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MeMyBook&Eye Preview: Find Your Strongest Life by Marcus Buckingham

October 5th, 2009
When Thomas Nelson offered me the opportunity to review Marcus Buckingham’s Find Your Strongest Life through their Book Review Bloggers program, my first thought was this: There’s something immediately suspect about a man–no matter how well-educated–telling women how to be happy. I’ll go ahead and say it.
However, I only made it a few pages into the book before I was sold on what he had to say–not only his message, but his methodology. This captivating and well-conceived book isn’t your typical self-help offering. Strongly grounded in research and in Mr. Buckingham’s experienced career in evaluating and drawing conclusions from statistics, Strongest Life, offers more than a feel-good message. It offers a recommended practice of achieving the strong life of joy and success we all seek.
Mr. Buckingham begins Find Your Strongest Life by quantifying the paradox I’ve seen so often among women today–the fact that although we have achieved an increased number of career opportunities, pay scale plateaus and glass-ceiling breaks, women still lack happiness. As Buckingham concludes from the available research, “Over the last forty years women have secured for themselves greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same time period, they have become less happy, more anxious, and more stressed; and, in ever-increasing numbers, they are medicating themselves for it.”
Telling.
Find Your Strongest Life pinpoints some key commonalities at the emotional level among women who’ve created “strong” lives, or lives that are both effective and fulfilled. These “strong” lives build on and expand moments when women are being true to themselves and their innate personality traits and unique gifts. He calls them moments when we have an undeniable sense of self-efficacy–when we are at our most assured and engaged, filled with joy and hope.
After interviews with countless women, Buckingham also recognized a common thought “practice” present in women living “strong” lives. The practice runs right up my alley in that it involves paying attention to our own lives, noticing those “strong moments” when we are at our best selves. By nuturing and expanding those moments, we build our strongest life.
Although Mr. Buckingham doesn’t explicitly address the issue of faith directly, I believe that the approach he advocates can help us recognize the gifts and skills God has given each of us as women. By prayerfully examining actions and situations that truly give us joy without the deceptive constraints of guilt, others’ expectations, “should haves” and “ought tos” we can begin to make choices that reflect the unique spirit God has placed within every person.
Finding Your Strongest Life includes a “Strong Life Test” designed to measure women against nine key life roles and determine the “lead” and “supporting” roles each individual was designed to play. Mr. Buckingham offers techniques, inspiration and many real-life examples for how to accept those roles and play to our strengths. His easy-going and down-to-earth prose was credible and a delight to read–so much so that I want to read it again.
I’ve decided to include Find Your Strongest Life as the next MeMyBook&Eye reading selection. While I’d recommend you getting a copy for yourself, you can always read vicariously with me over the next few weeks as I delve a little deeper into how this book affects my adventure in paying attention. I’m planning one or two more posts in the current 10-10-10series, and then I’ll be ready for some strength training. Stay tuned!

_225_350_Book.88.coverWhen Thomas Nelson offered me the opportunity to review Marcus Buckingham’s Find Your Strongest Life through their Book Review Bloggers program, my first thought was this: There’s something immediately suspect about a man–no matter how well-educated–telling women how to be happy. I’ll go ahead and say it.

However, I only made it a few pages into the book before I was sold on what he had to say–not only his message, but his methodology. This captivating and well-conceived book isn’t your typical self-help offering. Strongly grounded in research and in Mr. Buckingham’s experienced career in evaluating and drawing conclusions from statistics, Strongest Life, offers more than a feel-good message. It offers a recommended practice of achieving the strong life of joy and success we all seek.

Mr. Buckingham begins Find Your Strongest Life by quantifying the paradox I’ve seen so often among women today–the fact that although we have achieved an increased number of career opportunities, pay scale plateaus and glass-ceiling breaks, women still lack happiness. As Buckingham concludes from the available research, “Over the last forty years women have secured for themselves greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same time period, they have become less happy, more anxious, and more stressed; and, in ever-increasing numbers, they are medicating themselves for it.”

Telling.

Find Your Strongest Life pinpoints some key commonalities at the emotional level among women who’ve created “strong” lives, or lives that are both effective and fulfilled. These “strong” lives build on and expand moments when women are being true to themselves and their innate personality traits and unique gifts. He calls them moments when we have an undeniable sense of self-efficacy–when we are at our most assured and engaged, filled with joy and hope.

After interviews with countless women, Buckingham also recognized a common thought “practice” present in women living “strong” lives. The practice runs right up my alley in that it involves paying attention to our own lives, noticing those “strong moments” when we are at our best selves. By nuturing and expanding those moments, we build our strongest life.

