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The 4th Annual Executive Lift Book Awards

The books on my 2022 bookshelf were different in several ways. First, there were more than ever! Although this picture includes 19 titles, there were a few more that didn't make the shelf. The topics and genres were more diverse, as were the authors. So it only makes sense that the "winning" books are presented in a new way.

Two Books with Practical Application to Work and Life

Conversations Worth Having, by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres

This book introduces the concept of Appreciative Inquiry, and aligns perfectly with my Strengths-based approach to coaching. Applying the tools allows you to talk to anyone about anything - especially difficult topics - in a productive way.

Once you learn the model you can implement it with immediate impact. How do I know? Because I did it. I reframed my approach in a leadership workshop with a client, and was fascinated at the amount of positive feedback flying around the room!

Radical Acceptance, by Tara Brach

Two different people recommended this to me within the space of about a week. And while the concept itself is "simple," it is not "easy."

"Radical Acceptance is the willingness to experience ourselves and our life as it is. A moment of Radical Acceptance is a moment of genuine freedom."

If you would like to redirect your time and energy from situations that frustrate you to those that energize you, give this a try. I was able to draw a parallel between overcontrolling a process - something I know well from my time in Operations - and "overcontrolling" life. I gradually stopped solving other people's problems: offering unsolicited advice, suggesting solutions when none were asked for. And I have gained back time and energy to use with intention however it best serves me.

Two Books that Surprised Me

Ursula Burns' memoir had been on my "to read" shelf for a few years. Her path to CEO of Xerox was far from traditional, and highly instructional. One cannot be much more "other" than to be a Black female engineer in corporate America. How she found her way, and what still motivates her today, will leave you both impressed and inspired.

Viola Davis's autobiography was an impulse buy in an airport bookstore when I ran out of reading material ahead of an international flight. The store was offering a "buy one, get one 50% off" deal. I already had Dolly Parton's book in hand (a great relaxation read!!!) and picked this up too.

Wow. I had no idea. None at all. Today we see the successful actor with a hit show, How to Get Away With Murder. To think she could rise above the trauma and pain of her childhood to be where she is today... there are no words. Read this book, and then watch the show; you will catch the flashes of Ms. Davis's real life in almost every episode.

Books I'm Highlighting to Support New Authors

Optimists ALWAYS Win! by Kimberly S. Reed, MEd.

I heard Kim speak at a conference in 2019 - she was electric! She mentioned she was writing a book, and I was excited to see her dream become a reality.

I had no idea of Kim's back story: a tremendous amount of sorrow and unexpected challenges piling on top of each other. Yet she found a way to rise above.

We all have adversity in our lives. We also have a choice in how we respond. In this book Kim lays out 10 "Discouragement Eliminators" in clear language, using her own personal story to explain each. Don't wait for your own Life Knock Out event to learn skills to help you rise above with relentless optimism.

Bridges Between Us, by Khori Smith with Michele Reber

A Pathway to Unity Through Faith, Empathy, & Mutual Understanding.

What makes this book so appealing is the skillful way Khori grounds the topic in real-world experiences. My favorite example is using the Star Wars movie sequels to demonstrate the relevance of history to interpreting today’s reality. Each concept is tied to a relatable, often non-religious concept and a scriptural foundation for a loving and caring interpretation. Khori suggests options for response and application without insistence that his way is the ONLY way. This book expanded my understanding of other’s experience, and will inform how I perceive people going forward.

Fun back story: I met Khori through his twin brother Khamari Smith, a phenomenally talented artist. If you have been on a video call with me you have seen Gears of Life in the background. I commissioned the piece, and from one 5-minute FaceTime with Khamari he managed to capture my essence in art!

The Best Book You Can't Buy

Women on the Cusp: Social Upheaval and the Class of 1962 at Pembroke College in Brown University, edited by Helene Schwartz Kenvin '62

This book completely transformed my relationship with my mother. Before I finished the third story I understood her in a completely new light. Suddenly, our relationship throughout my childhood and early adult years made sense.

My mother is a member of the Class of '62. At her 55th reunion she and some classmates were sharing stories, and someone remarked they should write them down. Classmate Helene Kenvin, an accomplished writer and editor, offered to compile and publish the collection for their own personal use. Mom gave it to me to read first; I still wonder if she had read it first would she have been so willing to share it with me?

Women of this era - and men too - are referred to as the Silent Generation. They conformed to the expectations of society at that time. Although they graduated with degrees from Brown, many of these women gave up careers to marry and raise a family. Needless to say, the resentment that accompanied this infiltrated all aspects of their lives.

For those that attempted to go the career route the stories are all too familiar: Accepted to and completing law school, only to find the jobs offered to them were for secretarial work. Inability to get hired into university-level academic positions. Not invited to join science research labs.

I'm grateful to these women for sharing their experiences. They truly changed my life.

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