5 Weekend Reads

I decided to change the name of these weekly round-ups, because I usually don't write them on Fridays in the first place :) Enjoy! 1. The Teachable Moment of Frozen

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Animated films bring a certain type of joy to my heart; they are funny, genuine, clever and most of all, usually about some sort of big lesson that applies to adults just as much as it does children.

Frozen fits that mold, but in an exceptional way: it's not a love story. Or at least, not the one we're used to seeing from Disney. Read why one father appreciated this movie on behalf of his two small daughters.

(Another reason why Frozen is exceptional: Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel. The singing and the songs are so excellent and catchy enough to stick in your brain for days.)

Go see Frozen! And if you're interested in other reviews and critiques of the movie, check out this, this, and this.

2. Unlearning the "Busy" Story

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Everyone I know is guilty of answering the question, "How are you?" with "Busy!" It's nothing new; Google "the busy trap" and you'll find endless think pieces from the past two years about this current societal trend.

Yes--"being busy" is a trend of sorts, which Laura Vanderkam points out usefully in this FastCo essay. She writes about her experience as a journalist, wherein it's often typical protocol to find three anecdotes to prove a trend. Vanderkam correctly notes that humans do this all the time without thinking, in almost all of our environments and interactions. If a person is slightly standoffish or quiet three times in a row? That person becomes rude or snobby or bitchy. If the food at a restaurant isn't up to snuff a few times, we decide it isn't any good and avoid ever going there again. And so on--there are millions of examples at work, at home and within our love lives.

Vanderkam says, "Because I write about time management, I see this when people decide that 'my life is crazy' and 'I’m so busy!' and 'I have no time!' If you decide this is your story, you can certainly find three pieces of evidence in any given week that this is true." She uses her personal life as an example: she could claim she had a "crazy busy" week, but it's also true she had time to read a magazine, go out for coffee with a friend and take a long walk.

I've been a long proponent of talking about time management in terms of prioritizing instead of blaming it on being "busy." When I look back on my week, yes, it might have been "busy" with deadlines and obligations, but at the same time, I managed to make it to yoga most days, catch up on my favorite television shows, take a Sunday nap, and putz around on the Internet. Whatever else I failed to do was simply because I didn't prioritize it, not because I didn't have enough time. Sometimes that's just fine, and other times it means I need to manage my own time better.

Still, when I talk to a family member or friend, the urge to chirp "Busy!" is far too strong. I make a mental effort to say anything but that, and honestly, it's really hard. "Busy" feels validating and important. But it's not. So this week, I challenge you to remove "busy" from your vocabulary. See what other data points from your life you might discover along the way, and construct a new narrative about your days and weeks.

3. The Resistance

Great piece by Seth Godin (naturally) about how to fight creative resistance. Best takeaway: "You – everyone in fact – have all it takes to be a brilliant designer, creator, or author. All that’s holding you back is . . .  that little voice in the back of your head, the 'but' or the 'what if' that speaks up at the crucial moment and defeats the joy and insight you brought to the project in the first place."

This happens when people sense risk, and it's insanely easy (not to mention risk-free) to be the person who says "That isn't going to work," or "That will cost too much" or "We don't have time to focus on that" -- etc. It's easier to be a problem-noticer than a problem-solver.

As Voltaire says, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good." Make things happen. Create. There will always be reasons not to, but none of those will get you anywhere.

4. Stop Trying to be Everything

I do feel like this essay targets women, mostly because we tend to be the gender that obsesses so damn much over whether or not someone likes us. It's something I constantly struggle with--the desire to connect and build relationships with the reality that the magic of those things does not happen with every person on this earth.

But I appreciate Jennifer Pastiloff's words: you cannot be everything to everyone. On the days where I feel like a failure because my coworker thought I should have handled a project differently, and I forgot about the volunteer meeting, and I had to reschedule a coffee date, and I didn't call my mom back, and I didn't email a long-distance friend--I'll remember that it's all okay. I'm doing my best. And so are you.

(A generalized question, but something I'm continually curious about: do men have any reaction to this sort of piece? Do you read it and think, well, duh, instead of feeling reassured? Do you ever worry about making people happy, or feel down when it seems you didn't make someone happy?)

5. Why You Should Know Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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This isn't new, but I continually want to share this TEDx talks because it's extremely excellent and important. Adichie, a Nigerian writer, has recently become a little more well-known due to her words being used in a Beyonce song. I haven't yet read Americanah or her other works, but her speech in the link above is outstanding.

Friday Favorites

Some great reads to share from the past few weeks: 1. Yoga, Spinning and a Murder

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This article is kind of old now, but it's stuck around in my mind for a few weeks. Mann's anecdotes ring true to the basic fact that many lucrative organizations and companies tend to promote a very particular lifestyle that often results in employees falling prey to certain guidelines and ways of thinking. Lots of companies have their cults and converts, so what Mann shares in this piece about her time at Lululemon doesn't surprise me in the least, and some parts of it are comical for sure ("talked shit about gluten" - HA).