Although Mr. Buckingham doesn’t explicitly address the issue of faith directly, I believe that with a measure of discernment the approach he advocates can help us recognize the gifts and skills God has given each of us as women. By prayerfully examining actions and situations that truly give us joy without the deceptive constraints of guilt, others’ expectations, “should haves” and “ought tos” we can begin to make choices that reflect the unique spirit God has placed within every person.

memybookeye1Finding Your Strongest Life includes a “Strong Life Test” designed to measure women against nine key life roles and determine the “lead” and “supporting” roles each individual was designed to play. Mr. Buckingham offers techniques, inspiration and many real-life examples for how to accept those roles and play to our strengths. His easy-going and down-to-earth prose was credible and a delight to read–so much so that I want to read it again!

I’ve decided to include Find Your Strongest Life as the next MeMyBook&Eye reading selection. While I’d recommend you getting a copy for yourself, you can always read vicariously with me over the next few weeks as I delve a little deeper into how this book affects my adventure in paying attention. I’m planning one or two more posts in the current 10-10-10 series, and then I’ll be ready for some strength training. Stay tuned!

© Haley Montgomery

Monday MeMyBook&Eye: Living by the Numbers Has Juice

September 21st, 2009
There’s a craziness threshold. Everybody has one. You may have slammed into yours like I have at times. It’s the point at which you can no longer pretend, the point at which you are ready for change–no matter the cost.
That precise moment was the catalyst for a refreshing idea life-tested and shared by Suzy Welch in her book 10-10-10. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of 10-10-10 before Ms. Welch sent me a copy of the book to review back in May. But, I was immediately intrigued by the concept just from the subtitle: 10 Minutes 10 Months 10 Years, A Life-Transforming Idea. Once I (tardily) cracked open the covers, I was not disappointed. I decided to use the book for my next selection for the MeMyBook&Eye solo book club.
If you’re new to MeMyBook&Eye, it’s the Junkie’s answer to book clubs. You can read vicariously without the pesky commitments of deadlines, club meetings or hors d’oevres. It’s also my chance to cheat. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all the worthy nuances of a book by the time I get to the end, especially when trying to summarize it in one review. MeMyBook&Eye offers the opportunity to write more about a book I’m excited about WHILE I’m reading it. So, Numbers Episode 1 begin!
Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 concept is simple but profound in its intentionality. It offers a methodical approach to making decisions that centers on considering consequences in the immediate, the near term and the long term, the goal of which is to enable more deliberate and proactive choices that coincide with our core values. 10 minutes. 10 months. 10 years. By making decisions that reflect our highest values, we can live a more “authentic life”–one that is more transparent and reflective of what really matters to us.
Yep, I think that IS a life-transforming idea. Living by the numbers has juice.
Chock full of real-life examples of people who have put the method to good use, the book offers a primer on how 10-10-10 can work for various areas of life. Although the time required and complexity of the outcomes vary for every decision, Welch proposes a 3-step process that can be applied to any decision-making conundrum:
1. Pose a question. Simplify and boil the decision down to one question.
2. Collect data. Answer the question based on consequences in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.
3. Analyze. Based on your answers, determine the best choice that will put you in line with what you really want your life to be. “Which decision will help me create a life of my own making?”
This process of decision-making not only allows us to make intentional choices, but it gives us a built-in way to explain our reasoning to others should the need arise. It also struck me that 10-10-10 carries potential not only in making wise decisions in the life-changing moments, but it can also serve as the voice of reason in the paralyzingly mundane. Whether I’m prone to impulsive thinking or over-thinking, the 10-10-10 concept can influence my choices so that I’m spending my time and resources on a life I value. Juice, people.
I must say that when I got to chapter 2, my bunk barometer sounded all kinds of alarms. Ms. Welch’s discussion of brain science and the ways 10-10-10 circumvents the evolutionary patterns of human thinking had me rolling my eyes a bit. I’ve never been an evolution gal, and I can’t see where the concepts presented in those passages are anything more than pure hypothesis untested by any stretch of the scientific method. However…
Chapter 3 had me (again) at “chapter.”  In it, Ms. Welch confirms the importance of values in the equation. In fact, they are the very crux of the entire concept. Without values, 10-10-10 may still be a good method. But, it would lack the core measuring system of what would actually get us to our goal of a life lived fleshing out what matters most to us.
“It is with values as an integral part of the process that 10-10-10 truly becomes transformative, allowing us to live in sync with our authentic dreams, hopes and beliefs.” (page 53)
Welch also puts her finger on a prevalent condition in our culture she calls the “black hole”–a condition that results from a “lack of values awareness.” There is an unfulfilled emptiness that results when our decisions have no relevance to our values. True. But, there is an even deeper core void that comes when we don’t KNOW our values, when we can’t articulate them. Try as we might, we simply cannot make choices in line with our values if we don’t know what our values are. Life becomes pure experimentation.
This book has challenged me first to commit again to a life of intentionality, to abandon the haphazard in favor of “owning” how my life is structured. Ms. Welch’s insights encouraged me to review my own values system again, to whittle it down to my most basic prerequisites for a living without regret. I was also bolstered to up my courage level, to have the fortitude to actually make and follow through with what I know supports those values.
In a very true observation about people of faith, Ms. Welch commented that many religious people are reluctant to embrace concepts that don’t overtly spring from the Bible. But, as I read the story of her methodology, I couldn’t help but relate it to the idea of “counting the cost” that Jesus spoke of in Luke 14. This process of applying a values system seems a worthy method for doing just that.
The rest of the book shows ways that 10-10-10 can be applied to five key values areas: love, work, parenting, friendship and faith. Stay tuned for Numbers Episode 2 next week (hopefully?) for more on a few of those hot spots.

