2021 Reading List: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Let me start by saying, I love Malcolm Gladwell’s books. I own a bunch of them, I’ve reread some (which is something I don’t do often), and I recommend them to anyone who’s interested.

That being said, I thought this book was going to be a little different. I thought this book would be about the chance encounters that human have with strangers every day – the barista at the coffee shop, the chic mom shopping at Target, the neighbor walking his dog, etc. I thought it would be more about the awkwardness that humans feel in certain situations with strangers, the way we interpret body language or facial expressions, the reason we’re afraid to ask for someone’s phone number even if we felt we had a great conversation with that particular stranger.

Someone should write that book.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know, by Malcolm Gladwell, was actually an analysis of very certain types of interactions with strangers.

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2021 Reading List: What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn

I have always been intrigued by great brands. What makes us buy something, use something, do something, or go somewhere based on the brand name alone? What do those brands have that makes us recall them immediately when we need that product? What makes us trust them so implicitly that we don’t need to do the research or read reviews?

So I’ve had this book on my reading list for awhile, tucked away in my Save for Later cart on Amazon. (Ahhh Amazon…) I finally just asked for it for Christmas so I could really dive in.

And really I think that the seven principles discussed in What Great Brands Do: the Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest could actually be compared to what people are looking for in their own personal lives. The principles don’t just apply to brands – they apply to being human.

The principles are:

  • Great brands start inside
  • Great brands avoid selling products
  • Great brands ignore trends
  • Great brands don’t chase customers
  • Great brands sweat the small stuff
  • Great brands commit and stay committed
  • Great brands never have to “give back”

When you list them out like that, it feels like common sense. Of course you want leadership to walk the talk and to believe in their products before they tell their customers to. Of course you believe that ultimately your products aren’t just a product, they make life better! Of course you’re not just following the crowd. Of course you can stand on your own two feet and right customers will just come to you. Of course the details matter. Of course you’ve committed for the long term. Of course you want to make a different in the lives of those less fortunate.

When you talk about it like that, it sounds easy. But if it were so easy, then we’d have more great brands. More people would feel like the brands they were buying were authentic and trustworthy. More people would feel like their purchase choices matter. It’s not easy.

As a marketer myself, having worked for several agencies, I often get clients who want a social media campaign. Or a brochure. Or a new website. And they come to us with who they think their audience is, what they want out of the promotion (more customers, almost always), and what their message is. But rarely do they come to me with who they are. There is often a lot of disconnect between the true core of a company and the message they put out there. Leadership doesn’t always see the big picture. They don’t see the real customer journey, they don’t understand the emotions behind a decision, they don’t think it matters if they say something in an ad but can’t truly back it up as a company.

I think this book did a great job explaining why these seven principles matter. We can all sit here and say that yes they do, but if we don’t truly understand why it works or how it works, then we’re going to fall back into the same trap of chasing the customers, selling the features of a product, or skipping over the little details that show a company cares.

Now back to being human – aren’t these seven principles also things that you’d want to see in a relationship with someone? Not necessarily a romantic relationship. Just any human relationship. You want other people in your life to do what they said they’d do. You want them to understand you on a deeper emotional level. (You don’t just want a nanny who keeps your kids alive, you want a livesaver who will help raise your kids.) You don’t want someone who’s only around because it’s a convenient time and place for them, or because you make them look good. You want a relationship with someone who cares about the details and pays attention to the little things. (The husband who cleans the snow off your car in the morning before you even wake up.) You want someone who is committed to the relationship, through thick and thin. And at the end of the day, you don’t need that person to give you birthday presents or Christmas presents because just being in each other’s lives makes your lives richer.

Behind every great company and every great brand are just people. People connect with people. It’s not some mysterious puzzle that we’re solving here.

This book was actionable in a long-term planning way. You could sit down and do some of these exercises, but at the end of the day, the actions you need to take are bigger-picture. This book can give you the tools and steps to take, but also the reason behind it so that you can build a better plan for your brand and get the right people involved.

I had been hoping the book would focus a bit more on the examples, in more of a storytelling way, but that wasn’t the case. It was descriptive, but more technical and action-oriented, rather than storytelling. So if you’re in a position to build a brand, then this would be an excellent starting point to put you in the right mindset.

