Lowering the Waterline as we Stumble Towards Inclusion
Jun 14 2024

I read a lot, but I have not read many books in the last several years, let alone non-fiction books, so the fact I finished this book is a small miracle and a testament to the authors interesting storytelling! I was introduced to Priya Nalkur by a mutual friend, Elizabeth Davis, this past April, and I was fortunate to join one of her book launches in Austin.  As a fellow South Asian woman and entrepreneur who grew up primarily in North America, I felt an instant connection with her and her stories.

Navigating the choppy waters of leadership is never smooth sailing, especially when you’re trying to foster a sense of inclusion in a world that’s anything but perfect. Her book “Stumbling Towards Inclusion – Finding Grace in Imperfect Leadership” captures this tumultuous journey with a blend of wisdom, grace, and a refreshing dose of humanity.

Reading her book felt like catching up with a wise friend over tea, the kind who doesn’t just nod sympathetically but offers insightful nuggets wrapped in relatable anecdotes. Her stories of leadership mishaps and the subsequent learning curves are similar to the stumbles I’ve had while juggling my entrepreneurial ventures and personal life (which, if you’ve read my blog over the last 15 years, you know are sometimes hilariously clumsy).

Priya doesn’t shy away from the imperfections that come with leadership. She weaves in her personal experiences with research, creating a tapestry that’s as educational as it is comforting. It’s a relief to know that even seasoned leaders fumble. Her stories include humor, making the heavy topics she addresses—bias, privilege, and systemic barriers—feel approachable.

Chapter 40, “Lowering the Waterline,” particularly stood out for me. She uses the metaphor of an iceberg to discuss how we often only see the tip of someone’s behavior, while their values, fears, and motivations lie hidden beneath the surface. This chapter was a powerful reminder to look beyond the obvious and understand the deeper currents that drive people. Throughout my career, I have tried to understand why people act the way they do or say the things they say. Playing out those scenarios often helps connect dots and discover reasons that others may not see.

Her actionable tips on fostering an inclusive environment are practical and empathetic. She emphasizes small, consistent efforts over grand gestures. It’s the little changes, like making sure every voice is heard during meetings or actively seeking out diverse perspectives, that build a truly inclusive culture.  One of my Top 5 Strengths based on the Strengths Finder 2.0 assessment is Includer so many of the suggestions she shared about inclusivity resonated with me.

Priya beautifully ties everything together at the end of her book by highlighting the importance of rapport, equanimity, and courage. She stresses that building genuine connections (rapport), maintaining mental calmness and composure (equanimity), and facing challenges with bravery (courage) are essential components of effective and inclusive leadership.

“Stumbling Towards Inclusion” is a must-read for anyone looking to lead with authenticity and heart. Priya’s insights are a guiding light for those of us striving to create spaces where everyone feels valued, even if we stumble a bit along the way. The book is a testament to the power of perseverance, humility, and, yes, a good sense of humor.

In the end, what she offers is not a roadmap to perfect leadership but a compassionate guide to navigating its imperfections. And isn’t that what we all need? A little grace as we stumble towards our own versions of inclusion.

Author: | Filed under: austin, blogging, book review, books, entrepreneurship, success | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Frankly, My Dear, I Don’t Give a Damn or a Mark Manson F*ck
Sep 28 2016

squirrels-nutsmasteIt’s an unconventional title: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life(amazon link), but it’s an insightful, irreverent, and hilarious book that’s not too trite, sappy, or “duh, who doesn’t already know that!” kind of read. It seems to be about how so many of us get hung up on the wrong things and make ourselves and potentially others in our social solar system miserable. He helps the reader figure out what they really should give a f*ck about instead of wasting time and energy measuring their success or failures using other peoples metrics instead of their own.

He suggests if we go through life being uncertain about everything, including our adamant beliefs about ourselves and others, as well as accept our idiosyncrasies and human flaws, we will be much happier.  I suck at directions, and that’s OK!

Those who are absolutely certain about things tend never to achieve lasting happiness because really, as most of us know, nothing is certain and disappointment is inevitable.  As a person who practices yoga, self-learning, appreciates the teachings of the Buddha, was raised Episcopal/Southern Baptist, and performs much less mental self-flagellation than I used to, the concepts Manson discusses resonate with me.

It’s a much more upbeat read than the must read book Man’s Search for Meaning(amazon link) by Viktor Frankel, a psychiatrist who writes about concentration camp survivors. Those who made it through the experience (if they weren’t randomly killed) had something they really gave a f*ck about. Those who didn’t were more likely to be measuring success by using metrics that didn’t fit the situation in which they found themselves (i.e., the drastically unfortunate cards they were dealt). I think the lessons in Frankel’s and Manson’s books are similar, but Manson uses many more F-Bombs and has modernized it to address our current more whiny “first world problems,” because, fortunately, almost none of us Gen X’ers and Millennials had to survive a horrific concentration camp!

Other posts I’ve written on self-exploration that may be useful to new/future readers are:

Wow, I didn’t realize how much I wrote about this sappy, self-help, existential crisis stuff! But I think all that writing and creating of songs I did was better than doing the 100+ less emotionally, physically, spiritually, medically healthy things I could have done while processing all that painful personal growth, trying to stay a mostly sane mother, and not turning into a raging HULK. Haha! Thanks to my readers who actually read my ramblings and still remained readers! 😛

Based on who you ask and when you ask them, I am much happier, tolerant, understanding, and calmer (unless provoked/poked while I’m under duress!) than I used to be even 3 to 5 years ago, which likely explains why I post much less frequently.  I’ve learned to tame some of those demons (who never fully disappear), set better boundaries (which Manson mentions in his book), be OK with my human failings by relying on GPS, and try to make better choices largely thanks to the kindness, support, and understanding of my numerous truly amazing friends and certain great family members. Just like Manson and most of us, I am constantly learning what to give a f*ck about based on where I am in life. I’ve gotten better at letting the rest of it flow on by just like the river in Siddhartha(amazon link) by Herman Hesse.

