Tyler Tichelaar – Blogcritics https://blogcritics.org The critical lens on today's culture & entertainment Sat, 23 Jun 2018 14:05:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 58763955 Book Review: ‘Pain Awaits’ by S.B.Shine https://blogcritics.org/book-review-pain-awaits-by-s-b-shine/ Fri, 11 May 2018 14:26:53 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5486512 'PAIN AWAITS' by S. B. Shine offers some tough love solutions for what ails America today.

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S. B. Shine’s new book PAIN AWAITS is aptly titled since it reflects the pain that the American government, economy, and people are experiencing as we begin to fear that, like the Roman Empire, we are in our decline and fall. Shine discusses many of the causes of this situation, ranging from illegal immigration and government overspending to the drug culture and a lack of strong family values in the younger generations, but he does not dwell on the problems so much as the solutions.

How to solve the problem of America’s current situation is easily an overwhelming topic to ponder, but Shine breaks the problem down into manageable chunks. The book is divided into several parts, each of which takes on a major aspect of the problem, including Financial, Security, Economy, and what Shine calls “The Dirty Dozen.” This Dirty Dozen includes topics like whether taxes are too high or too low, the US’s acting like a charity toward other countries, regulation, voting, unions, government-owned property, Russia, and the importance of volunteering.

The book’s title is also fitting because implementing the solutions—doing the hard work of solving America’s problems—will not be easy. It will likely be very painful, especially to politicians who may need to accept lower pay, to government employees who may no longer have cushy jobs, and to many taxpayers.

Nor will everyone agree with the solutions—some will not even agree about what the problems are. That said, this book was very eye-opening for me on many topics, and while I did not agree with all of Shine’s opinions or solutions, I found that he never held back in telling it like it is, and he always argued his points very rationally, backing them up with research and numerous citations. In truth, this is no small book, and the depth of Shine’s research into his topics really amazed me.

One topic Shine discussed that made me change how I thought was the subject of immigration. I’ve never understood the need for a wall or why we should have such a strong anti-immigration policy when we are a country of immigrants and should all be grateful that our ancestors were allowed to enter this country. However, Shine shows that today’s immigration situation is not a discussion of what America stands for as a country willing to take in the world’s teeming masses longing to be free. Instead, the illegal immigration problem is one in which gangs and drug smugglers are heavily involved.

These are not people like our great-grandparents who were looking to find a better life for themselves and contribute to our country. These are hard-core criminals looking to profit at the expense of our country by getting our citizens addicted to drugs and taking their money, without paying taxes on it, back to their own countries. Despite this reality, Shine doesn’t advocate for President Trump’s wall, per se, but rather offers rational solutions for how to protect the border. Here again, I admired Shine because he does not come off as a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, but simply as a true patriot with common sense who wants to help.
Pain Awaits by S.B.Shine
Another topic that was very eye-opening to me was foreign aid. It made me realize how the United States acts as if it’s a charity by the aid it gives to other countries. As Shine reveals, the amount of foreign aid the United States gives, who that aid is given to, and the reasons for giving it are all truly astonishing. I’m all for helping people in need but not at the expense of our own financial or political stability. With our $20 trillion-and-counting national debt, Shine’s argument that we should eliminate unneeded foreign aid and use the money instead to improve our infrastructure and national security, which would benefit all American citizens, is hard to argue with.

One of the more controversial proposals Shine makes has to do with the prison system. His belief is that prison systems need to impose tougher penalties; they should not be like country clubs for criminals. One of the harshest suggestions Shine makes in the entire book is that the worst prisoners should be shipped to prisons overseas (overseen by the United States, of course)—this exile would make people think twice about committing crimes.

I have to admit this sounds a bit cruel to the prisoners, but as Shine points out, families could still visit or Skype with prisoners, and it would be cheaper to operate prisons off American soil. Shine doesn’t pretend this or any of his solutions will be easy. Some decisions will be difficult and cause pain if we want to turn around the mess our country has gotten itself into, but in this situation, these people are, after all, criminals so they deserve to do their share in bearing that pain.

And then there is terrorism. This topic is one of the scariest, if not the scariest, facing the United States today. Shine offers an excruciating scenario of how terrorists could easily take over an American school, just like the psychopathic school shooters we have today, only these terrorists would do so not just to kill children and kill themselves, but to hold our children for ransom and then kill them anyway after they received the ransom money — and despite the government policy not to negotiate with terrorists, how could they do otherwise when a few hundred children are at stake? If you read this book for no other reason, you have to read what Shine has to say about terrorism and our best hopes for stopping it from happening in our country.

Overall, PAIN AWAITS is a surprising, maybe shocking, but completely realistic look at the state of our union. It would behoove every American to read this book, and it should be required reading for anyone in a local, state, or national government position. If our politicians would even implement just a few of the well-thought out suggestions S. B. Shine makes, I believe America could return to being a stable country that we can once again all be proud of.

