Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Review: Passion Planner

During the fall of 2014, Jamie saw a really cool Kickstarter project for a new type of planner. The young woman with the idea, Angelica Trinidad, had found herself in a place where she was thinking about next steps for her life, and the outflow of this experience led her to develop a planner that could help herself and others make the most of their time, and begin to plan forward.

Jamie loved her Passion Planner so much that last summer, I went online and decided I would order her a new one for a Christmas present. I also decided that I would order myself one, and grab a couple of extras for gifts for a few friends. The Passion Planner had evolved to be in two sizes by the time I was placing my order, so I grabbed a couple of each size to give Jamie and myself “freedom of choice.”

While I was perusing the website, I noticed there was a special program for qualifying nonprofits to apply for free Passion Planners, so I decided to spend a little extra time on the website and apply on behalf of Nuru. I was thoroughly excited when Nuru International qualified and received a FREE Passion Planner for every one of our staff members. As many of you know, the majority of our staff work remotely, but we do strive to all spend at least a week together once per year to celebrate wins and set plans for the upcoming year. This past January, I was so excited to hand each member of our small team a Passion Planner and tell them the story of how generous the company was and how much of a value add Jamie and I were already finding our own.

As I write this post, I’ve personally had more than six months to work with my Passion Planner. I absolutely love this high quality and affordable tool! Here’s a few reasons why.

1)   Analog tool. In our increasingly digital world, it is refreshing to have a planner and calendar that you actually write in, as it pushes us away from online distractions (which are many and increasing).
2)   Simple overview/best practices. This planner has a very short explanatory guide in its beginning that allows the user to learn how to best optimize all of the planner’s feature. It is fairly simple and straightforward, and does not try to make planning complex. When I look at many planners and organization systems, I get overwhelmed with the complexity of the tool, and get anxious about whether I’ll be able to use it adequately. Passion Planner keeps it simple and straightforward.
3)   Passion Roadmap. This tool is a mini brainstorming and goal setting tool. At first I thought this was a bit hokey but then I gave it a try, and it has helped me tremendously to write down and build a path toward goals of varying timespans.
4)   Weekly layout. The weekly and monthly layouts of this calendar (and the yearly) are all extremely helpful. This planner has real time slots for a very full 18 hour day, and to me this is PERFECT. I use it to manage time, and because I have been trying to spend more time offline this year, the format is helpful for taking a look at the previous week and week ahead without logging into a calendar app.
5)   Weekly and monthly review questions. One of my favorite characteristics of this calendar is that there are a series of weekly and monthly review questions to assess how I am progressing toward goals. I appreciate that this tool gives me space to reflect—a skill much needed in the world today too!
6)   Mid-year review. To me this was incredibly helpful. At the end of June, I was able to take a look back over the last six months and some of my goals for the year to know how I was tracking. I believe the planner was an instrumental tool to keep me on target so I could celebrate at mid-year!
7)   To do lists. Every week, aside from daily calendar time slots, there are two to do lists. One is work related, and the other is personal. Having these lines and a way to prioritize has helped me to ensure things get done each week in both work and life.
8)   Blank space. On each monthly calendar and weekly calendar, there is a “Space of Infinite Possibility” that I have found to be incredibly helpful. This is a place where I can do brainstorming during the week, take notes during calls, and add details around deliverables that need more support. In addition, the back of the planner has several pages of graphed and blank pages for drawing, writing, and note taking.
9)   Simple design. The Passion Planner does not have a crazy or busy design. The binding and the individual pages are simple, professional, and elegant, and I appreciate that the designers did not fill it with flare—the flare comes from the individual user.
10) Daily Focus. Every day has a small space for a daily focus. I start many of my days with my Passion Planner, and having this space allows me to set an intention or priority for the day.