There’s a craziness threshold. Everybody has one. You may have slammed into yours like I have at times. It’s the point at which you can no longer pretend, the point at which you are ready for change–no matter the cost.

101010

That precise moment was the catalyst for a refreshing idea life-tested and shared by Suzy Welch in her book 10-10-10. To be honest, I hadn’t heard of 10-10-10 before Ms. Welch sent me a copy of the book to review back in May. But, I was immediately intrigued by the concept just from the subtitle: 10 Minutes 10 Months 10 Years, A Life-Transforming Idea. Once I (tardily) cracked open the covers, I was not disappointed. I decided to use the book for my next selection of the MeMyBook&Eye solo book club.

memybookeye1If you’re new to MeMyBook&Eye, it’s the Junkie’s answer to book clubs. You can read vicariously without the pesky commitments of deadlines, club meetings or hors d’oevres. It’s also my chance to cheat. Sometimes it’s hard to remember all the worthy nuances of a book by the time I get to the end, especially when trying to summarize it in one review. MeMyBook&Eye offers the opportunity to write more about a book I’m excited about WHILE I’m reading it. So, let Numbers Episode 1 begin!

Suzy Welch’s 10-10-10 concept is simple but profound in its intentionality. It offers a methodical approach to making decisions that centers on considering consequences in the immediate, the near term and the long term, the goal of which is to enable more deliberate and proactive choices that coincide with our core values. 10 minutes. 10 months. 10 years. By making decisions that reflect our highest values, we can live a more “authentic life”–one that is more transparent and reflective of what really matters to us.

Yep, I think that IS a life-transforming idea. Living by the numbers has juice.

Chock full of real-life examples of people who have put the method to good use, the book offers a primer on how 10-10-10 can work for various areas of life. Although the time required and complexity of the outcomes vary for every decision, Welch proposes a 3-step process that can be applied to any decision-making conundrum:

1. Pose a question. Simplify and boil the decision down to one question.

2. Collect data. Answer the question based on consequences in 10 minutes, 10 months and 10 years.

3. Analyze. Based on your answers, determine the best choice that will put you in line with what you really want your life to be. “Which decision will help me create a life of my own making?”

This process of decision-making not only allows us to make intentional choices, but it gives us a built-in way to explain our reasoning to others should the need arise. It also struck me that 10-10-10 carries potential not only in making wise decisions in the life-changing moments, but it can also serve as the voice of reason in the paralyzingly mundane. Whether I’m prone to impulsive thinking or over-thinking, the 10-10-10 concept can influence my choices so that I’m spending my time and resources on a life I value. Juice, people.

I must say that when I got to chapter 2, my bunk barometer sounded all kinds of alarms. Ms. Welch’s discussion of brain science and the ways 10-10-10 circumvents the evolutionary patterns of human thinking had me rolling my eyes a bit. I’ve never been an evolution gal, and I can’t see where the concepts presented in those passages are anything more than pure hypothesis untested by any stretch of the scientific method. However…

Chapter 3 had me (again) at “chapter.”  In it, Ms. Welch confirms the importance of values in the equation. In fact, they are the very crux of the entire concept. Without values, 10-10-10 might still be a good method. But, it would lack the core measuring system of what would actually get us to our goal of a life lived fleshing out what matters most to us.

“It is with values as an integral part of the process that 10-10-10 truly becomes transformative, allowing us to live in sync with our authentic dreams, hopes and beliefs.” (page 53)

Welch also puts her finger on a prevalent condition in our culture she calls the “black hole”–a condition that results from a “lack of values awareness.” There is an unfulfilled emptiness that results when our decisions have no relevance to our values. True. But, there is an even deeper core void that comes when we don’t KNOW our values, when we can’t articulate them. Try as we might, we simply cannot make choices in line with our values if we don’t know what our values are. Life becomes pure experimentation.

This book has challenged me first to commit again to a life of intentionality, to abandon the haphazard in favor of “owning” how my life is structured. Ms. Welch’s insights encouraged me to review my own values system again, to whittle it down to my most basic prerequisites for living without regret. I was also bolstered to up my courage level, to have the fortitude to actually make and follow through with what I know supports those values.

