Posts tagged resilience
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

THE MEANING OF THINGS: APPLYING PHILOSOPHY TO LIFE, BY A. C. GRAYLING

The Meaning of Things: Applying Philosophy to Life

A. C. Grayling

ONE LINE PITCH ~

Philosopher, academic, literary journalist and broadcaster A. C. Grayling, breaks down some of life's challenging topics, such as courage, sorrow, love, death, hope, betrayal and blame, into bite size chapters and offers some accessible philosophical ideas to help us think about life and what it means. 

SWOT ANALYSIS ~

STRENGTH: 

This is a small book that is full to the brim with big ideas. Grayling has collated 'sketch maps' on some of life's more challenging subjects and offers succinct, yet thought provoking discussions on each. They began their life as contributions in the Guardian newspaper's Saturday Review, which may give you a sense of their length and readability.

This book isn't designed to be read in one go, each essay is self contained and stand alone and this is one of my favourite things about it. It was easy to pick up, flick through, pausing on a topic that caught my eye on any given day. The essays are categorised into three parts; Grayling points you in the direction of 'Virtues and Attributes', 'Foes and Fallacies' or 'Amenities and Goods'.  Some 'sketch maps' naturally lead you to another - love and hate, betrayal and loyalty - but reading one a day and then giving myself time to really think about what I had just read became an enjoyable bedtime routine. 

Although the topics in this book may seem dense at first glance, I felt able to access philosophical ideas that I would normally have run a mile from. Each essay begins with a fantastic quote which was enough to get my brain whirring. A brilliant way to dip your toe into some big thinking!

WEAKNESS: 

Despite it's accessibility, this is still a book about the meaning of life. Some days my brain was just a bit too tired to contemplate capitalism, privacy or death!

OPPORTUNITY: 

Read this if you are in the mood to be challenged, to ponder on some more tricky areas of life or to simply read the thoughts of an incredibly intelligent man. How you engage with this book is entirely up to you, but I would recommend setting aside half an hour, making a cup of tea, reading an essay and then sitting back and having a think. 

TIPS: 

This book taught me not to be afraid of difficult thoughts, conversations or debates. To embrace these knotty elements of life and to challenge myself to challenge myself. It can be easy to want to stay in a 'safe place' where everything feels simple, and it can take great courage to step outside of our comfort zone, but that is where we can do some of our best learning. 

STANDOUT QUOTES ~

'...courage can only be felt by those who are afraid. If a man is truly fearless as he leaps over the enemy parapet or hurls himself into a rugby tackle, he is not courageous.'

p. 22, 'Courage'

“Defeat is always an opportunity...nothing happens without a lesson to offer, or without opening other routes into the future.”

p. 25, 'Defeat'  

"Hope is a virtue independently of its realisations; it is an intrinsic value, an end in itself, allied to courage and imagination, an attitude full of possibility and aspiration. For that reason you discover more about a person when you learn about his hopes than when you count his achievements , for the best of what we are lies in what we hope to be.”

p. 36, 'Hope' 

BUZZ WORDS ~

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KEY LESSONS ~

For me to try and summarise key lessons seems to go against the spirit of this book. My advice? Pick up a copy, read, think and decide for yourself. 

Lots of love, A 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