Tag Archives: Thrity Umrigar

The Power of Reading Books: Life, Spirit and Knowledge Enhancement

Originally published Meetings Focus.

The Power of Reading Books: Life, Spirit and Knowledge Enhancement

In the Grant Snider illustration, “the beloved book,” we are shown the life cycle of a treasured book, perhaps like one of your own—from its yellowed dust jacket, to the inscription by a loved aunt; scribbles in the margins, frayed pages and cracked spine; the old book smell and perhaps a missing page but you still know it by heart and pass it along to another generation.

I prefer print books—the touch and feel, the sense of holding words in my hands. The ability to pass along a beloved book to someone else to love and share then with others.

It continues the cycle of learning and reading.

And I realize that not everyone can read, either at all or in print.

While thinking through this blog’s contents, I wished I could remember, or had a family member to ask, how and when I learned to read.

It must have been a miraculous occurrence. I think it might have been akin to what Beth Cooper-Zobott describes in her responses to my questions to colleagues.

Reading has helped me grow in empathy for others and provided new concepts for use in my work. I remember the joy experienced as I walked to my Dayton, Ohio, library, where I picked up stacks of books to bring home and devour in my attic bedroom.

(Joan’s Note: If you’re interested, “my” library, now empty except for the memories of so many, is for sale. I’ve tried to think how I could buy and renovate it to live in that beautiful building).

I don’t remember the first book I held. I have always written in my books. My friend, Layne, said she never can or would write in a book—that it would be desecrating them.

My margin notes are reminders of what I’m learning or sometimes a thought to pass on. It feels like love to me of the words written and the ideas shared by the authors.

One of My Favorite Books

A favorite quite-worn book in a purple silk cover, The Heart of New Thought, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, belonged to my maternal grandmother. It was signed in the front with her maiden name and the year 1907, shortly before she married. My grandmother, Jewish by birth and practice, clearly saw something in this book that touched her.

A cousin of my mother acquired it; her daughter gave it to me.

For her 30th birthday, I gifted it to my oldest niece who I hope will pass it on to her sons, both younger than 10 and readers.

There are lots of reasons to read, and especially, to read books in print.

Many others have written the whys—a simple search of “why read books” will take you to articles like “12 Reasons You Should Read (at Least) 12 Books This Year” and “10 Benefits of Reading: Why You Should Read Every Dayand many more justifications.

In questions answered by colleagues and authors, they too make the case for reading.

For me, books provide an escape, a way to learn. They provide a look into lives, current and past, real and created, unlike my own, and through reading I increase my empathy for others. The U.S. could do much better at teaching literacy.

As of 2018, roughly 32 million Americans couldn’t read, according to the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy. The Pew Research Center reports on who is reading books and who isn’t. The numbers surprised and saddened me.

Our industry could do a better job of providing suggested reading for each session presented at an industry conference. Imagine the impact of pre-session reading or a list of books, fiction and non- that link to the subject matter for reading later.

Meetings Today has a limited number of suggested books in its bookstore.

What I’m Reading Now, What I Just Read, and Why

Both for personal interest and to prepare for a session on inclusion, I’m reading:

The knowledge gained will add to understanding and to what I hope others can learn about inclusion for the session I’ll facilitate at the Sunshine Education Summit (SES) presented by MPI chapters in August 2019 in Orlando (Additional incentive to attend the session: I’ll give away books, as I often do when presenting to further one’s learning).

The Shape of IDEAS: An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity by Grant Snider (creator of Incidental Comics) is pure delight!

If you are stuck on a problem, pick up this book and open to any page for inspiration—just as I began this blog post with one illustration by the author.

Author Priya Parker’s The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters should be as high on your list to read as Dr. Paul O. Radde’s Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating and Why It Matters. Both books can be a little weighty because they are research-based.

Both are superb to help create better meetings and gatherings of all sorts. In fact, if you want to give a gift to a supplier friend, these two should be among those considered.

Guy Kawasaki’s Wise Guy is his latest book of ideas and life-lessons.

I swear that my receiving a signed copy of the book was illustration of his concepts in Selling the Dream which is all about how to promote your products and companies! The difference? I’d read all of Guy’s other books and would have happily purchased this.

