Friday, November 13, 2009

Rave of the Day: Books that Make Me Think, and Help Me Grow

Usually, I stick to one thing at a time with each rave, but today, you guys get a package deal, because I'm just in that kind of mood. I feel abuzz right now, just walking away from a wonderfully smart, warm, thought-provoking conversation with two AMAZING women.  We started the evening as total strangers, but we shared an almost instant connection; these two incredible women each herald from my home state of Wisconsin (holla!) and I met them at a chiropractic business conference in St. Louis, MO. Love how small the world is sometimes, and how serendipitous it can be. They each shared unbelievable stories of triumph and heartache, and I felt like there was SO MUCH we could talk about, share, take in, appreciate, and learn from one another.  We became a sisterhood.

During the course of our conversation, we started talking about one of my favorite personal development books,
Strengths Finder 2.0. Are you familiar with it? It's a really detailed assessment tool that helps people find their top five key strengths, encouraging people to FLOURISH in their capabilities , shining a light on what makes them unique/special, doing the things they have a gift for and enjoy doing, versus focusing on trying to improve their weaknesses, which is important in it's own right, but gets entirely too much attention in our society. Very, very interesting stuff. And it makes perfect sense, right? I mean, it's much more fulfilling to hone your natural skills and center your focus and attention on them, rather than trying to improve an area that you struggle in and don't take a deep interest in. I love their example, "What good is a sundial in the shade?"

After you've completed the looooooong questionnaire, it explains what is most important to someone with this or that strength, what most motivates a person with this strength, how to effectively communicate with them, etc. etc. Compelling stuff.

The authors behind Strengths Finder 2.0 also wrote
How Full is Your Bucket, an equally amazing book that asks you to consider the effect your actions, your attitude, and your WORDS have on those around you, whether it's in the workplace, your marriage, your kids, AND, how your attitude affects YOU, your health, your longevity, and your overall life experience. Primarily, it asks, do you focus on the positive, or the negative? Are your words and actions filling up someone's emotional bucket, or are your words/actions depleting someone's bucket/life experience? (And is your attitude, in turn, filling or depleting your own bucket?) Very simple concept, this relatively new (and growing!) field of Positive Psychology...and very important.

Oh, and a little tidbit...Purchase "How Full is Your Bucket", and you will receive a complimentary code to take the "Strengths Finder 2.0" assessment for free. Boo-yah.

To avoid this blog post from getting annoyingly long (too late?) I'm just going to bulletpoint some of my other favorite self-development/ business-building/team-building books that made me self-reflect and look at things with a new perspective/appreciation. Click the link to learn more about each specific book, and if it resonates with you, buy it, or head to your library and check it out.

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
Top Performer: A Bold Approach to Sales and Service by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., & Carr Hagermann, PSP
Fish! Catch the Energy & Release the Potential! by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph.D., Harry Paul, & John Christensen.
Natural Selling by Michael Oliver

I think I'm going to stop here. I've got other books in mind, but I think they deserve their own post and explanation of why they resonate with me, and how they've affected my life on a more personal level...

And, finally, if you do the Strengths Finder, share your results in the comments! I'll share mine, for anyone interested:
1) Relator
2) Achiever
3) Empathy
4) Positivity
5) Connectedness

You'll have to get the book to see what they mean... :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Rave of the Day: Susan Boyle on "Britain's Got Talent"

Susan Boyle.  Wow.  She's inspiring the world with one performance.  You've seen her audition to Britain's Got Talent right?  Again, WOW.  Just incredibly uplifting. Truly, a celebration of the human spirit, and a pure triumph. Gives me goose-bumps every time I watch it.

I think Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Scwarzbaum nailed it on the head in this article:
I'm still stuck on Susan Boyle, and still weeping...I play the YouTube clip over and over of Boyle, the frumpy, middle-aged British lady who marched out on the stage of the national TV show Britain’s Got Talent this past weekend. She bided her time through the judgmental hoots and snickers of the studio audience and judges (headed by international snickerer-in-chief Simon Cowell). She sang "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. And she brought a worldwide audience to their feet -- to her feet -- with the grandeur of her voice.