I’ll be interested to see how Manson’s views change if/after he has kids. Those new humans can cause you to question your entire life in a mostly sleep deprived state as well as pummel your a$$ affirming how little we really know/understand about ourselves or tiny humans!  He also discusses the “fear of death” in his book. Ironically, I fear pain more than I fear death. I fear dying before my kids are on their own, and I can’t even think about anything bad happening to them because then I might as well be dead.

I highly suggest you read this book because I care enough about all of you (even if I don’t know you) that I don’t want you to embody this quote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” – Henry David Thoreau from Walden.

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Happy New Year (2016) and Workplace Engagement
Feb 20 2016

Wow, it took me until February 20 to actually write a New Years post. Happy 2016!

After joining a WordPress hosting company, I thought I might have a bit more time to blog, but getting ramped up takes time.  So far so good and so far very busy!  There are lots of things going on at work and in my life, but most of you probably wouldn’t be too interested in hearing all about that stuff, so here are some fun & interesting articles that people have sent me or I’ve randomly discovered:

Ten signs you work in a fear-based workplace – Bloomberg Businessweek


Happiness Hack: This One Ritual Made Me Much Happier

Several managers where I work just completed some Arbinger leadership training, and I really enjoyed it!  Our senior execs will be going through the training in the next couple of weeks as well, so I’m looking forward to having a common language to share as we help grow the business to the next level.

Below are links on Amazon to two books that are published by the Arbinger Institute.  I read the first one a few years ago and am in the middle of the second one. They are written in story/fable format which I very much prefer when reading business books because it makes it much easier to read and seem less “preachy.”

Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

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Failure, Rejection, and the Art of Being Average
Sep 16 2015

Tibetan monks creating a intricate mandala that they will soon wipe away and throw into a nearby river.

Tibetan monks creating an intricate mandala they will soon wipe away to illustrate impermanence. Later they will throw the colored sand into a nearby river and start the process over again.

Life seems to have a lot of rejection, failure, and unmet expectations in between occasions of blissful acceptance, success, peace, and happiness.

But it’s all part of the human experience and according to Pema Chodrin we need to Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown (Amazon link).  I heard about the book from Seth Godin’s blog post Failing, again. It’s a quick, easy read with a nice analogy of how we build resilience, understanding, and acceptance over time as we get better at dealing with the big waves that life sends us that sometimes knock us down. We struggle to get back up only to experience the next big wave trying to knock us down again!  I also recently read her book Practicing Peace in Times of War (Amazon link) and found it insightful.

The Top 5 Stressful Situations (1. Death of a loved one, 2. Divorce, 3. Moving, 4. Major Illness, and 5. Job Loss) can leave us feeling like a failure and/or rejected.   I’ve experienced 4 of those 5 events personally and two of them at the same time. [major stress emoji]  Based on my experience, it takes a great support network, a positive attitude, and not being afraid to ask for help (even if you ask for it in an imperfect way) to navigate these life changes and come out the other end with most of your mental faculties still in tact. 😀 You learn pretty quickly who your friends really are during those tough times. And if you take the time to learn from those experiences, you build resiliency to weather the next big wave and are able to help others get back up too!

Here are some great articles I’ve read recently that can help all of us put feelings of rejection, failure, and lack of confidence into perspective.

On feeling like a failure – Seth Godin

In Defense of Being Average – Mark Manson.  He is such a funny and talented writer!  It is okay to be average, because most of us are.

The Confidence Gap – The Atlantic.  This article discusses the unique challenges even the most talented and accomplished women face on the topic of confidence.

On Marrying the Wrong Person – The Book of Life.  Will the way we pick our spouses evolve yet again? I hope so.  This article discusses how we should pick our mate.  The method they suggest makes more sense than how we humans have typically done so in the last thousands of years.

Mixed Signals: Why People Misunderstand Each Other – The Atlantic.  What did she say? He couldn’t have really meant that, right? OMG, I can’t believe she didn’t understand me!

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, FYI, Just For Fun, random stuff | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Thanksgivukkah and Black Friday
Dec 1 2013

This year Thanksgiving and Hanukkah collided.  In the US, apparently the retailers decided to start the crazy sales activity just that much earlier and open up Thanksgiving eve.  I guess the news folks will tell us if it was worth it.  I didn’t venture out or even online to purchase anything on “Black Friday,” Thursday, or whatever.  I know people who did.  I did venture out today (Sunday) to Target to return some things and get some basics, but there was only the normal crowd there.

At any rate, I’m thankful that I can choose to shop or not shop.  I’m thankful for many, many things…mostly that I’m here right now in this intersection of space & time with many wonderful people around me.  Plus, I’m easily able to type this post and share these articles with you:

Our Self-Inflicted Complexity – Harvard Business Review

The Fall Of The Alphas – A VC, Fred Wilson (I just now bought the Kindle version of the book)

10 Life Lessons You Should Unlearn – Huffington Post (“Problems are bad. It’s important to stay happy. I’m irreparably damaged by my past. Working hard leads to success. Success is the opposite of failure.  It matters what people think of me.  We should think rationally about our decisions. The pretty girls get all the good stuff.  If all my wishes came true right now, life would be perfect.  Loss is terrible.”)

