Road Trip Brain Food

I recently went on a road trip.  All by myself.  And you know what that means, don’t you?… 22 hours of listening to whatever I wanted!

I absolutely love reading, but rarely find time to read anything above a 3rd grade level, so the trip meant getting to listening to full audio books!  I made it through parts of four books during my excursion (I had already started the first and didn’t make it through all of the last):

  • The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox
  • How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

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The Goal may seem an odd choice for a homeschooling stay at home mom.  It is unequivocally a business management book.  It’s a fictional account of a plant manager, Alex Rogo, who is stressed over his plant’s impending shut-down.  He happens upon a former colleague, Jonah, who serves as Rogo’s mentor throughout the rest of the book.  Jonah leads Rogo to completely rethink what the plant’s goal is and how to achieve that goal.  As a result, Rogo steers a completely different direction than how things have always been done, and has to deal with a lot of criticism for that.  Of course, taking those drastic steps ends up not only keeping the plant from being shut down, but making that plant the most productive in the area.

So…why am I reading this book, you ask?  Well, The Brain reads lots of business management books (they actually pertain to his job) and recommended this one to me.  Early on the book, I began to feel really challenged about what my one core goal as a homeschool mom is, and what approaches I should be taking to meet that goal.  I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.  In the book, Rogo really wrestles with his thoughts of goals and methods, and sorts through it all with a group of coworkers.  I feel like I really need to spend some doing the same.  (Any “coworkers” out there want to join me in reading the book and sorting through our goals and methods??)  The book definitely has me thinking.

When The Brain and I were discussing it after I finished reading it, he asked if I listened to the interviews at the end of the book.  Well, I did hear the beginning of an interview, but it was Boring with a capital B.  So I quickly moved on to my next book.  The Brain reminded me that one of the interviews is with a teacher who used this book to rethink her teaching approach.  He said it was the best interview of the set and that it would be really helpful for me, so I definitely plan to go back and listen to that.  (I imagine that the interviews are only on the audio version of the book, not print.)

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I hate conflict.  I really do.  Historically, I avoid it at all costs.  I have actually cut-off relationships because I didn’t want to deal with conflict.  At this point in my life, I’m trying to move beyond that and learn how to actually work through conflict with others.  How to Have That Difficult Conversation You’ve Been Avoiding is so helpful for me in regards to learning how to do that.

This book is a follow up to their book Boundaries (a must read for anyone who interacts with other people).  Boundaries helps you determine what boundaries you need to set with others; Difficult Conversation helps you know how to actually HAVE that conversation with someone about boundaries.  (You can still get significant value out of Difficult Conversation even if you haven’t read Boundaries.)

I really wish I could include some of the powerful quotes from this book (and the other three!), but since I listened on audio – while driving – I don’t have a book to flip through or written notes to make use of.

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Okay, this one’s a classic, and I’m sure you’ve either read it or are familiar with it.  Written back in 1936, it still is probably one of THE most influential “self-help” books on the market today.  (I have absolutely no data to back that up – purely guessing.  😉 )  If I had the time, I would love to re-read this several times a year, just for the reminders of how to have positive healthy interactions with people -whether building relationships or just having brief encounters.  I’ve never been so hot in the social skills arena, so this is the perfect textbook for me!

It’s divided into four sections:  Fundamental Techniques in Handling People, Six Ways to Make People Like You, How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking, and Be a Leader:  How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment.

Actually, as I read those now, the titles sound rather self-serving.  Listening to the audio book, though, my impression was much more of how to get past yourself and be really interested in and focused on the other person.  This is another book I would recommend to everyone.  Read it again or read it for the first time – I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll benefit from it.

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Mere Christianity is another classic, and another book I would love to reread on a regular basis – at least once a year.  I understand different parts of it each time I read it.

The book is actually the compilation of radio broadcasts Lewis, a former atheist, made during the early 1940’s, in the midst of WWII.  His purpose, from my understanding, was to explain and help people focus on what all believers have in common – not details that separate people into denominations.  The book is written in a very casual tone, as if you’re sitting and talking with him over coffee, but the topics are still very thought-provoking.

As with How to Win Friends, there are four sections in this book:  Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, What Christians Believe, Christian Behavior, and Beyond Personality: Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity.

For me, it’s actually not a good book for audio format, because I want to reread pages and paragraphs and have time to mull over them.  I would love to have time to sit and really think through the logical explanations Lewis sets forth in this book.

I definitely recommend the book to all Christians as a deeper study into God and our faith. I also recommend it to anyone else who would be interested in getting a better understanding of what Christians believe and why they believe those things.

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What about you?  If you had time to read four books that either you haven’t read before or that you wanted to re-read, what would they be?

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