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Review: Grit for Kids: 16 top steps for developing Grit, Passion, Willpower, and Perseverance in kids for self-confidence and a successful life

Because I had written reviews of Grit and other some education related books Lee David Daniels sent me a review copy of his short book Grit for Kids. While the title would have caught my eye, I’m not sure that I would have stumbled upon it otherwise, and I’m glad that the author brought it to my attention. While the book, by nature of its length, leaves out quite a bit about the concept and its application of Grit to parenting, it does provide a useful, actionable, introduction to concept.Grit for Kids is a short, application focused short book that can provide some needed guidance to parents who are struggling with how to help their kids follow through in the face of challenges, or just boredom. It says a minimal amount about the theory of “grit” and dives into scenarios and techniques you can use to encourage the right combination of endurance and passion with children in your care. The examples are realistic and address children of a variety of ages from later elementary to high sc…

Review: 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings: How to Get By Without Even Trying

Sarah Cooper’s book 100 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings, is very much a fun, and funny book, which, is also surprisingly useful and relevant. Part satire, part social commentary, it reminds us of people and situations we’ve been in and gives us the opportunity to laugh at others and ourselves. If you’ve been in any medium to large size organization (or had to interact with one), you’ve seen most of these “tricks” in action, and you’re likely to want to share select items with others, laugh out loud, or perhaps wistfully imagine life where these things didn’t happen. But the book offers more than just the opportunity to mock your corporate colleagues. After having a good laugh, you have the opportunity to think about why some of these tricks, — especially the ones that sound so reasonable — make you cringe when you see them in action. And that thought process can lead to better collaboration.Let’s start by taking a step back (see tip # 3). All of the items Cooper mentions are thi…

Mindfulness, Resilience and Positive Intelligence (Book Review)

I got a copy of Positive Intelligence at the recommendation of a leadership coach. After having done the “Saboteur” quiz on the Positive Intelligence site, I wanted to learn more about the his approach. While the book gets at some of the concepts I've seen in other places, the approach is worth exploring.The positive intelligence framework is that we have within us Saboteurs, which hold us back, and a Sage, which helps us explore possibilities. While the anthropomorphism initially made me feel a bit awkward, there is some power in ascribing non-productive reactions to a part of your thought process, and giving it a name. The book explains techniques to both be more attentive to, and thus able to suppress, your saboteurs, and also how to “strengthen” your Sage, so you can treat setbacks as opportunities more readily.Some of the basic themes of Positive Intelligence may sound familiar if you’ve spent any time learning about team leadership, but Chamine’s way of modeling them adds a…

Tribe: A Multi Level Discussion of Community

Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging is a book about the seemingly unlikely combination of community and war. It covered a lot of ground, and as such left me with a bit unsure of what Junger wanted his readers to take from it. But perhaps that’s his point: community and interdependence is a complex issue that works on many levels. You may not agree with all of Junger’s conclusions, or simply have a lot of questions, but since he has a number of references in the back, you have to tools to explore his sources more deeply. Because of diversity of the topics in the book, Tribe got me thinking about quite a few things in ways that I hadn’t expected. The book opens with a discussion the realization that modern society seems to be at odds with the intrinsic values that “self-determination theory” describes, and how the values of tribal societies support mental (and physical) health in both direct in direct ways. With a mix of history, quotes, stories from his experienc…

Ted Talks (Book Review)

TED talks often get me intrigued and inspired about topics that I sometimes hadn’t thought about before. As someone who speaks to various audiences at work and at professional events, I’m always looking for ideas about how to be a better speaker, and TED Talks, The official TED Guide to Public Speaking sounded like a promising resource, and I wasn’t disappointed. The book provides some good guidance about everything from developing an idea to actually speaking on stage. Even if you never expect to speak on the TED Stage or any other, the book still has value. Anderson points out early and repeatedly that “presentation literacy” is an important skill for everyone. Even if you never present to a formal audience, learning how to organize and distill what you want to say is a valuable skill, and many of the concepts are relevant to writing as well. Keeping “presentation presence” in mind can be useful even if you are sharing an idea with a colleague. If you want to be a better presenter (…

Starting and Closing Agile Retrospectives with People in Mind

One of the more powerful aspects of agile software development methods such as Scrum is that they acknowledge the importance of individuals and their interactions in delivering quality software. As much as it is important to review and adapt the product backlog by having sprint review meetings at the end of each sprint, it is also important to have retrospectives to inspect and adapt how the Scrum process works on a team. The Sprint Review is about the tasks and scope (the “What” of the sprint). The Sprint Retrospective is about the Scrum process (the ‘How”). Sadly, many teams miss out on some value by glossing over the parts of a retrospective that acknowledge the human elements of the scrum process. By using some simple techniques teams can improve their retrospectives by putting more emphasis on people.
Allocating time for a retrospective every 2 weeks (if you use 2 week sprints) can be a challenge. The 5 step structure that Ester Derby and Diana Larson describe in their book Agile…

Grit with the Nuances (Book Review)