...Right now I'm pondering why the experience of watching and listening to Ms. Boyle makes so many viewers cry, me among them. And I think I've got a simple answer, at least for me: In our pop-minded culture so slavishly obsessed with packaging -- the right face, the right clothes, the right attitudes, the right Facebook posts -- the unpackaged artistic power of the unstyled, un-hip, un-kissed Ms. Boyle let me feel, for the duration of one blazing showstopping ballad, the meaning of human grace. She pierced my defenses. She reordered the measure of beauty. And I had no idea until tears sprang how desperately I need that corrective from time to time.
Pretty well said, no? I'm drawn to tears because of her grace, her humility, and her quiet display of confidence in spite of being cast aside. It's the way she blossoms before our very eyes as the song goes on.  It's the fact that she has proven the audience wrong after the first note, and has them on their feet within the first three lines of the song. Watching this, you FEEL that her life-long dream is becoming reality. What an extremely powerful thing to witness, and what a gift she shares with her music.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rave of the Day: My Favorite Vacation Spots to Get Away From It All

I know, I know, I've been neglecting this blog, and I'm sorry.  My mind has been on other things the past few weeks because we had to put our dog down. (Bone cancer.)  But as hard as that was, I have to say I was completely uplifted by the support we've had from friends, family, even complete strangers.  The love and compassion we've experienced has been pretty amazing.   

We still miss our Sami, and will forever remember the silly "clown face" he made when he was really happy.  (This picture is just a hint of that face.)  I thought I would honor him by showing you some places that have given me the same type of face and feelings of pure joy and happiness.  

These specific getaways allowed me to connect with nature, and slow down enough and pay attention to stuff that often goes overlooked and is taken for granted in everyday life.  Places Sami would have really enjoyed.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Remember the old Loony Toon cartoons, when they would go away for camp somewhere?  You know the ones, where there's a huge lake with crystal blue water surrounded by mountains and trees?  Well, I'm pretty sure the animators used Lake Tahoe as their inspiration.  In one word: picturesque.  

I was fully in-tune with my senses here - the warmth of the sun on my skin, the sound of the water hitting the rocks on the shore, the fragrant flowers (smelled soooooo good), the uber fresh air.  It was amazing.  Time moves at a much slower pace in Tahoe country.  (Hint - go early.  We went to a NV state park at 7 a.m. and basically had the whole place to ourselves.  As we were leaving, busses full of kids showed up and we were so happy we decided to get up early that morning.)  Lots of very cool shops in the resort towns surrounding the lake too.

I had a very similar experience here too.  Everything is just stunningly beautiful, particularly at Yosemite Valley, which allows you to really see the grandness of it all from a distance. (There's a reason Ansel Adams was drawn to this place.)  

I can't wait to go again, and next time, I'm doing it right, hiking, backpacking, and camping for a few days and really getting to the core of Yosemite.  A perfect 10 in my book.

Amazing red rocks in cool pipe-like formations, deep blue skies, (moderately easy) hiking trails zig-zagging through it all - who ever knew Utah was so frickin COOL? These natural ampitheatres reminded me of castles, and are breathtaking. Some of Mother Nature's finest work, in my opinion.

Sticking with Utah (such a great state - so much more than Salt Lake City and skiing), Zion National Park was AWESOME.  It's biggest claim to fame is that it's one of the best places in the continental United States to star gaze because a) the high elevation and b) lack of light pollution.  

Of course, there's lots of great stuff to do during the day too.  We did a ton of hiking through the canyons, and cooled ourselves off by wading through a shallow riverbed and getting into a water fight.  Sami would have been ALL over that, trust me!

I have to show the East Coast some love too.  If you're looking for a road trip, it doesn't get much better than this beautiful drive. 450+ miles, spanning from Shenandoah National Park in VA to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in NC. And no commercial traffic is allowed, so that means no big rigs riding your butt down the mountain passes. Booyah!

There, I've showed you mine, now it's your turn to show me yours! 

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rave of the Day: "Three Weeks With My Brother"

"Three Weeks With My Brother" 
by Nicholas & Micah Sparks

This is one of my all-time favorite books.  I don't want to get too detailed in my rave, (you do like to be surprised when you're reading, right?!) but here's my general reflections.