The first lie… – Seth Godin

What “no” means – Seth Godin

Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American

The Paradoxical Traits of Resilient People – Fast Company

And of course a song and music video: Let Her Go by Passenger

Well you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Staring at the ceiling in the dark
Same old empty feeling in your heart
‘Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast


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Great Leaders Read All The Time
Sep 16 2012

They (i.e., Harvard Business Review) say that great leaders read all the time.  That is certainly true of many great leaders (e.g., founder/CEO of WholeFoods) but there are great leaders who probably don’t have the time to read especially with family and work responsibilities, and I think they get some of their information in other ways (i.e., short bursts of knowledge that they have to assimilate over time).  There are tons of not-so-great leaders out there and admittedly they aren’t avid readers.  They have a hard time empathizing with others because they haven’t broadened their knowledge base by relating to other people’s stories from different parts of the world.

When I was working on the series of articles on success, I noticed that most of the leaders I interviewed were very well read and a handful had liberal arts, psychology, or humanities degrees.  You can certainly tell when someone is well read, not just in the latest business trends but also in works of fiction and other great classic literature by the way they interact with people.  I wish I had time to read more novels.  I can’t even seem to make it to my neighborhood mom’s monthly book club!

Here are a couple of interesting but short reads:

The Secret Behind Creativity – discusses ideas on how to be creative

MBA Mondays: Guest Post From Dr. Dana Ardi – from Fred Wilson’s blog.  A guest post by someone Fred respects in the world of HR, culture building, and recruiting/retaining great talent.

Author: | Filed under: books, entrepreneurship, success | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Narcissistic Family – Entrepreneurs, Bosses and Employees
Mar 24 2012

I recently read one of the most interesting and eye opening books that I have read in the field of psychology.  Admittedly, I have not read that many psychology books.  A good friend gave it me and it’s written by psychologists for psychologists.  It’s called The Narcissistic Family: Diagnosis and Treatment (Amazon affiliate link).   It’s easy to identify overtly narcissistic families (i.e., they include alcoholics, drug addicts, physical abusers, physical long term abandonment, etc.) but it’s harder to identify covertly narcissistic ones.  The covertly narcissistic families look quite functional to the outside world, but usually most things revolve around the parents/caregivers and on occasion attention goes to the child but usually when it’s in the best interest of the parent.  There is very little empathy or understanding of the child’s emotional needs and feelings.  According to the book, covertly narcissistic families can have as strong an impact on survivors of those situations as those from overt ones.  Ironically, survivors of covertly narcissistic families  can find it harder to understand their struggles because it’s not as easy to understand as “my father beat/molested me, therefore I’m a mess.”

They refer to the story of Echo and Narcissus with the metaphor being Narcissus as the parent(s) and Echo as the child who can never gain the love/acceptance of the parent unless it’s on the parent’s terms because the parent is too busy trying to sort out their own issues.  Now apply that to the working world…seriously!

The book isn’t about assigning blame but helps survivors of such families (also work systems) to put into different boxes a) parents did what they did because they were dealing with what they were dealing with and b) child did not get emotional needs met and in fact had to parent/meet emotional needs of parents.  The child gets mixed signals and doesn’t really know where he/she stands in relation to the family or parent (boss).  Children growing up in the same family can have different experiences based on the perceived threat of that child to the parent’s sense of self.  Often adult survivors get those two boxes mixed together and have a hard time separating the two resulting in blaming themselves for not doing everything “right,” inability to heal and put things in perspective.  They often have a hard time understanding and properly articulating what they are feeling because their feelings weren’t validated so they feel embarrassed, ashamed, angry, get involved in destructive behaviors, etc.  They were walking on eggshells always trying to please their parents/bosses (a constantly moving target).  Oddly, many of these survivors are often quite successful professionally, but are unhappy.

I’m still processing the implications of the information in this book for my own self development (as a mother, a daughter, an entrepreneur, an employee, a boss, etc.) as well as prior and potential future work environments or personal relationships.  I highly suggest it for those in positions of leadership and for those who find themselves feeling like they can’t ever get it right.

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

Opportunity Knocks…
Oct 23 2011

Elephants at a Buddhist Temple in China

When opportunity knocks where will you be?  I imagine I’ll be at my son’s soccer game, making sure my kid’s take baths, cooking, or I’ll be doing their laundry.  How do we recognize when opportunity knocks?  Entrepreneurs are supposed to create opportunities, right?  But really, I think we see an opportunity and we try to take advantage of it.  Ideas are a dime a dozen.  People who can validate the idea are rare but those who can execute against those ideas to profitability are even rarer.  It’s not easy to execute against most ideas or take advantage of most opportunities.

One day I want to write a novel.  I want to write a fiction novel and I’d like to write a novel about business.  But right now I’m working full time, making sure my kids take their baths, watching their soccer games, going to swim classes, making sure they do their homework, doing dishes, and folding laundry.  It’s certainly all great material for that novel I’m going to write one day which may or may not ever see the light of day.  I recall my grandfather wanted to write a book.  I think he started writing something, but he was too busy doing great entrepreneurial things, helping kids, hanging out with grand kids, dealing with a sick wife (my grandmother), and helping other people so he never finished putting down in words the wisdom that was in his head.  He died of leukemia at the age of 82.  I bet if he could have blogged, he would have tried it out.  He was a brilliant, yet flawed man like most of us humans are.

