Money, Self-improvement

As you may already know, I like audio books just as much as the regular old printed versions. And you may also know that I am pretty thrifty (some may some cheap, how dare they) with money. I once had an Audible account, but found that I had credits accumulating (back when accounts were credit-based) and I didn’t have the time to listen with my steady stream of podcasts. I cancelled the Audible account a few years ago to save a few bucks, but still enjoy having an audio book to listen to, especially on dog walks or long car rides.

After saudio book listenome research I discovered my local library’s digital audio and e-book program. The county library here is hooked up to two different on-line library sources (Libby and Palace), which means I can check out an audio book, listen to it on my phone, then the book gets removed from my account when it’s due. I don’t have to remember to return anything,and I can borrow countless books; it’s a win-win (the marvels of technology!).

The downside is that I don’t get to listen to any book I want. Extremely popular or new books usually have wait lists and long hold times. There are also quite a few books they don’t carry in their “stacks.” The upside to this, however, is that I’m often forced to find a book on a new topic or a different author that I normally wouldn’t pick out. That being said, I’ve picked a few duds over the years, but all I have to do is press “Return book” and it goes back to its virtual shelf. The vast majority of books I’ve chosen from the “Available Now” column have been really great reads, some I never would have considered checking out.

Here are a few of both non-fiction and fiction that I’ve enjoyed over time and that you might too:

Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. This guy is definitely having a moment right now and good for him! Shetty’s story is interesting because he was a regular old Brit just starting his career but decided that the corporate grind was not for him, so he went to India and became a Buddhist monk. He realized along the way that he could help people more by telling them about his experiences and skills he learned by living a monk’s life. His story and tips are worth the read (or listen).

Educated by Tara Westover. This fascinating account and memoir is about the author growing up in rural Idaho with her doomsday-prepping family of devout Mormons. Her parents did not believe in the establishment or traditional education, but Westover perseveres to educate herself and live beyond the confines of her small world. Her stories are incredible and heart-breaking at times while also causing you to think about the effects our families have on us, long-term, and the choices we must make because of that.

American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. We all know that Oppenheimer’s story has been a popular subject lately with the release of the film. I decided to listen to the biography first and then watch the movie (which I still need to do). This audio book is twenty-seven hours long! It felt like a part-time job listening to it, but I finished it and I’m glad I did. Oppenheimer’s life and story is interesting and profound. The quest of science in the larger scheme of war and the fallout from that is serious food for thought. If you’re driving across the country and have twenty-seven hours to kill, this one will keep you occupied.

101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think by Brianna Weist. Most books that have some type of claim in the title turn me off, but this one ended up being a definite winner. Wiest’s essays are short but succinct, and really do make you change the way you think! Some include choosing purpose over passion, embracing negative thinking, and why so many of us can’t attain happiness. I bought this in paper form after I listened to it so I can re-read an essay from time to time.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson. This historical fiction is set during the 1930’s in Kentucky after the New Deal. Women (who did not have many job prospects at the time) were hired to deliver library books via horseback to rural folks who could not access a library. The story features the blue-skinned people of Kentucky (an actual medical phenomena) and what one woman who is a “Blue” has to endure as a traveling librarian in the mountains of Appalachia with prejudice, fear, and sometimes unexpected kindness.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. This novel is by the same author of Gone Girl (which I did not read). Thriller/suspense is typically not my preferred genre. The story and plot of Sharp Objects is pretty disturbing and bizarre overall, but if you want a book that will keep the pages turning, or audio rolling, this fits the bill.

The Liar’s Dictionary by Eley Williams. Part of the reason this novel interested me is because the author carries out two stories in different centuries about an infamous dictionary that is central to the plot. It was a weird, funny, and different kind of novel. It also satisfied the word nerd in me.

book heartSkip good old Amazon and go to your library’s website to see what kind of audio and e-books programs they offer. It opens up a whole new world of print and audio. And the best part, it’s FREE!



Money, Self-awareness, Writing

sucess chalk boardAs I start down this path of publishing and marketing a book, one repeated piece of advice I have read is to define success and what success means to me. The argument is that that most people have no real definition of success, so how can they ever reach it. In the world of writing, it is wanting to be a successful author. What does that mean? Getting on the best seller lists? Making a fortune? Turning books into block buster movies? I have yet to define mine, but I highly doubt that it will be any of those milestones. Selling 20,000 copies would be nice, but I don’t know if my dad can afford to buy that many.

What does success mean to you? We often think of it in terms of income, fame, or prestige. If you are well-known and paid extravagantly, you are successful. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines (among other businesses) appears to be a down-to-earth billionaire, if there is such a thing, and he says, “Too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.”