Even if you don’t agree with Shine on most points, you will benefit from reading PAIN AWAITS because it will get you thinking about possible solutions and hopefully encourage you to be a good citizen by taking action, and that will make much more of a difference than just complaining about the way things currently are. After all, change has to begin with each of us.

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Book Review: ‘Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership’ by Jim Nevada https://blogcritics.org/book-review-igniting-purpose-driven-leadership-by-jim-nevada/ Tue, 01 May 2018 20:28:41 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5486211 'Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership' by Jim Nevada has the tools and information to help business increase employee satisfaction.

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In Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership, Jim Nevada, executive consultant, coach, and entrepreneur, suggests that the essential element many leaders are missing and that sets apart successful leaders from the rest is a focus on purpose. In his book, he reveals how leaders can stay focused on their and their organization’s purpose and find the right people to bring that purpose to fruition.

Far more than just another business or personal development book, Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership is packed with research about leadership, successful businesses, and the philosophies of world-leading companies and their CEOs. The extensive notes and index show that Nevada has done his research, and the book’s tone and content reflect that he has not only done it well, but he has made it digestible by providing an entertaining and informative read for anyone who wants to become a better leader.

Many successful companies are featured in Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership, including Google, Amazon, and Southwest Airlines. Nevada shows that from the beginning, Google’s founders have always operated their business with purpose in mind. Others like Southwest Airlines understand that people need to be the foundation of their business. Nevada states, “A company’s future lies in the creative minds and hands of its people.” Consequently, creativity is a fundamental skill and purpose for businesses that want to succeed in what Nevada refers to as the “Era of Human Capital.”

One point Nevada makes that I especially appreciated is the need to focus on abundance and not have a scarcity mentality. Too many times we hear people talk about how hard it is to find good help, but the truth is that many qualified and capable people are out there, and often the problem is that companies fail to utilize their employees’ full potential. Nevada proposes, “If our goal is to get the greatest level of energy and creativity out of our people, then we must set aside our limiting beliefs and realize the unlimited potential in everyone. From there, we can be more effective at making the shift from a scarcity to an abundance mentality.”

Nevada encourages hiring people even when we aren’t sure what role they can play if they are a right fit for the company and are creative. Such purpose-driven hiring will result in employees who are dedicated to the company’s purpose and will enjoy their work. It’s a way to move away from short-term thinking that focuses on results-first and instead act from a long-term approach based on people first. At the same time, don’t hire the wrong people. Nevada recommends you, “take your time and bear the cost to ensure your new hires are the proper fit, even ridding the business of high-performers, just because they’re not aligned.”

And once you have those people in place, treat them very well. I give kudos to Nevada for his comments about how some companies fail to treat employees or even customers well. For example, Wal-Mart, which in the past was applauded for treating employees well, gets a black mark against it for having Black Friday sales that have resulted in mayhem and even deaths and injuries. He notes that several companies are now closing their doors on Black Friday and also providing better prices to customers year round. This discussion alone was worth the price of this book, and hopefully, the options Nevada describes will become part of retail future.
Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership by Jim Nevada
All of these examples reflect purpose-driven thinking, as Nevada describes it, but they can also be described as future-focused thinking. Nevada points out how successful leaders and companies not only solve existing problems but solve problems that don’t yet exist because they can foresee them and then come up with creative solutions to them. One of my favorite quotations in the book illustrates this point. Henry Ford once said, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Nevada advocates for purpose-driven and future-focused thinking that anticipates what people will want before they know it themselves.

Finally—and there is much more I could say about this book, but best to let you read the rest on your own—I loved when Nevada discussed how purpose-driven leaders and companies are not afraid to redefine their purposes and themselves. For example, I think Henry Ford, if he were alive today, would be proud to know that the company he founded a century ago has recently made public that it no longer considers itself an automobile company. Rather, it is a company focused on “improving mobility solutions around the world.” As Nevada says, “This is a big step change for one of the largest manufacturers in the world. It requires that Ford not only reinvent how it presents itself to the external market, but how it operates internally as well.”

It’s time for more businesses to follow in the footsteps of Ford, Southwest Airlines, Google, and other leading companies that have clearly defined purposes and recognize their employees. As a case in point, we often hear how Millennials don’t have the work ethic of earlier generations, but Nevada says that data suggests nearly 90 percent of Millennials want increased opportunities for professional development and greater responsibilities, but only one-third feel their organizations are fully using their skills and experiences. Something is wrong with that picture. Fortunately, the tools and information provided in Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership can help change that.

This book is one to put on the shelf next to other modern business classics like Jim Collins’ From Good to Great. But before you put it on a shelf, read it! And then you’ll probably be repeatedly taking it down from the shelf. It’s that purpose-driven.

