Chapter One: Click!

This is chapter one of my book, The Power of Acceptance: One Year of Mindfulness and Meditation. Get your copy at Amazon, Walmart or your other online retailer of choice. And leave a review if possible. Thank you!


I wish I could remember the exact phrase that got it into me, that finally made it go click! But maybe there wasn’t one; maybe it was the book as a whole that implanted it, in some otherworldly, sibylline way. Whatever the case, soon afterward came the more important moment, the one I remember to this day.

It was the summer of 2013. I was sitting in our family room reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now as the baby played next to me on a big green comforter on the floor. As he mouthed one unsuspecting rattle after another and pressed buttons that rewarded him with nonsense, I finished the book for the third time. And though I still don’t know the exact point at which it happened, by the time I set the book down, something inside me had changed. I put a hand on Xavier’s fresh little face and he turned to me, looking disoriented. I smiled and he held my gaze and smiled back, then held out his stubby arms. I pulled him into my lap and his head bobbed toward my breast and as I nursed him I considered what I’d just read.

Though I had been raised immersed (some may say half-drowned) in religion, the several years leading up to Xavier’s conception had been focused elsewhere—mostly on my new partner, David, and my growing freelance writing business. Spirituality was still there—part of me, part of my definition of myself—but it wasn’t very close to the surface.

Then, a year before the baby was born, I discovered Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, and with it a strange brand of spirituality called New Thought. By the time I picked up The Power of Now for the third time, a year and a half had passed, and Xavier was about six months old. I had explored and applied my new beliefs in depth, and now it was time to take the next step. Long days of motherhood begged for community and friendship, as well as increased inner strength. And so, to my still-unfamiliar routine of play dates, car naps and Gymboree, I added going to church.

Another book of mine discusses my attempt to fulfill a two-pronged goal to increase both earthly and divine connection. Meditation was a logical part of the plan, but there was a problem: until that day on the floor with Tolle and baby, I had never truly tried it. Once, while I was still a Christian, I attended one Buddhist meditation session in a home that had been revamped into a temple, but this hardly counted; it was cultural voyeurism, not a sincere effort. It was a minor act of rebellion, of open-mindedness, a pushing of the envelope, the kind of thing a good girl like myself found exciting.

Except one thing: It wasn’t exciting—not at all. Not the least little bit. In that room decorated all in red—red velvet pillows, red calligraphy wall hangings, red-patterned plush carpet—I could hardly breathe for the effort it took to sit still. And when I tried to focus on my breath, as the unsmiling leader suggested, I nearly hyper-ventilated.

And that was just the first five minutes.

Soon, I gave up, and instead watched the clock and the handful of people sitting with me. How do they do it? I wondered as my back started aching and my legs fell asleep. More to the point, why do they?

I shifted out of the kneeling position and moved against the back wall. I considered leaving, but didn’t.

Slowly, slowly, time dripped from the clock, and the final instruction—to open our eyes—came as a relief. I got out of there as fast as possible, shoes in hand, and fidgeted my way to the car.

Which is why it was strange that after finishing The Power of Now that day twelve years later, I decided to try it again.

Like I said: something had clicked.

Sitting on the green blanket, Xavier still in my arms, I flipped back through the pages of the book I hadn’t wanted to read again, then hadn’t wanted to finish. I looked for a passage I’d underlined about Tolle’s unique meditation technique, namely, sensing the energy of the body, then reread it several times.

You know what? I thought, This doesn’t sound so bad. I don’t even have to stop thinking. What if it really can help me connect with the Divine inside myself?

What if it actually works?

I closed my eyes. I tried to sense my body, as Tolle instructed—to feel the subtle energy moving in and through me. It didn’t take long before I realized that it was working: I could feel it. It was there. This was real.

I felt the tingling of my hands. I felt the pulsing of my arms and legs. Though I knew it was probably just a body being a body, noticing it in this way was calming. Suddenly, it hit me: I was meditating. And it wasn’t even that hard.

That evening I took a long walk with the baby and tried the technique again. This time, I didn’t think of it as meditation—I wasn’t sitting, after all—but the feeling I had was the same. I was relaxed, but it was more than that: I was present. I was in a now-place in my mind, rather than in the future or the past. There was a subtle joy and a feeling of love that accompanied this presence, too, which I considered to be some sort of connection with the Divine. And so, the following day I decided to take the next step: I looked up meditation classes in my area.

Not long after that, I was hooked.

Before I knew it, Xavier was one year old and I had spent the past six sleep-deprived months honing this newly-discovered skill. The following year, as I wrote You’re Getting Closer, I expanded my spiritual practices considerably, with success following disappointment following success.

A year passed. Xavier was now two years old, and as I reflected on that milestone in his life I thought about my own progress, too.

And one of the things I thought about most was my failure.


Last November, sometime in the middle of the month, I had the best two weeks of my year. After a couple of particularly enjoyable incidents—one being a trip to see my family—a warm, delicious feeling got into me and stuck, and every day—nearly every moment, even—I felt the presence of God.

I felt it when I read. I felt it when I played with my child. It was there all the time, a bit below the surface of my thoughts. Even when difficulties arose, the state of mind remained; I was able to stay an arm’s length from my problems. At one point during this time, for example, a friend got upset at me for not cleaning up the mess my kids had made at her house. Though our hour-long conversation about it was tense and uncomfortable, delving into past slights and wrongs, I got though it without anger. A few days later, on my most enjoyable birthday in recent memory, I told my husband I felt deeply at peace.

Then one day, a week or so later, that special feeling went away. I still don’t know why it happened. Maybe I’d become complacent, or maybe I wasn’t mediating as much, or maybe it was a new bout of depression coming on. Whatever the cause, it was a great disappointment—one that represented a much larger problem.

This wasn’t the only time a spiritual high was followed by a major low that year—or the year before, for that matter. And so one day toward the end of that year, I attempted to figure all this out.

What am I doing wrong? I asked God over and over. More importantly, what was I doing right before that I am not doing now?

And I didn’t just pray. Every day for a month straight, I tried every trick I knew to get the feeling back. Of course, meditation was the first on my list, as it had been for the past year and a half. I upped my weekly goals from one class to three, enlisting my husband’s support. He took the baby swimming while I went to church or temple, seeking that spiritual high. The hour-long sessions were helpful, but they didn’t get me out of my rut. Neither did my mantras or my visualizations—or my walks, which often incorporated both.

I still felt pretty crappy.

And so, for a while, I stopped trying. I gave up. I was tired of all the effort, the fruitless striving. I needed a break, but what I didn’t realize was that more than four months would pass before I even attempted another sitting meditation.

The time off wasn’t a total loss. During it, I thought about what I needed that I didn’t have—the missing link, so to speak. Intuitively I knew that there was some method I could use anytime, no matter how I felt, that would immediately get me in touch with the Divine. After all, all of the New Thought mentors out there say that spiritual connectedness is our natural state. So why, after several years of striving and seeking, was I still feeling it so infrequently?

Truly, I was missing something.

With this goal in mind, I resumed my current spiritual practices as well as my search for more effective ones. I read more books, discovered more techniques—prayers and ideas I hadn’t yet tried. I counteracted negative thoughts with positive ones, as the collective entity known as Abraham recommends. I re-read You’re Getting Closer and became inspired to again surrender each moment to divine guidance. But while these practices and many like them brought some encouragement, some peace, I never got back to where I was.

I am still not back. Currently, I’m swimming upstream, as Abraham says, very much against the current of the spirit. My thoughts are often negative. My mood is often recalcitrant. Most of the time, I want to be somewhere else. I’m easily annoyed, and easily insulted, and often downright neurotic.

In other words: I’m not feeling very spiritual.

It is the beginning of January, however, and if there’s anything I love, it’s a fresh start. Sure, it’s only a date on the calendar—but it may be just the thing I need.

It’s time for a New Year’s resolution.


Although it was long before the beginning of the year that I decided to make a spiritually minded resolution, until a few days ago I knew only the criteria. The goal, I realized, would have to be doable, something I could stick to all year. It would have to allow for imperfection, and maybe lots of it, and be simple and clearly stated. When one pen, two pieces of paper, my favorite chair and thirty free minutes collided in my world, I sat down to consider my options.

Should I do a sitting meditation every day, and if so, how long should it last? Would five minutes be enough to make it worth the effort, or should I do at least fifteen?

Should I resume my goal to hold myself in continuous meditation all day long? And if so, how would I do it? Would I say mantras, visualize my God-self, listen for action-by-action guidance? Or should I try something else entirely?

Finally, I made the decision. My twofold resolution this year isn’t as bold as my last—and not nearly as frightening, either. I will do sitting meditation for at least five minutes every day, and I’ll remain in the state of meditation as much a possible after that.

Five minutes is doable every day, I realized as the idea came—even for a busy mom like me. It’s simple and easy to track, and if I’m able to stick with it, the benefits could be enormous. But what really convinced me to choose this goal was that, compared with other options, it’s relatively low-pressure.


Recently, I was reflecting on some of the spiritual books I love that draw so many other people in, too, and with such devotion. Why do I like Eckhart Tolle so much? I asked myself. And Neale Donald Walsch, and Esther Hicks?

Is it because they’re so quotable, so poetic? Somehow, I don’t think that’s it. Is it because they claim to hear directly from a divine Source? Maybe, but Tolle doesn’t channel his books.

The number one reason we love them so much, I believe, is this: they are extreme. They don’t merely describe a nice spiritual practice, or summarize a few lofty ideas. They aren’t conservative. They don’t hold back. Instead, they insist we can all be great. We can all get enlightened. And maybe even healthy and wealthy, too. Barring these goals, we can at least experience something we’ve been seeking a long time: our next major spiritual high.

And we believe them. We read them, then read them again, then try to practice what they preach. Our efforts pay off: we get a glimpse of the bliss they promise. Then we read the next book and wait for more.

Many of us—most of us—are still waiting.

Of course, our frequent failed attempts at inner peace are not the fault of these wonderful authors. Bliss, enlightenment, our next spiritual high—these are, as they say, truly possible for us all. The problem is this: obsessing about where we’re headed doesn’t help the car drive faster; if anything, it tends to slow it down.

Which is why five minutes of meditation feels right to me this year. It isn’t an overly optimistic goal. It isn’t going to cause me to expect fast miracles, or spiritual ascendance overnight.

If anything, it’ll remind me to stay humble.

And although the second part of my resolution is much like that in You’re Getting Closer, namely, remaining in continuous communication with the Divine, there’s one important difference here. That difference comes in the middle part of the sentence: “as much as possible.”

As much as possible. As much as I can.

In a way, the qualifier is an escape clause—a way out of my resolution, should I need one. But I know me, and perfection can’t be my goal. If it is, I’ll just give up. And that seems pretty counter-productive, doesn’t it?