Opportunity knocked and I went to China.  Opportunity knocked and I found a guy who I used to work with, Brian Hurdle, to redesign my blog who just redesigned my twitter page.  While flying to China, I read Little Bee: A Novel (about a refugee girl who escaped from Nigeria to England) and The Secret Life of Bees (about a White girl who runs away from her abusive father to live with a bunch of Negro women in the southern US in the 1960s).  The first was written by a man, the latter by a woman.  The overarching theme of both books from my perspective was “men suck!”  Interestingly, little boys did not suck and they too needed protection from men, who ironically were at one point in their lives little boys themselves.  What happens between cute, sweet little boyhood and manhood?  I don’t know, but I hope my boy stays sweet, thoughtful, and caring.  Of course both fiction novels were written for the female audience, which is kind of distressing.  But as I was reading them, I thought these are well written novels.  Not as superbly written as others I’ve read but well written overall.  So after doing some calculations, I figured I need to be a millionaire by the age of 45 to even think of having the time, resources, and health insurance to write such a novel.  I’m not too far away from 45….

Any benefactors out there?

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, parenting, travel, twitter | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Strengths Finder 2.0
Mar 27 2011

I recently completed the test in Strengths Finder 2.0 which can be bought on Amazon for around $12 (StrengthsFinder 2.0 – Link to Amazon).  It was recommended to me by a long time friend who works at Texas Instruments.  His team took the test at his work so I bought it for our Operations/Admin team at my work since I thought it would be a fun way for us to understand each others strengths.  I really enjoyed reading the assessment it gave of me and my co-workers.

Following are my Top 5 strengths and brief description of each.  I wonder if these are typical of entrepreneurs, women entrepreneurs, technology entrepreneurs, or other professions.  I know that I enjoy having roles that are not fully defined and where I can try new things.  I thought these described me fairly well and it was nice to have a way to put in words some of my strengths.  It was eye-opening for me as I didn’t fully realize there were others who thought like me or articulated themselves like me, but when I read some of the quotes from people who had the same Top 5 strengths, I recognized myself in some of the things they said.


People who are especially talented in the Strategic theme create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, they can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.  “Chances are good that you periodically identify problems others fail to notice.  You might create solutions and find the right answers.  Perhaps you yearn to improve certain things about yourself, other people, or situations.”


People who are especially talented in the Connectedness theme have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason. “Driven by your talents, you occasionally sense you are part of something bigger or more important than yourself.  Maybe this conviction influences choices you make in life.  By nature, you may be guided by the notion that no one can live life without some help from others.”


People who are especially talented in the Woo theme love the challenge of meeting new people and winning them over. They derive satisfaction from breaking the ice and making a connection with another person. “By nature, you may share a lot of information about yourself with certain people.  You might make individuals comfortable enough to candidly talk about themselves.”


People who are especially talented in the Communication theme generally find it easy to put their thoughts into words. They are good conversationalists and presenters. “Instinctively, you occasionally feel comfortable telling certain individuals stories about your personal habits, qualities, experiences, or background.  Your forthcoming nature might enable some people to share their thoughts and feelings with you.  Chances are good that you may help others understand you as a person.”


People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements. “Instinctively, you repeatedly go out of your way to support, inspire, motivate, or embolden various individuals.  You likely regard this task as worthy of your effort and time.  Driven by your talents, you inspire your teammates with words that bolster their confidence.  You repeatedly remind them they have the abilities needed to attain their goals.”

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The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Mar 20 2011

My best friend of 23 years is an English professor.  We met during my first day in the dorm before starting my freshman year in college.  I was a business major who didn’t know much about English other than writing seemed to come easily for me even at a young age.  I can trace my interest in creative writing back to a 5th grade teacher I had the first year I moved to Lubbock, Texas.  I would make A’s and A+’s on my English papers in high school for creativity but practically fail grammar until my freshman year in college when grammar all of a sudden made sense to me.  Or maybe I should say I quit trying to make sense of grammar and accepted it for what it was. My best friend is a grammar guru and maybe the combination of taking freshman English and typing her papers for her, because I typed faster than she did, somehow helped me get the practice I needed to improve my grammar and punctuation.

Our professional worlds rarely collide, but when I’m facing a situation personally or professionally, she often has a reference to literature (sadly, my knowledge of great literature is not deep or wide given my business degrees) to help me try to make sense of what is happening.  Fiction is fiction but as a writer I have come to appreciate that really good fiction is based often times quite heavily on the author’s direct experience or observation of others.  A book that my friend suggested I read a while back when I was going through my personal family transition is called The Awakening by Kate Chopin (wikipedia) [The Awakening (Norton Critical Editions) – Amazon link], but she didn’t think it wise for me to read it while in the middle of my turmoil since the main character kills herself and she was concerned about me.  Not that I ever had suicidal tendencies, but it was probably wise I wait to read it because I’ve come to realize that the state of being one is in when they read certain words has a huge impact on how they receive and interpret those words.  So I read it this weekend.

The book was banished for decades after Kate Chopin wrote it in 1899 for it’s scandalous depiction of Edna, a married woman with two young boys, and her behavior.  I find it scandalous even today given her dramatic moves, an affair with not one but two men (one physical, one emotional), feeling no remorse, shame or guilt, and then killing herself when she can’t be with the man she loves thereby leaving behind two young children.  But it was back in the late 1800’s, when most women had no means to support themselves and they had to remain in situations they did not want to be in. The man also loves her but knows he can’t be with her because of the rules of their society and withdraws himself from her life. Since Edna is not able to pursue other opportunities or escape her current life, she resorts to killing herself (you’ll have to read the book to see how she does it) rather than live in a despondent world “without the vibrant colors of love.”