In a very true observation about people of faith, Ms. Welch commented that many religious people are reluctant to embrace concepts that don’t overtly spring from the Bible. But, as I read the story of her methodology, I couldn’t help but relate it to the idea of “counting the cost” that Jesus spoke of in Luke 14. This process of applying a values system seems a worthy method for doing just that.

The rest of the book shows ways that 10-10-10 can be applied to five key values areas: love, work, parenting, friendship and faith. Stay tuned for Numbers Episode 2 next week (hopefully?) for more on a few of those hot spots.

© Haley Montgomery

Monday MeMyBook&Eye: Geek Finale

August 24th, 2009
For my final Bringing Up Geeks post for the MeMyBook&Eye solo book club, I thought I’d highlight a few of the over-arching lessons in parenting (and life) that I’ve gleaned from this inspiring book by Marybeth Hicks. I haven’t specifically commented upon 6 of the 10 geek parenting principles Marybeth outlines: Raising a Late Bloomer, Team Player, True Friend, Homebody, Principled Kid and Faithful Kid. However, I found those chapters  just as timely and challenging as the first 4 “rules” in Marybeth’s practical and common sense approach to parenting in today’s cool-obsessed culture. I hope you’ll go to your local book store or library and form your own opinions about the principles she outlines.
From page 1 of this book, several general themes have stood out to me consistently as very significant, perspective-shifting reminders of the realities of parenting my gifts in society today. While many of the themes reflect beliefs I already had or demonstrate facts I already knew, Marybeth’s observations and advice on how these issues play out in the real day-to-day decisions of 2009 have been invaluable. At the end of this post, I’ll share several specific sections of the book (with page numbers) that I strongly recommend as resources–one I’ve marked to read again periodically because of their power and practicality. But, first, my list of 8 smart parenting realities I’ve learned from Bringing Up Geeks:
1. Culture cannot be trusted. (As if there were any doubt.) No, culture doesn’t want the best for my child. Culture does not want to educate my child, to keep him healthy, or to help him be the person he was created to be. No, that’s a fallacy perpetuated by culture itself. Culture is not an adequate judge of what is acceptable. For my kids, that would be my job. The cultural machine is made up of people and companies who’s goal is to make money. Bottom line: Culture defines my babies by their demographic markers and their ability to influence spending–nothing more.
2. Parenting is longterm. My goals need to be centered in “life,” not in the passing phases of popularity. Children become adults. There’s the ball.
3. Take responsibility. Get a set of standards and stand for them. Parenting my kids is my responsibility. If I abdicate that responsibility to culture, it’s not CNN’s fault, or public school’s or the left wing agenda’s. “We don’t lose authority, we give it away.” (pg. 17)
4. Innocence is worth protecting. Culture’s rushing of my children to know more and do more is motivated by money. Countless research studies show premature exposure to entertainment and activites that are fitting for mature adults increases the danger and risk to children both physically, developmentally and socially. We don’t stop the cycle because we are lazy. Period. I MUST recognize the value of innocence and take the necessary steps to guard it–even if it makes me “that” preschool mom.
5. Standards produce free children and free adults. Culture offers a seductive, but false, freedom centered in a life without boundaries. But children who’s status is subject to the whims of the popular crowd, the latest trends and the size of their pocketbooks are chained to just those things. They become adults who are chained to those things raising more children chained to those things. Standards and boundaries provide safe and secure place for my children to explore the world and become the people they were created to be.
6. Value true value. Culture establishes a false sense of value that is derived primarily from possessions. I want to base my parenting (and purchasing) decisions on what is truly valuable.
7. Knowledge is parenting power. If I am to make the best decisions and open the most opportunities for my gifts, I have to take the time to evaluate. Going with the cultural flow (even at preschool) is the easy way out, certainly the path of least resistance. When I make the effort to know what is out there, to measure it against my standards, to pause before saying yes, to make an informed decision, my choices have meaning and power.
8. Family trumps friendship. That’s not to say the friendship isn’t important. It is very valuable. But, I don’t want 4-year-old or 6th-grade or even 11th-grade friendships to be the basis of my child’s view of the world. Despite what culture may have us believe, families (not peer groups) are the building blocks of society and the primary means of nurturing and growing productive and principled adults. Family time is vital, and it’s ok to say “no” to protect it.
A few passages of Bringing Up Geeks I’ll be reading again:
1. Rules for Surfing the Net (page 75-76 & 78)
2. Essential Media Literacy concepts from the Center for Media Literacy (page 80-81)
3. Tips for fostering play and hobbies (page 105-109)
4. Guidelines for electronic games (page 109-112
5. Encouraging Modesty in Dress (page 165-169)
6. Elements of Good Character (page 263-265)
7. Basic “tenets” of “moralistic therapeutic deism” (page 282-283) — yikes!
8. Letter to Katie (page 290-291)
9. Chapter One — just a good reality check!
One final note before I move on to other reading selections: A special thank you to Marybeth Hicks for giving me a copy of her book to review and for her willingness to communicate with me directly rather than through a media rep. It’s been a pleasure!
Stay tuned in the coming weeks as MeMyBook&Eye shifts focus to living by the numbers with 10-10-10 by Suzy Welch!