When I’m an old woman, with cropped curly hair, and eight pink sweaters and one pair of brown shoes, I’m going to be good at being spiritual. I’ll have one of those blissed-out smiles for everyone, and upbeat catch phrases like “You do you, Martha!” I’ll be wise, and silly, and sane, too, damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it: I will. Until then, though, I’ll just be consistent. I’ll just do the work that will eventually get me to that point. Every day, for five minutes, I’ll seek a peaceful mental place. And when I find it, I’ll try to stay a while.

As it turns out, I’m not Eckhart Tolle—or Esther Hicks, for that matter. I’m just a regular person, muddling my way through, hoping for a few answers to the usual questions, such as those I’m asking this year:

  • Will I be able to keep my resolution this year to meditate for five minutes a day?
  • Will I find it hard to do so, or will it be fairly easy?
  • Will I get rid of any part of my neurotic tendencies? Or will they mostly remain?
  • Maybe most important, will I find the missing link I’m looking for—a continuous meditation method that works every time?

I have no idea whether or not the perfect spiritual practice is out there, or whether there’s some other, more important lesson in store. But isn’t the process of discovery a major part of the fun?

Seeking is what makes the finding interesting.


Get your copy of The Power of Acceptance at Amazon or your other online retailer of choice, or be one of the first to purchase it from Walmart. And, if possible, don’t forget to leave a review.


Your House Is Like a Person; It Has a Soul

This is chapter one of my book, The Naked House: Five Principles for a Minimalist Home. Get your copy at Amazon or at your online retailer of choice today.


The other day, I read the craziest thing. Not crazy in the hyperbolic sense, either—actually a bit crazy. And you know what? Part of me believes it anyway.

It was in the book Zero Limits by spirituality writer Joe Vitale, and the words came from the guru who is the subject of said book. His name is Hew Len, and according to him, he has regular two-way interactions—yes, entire conversations—with all sorts of inanimate objects. My favorite line of his, said of a shabby hotel conference room: “This room says its name is Sheila.”

I know, I know: that’s what I thought, too. Still, this isn’t an entirely novel belief. Only a few weeks before reading Zero Limits I read the book Seth Speaks: The Eternal Validity of the Soul by Jane Roberts, which discusses something similar. Seth is the spirit entity channeled by the author back in the 1960s, and the supposed true author of this and several of Roberts’ other books. I figure that anyone who lives in another plane of existence deserves a fair hearing, and because of this I’m tempted to believe him when he says things like, “There is consciousness even in a nail …”

Okay, so you might not be as susceptible to mysticism as I am. And trust me when I say I’m not trying to convert you or anything. I share these quotes simply because doing so makes me feel a bit less kooky when I make the first major philosophical statement of this book, namely: your house is like a person; it has a soul.

Your house is a kindly grandmother or an accomplished musician. It’s a garbage collector or a playful child or an artist. It has an identity and it has a personality, and when you spend time with it, that personality is communicated. It is felt.

Your house is like a person. It has a soul. And that soul can, like a good book, be a friend.


Beauty is actually pretty important

Every time you walk through the front door of your home—or anyone’s home, for that matter—your mood changes immediately. As soon as you take in the entrance and the first room, your levels of enjoyment, comfort and peace shift in subtle ways. Because that’s what happens to us all when we enter a new space: we take on a little bit of its message. This is why people spend even more money on venue and decorations for a party than they spend on music and food. Being around people you love is great, and you can probably enjoy them anywhere. But being somewhere nice with those same people is much, much nicer. It’s worth the extra money, the extra effort.

People often ask why other people like to go camping. The answer is obvious: the beauty. It’s not the hiking, or the swimming, or the campfire with the s’mores (though I love all these things)—you can get those at a cabin. It’s the feeling of waking up in the morning smelling truly fresh air and stumbling to the bathroom surrounded by trees. It’s making coffee and pancakes outside, in one of the many places on the earth that are absolutely perfectly designed, exactly as they are.

No French doors. No balcony. No granite counter tops and tile back splashes. No fountain-like bathroom taps; you’ll use a water pump that splashes your feet. No gables. No Great Grain Number Three from Sherwin Williams. No microfiber. No just-finished maple hardwood floors. Just nature.

And it’s stunning. Every part of it. Everywhere you look. The birds in the trees, the spider on the log. The dirt is everywhere, and the dirt is wonderful. You wouldn’t think of covering it up or getting rid of it, except inside the tent.

This is why you walked three miles with the heaviest backpack you’ve ever carried or packed your car to the brim, drove a long distance and spent two hours arranging your campsite. This is why you used an outhouse this morning and why you ate dehydrated food for dinner last night. This. Just this. Just the beauty.

Was it worth it? It is for me.

Beauty is important. Beauty makes you feel good. It brings peace. It makes you happier. Of course, our homes will never be beautiful in the way that nature is beautiful. But think about how you feel when you walk into your house every day. Is it a good feeling? If it is, is it as good as it could be? If not, why? What do you want to change?


Let’s talk about your goal

Soon, I’ll list the five principles of the Naked House. But first, let’s talk for a second about what we’re really doing when we’re doing all this organizing. What is your goal? What are you moving toward? What do you want your home to make you feel?

When I asked myself that question, the answer was obvious. I didn’t want a fancier house, or a bigger house, or even a sunnier, more cheerful one. I just wanted my house to feel peaceful. Home is where we relax. It’s where we go to calm down. I like feeling cheerful, and I understand that some people love yellow kitchens and light blue bathrooms. This isn’t what I wanted, though. I wanted brown. I wanted a muted color palette with very few adornments and an emphasis on the view from our large windows. I wanted my house to look like part of the earth.

Is that what you want, too? Do you want more serenity, simplicity and restfulness in your life? If so, the tips in this book might help. Because here, we’re not just talking about home decor, or cleaning, or organization. What we’re talking about is changing our environment in a way that allows for a fresh new perspective on life.

We’re talking about how to be happier.

Of course, a serene look might not be your goal. You might want a more high-energy look. That’s fine. But consider adding to your vision the element of peace. I contend that even a brighter home with more detail than mine has can benefit from some degree of minimalism.

Whatever look you desire, take a moment before starting your cleaning process to clearly visualize it. Then, if you get discouraged as you work through your rooms, you’ll have a goal image to recall.


Life is hard. Reorganizing isn’t.

The good news is that you can, of course, make these changes. Even without spending any money, there’s a lot you can do. Behavior change is hard. Character change is really hard. Emotional change is even harder than that. But reorganizing your house? Not hard. Just takes time. Put on a good podcast and it can even be fun. If your brain is telling you otherwise, remind it that it’s just one step. You’re not doing it all in a day. You’re cleaning one shelf, one corner, one area first, and you have a designated box (or two or three) for all the stuff that gets displaced. That box isn’t your job right now. That box is for another day. Today, it’s just this shelf, this corner. And when you’re done, your life will be that much simpler for a good amount of time to come.

There are things in life that are genuinely hard, genuinely suck. Organizing isn’t one of them. It’s easy.


A brief word on other kinds of clutter

Some people have a difficult time getting rid of their favorite things. Other people enjoy doing so, but lack the time. If you’re the former type, I suggest that you do what you can and pray for grace for the rest. Many experts suggest that the good feelings you get from letting go of the first few things you let go of (the feelings of freedom and self-care) often help inspire you to continue.

For the latter group, a different solution might be needed. Remember, clutter isn’t only in your house; it can be in your life, too. Is there anything you can nix? Anything you can cut back on? Is it possible that at times, you’re afraid of not being busy enough—of being bored? If so, you’re in good company: I detest boredom. But I’ve learned to busy myself in more flexible ways. Instead of taking on a volunteer project or convincing myself I need to work a bit more, earn a bit more money, I come up with time-consuming hobbies that feed me. There’s always something to do, but there’s rarely a deadline. This is how I declutter my busy life.

Another kind of clutter: mind clutter. This one will kill you. If you’re experiencing guilt, regret, anxiety, depression or frequent negativity, please seek help as soon as you can. You don’t deserve that. No one does. It’s garbage.


What, then, is the Naked House?

Okay, then. Let’s get to it. The Naked House is, in five words, ordered from most important to least:

1.      Bare;

2.      Organized;

3.      Matching;

4.      Clean; and

5.      Quality.

And really, that’s it—the Naked House philosophy in a nutshell. Our homes may have souls, or they may not, but either way the mood they convey affects us. And a house that has all or most of these five traits is the one that I believe helps us find the inner calm that we seek.

In this book we will tour the Naked House room by room, noticing how these concepts are applied. First, though, an overview of each of these five principles in turn.


The Naked House is bare; or, The solution is almost always fewer things

When it comes to making your home a more peaceful place, the solution is almost always fewer things. That’s not the only place in this book I’m going to make that statement, and there’s a good reason for that: the first and most important principle of the Naked House is that it’s bare. (That’s why it’s called “naked,” after all.) And so, the question becomes: what exactly do I mean by this term?

Well, what is the image you have in your mind when I use the word “bare”? Is it a room that is completely empty, as if no one lives there at all? Or is there a couch and a few chairs, maybe even a vase with some flowers? For the purposes of this book, the terms “bare” and “naked” aren’t so much about wearing no clothes as they are about wearing nothing that distracts from your beauty.

It is the complete absence of clutter.


With over 150 Amazon reviews, The Naked House is my best-selling book. Get your copy at Amazon or at your online retailer of choice.


Recommended Reading for Depression Management

If you have depression, helpful resources abound. I can’t recommend a mood- and life-improvement strategy more highly than reading excellent books on the various facets of depression and the many treatment options that exist to address them. Especially these.

My top picks are the first three on the list: The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon; This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, for Young and Old Alike by Augusten Burroughs; and Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope by Johann Hari. The Noonday Demon covers many of the heavy hitters of depression treatment: medication, exercise, hypnosis, cranial stimulation and more, in surprising detail. This Is How is written by a hilarious serial memoirist and has a great, no-excuses message, and Lost Connections is, I think, a literary feat as well as a self-help one, devoting one chapter each to the types of connections we need to rediscover if we want to successfully manage depression.