For more information about Jim Nevada and Igniting Purpose-Driven Leadership, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Living Your Exclamation Point Life!’ by Anne L. Prinz https://blogcritics.org/book-review-living-your-exclamation-point-life-by-anne-l-prinz/ Tue, 24 Apr 2018 01:01:08 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5486029 Why shouldn’t you live an exclamation point life?

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Living Your Exclamation Point Life! by Anne L. PrinzIn Living Your Exclamation Point Life!, Anne Prinz reveals how we can transform our lives to have daily fulfillment and long-term purpose. As a graduate of the Mary Morrissey Life Mastery Institute, Prinz has the skills and tools necessary to help others turn around their situations, embrace their passions, and find fulfillment. Perhaps even more important, she has a personal track record of overcoming difficult situations and applying these tools to improve her own life, so not only does she have experience, but she knows how to practice what she preaches.

Living Your Exclamation Point Life! is filled with powerful stories, helpful lessons, and practical applications to help the reader overcome whatever obstacles he or she faces. Don’t believe me? Then just read the story of how Prinz overcame her own obstacles. Her biggest obstacle was when, early in her architectural career, she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. For years she struggled; she had to give up her day job, could only function normally for a few hours a day, and needed constant rest. She tried to make the best of it, doing what she could and learning how to manage her illness. Then came the day when a doctor told her she would never recover. Her response, “He doesn’t know me very well.”

In the book, Prinz goes on to explain how this response transformed her situation:

“This was a decisive moment for me in harnessing my thinking power to create a new result. In that moment, I went from asking myself, ‘What can I do to manage my illness better?’ to asking an empowered question of ‘What can I do to get well so I can work again?’ My internal response to the doctor shifted my thinking from circumstance thinking into empowered thinking—creating a life I would love, simply by changing the daily question I was asking myself.”

Learning how to change your daily question is just one of the many helpful tools Prinz provides readers so they can create their own exclamation point lives. Sometimes a simple change in mindset can also work wonders. Prinz tells a story of how she did just that when she saw two pit bull terriers coming toward her, on the attack. By changing her mindset from fear to indifference, she left the dogs confused as she walked by them bravely and unharmed.

Too often in life, we find ourselves focused on why we don’t have what we want and believing we will never get it. Prinz gives us a breath of fresh air when she tells us, “What we want, wants us.” She illustrates this point by showing us how love and everything else is possible when we are open to it. Quoting from A Course in Miracles, she says, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

In other words, we can have whatever we want if we stop getting in our own way. Prinz is a believer in the Law of Attraction, but with a cool twist. Rather than just focusing on what we want and telling the Universe, “I want this,” she encourages us to add four very important words to that sentence, “This or something better.” That way we may not get exactly what we want because the Universe knows what we need better than we do and can send us an improved version of it.

Prinz also provides good examples of how we cause ourselves to miss out on a lot of the good in life when we deny ourselves what we want. For example, she once attended a concert where someone played the zither. She had the opportunity to take zither lessons, but told herself she was too busy, even though she was fascinated by the instrument. Then she asked herself why she should deny herself what she really wanted. The result: Today, Prinz is an accomplished zitherist and she is actively involved in hosting zither concerts and interacting with zitherists around the world. She has even received international recognition for her efforts in supporting the zither community—and she’s had a fabulous time doing it.

I could say a lot more about this book, but the bottom line is that your dreams can also come true when you get out of your own way. Prinz can show you how in these pages. More than just a reading experience, each chapter of Living Your Exclamation Point Life! includes life-changing questions to ask yourself and transformative exercises to get you on the path to becoming the best version of yourself. Why shouldn’t you live an exclamation point life? You probably have an answer for why you can’t, but Prinz will show you how you can, and you’ll have a lot more fun when you do. Get ready for the adventure of a lifetime.

For more information about Anne Prinz and Living Your Exclamation Point Life!, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Wickwythe Hall: A Novel’ by Judithe Little https://blogcritics.org/book-review-wickwythe-hall-a-novel-by-judithe-little/ Wed, 28 Mar 2018 16:26:02 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5484986 Readers will find 'Wickwythe Hall' by Judithe Little hard to put down.

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Wickwythe Hall by Judithe Little is the kind of book I love, so I’m not at all surprised that it won First Place for Historical Fiction in this year’s Reader Views Literary Awards. It’s the perfect blend of history and interesting characters you come to care about. Right from the opening pages, the reader is caught up in the dilemma faced by Annelle, a young French woman who was orphaned with her two brothers and grew up in a convent.

