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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!

2 Responses

  1. Great stuff Kris!
    Some compelling questions I’ve been using:
    * If I gave you a magic wand, what would you change about this place?
    * If you were guaranteed to succeed, what vocation/hobby would you pursue?
    * What is the biggest obstacle to improve this issue? What’s the first step to address this?
    * In middle school, what did you envision as a career? Is that playing out in any way – job, hobby, volunteerism, etc? Does that passion still exist?
    Happy New Years!

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