Book Five of 94: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Book 5 of 94:  Bossypants by Tina Fey

I have read a handful of books recently and “forgot” to review them, so I am tragically behind.  The problem with this is that I forgot some of the really great things that I liked about the additional books I’ve read, I’ve even forgotten some of the books themselves.  The problem with this book in particular is that it was on loan to me, so I was under strict instruction to NOT highlight any of it.  Have you ever?!  So please do not take this half-hearted review as an in depth review of this book.

Summary:  This is a collection of stories that are exactly as delightful and witty as you would hope them to be coming from Tina Fey.  If you enjoy anything that Fey has ever done, just do yourself a favor and read this book.

My Three Takeaways from Bossypants

Number 1:  What I really loved about this book and Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please!, is that both Poehler and Fey are honest about what it took for them to get where they are today.  Fey does not pretend for a second that she was “discovered” or that she simply woke up one day and was famous.  She was in the trenches doing the work that it took to get her to where she is.  I respect people who are honest about their success and don’t pretend that it was easier or harder than it actually was.  I think, as women, there is sometimes an expectation that we are supposed to make everything look effortless.  We’re supposed to keep all of the magic behind the current and act like everything just naturally falls in to place.  I enjoyed the fact that Fey was willing to say that she has worked damn hard to get where she is and that she is deserving of her success.  We need more women in this world who aren’t going to apologize for creating the life that they wanted for themselves.

Number 2:  I know that it is not fair to compare Poehler and Fey as they are two entirely different people.  However, I would be willing to bet that if you like one, you probably like the other as well.  That being said, after reading both authors’ books I can see why they would be friends with each other.  Their personalities seem like they would complement each other well.  While they are both incredibly funny and talented, Fey seems to have more of an edge to her sense of humor.  Fey has a layer of darkness to the cut of her jib that is both uncomfortable and enjoyable.

Number 3:  Even rich people have to deal with well water from time to time.  Fey talks about visiting her husband’s family in Ohio where the family home uses well water.  My parent’s home uses well water as well, so I am familiar with the trials and tribulations.  I laughed out loud when Fey described the smell as, “if you boiled ten thousand eggs in a prostitute’s bathwater”.  While my parents are pretty religious about adding salt pellets and water softener to the pump, there are still times when I can’t even brush my teeth with the water because the smell is overpowering.  Fey did go on to say that the water leaves her hair in excellent condition.  That, too, is something I have always noticed.  I put up with the occasional smell because my hair is always soft, shiny, and full after I wash with well water.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone who enjoyed the comedy of 30 Rock.
  • Anyone who is interested in how famous people become famous.
  • Anyone who enjoys laughter.

Who should not read this book?

  • Anyone who finds laughter annoying.
  • Anyone who thought that 30 Rock was stupid (mainly because they probably weren’t intelligent enough to understand most of the jokes).
  • Anyone who can’t stand a strong woman.

Fey, T. (2011). Bossypants. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Book Four of 94: Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment

Book 4 of 94: Zapp! – The Lightning of Empowerment by William C. Byham, Ph.D. with Jeff Cox

My mother was a corporate trainer by trade so her house is filled to the brim with leadership and management books.  She may have the same book hoarding problem that I have.  In fact, she is likely responsible for the book hoarding problem that I have.  I went to school for business management and I am always intrigued by new ways to lead people and to help them reach their potential.  So, my bookshelves have always been weighted down by leadership and management books over the years.  This particular book sat on my mother’s shelves for the last twenty years.  (Side note: if you ever sell used books, don’t expect to get much for management books that are older than a year!)

Summary:  Zapp!  Is a fable about Normal Company and it tells the tale of difficult management and how people can work together to overcome the pitfalls of short-sighted managers.  The book was written as a fable to help the concepts seem more applicable to the reader.  I, however, found the fable to be somewhat distracting and would have preferred if the book just used a real world situation, but that’s just my humble opinion.

My Three Takeaways from Zapp!

Number 1:

The company I work for is not unique in its challenges.  It is easy to sit and daydream about how much better life would be if I worked for a different company with group of managers who knew how to lead people.  How harmonious it would be to work on a team that actually functioned as a team.  But, the truth is, there are good managers and bad managers at every organization.  And, no matter how good a team may be, everyone still knows who the top performer is and who the weakest link is. So in that regard, I guess it is comforting to know that every organization struggles with these same issues.