The main character, Edna, was 28 going on 29 when she began the awakening process.  I was 38 going on 39 when I started to realize I was waking up to a different perception of myself and the world around me.  I remember words I read in an email, I remember my response, I remember the place, the person, the drink, the conversation, the expression, a twinge that when placed together triggered a shift in my being that resulted in my songwriting, journaling, poem writing, emotion laden emails to co-workers, family and friends (i.e., gushes from my writer’s soul that had been behind an enormous dam for a long time).  I sought understanding through courses like Landmark (Transformation in Process and Who I Was Being Was Not Exactly Who I Am) and Search Within that both guided the participant to live an authentic life and not what Henry David Thoreau writes in Walden – “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”  That was a quote my best friend reminded me of this past weekend.  I couldn’t go to the grave with the song still in me, and I hope I don’t die (mostly for my children’s sake) before I release the songs based on my lyrics that I’ve been working on with my songwriting partner.  I also hope I don’t die before I find what some people call their soul mate so I can sing him my song, and he’ll understand it just as I will understand his song.

Here are some interesting quotes from the book written by an author who was 32 years old, widowed with 6 kids:

In short, Mrs. Pontellier [Edna] was beginning to realize her position in the universe as a human being, and to recognize her relation as an individual to the world within and about her.  This may seem like a ponderous weight of wisdom to descend upon the soul of a young woman of twenty-eight –perhaps more wisdom than the Holy Ghost is usually pleased to vouchsafe to any woman.” p. 17

She [Edna] is not one of us; she is not like us.  She might make the unfortunate blunder of taking you seriously.” [This was said by Edna’s friend to the man, known to Edna’s husband, who eventually became the object of her love.  Edna was not Creole but apparently it was common for young, unmarried men to cater to the needs of married women and flirt with them in that society.]

Edna began to feel like one who awakens gradually out of a dream, a delicious, grotesque, impossible dream, to feel again the realities pressing into her soul.” p. 41

He [the doctor] observed his hostess attentively from under his shaggy brows, and noted a subtle change which had transformed her from the listless woman he had known into a being who, for the moment, seemed palpitant with the forces of life.  Her speech was warm and energetic.  There was no repression in her glance or gesture.  She reminded him of some beautiful, sleek animal waking up in the sun.” p. 92

Yes,” she [Edna] said.  “The years that are gone seem like dreams — if one might go on sleeping and dreaming — but to wake up and find–oh! well! perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.” p. 147

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, marriage, music, parenting, poetry, singing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Eat, Pray, Love, and Vacation
Aug 15 2010

Hamilton Pool

I just got back from a week long part stay-cation and part away-cation with some friends who live in two different cities.  We visited some local Austin famous places like the Oasis and Hamilton Pool.  We also saw The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (nice movie).   I always feel so blessed after I get to spend time with these particular friends because I’ve known them for 20+ years now.   Our kids have virtually grown up together and at one point in each of their lives, they thought they were cousins.  It didn’t matter that we looked different, to them they just felt like family.  I feel lucky to have them in my and my kids lives.

During this time, I read a very interesting book (that most of the rest of the world already knows about because the movie is now out starring Julia Roberts) Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia (Amazon Link) by Elizabeth Gilbert.   It was if the author was writing parts of my story!  It got enough positive reviews to warrant a movie starring Julia Roberts but it certainly touched a nerve with some of the Amazon reviewers who decided it was self indulgent!  One of the moms at a water park we went to  saw I was reading it and told me how great it was and she loved it.  She told me “just wait until you get to the part when she’s in India.”  This is obviously a book that elicits very different responses from people depending where they are in their life/spiritual journey.

I won’t quote some of passages (that I desperately want to) here because my blog is read by many people…not just women age 30+ going through a mid-life awakening and search for meaning.  This is a non-fiction account of the author’s experience of taking one year ‘off’ to find God/herself.  She does not have kids and received a hefty book advance which makes this a much easier endeavor.  She spends 4 months in Italy (eating), 4 months in India (praying), and 4 months in Indonesia, specifically Bali (loving).   She writes about divorce, marriage, God, spirituality, crushes, love, food, different cultures, depression, not wanting to live, yoga, meditation, physical intimacy, soul mates, etc.  The only character in India who the author says she uses his real name is Richard from Texas.  Richard has an interesting take on soul mates (see quote below) and apparently he builds houses in Austin.  I SO want to run into Richard from Texas some day!  Given I live in Austin, it might happen.  Now for some quotes:

“Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline.  Looking for Truth is not some kind of spazzy free-for-all, not even during this, the great age of the spazzy free-for-all.” p. 2.

I’m not going to type it all here, but the top of p. 49 she talks about how she tried to make sense of her depression and why she would feel this way from chemical, diet, seasonal, to being an artist/writer, to her situation, to her parents, to xyz and she concluded it was probably a little bit of everything and things she didn’t even understand.