It’s May 1940 and the Germans have just invaded France. Annelle has intended to become a nun, but now with her older brothers fighting in North Africa and the sisters at the convent wanting to pray rather than flee to safety, Annelle makes the split decision to flee south, hoping to reach North Africa and find her brothers. The reader witnesses Annelle’s excruciating flight along the French roads, on her bicycle until it is damaged, and then on foot. Eventually, through a twist of events, she gets out of France, but rather than going to North Africa, she finds herself a refugee in England.

And that’s just what happens in the opening chapter.

Once in England, Annelle finds herself working at Wickwythe Hall. The other servants are suspicious that she might be a spy, but all Annelle is concerned about is finding a way to communicate with her brothers. The large English country estate is owned by Tony and Mabry Springs. Tony is a landed British aristocrat, but Mabry is an American heiress who isn’t as caught up in doing things the English way as her husband and those around her. Mabry is very concerned that the war will soon lead to an invasion of England, and she is doing everything she can to help the war effort, including taking in twenty-three children who are being sent to the country from London for their safety.

Tony and Mabry also have connections with important people, including Prime Minister Winston Churchill. One week, Churchill comes to visit and the house is turned into central command for the war effort. It is hard enough for Mabry and the staff to meet all of Churchill’s idiosyncratic requests, but even harder for Mabry is that in Churchill’s entourage is Reid Carr, a fellow American whose proposal of marriage she long ago refused.

Mabry’s married life has not been perfect. She and Tony have tried many times to have children, always leading to miscarriages; as a result, they have grown apart. Now Mabry finds herself wondering whether Reid is still interested in her and whether she is still interested in him. He is flirtatious, pointing out that the Mabry he once knew would have been more willing to go swimming at night and do plenty of other things Mabry no longer has an inclination for.

But Reid is not really at Wickwythe Hall to flirt. President Roosevelt, unable to get Congress to back him in declaring war on Germany, has sent Reid to be his unofficial ambassador to keep him and Churchill informed of each other’s activities. Once Mabry gets some inkling of Reid’s purpose, she asks him if he can help Annelle find her brothers. This request results in a chain of events beyond what any of the characters can control.
Wickwythe Hall: A Novel by Judithe Little
What makes Wickwythe Hall such a wonderful novel is that the characters come to life in its pages. I became deeply enmeshed in their decisions and especially Mabry’s temptations to break her marriage vows to be with Reid. The novel’s conclusion is not what I would have expected, and yet it ends perfectly.

The other great thing about this novel is that not only is it historically accurate but it teaches the reader new things about history. Operation Catapult, which I had never heard of before, becomes central to the novel. It concerns Churchill’s efforts to keep the French fleet from becoming Hitler’s property to be used against England. I won’t say more about how Little works this historical event into the plot because it will ruin the novel’s suspense.

I also appreciated the descriptions in the novel. I’m not big on a lot of description, but I think Judithe Little knows how to sprinkle in description as appropriate to give color without boring the reader. Some of her scenes are downright magical, such as of the orphans playing at Wickwythe Hall and descriptions of the landscape.

In addition, Little’s style rather reminded me of one of my other favorite English wartime novels, The Castle on the Hill by Elizabeth Goudge. Little knows how to reassure us of good in the world, while still giving us a realistic depiction of how frightening and stressful war can be, and how brave the English were in their opposition to Hitler.

All around, Wickwythe Hall will appeal to World War II history buffs, Anglophiles like myself, and anyone who loves a good love story about strong, realistic, and well-rounded characters. You’ll find it hard to put down.

For more information about Judithe Little and Wickwythe Hall, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Sales Won’t Save Your Business’ by Joe Pardo https://blogcritics.org/book-review-sales-wont-save-business-joe-pardo/ Sun, 04 Mar 2018 19:36:32 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5483533 New book, Sales Won't Save Your Business by Joe Pardo, focuses on how to handle business growth beyond sales.

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In Sales Won’t Save Your Business, “Super” Joe Pardo answers the questions business owners have about how to create a viable and successful business beyond just selling. The book’s title is very apt because, as Joe points out, selling a lot of your product won’t help your business if you don’t have an effective team in place to handle customer service and you don’t have the right processes and procedures in place to prepare for the growth that results from sales. As a result, Joe takes the reader on a journey to the TOP by dividing the book into three parts that focus on Team, Offer, and Process.

Following a foreword by Lee Cockerell, Retired Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World® Resort, Super Joe jumps right into telling it like it is by asking readers to recall why they started a business in the first place, what is the biggest stress generator in the business, and what they can do to empower themselves in the business.

Joe refers to the contents page as a roadmap, and rather than having chapters, he calls each section a “pin” on that roadmap—a place you must stop and master to move forward in your journey to business growth.

