How Starbucks Fought for Its Life without Losing Its Soul”
by Howard Schultz.
“Onward” is a book about Howard Schultz and his deep relationship with the company he founded, Starbucks. This book focuses on the time in Starbuck’s history when Howard Schultz returned to the CEO position and his experience of being in charge while the company slogged through the latest financial depression in the United States. This book seeks to explain the controversial and life-disrupting decisions the company made when it chose to downsize both in store number and employee number and the leadership and training decisions that were made during this time.
Throughout the book, I had to ask myself one major question: Is “Onward” a biography about Howard Schultz that focuses primarily on “Howard Schultz’s work-self” or is this a book about the company he is the CEO of, “Starbucks?”
When I read the book through the lens that this was primarily a book about Howard Schultz at work, I loved the book. I felt pain when Howard Schultz felt pain. I felt joy when Howard Schultz felt joy. I was uplifted when Howard Schultz was uplifted and I was made to feel small when Howard Schultz was made to feel small.
Through this lens, this book is an interesting case study in the relationship between a founder and the company that is founded. He talks about branding, balance, relationships, the pressures associates to being the one who has take responsibility for both the good and the ill, the roles of mentors, what it means to stay the course, and how easy success can be blinding.
What I appreciated most about “Onward” is that it is a book about a never ending process. Starbuck’s is working to establish what it means to be an ethical company and maintain that ethical status. Howard Schultz doesn’t see his company as a means to a particular end, but as a company that is striving for ethical sustainability.
My biggest complaint about the book is when Howard Schultz continually explains that he is able to recruit major talent or promote from within primarily through his own “gut feeling”. He uses psychology and analysis in so many other places in the book, why couldn’t he do that on this topic?
When I read the book as though it is primarily about a company, I experienced discomfort. Starbucks is a company. It is not a person. At the end of the day, in order to survive in a capitalistic society, Starbucks must make money. This means that Starbucks can provide health benefits to all the part-time employees, but it can also still do what almost all other companies are doing and cap that benefit as starting at 32 hours a week and then save costs by not having employees work that many hours each week. This means that without the right person sitting at the helm of the company the next time that a Starbucks board member of a financial analyst suggests cutting those benefits to help save costs (which happened more than once in the book), this company may bend to the pressure to do just that. When read through this lens, the argument could be made that “Starbucks” is too big to fail.
Overall, “Onward” is a quick and enjoyable read. Whether you enjoy a cup of Starbuck’s coffee or see them as the Goliath of the coffee world, I encourage you to read this book and see how it can influence you to continue “Onward”.
My housemate and good friend, Dawn Fletcher of Fletcherfitness.com, suggested that I read the book It Starts with Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. She told me that it was the book that inspired how she eats (her diet) and it is the book she uses when she trains cross-fit athletes. Now, I’m not a cross-fit athlete (ha, I wouldn’t call myself an athlete), but Dawn promised me it was a book that would apply to anyone and would be a quick and enjoyable read.
Niether Dawn nor the book It Starts with Food disappointed.
With a bit of humor, a touch of sarcasm, a LOT of scientific research, and a healthy dose of motivational dialogue, this book walks the reader through the ways in which foods fuel the brain and the body, activate or deactivate hormones/hormone balance, how foods are digested (or not), activate feelings of pleasure, and connect us to social outings.
Let me quickly say what this book is not:
This is not a book that is going to tell you to starve.
This is not a book that is going to give you easy answers. This book is not going to tell you that if you just take this pill or just follow “this diet” that all of your problems, medical and psychological, will go away.
Let me get back to what the book is:
This book was written to help you, the reader, understand the relationship between the food you eat and your body. Understandably, then, the authors are quite clear that everyone is different. Therefore, they suggest a program, a diet, that you should try and then adapt to your particular set of needs. How you adapt will be up to how your body reacts to different foods and how strong your pleasure response is to certain foods.
This book is a summary of what the scientific community is still learning about the relationship between food, hormones, working out, and psychological states. This book explained that butter is not the “enemy” of the heart way before Time magazine ran an article about that same finding.
This book breaks the myth that your weight is fully determined by a simple calorie intake verses calorie burning mathematical equation. “You cannot ‘out-exercise’ poor food choices and the resulting hormonal disruption” (pg 60).
This is a book that is going to tell you to eat! They suggest a diet that should lead you to feeling satiated (full) between meals – and if it doesn’t, they suggest that you eat larger meals.
This book gives you more tools to help you make good food decisions. It explains how chemicals in foods alter chemicals in the brain and how that can lead to cravings which you give in to, which gives you a sense of short term happiness which quickly dissipates which leads to a feeling of stress which cycles back around to the craving which encourages the overeating of food. Once this process is explained, you can find ways to short circuit this cycle so that you have more control over what you’re eating.
