Book Breakdown: More or Less

It isn’t easy to find quality books on generosity. A lot of the lists that I perused were overly religious, hokey, or geared towards children. When I read the synopsis for More or Less it seemed in line with what I am trying to accomplish.

This book is the practical application of generosity. It is told through a series of anecdotes about what has worked for Shinabarger and his family and friends. The “Enough Talk” sections help the reader to stop thinking about being generous and start being generous. There were a number of times that I put down the book, and did SOMETHING. It was fantastic!

Through the course of reading this book I made a clothing donation, meditated, and sent my gift cards to Gift Card Giver. It is amazing what can be accomplished in a short amount of time when you confront your excess.

With as much focus as there is on practical application, I was expecting more from the “Your Enough Experiment” section. It could have been more straight forward, but does seem to align with my habit building, so that’s a plus.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for inspiration during the giving season. It is also a great read for anyone else with a minimalist bent.

What books inspire your generosity? Please share your recommendations in the comments.

 

TED Talks on Generosity

On Generosity is a curated TED playlist. These 7 talks provide 1.5 hours of content, and explore different aspects of philanthropy.

“…stop thinking about which product to buy for yourself and try giving some of it to other people

How to buy happiness – Michael Norton

In most of the world there is a positive correlation between donations and happiness. Norton demonstrates that even trivial donations improve our happiness levels.  In life, leisure, and the professional arena prosocial behavior provides positive returns.

He highlights the Donors Choose site as a place to focus your giving, and I am excited to donate in the future.

“…set a higher bar for how we help individual families improve their lives.”

Should you donate differently – Joy Sun

I found Sun’s talk particularly interesting because she confronts some long held assumptions about aide head on. Not all people in poverty are in that situation because of their poor choices and they don’t always need third party intervention to improve their lives. She discusses the idea of unconditional cash transfers as a model for delivering aid.

Sun sites studies that show across the board cash transfers are used to improve the the lives of people in the lowest levels of poverty. Give Directly allows you to provide cash transfers efficiently and free of corruption.

“Philanthropy is the market for love.”

The way we think about charity is dead wrong – Dan Pallotta

This is my favorite talk because it made me see the non-profit sector in new light. Why should we have a different play book for the profit sector when we can all agree that non-profit causes should also enjoy the benefits of scale.

Pallotta focuses on the limitations we put on compensation, marketing, risk tolerance, time, and funding in the non-profit sector. We are asking the wrong questions when it comes to the success of a non-profit and are conflating morality and frugality. The goal should be solving problems, not keeping overhead low.

I hope you will give these video a view, and please share your thoughts in the comments.

Movie Madness: Billions in Change

billions-in-change-official-film

This documentary focuses on how Manoj Bhargava, the creator of 5-hour Energy, is using 90% of his wealth to help change the world.

Billions in Change is a 40 minute movie that focuses on the work of Stage 2 Innovations. They are trying to dramatically improve the world’s access to sustainable energy, clean water, and health care. It is a fascinating overview of their most promising products and general ideas for implementation.

It’s short, sweet, and inspirational. Manoj sums it up nicely at the end, “if you’re given more, more is expected from you.” If only there were more people in the world concerned about lessening the suffering of other.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone, especially since you can watch it for free online.

Please share any philanthropy movie recommendations you have in the comments below. I’d love to take in some more films.

Project Management Monday Check In

I lost touch with reality in the month of August while preparing to take the PMP exam, but it was worth the effort because I passed with flying colors!

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Completed the Agile PMP training seminar
  • DONE – Read Critical Chain by Eliyahu Goldratt
  • DONE – Completed the RMC PMP Exam Prep course
  • DONE – Read the PMP Handbook
  • DONE – Completed the PMP application
  • DONE – Passed the PMP exam

The Agile PMP

The Agile PMP course was a part of the Project Management Institute’s SeminarsWorld event. Karl Muenchow led us through 2-days of great content. His presentations have helped me to reconcile the gap between old-world-PMP and new-world-agile frameworks. They are not as far apart as some would have you believe, and this new perspective has helped me a lot at work.

