Posts tagged connection
REVIEW: How To Own The Room by Viv Groskop

How To Own The Room: Women and the Art of Brilliant Speaking

Viv Groskop

There are hundreds of books out there on Public Speaking (trust us, we’ve read nearly all of them), but Viv Groskop has written one specifically aimed at women. I have a real interest in helping empower women to use their voices and to be heard in all areas of their life which is why this one appealed to me in particular. Groskop also comes from a performance back ground (stand-up comedy) so that was another draw. Keep reading to find out what I made of her approach…

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ONE LINE PITCH ~

A guide full of inspiring examples and practical exercises for women who want to feel more confident and at ease when presenting, or in those moments when they are made to feel small.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTHS: 

This book is super accessible. Groskop writes with humour and draws from her wide-ranging experience as a speaker and a coach to give some useful insights into the pressures on women when speaking and how these may differ from those that men feel (#notallmen etc etc etc).

Viv’s suggests practical exercises throughout the book. These cover adjusting thought process, breathing and grounding, speech prep and challenging yourself. She also rounds the book up with an appendix of Dos and Don’ts for ‘owning the room’. Her approach is actually very similar to ours here at COR - a focus on the anxiety and the negative thought processes that can get in the way when we are trying to communicate. She shares our ethos of practice, practice, practice and discusses familiar theories such as Power Posing. A lot of what she is says in so inline with our workshops that I questioned whether or not to review the book...

WEAKNESSES: 

Groskop uses inspirational female speakers such as Michelle Obama and Oprah to illustrate her points throughout the book and whilst I think it’s important to have aspirations of speaking like the greats, for someone who is incredibly nervous of speaking publicly then consistently being given examples of incredibly successful women could have the opposite effect than that desired. Even though Groskop acknowledges this, I can’t quite relate JK Rowling giving a commencement speech at a university to my every day experiences in meetings, interviews or presentations. This means that the anecdotal nature of the book left me a bit frustrated. That’s all well and good for Michelle and JK but what about me?!

Also, whilst the guidelines for practical exercises are useful, I question how easily they are implemented for someone who is overcome with anxiety around speaking. They ask you to be very self aware and self reflective which can be difficult when working in isolation from a book. Sometimes we need feedback and conversation to help us identify bad habits or moments of negative thinking. I’m also the type of person who gives up on exercises in books pretty quickly, especially if I find them hard. My tip - sign up for a public speaking course…(I can recommend a really good one!)

OPPORTUNITY: 

First, this book provides you with an opportunity to start thinking about what is holding you back as a speaker. By actively acknowledging what’s not working, you can begin to find approaches that can work.

Secondly, Groskop references lots of brilliant Ted Talks and books and I think that this is one of the main opportunities this book provides - an opportunity to study other speakers, to see what works for you and what doesn’t, to discover what kind of speaker you would like to be. Groskop’s focus on authenticity is right up my street, and whilst the previously mentioned focus on other celebrated speaker’s could move you away from this, she does give advice on trying to communicate as you. Are you formal? High status? Funny? Passionate? Introverted? Extroverted? There is room for every type of speaker out there and Groskop’s discussion of speakers like Susan Cain (author of Quiet) gives permission to those of us who aren’t flashy, gag a minute presenters. How To Own The Room gives an opportunity to be curious, which is no bad thing in my humble opinion.

TIPS: 

My favourite tip from the book is to ultimately have realistic expectations of yourself! By acknowledging the reality of our speaking opportunity it may be easier to control our anxieties and also to ensure that we remain authentic to ourselves and our message, rather than feeling like we need to transform into Gloria Steinam (or someone equally as inspiring).

As Groskop says ‘…be honest and realistic about the impact and reach of what you’re doing. If you’re talking to twenty people at a work presentation, don’t treat it as if you’ve been asked to give the Gettysburg Address’

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“You can’t get around fear. You can only go through it. And the way to go through it is to speak in public and get more used to it.’

p. 19

“We all need to figure out our own idea of presence.”  

p. 67

KEY LESSONS ~

Everyone gets nervous. Everyone can make steps towards overcoming their anxieties around public speaking. Everyone has to work hard to improve their skills as a communicator and presenter…even Michelle Obama.

