Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: Outliers: The Story of Success

We may look at intelligent people—and credit their intelligence for their success. We may look at wealthy people—and credit their financial savvy for their success. But there may be more to the story of success than meets the eye, according to author Malcolm Gladwell.

In Outliers—a statistical observation that is markedly different in value from the others of the sample (secondary definition)—Gladwell tells of amazing twists of fate and quirky facts that made the difference between failure and success for some people. Some fall within our control; some do not.

Gladwell opens the book with the story of a community that dies only of old age and reveals its secret. He tells of airline crashes we’ve all heard about in which the culture in which copilots were raised greatly contributed to the tragic event. In a chapter called “Rice Paddies and Math Tests” he confronts our school systems for failing to deliver the educational goods to our children. From hockey players to geniuses, Gladwell reveals startling statistics as to why they may succeed—or not. A lengthy section of “Notes” documents Gladwell’s sources.

I rarely read a book twice, but this one may get a second look. I was fascinated to realize how small things make a big difference. And what it might mean for my life. I heartily recommend it for a thought-provoking read.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What's Your Exit Strategy?

Dear Friends,

I am in a dither. According to my dictionary, a “dither” means “A state of indecisive agitation. To be nervously irresolute in acting or doing.” And “irresolute” means “unsure of how to act or proceed; undecided.” That’s me. In a dither. And definitely irresolute.

I want to downsize. I want to organize. I want to prepare for the time when my kids will have to go through my stuff and decide what to do with it. So I’ve started.

First of all, I gathered all photos that were not in albums and sorted them according to family, friends, extended family, black and white photos and miscellaneous. I put all of Ted’s family photos and all of Terry’s family photos in separate albums. That was the easy part. The rest is waiting for me (in stacks all over my spare bedroom) to decide what kind of albums I need and how many Christmas card photos I want to keep. Then I must start on the slides. I plan to turn them into DVDs, but of course, they too must be sorted—one by one!

Saturday I worked to turn a third of a basement bedroom, which houses my husband’s office and my sewing corner, into a gym. I decided that for this latter stage of life I need a treadmill so that on days I don’t get to the gym, the gym is waiting downstairs. Turns out the first person I asked what type treadmill to buy had one to give away. The basement room had a spare bed sitting where I need to put the treadmill, so I posted the bed on a local Facebook online garage sale page--and it’s gone! Then I posted a patio set that is just too large and heavy for us to handle anymore. It was picked up three hours later. This could be fun! I plan to post an item each week to help with the downsizing.

But back to the organization of the bedroom. The first thing I did was empty a hutch and (with the help of my husband and those slidy things you put under stuff) drag it to another wall so that I can place a TV in front of the treadmill. As I handled the dishes and knick-knacks, I evaluated each piece. Some went back into the hutch, but many went into a box that I hope to dispose of through a yard sale. If I have the energy to hold one once I’ve worked through my house.

Of course our house includes many corners like the hutch. There’s the attic with boxes of the same kind of stuff that was in the hutch. Not to mention mementos from my childhood, chests of spare blankets (really, how many spare blankets does a household need?), boxes of old clothes and books—tons and tons of books, books that I may or may not ever need or read again. There’s the basement with cookware we no longer use, a table and chairs we no longer need and tubs of games we no longer play.

As I consider what to do to make things easier for my kids, I also think about intangible things: Should I preplan my funeral? Is my will up to date? Am I prepared to meet God? Are there amends I need to make? Is my office well enough organized that writing and speaking venues can be taken care of when I am gone? Oh my. Developing an exit strategy is no simple thing.

But I feel better already, just putting down on paper what I want to accomplish. I’ll keep working on it, a paragraph at a time. If you have any tips for me, please leave a comment. I need all the help I can get. If you receive this blog by e-mail, click on the link below to comment.

This Saturday, June 7, 10 a.m., Friends of the Heart will present “At Any Age, At Any Stage: Celebrating the Christian Life” at Stony Glen Church of God, Dauphin. And Kim and I just signed up for a “She Speaks” conference sponsored by Proverbs 31 in North Carolina in July. So there are some exciting things going on. But you now know what may be driving me crazy on the rest of those lazy summer days.

Enjoy the journey--and plan for its end. After all, that moment may arrive--at any age, at any stage. What’s YOUR exit strategy?

Shirley Brosius

All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 (NIV)