At the heart of this book is a request for the reader to become self-aware. Joe reminds readers to ask others for feedback about their own strengths and weaknesses, to ask for help, not to work themselves to death, and to focus on the influence they have on others. That influence affects the business owner’s team members and their success, so the first part of the book focuses on how to create a successful team, which is an extension of the business and its owner.

As Joe says, “Your business is a tree, and the roots of that tree are made of strong relationships.” Being a business owner also means being a leader, which means you have to dig in and do the work yourself. Joe states, “At times, you will need to fill in because of a worker shortage or an emergency. In such situations, it is important for your team to understand you are not just going to sit back and make them do all of the work. This does not mean, however, that you should be working in your business all of the time versus on your business. A great leader knows how to find the balance that will earn respect.”
Sales Won’t Save Your Business by Joe Pardo
Being a leader means inspiring your team, and it also means entrusting that team to do what you would do when you don’t have time to do it. Relinquishing power to others is often difficult for leaders, but Joe points out that when you try to micromanage your team, you take power from your managers; that makes team members second-guess their managers and do what they think you want, even though they may not always know what you want. Therefore, you have to empower your managers by letting go of all the power.

Change is always difficult for organizations, so if you want to implement the changes Joe recommends, you’ll have to deal with people who don’t like change. Consequently, Joe spends a lot of time talking about how to incorporate change in your business without ruffling too many feathers. To illustrate his point, he shares his own story of implementing change in his family’s business, and how, despite a few ruffled feathers, the process became successful.

Despite whatever changes you make, the ultimate goal is to provide customer satisfaction. In Part 2: Focus on the Offer, Joe talks about how to price products properly and how to get your team aligned with providing customer service. The best advice Joe gives here is how to teach your team to focus on the customer’s perspective when providing service.

In Part 3: Focus on the Process, Joe reminds us it’s vital that business owners always seek ways not just to change but to improve. In order to do that, you have to have clear processes. Once processes are in place, team members are clear on their tasks and then the business can run smoothly. As a result, you won’t need to micromanage; you’ll then have time to work on your business rather than working in it.

There’s much more I could talk about here—excellent advice on hiring, firing, and promoting team members; advice on incorporating technology into your business; and advice on how to grow your profit by improving your training. Throughout, Joe sprinkles in his “Super Joe Says” sayings—which are like modern proverbs for business owners. Each pin ends with exercises so that readers don’t just have a reading but a learning experience, allowing them to look at their own businesses and come up with the answers they need. As a result, they’ll close this book having the tools to take their businesses to new levels of growth and their own lives to increased satisfaction.

For more information about Joe Pardo and Sales Won’t Save Your Business, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Loving You to the Moon and Back: How to Overcome Life’s Struggles and Still Love Yourself’ by Barbara Weber https://blogcritics.org/book-review-loving-moon-back-overcome-lifes-struggles-still-love-barbara-weber/ Thu, 22 Feb 2018 13:37:48 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5483119 New book, 'Loving You to the Moon and Back' by Barbara Weber, offers way to shift to soul perspective and reap rewards of self-love.

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In Loving You to the Moon and Back, Barbara Weber shares her personal story of spiritual growth and courage, describing how she left a small town and a restricting life to live her life fully, focused on healing herself and others. More importantly, she encourages readers to do the same—develop love for themselves and live to their full potentials. In these pages, she shares how to achieve that most important mission—loving yourself.

Life is full of obstacles for all of us, but within those obstacles lie miracles, as Barbara has often discovered the hard way. In fact, much of the book builds upon what she has learned through A Course in Miracles as well as creating daily practices for herself to nurture her soul. She is a firm advocate for starting a daily practice — whatever suits you — to help you deepen awareness of yourself and what is most important in your life. That practice could be meditation, keeping a daily journal, or some form of exercise.

One of the most important points Barbara makes about learning to love yourself is to stop comparing yourself to others. As she states, “We all tend to do three things that cause us to lose sight of our soul’s eye and see the world in shallow terms—comparing, justifying, and judging. Together these make up the ‘comparison ruler.’

They are all negatives that will put you in a contracted state, the same as fear does. Letting this comparison ruler guide your life keeps you from seeing your true self because if you only see yourself in comparison to others, you are only seeing their reflection, not your own.”

Another big part of loving yourself, according to Barbara, is learning not to react to other people’s baggage, especially that of your family members. She advocates creating harmonious relationships with others and yourself. By doing so, you can shift from a sole perspective to your soul perspective, let others’ issues go with love, and learn to do what is best for you.

When you do what is best for you, ultimately, you do what is best for everyone. Barbara relates this process to Ho’oponopono, the Hawaiian concept that means “to make things right.” She defines making things right as “doing whatever is necessary to support harmonious relationships between people, nature, and spirit.” To achieve this goal, she uses the mantra: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.”

I love when Barbara talks about the importance of not overthinking situations. Instead, we need to find a quiet, calm place within ourselves—a place we can reach by meditation and by adopting a soul perspective.