I will admit, the majority of over the first half of the book is building to “sell you” on a particular diet plan. At the end of the book, they suggest and describe a 30-day diet called “The Whole 30”. One goal of the Whole30 is to get you to a place where you can start to determine how your body reacts to food. Another goal is to help break the cycles of cravings and hormonal imbalances that your diet may have been creating – in other words this diet is a “reset button” or a cleanse so that the body can go back to burning fat the way it is supposed to.
I completed that diet on Saturday, August 30th. Click here to access the post I wrote on my final day.
This is one book I highly suggest for anyone who is looking for a diet that is based on science, for a diet that they can actually choose to live with for the rest of their lives. for a diet that will help them break bad habits, for a diet that understands that everyone’s body is different, for a diet that understands that food is a social event. Even if you’re not looking for a new diet, but you’re interested in the relationship between what you eat and how you feel emotionally and physically, I highly suggest this book.
Thanks, Dawn, for suggesting it!
“Minding the Soul: Pastoral Counseling as Remembering” by James B. Ashbrook
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to remember the past well. Remembering the past can be a joyful experience. Remembering graduations, birthday parties, a first kiss, the birth of a child, a wedding day, that day that your boss said something nice to you, these memories can instantaneously put a smile on your face. Remembering the past can also be a painful experience. Remembering things like a separation or divorce, a break up, an illness, a lost loved one, a better time, can be very painful.
Ashbook published a book in 1996 that combined theology with the best that psychology and the neurosciences had to offer pastors on how the process of remembering works. While some of the neuroscience may seem a bit out dated almost 20 years later, his work is still helpful. It’s a great resource for pastors and parishioners alike.
This is a book about the spaces that pastors can help create where healing and remembering can take place. “The task of the pastoral counselor is to mediate between the ‘principles and powers’ of systemic injustice and the relationship power of personal experience” (Askbrook, pg x). “Pastoral counseling enables people to remember who they are”. (pg xiii)
Ashbrook outlines what happens to the psyche and what happens in the brain when we are disconnected to others through our experiences of life. He explains why so often people turn inward, why we have to break through our resistance to vulnerability and many, many different ways to see God working throughout this whole process and life itself.
Throughout the book, Ashbrook uses the symbol of a rock. “If ‘rock’ is foundational, then ‘rockiness’ reflects unusable defensiveness and ‘rocklike’ suggest stable growth” (pg 13). How can we be more “rocklike” in our life? He also includes stories throughout.
This culminates in an explanation of the need for sabbath, for rest. However, it’s not a nap. “… in its broadest sense [sabbath] is the integration and transforming activity of stories and soul, of meaningful memory and each person’s own unique identity in the service of community” (pg 180).
This is a very readable and approachable book. There will be jargon from each field of study (theology, psychology, and neuroscience), but it will be well explained and it does not slow down the reading too much. He writes through his experiences and he understand that pastors are people too.
This is a book written for pastors. However, it’s a great read for anyone who is struggling with pain and disconnection and who is looking for how someone, anyone, (maybe God?), could be reaching out and offering a hand or a tissue.
Discovering Your Personality Type:
The Essential Introduction to the Enneagram
by Don Richardson Riso and Russ Hudson
There are a lot of different personality tests available. The Enneagram is maybe the most thorough theories of personality that I have studied.
In the Enneagram theory of personality, everyone falls into one of nine different personality types. The types of numbered 1 – 9 and each has a name to describe the key drive for that type. The types are:
1: The Reformer
2: The Helper
3: The Achiever
4: The Individualist
5: The Investigator
6: The Loyalist
7: The Enthusiast
8: The Challenger
9: The Peacemaker
There is a 144 question test in the front of this book. Upon completion of the test, your personality will be discovered.
What I like best about the enneagram is that it does more than describe someone’s personality type. It discusses how personalities change in times of stress verses when everything is going well. It includes the fact that no one is one pure personality type so it incorporates that into the theory. This book has a thorough description of each of the 9 personalities.
Lastly, the book briefly discusses how the different personalities work in the business world, in relationships, in parenting, and personal growth.
This book is only the beginning. Once you’ve taken the test and read about your personality type, you can get even more information at this website: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com. There you can join the free member’s section and they will send you a daily quote or thought that is tailored to your personality type.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably a little skeptical of any test that is supposed to help you discover your personality. If that’s the case, I highly suggest that you purchase this book, take the test, read the basics and see if it piques your interest. If it does, there is a lot more at the website and additional books that you can read.
Have you used The Enneagram before? Do you know your number? I’m a 2.
“Cannery Row” by John Steinbeck
“Cannery Row” is the first book by Steinbeck that I read because I wanted to and not because a teacher told me I had to prove to him/her that I read it.