memybookeye1For my final Bringing Up Geeks post for the MeMyBook&Eye solo book club, I thought I’d highlight a few of the over-arching lessons in parenting (and life) that I’ve gleaned from this inspiring book by Marybeth Hicks. I haven’t specifically commented upon 6 of the 10 geek parenting principles Marybeth outlines: Raising a Late Bloomer, Team Player, True Friend, Homebody, Principled Kid and Faithful Kid. However, I found those chapters  just as timely and challenging as the first 4 “rules” in Marybeth’s practical and common sense approach to parenting in today’s cool-obsessed culture. I hope you’ll go to your local book store or library and form your own opinions about the principles she outlines.

From page 1 of this book, several general themes have stood out to me consistently as very significant, perspective-shifting reminders of the realities of parenting my gifts in society today. While many of the themes reflect beliefs I already had or demonstrate facts I already knew, Marybeth’s observations and advice on how these issues play out in the real day-to-day decisions of 2009 have been invaluable. At the end of this post, I’ll share several specific sections of the book (with page numbers) that I strongly recommend as resources–ones I’ve marked to read again periodically because of their power and practicality. But, first, my list of 8 smart parenting realities I’ve learned from Bringing Up Geeks:

1. Culture cannot be trusted. (As if there were any doubt.) No, culture doesn’t want the best for my child. Culture does not want to educate my child, to keep him healthy, or to help him be the person he was created to be. No, that’s a fallacy perpetuated by culture itself. Culture is not an adequate judge of what is acceptable. For my kids, that would be my job. The cultural machine is made up of people and companies who’s goal is to make money. Bottom line: Culture defines my babies by their demographic markers and their ability to influence spending–end of story.

2. Parenting is longterm. My goals need to be centered in “life,” not in the passing phases of popularity. Children become adults. There’s the ball.

3. Take responsibility. Get a set of standards and stand for them. Parenting my kids is my responsibility. If I abdicate that responsibility to culture, it’s not CNN’s fault, or public school’s or the left wing agenda’s. “We don’t lose authority, we give it away.” (pg. 17)

4. Innocence is worth protecting. Culture’s rushing of my children to know more and do more is motivated by money. Countless research studies show premature exposure to entertainment and activites that are fitting for mature adults increases the danger and risk to children both physically, developmentally and socially. We don’t stop the cycle because we are lazy. Period. I MUST recognize the value of innocence and take the necessary steps to guard it–even if it makes me “that” preschool mom.

5. Standards produce free children and free adults. Culture offers a seductive, but false, freedom centered in a life without boundaries. But children whose status is subject to the whims of the popular crowd, the latest trends and the size of their pocketbooks are chained to just those things. They become adults who are chained to those things raising more children chained to those things. Standards and boundaries provide a safe and secure place for my children to explore the world and become the people they were created to be–FREE of the dictates of culture and popularity.

6. Value true value. Culture establishes a false sense of value that is derived primarily from possessions. I want to base my parenting (and purchasing) decisions on what is truly valuable.

7. Knowledge is parenting power. If I am to make the best decisions and open the most opportunities for my gifts, I have to take the time to evaluate. Going with the cultural flow (even at preschool) is the easy way out, certainly the path of least resistance. When I make the effort to know what is out there, to measure it against my standards, to pause before saying yes, to make an informed decision, my choices have meaning and power.

8. Family trumps friendship. That’s not to say that friendship isn’t important. It is very valuable. But, I don’t want 4-year-old or 6th-grade or even 11th-grade friendships to be the basis of my child’s view of the world. Despite what culture may have us believe, families (not peer groups) are the building blocks of society and the primary means of nurturing and growing productive and principled adults. Family time is vital, and it’s ok to say “no” to protect it.

geeks

A few passages of Bringing Up Geeks I’ll be reading again:

1. Rules for Surfing the Net (page 75-76 & 78)

2. Essential Media Literacy concepts from the Center for Media Literacy (page 80-81)

3. Tips for fostering play and hobbies (page 105-109)

4. Guidelines for electronic games (page 109-112)

5. Encouraging Modesty in Dress (page 165-169)

6. Elements of Good Character (page 263-265)

7. Basic “tenets” of “moralistic therapeutic deism” (page 282-283) — yikes!

8. Letter to Katie (page 290-291)

9. Chapter One — just a good reality check!

One final note before I move on to other reading selections: A special thank you to Marybeth Hicks for giving me a copy of her book to review and for her willingness to communicate with me directly rather than through a media rep. It’s been a pleasure!

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as MeMyBook&Eye shifts focus to living by the numbers with 10-10-10 by Suzy Welch!