While I have not used all of these beneficial tools within the Passion Planner to their fullest extent, I have found that the more often I use them, the better job I do staying on task, focused, and moving forward in my personal and professional goals. If you are looking for a tool to move forward your dreams, I highly recommend you pick up a Passion Planner for yourself. I anticipate they will be a part of Team Williams annual purchases for many years to come.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: Co-Active Coaching by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House

Over the last three years, my friend Jake and I have been benefitting hugely from having executive/leadership coaches to help us elevate our capacity to lead, to serve, and to bring our best, not only to the fight to end extreme poverty, but also to every area of our lives. During the last couple of years, in some of my sessions with my coach, I talked to him about potentially learning the skills and getting formal training and certification to be an executive coach. He was very supportive, and over the last several months I have been receiving formal training and I am in the process of certification to be an executive/leadership coach. While I plan to write more about that experience, at some point, this post is about a book that is part of the required curriculum for certification with the Coaches Training Institute (CTI).

The book, Co-ActiveCoaching actually has four authors: Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl, and Laura Whitworth. These four authors are some of the first people to launch into professional coaching, and they have influenced the field for more than a quarter century. Among those who have commented or endorsed the book are legendary leadership development guru and author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey.

The book is considered a best-selling must have book for those in the professional coaching industry, and based on my experience and formal training, I would say that it is incredibly helpful for those who are working in the coaching vocation formally, and for those who have had formal training in training, but that without formal training, the language and terms would be difficult to get one’s mind around the depth of their meaning. This is not to say that the book is hard to understand, because it is not super-complex language; it is more to say that without an appropriate context the reader might have some difficulty bringing these tools to their fullness.

As someone who is now a practitioner (again more on that in a future post), I highly recommend the book as a valuable tool and reference guide for executive or leadership coaches. The book is a thorough guide to the principles, cornerstones, contexts, and tools needed for effective coaching. The book has been used as a curriculum at graduate business schools such as Yale and Duquesne. I believe that even without formal training on the Co-Active Model, the book can guide managers and leaders with regard to bringing out their best and the best in those around them, but make no mistake, this is not a “productivity tool book” but more of a reference guide for those who are serious professionals dedicated to the development of themselves and others.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Review: Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall

I had first discovered Christopher McDougall’s writing when a friend had suggested the book, Born ToRun, a few years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed that book, and so I was looking hopefully toward McDougall’s latest book. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of taking some extended time with Jamie for vacation, rest, and refreshment. We found ourselves on the Atlantic coast, and each of us brought a couple of books with us to read. My book of focus was Natural Born Heroes: How A Daring Band Of Misfits Mastered the LostSecrets of Strength and Endurance by Chris McDougall.

As I sat reading and listening to the rhythm of the Atlantic waves crashing against the Maine coastline, I found myself quickly enthralled by McDougall’s latest text. He had woven together several themes of personal interest for me in this fast moving text (including history, functional strength, mobility, nutrition, heroism, asymmetrical warfare, and Greek mythology).  The book sets as its backdrop the battle for the Island of Crete during World War II and how the Cretans and special operators from other parts of the world were able to work together to prevent Hitler from being able to swiftly invade and overcome Russia during the war.

McDougall does an incredible job of weaving what at first glance seems to be many disparate themes together to recount a historic moment in the modern era, along with many lessons to be learned from those who are willing to listen to and apply a different methodology for living. It is also clear to me that he writes out of both passion, experience, and an intense desire to seek out ways to cultivate his own physical health and stamina.

The author moves from a recounting of the time and the land of the battle of Crete and even going further back to look at Greek mythology and how some of these stories related to the values of the Cretans up to the modern era to reflecting on his own personal development and discoveries that he is working to apply to be a more fit and strong individual.

The most notable starting framework comes from looking at what makes a hero. When we think of heroes, we think about people who are doing extraordinary things for the good of others. We often perceive these people as extraordinary people, but McDougall reminds us that these are normal people who are able to do extraordinary things when the time calls for it, but that part of the extraordinary is that they have done activities that have trained them to be ready.

The text goes back and forth between World War Two Crete and modern day activities and groups who are working toward improving functional mobility, fitness, and health, and leaves the reader with much to consider with regard to endurance, perseverance, and  what prepares each and every one of us to be heroic in our responses when the situation calls for it. I highly recommend McDougall’s book, especially for those interested in history and personal development.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Review: Natural Childbirth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon

As Jamie and I have been preparing to invite a new team member into our home, we have been doing a lot of reading and trying to soak up all of the wise counsel that friends and family have been willing to offer. Among the books we have been reading, NaturalChildbirth The Bradley Way by Susan McCutcheon has been incredibly helpful as part of final preparation for labor.