Books on Multiple Treatment Options for Depression

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon (This is one of my favorite books on depression, as it covers many of the heavy hitters: medication, exercise, hypnosis, cranial stimulation and more.)
This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More, for Young and Old Alike, Augusten Burroughs (Burroughs is a great writer and a no-excuses kind of guy. The book covers a lot of ground and is pretty funny, too.)
Lost Connections: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope, Johann Hari (With this book, Hari has accomplished a literary feat, devoting one chapter each to the types of connections we need to rediscover if we want to successfully manage depression.)
Depression is Contagious: How the Most Common Mood Disorder Is Spreading Around the World and How to Stop It, Michael Yapko
The Hilarious World of Depression, John Moe
The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs,
Stephen S. Ilardi
How to Be Happy (Or at Least Less Sad): A Creative Workbook, Lee Crutchley and Oliver Burkeman
Depression Survival Guide: Your Path To A Joy-Filled Life, Debbie Brady
The No-Bullshit Guide to Depression, Steven Skoczen

Books on Cognitive Therapy for Depression

When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life, David Burns
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, David Burns
The Feeling Good Handbook, David Burns
Mind Over Mood, Second Edition: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think, Dennis Greenberger and Christine A. Padesky
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry, Seth J. Gillihan
The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time, Alex Korb and Daniel Siegel
Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, Martin Seligman
Who Would You Be Without Your Story?: Dialogues with Byron Katie and other books by Byron Katie, Byron Katie

Books on Exercise for Depression

Exercise for Mood and Anxiety: Proven Strategies for Overcoming Depression and Enhancing Well-Being by Michael Otto and Jasper A.J. Smits
Manage Your Depression Through through Exercise: A 5-Week Plan to a Happier, Healthier, You by Jane Baxter

Books on Improving Relationships

For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed, Tara Parker-Pope
The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages: The Little Things That Make a Big Difference, Shaunti Feldhahn
Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship, Stan Tatkin
Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love, Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, John Gottman
Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, Melody Beattie
Come as You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, Emily Nagoski
His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley, Jr.
How to Break Your Addiction to a Person: When–and Why–Love Doesn’t Work, Howard Halpern
Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding, Aaron Beck
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love, Sue Johnson
Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships, Sue Johnson
Mating in Captivity: Sex, Lies and Domestic Bliss, Esther Perell
Neale Donald Walsch on Relationships, Neale Donald Walsch
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

Books on Increasing Vocational Fulfillment

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, Martin Seligman
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmivaly
The Inner Game of Work: Focus, Learning, Pleasure, and Mobility in the Workplace, W. Timothy Gallwey

Books on Meditation and Mindfulness

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle
A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle
Meditation Without Gurus, Clark Strand
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron
The Wisdom of No Escape And the Path of Loving-Kindness, Pema Chodron
Ten Percent 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, Dan Harris
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Thich Nhat Hanh
Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness, Jon Kabat-Zinn
Meditation: How to Reduce Stress, Get Healthy, and Find Your Happiness in Just 15 Minutes a Day, Rachel Rofe
Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing, Anita Moorjani
Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation—A 28-day Program, Sharon Salzberg
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness, Sharon Salzberg
The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, Daniel Siegel

Books on Acceptance

Radical Acceptance: Living Life with the Heart of a Buddha, Tara Brach
Self-compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself, Kirstin Neff
The Art of Fear: Why Conquering Fear Won’t Work and What to Do Instead, Kristen Ulmer
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life, Mark Manson

Books on Trauma and Depression

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk
What My Bones Know: A Memoir of Healing from Complex Trauma, Stephanie Foo

Books on Habit Formation and Motivation

The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home, Dan Ariely
What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite, David DiSalvo
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, Joe Dispenza
Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d, Candace Pert
Molecules of Emotion: Why You Feel the Way You Feel, Candace Pert

Books on Positive Psychology

The Science of Happiness: How Our Brains Make Us Happy–and What We Can Do to Get Happier, Stefan Klein
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, Sonja Lyubomirsky
Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, Daniel Nettle
Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, Richard Layard
Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, Ed Diener & Robert Biswas-Diener
The Happiness Equation: Want Nothing + Do Anything = Have Everything, Neil Pasricha
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, Martin Seligman
Engineering Happiness: A New Approach for Building a Joyful Life, Manel Baucells and Rakesh Sarin
The Happiness Advantage: How a Positive Brain Fuels Success in Work and Life, Shawn Achor

Other Helpful Books

How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence by Michael Pollan
Psychedelic Medicine: The Healing Powers of LSD, MDMA, Psilocybin, and Ayahuasca by Dr. Richard Louis Miller
Man’s Search for Ultimate Meaning, Viktor Frankl
You Need Help!: A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling, Mark S Komrad


“Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby” Now Available at Walmart

After Rachel and Matthew had their first child, they had a couple of fights. Well, okay, more than a couple—they fought for over three years. They fought about schedules. They fought about bad habits.

They even fought about the lawn mower.

And besides actually having their child, it was the best thing that could’ve happened.

Chronicling their greatest hits, from the Great Birth Control Debate to the Divorce Joke Showdown, Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is a post-partem story with hope. It offers true stories from the field, nitty-gritty advice and, most importantly, a nuanced understanding of what it takes to be married with children.

Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Previously available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers, it is now available at Walmart as well. Get your copy today and don’t forget to leave a review.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor

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Here’s another installment in my happiness book summaries: The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor. I like its overview of the history of positive psychology and it’s thorough treatment of the topic. Also, it’s fun to read, and that makes me happy, too.

Key Takeaways

  • Happiness is important, and we know of many ways to achieve it. That’s the central message of this book. But before delving into that, the author attempts to explain what happiness is:
  • “So how do the scientists define happiness? Essentially, as the experience of positive emotions—pleasure combined with deeper feelings of meaning and purpose. Happiness implies a positive mood in the present and a positive outlook for the future. Martin Seligman, the pioneer in positive psychology, has broken it down into three, measurable components: pleasure, engagement, and meaning.”
  • The book describes the recent birth of the field of positive psychology and the author’s part in it: “In 2006, Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar asked if I would serve as his head teaching fellow to help design and teach a course called Positive Psychology. Tal was not yet internationally well-known; his best-selling book Happier wouldn’t be published until the following spring. Under the circumstances, we thought we’d be lucky to lure in a hundred undergraduates brave enough to risk a hit on their transcripts by foregoing a credit in, say, advanced economic theory for one in happiness. Over the next two semesters, nearly 1,200 Harvard students enrolled in the class—that’s one in every six students at one of the most hard-driving universities in the world. We quickly began to realize that these students were there because they were hungry. They were starving to be happier, not sometime in the future, but in the present. And they were there because despite all the advantages they enjoyed, they still felt unfulfilled.”
  • People have less sex over the course of their lives than we think they do. Feelings that we are missing out on this experience are therefore based on inaccurate information. “Based on my study of Harvard undergraduates, the average number of romantic relationships over four years is less than one. The average number of sexual partners, if you’re curious, is 0.5 per student. (I have no idea what 0.5 sexual partners means, but it sounds like the scientific equivalent of second base.) In my survey, I found that among these brilliant Harvard students, 24 percent are unaware if they are currently involved in any romantic relationship.”
  • Positivity and happiness predict success fairly reliably. “For example, doctors put in a positive mood before making a diagnosis show almost three times more intelligence and creativity than doctors in a neutral state, and they make accurate diagnoses 19 percent faster. Optimistic salespeople outsell their pessimistic counterparts by 56 percent. Students primed to feel happy before taking math achievement tests far outperform their neutral peers. It turns out that our brains are literally hardwired to perform at their best not when they are negative or even neutral, but when they are positive.”
  • A study of 180 journals kept by Catholic nuns showed a correlation between emotional well-being and physical well-being: “The nuns whose journal entries had more overtly joyful content lived nearly ten years longer than the nuns whose entries were more negative or neutral. By age 85, 90 percent of the happiest quartile of nuns were still alive, compared to only 34 percent of the least happy quartile.”
  • “Research shows that unhappy employees take more sick days, staying home an average of 1.25 more days per month, or 15 extra sick days a year.”
  • “In one study I’m glad I never volunteered to take part in, researchers gave subjects a survey designed to measure levels of happiness—then injected them with a strain of the cold virus. A week later, the individuals who were happier before the start of the study had fought off the virus much better than the less happy individuals. They didn’t just feel better, either; they actually had fewer objective symptoms of illness as measured by doctors—less sneezing, coughing, inflammation, and congestion.”
  • “Positive emotions flood our brains with dopamine and serotonin, chemicals that not only make us feel good, but dial up the learning centers of our brains to higher levels. They help us organize new information, keep that information in the brain longer, and retrieve it faster later on. And they enable us to make and sustain more neural connections, which allows us to think more quickly and creatively, become more skilled at complex analysis and problem solving, and see and invent new ways of doing things.”
  • The book also examines the power of belief at length. It describes a study in which 75-year-old men were asked to pretend they were 55 and the year was twenty years earlier. It seems that during the study, the men felt closer to the age they pretended to be: “After the retreat, most of the men had improved in every category; they were significantly more flexible, had better posture, and even much-improved hand strength. Their average eyesight even improved by almost 10 percent, as did their performance on tests of memory. In over half the men, intelligence, long thought to be fixed from adolescence, moved up as well. Even their physical appearance changed; random people who didn’t know anything about the experiment were shown pictures of the men both before and after the experiment, and asked to guess their age. Based on these objective ratings, the men looked, on average, three years younger than when they arrived.”
  • “In one of my favorite all-time experiments, Japanese researchers blindfolded a group of students and told them their right arms were being rubbed with a poison ivy plant.3 Afterward, all 13 of the students’ arms reacted with the classic symptoms of poison ivy: itching, boils, and redness. Not surprising … until you find out that the plant used for the study wasn’t poison ivy at all, just a harmless shrub. The students’ beliefs were actually strong enough to create the biological effects of poison ivy, even though no such plant had touched them. Then, on the students’ other arm, the researchers rubbed actual poison ivy, but told them it was a harmless plant. Even though all 13 students were highly allergic, only 2 of them broke out into the poison ivy rash!”
  • “One study of 112 entry-level accountants found that those who believed they could accomplish what they set out to do were the ones who ten months later scored the best job performance ratings from their supervisors.”
  • “A team of researchers led by Robert Rosenthal went into an elementary school and administered intelligence tests to the students. The researchers then told the teachers in each of the classrooms which students—say, Sam, Sally, and Sarah—the data had identified as academic superstars, the ones with the greatest potential for growth. [However,] when Sam, Sally, and Sarah had been tested at the beginning of the experiment, they were found to be absolutely, wonderfully ordinary. The researchers had randomly picked their names and then lied to the teachers about their ability. But after the experiment, they had in fact turned into academic superstars.”
  • So how do we increase our happiness, then? One way is to meditate. “Neuroscientists have found that monks who spend years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain most responsible for feeling happy. But don’t worry, you don’t have to spend years in sequestered, celibate silence to experience a boost. Take just five minutes each day to watch your breath go in and out.”
  • Another idea: think about something you are looking forward to. “One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.”
  • Another: do random acts of kindness regularly. “A long line of empirical research, including one study of over 2,000 people, has shown that acts of altruism—giving to friends and strangers alike—decrease stress and strongly contribute to enhanced mental health.”
  • And, of course, exercise. “You have probably heard that exercise releases pleasure-inducing chemicals called endorphins, but that’s not its only benefit. Physical activity can boost mood and enhance our work performance in a number of other ways as well, by improving motivation and feelings of mastery, reducing stress and anxiety, and helping us get into flow—that ‘locked in’ feeling of total engagement that we usually get when we’re at our most productive.”
  • Spend money on pleasurable experiences rather than on stuff. They good feelings last longer, creating good memories and hope for similar experiences in the future.
  • Recognition and feedback is extremely helpful for happiness as well. Even silly prizes and awards help us feel good about ourselves and our performance.
  • Gratitude is another powerful way to become happier: “When you write down a list of ‘three good things’ that happened that day, your brain will be forced to scan the last 24 hours for potential positives—things that brought small or large laughs, feelings of accomplishment at work, a strengthened connection with family, a glimmer of hope for the future.”
  • Optimism is important for success, as demonstrated in the following anecdote: “You’ve probably heard the oft-told story of the two shoe salesmen who were sent to Africa in the early 1900s to assess opportunities. They wired separate telegrams back to their boss. One read: ‘Situation hopeless. They don’t wear shoes.’ The other read: ‘Glorious opportunity! They don’t have any shoes yet.'”
  • The book also describes how to create good habits and discourage bad ones.