But it left me feeling uneasy. Maybe because she brings up a lot of stereotypes related to yoga--working for little pay, obsessing about the perfect outfits to practice, eating as clean as possible, exercising all the time, etc. I think some of these things certainly translate to other fitness fads or trends, like Crossfit, except there isn't a comparable business surrounding those the same way Lululemon surrounds the yoga community. Maybe because some of those stereotypes are true, and that can be hard to swallow even if you absolutely adore the benefits of yoga. Here's the thing: the tone of her piece mocks an environment like Lululemon, and that feels icky to me. Like some of the commenters, I'm confused why this became a tirade on one particular company and lifestyle instead of a story that went like this: "I worked for this store, and I didn't like it, and it didn't fit with my preferences, so I quit and moved on." Right? (Not to mention the way she includes the Maryland murders, which seemed unnecessary and mildly inappropriate to me . . .)

Anyway, I wanted to share it even though I didn't particularly like it because it made me think about all sorts of other things. So maybe it will for you, too.

2. A Dad and a Dream

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Just read it. And this one. I remain eternally confused as to why other people are hateful (seriously, sickeningly hateful) toward individuals who are . . . being good parents. Because of their race or family construct. Or whatever. And I am grateful to men like Doyin Richards and Kaleb and Kordell for sharing their stories.

3. Lessons from the Obamacare "Horror Stories"

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Lesson one: just because a story is on the Internet does not mean it is true. Part of it might be true. I repeat, might be. So when I hear and read story after story about how Obamacare sucks, I immediately look for the sources and the facts. I'm not a liberal who is dying to defend our President and his choices at every turn, nor am I someone constantly looking for holes in Republican arguments. But I'm certainly skeptical of media coverage when it comes to politics these days, and you should be too. Facts and details matter.

4. Ignoring the TL;DR Criticism

Godin clevely and concisely argues in favor of long-form content:

"Here's what I've found: When I read in checklist mode, I learn almost nothing. It's easy to cherry pick the amusing or the merely short, but it's a quick thrill with very little to show for it."

I'm clearly a word-y person, so I favor his perspective.

5. Wearing Fur

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My sister and I were recently gifted with our grandmother's mink coat (to share). She wore it to a holiday party, I think without contempt, and I haven't yet worn it. I'm not sure if I will, but I appreciate this writer's story about the complexities of wearing fur as part of today's fashion aesthetic. If you know and value where your fur came from, is it okay to wear? What if you buy it used rather than new? Is it always wrong to wear fur? I'm not sure.

6. Estrogen and the Golden Globes

Soraya Chemaly presents some astoundingly (awful) statistics related to women in media and entertainment these days. I hadn't heard about Kyle Smith's (of the NY Post) comment that the Golden Globes had "too much estrogen." Here is Chemaly's powerful retort:

"The night [Golden Globes] was a celebration of an industry in which women are remarkably discriminated against, hypersexualized, and subjected to double standards regarding how they look, age, paid and invested in. . . . First, let's put Smith's disgust in context. He makes the miserly complaint that Sandra 'Bullock had ten times as much screen time as her costar, Clooney being reduced to playing her coach.' This is the perfect example of how this works. It is a ridiculous distortion of the facts to suggest some sort of equivalence between opportunities for women and men to play lead roles in Hollywood. What Kyle is actually saying, with a straight face, that even one film out of 250, in which a woman is the protagonist and a man is supportive is JUST TOO MUCH."

Be sure to read this entire article; it's an important one.

Friday Favorites

So many great, thought-provoking and fun reads this week--which is fitting, considering Christmas break is right around the corner! That (hopefully) means downtime with friends and family, relaxing afternoons on the couch, sleeping in, reading all those books you haven't gotten around to (I know I have a long list) . . . and maybe a few runs or yoga sessions to balance out all the holiday cheer in the form of cookies and cocktails. Enjoy! Also, if you only read one article of the many below, make it #10.

1. 5 Ways to Do Nothing and Become More Productive

Do Nothing Be More Productive

How fitting for this time of year (also, I like that this dude is in a yoga pose. Rock on.) James Altucher recommends that people do nothing when they are angry, paranoid, anxious, tired or wanting to be liked. He says that anger dangerously blurs perspective; 99% of what we're paranoid about doesn't come true (so why let our minds run loose); anxiety tricks us into thinking we can control situations (newsflash: we typically can't); lack of sleep actually decreases the quality of our productivity; and that making choices for the approval of others doesn't fill our pocketbooks or feed our dreams in the long run.

2. Luxury Shopping, From the Other Side of the Register

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Carmen Maria Machado writes about her experience as a salesclerk serving affluent customers, and how her exposure to extreme amounts of money brought forth a sense of self-isolation and depression. She cites some interesting articles and studies about the relationship between money and how we treat others; one example states that money-primed people may be less inclined to help others, and likelier to eschew social intimacy. A worthwhile read, considering the time of year.