In fact, after I’d read it—and marked it up!—I sent copies to others I thought could benefit from and enjoy Guy’s life, wisdom, and willingness to keep trying new things.

(Joan’s Note: Read more about my connection to Guy and why you too should reach out to the authors you like in my related Q&A where I did just that).

Books I Read and Will Read Over and Over

No doubt you’ve heard me say or read how well I think of Daniel H. Pink and especially of one of his early books, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.

In that book, I learned how to better use off-site venues, especially museums, for more than social events (If you’re a podcast listener, try the Pinkcast for more of Dan Pink’s thinking).

Some years ago, I conducted book club-like sessions at various meetings using the book and chapter exercises to help others move their thinking forward.

With Dan Pink’s A Whole New Mind, StrengthsFinder and the inventory that goes with it made a lasting impression, so much so that I revisited it in this March 2016 blog post.

Today, still, both enter my thinking when working with groups and engaging others in the meeting planning process and the outcome of meetings.

A memoir, three works of relatively recent fiction and one children’s book have stayed with me for many reasons, the greatest of which for me has been honing my empathy for those in other circumstances. We do not choose the circumstances into which we are born.

These four books, among many I’ve read, have become roadmaps, with Blind Spot noted above, for rethinking how I see others and what I believe can be done to support others in their endeavors. For anyone in the meetings and hospitality industries, empathy is a key to listening and moving relationships and conversations forward.

It is “The ‘soft skill’ that engages the whole brain.

More Recommended Reads

Memoir: My dear aunt Ann sent Educated by Tara Westover, to me. I’ve found that each person who has read this book had a different experience—based, as was mine, I’m sure, on our sense of place and family and circumstances into which we are born.

Ms. Westover’s experiences show the ability to go beyond where we begin.

More, she shows the critical importance of mentors, formal and informal, and the influence of those in our lives who chose to help us overcome obstacles.

Fiction: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad: A Novel was riveting. I could feel the tension of those traveling and the sense that the underground railroad was in fact a real railroad. Whitehead’s writing allows us to step back in history and realize the sacrifices so many made.

The writing of Thrity Umrigar, interviewed here, was recommended to me by friend, and fellow reader, Donna Brandwein. I’ve now read almost all of Ms. Umrigar’s books.

Two books in particular—The Space Between Us and The Secrets Between Us—impacted me in ways that I find difficult to put into words. Set in India, they could easily be in any place showing how class can separate us as much as education and income can.

It in fact, can define us and define the circumstances in which we live and never leave.

Funny, as I write this blog, tears spring back to me about the lives of the characters and their striving. Beautiful writing that delves deeply into relationships among and between those of different classes and circumstances and shows what we can do to help lift each other.

Children’s book: Malia the Merfairy and the Lucky Rainbow Cake by Jamie A. Triplin creates a world for children and adults where anything is possible. Like Jeff Hurt, I love to read children’s books. Malia made me smile for so many reasons.

 

Morgan McIntyre Posing Proudly Holding a Copy of Malia the Merfairy and the Lucky Rainbow Cake by Jamie A. Triplin [Joan’s Note: I gifted this book to my young friend, Morgan McIntyre (pictured here), who also very much enjoyed it! There’s no better gift than a good book.]

 

It is delightfully illustrated and teaches lessons about racism that are often missed by all of us. Seeing in a story a princess who looks like, well, not the usual blond, blue-eyed ones too many of us are used to seeing, is like going into a hotel and finding that many different people work behind the front desk, in management as well as in the heart-of-the-house.

It helps us learn what it it’s like to be different in a world where so many look the same.

As the industry again focuses on inclusion, this book is a good way for you to learn what the children in your life already know.

The Power of Good Books (and Authors)

I have lots of favorite authors other than those cited here. Among them:

  • Harlan Coben because trying to figure out crimes is like trying to solve the puzzles of putting a meeting together;
  • Anne Lamott and her most recent Almost Everything for its hope and humor with chutzpah;
  • Keith Knight, gentleman cartoonist, whose books are as engaging as his cartoons and talks about police brutality and racism and his marvelous illustrations that use topical issues and illustrations to highlight contemporary issues with which we deal.