While the book is over 20 years old, given that it is talking about natural childbirth, it isn’t like the information is going to be obsolete any time soon. The book does a great job of taking this incredibly miraculous process and giving expecting parents a pathway for preparation.

For most women who have never given birth there are stereotypes and stigmas at work that can cause significant anxiety. Some women tell horrible stories of the extreme pain and trauma that their bodies went through during labor. Television and movies almnormal, but we still were not sure what normal was/is.
ost always portray childbirth as happening while lying on one’s back, in stirrups, and with lots of newspapers, towels, and hot water around. At the same time, television and other media portray husbands/fathers as helplessly sitting in a waiting room anxiously pacing with cigars or bubble-gum to hand out to everyone as he proudly announces that he is the father of a boy or girl. Having spent some time in other parts of the world, and having several friends who have given birth, we knew that these stigmas and perceptions were not

Reading Susan McCutcheon’s book, helped us both shatter stereotypes, and have prepared us both to be able to contribute strongly during labor. Of course, Jamie is in the driver’s seat, and I am confident that she will perform like an Olympic athlete bringing her very best self to the unfamiliar to her, but well established by women, path through labor to bringing a new life into the world. For my part, I plan to bring my very best self to lovingly support her, relax her, advocate for her, and help her to focus on the fact that her mind and body (and the baby) are ready for her to go through this miraculous process.

The book is filled with relaxation techniques, positions to try, and encouragement that childbirth is normal, and we have a number of medical advances that can support us if complications arise, giving birth naturally is a strong possibility for most women and that it is worth giving the effort. If you are looking to learn more about natural childbirth be sure to give Susan McCutcheon’s book a read.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Reflection: Birthing Class

Recently in preparation for the arrival of Baby Williams, Jamie and I took a two day birthing class offered at Mon General Hospital in Morgantown, WV. The class cost $60, but one of the teachers said that it might be reimbursable through insurance. Regardless, I believe the class was well worth it.

Here are just a few reasons.

1)   During the class we were able to watch multiple videos of childbirth, and it really helped us reframe a number of our perceptions around childbirth. Neither myself nor Jamie have spent much time in a labor and delivery area (other than visiting friends and relatives after a birth), and so it was incredibly helpful to see several couples choosing to go a natural route with childbirth. The philosophy at Mon General is to encourage natural childbirth when possible, but be prepared for whatever is needed.
2)   Skills and tools for coaching, support, and relaxation were provided, and we were able to practice a few of them. These included experimentation with different positions that Jamie could take during labor, relaxation and breathing techniques, and massage and other support I could offer during labor.
3)   The class had more than a dozen couples in it, and it was a very tangible reminder that there are many other couples who are proceeding along a similar timeline, and who also are looking to learn all they can about the miracle of childbirth before their baby arrives. While intellectually we know that people are having children every day, there was something comforting about knowing there were so many of us locally preparing for the birth of our first child.
4)   Developing a birth plan and preferences. We had heard a good bit about birth plans before the class, but after taking the class, we have a better idea of what we want to include in Jamie’s birth plan, and have begun to lay out those preferences.
5)   Reduced anxiety around labor and childbirth. Well-meaning people tend to open up to Jamie about the trauma of their labor and childbirth, and much of what is available in the media portray childbirth and labor as EXTREMELY painful and traumatic. Those stories and portrayals serve to only amplify our own fear and anxiety. After this class, our perspective has been reframed to begin thinking about labor as something that does not have to be traumatic or EXTREMELY painful. We have no misgivings that it will be an easy process, but I believe the class has left us more excited about the process, and we are planning to go through as much of the process as we can at home. We will still give birth in a hospital, but we now know that we don’t need to speed to the hospital the first time Jamie has a contraction.

I could list many more reasons to take a similar course, and I’m sure Jamie could add several as well but we both wanted to encourage folks who are expecting to make the investment in a course. If you are local to Morgantown, Pam Po and Rhonda Hopkins at Mon General Hospital both do an incredible job teaching/facilitating the class.