“Virginia Woolf wrote, ‘Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword.’  On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where ‘all is correct.’ But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, ‘all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.’  Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous.” p. 95

“The Bhagavad Gita – that ancient Indian Yogic text – says that is is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection.” p. 95

“The classical Indian sages wrote that there are three factors which indicate whether a soul has been blessed with the highest and most auspicious luck in the universe: 1. To have been born a human being, capable of conscious inquiry. 2. To have been born with – or to have developed – a yearning to understand the nature of the universe.  3. To have found a living spiritual master.” p. 124

“People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants.  But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that’s holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.  A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.  But to live with a soul mate forever?  Nah.  Too painful.  Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave.  And thank God for it….[they] shake you up…tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light could get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you [have] to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master and beat it.” p. 149

“To know God, you need only to renounce one thing – your sense of division from God.  Otherwise, just stay as you were made, within your natural character.” p. 192

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.  You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.  And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it, you must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.” p. 260

“The Yogic sages say that all the pain of a human life is caused by words, as is all the joy.  We create words to define our experience and those words bring attendant emotions that jerk us around like dogs on a leash.  We get seduced by our own mantras (I’m a failure…I’m lonely…I’m a failure…I’m lonely…) and we become monuments to them.  To stop talking for a while then, is to attempt to strip away the power of words, to stop choking ourselves with words, to liberate ourselves from our suffocating mantras.” p. 325

Yes, this is a great book to read for those of you on a journey ‘to understand the nature of the universe’ which is a means to understand yourself.

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, new york city, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

The Happiness Hypothesis
Apr 3 2010

I actually finished a book from beginning to end when I went out of town for a much needed week long break a couple of weeks ago.  This may not seem much to many of you but to me, I haven’t been able to concentrate (or have the time) to finish any book in a few years it seems like.  The book I read is called The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (Amazon Link) by Joseph Haidt.  Many of us search for happiness and never find it or are looking in the wrong places.  We’ve all heard the saying that happiness comes from within.  Well that’s partially true according to Haidt but there are so many other factors.

He performed extensive research and referenced many of the great thinkers, psychologists, philosophers, doctors, etc. to come to some conclusions of his own.  I think many entrepreneurs are happy when they are able to see the tangible results of their efforts, but many think they will be happy if only they were to accomplish this one thing.  But as we all know, there’s always the next thing, and we as a species have a hard time enjoying where we are and what we have accomplished.  We have a hard time being happy with who we are because we compare ourselves to others.

The author directs you a couple of times to the website  http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/Default.aspx run by Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology at University of Pennsylvania, so you can assess your own level of happiness. “Positive Psychology is a new branch of psychology which focuses on the empirical study of such things as positive emotions, strengths-based character, and healthy institutions. His research has demonstrated that it is possible to be happier — to feel more satisfied, to be more engaged with life, find more meaning, have higher hopes, and probably even laugh and smile more, regardless of one’s circumstances. Positive psychology interventions can also lastingly decrease depression symptoms. The research underlying these rigorously tested interventions is presented in the July/August edition of the American Psychologist, the journal of the American Psychology Association.”  You have to register to do the surveys.

Here is the review of the book by Publisher’s Weekly from the Amazon site.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an “elephant” of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual “rider.” Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche’s contention that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth. An exponent of the “positive psychology” movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don’t matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness. Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
–This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Since a couple of weeks have now passed since I read it and life has gotten in the way, the details are no longer clear to me but some of the things I remember are:

    • I found it odd/irritating that most of the experiments referenced (e.g., monkey’s taken away from their mother and put in cages with wire frame mothers, babies being left alone to cry, etc.) were done by men.  Freud, Spock and others thought babies should be sent to a baby farm away from their parents.   There were a couple of women (Anna Freud) who also bought into some of this stuff, but I wonder if she had children at the time.  I guess to me it seems obvious that happiness is partially influenced by your relationship with your parents/family and the amount of support/love you get from them.  If your primary caregivers don’t accept you for who you are and don’t provide an environment where you are encouraged to discover your passion, it can make finding that inner happiness harder.  There are those who make it to the top of the proverbial ladder who are still unhappy.


    • I resonated with the example he used of the elephant and the rider.  My favorite animals is the elephant and I used to collect images of them.  According to Haidt, we forget that as humans we are both the elephant and the rider.  As rational thinking beings we believe we are the rider controlling everything but if that elephant (base, primal, survival) decides it wants/needs something, there really is not much the rider can do other than find ways to train the elephant to move in another direction.  The elephant can be responding to fear, love, soul starvation, body starvation, boredom, etc. but the rational rider has to think of the long term effects of reacting to those urges and guides the elephant to safer ground.  As a flawed species, we don’t always do the right thing, our elephant desires are much stronger than we are and we fall off.  But then we must get back up on the elephant and try again, because if we don’t the elephant runs a muck and tramples a bunch of people in its way.


    • A study done on 4 year olds and marshmallows is an indicator of a person’s ability to achieve and in some way feel more happiness.  I, of course, asked my kids the question and they passed.  The study has a grown up in a room with a 4 year old and the grown up shows the 4 year old a plate with one marshmallow and another with two marshmallows.  The grown up tells the 4 year old that he/she is going to leave the room for a little bit.  If the 4 year old waits until the grown up gets back, the 4 year old can have two marshmallows.  If he/she can’t wait, then he/she could ring a bill bringing back the grown up who would give them the one marshmallow.  Those 4 year olds who could wait, did better overall in education, test scores, etc. and by exercising self restraint tended to be happier individuals.  I’m not quite sure the direct tie, but when I asked my kids if they would wait, they both said they would so I temporarily felt a little relief as a potentially good mom.  🙂


  • The big takeaway is that people usually can’t or don’t make significant changes in thinking or relating to people if they can’t train or convince the elephant why it’s better or at least cause the elephant to react in disgust to something.  Trying to convince the rational rider why it’s important to lose weight if he/she is fat is intellectually easy, but until the elephant is trained/convinced/physically disgusted it usually is a moot exercise to attempt to lose weight just based on rational thinking alone.