Another billionaire, Mark Cuban, says, “To me, the definition of success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face, knowing it’s going to be a great day. I was happy and felt like I was successful when I was poor, living six guys in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor.” That might be true, but I’m pretty certain that he does not sleep on floors any more or live with six guys in a crappy apartment.


For others, even defining success seems scary because what if we fail and never reach that point? We are paralyzed with the idea of even starting so we stay stuck and don’t try. One point can be made about the billionaires above, they never stopped trying. And then there is the flip-side, what if we reach our definition of success? Let’s say someone decides that success is earning $1 million in a year and this man or woman worked hard and reached that goal – their definition of success. Then what? Success attained, does he or she just roll over and die now? What next? I think we bump against this often. Why try, we ask, because 1) we might fail or 2) we might succeed.

And because of those pitfalls I think there are many of us who never stop to define success, and therefore just never stop. We’re always striving, nothing is ever good enough, once we get something that we want, we change what we want, so that we are never satisfied. We fear that if we reach that point of being completely satisfied and successful then we have nowhere to go and nothing to do, so we keep ourselves on the treadmill. And that is not a fulfilling life either because it’s never done, we never truly succeed, we keep going and going and going, until we die. That is pretty bleak.

I think I will go with the ideas of two other successful people: Maya Angelou who says, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” And John Wooden, a very successful basketball coach with 620 wins and ten national titles who thinks, “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Both are easier in theory than in practice, but something to strive for on a daily basis and over a lifetime.  What is your definition of success? Have you reached it?


Kids, Money, Parenting

If I asked people to complete this sentence: It all comes down to _____________. What do you think the answer would be? That M word is my guess because it seems like most of life often comes down to money, doesn’t it? Well, I suppose money and time, and lately as I get older, I’ve noticed it is also who you know…and that is all pretty depressing. This has been at the forefront of my mind more than usual because recently, two activities that my children participate in probably will not exist due to, you guessed it, money!  This post is not a plea for those dollars or to try and get support for my causes, it is just my ongoing observation that life, in the U.S. and most of the world, is dependent upon that bottom dollar. People do all sorts of things for money that they most likely wouldn’t under  a different way of life – they work countless hours, they sell their bodies or others, they scam or mark-up products in unfair ways, they lie, all for this thing – money.

And what does money get us in the end? Well, in the case of my kids’ cut programs they would get sports and enrichment, but for others, what is it about money that everyone wants to accumulate? More stuff I suppose: the better car, the nicer house, the extravagant vacation, the latest phone, or the coolest grill (and I’m not above wanting some of those things; personally, I would like a boat). And then what? We get those things, we’re momentarily happy with them, then inevitably, there is something else out there that we need or want. Most people (again, in the U.S.) have reached a level of comfort where they don’t worry about finding food or basic healthcare, most of us are in positions that allow us to live comfortably, without the concerns about tuberculosis or a high infant mortality rate. Wdollar sign - Copye’re lucky and fortunate; and yet, we still want more. And when we get more, well then, we usually still want more. Not often do we see people willing to “give more;” instead it’s to “get more.”

“Pharma Bro” is a recent example of accumulating more for the sake of having more, or maybe for him it’s having the most. Martin Shkreli was in the news because he was convicted of securities fraud. He lied to investors in order to make-up funds, supposedly, for a bad bet he made. This is wrong and unjust, obviously. What he is most known for, however, is becoming CEO of a pharmaceutical company and jacking up the price of a drug (often used for HIV patients) from mere dollars per pill to $750 per pill, without any good reason that anyone can tell except for one – to make money, lots of it. And what does he do with this money? Does he feel more important and successful because he has it? Probably, because many interpret money to equal success; and unfortunately, the more you have, the more power you hold. And now the guy will be spending that money, if not his time, digging himself out of this hole he created, and he seems to do it with little remorse.

What does that mean for middle class kids who can’t continue in a sport or learn the instrument they want to play? Who knows, maybe nothing. But if we weren’t always trying to “come up with the money” to pay for all of these programs, or needing and wanting the latest possession, would things be different? Would future generations grow up to have less stressful  lives, those in which they didn’t have to constantly worry about how to pay for things or how to retire comfortably (even when it’s fifty years away)?

My guess would be yes, but there is no easy way out of the system we have created, supposedly in which we are all equal (monetarily or otherwise). I’ll let you know how it’s going after my family and I move to a tribal society and try to trade plastic trinkets for food and, of course, the biggest hut on the block.

Welcome home.
Welcome home.