I think that the accessibility of this book makes it a good one for any woman who is dipping their toe into self- improvement and who wants to begin to build confidence in public speaking. It is a useful guide and can provide some funny insights into a much written about topic. Ultimately though, I think a well chosen workshop can give you all that this book does and so much more…

Lots of love, A x

REVIEW: BORN FOR THIS, BY CHRIS GUILLEBEAU

Born For This: How to Find the Work that You Were Meant to Do

Chris Guillebeau

There is one book that I can pinpoint as instrumental in giving me the confidence to quit my job 2 years ago. It is the book that I lend or recommend on a regular basis. I have multiple copies, keeping them in reserve to gift to friends who are in the throes of a career change and in need of a little courage. And I’ve reread it four times. Born For This by Chris Guillebeau absolutely changed my mindset, which in turn enabled me to change my life.

ONE LINE PITCH ~

A practical guide to self-styling your own career, be it striking out on your own and turning a passion project into a profitable business or by hacking a humdrum job into a role that you love.  

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTHS: 

Where do I start? I’m looking through my battered old copy and practically every page is dog-eared. But I think perhaps the most impressive element of the book is that it’s action-orientated, and provides you with ideas that you can immediately implement.

There are a number of quizzes to guide your thinking beyond the parameters that you might find yourself currently confined to, considering elements such as: what are the working conditions you need to be happy? And what’s your optimum combination of joy, money, and flow? (Flow is the condition of getting lost in a task, of losing track of time, because you’re doing something that comes naturally. Something we often forget about). Chris advises you to create a future CV, asking yourself what skills, experiences, and job titles would you want to see on there? And what would the first step be to getting there? Or, do you have an interview for your dream role? Chris equips you with clever questions to ask your interviewer.  If you’re ready to take the leap to do something different, but have no clue where to start, then there’s a brilliant quiz on the accompanying site.

It’s not only Chris’ experiences outlined in the book; he uses countless case studies to reinforce his ideas and ethos. For example, the story of the personal trainer who wanted to add yoga to his repertoire. Lacking the time to do a 200-hour course, instead he watched every yoga DVD he could get his hands on over the course of a week. He then threw himself into teaching. Years later, he has won awards and now trains other aspiring teachers himself.

WEAKNESSES: 

Zero. I’m a total fan girl.

OPPORTUNITY: 

Chris is big advocate of the side-hustle: a micro-business, he says, can help you to make more money, and offers a creative outlet to explore other interests, alongside your day job. You also never know what might become of your side-hustle. COR, of course, began as a fun project; never did we imagine that Helena would leave her job to manage the partnership full time! So, what would your side-hustle be? Would you sell something or provide a service or consultancy of some sort? Chris even provides a 19-day timeline to launching your micro business, so if there’s an idea you’ve been sitting on, why not follow this framework and give it a shot? For inspiration, buy his latest book Side Hustle School or listen to his podcast of the same name.

Or perhaps you’re ready to go full time self-employed? If that’s the case, Chris says that there’s four areas to consider. Firstly, improve your skills, both soft skills and the more technical. Upskill yourself regularly. Why not set aside £50 and challenge yourself to do several courses on a training platform such as Udemy? Secondly, strengthen connections. Network and meet people wherever you can; mention what you do, your side hustle, your ambitions, and you never know what serendipitous connections might arise. Also, don’t be nervous to approach people. Everyone I’ve ever asked to meet me for career advice and a coffee has said yes. Even Chris Guillebeau himself! Finally, experiment by trying new things and exposing yourself to new ideas, and say yes to opportunities that come your way.

And why stop there when you can have lots of different careers at the same time? Workshifting is where “you navigate multiple projects and interests by focusing fully on something for a while, and shifting to focus fully on something else”. This might be time-based, spending a day on one project, the next on another; or changing project hour by hour. Alternatively, Chris references the story of an owner of a landscaping business in Canada. In spring, summer and autumn he had plenty of business, but come winter his work slowed to a halt. Fortunately, he had a side hustle: he spent the summer months writing screenplays!