© Haley Montgomery

Monday MeMyBook&Eye: Geeks are Weird

August 3rd, 2009

memybookeye1I had to chuckle and shake off vivid memories as I read Geek Principles #3 & 4 in Bringing Up Geeks this weekend. Some of the experiences and thoughts Marybeth Hicks shared in her chapters on “Raising an Uncommon Kid” and “Raising a Kid Adults Like” reminded me of some of the commitments my own parents made when I was growing up. Most of their theories, however, didn’t come from reading the advice of others. It came from how they, themselves, were raised and from their own values and preferences. That type of demonstration is the chief lesson I gleaned from this portion of the book.

“Raising an Uncommon Kid” begins with a simple reality: “Some people think being different is weird.” (pg 90) I’ll say! I was raised as an uncommon child, and I realize that it never bothered me much. I never felt I was slighted in the things that mattered. I remember my childhood as a very blessed and happy one–but one that was uncommon. I never had an Atari game. I didn’t watch most of the popular sit-coms of the day because my Dad thought they were silly and unentertaining. I remember watching the 5:30pm national news and the 6:00pm local news. I never had posters of Shawn Cassidy hanging in my room. I got a balance beam for Christmas one year. I spent my weekends at my grandparents farm playing with puppies and cows rather than going to the movies or hanging out in the McDonald’s parking lot. I watched Lawrence Welk and Austin City Limits on PBS with my family on Saturday night. Yep, I was weird. But, the more I think about it, the more I want to enstill that same weirdness in my own children.

Both of these chapters underscore again the need to be vigilant in how we deal with culture’s influence in our lives as well as the need to establish high expectations for our children. “Raising an Uncommon Kid” highlights the importance of encouraging our gifts to pursue their individual interests, rejecting the pull of materialism and consumerism that so often govern choices today. I believe these values also set the stage for “Raising a Kid Adults Like.” Children who have learned the value of and cultivated the freedom to pursue their own interests are just more interesting. They’ve been shielded from the overindulgence and media-savvy behavior that often promotes disrespect and poor attitudes. Uncommon kids have often learned the courtesies and skills that make adults like to be around them.

The subject of freedom is a seductive one. So often kids (and adults) equate freedom with getting to do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences to themselves, their families or others. Freedom in that regard often produces nothing more than bondage. Marybeth points out that in today’s “culture of cool,” children are subject to the whims of popularity. Now more than ever before, consumerism and selfish narcism are rampant in children (not just teens). Once again, they’ve taken their cues from the adults in their lives. They value what we value–which so often is nothing of real value. Making parenting–and purchasing– decisions for uncommon children, however, gives them the freedom to explore their own interests, their own styles, their own means of self-expression, truly free from the dictates of what company has the most advertising dollars or the coveted demographic market share or the ever-changing “it” people, places and things.

This whole discussion brings to the surface the importance of knowing what true value is and where we find it.  With my children, I need to help them establish a core understanding that their worth and value as people does not rest in what they own or even what they do. It must rest in something more concrete and unchanging. I believe it rests in our status as a wholly loved, immaculately designed creation of the God of the universe. That sort of helps to put the value of self, others and possessions in their proper places.

One of the most poignant concepts presented in these two chapters is the idea of materialism and how insidious its influence can be. Marybeth quoted Madeline Levine, saying that materialism at its core shows “how easy it can be to choose the simple seduction of objects over true complex substance of relationships.” (pg 95)

As so often is the case, manipulation breeds manipulation. I look around and easily realize that the manipulation of media and culture toward materialism leads people to manipulate others. The desire for things, the quest to fit in often leads to children manipulating parents in the form of begging, whining, etc. It leads to the manipulation of others by encouraging children to arbitrarily and inconsistently bestow favor (or disfavor) on others based on constantly moving benchmarks.

“Raising a Kid Adults Like” reminded me again of the importance of manners and courteous, respectful behavior. Likewise, it underscored the reality that if we have low expectations of our kids, they will most certainly meet them. The fact is that respect and kindness are learned, and therefore trained. As I tell my boys, you can always choose to be kind or respectful. (Ahem. Adults, listen to this next sentence.) It is not dependent on circumstances. Although I’d love to live in a world where truly appearances and the seemingly superficial manner of speech is unimportant, it’s not the way of this world. We live in this world, and this world often gathers a first impression by the good manners (or lack of) a person exhibits.

Bringing Up Geeks continues to remind me of the need to live out values before my children, to reject the notion of culture as the master and to take concrete steps to control its influence. With practical advice that can be used on a day-to-day basis, it is quickly becoming a manual for uncommon parenting in a much-hyped, but common, culture.

Geek Episode #2
Geek Episode #1

© Haley Montgomery

Monday MeMyBook&Eye: Geek Episode 2

July 28th, 2009

Yes, I’m aware that it’s Tuesday and I’m tardy again. But, I couldn’t get past the alliteration.

