Quotes, Questions and Books that Shaped My Thinking in 2018

I don’t collect “things”, but I do collect quotes that call to me, questions that reframe my thinking and books (lots of books). And daily I capture glimmers of wisdom culled from all three in my yearly journal.

Today, I’ve gone back through my 2018 journal to glean the wisdom from the quotes I’ve captured, the questions I’ve wrestled with and the books that resonated with me.


In hindsight, I regret that I captured many quotes this year but failed to note who to attribute them to.  None the less, here are the quotes that made my daily journal this year.

On Time and Our Journey

  • When 99% of your life is work, either you are really bad at what you do or you are completely off balance with the rest of your life. Neither is something to be proud of.
  • Burnout is not the price you have to pay for success.
  • Busy is a decision.
  • I am a traveler, not a map maker. I am going down the same path as you.
  • Your heart is more powerful than your brain.
  • Your dreams are the blueprint to reality. (Greg Norman)
  • Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life.
  • Integrity is the only path where you’ll never get lost.
  • Happiness is choice you make and a skill you develop.
  • Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving. (Pratchett)
  • A wise person has his not and he has his yes. (Lao Tzu)
  • The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

On Mindfulness / Presence / Well being

  • Nature is a great therapist.
  • We decide what we want to see before we see it.
  • It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see. (Henry David Thoreau)
  • When we prioritize our well-being, performance goes up across the board.
  • What separates the good from the great is a deep presence, relaxation of the conscious mind, which leads to flow. (Waitzkin)
  • Don’t believe everything you think. (Buddhist saying)

On Difficult Situations

  • Often when you think you are at the end of something, you are at the beginning of something else. (Fred Rogers)
  • Anger is what pain looks like in public. (Brene Brown)
  • If you want to be the best, you have to risks that others avoid. (Waitzkin)
  • Lean how to use adversity to your advantage. (Waitzkin)
  • Learn the hard from the soft, the soft from the hard.
  • The first mistake is seldom disastrous. It is the downward spiral of the second, third and fourth error that creates a devastating chain reaction. (Waitzkin)
  • If I am ready, I will learn. (Waitzkin)
  • Be at peace with imperfection. (Waitzkin)
  • Contribute more than you criticize. (Brene Brown)
  • Don’t be afraid of being wrong. Being wrong is just an opportunity to find more of the truth. (Annie Duke)
  • We fail the minute we let someone else describe success for us. (Brene Brown)

Compelling Questions

I find that questions are more powerful than answers. Questions open us up. They reframe our perspective. They enable us to think bigger and better. Here are a few of my favorite questions from 2018.

  • What would it look like if this was easy?
  • Is this a crisis or an opportunity for growth?
  • What is the one thing you wish someone had said to you as a child?
  • What is the most loving thing I could do for myself and others right now?
  • What do I need to stop doing because it hurts me?
  • What can I start doing to heal myself?
  • How can I contribute to the end of suffering for humanity?
  • What is the biggest misperception others have about you?
  • Am I able to make a difference right now? If not, can I be patient?
  • Where does my heart lead me?
  • What is my biggest fear right now? How likely is it?
  • Does my worrying about this help the situation?
  • What does “done” look like?
  • What does success look like?
  • What did we set out to do? What happened? What did we learn? How fast can we improve on it? (Brene Brown)

My Top Reads

Well, where do you think I find all those great quotes and questions? From reading! Here is my short list of good non-fiction reads for 2018 with a short reason why.

A Second Chance: For You, For Me, For the Rest of Us by Catherine Hoke

One of my first books read in 2018 – and one that caused me to volunteer for Defy Ventures, the 501(c)(3) founded by Catherine that enables incarcerated individuals (think the toughest of the tough) and corporate executives transform themselves using the power of connection, vulnerability, accountability and entrepreneurship. This is the story of her journey to defy the odds by her prison programs that have many successes, including graduates that have less than a 5% recidivism rate.

Grandma Gatewood’s Walk by Ben Montgomery

In the past two years I’ve been drawn to hikes on the Appalachian trail (not through hikes, mind you) and I began to get curious about Grandma Gatewood, who was the first women who through hiked the trail in 1955. And by the way, she did so at the age of 67. And then again another year. And again. And did I mention that only wore Keds and that her gear consisted of a blanket, shower curtain and a bit of pocket money? A story of grit, of determination and doing something big without really intending to!

The Opposite of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing our Humanity  by Sally Kohn

If you are like me, I am amazed, dismayed and baffled about how hateful people can be toward one another. Kohn sets out to answer the question of why, using research and interviews with internet trolls, white Nazis and people engaged in hate groups. She puts forth some compelling observations – including that what we most yearn for in connection.

The Art of Learning: the Inner Journey to Optimal Performance  by Josh Waitzkin

You may have noticed by the number of quotes above that this book spoke deeply to me. Waitzkin, a child chess prodigy, national and international chess prodigy and martial arts champion, unpacks the inner game of exceptional performance. No matter what you are attempting to master, this book is packed with keen insights on how our mind shapes our performance and outcomes.