Number 2:

Teams need to have their voices heard and to feel like they have a say in their own success or failure.  I worked closely with my manager last year to develop the plan for the upcoming fiscal year.  We spent hours and hours going over reports, redoing presentation slides, and creating goals for each of the team members that were greater than last year, but still achievable.  During our many, many discussions I presented what I thought was the best way to hold people accountable for meeting their quotas.  My system would automatically increase goals after a lower performing week or decrease goals after a higher performing week.  The goals were in constant flux so that each team member could directly see how their performance impacted the goals for the year.  This system would also give the team members an opportunity to celebrate their success when they exceeded their goals by showing them how the weekly goals for the remainder of the year would decrease as a result of their efforts.  On the opposite side of that coin, if the team members did not have a stellar week, the weekly goals for the remainder of the year would increase accordingly so that they would know what they would need to do to stay on track to reach their annual goal.

My system was immediately rejected and I was told that people wouldn’t work as hard because their mentality would become, “I exceeded my goal by five last week, so I don’t have to work as hard this week.”  I found this assessment to be utterly insulting.  If that were the case, it would stand to reason that team members would not bring in additional numbers once they achieved their goal for the week.  As proof to the contrary: Last week I produced the highest numbers in one week that I have ever produced.  I produced the highest numbers for one period in two weeks than I have ever produced (and I still have two weeks left in the period).  I have exceeded my annual goal (there are still three and a half months left in our fiscal year). And I will likely hit my stretch goal for the year.  Most managers reading this would immediately say that either my goals were too low to begin with, or that I outgrew my goals and it is time to increase them.  However, the truth of the matter is that I worked at a different location for a month and learned some new tricks of the trade, collaborated with people who do my specific job, and was completely reinvigorated by a change in my routine.  My managers don’t want to know that though.  And just like that, I feel Sapped instead of Zapped!

Number 3:

I used to be of the mindset that “doing was learning”.  Of course, I believe in training, mentoring and follow up but I also believed that the best way to learn a job was to do a job.  After reading Zapp!  I learned the problem with this method of teaching.  When you are training someone how to do a job by having them do the job, your next step is to correct everything they did wrong, which is likely to be a lot of errors since they are just learning the job.  So, right off the bat, you have inadvertently made them feel like they don’t know what they’re doing… even though they don’t… because you haven’t taught them anything yet.

Byham suggests the following steps to effective train and coach someone:

  1. Explain purpose and importance of what you are trying to teach.
  2. Explain the process to be used.
  3. Show how it’s done.
  4. Observe while the person practices the process.
  5. Provide immediate and specific feedback (coach again or reinforce success).
  6. Express confidence in the person’s ability to be successful.
  7. Agree on follow-up action.

(Byham & Cox, 1988)

I think a lot of people overlook the importance of the first step.  In fact, I think overlooking the first step is why I always struggled so much with math in school.  But why??!!  Why must I use Pythagorean’s theorem?  The constant response to any of my questions was always, “because that’s just what you do”.  Never once did I have a teacher who could/would explain it any better than that.  When training someone in a new role or function, it is important for them to understand why they are doing what they are doing and how it impacts the greater picture.  Many managers make the mistake of thinking that if the following task is not in a person’s job description they don’t need to know about it.  In truth, when people understand what the next step is in the process, even if they are not the ones who will complete that step, it creates a great sense of ownership over their specific task.

The other major mistake that I see a lot of managers make is that they do not provide follow up.  If they do provide follow up, it is in the form of an annual review, which is neither immediate nor entirely accurate.  If managers made follow up a priority, they would make time to follow up and they would find that they actually had MORE time to complete on other tasks because they would spend LESS time correcting mistakes.

Who should read this book?

  • Anyone who wants something quick to read on a plane ride from Detroit to Chicago (or on another trip of similar distance).
  • Anyone who wants to quickly brush up on their management, training, and team developing skills.

Who should not read this book?

  • Dictators, they don’t have much need for teamwork.
  • Managers who already know the best ways to manage people and therefore have nothing else they could possible ever learn about management and leadership. (Said in a sarcastic tone.)

Four books down, 90 to go!

Byham, W. C., & Cox, J. (1988). Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment. New York : Ballantine Books.

Book 2 of 94: Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

This is a book that has sat unread on the family bookshelf for the last 20 years or so.  I remember seeing it while I was growing up, but I never really took an interest in it.  Now seemed like an appropriate time to read it though.