3. The CG Story: How Pixar Saved "Toy Story" From Becoming a Disney Disaster

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I love behind-the-scenes stories like this, and this book excerpt about how "Toy Story" came to be is absolutely fascinating. Read this:

The first few months of development were a period of noisy to-and-fro discussion — sometimes raucously funny, sometimes argumentative — around a table littered with a Toys “R” Us–like inventory consisting of action figures, dinosaurs, Slinky Dogs, G.I. Joes, and Mr. Potato Heads, some of whom would be reborn as characters in the movie. Here were four grown men feeling their way back to childhood, but there was one rule in place that was distinctly adult. There would be no complacency. Nobody’s ideas were immune to criticism. On the contrary, every effort should be made to shoot holes in each other’s ideas, however sound they might seem on first inspection. This was in fact more than a rule, it was a creed, and the license to criticize, combined with the ability to take criticism, became a strong bond between the members of the Brain Trust. Not that this way of working was always easy. As someone who does his writing alone, seated in front of a computer, I once told Pete Docter that I envied his situation of developing a story in a group situation. He laughed and said, “You should try it sometime. It can be brutal.”

4. Waxing Extravagant

No, this is not about waxing. It's about candles--hella expensive ones, in fact. Thanks to the likes of Instagram, I too have seen the trendy Diptyque candles and wondered why they are so pricey . . . while admiring their cool-factor. I think the most I've spent on a candle was $15, and it was a gift for someone else. Even then, I was like, damn, I just paid $15 for something that will melt away completely. So $75-445 for something that doesn't last? No way.

5. Don't Wait Until You're Ready

Oh, Glennon Doyle. I just love you. In this blog post, she covers a lot of subjects related to a personal situation, but concludes with this gem:

Anyway, here’s the secret. Not a damn one of us knows what we’re doing. You cannot wait till you know what you’re doing to get started. I NEVER know I’m doing. So I just do the Next Right Thing, one thing at a time. . . . Sometimes you’ll belly flop and it’ll sting and everyone will laugh and sometimes you’ll do a perfect screwdriver and everyone will clap. But after a while you will learn that you don’t jump for everyone. Everyone doesn’t even matter. You jump because at the end of the day- when your head hits the pillow- you want to Be One Who Jumps.

6. Stop Wasting Money - Buy the Cheaper Version

Buy Store Brands

I think all of us have fallen prey to brand loyalty--you know, when you buy Campbell's instead of the generic Hy-Vee chicken soup. Because "it tastes better" or "that's what I grew up with," when really it probably is all in your mind. I still do this. It's a hard habit to break. BUT this article really lays out the relationship between generic and designer brands. Check it out, and share these fun facts (i.e., Costco's bourbon is made by Jim Beam!) at a holiday party this year!

7. Danielle Brooks Is the Breakout Star of the Year

Otherwise known as Taystee on Orange is the New Black. If you haven't yet watched the show, get after it during your next day off. Taystee is hilarious and the woman who plays her, Danielle Brooks, seems so charming and genuine in this interview.

8. House of Cards Season 2

Speaking of time off . . . here's another show to catch up on! Can't wait.

9. Anne Fulenwider, Marie Claire Editor-in-Chief

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Great interview with Anne Fulenwider via The Everygirl:

"What I really want is to live a wide-ranging, fascinating life that allows me to see the world and meet interesting people and maybe even affect a little bit of change in women's lives."

10. R. Kelly, Terry Richardson, and the Power of the Bankable Creep

There's a big debate happening (not that it's new) about how to remain a feminist (if you want to call yourself one in the first place) in the entertainment industry. Amanda Hess, the author of the piece, really puts it starkly: if you're a young R&B upcoming star, for example, do you work with Chris Brown, despite his abuse record? Should Lady Gaga, a role model for many young girls and an activist so powerfully in favor of equality for all, collaborate with someone like R. Kelly, who been repeatedly accused of raping teenage women? And do Terry Richardson's excellent photography skills (now transitioning into music video skills) excuse the fact that he's been accused of sexual harassment? This piece also makes me question how I balance my own personal values while enjoying certain songs, films and magazines. I can imagine these sorts of debates are particularly difficult for parents as well.

11. Keep Your Day Job

Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon tells creatives to keep their day jobs, while pursuing other interests on the side:

Get up early and work for two hours on the thing you really care about. Then, when you’re done, go to your job. When you get there, your boss can’t take the thing you really care about away from you, because you already did it. And you know you’ll get to do it tomorrow morning, as long as you make it through today. The “meaning” in your job is: it pays the bills. Get as good at it as you can, because it’ll make the job more interesting to you, and it will provide you exits to another one. Then find the rest of your meaning elsewhere.

12. 2013 Life Lessons from Pinterest

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Haaaaa haha. Pinterest is so ridiculous. I love to hate on it. Favorite line: "if it can't be stored in a Mason jar, then why the f*ck do you own it in the first place?" Literally spend 5 seconds on Pinterest and you understand.