I’ve often said that if I were to retire, I’d like to “just” read—the stacks of books that surround me, the ones at the library and the ones still to be written.

Except that’s not entirely true: I want to read and find applications for what I read. Sharing these ideas with you is another way of broadening ideas and reading.

You probably saw one or more of the lists of “summer reading” or “beach reading,” perhaps putting some books aside (or on your electronic device) to be read if you are taking a vacation or going to the beach or for a long flight for work or just as a break.

Good books and the authors who write them transport us to new dimensions in such a way that you might even feel you’re at the beach even if you aren’t!

What Are You Reading?

What are you reading and why? It’s not a book club; it is a way for colleagues to share what we love to read and the impact it has on us. Read on!

3 Professional Development Obstacles (And Ways to Work Around Them)

Originally published Meetings Today Blog

In June 2018, I had the privilege of going to Duke University to speak at the Duke Special Events Planner Council’s Education Day. Those in attendance included people who plan meetings and events across the Duke system—for the medical and law schools, museums, hospitals and more.

Accompanying all of the planners in attendance at the event were local vendors who were showing their wares as well as learning with the planners. I so appreciated their participation in the education!

I had been asked to present a program on professional development. I began with this wonderful quote from the late author, Doris Lessing: “That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way.”

As they arrived that morning each person was given a box of crayons. To set up the day, I had asked that Sunni Brown’s TED Talk on doodling and learning be viewed ahead of time. My initial gift was that of permission to doodle and thus retain more of what was learned.

As I began, after lunch, I asked those in attendance to reflect on what they had learned so far and what they hoped to get out of the afternoon. It was gratifying to hear that both the Sunni Brown video and the programs that morning had made an impression. And, as I do, especially for after lunch programs, I brought Peppermint Smencils™ to wake up brains and spinners on which it is printed “more than brain surgery.”

The messages were to ensure that a) you need to continue to stimulate your brain and b) what we do is more than brain surgery!

What I talked about there stimulated the thinking for this blog. There are so many professional development needs and so many obstacles that we face:

  1. Time – There’s never enough time to keep up on “real” work and continuing education. Although professional development should be considered a regular part of each day by one’s employer, we know that’s not the case, especially when there are deadlines.
  2. Resources – Even though we have access to the world via the internet, there are competing priorities and the time it may take to find those resources can be a hardship. In many cases, budgets (personal and academic or company/employer) may not support professional development. Attending conferences is expensive*.
  3. “Circuit” Overload – Although we may make time and have resources, we all have other obligations; all of us are overloaded. Keeping up, let alone getting ahead, is not easy.

*[The Duke Planners are fortunate to have colleagues who care enough to continue to find and present ways for them to meet and learn].

And still I think that we can do better. I suggested then these action steps to help overcome the professional development obstacles and offer them to all reading this:

  • Make time to learn.
  • Ask more questions, request resources.
  • Lurk or participate in online groups and activities.
  • Take an improv class to open yourself up to new avenues of thinking!
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Pat yourself and each other on the back.

Among the resources I provided were two great local-to-Duke ones: Daniel Mayer at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, N.C.—a place of wonderful programs and art to stimulate brains a la Dan Pink’s “A Whole New Mind” (see resources on the accompanying portion of the newsletter), and inviting Gentleman Cartoonist Keith Knight of the Keef Chronicles and (th)ink™, located near Duke, as a guest speaker to talk about the intersection of art, policy and social justice. In each of our communities—and accessible online—are so many resources we forget can help us think differently.

(Both Dan, a long-time friend, and Keith, a friend of newer acquaintance, and I had dinner together while I was in Durham. Stimulating conversation and superb food and ambience and service at Gocciolina where we each paid our own checks. The conversation was stimulating and far-ranging. It in itself was education!).

So why this blog and the not usual interview sidebar to the blog? It’s summer.

It’s a time when many say they are going to read more. Magazines and books suggest “summer” or “beach” reading. Not all of us get that opportunity.

So I offer some reading and viewing suggestions to help you think, make you laugh and to help you achieve professional development, despite the obstacles.

I welcome your input below or on the reading suggestions page, or if you’d prefer to email me directly for my eyes only or for me to post anonymously, do so to FridayWithJoan@aol.com.

Good reading and thinking!