Dumb and exposed. The seem to be the benchmark of popularity in our culture today. Just take a look at the television line-up to see how many overexposed reality shows are gracing the airways in the name of entertainment. Dumbing down looks to be the trend du jour. And the dress code is, well, low-slung and narrow in places where it used to be wide.  “I’m hot” seems to be the new mantra of a socially acceptable generation that values knowledge–not of books, but of almost every conceivable manifestation of popular culture. To be “in” the know is often the barometer of cool in the “whatever” generation. And, cool is getting younger and younger.
Roll camera on Geek Episode 2. My first selection for the MeMyBook&Eye solo book club has been Bringing Up Geeks by Marybeth Hicks. Marybeth was kind enough (many moons ago) to send me a copy of her book, and I decided to make it my first foray into the concept of a serialized review. It’s been another many moons since Geek Episode 1 (insert well-intentioned excuse here), but I am no less a champion of this inspiring book. I’m determined to put some of the ideas into practice in my own home and create our own little geek colony here in Starkville MS.
[A note about MeMyBook&Eye: I’m not ashamed to say that it’s all about me. Of course it’s about the book, but more specifically, it’s about what I’m thinking about the book. If you’re following my (snail’s pace) journey through Geekdom, it’s almost like reading it yourself. Only not. Bringing Up Geeks is filled with very practical steps and advice for implementing many of the ideas Marybeth espouses. So, go pick up a copy and take a look at all the wisdom I’ve left out of my word count.]
As I quoted in Episode 1, Marybeth offers 10 geek strategies to help parents promote “innocence over exploitation, substance over style, and genuine self-esteem over superficial acceptance.” Sold. The first is “Raise a Brainiac.”
As Bug would say, “I like it!” The Brainiac lifestyle Marybeth describes values being smart over being cool. It’s about training and allowing my children to explore their God-given curiosity and creative spirits, independent of what others may see as popular. What a way to enstill confidence in following their passions and convictions as adults! Again, to me this book is so much about thinking beyond the moment, about parenting for adulthood. About raising my kids to be the kind of grown-ups that can impact the world. A few lessons stood out.
1. Raising a brainiac is about the process, not necessarily the trappings of achievement. It’s not hopped-up on status seeking, but finding the value and joy of learning along the way. Note to self: I was that kind of child–and am now that kind of adult.  I want my gifts to believe they are smart and know that’s ok. In fact, it’s good.
2. I need to find ways to meet my child at his place of curiosity and encourage exploration. When curiosity is encouraged, confidence is gained.  Marybeth writes, “As children gain confidence, they naturally reach further beyond their comfort zones to discover new and more interesting things. Confidence feeds curiousity, and curiosity fuels development.” (pg 39)
3. Pay attention. (hmmm. there’s that pesky theme again.) Marybeth enumerates the concept of 8 “intelligences” proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University: linguistic (word smart), logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart), spatial (picture smart), bodily-kinesthetic (body smart), musical (music smart), interpersonal (people smart), intrapersonal (self smart) and naturalist (nature smart). By watching and listening and playing, I can find each of my children’s particular area of smart expertise and feed it.
The second geek strategy is “Raise a Sheltered Kid.”
Raising a sheltered kid is about protecting innocence. But, I am immediately reminded that protecting innocence begins first, by valuing innocence. Not an easy task today. Take one look at Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or Jon & Kate Plus 8 and it’s clear that in today’s culture innocence is something to be tossed away, or at the least hurried on through.
If there’s one lesson from this chapter, it is that protecting innocence is not a passive endeavor. I was so inspired to NOT give up my children’s innocence without a fight, without taking a stand. To not give it away for the sake of convenience or busy-ness or indifference or cowardice at ruffling a few parent or peer feathers. Marybeth wrote, “…I believe we lose sight of our children’s most basic needs when we focus on time limitation, the changing and pervasive nature of media technology, or the reactions from our children and their friends. The culture of cool has changed the way we have to approach our job as parents, demanding that we take the time, know the media landscape, and determine what’s really best for our kids.” (pg 62)
As a parent, it’s up to ME. I must take the time. I want to make clear and informed choices for my kids and not pass the responsibility on to other parents, other kids or the culture itself. My boys and Baby Girl (and the gifts they have to give) are too important to me and to this world.
The Sheltered Kid chapter is full of practical guidelines. Some of the internet practices the Hicks family has put in place, alone, are well-worth the purchase of this book. There is also some great foundational information about the nature of media messages themselves (which I think I’ll save for another post.)
Marybeth wrote about the negative reputation being a “sheltered kid” sometimes has–what with the ever-present need to be in-the-know at younger and younger ages. But, she really brought it back to the definition of a shelter itself, the purpose of which is to protect and shield. Although her children no doubt stand out in their lack of knowledge or participation in many things, she wrote, “They see our shelter as an expression of our unfailing commitment to assuring that their childhoods are a time of innocence and wonder, and they know our limits are a reflection of our love.” (pg 83)
Innocence and wonder. If those don’t warrant a shelter, what does?