About the Author

Shawn Achor is an American author, speaker, and positive psychology researcher known for his work on happiness, well-being, and positive psychology in the workplace. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard University, where he studied positive psychology under renowned psychologist Tal Ben-Shahar. He later earned a Master’s degree from Harvard Divinity School.

Achor’s research and writings primarily focus on the science of happiness and positive psychology, particularly in the context of work and organizations. He has conducted extensive research on the factors that contribute to individual and collective well-being and performance.

In addition to his books, Achor is a highly sought-after speaker, delivering engaging and informative presentations on positive psychology, happiness, and well-being. He has delivered TED Talks that have garnered millions of views, further spreading his message of the importance of cultivating happiness and positivity.


Can’t quite get to all the nonfiction and self-help books that interest you? Read Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday here.


  1. This sounds like a really interesting book, I enjoyed reading your summary of it. I noticed the mention of Robert Rosenthal’s study and I actually studied it in detail for my psychology class. It’s absolutely fascinating.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling” by John Holt and Pat Farenga

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Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling by John Holt and Pat Farenga isn’t my favorite John Holt book. But anything with his name on it is a push of the “Buy Now” button on Amazon for me.

Read it because you’re familiar with Holt’s unschooling philosophy, and want ideas for employing it in some way.

Key Takeaways

  • In this book the authors discuss the idea of unschooling as an alternative to traditional schooling or homeschooling. This involves allowing learning without a lot of direct teaching. The authors provide a number of colorful, hearty quotes, some of which are as follows:
  • Learning is, and should be considered to be, as natural to humans as breathing. The authors imagine themselves at a “breathing conference” where nothing but the act of improving on breathing is discussed all day long. “And I thought, if we found ourselves at such a conference, would we not assume that everyone there was sick, or had just been sick? Why so much talk and worry about something that healthy people do naturally?”
  • “If there were no other reason for wanting to keep kids out of school, the social life would be reason enough. In all but a very few of the schools I have taught in, visited, or know anything about, the social life of the children is mean-spirited, competitive, exclusive, status-seeking, snobbish, full of talk about who went to whose birthday party and who got what …”
  • “Years ago I read that one or more inner-city schools had tried the experiment of letting fifth graders teach first graders to read. They found, first, that the first graders learned faster than similar first graders taught by trained teachers, and secondly, that the fifth graders who were teaching them, many or most of whom had not been good readers themselves, also improved a great deal in their reading.”
  • “We can sum up very quickly what people need to teach their own children. First of all, they have to like them, enjoy their company, their physical presence, their energy, foolishness, and passion. They have to enjoy all their talk and questions, and enjoy equally trying to answer those questions. They have to think of their children as friends, indeed very close friends, have to feel happier when they are near and miss them when they are away. They have to trust them as people, respect their fragile dignity, treat them with courtesy, take them seriously. They have to feel in their own hearts some of their children’s wonder, curiosity, and excitement about the world. And they have to have enough confidence in themselves, skepticism about experts, and willingness to be different from most people, to take on themselves the responsibility for their children’s learning. But that is about all that parents need.”
  • “During his early years, my wife and I and a couple of friends taught him all he wanted to know, and if we didn’t know it, which usually was the case, it was even better for we all learned together. Example: at 7, he saw the periodic table of elements, wanted to learn atoms and chemistry and physics. I had forgotten how to balance an equation, but went out and bought a college textbook on the subject, a history of discovery of the elements, and some model atoms, and in the next month we went off into a tangent of learning in which somehow we both learned college-level science. He has never returned to the subject, but to this day retains every bit of it because it came at a moment in development and fantasy that was meaningful to him.”
  • “A very important function of institutions of so-called higher learning is not so much to teach people things as to limit access to certain kinds of learning and work. The function of law schools is much less to train lawyers than to keep down the supply of lawyers. Practically everything that is now only done by people with Ph.D.’s was, not so very long ago, done by people with no graduate training or in some cases even undergraduate training.”
  • Though some parents worry about sheltering their children too much, the author believes that doing so is the proper role of a parent. Sheltering them is a way of teaching them how to avoid problems later on.
  • Some parents view homeschooling as a way for kids to avoid challenges or problems, but the authors write that children will always have their fair share of these. “To learn to know oneself, and to find a life worth living and work worth doing, is problem and challenge enough, without having to waste time on the fake and unworthy challenges of school—pleasing the teacher, staying out of trouble, fitting in with the gang, being popular, doing what everyone else does.”
  • To parents who fear homeschooling won’t challenge kids to do things they don’t want to do, the authors write that life is full of requirements, and they will learn to meet them if they have enough internal and external motivation to do so.
  • “Intelligence … is not the measure of how much we know how to do, but of how we behave when we don’t know what to do. It has to do with our ability to think up important questions and then to find ways to get useful answers.”
  • “One thing I’ve found useful, when helping kids go through this process, is to make three lists. One list is for things that come easily, things that you would do anyway, whether or not you sat down and made a plan about them. The second list is for things that you want to work on but feel you need some help with—maybe suggestions of ways to pursue the activity, or maybe some sort of schedule or plan regarding it. The third list is for things you want to put aside for a while, things you don’t want to work on right now.”

About the Author

John Holt and Pat Farenga are both influential figures in the field of education, particularly in the realm of homeschooling and alternative education.

John Holt (1923-1985) was an American educator, author, and advocate for educational reform. He is best known for his progressive views on education and his belief in the importance of child-centered learning. Holt challenged traditional schooling methods and argued that children learn best when they are actively engaged and have the freedom to explore their interests. His influential books, such as “How Children Fail” and “How Children Learn,” sparked a movement that emphasized self-directed learning and homeschooling as viable alternatives to conventional education.

Pat Farenga, a student and collaborator of John Holt, has played a significant role in continuing Holt’s work and promoting homeschooling as a valid educational option. After Holt’s death, Farenga worked closely with the Holt Associates and founded Holt Associates International, which provides support and resources to homeschooling families. He has written several books, including “Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling,” co-authored with John Holt. Farenga is known for his efforts to spread awareness about homeschooling, empower parents as primary educators, and advocate for educational freedom and choice.

Both John Holt and Pat Farenga have made substantial contributions to the educational landscape by challenging traditional schooling paradigms and championing alternative approaches that prioritize the needs and interests of individual learners. Their work continues to inspire and inform parents, educators, and policymakers seeking innovative and student-centered educational models.


Can’t quite get to all the nonfiction and self-help books that interest you? Read Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday here.


Everyone Told Me It Was Normal to Be Nervous

This is chapter one of my book, Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby: A Self-help Story. Previously available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers, it is now available at Walmart as well. Get your copy today and don’t forget to leave a review.


Everyone told me it was normal to be nervous. More than nervous—freaked out. Insecure. You’re going to let us take her home now? By ourselves? they remembered thinking before leaving the hospital. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?

And actually, it was pretty weird. The nurses taught me how to latch the baby, how to change a diaper, how to adjust the straps on the car seat. They helped Matt and I get the swaddle neat and tight. But they didn’t say a word about, well, parenting. Crib or bed? Feeding schedule or no? Go back to work or stay at home? All of the hard decisions were saved for another day, not this day, the day Poppy was born.

I labored at the hospital, Matthew there and gone again, making trips between the delivery room, various eating establishments and home. While he distracted himself with errands, I distracted myself with an audio book, trying not to wish he was nearby. Thing was, I didn’t want him there. I really didn’t. I didn’t want to have to have a conversation. But if he would have held me–just that, and nothing more–that might have been all right.

It took two hours for the pitocin to kick in, and in late afternoon the real labor came. For this, Matthew did hold me, both my head and my hand, offering his body as leverage. When the midwife told me to curl, Matthew pushed my legs to my head, and laughed at how hard I pushed back. Lots of pushes. Lots. So many. So many. Then the head was visible, and the midwife asked if I wanted a mirror.

“Yes!” I said.

“No,” said Matt at the same time. Then: “You do, Hon? Are you sure?”

“Yes,” I said. “Of course I do. Don’t you?”

The midwife positioned it for me, and I saw my baby for the first time.

It didn’t look like a baby.

Three more pushes. Hard pushes. Long ones. Then: relief. The head was out, and with a last push for the body, Matthew and I became parents.

Matthew looked at the baby, then at me. “It’s a girl,” he announced.

“We know that already,” I said, laughing.

“She’s beautiful,” he said.

“But we knew that, too.”

“Of course we did. She is perfect.”

The midwife put Poppy, now crying heavily, on my chest. As I smooshed my breast against her mouth, Matthew put his hand on her soft hair.

“There she is.”

“There she is. She is ours.”

* * *

Late that night. Matthew gone again. He didn’t want to sleep on the pull-out. And as I soon learned, it was just as well. No, not just as well; it was better.

I got to spend the whole night with just her.

No sharing. No small talk. No deciding. No details. No normal life stuff. Just life. Just the room, the dark, except the street lamps below the half-drawn blinds, and a simple light behind the bed dimmed to almost nothing.

So this is motherhood, I thought as I stared at Poppy’s face. This is who I am now. Strange that I’m not scared. Everyone says you’ll be scared. But I feel good. I feel confident. It feels simple.

Here’s this little alive thing, sort of like a plant, except that I am her air and sunlight, her photosynthesis. She needs me completely, and I accept the challenge. That is the way this thing works.

It’s the most straightforward relationship I’ve ever had.

Honestly, that was it. That was my conclusion. I would be the giver, she’d be the taker—and I was fine with that. It was when I expected something, when I needed someone to behave a certain way—that was the situation I worried about.

Which is why lying in bed that night, there was only one thing I was worried about, and it had nothing to do with the baby.

It was Matthew.

What’s he going to be like, now that we have a kid? I wondered. Will he be the same person? For that matter, will I? Will being parents affect the way we treat each other? How we are together?

How will our relationship change?

And as it turned out, I was right to be nervous. Because while that first year with Poppy was one of the best of my life, it was the worst for me and Matt.

