Three Books You Need To Read This Fall

Three Books You Need To Read This Fall

I’ve gone book crazy. It’s been building since the summer (see my summer reading list), but it has recently reached a fever pitch. It hasn’t helped that in the last few weeks I have found myself in actual brick-and-mortar bookstores—yea, they still exist—starting with the West Kendall Barnes and Nobles last month and ending with the Books and Books in Coral Gables last weekend. To add fuel to the fire, I took an incredible storytelling workshop with Miami writer Anjanette “Anja” Delgado which resulted in no less than 10 book recommendations curated just for me. Alas, all of my money has been invested in knowledge, imagination, and stacks of paper of varying heights neatly glued together.

My library has tripled in a few short weeks. When I moved in April, I kept a paltry 15 books including a 200-page manual for using my Canon. Today I am the proud owner of 45 books, with a couple more on their way. My apartment looks like a bomb went off with half-started books on every surface: the two nightstands, the coffee table, the dining table, even the floor is not safe. I couldn’t wait to get to them so I started and am reading several at the same time.

Here are the three you need to read this Fall:

1. The Comic Toolbox
This is the last book I started and my favorite one on my fall reading list by far. It arrived on my doorstep yesterday so I’ve only made it through the introduction and it has made me laugh nonstop. Plus, the concepts that the writer discusses made me think completely differently about writing. I am a person that loves rules. In only four pages this book has convinced me to toss them out the window when it comes to writing. Read the passive voice excerpt on pages xiii and xiv and see if you don’t feel the exact same way.

2. How To Read Literature Like A Professor
While I love literature, I have had a hard time since middle school getting all heady about the deeper literary meaning of a text. In fact, as recently as my storytelling class this past weekend, that type of banter makes me roll my eyes so hard they hurt. I am hoping that this book, which on its back cover claims to be “lively and entertaining”, will open my eyes to what other people see or experience when they are engaging in those types of discussions. I’ve got nothing to lose.

3. Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe
Poetry is another subject popular with literary types with which I have never connected. During elementary school, I participated annually in poetry reading contests and I only remember Margarita, está linda la mar by Rubén Darío, most likely because it includes my name. Then, Anja read us The Book of Genesis According to St. Miguelito on pages 349 through 351 of this collection of poems. It was so powerful, so captivating, so approachable, so memorable that it completely changed my opinion of what poetry can be. I’m excited to see what else is hidden between its covers.

P.S. If you don’t feel like committing to a book but you want to exercise your brain, I occasionally take breaks from reading to do the daily workout on the brain training app, Peak. It probably comes as no surprise given how much I love writing that my favorite game is called “Word Fresh”. And now, for your quote of the day:

“You’ll only get out of this book what you put in. Or to put it another way, the more you pay, the more it’s worth.” —John Vorhaus on The Comic Toolbox

So You’re Looking For Career Advice…

So You’re Looking For Career Advice…

It’s your lucky day! Today I launched a new career consulting page through which you can hire me to help you reach your career goals. On the page, you will find a list of some of the ways we can work together one-on-one but—let’s be honest—the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

For years I have been the go-to resource for people in my network who are new to the workforce or are looking to make a career change. For example, I recently helped a friend strengthen her cover letter and resume before she applied for her dream job. (She landed the highly coveted interview.) I also worked with another friend in cohesively branding his thirty-year career history and developed a strategy to improve his online presence.

I have experience in personal branding, in recruiting personnel, in managing staff, and in evaluating employee performance, skills that I have acquired and honed firsthand as a job candidate and as a recruiter-slash-manager. I build upon this solid foundation through continuing education (like the Dale Carnegie course I took earlier this year) and regularly referencing related resources and research (like these articles on achieving success). With these skills, I can help you reach your untapped potential. Let’s put them to work!

The Unexpected Story of How I Started My Career

The Unexpected Story of How I Started My Career

I decided a few weeks ago that I need less sleep than I am already getting and therefore need to expand this blog into YouTube. You know, so I can spend countless hours filming and editing video into the wee hours of the dawn, generating content in a format that doesn’t come as easily to me as writing does. But your girl never backs away from a challenge and, while the quality of my videos is definitely not up to par with my written content, there is something to be said about sharing my career advice “face-to-face”.

For the very first video on my new YouTube channel, I decided to start from the beginning: the story of how I started my career. I kept it short and to the point so feel free to write in the comments—either below or on the YouTube video—if you have any lingering questions. (A common one for example is how I chose marine affairs and policy as a major in the first place.) I would also appreciate your support in subscribing to my channel and giving your feedback on other stories, advice and topics you would like me to cover via video.

As you watch it, please be gentle. Remember that video creation does not come easily to me and that this is my very first attempt. I am hoping to create at least one video a month to start and promise that they will progressively get better in quality as we journey along together into the depths of YouTube. Happy watching!