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World by General Stanley McChrystal

I did a geek out reading binge on collaboration and this, by far, was my favorite read. McChrystal recounts the situation he found himself in when commanding the Joint Special Operations Task Force battling Al Qaeda in 2004. Resources, training the best equipment and military might was not match for the situation he found himself in. He proceeded to abandon traditional military hierarchy and put in its place a network with transparent communication, decentralized decision making and new structures of “teams of teams”. His insights and strategy are well articulated and translate well into any organization that is faced with the need to be agile, fast and adaptive.

In Praise of Difficult Women: Life Lessons from 29 Heroines Who Dared Break the Rules by Karen Karbo

Karbo is a witty writer who, in just a few pages per heroine, provides a pithy view of the life and impact of 20 women who dared break the rules. She covers a wide variety of fields (from arts to the sciences to politics) and ages. A fun read, a great history lesson and an inspiration to any of us who want to dare ourselves to do something that matters.

No Ego: How Leaders Can Cut the Cost of Workplace Drama, End Entitlement and Drive Big Results by Cy Wakeman

I found myself saying “yes!!!” throughout this book. As a leader, I’ve been guilty of spending too much time on poor performers and their drama. As a consultant, I’ve seen organizations go to extreme lengths to create workplaces that do superfluous things to build engagement. Cy gets to the heart of it: the best employee experience is being able to meaningfully contribute to work that matters. This is a blueprint to engagement that matters, accountability to results and crating workplaces where people want to work together for a higher purpose.

Facilitating Collaboration: Notes on Facilitation for Experienced Collaborators by Brandon Klein

If you never facilitate groups – skip this one. If you do, this is one of the best (and geekiest) guides I’ve found. Klein takes this work very seriously and details every step of the way….from how to plan, how to engage sponsors, how to set up space and how to balance moving with the group and moving the group along. This book has upped my game….and I’ll read it at least one more time to capture even more insights.

Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Tim Ferriss

A good friend gave me a copy for Christmas last year, about a week before the holiday. After reading just a few entries, I immediately ordered 20 copies for peers, clients and practice partners. Ferriss reached out to his list of successful people (albeit a bit heavy on media, sports and martial artists) – and asked a series of questions like:

  • What book do you give most often as a gift?
  • How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for future success?
  • In the past five years, what have you become better at saying no to?

The answers are both varied and provocative. This is a book to savor; I read one entry a day. It’s like having a mentoring conversation every day of the year!

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brene Brown

Brene describes courageous leadership as an inside out type of courage. Of having the courage to be vulnerable, to risk, to be emotionally available and to lead with your whole heart. This is the kind of leadership that creates connection, energy, and the psychological safety to take risks and do big things. This is the kind of leadership that makes the stoic “leave your emotions at home” leaders cringe. Given that what organizations need right now (and even more so in the future) are people that will create, innovate and to operate with candor – this is a book with great relevance for leaders in organizations that want to succeed in today’s business environment.

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

This book was an airport splurge on a business trip – and well worth the cost. I’m a fan of Yuval’s past two books, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (which at 464 pages is not really brief) and Home Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (another rather lengthy book). No matter the size, Yuval takes complexity and distills it into a compelling read that is both well researched and well written. This book is 21 chapters where Yuval explores technology, politics, despair and hope, truth and resilience. If you like to ponder where the human race has been, where it might go and what forces are shaping the world we inhabit – pick up a Harari book!

And a Kris Taylor quote: We are better together! Share some of your best quotes, questions and books from this past year!

My Top Reads for 2016

Those of you who know me, know that Amazon makes regular deliveries to my door, and that I always have my “nose in a book”. 2016 was no different. I’ve culled my bookshelves – and here are my top reads for 2016.

Warning: I am a quirky and eclectic reader. Mostly non-fiction, although an occasional non-fiction book captures my fancy. I do deep dives on the books that call to me – and have a stack of others that failed to.

So here is the 2016 list of my “deep dives”. And I’m always on the hunt for more good reads – so please share yours!

Essentialism: the Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

A wise person told me that if you ever want to really learn something, teach it. As I designed and led a two day retreat on McKeown’s book, I found this book on doing more by doing less has had a profound impact on my life. The premise is straightforward: simplify and focus. As I know all too well – easier said than done. McKeown’s gift is making the concept actionable with clear steps and strategies. He moves the reading from knowing to doing. The concepts work in both your personal and professional life. The book is good. My retreat was great. (I’d love to repeat it – any takers?)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

When no less than four colleagues recommended (in fact raved) about this book – I immediately ordered it. Upon arrival, I devoured it. I loved Gilbert is Eat, Pray, Love. I was inspired by Gilbert in this work. If you are creative, this book gleans insights into the process of creativity and inspiration. If you are not, but want to be, this book can be a guide. Not a writer or artist you say? Not a worry – as the book is aimed at this premise: how to have the courage to bring forth the treasures that are hidden within you. That means all of us!