Summary:  The Moomins are Finnish mythical creatures and this book is the first in the Moomintroll series.  Moomintroll, the lead character, goes on a series of adventures with his family and friends.  They find a magical hat which belongs to the Hobgoblin and causes all sorts of trouble.  They travel to an island and weather a storm and wake the next day to find many treasures along the beach.  This book shares tales of family, the bonds of friendship, and doing the right thing.  It is sweet and endearing and a fun read.

My Three Main Takeaways from Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

Number 1:

“And don’t come home until you’re better tempered.” (Jansson, 1958)

This quote is from Moominmamma.  The Moomin family is in the middle of a hot summer and Momminmamma is at her wits end with the children who are all bored and hot and underfoot.  So, Moominmamma suggests that they all go sleep in a cave for three days where it will be cooler and where they can go on their own little adventures and give her some room to breathe.   I found this sentiment to be entertaining because every adult who has been around small children during a hot summer has had a similar thought to this.  However, I wager that it would be socially unacceptable if we were to tell children now that they should go sleep in a cave for a few days.  Or would it be?  Huh, if someone could answer this for me by June that would be greatly appreciated.

Number 2:

“We will go home,” said the Hemulen.  “Strange adventures, and getting wet, and carrying on alone and that sort of thing are all very well, but they’re not comfortable in the long run.”  (Jansson, 1958)

I like that this thought is universal.  I love going on vacation and getting away from my day to day responsibilities, but there always comes a moment when I just want to go home.  I want the comfort of my own bed, I want to take a shower in my own shower, and I even want to go back to work.  However, I am still counting down the days until I can lay on a beach for an entire week this summer!

Number 3:

As I mentioned earlier, this book has been in my house for at least 20 years, and it has existed in the world even longer than that.  The copyright is from 1958!  My imagination is a bit rusty, so I looked up some of the characters online to see if I could get a better description of them.  I was astonished, ASTONISHED, with what I found.  While I have casually ignored the Moomins for the majority of my life, Finland has been celebrating them for the last 70 years.  There is a Fan Club.  There is an entire collection of books.  There are mugs, plates, umbrellas, and even Moomin sneakers for sale.  There is a Moomin café.  There is a theme park.  There is a ballet.  A ballet!!!  Amazing!  Check out this link to see what I am talking about.  Who knows, maybe you need a Snorkmaiden mobile phone bag and you didn’t even know it.

Who should read this book?

  • Children with a 4th -6th grade reading level who have an active imagination and love the world of make-believe.
  • Parents who want a good chapter book to read to their kids and don’t mind explaining some of the things that their kids won’t understand.
  • Apparently anyone who is Finnish. Seriously, I feel like you might lose your Finnish citizenship if you haven’t read the Moomin series.

Who should not read this book?

  • People who don’t like magic.
  • Parents who just want their kids to go to sleep and don’t want to explain to them why the Groke is so sad.
  • Kids who don’t know how to read yet. They will probably just rip out the pages and ruin the book for everyone else.

If you are interested in this book please let me know, as I am happy to send it along to its next home.

Two books down, 92 to go!

Jansson, T. (1958). Finn Family Moomintroll. Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc.

Book 1 of 94: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

In the interest of full disclosure, I finished this book a week or so ago.  However, just as Cleveland was starting to see signs of a coming Spring (i.e. hope), we were knocked down by a vicious stomach bug, the details of which I will spare you.  By the time the bug reached me, I was in the midst of hosting six family members visiting from Michigan.  At times it felt like I was experiencing gentrification first hand as my house was quickly rearranged to make it “kid friendly”.  This basically means that all of my breakable treasures were placed on high surfaces and gates were erected that forced me to reconsider yoga each time I attempted to summit one.  So once my family departed and my stomach stopped raging war on me, I decided that it was time to sit down and review my first book.

In short, I loved this book!  In short, I love Amy Poehler!  I figure that I should probably elaborate just a tad though if I intend to recommend this book to any of you.  I also figure that I should have some sort of format if I am going to review a total of 94 books.  I have decided to have a list of “takeaways”.  As I mentioned in my first post on this topic, I tend to highlight or take notes on every book I read.  Sometimes I will highlight a phrase that I think is wonderfully written, a sentiment that resonates with me, or a new bit of information that I intend to research further.    After reading each book I will attempt to narrow all of these things down into the THREE main takeaways which I will then present to you along with a brief summary of the book itself.   Here we go!

