Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Paramount Love

On days when I'm bored at school, I often find myself thinking of this place and the day that Maria and I spent there in August. While we were there, we saw this through the glass of the gift shop (where they cunningly make you wait to start your Paramount Studios tour). Not sure what you're looking at? Notice the WMHS cheer costume? This meant they were filming GLEE on the lot that day. Only a few minutes later, we saw HIM (him, of course, being Matt Morrison aka Will Schuester). Now, I know you can't see him in this small of a picture, but the gentleman in the brown shirt and jeans is our Mr. Schuester. We resisted the urge to take a picture when he was close....but wanted to document our adventure. We saw some other good-looking gentlemen come out of trailers just like these. Marble rye bread anyone? Can you say "Life is like a box of chocolates"? Tom Hanks did while sitting on this bench. All in all, it was a great day. Couldn't have had more fun with Maria on a perfectly sunny L.A. day.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Life Lessons from a High School DropoutA Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Life Lessons from a High School Dropout by Michael J. Fox
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Normally I don't rate "smaller" books - by that I mean, children's books or books that aren't novel length. However, since you all know about my mild obsession with Fox's written work and his foundation, I had to let you know that I read his most recent book. It's good, not great. It's a let-down if you've already read his other books, but probably pretty funny if you haven't. A few great one-liners (per Fox's perpetual hilarity) and a few good things to think about.... Short review made a little bit longer - I wouldn't choose this as my first choice for a graduation gift. I would definitely pick Maria Shriver's "10 Things I Wish I'd Known Before I Went Out into the Real World" first.

*Just have to say that I love the title. Talk about a great hook.

Defining Moments

Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and RightDefining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right by Joseph L. Badaracco Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I will spare you the long-winded details of another school book review. One quick thought – this book is about work choices and life choices and moments in which the two types of choices become hopelessly intertwined. These definng moments usually reveal something important about our basic values and about our commitments in life. This is not to say that defining moments or hard decisions create new values. Rather, these moments simply make clear the things that matter most to us (whether they be principles or priorities).

Reading Badaracco’s book, I found myself reflecting on the moments that have defined much of who I am thus far and also considering what defining moments I will face in the future. It’s interesting to consider the seemingly simple moments that actually affected everything that came after. I also was left thinking about who I am and who I am trying to be and how that fits into my personal ethics – essentially I did everything my ethics professor could have hoped for…oh, and I fell in love with Nietzsche (Can’t confidently pronounce his name, but I am in love with his idea of self and with living our “best life” – JW- if you were here, I think we would have lots to talk about)….

Good to Great

Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don'tGood to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap... and Others Don't by Jim Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s not very often that a book comes along and says something original. Generally, especially books about best practice in business just reinvent the wheel – tell us the same thing we have heard before but in more current jargon. Collins’ “Good to Great” is the price of purchase though. He presents the challenge of companies that are defined as good, bad, mediocre, and everything in-between and the quest to become great. Collins does not provide a quick-fix answer – perhaps why I trust his and his research team’s findings.

“Good to Great” has introduces pivotal ideas – ones that we probably should have come up with on our own, but ones that needed to be shared just the same. For example, in a company, we need to get the right people on the bus (bus being the company), get the wrong people off, and then the right people in the right seats. The idea is simple – we need good people working for us, and anyone who distracts from the company mission/purpose, should not be there. However, it also shows how critical it is to get people doing the right things. We can have an exceptionally skilled individual wasting their effectiveness in the wrong position.

All that said, those of you who are not business people, Collins’ principles apply to you too. In our lives, we have things that we need to do to be successful and things that hinder our progress. In fact, we also have good things that we do that do not actually get us where we want to be. Our busses may not entail getting other people on board, but they do entail getting our activities/efforts/desires/etc. to all push us towards the greatness that is possible.

Collins spends a large portion of his book suggesting that we need to embrace the often obvious, but difficult facts of business and/or life. We need to streamline what we do and put all our efforts into those things that will help us or our companies achieve our ultimate goals. He says, “There is nothing wrong with pursuing a vision for greatness…but…the good-to-great companies continually refined the path to greatness with the brutal facts of reality.” I love that. Great counsel to continue aspiring, but to aspire within the framework of what can actually be.

Would I recommend this to everyone? No, it’s definitely not a page-turner in the same way that “The Hunger Games” is. However, it is an excellent book. You just have to be interested in the topic in the first place.
[ps. Definitely a personal goal to stop settling for being good and to aspire for greatness...]

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Despite what people might think, I am not a goal setter. I feel like I don’t know what I want so how do I set a goal to get there. I knew I wanted to teach, and so I made that happen. I knew in the back of my mind that I wanted a master’s degree. The economy (or God) made that happen sooner than I had planned. Now fourteen months into my program, I realize that I NEED to set goals. Life is coming at me in a major way, and I need to prepare for it or at least embrace reality. For the first time in my life, there is no real path – no place I expect to go. Most people would soak in the possibilities, and instead I allow myself to be swallowed up in uncertainty.