* * *

The following day, the hospital. Only that room in the hospital, and the bathroom adjoining it. Nothing more. Matthew came and went, bringing meals, bringing news. We opened a few presents, saw doctors, did paperwork. I slept a bit, too, Poppy next to me on the bed, though the nurse had advised against it. When I had to change my pad, the nurses helped me to the bathroom. They changed all of Poppy’s diapers and held her when she cried. It was the first time in my life I’d been waited on so thoroughly, and I relished it. I didn’t want to leave.

The following morning, Matthew arrived at 9 a.m. to take me home, and I delayed the departure as long as possible. When the time finally came—it was close to noon—I took a long last look at the room.

Maybe it was nostalgia. Sentimentality. Hormones. Or maybe—just maybe—it was more than that. Maybe it was the inkling I’d had the night before about Matthew.

Maybe I was sensing the learning curve ahead.

Yes, that was it. Just hours after giving birth, I had the mom thing figured out. I didn’t know how to do anything—not even change a diaper—but I knew how to be alone with my child. But four years into my marriage, I still didn’t know what Matthew expected of me, what he didn’t expect of me, and, most important, what to expect of myself. When it was just Matthew and I, this oversight didn’t matter. I compensated for not understanding what he really needed by giving him more of what he wanted, which worked fine. But now—now I had a second relationship to consider. My usual coping strategies wouldn’t work.

Even before Matthew and I arrived home the tension between us had begun. Matthew wasn’t himself. He was irritable. Hurried. Though whether due to jealousy, neglect or just impatience, I’ll never know.

He tried to hide his annoyance with humor. “Should’ve had a home birth.”

I responded with a tight smile and forced laugh. “I liked it there,” I said.

“Yeah, I noticed. Thought you were going to sprain an ankle so you could stay.”

“Don’t begrudge me my reward,” I told him, smiling again. “Besides, I thought about it. Wouldn’t’ve worked.”

The things I didn’t say: “Why do I have to bring up the pain of childbirth this soon?” “Why aren’t you happier?” “Why aren’t we celebrating?” I wanted the day we left the hospital to be special, an occasion. Instead, I just felt sad to go home.

Maybe it was too much to expect him to know how I felt, how I wanted him to support me on that day. But a small gesture made in that tender time would’ve gone a long way towards lessening my fears. He could’ve held my hand. He could’ve told me how proud he was of me. He could’ve just asked me what I needed. It would’ve taken so little, almost nothing—but instead, he chose jokes and I chose smiles.

The first two weeks after the baby was born, I cried nearly every night before sleep. A few times, Matthew heard me; he came to the bedroom and asked what was wrong. Each time I told him the same thing.

“It’s just hormones, Hon. I’ll be okay.”

I was working too hard. That was part of the problem. I always had and didn’t want to stop. Baby in the chest carrier, I cooked, cleaned and, my favorite, organized. There’s never an end of things to organize.

Part of me realized the emotions were normal, and that I wasn’t taking good enough care of myself. Another part of me, though, blamed Matthew.

He wasn’t helping enough. That’s the truth, unvarnished. He didn’t seem to know how to, really. While my life had changed completely—no more day job, constant sleep interruptions—he was quickly back to his usual routine. Work. Eat. Play. Sleep. Weekends: basketball, projects. Which is why, during those first few weeks with Poppy, I felt all the good stuff you’re supposed to feel— gratitude and love—I felt a lot of bad stuff, too. I was scared. I was angry. But mostly, I was sad. Sad that things weren’t right with me and Matt.


Fights You’ll Have After Having a Baby is my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Previously available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers, it is now available at Walmart as well. Get your copy today and don’t forget to leave a review.


  1. I love that you wrote a book about this subject. Having a baby, like all big changes in life brings happiness but also it takes a time to adjust to a new routine, and of course, it changes your relationship with your partner. I think it gets better after a while when you get used to having a new person at home and your new routine but people should be aware of all this transition.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn

sad isolated young woman looking away through fence with hope
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Who would’ve thought that offering rewards is a horrible way to motivate someone to learn? In Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes, Alfie Kohn, a well-known proponent of self-directed education, makes just this argument—and just may change everything you think you know about prizes, trophies, gold stars—even grades.

Key Takeaways

  • Behaviorism—the idea that human behavior can and should be controlled through externally motivating factors—is our cultural paradigm, and its legitimacy goes largely unquestioned. But this is not the only way to motivate kids to learn, and certainly not the best one.
  • Rewards and punishments are sometimes effective, but mostly just in the short-term; long-term, they often backfire. There are five main reasons for this: They manipulate. People don’t like to be manipulated or told what to do. Secondly, they rupture relationships. People begin to do nice things for rewards rather than out of true altruism and caring. Thirdly, they don’t get to the root of the problem. They don’t help us discover why the “bad” behavior or lack of desire to learn is there in the first place. Fourthly, they discourage risk-taking. They cause people to not want to fail. Fifth and finally, and, most importantly: They cause people to lose interest in a task for its own sake. Learning, one of the most natural pleasures of the human experience, is no longer considered fun.
  • The author tells the story of an old man being harassed by some children who decided to pay them to tease him. After he gradually lowered the payment, they lost interest in the activity and stopped.
  • Learning declines when learning activities are extrinsically motivated.
  • Verbal praise is one of the most-used rewards, and one of the most problematic. The reasons for this include: First, it signals low ability. When kids are praised for something they did easily, or something they did poorly, it makes them feel they’re being treated like a child or an idiot. Second, it causes praise addiction. Praising a child’s intelligence, for example, causes them to create an unhealthy identification with their intelligence that makes them afraid to fail, especially in front of others. Third, it reduces interest in a task. Kids who are overly praised for a particular activity assume the praise is meant to get them to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise. This assumption causes them to no longer desire to perform the activity.
  • Praise is a way to keep children dependent on us. It’s a shortcut—an external motivator that appears internal. Therefore, when you praise, praise specific tasks or effort. Don’t praise intelligence or skill in general. Make praise as specific as possible.
  • Avoid phony praise.
  • Avoid praise that sets up a competition.
  • This challenge also applies to the workplace. We think we can motivate people externally, but we can’t. We can only set up conditions in which their inner drive/motivation is able to thrive.
  • How can we do this? Studies support using the 3 C’s: ollaboration (give them good people to work with); content (give them meaningful work); and choice (give them autonomy).

About the Author

Alfie Kohn is an American author, speaker, and educational theorist known for his work on progressive education, parenting, and the critique of traditional schooling practices. Kohn holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from Brown University and a Master’s degree in Education from Harvard University. He has been a prominent voice in the field of education for several decades and has written extensively on topics such as motivation, discipline, standardized testing, and the role of rewards and punishments in learning.

One of Kohn’s central ideas is the concept of “unconditional parenting” and the belief that children thrive when they are supported and respected rather than controlled or manipulated. He challenges conventional wisdom and encourages parents and educators to focus on fostering intrinsic motivation, critical thinking, and a love of learning in children.

Through his books, including Punished by Rewards, The Schools Our Children Deserve, and Unconditional Parenting, Kohn presents thought-provoking arguments and research-based insights into the effects of various educational strategies on students’ well-being and learning outcomes. He challenges conventional wisdom and offers alternative approaches grounded in research and progressive educational philosophies.

As a speaker and presenter, Kohn has delivered lectures and workshops to educators, parents, and policymakers worldwide, sharing his ideas and engaging in discussions about transforming education to better serve the needs of all students.


Can’t quite get to all the nonfiction and self-help books that interest you? Read Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday here.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Soul of Discipline” by Kim John Payne

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The Soul of Discipline: The Simplicity Parenting Approach to Warm, Firm, and Calm Guidance- From Toddlers to Teens by Kim John Payne is yet another parenting offering in this series, and my justification for that is simple: raising kids is hard. The more books you read, the better chances you have to get it (mostly) right, particularly books about discipline.

Key Takeaways

  • Kids misbehave when they feel disoriented. They seek our attention through disruptive or whiny behavior in order to seek reassurance.
  • Keep kids’ lives simple. Provide a calm, safe and routine-based environment that allows them to not get overwhelmed.
  • When disciplining a child, reorient them to family values, such as by saying, “In our family, we don’t speak to each other like that; we just don’t.”
  • Maintain a healthy skepticism surrounding products marketed to children, especially books and other media. Allow only media that supports your family’s values.
  • “Suggestions and choices needed to be replaced by simple, clear, firm instructions.”
  • Before offering an instruction, connect with the child and orient them to the task. Explain what is happening and why.
  • If you find yourself talking or instructing constantly, try a “No Request–No Suggest Diet” in which you take a break from these activities. Notice which requests and suggestions did not need to be made. When you do make suggestions, do so mindfully and always follow through.
  • Beware of role confusion. It’s important for kids to know that you are in charge.
  • Sometimes, kids need a more direct approach, and other times, they need us to proceed slowly and gently. Gentle parenting is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Read your child’s emotions at the moment, and adjust accordingly, as you would in any other social situation.
  • Take a few minutes every day to connect with your child. Don’t just direct traffic all day.
  • When offering a difficult instruction, do so in a mindful manner in a quiet place.
  • Make instructions specific and simple, especially for easily distracted children.
  • In many cases it’s best not to negotiate, justify or converse about these instructions. Simply repeat the instruction gently.
  • Demonstrate physically what you want the child to do. Children are excellent imitators.
  • Don’t overuse time-outs, as they are rejection-based punishments and not as effective for self-reflection as some other consequences are.
  • By contrast, time-ins (times with the parent alone to calm down) can be helpful. Use the time to discuss the difficulty or problematic behavior.
  • “Remember that there is no such thing as a disobedient child … only a disoriented one.”

About the Author

Kim John Payne is an author, educator, education consultant and researcher. He is most known for his books Simplicity Parenting and The Soul of Discipline. His work focuses on creating balanced, harmonious, and supportive environments for children, and he emphasizes the importance of simplicity, rhythm, and connection in family life.

In addition to his writing, Kim John Payne gives lectures, workshops, and trainings for parents, educators, and professionals. He is a sought-after speaker and has appeared on numerous radio and television programs to discuss his approach to parenting and education.


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Freakonomics” and “Superfreakonomics” by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

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Superfreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Hevitt and Stephen J. Dubner, the equally fascinating follow-up to Freakonomics, draws unexpected, unintuitive conclusions about how world economics really works–how it influences our behavior, personal relationships and daily lives. Read it and/or its predecessor for a hint of how complicated the world really is.