“Cannery Row” has everything that one looks for in a Steinbeck book. It has amazing descriptions that allow the reader to feel like they’re fully involved in the story. It has simple language, making it super easy to read. This book is 196 pages and only took me a few hours to read. The book has a seemingly timeless quality. In this book, Steinbeck describes a town, a time, and an industry that was over well before I was born. However, not only do I feel like I was there because of the quality of Steinbeck’s writing, I feel like I am there now because the themes of connection, heartache, and a-progress-that-often-leaves-people-behind are themes that this generation is also struggling with.
In the author’s own words, “Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.” Immediately, I imagine the home I grew up in, the feeling of walking past that home, knowing it is now owned and lived in by someone else. I think of the good and I think of the frustrating.
By now, you’ve probably figured out that I love reading because while it is a solitary activity, books also build community. You’ve probably also figured out that my reviews hold very few, if any, spoilers. I tend to talk more about how the book made me feel, or what it made me think about. This is because, in a sense, books hold or connect memories. I read “Cannery Row” because I was on a family vacation with my husband and my In-laws and we were traveling to Monterey, CA. My husband had just reread the book and he told me he wanted me to read it. It was a wonderful trip, full of fun and laughter. This book will forever be connected to that family vacation, and so I will always feel a certain amount of nostalgia for this book.
Nostalgia – I think John Steinbeck would be proud.
I love musicals!
There, I said it. I love the big emotions, over-the-top costumes, crazy silly misunderstandings, the dancing, and, of course, the singing! I often times wish I had my own theme song (something like John Williams Jurassic Park) or that my friends and I would just randomly break into song and dance. Alas, that rarely happens. Luckily, Rent sing-a-longs have been known to occur in my household.
All of this is a big interlude to explain why I decided to read the 1232 page book: Les Miserables. Now, I would be a horrible friend if I also didn’t mention that a friend of mine, Nick, and I have our own personal reading club. It’s just the two of us and we take turns choosing what book to read next. I believe this was actually his choice. (Sometimes I think he chooses books that are from a mysterious list called “books over 1000 pages long”. But that’s really neither here nor there.)
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo is an amazing book that is part fiction, part historical, part political rant, part liberation theology, part really long diatribe, and part love story. This is a book of romantic love, lies, mistaken identities, scorned love, parental love, war, justice, and classism. It’s a book that questions progress. What is progress? What should it look like?
The book is over 1200 pages long. It can cover a lot of ground. Of course, if you’re looking for the plot line, there are full chapters you can actually skip. Many translations will tell you which chapters are often skipped own the abridged versions.
If you haven’t read it yet and you think you are going to, I highly suggest listening to the musical while you read it. This is what I did. The musical moves much faster than the book – so it’s a little like listening to someone constantly foreshadowing what is to come. The musical leaves out so much detail, though, that it won’t ruin any surprises (well, not too much).
While most of the book is rather sad (it is a book about those who are miserable), I found myself feeling hopeful at the end. Here’s how the book ends:
“Should we continue to look upwards? Is the light we can see in the sky one of those which will presently be extinguished? The ideal is terrifying to behold, lost as it is in the depths, small isolated, a pin-point, brilliant but threatened on all sides by the dark forces that surround it: nevertheless, no more in danger than a star in the jaws of the clouds.”
– Victor Hugo
“Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen
In 2010 I had a wonderful pleasure of hearing a short lecture and getting the signature of Jonathan Franzen. Meeting him was a pleasure, he was kind, he was inquisitive, he asked Jer a a few questions (in our 2 minutes at standing around a table to get his autograph). His lecture was insightful and engaging.
At this time, my husband had read and fallen in love with the writing style of Jonathan Franzen. Jonathan writes characters who are flawed; “normal people” in “normal” situations. His writing captures the spirit and the time period of the “2010s”. Franzen read a portion of “Freedom” at the lecture. The writing has grit. His writing has a poetic style when the character calls for such a flair.
If you know my husband and I, you probably know what I’m trying to say here. For those who don’t know my husband and I, here’s the undertone to what I’m writing here:
I didn’t think I would enjoy reading Jonathan Franzen’s work. I often call my husband a book snob. He loves to read Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Steinbeck, etc. I thought Franzen would be too dark, too real, too much like every day life for me to enjoy. I love murder mysteries (you know, where at the end of each book the bad guy is caught and the world is just that much safer). I love Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. I love Science Fiction. I prefer for my books to have a little escapism built into them.
However, if Jeremy says something is good … well, I had to give it a chance. “Freedom” did not disappoint. It is an amazing book that explores what it means to be free in a world that is constantly striving to enhance or make sure you can hold on to all of your relationships.