The headline version of what Grit is and how it is important to success doesn’t do the concept justice. That hard work and persistence are as much, if not more, important to talent for success is both appealing on the surface and simplistic. Many subtle details get lost in the elevator pitch, and reading Grit answered many of my questions, and gave me some guidance on how to be more successful in reaching my goals, and how to give my child tools to do the same.Duckworth draws on the work of people like Cyzmenthaly (Flow), Seligman (Learned Optimism), Carol Dweck (Mindset), Adam Grant (Originals, Give and Take ) . I’ve followed the work of all of these people in my quest to better understand how to help teams be more effective, and also how to be a better parent. These concepts are more widely applicable than you might initially think. Flow first came to my attention via Kent Beck, and Learned Optimism via a reference in a book by Jurgen Appelo (Management 3.0) Team and family dynamics…

Recent Reads: Leadership, Use Cases

Here are a few articles I’ve read recently that I though were worth sharing. The first two are by Kate Mastudaira, who’s ACM articles on people management are always well written and often seem to be consistent with things I’ve learned from reading and speaking with Jerry Weinberg. The third is from the person many most associate with Use Cases, Ivar Jacobson, about an update to Use Cases that seems to align more closely with agile methods. Delegation as Art by Kate Matsudaira A good discussion about what it means to be a “senior engineer.” in particular, “senior” implies leadership, which implies teaching. This quote hits the highlights, but the article is still worth a read: Being a senior engineer means having strong technical skills, the ability to communicate well and navigate ambiguous situations, and most important of all, the ability to grow and lead other people.Nine Things I Didn't Know I Would Learn Being an Engineer Manager by Kate MatsudairaThis article explains why…

Giving, Taking, and Being Successful

Giving, Taking, and Being SuccessfulI’ve been making good use of my commute time recently, catching up on reading, and in particular, the stack of physical books on non-fiction topics that are somewhat relevant to my work. I was making good progress, only to have new, interesting stuff cross my path. One Sunday morning in December I caught part of an interview with Adam Grant on On Being. I wasn’t familiar with Adam Grant before this, but I’m extremely glad that I caught the show. I soon got a copy of Give and Take by Adam Grant, and I read his next book Originals shortly after it came out. In the spirt of giving, and of the serendipity that led me to learn about Adam Grant, I’ll also mention some of the other books Give and Take brought to mind. I read Give and Take by Adam Grant as last year ended. This is was a great book to end one year and start another with, as it got me thinking about the value of generosity, not just to others, but also to your self. Grant explains how givers …

How Mindsets can Help or Hinder Learning (Book Review)

It was inevitable that I would read Mindset. Having recently read two books Give and Take by Adam Grant, and How Children Succeed by Paul Tough) which referenced this book, and having heard mention of it in other contexts as well. As promised on the cover, Mindset provides advice that you can apply whether you are a manager, worker, parent, teacher, or some combination. Carol Dweck does a great job of explaining an idea with a lot of research behind it in a popular book, without glossing over too many points. There were a few places where I thought the book dragged a bit, but those sections were brief and far between, and on net it was a quick enjoyable read.The point of Mindset is that people have one or two mindsets: fixed mindset which is premised on the idea that you abilities and qualities are carved in stone, and the growth mindset which is based on the belief that your basic qualities are cultivated through effort. The 2 mindsets in Dweck’s model provide a powerful framework fo…

Team of Teams: An Unexpected Source of Agile Inspiration

One can find insight in unexpected places. Team of Teams by General Stanley McChrystal et al is a book about dealing with organizational complexity, written by a general, which uses the war against Al Queda as a common thread. I was somewhat skeptical that I could find information here about software teams that I'd find immediately useful, regardless of how interesting it was. I was wrong. In addition to the advice I was expecting to read about team dynamics, I gained some insights that I thought would be immediately applicable to scaling Scrum Teams.Fairly early into Team of Teams the authors explain that this is not a war story. While it's true that the common thread in the book is how General McChrystal worked to get the army more able to adapt to a decentralized, agile enemy, there are are also stories from commercial aviation, NASA, and corporate America. While there is a fair amount of military history in this book, there is also a discussion of the history of manufactur…

How Children Succeed: Rethinking What's Important (Book Review)

When listening to news coverage of education reform, and talking with parents and teachers, one hears a variety of views about what “The Best” approach to education is. While I’ve spent a lot of team learning about teams (of adults), and I have some opinions about what seemed to work best for me when I went to school, I realized that I didn’t really know much about research into education. To that end, I started reading How Children Succeed by Paul Tough, and in the process started to reconsider many of my preconceptions about what’s best for kids, and along the way I learned a few things that I can use to help the people I work with succeed. A lot of the discussion around elementary (and earlier) education is around what children learn and when. How Children Succeed reminded me that learning isn’t all about academics, and that not all learning happens in school. Some of the concepts and principles that the books discusses, like Flow, Grit, and the ideas of Seligman in Learned Optimis…

Turn the Ship Around: Agile Lessons from a Submarine Captain

I was not expecting a book about working on a Navy submarine to provide insights I could use to help a team be more agile. Having heard recommendations for Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David Marquet from both a colleague at work and people in the agile community who I respect, I decided to give the book a look anyway. I’m glad that I did. I thought that this was be a quick, enjoyable read with many lessons I could quickly employ at work. The chapters are all short and focused, and the author repeats the key themes often enough that they stick. Each chapter is centered around a story, so it’s easy to see that the lessons in the book are based on experience and not just theory. My focus is on working with agile teams, so I found that the lessons applied to that context. Even if you are not doing "Agile, this book highlights the value of an agile, adpative, self-organizing approach can have in any organization, regardless of the overall pr…