She explains,

Thinking negates your experiencing; this concept is difficult to comprehend, but it’s easier to get when you just do it. So just get into doing what you love; be so charmed by doing what you love that you melt into the present moment. That’s when you are without thought. That melting into the present moment is also your aim in meditating; you want to stop those millions of rushing thoughts that occupy you and cause you stress.

Obviously, I don’t want to spoil your reading experience by describing everything in the book, but I’ll just add that there are twenty-five chapters, total, and some of the chapter titles include: Dwelling in Wholeness, Staying in Joy, Turning Off the Inner Critic, Embracing the Mystery, Finding Your Passion, Drifting Awake, and Choosing Love All Ways. With all of those topics, you can feel assured that Barbara has every aspect of how to love yourself covered.

Toward the end of the book, Barbara talks about healing grief. In the final chapter, she tells the story of her daughter, Rebecca. Rebecca used to end their phone calls by telling her mom that she loved her “to the moon and back”—which became the inspiration for this book’s title. When Rebecca passed away, Barbara certainly experienced grief, but she also found purpose and love in caring for her grandchildren.

Loving You to the Moon and Back is a short book, but one full of wisdom gained from a lifetime of experiences and full of heart and soul. Barbara Weber writes in a tone that reminds me of Eckhart Tolle or Gary Zukav, one that makes you know she is speaking from that still quiet place in the heart where the greatest wisdom lies.

For more information about Barbara Weber and Loving You to the Moon and Back, visit Amazon.

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Book Review: ‘Selling Through Your Heart’ by Shirlene Reeves https://blogcritics.org/book-review-selling-heart-shirlene-reeves/ Wed, 07 Feb 2018 15:37:17 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5482513 New book, 'Selling Though Your Heart by Shirlene Reeves, teaches sales practices that lead to success and financial freedom

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Shirlene Reeves’ Selling Through Your Heart: Empowering You to Build Relationships for Financial Freedom goes beyond most sales and business books in offering practical advice and examples for finding customers, getting them interested, sealing the deal, keeping them coming back, and even referring their friends to you. After reading Shirlene’s personal story and her advice, you’ll find your sales increasing, and more importantly, you’ll find yourself developing meaningful relationships that make you happier because you’re not just making money but also making a difference in your life and the lives of your clients.

Few books start out with such dramatic openings as Selling Through Your Heart. Shirlene tells us briefly about her two marriages and how she built successful businesses with both husbands, only one day to discover she was divorced and broke. Not having food for her children, she found herself standing in front of a dumpster that people were diving in to retrieve spoiling watermelons to eat. In that moment, she knew she would find a way to turn this situation around.

Of course, she did, and it led to her growing her own business — Signing Pro, Inc., the second-largest notary document-signing business in the nation, worth multi-millions and with 23,000 people working under her. Shirlene retired from that business after seventeen years, and now she coaches people in sales so they can learn to do what she did.

While Selling Through Your Heart is full of practical techniques, Shirlene also focuses on how to make yourself happy by first being on good terms with yourself. She gives us examples of how we can choose what is right for us, framing it as “choosing peace or pain” when we make decisions. Then she walks readers through what she calls the 3 Cs: Clearing, Clarity, and Confidence. The 3 Cs help you deal with your past and unresolved issues or emotions so you can focus your energy on sales rather than your personal baggage. Ultimately, the 3 Cs will help boost your confidence so you’re a better salesperson. Shirlene explains:

The ultimate goal of the 3 Cs is to get people talking about how much they love you. The rules for accomplishing this goal are to say nothing unkind about anyone, give of your time and knowledge from the deepest recesses of your heart, and understand what you give to another may not be returned by the same person, but it will most assuredly come back to you in other unexpected, positive ways.

Now that you have you figured out, it’s time to figure out your clients. Shirlene walks the reader through how to understand and recognize potential clients’ personality types so you can learn to communicate with them where they’re at and mirror their language. She also teaches you how to define your target market and reach out to it.
Selling Through Your Heart: Empowering You to Build Relationships for Financial Freedom by Shirlene Reeves
Of course, networking is a big part of finding clients. Shirlene understands the frustration many people have with networking because it doesn’t lead to the results they want. She teaches readers how to find the right networking groups and how to avoid the ones that aren’t helpful. At times, she is very straightforward in her tone, which I love; for example, she has no qualms about saying:

Don’t give in to joining a group simply because your friends are there. In fact, it’s better if your friends aren’t there. There’s no point in networking with your friends. This is your business, not a social gathering. Let go of any or all networking groups that haven’t contributed to your income unless you believe you didn’t earn the income because you didn’t know how to sell and weren’t prepared.