2020 Reading List: Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

It shouldn’t surprise you, but this book is about three women. More specifically, three women and how they experience their own sexuality. One woman, Maggie, had a secret affair with her teacher when she was 17 years old. One woman, Lina, has a sex-less, presumably love-less marriage so she has an affair with a married man. The third woman, Sloane, has sex with other men and women while her husband watches or participates and she mostly enjoys it.

This book, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, is real, raw account of these women’s lives. I loved the way it was written; it felt unbiased and yet it was emotional and relatable. Relatable in the feelings and desires of these women, not necessarily lifestyle. It didn’t glorify or condone any lifestyle or decision but it also didn’t cast judgment or blame on anyone. It was an exploration of the real needs and wants of women that are so often ignored. Continue reading

2020 Reading List: Becoming by Michelle Obama

I have always admired the Obama family, particularly Michelle Obama. Throughout her time in the First Lady spotlight, she seemed to exude a certain presence, grace, compassion, and strength that is often lost or buried in mainstream celebrities. To me, their family seemed to be a solid representation of what a First Family should be.

I’m not here to be political or to force my opinions on anyone. I read Becoming, by Michelle Obama, because I wanted to hear about her life in her own words. I wanted a larger glimpse into the life of this First Lady who represented so many other things. I was not disappointed, and I think, whatever your political stance is, you won’t be either. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt

As someone who is about to bring a child into this world and will soon come face to face with all of the difficult questions of how to raise a kind, strong, independent human being, I found this book, The Coddling of the American Mind, to be an important lesson in what not to do.

This book is talking mainly about college students and universities – how young people, members of the iGen or Generation Z, believe they need to be “safe” from differing opinions, “safe” from guest speakers on campus, “safe” from offensive language. There is a pervasive trend in our current culture of people not wanting to have to hear diverse viewpoints. Their argument is that they may be “triggered” by someone else’s words or actions.

So the book explores what this means, how we got to this point and why, and what we can do about it. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Are you currently looking for a good girl friend to tell it like it is, tell you the truth about yourself and motivate you to be better? Rachel Hollis is your girl, and Girl, Wash Your Face is like having her in your living room telling to get off your phone, off your ass, and change your life.

I have heard of Rachel Hollis and of course her recent nonfiction books, but I am not a follower, I don’t read her blog, and I don’t know too much about her. But I was hoping this book would be a nice little pick-me-up and it did not disappoint. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: She Wants It by Jill Soloway

When you have a story to tell that’s this colorful and radical, where do you start?

Do you start with your family and drop right into the moment where your father reveals he’s trans? Or how about your successful career in television? Or do you go back a little further and start with the less successful years working on various TV shows? What about your children, born to two different fathers, 14 years apart? Or your later divorce to your husband? Or maybe you just start up front with the story about how you became a lesbian. You might want to start with your white privilege though. Or what about your fight for women’s rights? LGBTQ+ rights? Human rights?

The memoir, She Wants It, by Jill Soloway, covered all of these hot button topics and more. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

I will start with this: I love Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. That’s why I picked up this book. I love Lean In. I love WorkLife. I love their Ted Talks. I love Facebook.

I did not love this book. And I’ll tell you why. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi

Do you eat breakfast with your phone in front of you? Have you picked up your phone in the last 20 minutes? Are you addicted to social media or gaming apps? Do you get panicky if you can’t find your phone (or if the battery is less than 20%)?

Chances are, you answered yes to at least one of those questions. Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Creative Self, by Manoush Zomorodi addresses this societal issue.

The book isn’t about cell phones though. Of course, phones are today’s number one source of entertainment and distraction, but the point of this book is that we don’t leave enough time in our day for unstructured thought. We never have to say ‘I’m bored.’ We have the opportunity and ability to jump from one source of media to the next. Facebook to Instagram to Candy Crush to text messaging to email and back again.

When is the last time you actually just – did nothing? I certainly can’t remember. Continue reading

2019 Reading List: Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

I remember very distinct moments in my childhood where I was desperate to fit in. When I was younger, most of it seemed to hinge on having the right things or wearing the right clothes. I wore overalls in elementary school because I liked them, but then I got made fun of and never wore them again. I wanted Ugg boots in the worst way because everyone else was wearing them. But I also just wanted to be part of a group. I wanted to feel like I had people around me, who wanted to hang out with me. I wanted a seat at the lunch table. I wanted friends on the swim team. I wanted people to meet up with in homeroom. I just wanted people to like me.

Brené Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness, takes a deep look at this longing to belong and what it really means. Continue reading