Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#30: Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Carol Dweck)

2017 ended with lots of illness for me, so I’m just getting around to writing my thoughts about the last book I read of the year. Fear not! I am slowly returning to a regular reading routine and will update you on my progress to reaching 2018’s goal of completing 32 books before the end of the year.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success is a book that I recommend to all teachers, coaches, business leaders, and parents. Honestly, I think anyone who approaches Dweck’s book with an open mind will find themselves on its pages and see how a shift of personal mindset can potentially transform their life. I am certain that I will return to this work on a regular basis as I work with young adults and developing musicians.

The basic premise is rather simple. All of us choose one of two mindsets in every area of our life every day. We either buy into the fixed mindset — that tells us our abilities and intelligence are at their maximum level, unable to be changed — or we hold a growth mindset — that says that failures and mistakes are opportunities for improvement and learning. Sounds simple, huh? At its core, it really is just that simple. However, when we begin to examine how our mindset can be shaped by our environment and our perception of what is expected of us — as well as words spoken to us by parents, teachers, coaches, and employers — we realize that changing our mindset can be an enormous battle of the mind that has enormous implications.

When things didn’t go quite as planned — a test score is lower than you hoped, a friend misunderstood your words, or a performance was less than stellar — how do you respond? Was the outcome inevitable? Do things just happen sometimes? Do you buy into the mantra that “I gave it my best, so no one can ask for more”? These are the responses of the fixed mindset. A more-productive response found in the growth mindset would ask what lessons can be learned from these failures. What adjustments need to be made to my test preparation? Was a text the best method of communicating in this situation or would face-to-face conversation have reduced the possibility of a misunderstanding? Was my poor performance due to anxiety? How can I improve future performances? 

After reading Mindset by Carol Dweck, one question is at the forefront of my mind. Why is this work not being used as a required textbook in freshman experience courses in colleges and universities around the country? If our students can learn the power of recognizing the fixed mindset and how to adjust their thoughts to a growth mindset, their potential for success will increase exponentially!

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#12: One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America’s Future (Ben Carson)

Ever since reading Gifted Hands, I have been very impressed by Dr. Carson’s insight and common sense approach to all areas of life. What I found in One Nation is another example of an intelligent citizen speaking out about the things that are wrong with our country and the steps we can ALL take to correct them. I’m sure the book is not viewed favorably by many in the mainstream media, but I found Dr. Carson’s thoughts challenging, insightful, and firmly based in history as well as Scripture.

Several topics appear throughout the book. Most notably are Carson’s views on education, political bullies, and the health care abomination known as Obamacare. While expressing his opinions on the topics, Carson continually emphasizes the responsibility of the individual citizen to be well-informed about the important issues facing the nation. Part of his approach to understanding today’s world is through the examination of the past.  Carson states, “Many people find history boring and think that pop culture is much more relevant to citizens today. There certainly is nothing wrong with being up to date on the current social issues that affect our lives, but in order to have the proper perspective on current events, we need to know what happened in the past.” (Carson, 43) Success in life, according to Dr. Carson, stems from a solid education. By extension, a secure nation is maintained by an educated citizenry. It is only when we are informed that we are truly relevant. Notice this powerful passage from the chapter on “Being Informed”:

Today I frequently find myself reminding young people to expand their horizons of knowledge and not listen to those who tell them to limit their interests to things that are “culturally relevant.” I tell them that if you want to be relevant only in your household, then you only need to know the things that are important in your house, and if you want to be relevant in your neighborhood, you need to know what’s important in your neighborhood. The same thing applies to your city, state, and country. And if you want to be relevant to the entire world, program that computer known as your brain with all kinds of information from everywhere in order to prepare yourself. (Carson, 125)

Perhaps most interesting are Carson’s views on taxation and the health care system in our nation. Carson bases his approach to taxation on the Biblical principle of the tithe. (Throughout the book, Dr. Carson refers to Scripture as a foundation for many of his opinions and is especially fond of the book of Proverbs.) Just as the tithe is 10% of income with no regard for the individual’s wealth or poverty, Carson argues that an equal percentage paid in taxes ends the punishment of the wealthy while reinstating the dignity of the poor by allowing them to contribute from their means. Dr. Carson advocates the use of health savings accounts (HSA) that are created at the time of birth and receive an initial deposit from the government. Future deposits would be made by employers, charitable organizations, and the individual. As Dr. Carson explains, such a system — while not perfect — places much of the responsibility back in the hands of the patient while once again creating a free market in our nation’s health care. I have to admit that I find the concept very interesting.

Do I agree with everything Dr. Carson has presented? Certainly not. I do think that he has raised issues that are important to our national dialogue. It’s time that “we the people” once again begin discussing the issues and making sure our elected officials are aware of our wishes. After all, they are to be our representatives — not the puppet masters.  One Nation is an excellent book that will challenge you to think critically about America’s current situation and our hope for the future.

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#1: Vertical Church (James MacDonald)

A new year has begun. In keeping with the tradition of the past few years, I decided to begin my year of reading with a Christian book.  Vertical Church is a challenging call written by the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel.  Essentially, the book challenges churches to make sure that everything they do has honoring God as its focus rather than relationship building (referred to as horizontal by MacDonald).  The first 4 chapters deal with the Biblical support for the vertical approach to church while the remaining chapters focus on the primary pillars of the vertical approach — worship, preaching, evangelism, and prayer.

I think this is a must read for everyone working in church ministry.  It refocuses our attention to what is truly important in all of our efforts and points out how the horizontal will be taken care of when the vertical focus is central.  The reverse situation, however, is not true.  For many churches in the West, we have spent our efforts building human relationships that we have called “discipleship” while allowing our impassioned pursuit of God’s presence in our lives and services suffer. This call to change business as usual will definitely challenge your thinking and cause you to examine your own leadership model. While the book’s basic premise is very elementary (“God first”), the ideas are developed deeply and will give the most seasoned minister food for thought.

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#22: Becoming a Person of Influence (John Maxwell)

My reading life slowed down considerably for the past month due to some illness following traveling with family. Now things seem to be getting back to normal and I'm finding a routine again.

My latest book was John Maxwell's Becoming a Person of Influence: How to Positively Impact the Lives of Others. Books related to leadership are not my normal fare, but I found myself a bit discouraged regarding my interactions with others in almost every area of my life. As I browsed the shelves, I stumbled on the book and was captivated by the possibilities immediately.

Written in simple language, Becoming a Person of Influence should be read by anyone who wants to make a positive impact in the lives of others. Whether you find yourself interacting with people in the board room, the classroom, or the sanctuary, this book can provide you with valuable insight into the impact you are currently making while offering realistic suggestions to begin improving your influence. I intentionally read the book rather slowly so I could digest the material and examine my own life. What I have discovered has provided correction in some areas and affirmation in others.

Personally, I struggle with having faith in other people. It's not easy for me to let go of a task that I can do better in a shorter amount of time. I tend to forget that people want to do something worth-while and that allowing them to do it (even when it's not how I would do it) allows them an opportunity to grow and develop their own skills. To conclude, here are two of my favorite passages from Maxwell's chapter on having faith in people.

“As you work to become a person of influence, always remember that your goal is not to get people to think more highly of you. It's to get them to think more highly of themselves. Have faith in them, and they will begin to do exactly that.” (Maxwell, p. 64)

“Not everyone has the natural ability to recognize past successes and draw confidence from them. Some people need help. If you can show others that they have done well in the past and help them see that their past victories have paved the way for future success, they'll be better able to move into action. Listing past successes helps others believe in themselves.” (Maxwell, p. 69)

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