Book Breakdown

    • Title: Critical Chain
    • Author: Eliyahu Goldratt
    • Genre: Non-fiction, Business
    • Grade: C

This book was recommended to me by a colleague. It is supposed to do for project management what The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement did for production. I don’t think it is as good as The Goal. The sections about how padding estimates creates more problems than it solves was very well done, and it has helped to solidify my understanding of estimating. I would recommend this book as light reading for project managers.

PMP Exam

The rest of my action plan was geared toward the PMP exam. Submitting the application was a stressful process, but most exam prep classes give you some tips and tools related to completing the application. I also attended a PMI workshop that walked me through the process. I probably could have figured it out on my own, but was glad for the extra support.

I do not think I could have passed the test without taking a prep class. RMC Learning Solutions came highly recommended and I took their 2-Day PMP Exam Prep Course. It is an intense course that comes complete with homework! :/ They helped me to identify the gaps in my knowledge base and tailor a study plan for my needs. In the 2.5 weeks between the course and my exam date I studied for 37 hours and took 2 practice exams. And when I was done I saw the most beautiful email header I have ever seen…

Congrats PMP

And with that I have achieved my project management goals for the year! Now I am going to focus on other areas of personal development.

Please share any goals you have achieved this year in the comments below. We should all take time to celebrate the wins!

via GIPHY
via GIPHY

Smoothie Sunday Check In

It’s been 6 months since I finished the first 66 days of my green smoothie habit. These breakfast drinks are fully integrated in our morning routine.

6 Month Goals:

  • Read 1 new book on food science
  • Try 1 new vegetarian restaurant

Book Breakdown:

The section where Openshaw listed all the different types of greens she uses in her smoothies and what parts of the plant to use was excellent. This week I left the ribs of most of my leafy greens in and I’m excited to try my radicchio and dandelion greens smoothies. I wish there had been a similar breakdown for the fruits and to that end there was not nearly enough of the content that I wanted. Anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims abound. I also thought her recipes had too much going on. I would not recommend this book, but I’m glad I read it.

Vegetarian Restaurant:Tonic

Tonic is a local kitchen and juice bar located in Rochester, MN. Clayton and I stopped in at the start of a road trip and they had a great selection of fresh juices and smoothies. I went with the Coastal Sunshine: orange, lemon, lime, and carrot. It was good, if a little heavy on the carrots.

For dinner I ordered the Market Vegetable Wrap and Clayton ordered the Midwest Mac. I ate more of Clayton’s meal than my own even though I was pleasantly surprised by the kale chips.

Our smoothie consumption stayed steady after I stopped tracking this habit daily. Of all the habits I have featured on this blog, this one has been the most successful. I feel comfortable moving forward without an additional check in!

Please stay tuned for a new habit as I continue my journey of personal development.

Movie Madness: Spanish Films

I am a huge movie buff so I wanted to use films to improve my fluency in Spanish.

PP_YTuMamaTambien

Y Tu Mama Tambien (English Subtitled)

This Oscar nominated film is not my cup of tea. I made it to the pool scene where the two friends are masturbating together and gave up. The dialog was hard for me to follow even with English subtitles. They spoke very quickly, and there was a lot of voice over narration. I was only catching flashes of dialogue. I decided to go a different route in my second attempt.

 

PP_Hotel_Transylvania_2_posterHotel Transylvania 2

Since I had a hard time with a “real” Spanish film Clayton suggested that I watch Dora the Explorer instead. He thinks he’s very clever, but he did inspired me to watch an animated film dubbed in Spanish. Dubbed live-action movies are distracting because of the disparity between the voice and facial movements, but cartoons just approximate mouth movements. Diction is also much better with voice actors. Besides a kid’s movie is on par with my proficiency level.

Bonus Movies!

