Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be

I became interested in this book after reading about Palo Alto High School and some of the suicide tragedies that occurred in that school in the last ten years. The pressure on our students to go to the right college is extraordinary. The pressure on our most advanced students to get into one of ten to twenty schools is similarly extraordinary. There is not room for all of the amazing students to go to this “elite” set of schools. Yet so many are pinning their hopes on just that. Mr. Bruni’s point is that not only are there other schools that are out there that are great schools, but those schools may in fact be better for students than the “elite” schools. He cites example after example of students who excelled by going to a school that was the right fit for them. 

 

He details examples of students and parents and their sometimes misplaced focus on identifying a certain school with success in life. The book makes perfect sense. I remember applying to college and I knew I would have been happy at any of the schools that I got into. I have friends who’ve attended a wide variety of schools, ranked at different levels on the rankings that are out there, and the success of my friends often bears little resemblance to what people would predict based on the colleges they attended. Two of my most successful friends did not even go to college, and they are wildly successful. Again, in this theme of books about the pressures on our students, it’s a great book for our students and our parents to read.  It sits on my bookshelf in my office highly displayed, because I absolutely love and believe in the title. Again, highly recommended.

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

A fantastic book. It is a lesson in Greek History, Roman History, the Catholic Church and the Middle Ages. It is a lesson about how civilizations can be ruined by fanaticism. It is a lesson about the importance of ideas and the power they have. And for some, it is a lesson on how to make the most of life on this planet. I highly recommend it. I will be rereading this one.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

This is another one of my bedrock books. Stephen Covey has had such an influence on my personal and professional life.

The seven habits:

  1. Be Proactive
  2. Begin with the End in Mind
  3. First Things First
  4. Win-Win
  5. Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood
  6. Synergize
  7. Sharpen the Saw

From “Beginning with the End in Mind” which forces you to think about where you are going – both professionally and personally, to “First Things First,” making sure you prioritize correctly, to “Sharpening the Saw,” reminding you that if you do not practice self-improvement, you will wither away. I believe in all of these things, and I have to remind myself of them all the time.

For me, no other author does this as well as Stephen Covey. Read it, or Listen to it, and most of all, do what he advises and try to make habits out of his maxims. I do best when I have habits such as exercise, time away from work, time with family, planning my week/day, and I do worst when I get overwhelmed or sick and drop those habits. It’s a struggle for me, but I use Mr. Covey to help me with that struggle. When I’m at my best, fully employing these habits that I believe in, I feel like I can accomplish anything.

 

This is a book you read and reread.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

I don’t know why I have not read this book until now. But Bryan Stevenson has been someone who’s been mentioned to me by several of my friends in the last six months, and there’s a movie coming out based on this book, so many forces conspired to have me read it. And why did I wait so long? It’s a story of Mr. Stevenson’s journey that has led him to be one of the great change agents of our time. Since leaving Harvard Law School, he has dedicated his life to helping those sentenced with the death penalty or juveniles sentenced to life without parole. His book is filled with many of his stories, some of which ended with success and the person being freed, and others with him watching the person die by injection or electrocution. It’s brutal and uplifting at the same time. His decades of work with the Equal Justice Initiative have taught him so much about the concepts of justice and mercy. This book will change you. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Make Your Bed: Little Things that Can Change Your Life … and Maybe the World

I’ll get to the title of the book later. This is written about the trials and travails of life. It’s about how life can kick you in the teeth, whether or not you deserve it. He writes about Naval SEAL training and the strength you need to get through that. SEAL training prepares our young men and women to be ready for the worst that could be inflicted upon them. He finds many ways to say this in the book, but a summary he writes is, “Of all the lessons I learned in SEAL training, this was the most important. Never quit.” He talks about that many times.

 

As for the making of the bed, he says it’s our routines in daily life that can get us through when times are particularly difficult. Even something as simple as starting each day with a success, such as making your bed, can give you a feeling of success in a day when you might not have much otherwise. Simple and profound. My new daily habit after reading this book is something my wife is quite thankful for, and that is, I do not leave the house in the morning until the kitchen is spotless from the night before. Dishwasher emptied, sink cleared, counters perfect, and then and only then am I off for the day with one success already under my belt. And, oh yeah, never quit.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I was listening to an architect who specialized in building new schools talk about what classrooms should be. One of his pet peeves was all of the nonsensical and nonpurposeful clutter that occupies many classrooms. He thought that every classroom should contain only those items which are useful for teaching and learning or inspirational for teaching and learning. He said that one of the books that inspired him the most in this area was The Magical Art of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. So, I bought it and read it. And my life is different because of it. It has become one of my major sources of inspiration, and perhaps at least a minor irritant to others in my home.

 

Here is the basic premise: throw out anything that does not give you joy, then take all those things that give you joy, and store them properly. She thinks this takes strong commitment, but once you commit, it’s easy to do and you don’t need anyone else to help you do it. Yet, she makes a great living by standing next to people and helping them to make the decisions that need to be made to get this done. So far in my own home, I have emptied our closet, our bathrooms, and our indoor and outdoor kitchens. Through it all, I have probably donated 15 or 20 large trash bags full of clothes, kitchen utensils and small appliances, books, and other assorted items. I have thrown away almost as much. It is absolutely crazy how much we all accumulate. I have learned how to fold clothes and towels in a different way that makes them highly accessible and makes my closets and kitchens beautiful. If my 18-year-old self could hear my 56-year-old self saying all this, he might try to come and kick my butt. But he’s not here anymore, is he? So my 56-year-old self is enjoying this new ride, enjoying walking into and living in the rooms that contain only the things I truly love, and finding things much more easily everywhere. I highly recommend the book, and I encourage you to take the plunge!