This doesn’t mean that I liked each of the characters in the book. But, I think, that is part of the experience of reading this book. I experienced the desire to punch or hug different characters or something the same character at different parts of the story. I cried. I rolled my eyes. I laughed. I got my escapism by getting lost in the lives of these family members.
At 562 pages, this is no small novel. But I think I read it in a week. I didn’t want to put it down. I took it in the car with me while Jeremy drove us to our next event. I find that when I think of American freedoms, as I am bound to do this week with the Fourth of July holiday coming up, I think ever so slightly differently about them now that I have read this book.
There are many books that I read once, enjoy (or not), and then never read again. Today I’m going to talk about that rare series of books that I read and reread every few years.
The book, Young Miles, by Lois McMaster Bujold is actually a compilation of the first three books in this series (not counting the prequel). This series is a set of science fiction/speculative fiction books that follow the life of a gentleman named Miles Vorkosigan. Miles grows up in a militaristic world in a political family. The books chronicle his life and experiences. For a variety of reasons (many beyond his control), he is often not able to live up to the physical and political standards that are socially expected of him and this series explores how he lives his life with this understanding. Miles (and after reading all of the books, I feel I can call him Miles) lives life with the statement “Go Big or Go Home” being an understatement.
I often don’t speak about the quality of writing in the books that I review, but I feel it is important to note that Lois McMaster Bujold has earned many awards for her writing. Through this series of books she has created an entire universe – planets of people and different species that have learned to interact with each other. I can close my eyes and imagine the universe that she has created.
While I love her ability to write, I am far more impressed by the commentary on American society that she is providing through her writing. While her character is a man, the feminist in me loves Miles Vorkosigan. The books are constantly questioning the importance that our current society places on brute strength and asking why intelligence is not more highly favored. Why is height and uniformity in our looks applauded while difference is shunned and made to feel less-than? What is the role of the military in our society? When is power a good thing and where is the line where that power turns abusive?
Bujold writes characters with depth. I find myself loving Miles Vorkosigan but wanting desperately to shake him as I am reading each book because his thoughts or his actions are worthy of my wanting to shake him. He is raw and he is real. He makes mistakes, he tries to cover those mistakes up. He makes grand gestures of love and isn’t always rewarded as he or I wish he would be. The world in which he lives feels tangible and is often equally as maddening as I just described Miles to be.
Bujold’s writing always entertains, always makes me think, often makes me laugh, and sometimes it makes me cry. The knowledge and/or entertainment that I received from the first read through is not what I get from a second or third reading. Hence the reason that I can read and reread this series with pleasure and excitement.
“… people report that they feel better, do better work, have more fulfilling friendships, etc after journaling. Specifically, people say that journaling is helpful in the following ways:a. [Journaling] clears one’s head”
H0w Journaling Works to “Clear One’s Head”
Remember when Thumper, the rabbit from the movie Bambi says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. My mother liked to tell me that saying with the added line of “You’re free to think whatever you want, just don’t say it out loud”.
That’s my mother, always practical and maybe a little deviant in her own way. But that’s a thought for another post.
I mention this saying in a post about clearing your mind because I want you to think about all of those times you have had thoughts that you wanted to tell someone but weren’t able to do so (at least not initially). Maybe it’s a thought (or set of thoughts) you had that you’d love to yell at a parent, but you know you’d be grounded for saying it out loud. Maybe it’s a thought you’ve had about your boss or a coworker. Maybe it’s a thought you’ve had about your child(ren), but you know the child is not quite old or mature enough to understand what you’d want to say.
I don’t know about you, but in these cases when I’m really mad or hurt or feeling a sense of injustice and I want to spew it at someone but I feel I cannot, I will have whole conversations with the other person in my head. In my head, I’ll say every little thing I have ever wanted to say to them and that person will listen and be schooled in my truth. I may even insert what I believe will be their side of the argument in my head. I will refute everything that I think they will say in very clear, coherent and justified ways. Of course, my truth always wins out in these conversations (as it is the only version of the truth being accurately represented).
I almost never get through the whole conversation at one time or one sitting, though. Before I can provide my closing arguments, I’ve already fallen asleep, or I have to get back to work, or I have to answer the phone or a text. I haven’t set aside time to have this conversation in my head, I’m just having it with every free moment I can create or just whenever it decides to pop into my head.
While these internal conversations sometimes make me feel better, I find that they do not always put the problem to rest. In fact, I find that most of the time my mind goes back to the conversation and like a never ending circle, my mind belabors the same point (or set of points) over and over again. This cycle never ends because there is no place for it to go. I’m still unsettled about whatever sparked the need for me to have this internal conversation.
This is just one example of when journaling provides a place where these thoughts can go. Instead of these thoughts swirling in my head to create a conversation whenever it seems to please them, the thoughts can go on paper. Once the thoughts are on paper they no longer only exist in my brain.