I also love her approach for dealing with rejection. She understands that people are busy and can’t always commit right away for a variety of reasons. She’s gotten around this issue by learning that when someone tells her, “I can’t do this right now,” it’s best to ask, “Is it no for now or no forever?” If it’s no for now, she can follow up with them at a better time, while if it’s no forever, she can thank the person for being honest and then be glad she didn’t waste her time pursuing the person further.

Finally, Shirlene offers her 3 Step Sales Waltz™. I won’t give you all the steps here, but I promise that Shirlene waltzes us through these steps in a masterful way, full of detail. She provides scripts and examples for how to initiate a conversation with a client, and then she shows us how to talk to clients in an understanding manner that focuses on where the client is at rather than just focusing on making the sale. This way, you won’t come off as pushy or scare off your client; instead, you’ll build a relationship of trust that will make your prospect more willing to commit.

Shirlene also has a practical way for getting referrals. Not only does she ask her customers whether they might know someone else interested in the same service they just received, but she narrows down the possibilities by asking, “Do you know someone at your church?” or “Do you know someone at your school?” By asking these more specific questions, the person is able to focus on one group of people at a time rather than searching for everyone she knows, only to answer you with a “No.”

The book’s final chapters go far beyond sales to teach readers how to achieve financial freedom and even how to become celebrity experts the media will seek out. Shirlene is one of only 253 CFE Certified Financial Educators® in the nation, and she has more than twenty-eight years of experience in the financial field, so she knows how to help people invest and put their money to the best use once they make it. She’s also hosted her own radio and TV Web shows so she’s knowledgeable about what the media is looking for in its guest experts. All this extra advice will only boost your career more as you learn how to sell yourself.

There’s much more I could say about Selling Through Your Heart. Shirlene is definitely a master of the soft sell, which has led to her personal success. There are plenty of books on sales out there, but this one stands apart because it really teaches readers how to connect on a human level, which results in a more fulfilling experience for both the salesperson and the customer.

For more information about Shirlene Reeves and Selling Through Your Heart, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘The Puzzled’ by James F. Johnson https://blogcritics.org/book-review-puzzled-james-f-johnson/ Wed, 24 Jan 2018 18:17:00 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5481904 The final novel in Bullies and Allies series, 'The Puzzled' by James F Johnson, puts all the pieces together.

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In The Puzzled, James F. Johnson brings all the pieces together from his first two books to reveal some shocking secrets about Kyle Rickett’s past. This third and final book in the Bullies and Allies series follows Disaster Island and The Goat Driver.

In Disaster Island, readers were introduced to thirteen-year-old Kyle’s dysfunctional family, as well as the pediatrician, Dr. Krieg, whom Kyle has vague memories of having molested him as a child. Unfortunately, Dr. Krieg is Kyle’s father’s only friend, and now that Kyle is older, that doesn’t deter Krieg’s behavior. Kyle is surrounded by bullies at school and at home, while simply trying to survive.

When things reach a crisis point, his family, not knowing how to deal with him, sends him for the summer to his Grandpa Louie in Minnesota. In The Goat Driver, Kyle arrives in Minnesota. During the summer, he makes a new friend, a young man named Tuck, who teaches him the true meaning of friendship and how to stick up for himself when he returns home.

When The Puzzled opens, Kyle has just returned home to Torano Island in Washington. He is more self-confident than before, and with Tuck’s secret support, Kyle is able to face several, but not all, of his bullies. His sociopathic sister Fran still continues to stir up trouble in the family, driving a wedge between Kyle and his parents. Kyle is continually afraid of what she will say; she is always willing to expose family secrets as well as tell lies or just guess until she hits upon the truths of situations.

Outside his immediate family, Kyle has other issues to deal with. He remains an outcast at school, although he learns how to cope with the situation better. When Dr. Krieg is accused by an anonymous caller of molesting children and leaves his practice, Kyle is deadly afraid that whoever knows about Krieg’s activities also knows he was one of Krieg’s victims. He fears when that knowledge is exposed to the public, it will ruin his life.
The Puzzled by James F. Johnson
Fortunately, Kyle has found his allies. He maintains a secret correspondence with Tuck, who, despite being far away in California, continually supports him and even lets him know that if it ever becomes necessary, he will come to Torano Island to rescue him. Closer to home is Kyle’s neighbor and best friend, Connor.

Kyle has kept secrets from Connor all these years, afraid if Connor knew how he was treated in Catholic school, he wouldn’t be his friend either. But when Connor and Kyle begin high school together, they are able to bond even more and Kyle is able to leave the bullies from his Catholic school past behind him. Eventually, Connor and Kyle begin their own radio show, which becomes a hit on Torano Island. Soon, Kyle finds that he is popular and well-liked. The radio show and his friendship with Connor allow him to see possibilities for his future.