TIPS: 

Before you begin re-creating your career, make a list of all the things that you do well. These could be the skills you acquired throughout your education, things you’ve picked up from a parent or role model, capabilities you’ve mastered throughout the course of your career to date, or even skills you’ve obtained on your own by reading or taking classes. Following on from this, write down a couple of things that you’re not good at or hate doing. Address the areas you might need to seek help in. For example, I’m not confident with numbers so I’m happy to take the hit financially to have an accountant; this also saves me a great deal of time and worry.

Identify the hazards of going at it alone. List everything that could go wrong and in many cases you’ll realise that your worries aren’t life-threatening and are in fact irrational.

If you want to get out of your current job situation, have a D-day. Put pressure on yourself to follow through by marking the day you plan to hand in your notice in your diary.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“Sometimes the job you want doesn’t exist - and usually when that happens it’s because you don’t actually want a job, you want full control of your income and career. Many people who work for themselves believe this is actually the safest and most secure career path.” 

Chapter 8, Build a Small Empire

“Somewhere along the way, you were given some terrible advice: you have to choose a niche. You can safely place this advice in the paper shredder underneath your desk. There may come a time in your career when you need (and want) to focus on one thing, but until it arrives, you can craft the work you were meant to do around all your passions and interests.”  

Chapter 12, How to Do Everything You Want

KEY LESSONS ~

I guess, above all, Born For This teaches you that there isn’t only one way to work. Chris gives you an entire menu of options. At the end of the day, it’s our assumptions and fears that keep us locked in a career that ultimately makes us unhappy.

My life has changed dramatically since working for myself and on my own terms: being able to take time off when I need to has meant my anxiety levels have dropped and my productivity has shot up. I never work on Mondays - it's my day of self-care and I tend to spend the day at the climbing wall. I work the times that I know I work best (I’m a 5am freak!), and use the afternoons for meetings or reading. I work from cafes around where I live, working on one project here and another there, using the different spaces to influence my focus. It's also allowed me to build relationships with local members of the community resulting in many partnerships and new business.

COR wouldn’t be around if we hadn’t had the courage to just go for it and do something we love on the side. And I’m so glad we did. For me, being able to shift between the two jobs has contributed greatly to my work happiness and flow as each brings its own rewards and lessons. I refuse to choose one career. I'm the busiest I've ever been but every minute feels like my own.

So welcome to the world of self-employment, Helena. I, for one, categorically believe you were born to do this.

Lots of love, N x

REVIEW: MAKE YOUR BED, BY WILLIAM H MCRAVEN

Make Your Bed:  Little things that can change your life...and maybe the world

William H McRaven

ONE LINE PITCH ~

Former US Navy SEAL, William H McRaven, shares some simple, yet powerful, life lessons that saw him through the toughest moments of his life and career, and demonstrates how these can help us to find strength and courage to overcome the obstacles that life throws in our way!

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

This is a handy little book which will become my go to when I’m in need of courage and inspiration to pursue my goals, and a healthy reminder not to let that all-too-familiar creeping sense of self-doubt get the better of me!  

McRaven gives us an insight into the brutal and relentless conditions of SEAL training, but also draws comparisons with the hardships and misfortunes experienced by ordinary people, and how they have found the courage and determination to keep going against all the odds.  Whilst not many of us will know what it feels like to endure days and months of combat, most of us have experienced grief, loss, disappointment, failure and misfortune.  

My biggest take-aways from this book are recognising how self-limiting the fear of failure can be; that you can’t go it alone all of the time (control freaks, beware!); and how adjusting our mindset can enable us to make positive changes in our lives, however small.