This journey hits some of the most amazing places in the world, and Nicholas and Micah's "very real" descriptions are better than anything you will find in a history book or travel guide. Non-fiction at it's finest.

Nicholas & Micah Sparks are great storytellers, and their touching memoir made me laugh out loud AND grab for the Kleenexes...NUMEROUS TIMES.  They masterfully tied the tales of their childhood and adulthood into their trip around the world, and take you full-circle on their journey.  You begin to realize this isn't just a story about their travels; this is really about the journey of their lives. (Um, did you really expect anything less from the author of "The Notebook?")

Please, if you haven't already, get a copy and escape for a few hours. Perfect for a long flight, makes a great beach read, and I've heard the audio version is A M A Z I N G.  

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Rave of the Day: Car Talk with Click & Clack

Car Talk with Click & Clack 
The Tappet Brothers on NPR

I love talk radio, especially when it's informative AND funny.  Car Talk is the epitome of this, and I always look forward to their weekly podcast on iTunes.  (Thanks Dad for making me listen to this with you!  I was hesitant because I have no interest in cars, but YOU WERE RIGHT and the show is soooo funny.)

The hosts are two insanely hilarious brothers, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack.  They come complete with Boston accents, and callers try to stump them with various car problems, which they are usually able to diagnose.  Sounds boring, but trust me, it's not with these two!  No problem is too silly, and no solution is too outrageous.  These two poke fun at each other, themselves, and their callers, and it's all in good fun.

Click and Clack are even featured on Wikipedia (although, is that really any major feat?!) and the article gives a great overview of the show's features.  So go check it out if you want to find out more.  

Tune in, and you will learn about car repair, mechanic rip-off schemes, and the "names" of the Car Talk Staff, like the Snowboard Instructor, Soren Dekeester.  (Hee hee!)

Waste an hour with them today!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rave of the Day: Favorite Workout Tunes

Two of my favorite DJs (shout out to Jason Matheson and Alexis Thompson on FM 107.1 out of Minneapolis!) were talking about their favorite workout music today, and it got me thinking about what songs I'd like to shake my groove thang to.  (Hey, I figured I'll start with the music, and then I'll get my lazy butt to the gym! Gotta have your priorities straight!)

I created a playlist with some of their suggestions, some of the other listener's suggestions, and a few of my own picks.  Take a listen, maybe it will help you too, or at least give you something to listen to while you clean the house, or have a party?

Not all of the songs are "clean" so consider yourself warned if you have little ones...and the songs are all over the place, from princess pop (I know, I know - it's terrible, but the upbeat tempo just works for this, so stop judging me!) to hip-hop to techno to 80s to Aretha Franklin to rap to classical music.  I TOLD you it was all over the place.

Get a playlist! Standalone player

What songs keep you going when you're about to pass out on the treadmill?  

Friday, February 13, 2009

Rave of the Day: My Favorite Perfume is a Men's Cologne?!


I know what you're thinking.  What?  Has she gone completely off her rocker?

Her favorite perfume is a men's cologne?  Seriously?

SERIOUSLY.  First of all, it's Prada, so can you really go wrong? And really, people, just hear me out.

Prada Infusion D'Homme was designed to closely resemble the women's perfume, Prada Infusion D'Iris, but is a little less "sweet" smelling.  It provides a unique soapy scent and is great for an overall clean feel with a light touch of florals and woodsy undertones.  It reminds me of the smell of your guy when he runs out of his soap in the shower, and reaches for your fancy stuff.

Here's how Sephora describes it:

Fall under the spell of Infusion D'Homme, the new refined men's fragrance from Prada.  Utilizing the finest traditions of classic perfumery, Infusion D'Homme works closely with the body to create a subtle yet distinctive scent.  This sensuously crafted essence blends intoxicating citrus and woody notes for an understated, but lasting, impression.

Tunisian Neroli, Iris Pallida, Vetiver, Cedarwood, Incense, Benzoin

Classy.  Sophisticated.  Elegant
Next time you're at the fragrance counter, take a little gander to the men's cologne section and check this little puppy out!  

(And so you're not going into this completely blind, here's some other [women's] fragrances that strike my fancy.)

Vera Wang The Fragrance
Fresh Pink Jasmine
Trust me, you'll be glad you did!