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Fortify Your Self

Fortifying Your Self – Three Different Ways

Fearless at Work (nook book)

Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence in the Face of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll (Shambhala, $16.5, 304 pages)

With this book in hand, you have the potential to lead your own life at work and home rather than be at the mercy of outside influences. Of course, that also means reading the book. Fortunately, it is full of meaningful examples and practical advice with realistic approaches to incorporating them into your daily experience. There are references to teachers admired by author Carroll who deserve the recognition. While this is gracious and appropriate, it creates an alphabet soup of names for a reader who is not steeped in the somewhat exotic cultures and traditions being referenced.

A reader would be wise to use sticky notes or a flag to mark each section as this reviewer has done. The book is structured around five primary slogans: 1. Face the fierce facts of life, 2. No delight; no courage, 3. Recognize fear, 4. Discover the jewel of fearless abundance, and 5. Command gracefully.

Helpful illustrations are included within the main text of the book as well as the appendices. The trade paper format and size of the book make it easy to take along for reference or just to aid in grounding the reader in times of challenge or tumult.

Highly recommended.

The Undefeated Mind

The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Alex Lickerman, M.D. (HCI, $15.95, 288 pages)

Dr. Lickerman is remarkably open and willing to share his past experiences with patients as he helped them to face life’s challenges. He is a practicing Nichiren Buddhist, and he begins the book with his own path to creating an undefeated mind.

The presenting problem is the breakup of his first love relationship prior to failing the first part of the National Board Exam at the end of the second year of medical school. The dual defeat that he experienced, combined with the field work required during the third year and the lack of time to study for retaking the first part of the exam, propelled Lickerman into a deep state of depression. From this beginning, he takes the reader into his medical practice for an array of solutions to similar problems brought to him by his patients.

The reader is assured of assistance in dealing with his or her own life obstacles given the wealth of good examples, detailed explanations of terminology used by physicians, and Dr. Lickerman’s kindly writing style. The one drawback is his need to provide attribution of the source material and references to persons whom he credits with wisdom that is worthwhile. These interruptions to the flow of the text detract from his message; however, the reader is well advised to accept this slight disruption given the value of the lessons to be learned.

Well recommended.

Attitude Reconstruction

Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T. (Riviera Press, $16.95, 354 pages)

The third book in this review is by far the most technical and visually oriented. Author Jude Bijou is a practicing marriage and family therapist/counselor. She has devised a set of charts for the reader to use as a guide to attaining a positive attitude and a more pleasant life. These charts depict destructive mental tendencies and constructive mental tendencies. Through describing the emotions associated with the two basic tendencies and the outcomes generated by acting upon them, Ms. Bijou seeks to provide the reader with an action plan for building a better life.

Visual learners will thoroughly enjoy the numerous charts, Q & A scenarios and worksheets contained within this densely-packed book. Be assured, the straightforward approach used by Ms. Bijou can be interpreted as classic textbook lessons rather than subtler gentle assistance of the type offered by Dr. Lickerman.

A person who seeks to change their life situation and needs a step-by-step process will benefit greatly from Attitude Reconstruction.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publishers.

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Fearless at Work (nook book)

The Undefeated Mind

A review of Fearless at Work: Timeless Teachings for Awakening Confidence in the Life of Life’s Demands by Michael Carroll, The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self by Alex Lickerman, M.D. and more.

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The Book of Jobs

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson (Simon and Schuster, $35.00, 656 pages)

“When Steve Jobs speaks, it is with the enthusiasm of seeing the future and making sure it works.”   Fortune magazine in the late 1970s

“I had a very lucky career, a very lucky life.   I’ve done all that I can do.”   Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs, the biography by Walter Isaacson (originally entitled, iSteve: The Book of Jobs) is an engaging biography that’s unique in that it allows us to get to know the man even more than the ultra-legend.   This is the amazingly true story of the person who was given up for adoption at birth, and went on to run the most valuable company on the face of the earth.   Although his contemporary and life-long rival Bill Gates outgained him in personal wealth, Jobs succeeded in earning the respect of both computer technology experts and the average consumer as the developer and producer of increasingly better, always innovative products.

Jobs and Gates were two of the individuals – along with Steve Wozniak – who were more or less present at the creation of the personal computer (PC) age.   Jobs and “Woz” were original members of The Homebrew Computer Club, an informal association in Menlo Park that had a hundred or so members; a club that heard a presentation by a young Gates from the Seattle region.   The Whole Earth Catalog was then popular (some of you will need to ask your parents about it), and Jobs was to adopt its motto as one of his guideposts in life, “Stay hungry.   Stay foolish.”

As Isaacson finely illustrates in this account, Jobs was never afraid to make mistakes with his early and later Apple Computer products – he was to learn and absorb valuable lessons from each of his mistakes right up to the time of “Antennagate” with the iPhone (“Has Apple’s Self-Destruction Begun?” was one of the headlines critiquing Jobs’ decision-making early this year).   If Jobs had been a college football coach, he would likely have been one that rarely called for a punt on fourth down; he would have often elected to go for post-TD two-point conversions.   When it came to beating his competitors, Jobs wanted to “leave no doubt.”

“The journey is the reward.”   Steve Jobs

While this book is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the PC and Silicon Valley, it gives us just enough information to understand where Apple fit in among its hardware, software and search technology alternatives such as Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Compaq, Google, Oracle, Adobe and others.   If you’ve read numerous histories of the era, you will likely be surprised to see how both Larry Ellison and Bill Gates come off as nothing less than gentlemen in this telling.   Ellison was especially close to Jobs, even offering to buy-out Apple Computer after Jobs’ ouster.   But Isaacson is not afraid to show us that Jobs was a human with flaws.   In addition to possessing a temper which he claimed to be unable to control, Jobs “tended to be generally dismissive of philanthropic endeavors.”   This was the case even though his wife founded College Track, an organization making efforts to help economically disadvantaged kids get into college.   Jobs never visited College Track’s after-school centers in the poor high schools where the program was (and is) located.

