My Summer Reading (and Viewing and Listening) List

Bookcase with plant in Maggie's office

I”m not gonna lie. Been feeling a little restless since I started this social media fast.

On the plus side, I’ve had more time for reading, viewing, and listening on other platforms, and I thought I’d share the ones that are (mostly) career-related.

  • Salary Negotiation – The title says it all: How to Be an Ace Salary Negotiator (Even When You Hate Conflict). One of my favorite lines, “negotiation should be a conversation, not a confrontation.” I also appreciate that gender is addressed in this article, which brings me back to a video from the archives that continues to surprise me no matter how many times I watch it. One final note about the ace negotiator article: it comes from the Smarter Living section in the New York Times, which is one of the few blogs I subscribe to and read faithfully.  Another recent fav covered FOBO (Fear of Better Options, which I see often in my practice).
  • Networking – A new-to-me artcile about shaking up the traditional paradigm around making connections for the sake of exploring a career and/or finding a job. It’s called The Best Networking Advice: Stop Asking People to Coffee. Bottomline: don’t be formulaic.
  • Prototyping Career ShiftsPivot Planet is an organization that allows you to talk to someone in a specific field and get the real truth of what it’s like. There’s a fee for time with these folks, but it takes the awkward ask out of the equation that shuts many people down. So, if you’re curious about being a wine importer, professional speaker, shipbuilder, animation film producer, or another esoteric or mundane professional, this is fun site to explore.
  • Job CraftingHidden Brain, one of my favorite podcasts, just rebroadcast an episode on Dream Jobs, which is wonderful because I missed it when it first aired. The episode covers meaning and purpose at work, adding credence to my latest motto: seek purpose to build passion.
  • Finding Meaning and Purpose – The article called Want to Love Your Job? Read this Article offers more insight along the theme of meaning. Notable line: Your work may not change the world. But your approach to it makes a meaningful difference in how you and those your work with, and serve, feel.
  • Multipotentialites – Emilie Wapnick’s TED talk called Why Some of Us Don’t Have One True Calling isn’t new to me. Delivered in 2015, it’s becoming a classic in the career world, but I include it on this list because I’m talked to so many clients these past few months who haven’t heard it and who feel validated and affirmed by Emilie’s message.

It would be a stretch to call these other favorites career-related, but they’re just so darn good, I’m compelled to add to my list. I hope you’ll indulge me.

  • Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette special on Netflix – Part standup routine, part advocacy talk. It was absolutely stunning to witness how masterfully she delivered such a powerful message. She’s someone who has clearly done intense personal work, and what I really, really love about her talk is that she serves as an amazing role model for women being angry in an effective and meaningful way. Simply exquisite work.
  • Sarah Blondin’s guided meditation – My sis suggested I listen to this particular meditation called Loving and Listening to Yourself. 12 minutes of pure affirmation and nourishment.
  • Rachel Simmons’ book Enough As She Is – The modern version of Reviving Ophelia, covering social media, perfectionism, and academic pressure and how it tends to affect girls. Vital for parents of teen and college-age girls and also a great glimpse into social pressures on girls and women.
  • Tara Brach’s talk – I’ve been searching for a way to articulate to myself and my clients the difference between acceptance and resignation, the difference between greeting what’s here and resisting and wrestling with what’s already happened, the difference between turning toward and turning away from our experience, and Tara Brach’s talk called Saying ‘Yes” – Meeting Your Edge and Softening comes as close I’ve ever heard.

I love hearing what others are watching and listening to, so send me your suggestions.


Too Many Career Possibilities? In the Grip of Indecision.

Sometimes, we don’t have enough lifetimes to fit in everything that we want to try, accomplish, experience, be – ideas are simply spilling over.Too many ideas swirling overhead

In the book Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans write,

You are legion. Each of us is many. This life that you’re living is one of many lives you will live. Now, we are not talking about reincarnation or anything with religious implications. The plain and simple truth is that you will live many different lives in this lifetime.

I often meet people when they’re paralyzed, standing at a crossroads and struggling to confine themselves to just one path. What often happens is that they end up doing nothing – they come to a screeching halt – because they don’t want to leave any part of themselves behind.

The question of how you reconcile the parts of yourself that you’ve left behind is a vital one, especially as we age. It can feel like doors are closing, and we’re losing parts of our identity that matter deeply to us. Grief and loss can figure prominently here.