WEAKNESS: 

The principles set out in this book are not particularly ground-breaking; instead they are tropes that many of us will already be familiar with. However, they are a healthy reminder to keep ourselves in check, maintain focus, not let self-limiting beliefs hold us back, and find joy in hard times.  However, this book does not profess to be a comprehensive ‘how to’; it is more guidance and inspiration from someone who has ‘been through the wars’ – quite literally. When you think of the original audience – a graduating class about to enter ‘the real world’, it feels about right. It occasionally veers a bit too heavily into what feels like “tough love”, but what else might you expect from a former navy SEAL?!

OPPORTUNITY: 

Read this if you are preparing for some big life changes (e.g. reversing or changing your career), or where you’ve had a run of disappointments or bad luck, and are in need of some practical advice and inspiration from others who’s strength and resilience has been tested, but who have found the motivation to keep on striving, or to continue to find joy in everyday life.

TIPS: 

This got me thinking about the power of the growth mindset, a theory developed by psychologist Carole Dweck, and is something we draw on in our workshops.  This explains how self-limiting beliefs can prevent us from pursuing what we really want to do, and how people with a growth mindset are much more likely to achieve their goals than those who believe their skills and abilities are ‘fixed’.  McRaven teaches us that it’s ‘the size of your heart that matters’, i.e. it doesn’t matter how tall, short, fit, or educated you are – you can learn anything, as long as you put your mind AND heart into it.

Also, we need to stop being embarrassed by failure – all humans make mistakes – and McRaven will tell you that what really determines our character is how we learn from failure and the will to persevere.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“They all understood that life is hard and that sometimes there is little you can do to affect the outcome of your day.  In battle, soldiers die, families grieve, your days are long and filled with anxious moments.  You search for something that can give you solace, that can motivate you to begin your day, that can be a sense of pride in an oftentimes ugly world.  But it is not just combat.  It is daily life that needs this same sense of structure.”

Chapter 1, 'Start your day with a task completed'   

“None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. ...It takes a good team of people to get you to your destination in life.  You cannot paddle the boat alone. ...Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

 Chapter 2, 'You can't go it alone'   

"It is easy to blame your lot in life on some outside force, to stop trying because you believe that fate is against you. ...Nothing could be further from the truth.  The common people and the great men and women are all defined by how they deal with life’s unfairness..”

Chapter 4, 'Life's not fair - drive on!'  

“I realized that past failures had strengthened me, taught me that no one is immune from mistakes.”

Chapter 5, 'Failure can make you stronger'

“Life is a struggle and the potential for failure is ever present, but those who live in fear of failure, or hardship, or embarrassment, will never achieve their potential.  Without pushing your limits, without occasionally sliding down the rope headfirst, without daring greatly, you will never know what is truly possible in your life.”

Chapter 6, 'You must dare greatly'

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

There should be no embarrassment about failure – we have something to learn from failure, and we can't always ‘smash it first time’, so if you really want something, keep striving for it!!

Life is not ‘fair’ and all of us will likely suffer misfortune at one point or other.  This books reminds us that we can’t always control what happens to us, but we can influence how we respond.

As small an act as making our bed each morning can influence how we feel about our day – so, think about routines that make you feel good (e.g. regular exercise, eating well), and stick to these as they may provide the structure you need in busy, stressful or uncertain times.

Lots of love, H x

REVIEW: OPTION B, BY SHERYL SANDBERG & ADAM GRANT

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy

Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant

ONE LINE PITCH ~

A personal account of grief, combined with insightful research that demonstrates the human capacity to find strength in the face of hardship, and the ability to rediscover joy.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

Helena: I really appreciate how Sheryl, whom we all know as a leading female business woman, lays herself bare and shares her deeply personal account of losing her husband. I was really interested by the research that illustrated the misconceptions of what it means to be resilient in our society today.

WEAKNESS: 

H: No criticism whatsoever!  Sheryl is so self-aware that she pre-empts potential challenges to her philosophy, recognising that she has the financial foundations to give her the resources she needs to cope. However, the book is filled with everyday strategies and examples of how we can support ourselves and others, in ways that don’t require wealth.