More than a year ago, I read a post on Janssen’s “Everyday Reading” blog about setting huge life goals. It’s taken me all this time to even try writing something down. She framed her goals around these questions-

What you want to become
What you want to do
What you want to achieve
Places you want to visit/live
Things you want to have
People you want to meet

There are so many things that I want out of life to the point that I feel almost unable to pin them all down. Here though is the beginning of my list (because you have to start somewhere):

I want to be a published writer. I don’t know what that means yet – whether it’s writing an actual book, a short story, or simply a review of someone else’s work – either way, I want to do it.

I want to live in Europe, most likely in England, for at least a year. The fact that I want to travel as often as possible almost goes without saying next to that.

I want to sing in a trio with my sisters. This, of course, means that I have to learn a bit more about singing so that I don’t embarrass them.

Like I said – just the beginning of the list. Notice that I said nothing about my life’s work. I don’t know yet. I know I want to make people’s lives better but I don’t know how exactly I am going to do that.
It's been really interesting to think about what I want to do with my life in the long-term. I'm excited to keep working on my list and working toward achieving those things.

Dr. Thompson, the Organizational Behavior professor that I work with, calls huge overarching goals BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). He did not coin that term, but he is the one that introduced it to me. I need to be more audacious in my goals – I’m working on it.

Hope you are too. The possibilities, as I used to say in high school, are endless.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Little Things That Make My World Go Round

One of the signature elements of being in grad school is how disjointed my thoughts tend to be. There are definitely some class periods or nights spent doing homework where my brain seems to be bouncing between fifteen things. Or worse – my “to do” lists are unstructured – school things mixed in with people to call or bills to pay. What does this have to do with this blog post? Simply that the list is all over the place – no rhyme, no reason – just things that help make my world go round…

*This past week, we had our first dustings of snow on Timp. All the winter haters start panicking, and I start listening to David Archuleta singing “O Holy Night” – can’t help myself. This also means we’ve had lots of rain and I get to wear scarves again. It’s a good life.
*Lit Y – BYU homecoming week means that the Y is lit on the mountain. At night, you can see the Y from anywhere in the valley. I love that.
*Mad Men – this show is brilliantly researched and executed. The acting, the writing, the costumes, the…is superb. That said, it is set in masochistic 1960s corporate America (translated: boozing, sexing, profit-seeking existence) which makes for controversial plot lines. Two discs into season two, I cannot imagine a world without Don Draper. *Good mail days
*10-10-10 (I know I already mentioned this in another post, but I love when the dates do things like this)
*Empty laundry baskets (which means I’ve actually finished my laundry!)
*Someone to talk to about anything and everything
*Glee cookies as shown to me by Hillary on *Some of my first years (I LOVE being team mentor and getting to know these new people in the program – they are incredible)
*We are reading “The Help” for a new book club that I’m in. I’ve already read it so I decided to listen to it this time. I love listening to the southern voices dripping like butter on a hot muffin while I drive the Alpine Loop or take the long way home just so I can hear a few extra minutes. (ps. They're making a movie of this due out next spring! And I get to go to brunch where Kathryn Stockett will be speaking in December at Sundance!!) *Finding a new indoor place to read at Sundance since it’s getting a little cold for the porch
*Having lunch with Ryan (we hung out twice in one week – a first in a long time for my brother and I)
*Giants baseball (it’s borderline obsession)
*Jenessa’s homecoming pictures (she looks so happy!) *Watching the end of the new “Emma” with Johnny Lee Miller playing Mr. Knightley six times in five days (Don’t judge me – it was a rough week and I needed ten minutes of positive existence to fall asleep to) *Walking the Provo River trail and passing the Raintree bridge (hello flashbacks)
*Making holiday plans *Maria saying “I feel like Bella here" about her facing the elements for a 10k mud run
*How happy Jewels and Mae are to have Brett home
*Actually connecting with people on the phone without playing phone tag (yes, miracles happen!)
*New Glee songs from iTunes
*The idea Julie Beck brought up of “breakfast w/ books” (a tradition she had with her family)
*Wedding pictures that were taken at Balbianello on Lake Como in a Martha Stewart magazine *Fall movie previews (so many good options!)
*The beginning chapters of “The Art of Possibilities” (such a good book so far!)
*Dinner with Corey, Patricia, and Caleb (such interesting conversation, such good people)
*Hitting my goal of 75 blog posts (that was a while ago, but I did do it)
*The team scene in “Miracle” where the individual players learn that they represent the United States (Dr. Thompson showed it to the first years in class, and I almost started crying during it – love that movie!)
*Making plans for my own apartment once I’ve graduated
*The chance to work with Dr. Thompson as one of his team mentors (more on him later – he is such a gifted teacher)
*Walking the canyon with Kirsten on Saturday mornings
*Being offered grapes during class and having them taste like childhood soccer games
*Sonic ice
*Jim and Pam
*Did I mention the Giants?
*This picture from an art blog. I’ve been looking at this picture all week as my computer desktop. I love it. *Finishing three papers in 24 hours (so many big things off the list)
*You (since you made it through this ridiculously long list)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perfect Post Secret Moment

Today my roommate asked me if I made this contribution to Post Secret.
I did not send this in, but the fact that my roommate thought I sent this in made me so happy.