So, what’s the solution? Here are some possibilities:

  • Recognize that as you release ideas, you gain commitment and forward momentum. If you’re always in the “pause and deliberate” phase of designing your career, you’re stagnant, and you give up ALL of the possible versions of yourself except for the aimless one.
  • Seek to integrate and combine. What’s at the heart of the versions of yourself that feel lost to you? For example, if you’ve always wanted to be a university professor – what part of that appeals to you? Is it being in the world of ideas around others who love to discuss them? Mentoring rising generations? Some autonomy about the projects you pursue? Identify those core ingredients and ask yourself how you can create those conditions in one of your other possible paths.
  • Allow yourself to grieve. You know what? I’m not going to be an Olympic athlete. That ship has sailed. Currently, I’m in my 50s, and I don’t think I’m going to be the next Dara Torres (besides, she was shockingly in her 40s at the London games, her final one). Some things really are gone. How can you honor that part of yourself and release it?
  • Harvest your ideas to access later. It may be that some of your parallel lives will loop back to meet you in a few years. Keep a list of your possibilities (I have mine on Evernote), so that you can revisit them periodically and decide whether their time has come. You might categorize them (for example: Moon Shots, After Kids Have Graduated, When $ Isn’t an Issue) and list details that are important for you to capture now. Some people like to use art (vision board, for example) to express themselves.

As I work with people on crafting their next career steps, we use many of these activities and paradigms, so we’ll build on these ideas even further in our work together.

Career Design 101

Review of the book Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

I have a huge crush on this book. Or maybe my crush is on its authors. Either way, I’m smitten.

I’m not exaggerating or being dramatic (okay, I am, but just a little). I’m swooning because this book outlines a process for career exploration that offers a realistic view of finding the overlap in the Venn Diagram between fulfillment and money. There’s a structure and pathway here that goes beyond checklists and someone else’s categorization of work, and it guides people to crafting a life and a career that suits them. It succeeds for so many reasons, but I’ll highlight three here.

It Busts Longstanding Career Myths

Bill Burnett and Dave Evans point out that all of us operate under guiding principles that, if we looked closely at them, would fall apart. We cling to them because – well, for many reasons, but mainly because we’ve never thought to name them and to look deeply at them. Burnett and Evans call these guiding principles “dysfunctional beliefs” and they offer affirming reframes. Some examples include:

  • Dysfunctional Belief: Work is not supposed to be enjoyable; that’s why they call it work.
  • Reframe: Enjoyment is a guide to finding the right word for you.
  • Dysfunctional Belief: My dream job is out there waiting.
  • Reframe: You design your dream job through a process of actively seeking and co-creating it.
  • Dysfunctional Belief: I finished designing my life; the hard work is done, and everything will be great.
  • Reframe: You never finish designing your life – life is joyous and never-ending design project of building your way forward.

In my work with career explorers, I’ve found that people earnestly try to find their way forward, and when they encounter stumbling blocks, they tend to see themselves as deficient rather than questioning the process or the structure that they’re using to overlay the process. This book offers a wonderful avenue to recognizing when we’ve gotten off track, and – more importantly – a route back to ourselves and the way forward.

It Doesn’t Depend on Passion – In Fact, It Supports People in Curating New Curiosities Within Themselves

Raise your hand if you’ve had enough of the “what’s your passion” question. That question irritates me because, as Burnett and Evans point out, only 20% of Americans can definitively answer that question. What about the rest of us?! Well, this book points the way for the rest of us.

The book begins with an assessment of where you are in your life, using the categories work, play, love, and health, and it also offers instructions for writing first a lifeview reflection and then a workview reflection (simple questions in the writing prompts, and at the same time, very deep), followed by an integration of the two. These activities allow strong insights to surface, and they create a foundation to use for the remainder of the book’s exercises.

It Builds a Solid Foundation, One Based on Probes and Exploration, Not Leaps

I’ve heard from so many clients about their tidy plans that looked so nice wrapped up with a bow. The logical extension of an interest into a career that then fell flat, but because it looked right from the outside – it had all the right ingredients, it was super tough to admit that it didn’t fit. And suddenly, they wake up and it’s 10 or even 20 years later, and they’ve got mortgages and looming college tuition bills – no way can they switch now. (This is an example of a dysfunctional belief, btw).

Using the design process outlined in the book, readers prototype their possible paths so that they have data to support their choices before they’re too far down a path to make a pivot. That’s sustainability right there!

I’m so enamored of this book that I’ve created a six-week group that takes a deep dive into the book and completes the activities with the support of a like-minded community. Discover more about the group on my Career Exploration page.