At any rate, it was a really good, though provoking read.  I started two other books The Art of Choosing (Amazon Link) by Sheena Iyengar and Outliers: The Story of Success (Amazon Link) by Malcolm Gladwell which I plan to blog about soon.  The Art of Choosing (like The Happiness Hypothesis) were my uncle’s books and I had to leave them with him when I came back home so I’ll have to get my hands on a copy so I can finish it.

May you be well.  May you be happy.  May you be free from suffering.  These phrases are part of the loving kindness meditation. Here’s another Amazon link to The Happiness Hypothesis.

Author: | Filed under: book review, books, entrepreneurship, Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Kindle: Amazon’s New Wireless Reading Device
Nov 20 2007

Amazon has released a very interesting new wireless reading device called Kindle.  It retails for $399 and is apparently currently sold out.  I think it uses Sprint as its wireless network.  If you happen to have the urge to purchase one of these devices and you use this link: Kindle or click on the image below then I will get a little commission on the sale that I will put towards developing new applications for Babble Soft.

Keep in mind that Sony also makes a portable wireless reader called PRS-500 that is currently retailing for $279.99 plus service.  My husband and I saw this one on display few weeks back at a Border’s Bookstore. I don’t know how to get any commission if you buy the Sony wireless reader PRS-500 after pressing that link, but I thought you should know about it in order to make the best purchasing decision for your situation.  Although it would be great to make a few bucks, I believe it’s more important for you all to be aware of the options. 

Unfortunately since my blog is not one of the “More than 250 top blogs from the worlds of business, technology, sports, entertainment, and politics, including BoingBoing, Slashdot, TechCrunch, ESPN’s Bill Simmons, The Onion, Michelle Malkin, and The Huffington Post” blogs I won’t make anything if you subscribe (assuming you even can) to my feed like Scoble will if you subscribe to his feed.

I have not used either of these devices but given that people and companies have been trying for years (actually decades) to build something like this that the masses will use, I thought it was worth mentioning here.  Hey for those of you who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or can’t sleep when the baby is sleeping and have nothing better to do (yeah right…) being able to read your favorite baby related book, parenting book, business book, how can I survive without sleep book, or romance novel with one hand could be quite useful!

Check out some of the posts on Kindle on these blogs I read:

Kindle Reader from Amazon.com at A Mom’s Life by Neenmachine.com

Ways bloggers get paid by Amazon by Robert Scoble at Scobelizer

Kindling this blog by Fred Wilson at A VC.

Watch a Video Demonstration of Kindle


Author: | Filed under: books, FYI, technology | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Working Mother Multicultural Conference Summary
Sep 18 2007

carol-evans.jpgI have finally finished my posts on my experience attending the Working Mother Multicultural Conference (POWER: OWN IT. — USE IT. SHARE IT.)  Since the posts have been stretched out over the last couple of months, I thought it might be helpful to do a summary post for new readers.

I was given the great opportunity to receive a scholarship to attend the conference that was sponsored by JP Morgan Chase.  Thank you!  Thank You!  THANK YOU! JP Morgan.  Since we are bootstrapping Babble Soft, any money we can use to help our company grow is truly appreciated.  It was one of the best (dare I say best!) conferences I have ever attended in my life, and I’ve been to many of them. 

The picture (taken by Rohanna Mertens of Doug Goodman Photography) shows Carol Evans (in the fabulous pink suit), founder/CEO of Working Mother Media shaking hands with conference attendees and speakers.  Thanks to Carol for envisioning and implementing such a great conference and helping create such a fabulous experience for all of us! 

I recently got notice that Working Mother’s Media 3rd Annual Multicultural Women’s Town Hall meeting will be in Houston, Texas on October 18, 2007.  Unfortunately, I can’t make it because that is the same week my husband, Erin, who is chair of the Austin Wireless Alliance, is coordinating the Texas Wireless Summit here in Austin and boy has he helped to get some amazing speakers for that event!  The Who’s Who of Wireless is scheduled to be there.

Now for the good stuff.  Here’s a summary of all the posts I wrote about my trip to New York and the conference experience:

Musings of a Texas Gal in NYC

Planes, Trains, and Subways

Working Mother Conference Opening – POWER

Dr. Bertice Berry, author of When Love Calls, You Better Answer and I’m On My Way, But Your Foot is On My Head

Instant Polling, sponsored by Ford Motor Company a downright fascinating summary of how the 700 attendees identified themselves and their thoughts about Power.

Exploring Power Dynamics in the Executive Suite, VP and C-level executives discuss their personal experiences on rising to the top

The Art of War for Women, written by Chin-Ning Chu

From the Mouths of Men, VP and C-level men discuss what it takes to put women in the corner office.

The Time Has Come for the Woman’s Century, a book review on The Art of War for Women

The Asians Shine, summarizes how the Asian attendees use or don’t use their Power in the workplace

The Hub Factor: Charisma, sharing Julia Hubbel’s thoughts on networking

Phew!  I want to thank all of the people I wrote about who helped me make these posts as accurate and informational as possible.  Your insights will help other people with decisions they may be making right now in their lives! 🙂

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The Art of War for Women – The time has come for the Woman’s Century!
Aug 26 2007

I just finished reading The Art of War for Women – Sun Tzu’s Ancient Strategies and Wisdom for Winning at Work by Chin-Ning Chu.  You may recall that I lost the free copy I got at the Working Mother Multicultural Conference (POWER: OWN IT. — USE IT. SHARE IT.), so I wasn’t able to discuss the book in my original post.

