book, listening as I put decorations away (just a few hours this year). I chose M J Ryan's "This Year I Will: How To Finally Change A Habit, Keep A Resolution, Or Make A Dream Come True" (2006). I have some habits I'd like to shed, along with a few pounds; some habits I'd like to establish; and a dream or two that's been simmering on the back burner as I dedicated myself to raising kids who are finally old enough to make themselves dinner and get to and from practices.
"This Year I Will" is a really practical guide to looking at what you would like to do; establishing reachable goals; the methods for reaching those goals; and, most importantly for me, what to do if you fall out of the Keebler Elf Tree House and eat a cookie or five. Ryan talks about how to handle temporary setbacks without turning them into permanent failures. She also discusses different motivations, and why what works for some (a reward or treat) isn't necessarily going to work for people who are motivated by other factors, like the joy of competition.
I'm very hopeful that the techniques I learned listening to this book will work for me.
Ryan narrated the book, and I liked her voice. The production quality was a little rough and it could have used an audio proof listen - but it didn't distract from the message.
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According to Pamela Meyer each person, on average, is subject to 200 lies - a day. I was astounded – I don’t see 200 people a day. Some days, I only see my family and my co-workers in the small branch office I work at.
Where are the lies? I started thinking about it: it happens when several of my Facebook friends ask to “Add my birthday.” They’ve been duped by an advertiser seeking personal information, and it gets passed along. The lies are in the ads I get to enlarge a certain body part. The products can’t work – I don’t even have the requisite body part. The lies are on CNN, Fox News, during interviews of people later found guilty of horrible crimes. And there are white lies I hear, when I ask my son or daughter how school was, and they say “fine” to deflect me from asking about an Algebra or Physics test they may have tanked. Sometimes, I’ll never find out things weren’t really “fine” – the test turned out well, and I’ll chalk the crankiness caused by stress for teenage hormones.
People lie, and Meyer’s book is a great guideline for realizing when that happens. I am a litigator, and I learned a lot of the techniques she outlines by years of experience. For example, if someone uses the phrase “To tell you the truth,” what comes out next usually isn’t the truth. It might have a little bit of truth, someplace, but it might be a complete fabrication. If someone smirks while testifying, they are lying and expect a judge or jury is too stupid to catch it.
I wish this book had been available 20 years ago.
[Review includes Table of Contents]
There are so many ways people can be covertly aggressive. I had a coworker once that hid one or three of my files at a time, sometimes for a few days - and sometimes for months. I thought I was losing my my organizational abilities and maybe my mind, until someone found my files in her office, hidden at the bottom of a pile of her own files. I confronted her, and she laughed it off, claiming it was an accident. Yeah, right. I spent the next 18 months I worked with her, periodically inventorying my files to make sure no more "unfortunate misfiles". There were, of course, along with a bunch of other "problems" that miraculously ended when I stopped working with her.
George K. Simon, Jr.'s, PhD's "In Sheep's Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People" (1996, 2010) describes what this person was: covertly aggressive. The first part of the book explains why someone might behave this way. One explanation is what Simon calls a character defect, such as psychopathy. The DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Ed. 2013) uses the diagnosis 'Antisocial Personality Disorder', but I think Simon's use of 'defect' is more apt because a defect implies a permanent flaw which might be hidden, but cannot be fixed. Another reason someone might be manipulative/covertly aggressive is Narcissistic Personality Disorder, another DSM-V disorder, although that can be treated.
Regardless of the reason a person is manipulative, Simon emphasizes that in order to prevent being manipulated, boundaries must be firmly established and maintained. Someone who is empathetic, especially overly empathetic (Simon uses the out-of-favor term neurotic) is much more at risk for being played, because an empathetic person attributes mental disorders to bad nurturing and circumstances. Simon addresses manipulative children and teenagers, but I don't agree that this indicates mental disorder, since all kids are manipulative to some extent. The guidelines he suggests are applicable for normal childhood and teen stages of development, though.
The book has a definite academic bent which makes it stronger than pop psychology books that are long on anecdotes and short on explanations. And I don't know why the person I worked with was the way she was - but now I know I handled the situation the best way I could have.
But Audible, Audible, Audible - why no Table of Contents? It would be so helpful with this book. Here it is (with thanks to Amazon): PART I. Understanding Manipulative Personalities. Introduction: Covert Aggression: The Heart of Manipulation; Chapter 1. Aggressive and Covert-Aggressive Personalities; Chapter 2. The Determination to Win; Chapter 3. The Unbridled Quest for Power; Chapter 4. The Penchant for Deception and Seduction; Chapter 5. Fighting Dirty; Chapter 6. The Impaired Conscience; Chapter 7. Abusive, Manipulative Relationships; Chapter 8. The Manipulative Child; PART II. Dealing Effectively with Manipulative People. Chapter 9. Recognizing the Tactics of Manipulation and Control; Chapter 10. Redefining the Terms of Engagement; Epilogue.
I had a problem with Kevin Foley's narration - he was the audio doppelgänger to a narrator of a 1950's Army training film on surviving a nuclear bombs that I watched in basic training. I spent the first hour of the book wondering if at some point I'd be told to turn away from the flash and lie flat on the ground. I was able to listen past the association, and I'm sure other people will like the narration better than I was able to.
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Lighthearted, but actually dispensing real and good advice on time management, Perry lays out a method for getting stuff done while procrastinating (“structured procrastination”). For $1.95, a real bargain and not bloated in the way an actual self-improvement book, presumably written by a non-academic philosopher, would be. There’s some great insights here. E.g., a short to-do list is a bad idea for the procrastinator; with so few options to put off, the procrastinator ends up doing nothing. But with a thick and detailed to do list, the procrastinator has the option of putting off the first few items in order to accomplish other items on the list.
Self-improvement books about time management are one of my guilty pleasures. I also have a background (long ago) in academic philosophy. Probably not a surprise, then, that I was really tickled by Perry's short book. This is a great starter on the topic and not much of a time commitment.
Some quick thoughts about other treatises on this topic:
*Tony Robbin’s Awaken the Inner Giant. Clearly, if you’re going to read this, you’ll need to hide that fact from your friends and family and strangers on the bus. This book ought to be made with a fake War and Peace cover. While you keep telling yourself that you’re only reading it ironically, you’ll quietly be admitting that there’s fantastic advice. Robbins is probably the best on techniques to transform the procrastinator’s proclivity for avoiding the top of the to-do list (whereas Perry simply concedes that procrastination may be a fact of your nature). Having said that, I’m not admitting I’ve ever read any Tony Robbins.
*David Allen’s Getting Things Done. It’s probably the best with an ultra-detailed information, task, and time-management system. Unlike Perry, Allen is a bit soup-nazi-esque.
*Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, etc etc. This book often appears on Amazon or Audible as recommended if you like David Allen. It’s really junk. Short little essays and, for the bigger names, Q and As, that all are little more than advertisements for other books, blogs, and the like.
*How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day. Written like a hundred years ago, but you wouldn’t realize that from just reading it. And you can read it in an hour.
*Josh Kaufman’s the First Twenty Hours. Kaufman and Perry, though from different angles, show you how the desire for perfection can lead to procrastination. If you want your output to be perfect, it can paralyze you from ever starting the project. But Kaufman’s thesis is that it only takes 10 – 20 hours of deliberate practice to become enjoyably competent at a new skill. By the way, I really do not recommend Kaufman’s book.
*The Spirit of Kaizen. Perry references this one. I don’t recommend it because its 180 pages that repeat the same core idea. But, that core idea is helpful – small changes can have huge effects; make the smallest possible change that will improve a process. Then repeat.