Some of My Recent Favorite Career Resources

I’m a voracious reader, and I also listen to several audiobooks and podcasts, so my recent consumption has included some greats:

  • Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do. I am in love with this book. Some of my favorite ideas in the book:
    • Open to the idea that we don’t have just one calling.
    • Consider how to put together a portfolio career by combining parts of your life.
    • Create community around building your career. It won’t happen if you’re the Lone Ranger.
    • Instead of making a map and following it, be open to twists and turns.
  • By lucky timing, I got to review the course that Jeff built to accompany his book. He also has a podcast with 10 episodes that elaborate on the book. Plus, he has a podcast called The Portfolio Life that I like.
  • Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work by Whitney Johnson. The best section in the book for me was “Play to your disruptive strengths,” where she asks great questions to uncover your strengths. For example, “What exasperates you about others?” She says, “It may not be that they’re deficient, just that you’re unusually skilled.”
  • Elizabeth Gilbert wrote Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, and she produced a series of podcasts that she released around the time of her book launch. The ideas that she presents about how fear holds us back are phenomenal. She talks about having permission to pursue what matters to us, persisting in our endeavors, and yes, she also talks about enchantment and magic in an inspiring way. “Creativity is a crushing chore and a glorious mystery. The work wants to be made, and it wants to be made through you.”
  • Gregg Levoy’s Vital Signs: Discovering and Sustaining Your Passion for Life came out at the end of 2014. I got to attend one of his workshops this past year where he asked “If you could choose any mentor in history or present day to guide you in creating the kind of life you want, who would it be? What advice would they give you?” Answer that question, and you’ve got direction!
  • The Road to Character by David Brooks has some extraordinary ideas. He splits apart “resume virtues” and “eulogy virtues,” and I wonder what would happen if we pulled them together. He urges us to explore not just our superpowers but the places where we’re deeply broken to plot our paths.
  • Brene Brown’s Rising Strong: The Reckoning. The Rumble. The Revolution transformed me. She teaches us how to rise after a fall, and as we plot and navigate our careers, there are bound to be falls. “Our job is not to deny the story, but to defy the ending — to rise strong, recognize our story, and rumble with the truth until we get to a place where we think, Yes, This is what happened. This is my truth. And I will choose how the story ends.
  • I’m a faithful listener of Jonathan Fields’ Good Life Project podcast. The people he interviews inspire me and give me great insight into how to create a career.
  • I also listen every week to Brooke Castillo’s The Life Coach School Podcast. She has taught me more about how my mind works than any course or book or professor or therapist ever has. I marvel at how she dissects our thoughts and puts them into her model to make sense of how we’re inadvertently self-sabotaging ourselves. I had the wonderful privilege of taking a course with her last year, and at the beginning of the course, she said, “If you let it, this intensive will blow your mind.” And it did.
  • 2 TED recent talks captivated me: Stop Searching for Your Passion by Terri Trespicio and Why Some of Don’t Have One True Calling by Emilie Wapnick. In the first, the best quote is, “There’s a dangerously limiting idea at the heart of everything we believe about success and life in general, and it’s that you have one singular passion and your job is to find it and to pursue it to the exclusion of all else, and if you do that, then everything will fall into place, and if you don’t, you’ve failed.” Then, Emilie coins a new term: multipotentialites, people who have a range of interests and jobs over one lifetime. Thanks to these two wise women, we can reframe passion and discard perfectionist tendencies around that construct

Happy Birthday to Me

I just turned 50, and in celebration, I wanted to collect 50 lessons about that I’ve learned over the years. Alas, I couldn’t make it all the way to 50, so maybe that’s lesson #1: don’t try to force cute symmetry.I just celebrated my 50th birthday!

Most of these ideas are related to careers, but on some of them, I’m asking you to indulge me as I stray off topic. It’s my birthday month after all.