Key Takeaways

  • People respond to incentives, and sometimes these incentives lead to unexpected or counterintuitive outcomes. That’s the central message of Freakonomics and its successor, Superfreakonomics. From the effect of legalized abortion on crime rates to the cheating of sumo wrestlers in Japan, incentives have an enormous, complicating and surprising effect on real-life problems.
  • Sometimes, phenomenon can be explained by analyzing incentives, and other times, phenomenon (such as social problems) can be changed or altered by altering getting the incentives right. As an example, the authors describe a hospital program that encouraged doctors to wash hand by placing a scan of a bacteria-filled hand taken from an actual doctor in that hospital as a screen saver on the hospital computers. The authors also discuss the problem of global warming at length, describing a group of Seattle-based inventors that might have solved it by adding liquefied sulfur dioxide to the air.
  • The authors also emphasize the effect of information asymmetry, where one party in a transaction possesses more information than the other. They discuss how certain professionals or experts might exploit this information gap to their advantage and examine scenarios such as the disparity between real estate agents’ incentives and those of their clients and the disparity between teachers’ incentives and students’ educational outcomes.
  • The authors also stress the importance of distinguishing between correlation and causation when interpreting data and drawing conclusions. They caution against making assumptions about causality based solely on observed correlations. The authors illustrate this concept by examining topics like the link between parenting practices and children’s outcomes, the relationship between names and success, and the impact of drug dealers’ income. Through these examples, they demonstrate how deeper analysis is required to determine true cause-and-effect relationships.
  • The economics of prostitution, terrorism, suicide bombing, hospital management, seatbelt use and more are also discussed.
  • On prostitution, the authors state that contrary to common belief, it is safer and more profitable for sex workers to be managed by a pimp. Also, people might not realize that a large percentage of tricks are done for policeman as freebies, and lots of street prostitutes make very good money.
  • The authors also discuss the differences between good behavior that’s due to profit motive and good behavior that’s due to true altruism.
  • The authors argue that it is much easier to raise charity funds with personal stories than with statistics and data.
  • The author discusses how, due to the power of unintended consequences, the best fixes are often the simplest and cheapest. Examples of this are the polio vaccine; the practice of hand washing by doctors; and the seatbelt.

About the Authors

Steven D. Levitt is an American economist and professor at the University of Chicago. He is renowned for his research in the field of microeconomics, particularly applying economic principles to unconventional topics.

Stephen J. Dubner is an American author, journalist, and podcast host. He is best known for his collaboration with Steven Levitt on the Freakonomics series. In addition to writing, he is the host of the popular podcast “Freakonomics Radio,” where he and Levitt explore economic concepts and their applications in various areas of life.


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder

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You might or might not have heard of the book Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder, but if you’ve ever made a serious attempt to write or market a screenplay, you probably have. I am no screenwriting expert, but I don’t know of any more specific, practical advice on the topic, and I be very surprised if you could find a more entertainingly-written one.

Read it because it is the one book you need to read if you want to write a movie. Or, read it because you want to understand movies better, and note the formula as you come across it in your own recreational viewing.

Key Takeaways

  • Good screenplays follow a fairly rigid formula. When writing a screenplay, learn it deeply and follow it closely.
  • Here is that winning formula: page one: opening image; page five: theme stated; pages 1-10: setup (including six things that need fixing); page twelve: catalyst; pages 12-25: debate; page 25: break into Act Two; page 30: the B story; page 30-35: fun and games; page 55: midpoint; page 55-75: bad guys close in; page 75: all is lost; page 75-85: dark night of the soul; page 85: break into Act Three; page 85-110: finale; page 110: final image.
  • The screenplay’s logline needs five things: irony, a compelling mental picture, the audience, the cost, and a killer title.
  • During Act One, bring in “six things that need fixing”–are callbacks or running gags that are introduced early in the story and get wrapped up by the end.
  • During Act Two, bring in “fun and games”: “–the area of the movie with the “set pieces” where the hero is shown to be playing out the results of their choices and the premise. This is where the girl and the boy are falling in love, where the here is engaged in combat training, where the hero is enjoying their new friends and environment and learning the ropes and the like.
  • At the midpoint, there should be a false high to match the false low at climax/”all is lost” moment.
  • In Act Three, the “all is lost” moment should include a “whiff of death.” This is a moment in which something–anything, even a petunia!–is shown to die.
  • In Act One, consider using a “save the cat” moment–a moment in which the hero does something that will endear them to the audience, such as saving a cat’s life.
  • Also in Act One, consider using the “pope in the pool” technique. This is when you use a compelling or unexpected visual backdrop to help the viewer through a boring backstory, such as the movie in which the Pope discussed the backstory while swimming.
  • Don’t use “double mumbo jumbo.” You can’t have aliens and zombies in the same movie: only one suspension of disbelief is allowed. That’s because this one condition is the one the theme explores, and adding more is just cheating.
  • Limit the time spent on set-up. Audiences can only stand so much pipe laying.
  • Don’t use too many gimmicks. A little goes a long way.
  • Danger must be immediate or quickly approaching, not slowly approaching (“watch out for that glacier!”).
  • All of the main characters except the villain must grow and change, at least somewhat–not just the hero.
  • The hero must be proactive. They must make a decision or multiple decisions that lead to the furthering of the plot. Otherwise, they’re just a passive recipient of bad luck, and we are not as invested in their story.
  • Don’t talk the plot. Show, don’t tell.
  • Make bad guy badder. It’s okay! Your main character can handle it!
  • The plot should not just move forward evenly, but intensify as it moves to create a strong dramatic climax.
  • Show different facets of the main problem. Don’t assume the viewer just gets it. As the song says, “turn, turn, turn.”
  • Use the emotional color wheel; appeal to a wide range of emotions.
  • Don’t use boring, flat dialogue, even if it is more realistic. Movie characters don’t speak quite like us; they’re special. There should be uniqueness and personality in every spoken line.
  • Give every character “a limp and an eye patch”–certain distinct, memorable qualities that help viewer distinguish them, like character shorthand.

About the Author

Blake Snyder was a screenwriter and author most known for his influential book Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, which provided a popular framework for screenwriting and story structure. Snyder’s formula has been used consistently since, and his other entertaining works about entertainment are popular as well.


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker

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I wasn’t entirely sure I’d like The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals that Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker. I know what fear is; what else is there to say? Turns out, quite a bit. Fear isn’t what I thought it was, says de Becker. It’s not worry, anxiety, or sudden emotional reactions to scary moments. Instead, it’s the healthy, life-sustaining, adaptive, instinctive physical and emotional response that occurs when your life or health is experiencing a true threat.

Read this book to learn about the ways fear can help you survive and thrive–and how to use this helpful instinct to your advantage.

Key Takeaways

  • This book explores the nature of fear and how people can better recognize and respond to potential threats. It relates many stories about people in life-or-death situations who responded correctly to their sudden fear reaction. One woman, for example, left her home after an attack with an instinctive knowing her attacker planned to kill her, even though he told her he would not. It was only later she realized how she knew: he closed the bedroom window before leaving the room.
  • When something feels wrong, it probably is, the author writes. Listen to your intuitive knowing that you might be in danger. Instinct, which is based on unconsciously held background knowledge and unconsciously gathered information in the immediate environment, is more often right than reason, which doesn’t draw from as many sources of information.
  • “Satellites” are comments thrown into a conversation seemingly at random. They come from the subconscious and should be explored seriously. They often provide the answer to a question of safety. An example of a satellite: In an offhand way during the author’s conversation with a woman receiving written threats, she mentioned a new friend she had made recently while considering selling her house. That man was the person making the threats, and intended to buy her house.
  • Fear and anxiety are very different. Fear happens in response to real danger. Anxiety is worry in the face of uncertainty, and can be about almost anything. It is about predictions in which you have little confidence. By contrast … “Predictions about which you have high confidence free you to respond, adjust, feel sadness, accept, prepare, or do whatever is needed.”
  • Worry is not informative, but fear is very informative. Always listen to real fear. “The very fact that you fear something means that it’s not happening.” It always involves a future prediction. Remembering that will help you not panic.
  • The author also quotes Helen Keller, who said, “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Whatever challenges we face, we need to believe we can overcome them.

About the Author

Gavin de Becker is a security specialist and consultant who has advised high-profile clients, including government officials, celebrities, and corporations. His book The Gift of Fear emphasizes the importance of listening to one’s intuition and situational awareness to stay safe in potentially dangerous situations. Becker’s other books include Protecting the Gift and Fear Less. De Becker is recognized for his work in assessing and managing potential threats, providing protection strategies, and analyzing patterns of violence. He emphasizes the importance of trusting our intuition as a valuable tool for detecting danger and taking proactive steps to protect ourselves and others.

De Becker’s career began in the field of security in the 1970s when he worked as a security guard. He later founded Gavin de Becker & Associates, a consulting firm specializing in security and risk assessment for high-profile individuals, government agencies, and corporations. The firm provides services such as threat assessment, executive protection, and consultation on stalking cases.

As a speaker, de Becker has delivered presentations and training sessions to diverse audiences, including law enforcement agencies, corporations, and government organizations. He shares his insights on personal safety, violence prevention, and risk management.


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“The Power of Acceptance” Now Available at Walmart

For a day, a week, even a month at a time, she had the feeling continuously. She had it while she read, while she drove, while she ate, and while she played with her child. Which is why each time the feeling left, it was a great disappointment.

It was the feeling of connection with the Divine, and one spiritual seeker wanted to hold on to it forever. But how?

What was the key to continuous meditation?

In this year-long journal, one woman shares her attempt to do a sitting meditation each day, then remain in the state of meditation as much as possible after that.

Featuring interviews on meditation from long-time practitioners, The Power of Acceptance isn’t a meditation prescription, but rather a personal story of one woman’s spiritual struggles … and breakthroughs.

Get your copy at Amazon or your other online retailer of choice, or be one of the first to purchase it from Walmart. And, if possible, don’t forget to leave a review.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead” by Ariel Gore

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Ariel Gore might or might not be a famous author. I suppose it depends on how you define the term. However, How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead by this experienced author offers solid advice for the professional writer (famous or not).

Read it because you’re curious what it takes to be a published author, and you want to learn about the publishing part, not just the writing part.

Key Takeaways

  • In this book, experienced nonfiction author Ariel Gore offers practical tips and advice on both writing and publishing, encouraging not-yet-established writers to be professional, consistent, and constantly growing.
  • Self-publish on any scale, Gore advises. The journey is the destination.
  • Find an agent who publishes/reads what you write.
  • Go longhand. You’ll edit less, and choose words more carefully.
  • Get a book on proposal writing.
  • Try this exercise: Write a story using no adjectives or adverbs. It might help you break the habit of overdescribing.
  • Rush it! Try writing a whole book in a month. This can give you a sense of accomplishment and confidence in your abilities.
  • Don’t use words that mean “said.” use “said,” or leave quotes bare.
  • Don’t use words like plethora, myriad, or sleepily. Show, don’t tell.
  • Consider getting published in an anthology initially. Alternatively, create a zine or a blog to get published on a regular basis.

About the Author

Ariel Gore is a writer and editor known for her memoirs and non-fiction works. Her books include Atlas of the Human Heart, The Hip Mama Survival Guide, and We Were Witches. Gore is recognized for her unique and honest storytelling style, often exploring themes of feminism, motherhood, alternative lifestyles, and personal growth.