This past week I found time to read it while the kids napped, at night when they were asleep, and once when I desparately needed some down-time and got a pedicure at Colorful Nails.  I only read a few pages there because I also enjoy talking to the Vietnamese ladies who work there.  They have such fascinating stories to tell about their lives and we chat about kids and work, etc.  When my daughter was about 4 or 5 months old, I was home with her full time.  Sometimes I needed some pedicure decompression time (about once a month), so I brought her with me and sat her on my lap so she could watch with interest.  After she reached 9 or 10 months of age, she was no longer interested in sitting still on my lap.  At $25 for a spa pedicure in a wonderful massaging chair, it can’t be beat!

After having read the book, I have to say it is a MUST read…especially for women in corporate America.  What many people miss about Sun Tzu’s Art of War is that although he discusses how to achieve military victory, he also encourages we do so with the least amount of conflict and with a goal of attaining peace.  In fact, he very much espouses the win-win philosophy because who wants to rule people who hate you for defeating them?  I read excerpts of The Art of War in graduate business school in one of my favorite classes called The Art of Leadership.   It was very hard to understand then and it now makes more sense after reading The Art of War for Women.  On a side note, I wrote my semester paper in that class on The Celestine Prophecy and how the 9 insights can be used by effective leaders.  The professor was skeptical at first but after reading it, decided to give me an A.  But I digress….

Chin-Ning builds on this win-win sentiment and encourages us women to use our inborn unique skills of getting to positive solutions in our professional and family lives.  However, as she walks through the chapters of Sun Tzu’s book she clearly emphasizes that it is not an easy road.  To me the hardest and most important task is to “know yourself.”  I, personally, have done self analysis throughout my life, but I have changed over time so it is a constant time-consuming exercise that I am never able to finish.  It’s also very hard to get a clear picture of oneself because our image of ourself is derived from how we think others perceive us.  But as she mentions “How well you know the world around you is directly proportional to how well you know yourself.”  Personally, I think completing this task is about 90% of the battle!  The other 5%, in my opinion, has to do with Timing (personal and universal) which she discusses at length in her book.

One of the more interesting quotes in the book to me is in Chapter 8.1 – Transform Your Blue Puppy into a Golden Muse.  She says “Human beings come equipped with tons of different emotions – not all of them joyful.  When we force ourselves to be happy all the time, we set ourselves up for self-criticism and a state of eternal unhappiness, because it is impossible to live up to such standards.  No one can.  I know many professional motivation authors and speakers who, when the splotlights go off, are more miserable than you or me.  Sun Tzu warned against excess, explaining that extreme behavior – even good behavior – would always lead to an army’s defeat.  If you try to please everyone all the time or to stay upbeat at all costs, you will bring about your own unhappiness.  Even good intentions can bring bad consequences.”  It’s so true.  I think in the American society if you aren’t upbeat and happy all of the time then people think something is wrong with you.  As Confucious said (and my mother often repeated) “Moderation In All Things!”

Chin-Ning uses easy to understand stories to illustrate her points.  She even mentions that perfecting the art of pancake flipping will help you tap “into the state of perfect strength, perfect control, and perfect detachment.  These are the attributes you need to fireproof yourself.” 🙂

She concludes the book with a discussion on Sun Tzu’s 13th chapter which highlights how to deal with espionage and con-artists.  It made me sad to think that there are so many con-artists out there in the world.  It also made me a little bit nervous about jumping fully back into the business world since I’ve been con-artist free in my business life since I left the last company I founded.  Since we are bootstrapping (i.e., self-funding) Babble Soft at the moment, I have not run into customer or partner con-artists…probably because they are too caught up in their internal politics to con me and they probably wisely realize we don’t have enough money or fame to spend time trying to take it away from us yet!   According to her book, they might turn out to be con-artists later so we have to be on guard constantly.  Fortunately, I have only happened upon con-artists a few times in my business and personal life.  I hope to be able to keep that number under 5, but my guess is that might be out of my control.  Give me a jerk who is a jerk to my face and a jerk behind my back any day versus a person who is nice to my face and then stabs me in the back later!  Looking back, I feel more sadness for those people than anger because in their weakness they lost something invaluable, and I gained something invaluable: experience and strength.

Taijitu, the traditional symbol representing the forces of yin and yangCongratulations to Chin-Ning on a long overdue book to lead us, as she states, into The Woman’s Century — it’s our turn to help shift humanity back to a balance between Yin and Yang using our unique skills and paths to success.  I agree with Chin-Ning that we cannot follow another person’s path to victory, we must follow our own.  We should learn from others but the terrain, personal timing, universal timing, and people we experience is different than anyone elses that has come before us, and we must use those differences to our advantage!

If you are a woman (or man) in corporate America, are married to a man (or woman) in corporate America, plan to go back to corporate America, and/or deal with corporate America in your small business, you need to add this book to your Amazon shopping cart and buy it NOW!  (See below for the link!)  If you are reading this post in a Reader or an email, the Amazon book image may not show up.  You can click on the post title to see the actual blog post to see it…which I hope you do.  Happy strategizing!

A few more posts to come on the conference:

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