Saturday, August 22, 2015

Find Your Balance Point

by Brian Tracy and Christina Stein
Berrett-Koehler     2015
112 pages     Self Help

When I was a young woman, my husband and I were involved in a multi-level marketing business that we pursued for several years. While "building our business," we went to many motivational seminars with motivational speakers—the most famous being Zig Ziglar. My husband actually went to a one week seminar with Ziglar. I believe that the lessons we learned from those seminars have helped me throughout my life. Certainly, they helped our family surmount the loss of our husband and father. We had the inner strength. 

Find your Balance Point is a quick read and a quick journey through the power of planning and executing goals for achievement. Although the authors purport to want to help readers find "balance," the book is all about setting goals and believing you can achieve those goals. They only briefly touch on balance. Perhaps you goal is to find balance between home and work. The authors believe that this is possible. It would have been helpful if they had used more real-life examples to help the reader relate to the terms and the concepts.

The most practical advice offered concerns list making. They suggest that successful people make lists for the next day before they go to bed at night. That way, the list maker will subconsciously work on tasks all night. I'm not sure that will lead to a very good night's sleep. I find that I do my best thinking and planning in the early morning hours, just before rising; I solve lots of problems that way.

One of the most successful parts of the book for me was the lists of values that the authors ask the reader to rank in importance. The lists include character values, life values, and role and identity values. This was a good exercise for me because it helped me to identify those values that have guided my life. I will use those lists in classes that I teach.

I contrasted Find Your Balance Point with another book I read recently—Are You Fully Charged? by Tom Rath. Rath has a different take on motivation than do Tracy and Stein, but the results are the same. People are the most successful when they are doing work they love. These books make a great combination for people beginning their careers. Find Your Balance Point is simplistic—by design, I believe. It makes it a great gift for a new graduate or someone just starting on a career. 

Here are author bios from the publicist. It appears that they are a father-daughter duo. As you can see, the authors have extensive experience in motivational speaking and counseling. 

Brian Tracy is one of America's leading authorities on the development of human potential and personal effectiveness. A dynamic and inspiring speaker, he addresses thousands of people each year on the subjects of personal and professional development, including the executives and staff of such firms as IBM, Arthur Andersen, McDonnell Douglas, and The Million Dollar Round Table. Prior to founding his own firm, Brian Tracy International, he had successful careers in sales and marketing, investments, real estate development, distribution, and management consulting. Tracy is the author of thirteen previous books including the bestselling book Maximum Achievement. He is also the author/narrator of numerous bestselling audio-cassette programs, including The Psychology of Achievement and How to Start and Succeed in Your Own Business.

Christina Tracy Stein graduated with a bachelor of arts in psychology from the University of Southern California and received her master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University. She has a Marriage and Family Therapist license from the Board of Behavior Sciences, is a member of both the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, and is a Certified Nutrition and Lifestyle Coach. She currently has a private practice in Santa Monica, California. Prior to beginning her private practice, Christina worked at the Maple Counseling Center in Beverly Hills, California, where she participated in the Intake and Assessment, Adult Counseling, and Group Programs. She has spent more than five thousand hours with individuals, couples, and groups doing assessments, psychotherapy, and personal counseling.

Here is Brian Tracy's website:

Monday, August 3, 2015

Among the Ten Thousand Things

by Julia Pierpont
Random House     2015
336 pages     Literary Fiction

I have been thinking a great deal about betrayal since I began reading Among the Ten Thousand Things. What constitutes betrayal? Can a person ever trust again after a betrayal? How do children recover from betrayal? Does the betrayer ever truly understand the ramifications of what he/she has done?  Julia Pierpont gives us a remarkable insight into betrayal and infidelity in a very honest, raw portrayal of a family in crisis. 

Jack, the husband of Deb and the father of Simon (15) and Kit (11) has an affair with a young woman—the beginnings of the betrayal. Deb discovers that he is having an affair but chooses to ignore it. When the affair ends, the young woman, feeling betrayed and abandoned, sends a package to Deb including all the miscellany of  the affair—emails, text messages, and online chats. (There is a lesson in this right off the bat.) The package is intercepted by daughter Kit, who thinks it is an early birthday present. Not quite understanding everything the package includes, she knows it is something salacious and wrong, so she gives it to her brother, Simon. Simon is so disgusted by what he reads that he passes it on immediately to his mother. Now, Deb, Jack, and the children must deal with the infidelity and ultimately, with the betrayal. Among the Ten Thousand Things explores how each family member, including Jack, responds to the letters, the betrayal, and the fallout.

We have much more sympathy for Simon and Kit than we do for the parents, although each parent tries in their own way to ease the pain for the children. Simon is more mature than one might expect, but he is also a typical teenager in his self-centeredness. Kit chooses to try to figure out the sexual context of the letters in the package by writing them into Seinfeld episodes—her favorite TV show. 

By following the paths taken by each of the characters, USA Today says "The shock of the new in Among the Ten Thousand Things comes less from its references to email and sitcoms than from its 28-year-old author's profound grasp of family dynamics, from her expert ventriloquism (her shifting between the various characters' voices and perspectives is distinct and assured), and from her structural boldness." One of the most striking portions of the book occurs right in a middle section in which the author tells us what is going to happen to the family in the years following the betrayal. It is an interesting place to put the first of two epilogues, but it causes the reader to truly ponder consequences. Some reviewers felt that the epilogue in the middle made the last half of the book extraneous, but I felt that it enhanced the drama.
Pierpont gives us a great insight into how individuals respond to family crisis.

I have witnessed several betrayals in my lifetime—some more debilitating than others. The truth that Pierpont expresses is that betrayal continues to color the life experience of all affected participants. Betrayal is something that just can't be glossed over or forgotten. The author speaks to this in the final epilogue of the book. Simon and Kit (now Katherine) are returning to their family apartment to gather up their childhood belongings. After lunch "Katherine paid the bill while Simon plucked dusty mints from the bowl by the register. When she pulled out her wallet, a strip of toilet paper flew out too. The mess of her bag was the first time Simon wondered if her life was not all the things she wanted it to seem." 

The review in USA Today.
The story of how Pierpont, a first time author, sold the manuscript. In Vogue.
Julia Pierpont's website.