As an educator, Gore has taught writing workshops and classes at various institutions, including the University of New Mexico, the Institute of American Indian Arts, and The Attic Institute. She is known for her nurturing and empowering approach to teaching writing, particularly to marginalized voices.


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone” by Lori Gottlieb

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Lori Gottlieb is one of my new favorite memoirists, and I especially like her because we share a profession. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed is as juicy as you want a memoir to be, but also as practical and enlightening.

Read it because you are considering going to therapy and you want to know what it can do for you. Or because you love a good memoir as much as I do.

Key Takeaways

  • Wendell explains that my pain feels like it’s in the present, but it’s actually in both the past and the future.
  • He complains that his wife is depressed (although, as the saying goes, “Before diagnosing people with depression, make sure they’re not surrounded by assholes”),
  • The therapist explained that often different parts of ourselves want different things, and if we silence the parts we find unacceptable, they’ll find other ways to be heard. He asked the guy to sit in a different chair, across the room, and see what happened when the part of him that chose to cheat wasn’t shoved aside but got to say its piece. At first the poor guy was at a loss, but gradually,
  • Years later, when I’ve done thousands of first sessions, and information-gathering has become second nature, I’ll use a different barometer to judge how it went: Did the patient feel understood? It always amazes me that someone can walk into a room as a stranger and then, after fifty minutes, leave feeling understood, but it happens nearly every time. When it doesn’t, the patient doesn’t return. And because Michelle did, something had gone right. As for the clock snafu, though, my supervisor doesn’t mince words: “Don’t bullshit your patients.” She lets that sink in, then goes on to explain that if I don’t know something, I should simply say, “I don’t know.” If I’m confused about the time, I should tell Michelle that I need to step out of the room for a second to bring in a working clock so that I’m not distracted. If I’m to learn anything in this traineeship, my supervisor emphasizes, it’s that I can’t help anybody unless I’m authentic in that room. I had cared about Michelle’s well-being, I’d wanted
  • The psychoanalyst Erich Fromm had made this point more than fifty years earlier: “Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things quickly; yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains except kill it.” Fromm was right; people didn’t use extra time earned to relax or connect with friends or family. Instead, they tried to cram more in.
  • The night before, as I tried to relax in bed with a novel, I came across a character who described his constant worry as “a relentless need to escape a moment that never ends.” Exactly, I thought. For the past few weeks, every second has been linked to the next by worry.
  • In the 1980s, a psychologist named James Prochaska developed the transtheoretical model of behavior change (TTM) based on research showing that people generally don’t “just do it,” as Nike (or a new year’s resolution) might have it, but instead tend to move through a series of sequential stages that look like this: Stage 1: Pre-contemplation Stage 2: Contemplation Stage 3: Preparation Stage 4: Action Stage 5: Maintenance
  • Of course, therapists aren’t persuaders. We can’t convince an anorexic to eat. We can’t convince an alcoholic not to drink. We can’t convince people not to be self-destructive, because for now, the self-destruction serves them. What we can do is try to help them understand themselves better and show them how to ask themselves the right questions until something happens—either internally or externally—that leads them to do their own persuading.
  • People often start therapy during the contemplation stage. A woman in a long-distance relationship says that her boyfriend keeps delaying his planned move to her city, and she acknowledges that he’s probably not coming—but she won’t break up with him. A man knows that his wife has been having an affair, but when we talk about it, he comes up with excuses for where she might be when she’s not answering her texts so that he doesn’t have to confront her. Here people procrastinate or self-sabotage as a way to stave off change—even positive change—because they’re reluctant to give something up without knowing what they’ll get in its place. The hiccup at this stage is that change involves the loss of the old and the anxiety of the new. Although often maddening for friends and partners to witness, this hamster wheel is part of the process; people need to do the same thing over and over a seemingly ridiculous number of times before they’re ready to change.

About the Author

Lori Gottlieb is an American author, psychotherapist, and journalist known for her work in the field of psychology and mental health. Born on February 14, 1967, Gottlieb has made significant contributions to the field through her writing and therapeutic practice.

Gottlieb earned a Bachelor’s degree in literature from Yale University and a Master’s degree in clinical psychology from Stanford University. She has worked as a psychotherapist for over 20 years, providing therapy to individuals and couples.

Gottlieb’s writing often combines personal anecdotes, psychological insights, and humor to explore the complexities of human relationships and the challenges of navigating life’s transitions. She is known for her candid and relatable approach to discussing mental health issues and self-discovery.

One of Gottlieb’s most well-known works is the book “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed,” published in 2019. In this memoir, she shares her experiences both as a therapist and as a patient, offering readers a glimpse into the therapeutic process and the universal human struggles that therapy can help address. The book became a New York Times bestseller and received critical acclaim for its empathy, authenticity, and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition.

In addition to her therapy practice and writing, Gottlieb has contributed to various publications, including The Atlantic and The New York Times. Her articles cover a wide range of topics related to mental health, relationships, and personal growth.

Gottlieb’s work has resonated with readers and helped reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Through her writing and therapeutic practice, she continues to shed light on the complexities of the human mind and foster understanding and compassion for those facing emotional challenges.


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Talent Is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin

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Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin sounds like a lot of other books. In my experience, however, it’s pretty unique. Its insight and examples have come to mind many, many times in the years since I first read it, and though its message sounds pie-in-the-sky at first, it isn’t trite or obvious.

Read this book because you want to get really good at something and you aren’t yet sure you know how.

Key Takeaways

  • Extraordinary skill is not the result of intelligence, natural talent or even the sheer amount of practice one undertakes. Instead, it is the result of something the author calls deliberate practice.
  • Natural talent might not even exist; it might be a misnomer or a cultural construct. As an example, one Hungarian psychologist raised his three daughters to become chess champions to show that chess is not correlated with special talent–and they all did.
  • Mozart was likely not born with talent, even though he is widely considered to be a child prodigy. His father pushed him to learn music at a very early age, and his first works were not exceptional.
  • There is no clear correlation between smartness and job performance. Performance is more related to practice, experience and other factors.
  • Surprisingly, memory is also not grown through intelligence, but through creating or finding patterns that offer structure to the information. An example of this is found in chess: Experienced chess players can memorize a board quickly–even play blind–because they memorize the pattern of the board, not the individual pieces.
  • A better way to develop skill rather than relying on intelligence: use deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is very different from regular practice and is not always the most fun or easy way to improve. It involves practicing at a pace or level that is a bit past your current level–that pushes you somewhat. An example is an athlete who does difficult and necessary conditioning exercises every morning rather than spending that time doing what they love: playing their sport.
  • Deliberate practice helps you perceive more, so you learn more quickly. It encourages faster brain processing, faster reaction times and the ability to look further ahead.
  • There are three steps to practicing deliberately: Set challenging goals; observe your progress; and get objective feedback.
  • Applying these principles to the business world, organizations should challenge employees more rather than have them simply repeat what they’re already good at.
  • Deliberate practice is hard, and takes passion, especially at first. However, your passion grows as you receive more of the rewards that come with building your desired skill. Your sense of pride kicks in when you start to see progress, but not before. So stick with it.

About the Author

Geoff Colvin is a journalist and author who has written extensively on business and economics. His books include Talent is Overrated, which argues that deliberate practice is the key to success, and Humans are Underrated, which explores the ways in which technology is changing the nature


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “The Memoir Project” by Marion Roach Smith

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You may never want to write a memoir, but if you do, here’s your go-to reference: The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith. On second thought: Who doesn’t want to write a memoir?

I love a good memoir. Love reading them. Love writing them. Let me know when yours is available for purchase.

Key Takeaways

  • The special quality of a memoir is that they can examine the small moments of life and find extraordinary meaning in them.
  • Tell the truth. You can know if you are doing so because when you do, you will have a genuine emotional reaction to your words.
  • Know your story’s main argument–its point–and break that down into small sections, so that each is fully demonstrated and supported in the text. “Let’s say your one sentence—your argument (and all books are an argument, no matter how small)—is that life is really hard unless you get a good cat to live with. Great. Here’s how that will break down. By each phrase: Life. Is hard. Really hard. Unless. You get. A good cat. To live with.”
  • Don’t overexplain your point. “What Ernest Hemingway taught us in the last century still gives good weight: What you leave out of the story is perhaps more important than what you put in.”
  • Don’t be flowery, or ornate, or too precious, or too beautiful on purpose. Don’t overwrite! Quoting Elmore Leonard, the author writes, “If I come across anything in my work that smacks of ‘good writing,’ I immediately strike it out.”
  • “Print out your draft and write in the margin what each paragraph does. This is called indexing.” After indexing, note whether or not each section of your work has achieved every goal you have for it.
  • Edit relentlessly. Be exceedingly cautious in this endeavor; take it seriously. “Pencil in hand, touch each word in every sentence, make hard decisions. Is there a shorter way to say this? A cleaner, more precise way? Each phrase needs to be assessed and judged.”
  • Good stories are often very simple ones. ” … While I’ve heard a bazillion pitches over the years, the one I keep always in mind when I write and edit is simply ‘I left.’ Perhaps you left a way of thinking, a husband, or a habit. Perhaps you left one house and moved into another, and in doing so upped the ante on anything from your decorating to the drama in your life … We are fascinated by how people change and need little more than the moment of intuition to the moment of exit to keep our interest.”

About the Author

Marion Roach Smith is an American author, journalist, and writing instructor known for her expertise in memoir writing. With a background in journalism, she has written for publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Newsday.

Roach Smith is the author of several books, including “The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing and Life” and “The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair.” In “The Memoir Project,” she offers practical advice and exercises to help aspiring writers craft compelling memoirs. Roach Smith emphasizes the importance of finding unique and personal stories, honing writing skills, and capturing readers’ attention through authenticity and emotional resonance.

Beyond her books, Roach Smith has taught memoir writing workshops and seminars, sharing her expertise and guiding aspiring writers in capturing their life experiences on the page. Her teaching approach focuses on helping individuals discover their own stories and find their authentic voice in memoir writing.

Roach Smith is known for her engaging and accessible style, combining personal anecdotes, writing techniques, and a passion for storytelling. She encourages writers to explore their memories, embrace vulnerability, and uncover the universal truths within their own lived experiences.

As of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021, Marion Roach Smith continues to be active in the field of memoir writing and teaching. For the most up-to-date information on her work and offerings, I recommend referring to reliable sources or her official website.


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Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown

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Being vulnerable isn’t comfortable, but it is an essential element of close relationships. It’s kinda like going on a trip: there are unknowns and inconveniences, but there is also adventure and fun. Inevitably, one goes along with the other.

Brown’s writing style in her most widely read book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, can be a bit tedious at times, but the main message is the important thing: don’t be safe. Take risks. Embrace the vulnerability adventure.

Read this book to internalize this lesson and learn how to put it into practice.