  • None of us can do it alone. On occasion, we all lose sight of who we are, and we need our community to remind us of our best selves. I remember during my coach training, one of the instructors talked about her leadership tribe (it’s really called that!), and that she sometimes would call one of the people in her tribe and say, “Remind me of who I am!” because she’d lost sight of her best self. We all do that.
  • It might look like you’ve slid backwards to the same place you always settle, but it’s not true. We travel in an upward spiral, and while we may revisit patterns and see familiar scenery, we’ve evolved and shifted, even if it’s ever so slightly, and we tackle those same scenarios with sharper skills.
  • Accountability alone won’t change behavior. Behavior is driven by underlying, usually entrenched beliefs, and if you don’t delve into those parts of yourself, you might be able to make a temporary shift, but you won’t sustain it.
  • Make friends with your gremlins and saboteurs. Thank them for their presence in your life. They’re just trying to keep you safe. Integrate them, buckle them in for the ride, but don’t let them drive.
  • It’s trite, but true: self-care is paramount. If you don’t have your own oxygen mask on, you’re useless to anyone else.
  • Bumper sticker wisdom is usually true. Except when it’s not. Embrace paradox. (That’s my quintessential bumper sticker — it covers all bases.)
  • It’s so much easier to see how others can fix their lives. I often think if we just swapped advice (and then actually followed it), we’d make massive progress.
  • The outcome isn’t as important as making sure I’m in integrity with who I want to be along the way.
  • If I can answer the question, “What do I want?” with as much specificity as possible, my biggest hurdle has been tackled.
  • I had to recognize my own value before I started making it as an entrepreneur. Kate Northrup has a practice that I call a Value Journal. It’s similar to a Gratitude Journal where you write down what you’re grateful for each day except with this daily journalling, you record where you contributed value. It solidified for me what matters most to me, where I want to put my energy, and how what I do matters.
  • You can’t isolate your work life from the rest of your life. If you’re struggling at work/at finding your work, the same issue is showing up in other parts of your life.
  • Shifting gears has more to do with mindset than tactics.
  • I heard a writer attribute a quote to Maya Angelou, “In order to find your path, you must walk.” I haven’t been able to find where she said/wrote it, but it sounds like something she’d say, and I believe it.
  • Everyone wants answers, but we all shudder at the idea of slowing down, taking risks, and opening ourselves up to discovery.
  • This one is from Brooke Castillo, a coach I’ve worked with and followed like she’s my guru: be all in. Don’t cherry pick from people ahead of you on the path. Do everything, give everything for a specified period of time, and then pause and reflect, but don’t rip it apart while you’re in progress.
  • Selling (either a product or a service as an entrepreneur or yourself in an interview) is rooted much more in listening than it is in talking.
  • Put yourself in the sweet spot outside of your comfort zone but not into torture or pain.
  • Don’t look to a job or another person to guarantee security for you. Look within.
  • Here’s another one from the bumper sticker archives: if you’re not failing regularly, you’re not living up to your potential.
  • Sprinkle people’s first names into your conversation as you’re having a discussion with them. It’s like touching them, they perk up and feel an immediate connection to you.
  • Most change happens incrementally, not in leaps. Leaps are sexy, and they make for great stories, but those folks are usually outliers.
  • Make room for both reflection and action. They’re the yin and yang of progress.
  • Go with the wisdom of crowds, especially when it comes to your resume. Someone always has an opinion about how they can make it better, but if you run around and change everything in response to every comment, you’ll drive yourself crazy.
  • I used to apologize for my devotion to thought leaders I admire, but now I honor that part of myself. I listen regularly to Jonathan Fields’ podcast, Brooke Castillo’s podcast, and I also read blog posts from Brene Brown, I watch Tara Brach‘s YouTube channel, and I read Liz Gilbert and Anne Lamott on Facebook like it’s my religion.
  • I anchor myself in some quotes that I return to over and over, including:
    • We can do hard things. ~Glennon Melton Doyle
    • You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. ~Steve Jobs
    • Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. ~Parker Palmer
    • I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. ~Maya Angelou
    • If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. ~John Wooden
    • Do one thing every day that scares you. ~Eleanor Roosevelt
    • This practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It’s about befriending who we are already. ~Pema Chodron
    • Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life? ~Mary Oliver

The Heart of Career Focus Has 2 Veins

The question “Who am I?” is vital to career exploration.

What's the view, both behind you and in front of you?You need to know your strengths, your limits, how you self-sabotage, what lights you up, how you unconsciously push money away, the impact you have on people. There are layers and layers to you, and it’s worth delving into them.

Most important in a career exploration process, you need to know what depletes you and what energizes you.

But there’s another, equally important question in play here. It’s got the same flavor as “Who am I?” but it’s distinct. It stands on its own, and it deserves your full spotlight of attention.

“Who do I want to be?”

Certainly, you’re shaped by your past, and it’s important to spend time on that arena. When I work with clients on a thorough career exploration process, we actually go very far back into your past to your earliest memories. What we discover there is vital to where you’ll steer in your next career chapter. In fact, the activity that’s built around your early memories is deeply soulful and intensely insightful.

As you turn in the other direction, facing forward, the massive possibilities of where you can go are mind boggling. And that can shut people down. That overwhelm can bring everything to a screeching halt.

Being armed with this understanding — that you may exceed your saturation point and withdraw or give up — is essential to this process. You know it’s coming, so you can prepare. The tool that I use with my clients is a Criteria List so that you can measure your new opportunities against something concrete. You can actually create a spreadsheet and use numbers, or if you’re more organic and you prefer a gut feel as your GPS, you can still use that Criteria list, one that’s specific to you.

On your Criteria List is what you know about who you are and where you’ve been, and there’s also content that’s constructed from the question of where you’re heading.

Who do you want to spend your time with? If you dreamed big, where would you want to spend your time? What would you be doing? What objections surface as you consider this starry-eyed vision of your ideal work day?

Bring all of these questions to your exploration and give yourself the gift of a heartfelt exploration as you design your next career chapter.