Summary:

This book isn’t so much a linear autobiography as it is a collection of reflective essays on Poehler’s life (think David Sedaris style).  In Yes Please, Poehler describes her rise to fame, which was hard fought and well earned.  She tells stories of her adventures and tales of her friends.  In fact, I truly enjoyed the times she spoke of her friends (the famous ones that I am familiar with like Seth Meyers, Nick Offerman, and Tina Fey) because she describes them exactly as I hoped they would all be in “real life”.

Poehler reminds us that very few people, if any, are “discovered” and that people achieve success because they work for it every single day and they refuse to give up on their dreams.  She reminds us that famous people still experience the same heartaches and tribulations that those of us who are only famous in our own dreams experience.  She is someone with whom I would like to be friends because I think she is intelligent, funny, and empowering.  Amy Poehler is MY definition of a feminist, someone who believes in and supports the power and strength that women have to create their own happy endings and not the traditional definition of a feminist who supports women’s rights to have a happy ending that is merely equal to the happy ending of a man.

My Three Main Takeaways from Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Number 1:

I didn’t really know who I was, but improv had taught me that I could be anyone.  I didn’t have to wait to be cast – I could give myself the part. (Poehler, 2014)

As people, but especially women, we tend to wait for permission to do things.  We know which roles we play and we act accordingly.  However, if there is ever something that we want in life that exceeds our roles, we tend to wait for someone to give us the permission to pursue those things.  I do this… a lot.  I’m okay with being “good”, but it’s like I’m waiting around for someone to tell me that it is okay to be great.  Amy swopped in like a sparkling little fairy godmother and granted me the permission (that I didn’t need but I still sought) to cast myself in any role that I want.  We all need people in our lives who remind us that while God is still the Producer, by granting us free will, He gave us the role of Director in our own lives.  This is the encouragement I needed to start writing my own script.

Number 2:

I learned that I was getting way too good at a job that was not my life’s passion. (Poehler, 2014)

I have been blessed to work for a great company for the last ten years.  I have learned a tremendous amount, both personally and professionally, and I have grown in ways that I never could have imagined when I first took the job all those years ago.  But the truth is, while I enjoy my job and I am exceptionally good at it, it is not my life’s passion.  In fact, last year I caught the eye and the praise of one of our regional managers and he encouraged me to increase my role within the company.  At the time, I was so flattered by what he saw in me that I believed that moving up in my company was what I actually wanted.  Through a series of events I did not receive a promotion, and while I was devastated at the time, I know now that the Producer stepped in and canceled that production for my own good.

This isn’t all to say that I am going to up and quit tomorrow, far from it.  I have a vested interest in staying where I am for the time being; however, I am spending more time contemplating what I am passionate about.  I have taken steps to align myself with the things that matter to me and I am slowly working those things into my life on a daily basis.  I’m realizing that I can have both, financial stability and rewarding work.  For the time being those things may not come from the same place, but I’m convinced that I will find a way to have financial stability while pursuing my life’s passion when the time is right.

Number 3:

My ideal night out is a dinner party in my backyard with a group of like-minded friends whom I boss around in a gentle and loving way. (Poehler, 2014)

A huge part of being an adult is not just recognizing and accepting who you are, it is also about owning it.  I am bossy.  I like to be social, but on my terms.  I’m not interested in going to clubs or trendy bars; I don’t care for all that noise and, frankly, I don’t really like being that close to strangers.  Any conversation is going to lack some depth when one must yell to be heard.   Instead, I have found that I’ve settled in nicely to enjoying the company of a handful of people at a time.  I force my adult friends into “arts and crafts” hour when I invite them over for a Valentine’s Day party.  They might moan for a moment or two, but eventually they relent and end up having a good time.  This is who I am, and I like who I am.

Who should read this book?

  • People with a sense of humor who enjoy playful sarcasm.
  • People who want to feel empowered about chasing their dreams.
  • People who are friendly and believe that the world could use a touch of friendliness.

Who should not read this book?

  • People who don’t know how to take a joke.
  • People who think that they shouldn’t have to work to make their dreams come true.
  • People who cut in line.

One book down, 93 to go!

Poehler, A. (2014). Yes Please. New York: HarperCollins.