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

It’s Not What You Say, It’s How You Say It

“Devastating”,”monster hurricane”, “most catastrophic storm ever”, “apocalyptic storm”, “like a lawnmower from the sky”. Those are some of the words the media used to describe Hurricane Irma, the Category 4 storm passing over Miami as I write this. How do those words make you feel? Based on the mass exodus, gas shortages, long lines at the supermarket and violence over plywood and gas, I’m going to guess they make you feel panicked. It’s not your fault—those terms are designed to put you on alert.

Saying “the storm that, according to the models, may cause devastation in Florida” is not quite as attention grabbing as “the storm that swallows Florida in the latest forecast”. The former also doesn’t move us to take action, to prepare with the same urgency. I calmly traveled to Iowa two days before Hurricane Irma “made its way toward south Florida”. I changed my flight back to Miami and started preparing when Hurricane Irma became “the hurricane that will make Florida disappear from the map”.

Most people don’t think twice about the words they use when they communicate but word choice matters. Not only can it spur emotion like it was intended to do pre-storm, but it can also prevent miscommunication. (And, based on these ten examples, even seemingly small miscommunications can have massive consequences.) It is a tool that when properly used, can vastly improve the understanding of what you want to convey. And, if you take it one step further, can even get others to do what you want.

During my quarantine, I watched this George Carlin skit about saving the planet and was blown away by the effectiveness of his word choices in communicating his message. At one point he claims the human race will go extinct by referring to us as an “evolutionary cul-de-sac”. Let that visual sink in for a second. Isn’t it the perfect metaphor given the configuration of the tree of life? (In case you forgot your high school biology, I’ve included an example of a tree of life below.) It helped me really feel the finality that the end of our species would entail.

Tree of LIfe

This week pay extra attention to the words used by others when they talk to you. What were words and phrases others used that conveyed a clear, concise message? Which were ambiguous or confusing? The nuances you pick up when you’re on the listening end can help you be more effective when you’re on the communicating end.

Also, pay careful attention to the words you use when you talk to others. These 25 tips will help you make better choices. They’re intended for writers but are just as applicable for verbal communication—plus, the author’s examples of poor word choice are hilarious. In the end, I am confident you will find they’ll help you become a better communicator.

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Words are free. It’s how you use them that will cost you.” —Unknown

What Running Has Taught Me About Work Ethic

What Running Has Taught Me About Work Ethic

My dad introduced me to running. My friend Roy got me back into it after I slipped into a year-long hiatus. I’m grateful to both of them because I’m meant to be a runner, just like other people are meant to be tennis players, or swimmers, or dancers. My body—I have long, lean legs—is certainly built for it. In fact, my body needs it to burn all the excess energy that materializes as anxiety or stress when I don’t run.

When I became a born again runner, I asked Roy to be my accountability buddy because he has a great training philosophy and runs at least three times a week, no matter what. His advice helped me tap into next-level running potential I didn’t know I had. After one year, I was logging an average of 21 miles per week and whittled down to a 110-pound athletic frame with a budding six-pack. I also started winning races, helping my South Beach Triathlon relay team place first in April and my Mack’s Cycle Trilogy relay team place second just last weekend.

Margarita-Kruyff-Wells-Running-South-Beach-Triathlon-2017

Beyond building physical prowess, my return to running has greatly improved my work ethic. It’s not surprising. When I first started applying for jobs, multiple people recommended I include my sports experience because both team and individual sports teach skills needed in the workforce. Alas, as an entry-level candidate, I heavily pitched my seven years of competitive volleyball as proof that I am committed and a team player.

Being a runner has taught me discipline—the discipline of eating well, taking care of my body, getting enough sleep, and not missing a day of training. It has taught me mental toughness, the kind you need to push through mile 12 of a half-marathon or hour 13 of a long work day when all you want to do is quit. Last but not least, it has taught me to be patient with myself. There are days when I kill it in training and days when the training kills me. Running has taught me to celebrate the good days and to dust myself off on the bad days, keeping my goals in sight and working toward them no matter how discouraged I may feel.

Margarita-Kruyff-Wells-Carla-Kruyff-Running-Key-West-Half-Marathon

My next goal is to run my very first marathon in 2018. I’m actively searching for an epic race—think Paris, Greece, New York, Boston—for which to start training. Any suggestions? And, while we’re on the subject of epic races, next month Roy will be competing in a Boston Qualifier for what will be his fourth time running the Boston Marathon. He’s worked extremely hard these last five months so please send him positive vibes for a successful (and enjoyable) race day.