I'm also exceptionally happy because it is officially ORANGE OCTOBER.
Giants vs. Phillies starts on Saturday!

Throw in that Hill, Ellie, Ruby, and I had lunch today at Zupas, and it's just about a perfect day (even with the insanity!). Hope your day was just as good!!

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I really wanted to write a random blog post today - mostly because I love these dates with the same number that happen each year (and we only have two more!). I have the oddest assortment of ideas to write about jotted down on a stickie note on my desktop... For now though, saying that I want to write (and someday actually catch up on blog reading) will have to suffice. After all, I have a group ethics paper to piece together and edit, a cover letter to write, a computer to back up (too many sad things happening to people's computers!), teams to mentor, and...what was that other thing I had to do.....oh, SLEEP...dare to dream that it all gets done, right?!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Worthy Distraction

The tedium and stress of some classes is enough to push anyone to mild battiness. This week has been no exception. Naturally, mild battiness leads to things be much more amusing than they would be on any other given day. I'm not sure if this video of Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon presenting the history of rap will amuse you as much as it amuses me, but I have to share it just the same. You all know, I love me some JT - throw in old school hip-hop, and I am a very happy woman. ps. Just to complete the image, I watched this with a couple friends in-between classes. We got all sorts of stares from how hard we were laughing...especially from the professor as he was trying to get set up for class. So worth it....

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Principles of Uncertainty

The Principles of UncertaintyThe Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quirky. Random. Mildly disturbing, inspiring, beautiful, and everything in-between. Not a memoir, a how-to, or an art book - just merely an expression of life through quotes, drawings, and personal experience. A great coffee table book or conversation starter.
[Thanks Fin for giving it to me. I marked so many quotes to write down that I think I'll need a new journal to fit them all in.]

{ps. Don't you think this title is apropos to my entire being right now. Uncertainty is definitely the theme of my life....hope that isn't true for too much longer!}

Lovin' the Orange & Black

My boys made it to the playoffs today, and one of the reasons the month of October exists (for the World Series, of course!) actually applies to me for the first time since 2003. Could not be more excited the games to begin on Thursday. Go Giants!

Water for Elephants

Water for ElephantsWater for Elephants by Sara Gruen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this book up a dozen times in Barnes & Noble. Each time, I put it back down because it was about a circus and about people who cared for and performed with animals. I do not like circuses – they’re disturbing and dirty. The animals are forced to live in squalor and inevitably there are always clowns. I hate clowns. I also do not love animals, and so a story that centers around things that, for the most part, I avoid is not a must-read.
But people kept talking about “Water for Elephants” – my aunt raved about it. My grandma raved even more about it. And then when I was in Los Angeles, a new friend of mine announced that she was nannying for Reese Witherspoon’s body double while Reese filmed “Water for Elephants”. My general inclination to read bestsellers before they become movies kicked in, and one random night in July, I finally bought my copy of this “must-read”.
I have to be honest. I did not love this book. I really do hate circuses, but that said, this story is so well told. Through Gruen’s deft pen, we step into a world of an old man reflecting on days gone by when he worked as a veterinarian for a circus. The reader gets lost in the sequins, the cotton candy, and the ever-elusive quest for money, for love, and for understanding. This story is a commentary on age and love just as much as it is a ticket to another era.
Sifting through the various characters’ journeys (Rosie, the elephant included) was like watching an old film – the type that is sepia colors and has scratches that run randomly through the scenes. There is no sound, just the images that dance and dazzle as they move across the screen. And almost without realizing it, I was carried away on that train that carried the Benzini Brothers’ ringmaster, Jacob’s beloved Marlena, Silver Star, and the rest of the crew to dusty towns across the United States….
“Water for Elephants” is not must-read to me. It earns the high rating for quality of writing, attention to detail, and for masterful narrative rather than pure enjoyability. I think though, that I am in the minority when I say that it is not exceptional. If you’re going to see the move, do yourself a favor and read the book. It is worth appreciating before the story slips loudly into a theatre near you.

Justice: What's the right thing to do?

Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ethical philosophy has attempted through the ages to define the parameters by which society should operate. Sandel, a charismatic and articulate Harvard professor, uses some of the most iconic philosophical viewpoints to examine the concept of justice. Through a utilitarian or virtue ethics lens, Sandel delves into current controversy, suggesting the pros and cons of the way each lens wields its judgment.

While the book occasionally drags, the ideas are well presented, well explained. The "so what" factor that Sandel uses to make his final argument for how society should define justice is brilliant. Personal time constraints do not allow for a full discussion, but I will leave you with the Bobby Kennedy quote that Sandel includes in the concluding pages-- It's life changing and absolutely deserves further discussion.
Our Gross National Product now is over 800 billion dollars a year. But that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts…the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country. It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud to be Americans. ~Robert Kennedy – March 1968

It's life changing and absolutely deserves further discussion. There's so much more that we can do to make this world more just, more inhabitable for our children and our families.

ps. I really do love that quote. Kennedy said over forth years ago, and yet it is exactly what is wrong with what we worry about as a country....Wish that great man had a chance to lead and inspire from the White House.