OPPORTUNITY: 

Naomi:  I am a huge fan of Sheryl and her work in relation to business and leadership, but Option B particularly moved me and taught me that personal pain can’t be compartmentalised. For me, currently dealing with a tough situation,  her account gave me hope.  In addition, this book also aids understanding how to help friends or co-workers who are going through difficult times.  

TIPS: 

N: A simple take-away that triggered me into action was the suggestion that we keep a journal as ‘writing can be a powerful tool for learning self-compassion’, and that labelling negative emotion can make the feelings more manageable.   An extension of this could be a daily gratitude list, or recognising what we’ve done well that day, however small.  Option B was the result of Sheryl journaling during her period of grief.  So, if it works for Sheryl, we should all give it a go!

STANDOUT QUOTES ~


“I thought resilience was the capacity to endure pain, so I asked Adam how I could figure out how much I had.  He explained that our amount of resilience isn’t fixed, so I should be asking instead how I could become resilient.  Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity - and we can build it.  It isn’t about having a backbone.  It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone”.  

~ Introduction

“Philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, said that life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.  Journaling helped me make sense of the past and rebuild my self-confidence to navigate the present and future”.

~ Chapter 4, Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence 

“Resilience is not just built in individuals. It is built among individuals - in our neighbourhoods, schools, towns, and governments.  When we build resilience together, we become stronger ourselves and form communities that can overcome obstacles and prevent adversity.  Collective resilience requires more than just shared hope - it is also fuelled by shared experiences, shared narratives, and shared power.” 

~ Chapter 8, Finding Strength Together

BUZZ WORDS ~

option b chart.png

KEY LESSONS ~

H:  What I learned was that I’ve been asking the wrong questions!  The thing that stood out to me the most in Sheryl’s account was that the most commonly asked question in times of crisis - “let me know if there’s anything I can do?” - is not always helpful, as it puts the onus on the person in need.  I have been supporting Naomi, my best friend and business partner, recently though hard times, and this insight really made me reflect on my approach - that it’s better to just do something, or anything, for the person, instead of waiting for them to tell you what they need (because they don’t always know!).  A lovely example of this was last week when we were having a COR meeting, Alice had to rush off early, but when we came to pay the bill, we were told it had already been settled - Thanks Alice!

N:  I don’t know where to start!  I guess the big thing for me was the giving myself the permission to feel whatever I need to feel.  I recently can’t help crying and I felt I must look like a mad person most of the time, but after reading this book, in which Sheryl talks about taking time out at work to cry and pulling the car over at the side of the road to have a weep,  I realised that it’s OK to drop the brave face and let it all out when you need to.  In fact, I did this at one of my favourite cafes that I often work from, and when I eventually reappeared, the owner, a dear friend, was there and rather than saying anything, she just bought me over a huge hunk of cake!

N&H: Another common response to hearing people’s tragedies is “I can’t imagine”.  Well, neither can the person that’s going through it.  What Option B tells us is that survival is the only option.  We all deal with grief in different ways, but ultimately, the pain does eventually lift, and there is an element of agency that we can apply in how that pain impacts us.  Because we have no choice but to keep going, we mustn't feel guilty when we do find moments of joy amidst the darkness, and when we finally find our way through.

N:  As with the last book review, I honed in on the ‘collective’ element, and there is a whole chapter in Option B dedicated to the idea of collective strength.  Inspired by this, I have found my own collective called ‘Kid’s Time Project’, a charity for children of parents with mental health problems.  I had the first meeting with the Board recently and rapidly realised that all of us in the room shared a common understanding. As an extension of the book,  Sheryl has created an online community ‘optionb.org’ for people to connect with others coping with challenges.  As Sheryl says, ‘by coming together and supporting one another, we can bounce forward and find joy again’.

Lots of love, H & N x

REVIEW: Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

Hello friends, Naomi here!

I’m unashamed to admit that I have an addiction to self-improvement books. I have an entire library of them, and I’ve passed the penchant on to Helena and Alice. We thought the blog would be the ideal forum to share the tips we’ve picked up in the hope that it might encourage you all to continue educating yourselves in the COR arena of courage, openness and resilience.  We’ve created our own SWOT analysis for the reviews - Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Tips - and we will signpost you to important chapters and quotes.