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

If you want a preview of this book, take a look at the author’s Ted Talk. This book made me happy to read it. It caused me to reexamine some long held beliefs I had about work and happiness. Old construct: Work hard and happiness will follow. New construct: Be happier now and work success will follow. Achor combines his academic training with his great sense of humor and storytelling to craft an easy to read, high impact, and actionable book. And who would not like to be happier?

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Written by two journalists who share the stories around the “girl effect” or what happens when women (or girls) who are victims of sex trafficking and prostitution, gender based violence, and maternal mortality are empowered through education and microfinance. The conclusion of many global experts is that empowering women through education and vocational opportunities provides the highest ROI of any initiatives and provides dramatic positive outcomes for reducing poverty, improving health and promoting education – not just for themselves, but for their families and communities. The book was a compelling call to action for me – all you have to do is check out our give back page as proof.

A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings compiled by Coleman Barks

I start each day with this book of poetry from Rumi, a Sufi mystic. Rumi’s prose speaks to something deep inside me, and I love his broad spirituality as he honors Jesus, Muhamad, nature, Taoism, the Jewish Hassidic masters and the human spirit. Rumi captures age old truths with his lyricism and encourages me daily to look for the divine around me and within me.

Sapiens: a Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Brief is a bit tongue in cheek for this 400 plus brick of a book. I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer heft of the book given to me by a friend. After the first 20 pages, I found I need not be. Yuval does indeed walk readers through the history of the world – and in a way that is accessible, concise, intriguing and insightful. This is NOT a dry recitation of dates and battles and those in power. Yuval has the gift of synthesis – showing me how certain events shaped the world we live in. Part history book, part a study of sociology, part a political dissertation – this book helps me understand where we as a species have been, where we are headed, and why we are on that trajectory.

Unfinished Business by Anne-Marie Slaughter

As a feminist, a mother, and professional – the dynamics of gender and work and family have been a steady force in my life. Slaughter’s book unlocked a few of the conundrums I never could quite reconcile. Slaughter frames the book in her own experience as she left a distinguished career in academia and Washington policy positions to care for her family. I don’t want to give away the punch line, but if you’ve ever wondered why we overvalue jobs focused on competition (think tenured positions, political positions, professional football players) over those providing caring (think teachers, nurses, parents) – this book will provide some much needed insight.

The Essential Mary Parker Follett: Ideas We Need Today edited by Francois Heron, Albie Davis, Jennifer Jone-Patulli and Sebastien Damart

Intrigued by Mary Parker Follett, a women of the early 20th century whose work, writings and wisdom, continue to shape business thought today, I was on a quest to learn more about her. Her contributions were many – to political science, business management, leadership theory, social science and business. Her work in civic organizing and community education both influenced those fields and also influenced her research and writing. She was an author, speaker, social worker, and business consultant before there were business consultants (or even many women in business). And she is unknown to most, as she was a highly educated women in a time when women were unwelcome and unsung in academia and business. This is a book of selected readings from her work (and I must admit her work, in full form, is a daunting read). Think of this as a sampler of her thought leadership on leadership, groups, diversity and democracy – all as relevant today as they were in the 1920s.

The Power of Collective Wisdom and the Trap of Collective Folley by Alan Briskin, Sheryl Erickson, John Ott and Tom Callanan

If you’ve ever wondered how groups can come up with novel and powerful solutions to intractable problems at times – and at other times wallow in cobbled together solutions that are amazingly awful, this book provides some clues. In a world where our problems are bigger than ever, and where the world is increasing connected, and technology advancements are outpacing our ability to assimilate them, we need to find ways to do more of the former, rather than the latter; to come together in meaningful ways to find creative solutions and ideas. The authors share specific actions each of us can take to create the space in which collective wisdom can emerge, and warns us of actions that impede this process. A great read for those who work with groups to create, problem solve or innovate.

Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to do is Wrong by Ira Chaleff

A highlight of 2016 was the chance to hear this author speak. His life’s work explores the extent to which our socialization has conditioned us to obey those we perceive to be in a position of authority. He explores the question of what happens when we are asked to do something that is wrong. This is a relevant question as we evidence daily of complicity in our large organizations, religious bodes and political systems. This book will not only help you understand why it is difficult to speak truth to power, but will provide you with actionable steps to follow if faced with the need to be intelligently disobedient. And as leaders, it will show you how to cultivate intelligent disobedience for the good of your purpose.

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Widsom by Rick Hanson, PH.D. with Richard Mendius, MD

Practical indeed. No need to be a brain surgeon to read this book, understand it’s key messages and apply what you learn to your daily life. A fascinating exploration of the latest research in that all important glob of grey matter that shapes our thinking, actions and results. Want to learn how to rewire your brain to have more joy, calm, and compassion (rather than worry, fear or sorrow)? This is the ultimate “how to” guide. Interesting if you merely read it to learn. Transformational if you read and practice the exercises.

Will you be adding any of these books to your 2017 list?

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