And now, for your quote of the day and one of Roy’s favorites:

“You train to race, not race to train.” —Bill Bowerman

Three Podcasts I Can’t Live Without

Three Podcasts I Can’t Live Without

The moment I discovered podcasts is the moment I started wishing I had a longer commute to work. Turns out, there are too many great topics to cover in my five minute drive. Nevertheless, I savor every second and anxiously await an excuse for a longer trip (i.e., when I visit my parents in Boca) to get caught up on everything I want to hear.

There are three podcasts I listen to religiously that were all recommendations from friends. I figured I would pay it forward by sharing them with you in order of their importance in my life. As a disclaimer to my more conservative friends, they are presented from a liberal standpoint but I still think you will enjoy them. In fact, part of why I like them is that they expose me to different perspectives and, because I am consciously aware of how the information is being framed, their viewpoints are all the more thought-provoking.

1. The Daily

If there is one podcast you need to stay on top of current events, it’s The Daily. My friend Betsy introduced me to this approximately 20-minute segment by The New York Times and it has become part of my Monday through Friday routine. I like it because it concisely breaks down the top news story of the day, making a concerted effort to present the issue in a balanced manner. For example, they interviewed a coal miner for a story on climate change.

2. This American Life

This American Life is the podcast I have been listening to the longest. Betsy played it on the 8-hour car ride from Sosúa to Punta Cana during our 2015 trip through the Dominican Republic. (Remember the one where I nearly died of a stomach virus?) The show covers a wide range of topics in an effort to understand the human experience in America, my favorite of which have been episodes #423: The Invention of Money and #400: Stories Pitched by Our Parents.

3. Freakonomics Radio

This podcast expands upon the work Steven Levitt undertook in his 2005 book by the same name: to study a wide range of subjects using economic theory. He covers random topics from politics to suspense to food. Ironically, the episodes I like best center around finance and economics, such as the last two episodes on money.

Looking for more podcasts? Here’s a list of honorable mentions in which I also dabble:

  • Why Oh Why — a deeply honest show on dating and relationships in the modern era hosted by the witty and relatable Andrea Silenzi. If you love her as much as I do, make sure to follow her on Twitter for more hilarity.
  • Revisionist History — Malcolm Gladwell graces us with his genius in a podcast that reexamines the overlooked and the misunderstood from humanity’s past. My favorite episode of its second season is “A Good Walk Spoiled” where he vents about the rich’s obsession with golf and how golf courses consume valuable real estate for a one-dimensional use.
  • WSJ’s The Future of Everything — I balance the news I get from the New York Times by also reading the Wall Street Journal. This series from the journalists behind their Future of Everything magazine delves into how our world will work in the future through intriguing interviews with the scientists, coders, engineers, and entrepreneurs that are helping to shape it. It makes me feel excited about the work I do in Miami Beach by giving it a broader, more long-term context.

What podcasts do you recommend? Leave them in the comments below or send me a tweet @margaritakwells! And now, for your quote of the day:

“The best ideas emerge when very different perspectives meet.” —Frans Johansson

Why Great Employees Don’t Always Make The Best Bosses (And What To Do About It)

Why Great Employees Don’t Always Make The Best Bosses (And What To Do About It)

Have you ever noticed that most people in leadership positions are where they are because they excelled in technical roles and were given opportunities for advancement? Take inventory in your office. What do the careers of the middle and upper managers look like? In the places I’ve worked, the majority of my colleagues have climbed the corporate ladder for exceeding expectations in past positions.

That has certainly been the case for me. My meteoric rise to department director has culminated from a promising performance record, a series of fortunate circumstances, and supervisors who have put their faith in me. If you look at my resume before this position, it left a lot to be desired in terms of experience beyond technical work. It has been up to me to sink or swim these last few months. Motivated by the desire to see our team and its members succeed, as well as to show my supervisors that they made the right choice, I have Michael Phelps-ed my way through it.

This Harvard Business Review article for new managers points out that, “just because you were a terrific producer before you were promoted it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be a terrific boss.” You see, “for most newly appointed managers…the skills and qualities that earned them the promotion are very different from those that will serve them well as a leader, and they’re often left to figure it out on their own…” It is up to us—those lucky enough to be entrusted with leadership positions—to be conscious of this disparity and prepare ourselves for our new roles by acquiring (or refining) management, leadership and business administration skills required to be successful.

It has taken a village to get me in “boss” shape. It would have been so much easier to default back to my comfort zone: doing the technical work that I’m good at and got me my promotion. Instead, I have relied heavily on the wisdom of my mentors, my supervisors, my friends, my family, the experts at Dale Carnegie, books, and articles to foster the skills with which I am less comfortable. It’s going to continue to take all of these resources and a few life lessons (read, mistakes) to refine them as I move forward in my career. Nevertheless, I’m headed in the right direction.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are three Harvard Business Review articles I found particularly helpful in approaching my role as a new manager like a seasoned pro:

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.” —Alexander Graham Bell