Practicing what I preach and making myself vulnerable for a moment, I’ve had an incredibly tough few months with family. I've been trying to sit with the pain, look at it head on, and take it day by day, giving myself permission to feel whatever I need to feel. Last week, I escaped for a few days of sunshine and quiet, and of course I took an inspirational read with me: Brené Brown’s newest book, Braving the Wilderness. It helped me enormously; I hope you enjoy my review.


Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone

Brené Brown

ONE LINE PITCH ~

An exploration of true belonging - through personal and collective courage and connection - in an era of fear and political division.

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: Brené has a trademark style in which she merges research with storytelling and openness. This enables a qualitative understanding of emotions, accessible through simple language and clear case studies

WEAKNESS: Another of Brené’s traits is her absolute Americanness - she talks about her love of bluegrass music, and her support of safe gun ownership -  so the narrative may not resonate so much with a UK audience. The writing at times slips into a rather cheesy rhetoric, but I simply see this as an expression of Brené’s passion for the subject!

OPPORTUNITY: This is one for all of you who are despairing at the state of the world and the political and ideological divisiveness that is unsettling communities. Scaling it down, it also applies to our personal sense of belonging and fears of loneliness and vulnerability.  It’s a comforting reminder of what really matters amidst personal, and global, crises.

TIPS: Brené identifies 7 elements of trust which she breaks down into the acronym, BRAVING: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault (referring to privacy), Integrity, Non-judgement, Generosity. Once you understand the elements, it can serve as a useful framework on many levels.

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

“If I had to identify one core variable that drives and magnifies our compulsion to sort ourselves into factions whilst at the same time cutting ourselves off from real connection with other people, my answer would be fear. Fear of vulnerability. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of the pain of disconnection. Fear of criticism and failure. Fear of conflict. Fear of not measuring up. Fear.”

~ Chapter 3, High Lonesome: A Spiritual Crisis

“Most of us were not taught how to recognize pain, name it, and be with it. Our families and culture believed that the vulnerability that it takes to acknowledge pain was weakness, so we were taught anger, rage and denial instead. But what we know now is that when we deny our emotion, it owns us. When we own our emotion, we can rebuild and find our way through the pain [...] Courage is forged in pain, but not in all pain. Pain that is denied or ignored becomes fear or hate. Anger that is never transformed becomes resentment and bitterness.”

~ Chapter 4, People Are Hard to Hate Close Up. Move In.


“The foundation of courage is vulnerability - the ability to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. It takes courage to open ourselves up to joy. [...] Pain is also a vulnerable emotion. It takes real courage to allow ourselves to feel pain. When we’re suffering, many of us are better at causing pain than feeling it. We spread hurt rather than let it inside.”

~ Chapter 7, Strong Back. Soft Front. Wild Heart.

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LEARNING ~

I received some heartbreaking news on Saturday.

I was meant to be hosting a party that evening to thank everyone that had supported me over the past few months. I thought about cancelling but realised that the alternative would be sitting on the sofa, weeping and wallowing. Instead, I surrounded myself with the people that care about me the most, and I told them exactly what had happened.

On what should have been a very bleak and anxious night, I was somehow able to laugh, chat and even have a dance. And when I crept upstairs for a cry, one by one each of my friends came up to join me, until the entire party was in my room, and I realised I wasn’t going to fall apart, because there were so many people there to hold me up.

It’s unsurprising, then, that Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers., stood out to me the most as Brené explains that true belonging comes from the belief in inextricable human connection. When we named the company, I hadn’t registered how important the term ‘collective’ was to our brand and company mission. Now I realise, it’s at the very core of everything we’re trying to achieve, (pun totally intended).

An experience of collective pain does not deliver us from grief or sadness; it is a ministry of presence. These moments remind us that we are not alone in our darkness and that our broken heart is connected to every heart that has known pain since the beginning of time
— Chapter 6, Hold Hands. With Strangers.

Lots of love, N x