What things—books, movies, songs, mementos, prayers—do you return to often? Why?
Here at the end of another shockingly abnormal year, what calls you to return, beseeches you to center, to ground, to focus, and prepare to engage hereafter from a deeper, more authentic place?
When you look back at 2021, how do you assess intensity, complexity, and relationships? It’s a bit mind-bending for me! For so long now the learning feels as if from a fire hose, and I’m grateful beyond measure for it all. This week I made a feeble effort at assessing my net experience of 2021—positive or negative? How does one even go about measuring this? I quickly settled with satisfaction that it has simply been a year of challenge, learning, and growth. Good enough.
Four blog posts left for the year. I’ll include books consumed below, rather than as a separate post, and I offer the titles without comment. This year I also include content in other media that resonated, in case you want to check them out. Reviewing the list brings me back to the places and times where I consumed the works, and I’m a little surprised to feel comfort, more than anything else. Huh. What story do I tell about that? Maybe learning is my safe and happy place? Maybe as long as I feel like I’m gaining something—information, knowledge, connection, expertise, wisdom—then I can feel secure and confident to handle whatever comes next?
After outputting for 31 days in a row, and then a 6 day GI illness that knocked me down in a big way (be careful out there, friends, there are some nasty bugs going around!), this weekend I felt a deep longing for familiar voices and lessons. I listened again to The Art of Possibility, and I’m halfway through Start With Why. How funny, after all these years, I still manage to come back to the same books annually. They refill my tank, somehow; they comfort me, inspire me. They welcome me like a big, warm, floofy arm chair. With and in them, I relax and breathe easier. Then I feel refreshed, ready to tackle challenges, learning, and growth with renewed enthusiasm.
In my copy of AoP, a picture of me with Ben Zander marks the page that describes Giving the A:
(This practice) is an enlivening way of approaching people that promises to transform you as well as them. It is a shift in attitude that makes it possible for you to speak freely about your own thoughts and feelings while, at the same time, you support others to be all they dream of being. The practice of giving an A transports your relationships from the world of measurement into the universe of possibility.
An A can be given to anyone in any walk of life—to a waitress, to your employer, to your mother-in-law, to the members of the opposite team, and to other drivers in traffic. When you give an A, you find yourself speaking to people not from a place of measuring how they stack up against your standards, but from a place of respect that gives them room to realize themselves. Your eye is on the statue within the roughness of the uncut stone.
An A is not an expectation to live up to, but a possibility to live into.
A photo of Hubs and me marks the page that lists the distinctions of a vision that frames possibility:
- A vision articulates a possibility
- A vision fulfills a desire fundamental to humankind, a desire with which any human being can resonate. It is an idea to which no one could logically respond, “What about me?”
- A vision makes no reference to morality or ethics, it is not about a right way of doing things. It cannot imply that anyone is wrong.
- A vision is stated as a picture for all time, using no numbers, measures or comparatives. It contains no specifics of time, place, audience, or product.
- A vision is free-standing—it points to neither a rosier future, nor to a past in need of improvement. It gives over its bounty now. If the vision is “peace on earth,” peace comes with its utterance. When “the possibility of ideas making a difference” is spoken, at that moment ideas do make a difference.
- A vision is a long line of possibility radiating outward. It invites infinite expression, development, and proliferation within its definitional framework.
- Speaking a vision transforms the speaker. For that moment the “real world” becomes a universe of possibility and the barriers to realization of the vision disappear.
Listening to these passages prompted me to wonder about my own vision. What shining light do I see on and beyond the horizon, toward which I march with conviction and joy? It took no time. For my patients, my children, my trainees, people I work with—for everybody—my vision is for us all/each to realize our potential and make our best contribution. We get to define these words and their meaning for ourselves, whenever and however we want—they are intersecting, metamorphosing. The vision’s expression is fluid, and certainly evolves over time. And like a Why and a Just Cause, this vision grounds me in core values, while inspiring me to reach with cheerful, optimistic audacity for possibility. I think it fulfills the vision criteria, and anyway it’s mine and I’m keeping it—for now, at least.
My favorite books always bring me back to my center, my raison d’etre, my Why—to optimize relationships between all people.
What a fantastic time of year to revel in them yet again, to refuel and recharge for the long winter ahead.
Books and Media 2021
Books [Titles in brackets have yet to be finished]
- Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson
- Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski
- [Own Your Present by Candace Good, MD]
- The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Think Again by Adam Grant
- Change by Damon Centola
- Who You Are by Michael Spivey
- Persist by Elizabeth Warren
- Managing Transitions by William Bridges and Susan Bridges
- The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
- [Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam]
- [The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw]
- The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
- The Culture Puzzle by Mario Moussa, Derek Newberry, and Greg Urban
- Tribes by Seth Godin
- Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong
- Together by Vivek Murthy
- Why We’re Polarized by Ezra Klein
- The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullaly and Nick Offerman
- Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
- Eat a Peach by David Chang
- Becoming by Michelle Obama
- [A Conflict of Visions by Thomas Sowell]
- A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver
- [Navigating Polarities by Brian Emerson and Kelly Lewis]
- Cooked by Michael Pollan
- Radical Compassion by Tara Brach
- How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
- Caffeine by Michael Pollan (Audible exclusive)
- This Is Your Mind On Plants by Michael Pollan
- The Half-Life of Marie Curie by Lauren Gunderson (Audible exclusive)
- Men’s Health by Daniel Goldfarb (Audible exclusive)
- The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell, In Conversation with Michael Toms
- [Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker]
- Stop Walking On Eggshells by Paul T. Mason, MS and Randi Kreger
- This Is Not the End by Tabetha Martin, ed (Audible exclusive)
- In the Pleasure Groove by John Taylor
- The Power of Us by Jay J. Van Bavel PhD, and Dominic J. Packer PhD
- Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
- The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
- Start With Why by Simon Sinek
- Not at the Dinner Table
- The Easiest Person to Fool
- How They See Us
- The Snowball Effect
- Useful Delusions
- In the Heat of the Moment
- Group Think
- The Real Reason You Procrastinate
- Relationships at Work with Esther Perel
- Building an Anti-Racist Workplace
A Bit of Optimism
- Extreme Listening with Deeyah Khan
- Quiet Service with General Stanley McChrystal
- Enchantment with Chloe Valdary
The Knowledge Project
- Jeff Immelt: Leadership in a Crisis
- Danny Meyer: Hospitality and Humanity
- Adam Grant: Rethinking Your Position
- Bill Ackman: Getting Back Up
- Jim Collins: Relationships vs. Transactions
- Angela Duckworth: Grit and Human Behavior
- Sendhil Mullainathan: The Chaos Inside Us
- Randall Stutman: The Essence of Leadership
- Lisa Feldman Barrett: Balancing the Brain Budget
- Fried Chicken
- Fried Rice
- Don’t Call It Curry
- Massimo Bottura
- Dan Barber
- Niki Nakayama
- Grant Achatz
- Dominique Crenn
- Gaggan Anand
- Ivan Orkin
Street Food: Asia
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Osaka, Japan
- Chiayi, Taiwan
- Seoul, South Korea
Cooked: all 4 episodes
Halt and Catch Fire
YouTube: Eugene Lee Yang: My First Met Gala (And How I Almost Didn’t Make It)