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!

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

How 5 Shapes Can Help You Make Friends

How 5 Shapes Can Help You Make Friends

Making friends is easy for some people—not for me. I may be an extrovert but there are many people with whom I struggle to make conversation. I’m talking about interactions that, no matter how much the other person and I share in common, feel forced, are punctuated by awkward silences, or are just plain uncomfortable. Sound familiar?

Turns out our inability to jive with certain people may be out of our control, a function of incongruent personalities, attitudes, education, and/or past experiences. After all, it is the unique combination of these factors that make us who we are and that determine our biases. Each person can bring you a new perspective. You can improve your chances of getting along with them by understanding where it comes from and learning how they think.

The first step is understanding a person’s personality type, the most popular method of which is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test. While it is appropriate and commonplace to use the Myers-Briggs in a work setting, it’s too expensive, too lengthy and overall impractical for making friends in a social setting. (Can you imagine pulling it out at happy hour? I didn’t think so.) Enter psycho-geometrics.

Psycho-geometrics is another—a quicker, simpler—analytical approach to narrowing down people’s decision-making, communication styles, and other traits based on their selection of one of five geometric shapes. My mentor Eric introduced me to the concept a few weeks ago and I can’t stop using it. (Ask anyone who’s met me recently. It’s become my most precious, potentially overused, “party trick”.)

Think fast! Do you prefer a box, a circle, a rectangle, a triangle or a squiggle? Write the first one that came to mind in the comments below. Once you’ve done that, check out this cheat sheet to each of the five shapes and what they represent. Did the characteristics listed for your shape hit home? What about the positive traits? The negative traits?

I picked the circle and, except for the claim that I am indecisive, its description was spot on. It has also been pretty accurate in categorizing my friends and colleagues. Most surprisingly, 100-percent of the engineers I know have picked the box (because “it’s so perfect,” claims my mechanical engineer sister Lucy).

It is important to remember that psycho-geometrics doesn’t paint a full picture of a person. I have my new friend Daniel and his skepticism about labels to thank for that reminder. He’s right—if you read through all the shapes, you’re bound to find traits in the ones you didn’t pick with which you can also identify. You should therefore only rely on psycho-geometrics loosely when making assumptions about others.

That said, asking a stranger to pick a shape is an excellent ice breaker. For me, it has opened the door to in-depth conversations at networking events, happy hours, and parties that I could only dream of having before. Most of these conversations have led to newfound friendships, proving no matter how you use it, psycho-geometrics is a great tool for making friends.

And now, for your quote of the day:

“You have to get along with people, but you also have to recognize that the strength of a team is different people with different perspectives and different personalities.” —Steve Case

Three Books You Need To Read This Summer

Three Books You Need To Read This Summer

As evidenced by my current commitment to read and apply the principles in Dale Carnegie’s How To Make Friends & Influence PeopleI’m really into books about human psychology and (*cringe*) self-help. It’s ironic because since I was a teenager, my mom has been trying to get me to read books in this genre. She probably gave me every version of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul which is not only a “thing” but also comes in four volumes. I was (and, as far as the Chicken Soup series, still am) completely uninterested in reading the books she gave me. They gathered dust for years before I moved out of my college dorm and donated them all to my local library.

I am unashamed at my newfound appreciation for this often dismissed category because there are hidden gems that are worthwhile and I’ve figured out how to mine them out. There are more than I could have ever imagined. In fact, my Amazon Prime account has been doing some heavy lifting the past few weeks, pleasantly surprising me with a new delivery at my door almost daily.

I started this post with the intention of sharing all of the books I’m currently excited about with you, but I feel overwhelmed with my too-long reading list and I want this to be fun, not give us anxiety. For that reason, I have narrowed down my book recommendations to my top three selections. I’m talking about the three books you need to read this summer, whether you’re tanning at the beach, lounging by the pool, or sipping your pre-work coffee.

I hope that you enjoy them as much as I think I am going to and that you’ll share your thoughts with me in the comments below or by engaging with me on Twitter. Please also share your must-read books of summer! Here are mine, in order of how excited I am about them:

  1. Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. When I told my mentor Eric that I was reading Dale Carnegie, his eyes lit up for five seconds before he asked, “Have you read Who Moved My Cheese?” I can see why he recommended it. The book provides insight on dealing with change in your professional and personal life, teaching you how to reduce stress and find success despite circumstances you can’t control. This advice is key even if you don’t work in a politically-driven climate like me.
  2. How Risky Is It, Really? by David Ropeik. Surprisingly, my work in the environmental field is centered on the concept of risk. Take climate change, for example—addressing it is essentially an exercise in risk reduction whether you’re talking about mitigation or adaptation. I therefore want to understand how the human psyche perceives risk and why our fears don’t always match the facts. Beyond my job, it will help me understand why I freak out on airplanes, but have no hesitation about getting behind the wheel in the crash capital of the world.
  3. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg. This pick was courtesy of my mom and I am just as shocked as you are that it made it onto this list. That said, its focus is very apropos for where I am in life. As I catapult into my 30s this September, I am undergoing paradigm shifts in personality and what I want out of life that are rocking me to my core. I am looking forward to Sheryl’s personal insight on recovering and rebounding in the face of hardships, big or small.

And now, for your quote of the day:

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” —Joseph Addison

Three Impactful Articles I Read This Week (And You Need To Read Too)

Three Impactful Articles I Read This Week (And You Need To Read Too)

I wake up every morning at 6 a.m. and scan the internets for insightful reads while I drink my coffee. Since my unexpected promotion in February to department director, I’ve kept a particularly watchful eye for articles with tips on leadership.  This week the search of the world wide web was particularly fruitful in that regard, yielding three impactful articles on how to be successful, how to lead, and how to manage:

  1. According to Oprah Winfrey, these are the 4 things you need to know to be successful. In one of the many graduation speeches Oprah Winfrey gave this May, she reminded us (and the graduating class of 2017) just how successful she is. This article on CNBC enumerates the four reasons she attributes to her success, including listening to her instincts, setting clear intentions, being grateful, and allowing the truth to set you free. If they worked for Oprah, they sure as hell work for me.
  2. What Sets Successful CEOs Apart. Being in charge comes with great power and great responsibility. This article from the Harvard Business Review details the four behaviors common to high-performing CEOs, including making decisions with speed and conviction and adjusting to a rapidly changing environment. It’s a good read for anyone in a leadership position.
  3. How Leaders Can Push Employees Without Stressing Them Out. Data shows that leaders are 30% less likely than their colleagues to feel stressed out, which the writer attributes to factors such as status, autonomy, and job security. So, how do you secure the greatest output of your employees without building their stress to the point of diminishing returns? This article shares five principles worth a try.

I hope you found the perspective and tips these articles offer as useful as I did. A huge thank you to my friends and colleagues who posted these articles on social media for me to find! Now for your quote of the day:

“…people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.” —Sheryl Sandberg