PP_AntMan PP_Avengers PP_Interstellar PP_RATF

When we were on our cruise the television in our room was set with Spanish subtitles. I read loud the Spanish translations of Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Interstellar, and Ricki and the Flash. Comic book movies are well suited to foreign language development. You get the benefit of new vocabulary words, idioms, and simple sentence structure with very few dramatic monologues.

Through trial and error I have found 2 new ways to help build my Spanish skills. There is a great selection of cartoons on Netflix that have been dubbed in Spanish, and if I watch a movie I’ve already seen I will add Spanish subtitles. When I am more fluent I would like to try watching a foreign film for native speakers again.

Please share your favorite Spanish movie in the comments so I can start a to-watch list.

Pertinent Podcasts

Even though I don’t have a 3 hour commute anymore, I still try to make time for good podcasts. There are some great language podcasts out there so I sampled the ones with the best reviews. The podcasts below are listed in order of preference.

Spanish Obsessed

In each episode Rob, an English man, and Liz, a Colombian woman, have a short conversation. They translate the conversation and give you an opportunity to speak along with them. Each lesson is approximately 10 minutes. If you sign up on their website you can see a full transcript of the conversation.

I found it helpful that they don’t just focus on the exact translations, but also discuss the intention of the phrase. Also at the end they have a bit of fun giving you options for different phases or words you can use in the same scenario.

News in Slow

I could only listen to the beginning of the episodes without a subscription, but I like the samples. So much so that I am going to change my incentive for completing this habit. Once I hit my 66 days, I am going to sign up for the bronze subscription!

Right now I could only follow bits and pieces of the episode, but I think once I have a better foundation this site will really help improve my Spanish skills. If you’re further along than I am I would definitely check this podcast out.

SpanishPod101 

I was not impressed with their website. You have to sign up immediately and there is a hard sell right up front. Once I finally got to listen to the first lesson I found Fernando and JP engaging. Their use of practical scenarios like starting you off in a grocery store is a fantastic idea.

They also do a great job of breaking down the sample conversation and analyzing the vocabulary and grammar. The sessions are very short at 5-10 minutes.

I am going to stick with Spanish Obsessed for the time being, until I reach my goal and purchase a subscription to News in Slow. I liked SpanishPod101 but I’m not going to invest a lot of time in it right now.

Do you listen to any great language podcasts? Please share your favorites in the comments below.

Language Learning Tools

I chose Duolingo for my Spanish habit because I used a beta version for German a few years ago. I really liked the user interface, and since then they’ve come out with a great phone app. Below are some other online learning tools that seemed worth exploring, listed in order of preference.

Anki – More than just a language tool, Anki can help you remember anything you need to study. It is an open source tool with a very simple interface, but that makes it easy to use. I’ve created a deck for Spanish vocabulary and my project management exam.

Busuu – Similar to Duolingo. Select a language and determine your skill level. Lesson 1 starts with greeting people. I like the quick tips that are interspersed in the lessons like what time of day to use buenos dias. There are also images with the words which is very helpful. A key difference is that with Duolingo there are pronunciation exercises where you speak the words and phrases, but Busuu is all written exercises.

Memrise – Again, similar to Duolingo and Busuu, but my least favorite of the bunch. Their user interface is not well done, and you only focus on a few words at a time. I prefer Duolingo’s approach of using phases to reinforce the vocabulary.

I am excited to start building my Anki decks, but will pass on the Busuu and Memrise in favor of Duolingo. Duolingo is free, no adds, and no upselling. Plus it’s working for me so far!

Have you tried any other online language learning tools? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Writing Wednesday Check In

I am happy to report that I have kept up with my writing habit over the last 6 months. As always I’ll start with my stats.