Dumb and exposed. That description seems to be the benchmark of popularity in our culture today. Just take a look at the television line-up to see how many overexposed reality shows are gracing the airways in the name of entertainment. Dumbing down looks to be the trend du jour. And the dress code is, well, low-slung and narrow in places where it used to be wide.  “I’m hot” seems to be the new mantra of a socially acceptable generation that values knowledge–not of books, but of almost every conceivable manifestation of popular culture. To be “in the know” is often the barometer of cool in the “whatever” generation. And, cool is getting younger and younger.

memybookeye1Roll camera on Geek Episode 2. My first selection for the MeMyBook&Eye solo book club has been Bringing Up Geeks by Marybeth Hicks. Marybeth was kind enough (many moons ago) to send me a copy of her book, and I decided to make it my first foray into the concept of a serialized review. It’s been another many moons since Geek Episode 1 (insert well-intentioned excuse here), but I am no less a champion of this inspiring book.

As I quoted in Episode 1, Marybeth offers 10 geek strategies to help parents promote “innocence over exploitation, substance over style, and genuine self-esteem over superficial acceptance.” Sold. The first is “Raise a Brainiac.”

As Bug would say, “I like it!” The Brainiac lifestyle Marybeth describes values being smart over being cool. It’s about training and allowing my children to explore their God-given curiosity and creative spirits, independent of what others may see as popular. What a way to instill confidence in following their passions and convictions as adults! Again, to me this book is so much about thinking beyond the moment, about parenting for adulthood. It’s about raising my kids to be the kind of grown-ups that can impact the world. A few lessons stood out.

1. Raising a brainiac is about the process, not necessarily the trappings of achievement. It’s not hopped-up on status seeking, but finding the value and joy of learning along the way. Note to self: I was that kind of child–and am now that kind of adult.  I want my gifts to believe they are smart and know that’s ok. In fact, it’s good and has lots of perks.

2. I need to find ways to meet my child at his place of curiosity and encourage exploration. When curiosity is encouraged, confidence is gained.  Marybeth writes, “As children gain confidence, they naturally reach further beyond their comfort zones to discover new and more interesting things. Confidence feeds curiousity, and curiosity fuels development.” (pg 39)

3. Pay attention. (hmmm. there’s that pesky theme again.) Marybeth enumerates the concept of 8 “intelligences” proposed by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University: linguistic (word smart), logical-mathematical (number/reasoning smart), spatial (picture smart), bodily-kinesthetic (body smart), musical (music smart), interpersonal (people smart), intrapersonal (self smart) and naturalist (nature smart). By watching and listening and playing, I can find each of my children’s particular area of smart expertise and feed it.

The second geek strategy is “Raise a Sheltered Kid.”

Raising a sheltered kid is about protecting innocence. But, I can’t escape the truth that protecting innocence begins first, by valuing innocence. Not an easy task today. Take one look at Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan or Jon & Kate Plus 8 and it’s clear that in today’s culture innocence is something to be tossed away, or at the least hurried on through.

Protecting innocence is not a passive endeavor. Through this chapter I was so inspired to NOT give up my children’s innocence without a fight, without taking a stand. To not give it away for the sake of convenience or busy-ness or indifference or cowardice at ruffling a few parent or peer feathers. Marybeth wrote, “…I believe we lose sight of our children’s most basic needs when we focus on time limitation, the changing and pervasive nature of media technology, or the reactions from our children and their friends. The culture of cool has changed the way we have to approach our job as parents, demanding that we take the time, know the media landscape, and determine what’s really best for our kids.” (pg 62)

As a parent, it’s up to ME. I must take the time. I want to make clear and informed choices for my kids and not pass the responsibility on to other parents, other kids or the culture itself. My boys and Baby Girl (and the gifts they have to give) are too important to me and to this world.

The Sheltered Kid chapter is full of practical guidelines. Some of the internet practices the Hicks family has put in place, alone, are well-worth the purchase of this book. There is also some great foundational information about the nature of media messages themselves (which I think I’ll save for another post.)

Marybeth wrote about the negative reputation being a “sheltered kid” sometimes has–what with the ever-present need to be in-the-know at younger and younger ages. But, she really brought it back to the definition of a shelter itself, the purpose of which is to protect and shield. Although her children no doubt stand out in their lack of knowledge or participation in many things, she wrote, “They see our shelter as an expression of our unfailing commitment to assuring that their childhoods are a time of innocence and wonder, and they know our limits are a reflection of our love.” (pg 83)

Innocence and wonder. If those don’t warrant a shelter, what does?

*Update: Read Geek Episode #3

© Haley Montgomery

    Wander Here

    Thank you for seven years of encouragement and sharing this story. You can find Haley's current essays and design work at smallpondgraphics.com

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