Key Takeaways

  • In this and other books, the author argues that vulnerability is not a weakness, but a strength. This is, in large part, because it is an important element in an authentic, wholehearted life.
  • The title of the book comes from a quote by Theodore Roosevelt, where he praises those who are “in the arena” daring greatly, even if they experience failure or criticism.
  • “Vulnerability is the core, the heart, the center, of meaningful human experiences,” she writes.
  • The two biggest hindrances to vulnerability are fear and shame. Recognizing deeply held fears as well as shame triggers is an important step toward developing resilience.
  • Practicing self-compassion is another way to overcome shame.
  • When trying to understand someone’s seemingly harmful behavior, notice how shame and fear of vulnerability might play a part. Selfishness, for example, might reveal a fear of being ordinary.
  • To find out what areas of life bring you shame, examine your “never enough” stories. In what way do you feel inadequate?
  • Sometimes, we associate vulnerability ” … with dark emotions like fear, shame, grief, sadness, and disappointment—emotions that we don’t want to discuss, even when they profoundly affect the way we live, love, work, and even lead. What most of us fail to understand and what took me a decade of research to learn is that vulnerability is also the cradle of the emotions and experiences that we crave. Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”

About the Author

Brené Brown is an author, speaker, and research professor who has gained widespread recognition for her work on topics such as vulnerability, courage, shame, and empathy. Born in 1965 in San Antonio, Texas, Brown holds a Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Texas at Austin, a Master of Social Work degree, and a Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

Brown’s research focuses on human emotions and how they impact our connections with others. She has conducted extensive studies on shame and vulnerability, exploring how these emotions influence our ability to engage in authentic relationships and embrace our true selves. Through her research, Brown has developed transformative insights and strategies for cultivating resilience, empathy, and wholehearted living.

One of Brown’s most influential books is “The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,” published in 2010. In this book, she encourages readers to embrace vulnerability, cultivate self-compassion, and let go of the pressure to meet societal expectations. Brown shares her personal experiences and provides practical tools for living a more authentic and fulfilling life.

Brown’s work has resonated with millions of people worldwide, and she has given popular TED Talks that have garnered millions of views. Her engaging speaking style and ability to blend personal anecdotes with research findings have made her a sought-after speaker and educator. Through her books, talks, and workshops, Brown has inspired countless individuals to embrace vulnerability, develop resilience, and foster deeper connections with others.


Can’t quite get to all the nonfiction and self-help books that interest you? Read Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday here.


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel

I suppose it’s a self-help, but it’s funny to think of it that way. After all, author Haruki Murakami is a philosopher, not a salesperson. Still, don’t read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running for a suspenseful plot or a colorful cast of characters. Think of it as a book that feels like a conversation. Oh, and listen carefully to that conversation. Take notes. This is self-help.

Key Takeaways

  • Mundane acts aren’t mundane. They’re actually pretty important. They reveal one’s philosophy of life. Murakami writes, “Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”
  • Don’t try to be something you’re not. Murakami writes, “Nobody ever recommended or even desired that I be a novelist—in fact, some tried to stop me. I had the idea to be one, and that’s what I did. Likewise, a person doesn’t become a runner because someone recommends it. People basically become runners because they’re meant to.”
  • There really is such a thing as hitting a wall, and sometimes, you can feel yourself doing so. “While I was enduring all this, around the forty-seventh mile I felt like I’d passed through something. That’s what it felt like. Passed through is the only way I can express it. Like my body had passed clean through a stone wall. At what exact point I felt like I’d made it through, I can’t recall, but suddenly I noticed I was already on the other side. I was convinced I’d made it through. I don’t know about the logic or the process or the method involved—I was simply convinced of the reality that I’d passed through. After that, I didn’t have to think anymore. Or, more precisely, there wasn’t the need to try to consciously think about not thinking. All I had to do was go with the flow . . . In this state, after I’d passed through this unseen barrier, I started passing a lot of other runners . . . Since I was on autopilot, if someone had told me to keep on running I might well have run beyond sixty-two miles.” Wow.
  • “Usually when I approach the end of a marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That’s all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of this ultramarathon, I wasn’t really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance.
  • Life has meaning, and it’s up to us to figure out what it is. “It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning.”
  • Pauses in passion are normal. “My lifestyle gradually changed, and I no longer considered running the point of life. In other words, a mental gap began to develop between me and running. Just like when you lose the initial crazy feeling you have when you fall in love.”
  • Sometimes, that passion comes back. Especially if you just keep going. “Now I feel like I’m finally getting away from the runner’s-blues fog that’s surrounded me for so long. Not that I’ve completely rid myself of it, but I can sense something beginning to stir. In the morning as I lace up my running shoes, I can catch a faint sign of something in the air …”
  • Running is life. Everything you do is life. The important thing to do is to persist. “Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner. My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance—all of these are secondary. For me, the main goal of exercising is to maintain, and improve, my physical condition in order to keep on writing novels, so if races and training cut into the time I need to write, this would be putting the cart before the horse.”

About the Author

Haruki Murakami is a highly acclaimed Japanese novelist known for his unique and imaginative storytelling. His works often blend elements of magical realism, surrealism, and the mundane, creating a distinct narrative style that has gained him a dedicated international following.


  1. Mollie, I really enjoyed reading this blog. I will try to get that book and read it. As always great job !


Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “What Makes Your Brain Happy (And Why You Should Do the Opposite)” by David Di Salvo

photo of head bust print artwork
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With one of the best titles in modern nonfiction, What Makes Your Brain Happy (And Why You Should Do the Opposite) delivers on its promise of surprising, delightful–even humorous–insight. In it, author David Di Salvo investigates the many and varied ways our minds trick us into making poor decisions.

Read it to increase your self-awareness and to stop falling into the same traps, time and time again. Oh, and read it to reassure yourself that you’re not the only one who has done so.

Key Takeaways

  • This book investigates the cognitive biases and misconceptions that often influence our decision-making and behavior. It offers strategies for overcoming these biases and making more informed choices that lead to greater happiness and success.
  • DiSalvo’s overall point: Rational thinking often eludes us. We must be aware of our shortcomings in this area in order to at least sometimes avoid harmful consequences of our illogical thinking.
  • Beware of your innate need for certainty: sometimes, it might cause you to jump to conclusions. Humans crave certainty. There is a distinct, physical, chemical pleasure response from coming up with a reason or an explanation. This leads to all kinds of false conclusions. 
  • Beware of any impulse to attach meaning to coincidence. People are prone to doing so, making causal inferences from scant information. 
  • Beware of your innate need for control: A driving force of our actions and thoughts is our desire too feel we have agency, even when we don’t. Know when and when not to let go of the reigns. 
  • Beware of your innate loss aversion. We try to avoid loss at all costs, even over gaining something new that might outweigh that loss. Get comfortable with loss and risk; it’s not always a bad thing.
  • Beware of your innate confirmation bias. We give undue weight and even seek out confirming evidence for things we already believe. 
  • Know what your motivation style is. Some people are motivated by achievement and some are motivated by enjoyment. Achievement-motivated people presented by a word puzzle characterized by researchers as “fun” didn’t do as well as when characterized as “a challenge.” The opposite was true of enjoyment motivated individuals. So, it’s important to know your own motivators.
  • Don’t overestimate your self-control! Smokers who were trying to quit were randomly characterized by researchers as having high or low self-control as compared with the norm. When tempted later, the latter group succeeded more often in resisting the cigarette, because they didn’t expect themselves to control themselves when faced with temptation; instead, they changed their environments to set them up for success.
  • Beware of your natural competitiveness. It can be a good thing, but don’t let marketers (like those on Ebay!) create a false or unhelpful desire to win. Know that the hunt is often more exciting than the capture.
  • Beware of your unquenchable desire for more. Your brain is programmed to always want and seek the next great thing. The actual acquiring of it is often a letdown.
  • Beware of habituation, which causes you to take good things for granted. This happens in relationships, but also with large purchases such as a new car.
  • Don’t confuse wanting and liking–these are two very different things. They even activate different parts of the brain. Things you want aren’t always the things that make you feel good and give you pleasure.
  • Outsource carefully. Sometimes, it’s healthy and helpful to leave decisions to other people, or to go along with what’s most popular. It helps us conserve mental energy in a highly complex society. However, don’t outsource the stuff that most matters to you.
  • Beware of your visual and other sensory biases. We are unduly affected by seeing objects that seem to confirm something is true that we already believe is true. An example is when someone who’s trying to persuade people in a meeting about the need to improve air quality lifts “… three massive bound documents and drops them with a thud on the lectern.” No matter that no explanation of the volumes is given–we believe the documents contain evidence of their statements. We also inexplicably associate warm things with warm feelings and cold things with cold feelings unconsciously.
  • Beware of overly simple messages. The easier to understand that a concept is, the more likely it is to be remembered and accepted. Watch out for this; it’s how propaganda usually works.
  • Don’t accept nominal (face) value over real value. For example, a two percent raise in an economy that has experienced four percent inflation is actually a loss.
  • Be on the lookout for unhelpful regret. While it’s normal to always question what would’ve happened if (fill in the blank), you never truly know what would have happened in any given hypothetical future.
  • Beware of impulsiveness. It’s not your friend. The best way to overcome impulsiveness is distraction (even chimps do this!). 
  • Beware of overly hyping your own abilities. In one study people who asked themselves if they could accomplish a challenging task did better than those who told themselves they could.
  • Beware of your biases. The feeling of being right isn’t the same as being right! Question your own biases or possible biases relentlessly.
  • Beware of your confidence in your ability to predict the future. In general, people are much worse at this than they expect or believe themselves to be.
  • Beware of guiding metaphors and other fancy word games. Metaphors are powerful convincers because they create a lens through which the rest of the argument (both sides) is viewed–and sometimes that lens skews the issue. Also, word priming greatly affects our perceptions. In one study most people mistook the smell of roses for chili peppers simply because the bag they were in was named “chili peppers.” Repetition is also a hugely convincing verbal style and all of us believe at least some of what we are repeatedly told.
  • Make tangible goals. Engage social pressure to keep you accountable, if helpful.
  • Don’t rely on your own memory. Have a healthy degree of humility about how accurate you recall past events. For a variety of reasons, memory is often much less accurate than we realize.
  • When making decisions, slow down. Be aware of the influence of pre-existing beliefs. Check the availability of all information.
  • Get fast feedback—this helps you accomplish more than any other factor. Ask for it. Create it. 
  • Make checklists and use them. 

About the Author

David DiSalvo is an American science writer and author known for his books and articles that bridge the gap between science and everyday life. His writing explores various topics related to psychology, neuroscience, and behavior, offering practical insights and strategies for personal growth and well-being. He has a talent for making complex scientific concepts accessible to a general audience and applying them to everyday life situations.

DiSalvo’s writing style is engaging and thought-provoking, encouraging readers to think critically and consider the implications of scientific findings in their own lives. His work has gained recognition for its blend of scientific rigor, practicality, and relatibility.


Can’t quite get to all the nonfiction and self-help books that interest you? Read Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday here.