Action Plan Progress:

  • DONE – Improved my blogging stats
  • DONE – 4/4 habits developed and blogged
  • DONE – 1/1 book on writing read

Blogging Stats:

  • 62 posts (↑ from 22 posts)
  • 34 followers (↑ from 16)
  • 547 visitors (↑ from 126)
  • 818 views (↑ from 249)
  • 179 likes (↑ from 72)
  • 39 comments (↑ from 12)

Completed Habits:

  1. Smoothie Sunday – Drink a green smoothie everyday
  2. Tidy Travels – Implement the KonMari method
  3. Food Friday – Eat an 8 Weeks to Wellness approved meal everyday
  4. Project Management Monday – Read the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Book Breakdown:

“Write what you like.”

The On Writing section is the heart of the book and I came away with a lot of great tips:

  • Master the fundamentals: vocabulary, grammar, and the elements of style
  • Read and write a lot
  • 1st drafts shouldn’t take more than a season (3 months)
  • Give your writing life by adding your knowledge of life (especially work)
  • Situation comes first then plot and characters
  • Begin with the story and progress to the theme
  • 2nd draft = 1st draft – 10%
  • Writers Market

“Door Shut, Door Open”

King shares an unedited fictional piece, and then a mark up of the same work. This is exactly what I have been looking for in these writing books. King’s work as a teacher gives weight to the lessons in this book.

It’s a popular book for good reason, and I recommend it to anyone looking to improve their writing.

6 Month Goals:

  • Improve my blogging stats
  • Blog about 4 new habits (one in each category)
  • Read a book to help improve my writing
  • Watch a documentary on writing/writers

Accomplishments abound with this blog. My closet is clean, I drink smoothies, eat veggies, lost 10 pounds, and manage projects better than ever. The best part is I’m still doing all of my favorite things like watching movies, reading books, and trying new things; just in a more focused manner. Here’s to leveraging your strengths!

Keep an eye out for my next habit!

Webinar Wrap-up

The second round of webinars were much more engaging than the first. They are listed below in order of preference.

RiskReadyCreating “Risk-Ready” Project Schedules

  • Wesley Gillette
  • Rated: 5.77/7
  • Duration: 56:03

Gillette focused on how constraints, lags, and schedule logic can be hidden in the project plan and cause false results in your risk analysis. He explained that we need to challenge the way our schedules. We need clear assumptions and risks should be called out properly. This was the best webinar that I’ve seen on the Project Management site. There was an excellent balance between explaining new concepts and examples.

5 Essential Insights for Maximizing your Limited Resources

  • Jerry Manas & Maureen Carlson
  • Rated: 5.43/7
  • Duration: 61:10

I am a fan of big data and this presentation was centered on the 2014 State of Resource Management and Capacity Planning Report conducted by Appleseed Partners. They honed in on the idea that top performing companies had a holistic view of their demand pipeline and resource capacity by utilizing Project Portfolio Management software. Manas and Carlson did a great job co-presenting and it was obvious they had practiced.

RookiePMMistakes4 Common Rookie PM Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

  • Dana Brownlee
  • Rated: 6.34/7
  • Duration: 59:22

She spent a lot of time on anecdotes, but it was an interesting and engaging presentation. Her tips to address the “slacker” on the team were practical. Those interaction are never easy so I appreciated her insights on creating a culture of accountability. Brownlee’s 3 magic questions for clarifying task assignments are:

  1. What is your understanding of the task?
  2. What will the deliverable look like?
  3. What are the 1st 3 steps you’ll take to begin working on this?

I would highly recommend this presentation to any PM or manager.

Avoid the Three Major Mistakes of Organization Wide Change

  • Barbara Trautlein
  • Rated: 6.18/7
  • Duration: 45:46

This was a great topic for change management. My primary project is going to have a significant amount of process changes. Knowing that we have a blend of heart and hand change leadership styles will help me to leverage our strengths and avoid common pitfalls. I found Trautlein engaging, but this presentation was repetitive and oddly paced.

This was four hours well spent. I’ve come away with a wealth of resources and some great tips for keeping my projects on track.

Do you have a favorite webinar or instructional video? Please share the link in the comments.