Like a hammer that sees everything in sight as a nail, Jobs also tended to view technology as the solution to every one of society’s difficult problems…  A very ill Jobs was to personally lecture President Obama on his view that all education should be digital and interactive (physical classrooms, teachers and whiteboards arguably being obsolete); though, in fairness, Bill Gates has made similar comments – some of which are quoted in Steve Jobs.

Isaacson clearly and comprehensively makes his case that  Jobs belongs up there with Edison and Ford as one of the greatest business leaders in American history.   He was a visionary, a big picture guy who could also master the smallest details.   He was a technological artist who was to identify with both fuzzy inventor-creators and detail-oriented engineers.   And he always understood that a sharp focus is the basic key to leadership, “Jobs insisted that Apple focus on just two or three priorities at a time.”

“…he was a brilliant guy with great design taste and great engineering taste.”   Bill Gates

One of Jobs’ ultimate victories was the knowledge that his adopted father had become enormously proud of his successes and achievements.   This fine and detailed account, an initial draft of history, well makes the case that Jobs (creator of the most successful ever consumer product launches) was a man of whom the entire world was proud.   What he sought as his own less than humble legacy was to come true; he sought “…a legacy that would awe people.   A dual legacy, actually: building innovative products and building a lasting company.”

Steve Jobs – the man who saw the future and built it for us.  

Highly recommended.

Joseph Arellano

This book was purchased by the reviewer as a Nook Book download.   It is also available in hardcover form, as a Kindle Edition download, and in abridged and unabridged audiobook versions.

Note: According to this biography, Steve Jobs once met in the late 70s with a class of Stanford University students and showed them a prototype of a laptop computer.   He informed them that this was the type of PC that Apple would be building and selling in the 1980s.   And Apple did so.   Years later, he told a different class at Stanford that they would one day be using PCs “the size of a book.”   And now we have 7″, 8.9″, 9.4″, 9.7″ and 10.1″ tablet PCs. 

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A review of Requiem for a Gypsy: A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation by Michael Genelin.

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Out of My Mind

The Memory Palace: A Memoir by Mira Bartok (Free Press; $25.00; 305 pages)

When she turned seventy-nine she wrote to tell me that although she was now legally blind she had decided to study medicine:  “I am thinking of going to nursing school…  That way, if I ever get sick or lose my sight completely, I’ll know what to do.”   I found a set of her teeth inside an old eyeglass case.

In The Memory Palace, Mira Bartok writes of a world that, sadly, too many of us will come to experience.   This is the world of the adult child whose parent is not only rapidly aging, but entering the throes of dementia or full-fledged insanity.   Whether caused by disease or mental illness, the results are the same – a parent terrified of having bad things happen to him or her brings those very results about through his or her own irrational behavior.   Bartok’s mother, Norma, was terrified of becoming homeless but became so after stabbing her own mother – who suffered from dementia – six times.

When her two daughters were young girls, Norma was diagnosed as having severe schizophrenia, and it cost her both a husband and a home.   Aside from the illness, Norma was a highly talented classical pianist who might have become a household name.   But it was not to be and Mira and her sister grew up in a hellish home with a mother who heard voices in her head, voices that caused her to lose touch with reality and normalcy.

As anyone who has lived through it knows, once a parent begins acting irrationally, their behavior will inevitably continue to deteriorate.   We no longer seem to have systems in place for properly dealing with the problems of the aged with mental issues.   They may be medicated or locked up for various periods of time (from hours to weeks or months), but they simply do not “get better.”

Bartok is to be commended for writing frankly about an adult daughter’s reaction to this, and it is mixed.   One third of her escaped by thinking back to the times when her mother was seemingly normal – a time before this parent’s rapid descent into madness.   One third of her lived in denial, literally trying to escape by hiding from her mother in Europe and elsewhere.   And the last third consisted of the daughter who sometimes had to take harsh actions against her mother – such as attempting to get a court to declare her incompetent – knowing deep down that the situation would only be resolved (made peaceful) with her mother’s death.

In this account it becomes clear to the reader that although Bartok lived a very difficult life due to her mother’s mental instability, she very much loved her mother and has wrestled with feelings of guilt (“I abandoned my mother to the streets.”).   As a young woman, Bartok was involved in an automobile accident that injured her brain and led to memory problems.   This provided her with a measure of insight into her mother’s faded connections with the world.

“…I go to the church and light a candle for my mother.   Not that I believe it will do any good; it’s just to remind myself that she is still lost in the world.”

By writing this blunt and painstakingly honest account of her mother’s troubled life, Bartok has performed an act of penance.   It is an act of humble penance in which she seeks to forgive her mother for literally losing herself.   It is an act of contrition in which she asks the world to forgive both herself and her mother for leading damaged lives.

This brilliantly written work reminds us that self-examination and self-forgiveness precede forgiving others for their real or imagined wrongs.   It’s a harsh world – a dark ocean – out there and we sometimes need assistance in navigating our way through it.   This memoir tells us that lighthouses exist.

Highly recommended.

“If memory is a palace, let me live there, forever with her, somewhere in the place between sleep and morning.”

This review was written by Joseph Arellano.   A review copy was provided by the publisher.   The Memory Palace was released on January 11, 2011.

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