But the future still requires coping with the past. Although as yet undiagnosed, Kyle is suffering from PTSD from his abusive childhood, which causes him at times to revert to dangerous behavior—both suicidal and sexual. He soon realizes that his biggest enemy may be himself.

The Puzzled comes to a very satisfying conclusion. James F. Johnson does an excellent job of bringing together all the issues Kyle has faced in the past and showing how he works through them. This book—and, indeed, the entire series—is more than just an entertaining novel. It will raise awareness of family dysfunction, PTSD, sociopaths, child abuse, and many other issues that cause people to find life difficult to deal with.

The Puzzled, in particular, is largely about healing from the past. Johnson offers a very concise look at bullying, and while he agrees it is important to stand up to bullies, he also shows there are some situations in which you simply can’t stand up to bullies so the best thing to do is to walk away. This lesson is the hardest one in the book for Kyle to accept because it means ending some relationships he would have liked to maintain, but the only way to ensure his sanity and safety is to cut the ties that should otherwise bind.

I remain impressed with Johnson’s ability to develop his characters so completely. These characters feel like real people, like people I have known, cried with, and cheered for as they have experienced life’s ups and downs. If I have any complaint, it’s that the story is now over.

Even though The Puzzled is much longer than the two previous books, I am left wondering about many things, not because Johnson doesn’t resolve everything, but because I want more. I want to know what Jayne, Kyle’s niece, grows up to be like after being raised by a sociopathic mom. I want to know more about Kyle’s cousin Scooter, who fakes his death after his family condemns him for being gay. I just don’t want to leave these people. I guess I’m hoping for some sort of a spin-off series someday.

Overall, I can’t recommend the Bullies and Allies series enough. Anyone who has experienced a dysfunctional past—and at least to some degree, we all have—will find much in these pages to relate to, and more importantly, learn from.

For more information about The Puzzled, the Bullies and Allies series, and author James F. Johnson, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Banana George’ by The Blair Family https://blogcritics.org/book-review-banana-george-blair-family/ Thu, 11 Jan 2018 15:43:13 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5481438 Senior superstar Banana George’s biography, 'Banana George: Don't Wait For Life To Happen, Make It Happen' by The Blair Family, is filled with inspiration and fun.

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Banana George: Don’t Wait for Life to Happen, Make It Happen is the biography of one of the most inspiring and colorful celebrities of recent years. Written by the Blair family (his wife and daughters) along with Karen Putz, author and fellow barefoot water skier, this biography chronicles all of George’s life-affirming ninety-eight years.

Readers journey with George from his childhood and college years to his first marriage and becoming a father and entrepreneur. We experience with him his debilitating back problems and undergoing surgery for them, and then, we are thrilled when he discovers the wonderful world of barefoot water skiing.

Ultimately, George was the world’s oldest barefoot water skier, but he was also a natural showman. He always busy sporting his signature yellow clothes; passing out bananas; appearing on major talk shows like The Oprah Winfrey Show, Late Night with David Letterman, and Live with Regis and Kathy Lee; traveling around the world; and meeting famous people. He even became a true ambassador of goodwill between nations.

After reading this book, I came to love Banana George and his zest for life. Most of all, I loved his creative spirit and his refusal ever to believe he couldn’t do something. Most people know Banana George for being the world’s oldest barefoot water skier—he was in the Guinness Book of World Records for that designation, continually breaking his record with each birthday—but what most people may not know is that he was an innovative entrepreneur Banana George.

Once he became a father himself, George had a fabulous idea to begin a business that took photos of babies in the hospital so parents could have immediate pictures of their newborns to treasure for a lifetime. Consequently, Hospital Picture Service was born. George grew this business by going around the country selling his services to hospitals. While visiting all these hospitals, George also noticed how many babies were constantly crying and how the nurses couldn’t attend to all of them at the same time. So, he invented the Blair Motion Bassinet, which had a motor attached to the bassinet to make it rock back and forth. Of course, he marketed the bassinet to all the hospitals as well.

A large part of the charm of the section about George’s early years before he became famous was the time he spent as a father. The book is filled with the memories of his four daughters and their experiences growing up with their father. From how he would only slow down the car and tell the kids to jump out when he had to drop them off because he was always in a hurry, to how he had to have a lazy susan on the dining room table to make everything easier to reach for everyone. He even installed bidets in his bathrooms because he thought they were more sanitary; his children had a lot of fun demonstrating how bidets worked for their friends who had never seen one.
Banana George: Don’t Wait for Life to Happen, Make It Happen by The Blair Family and Karen Putz
George didn’t begin barefoot water skiing until he was about forty and after he’d had major surgery for his back problems. One day, he was watching some people water skiing and was asked if he would like to try. He said he was too old, but the man who offered was insistent, so George tried, and he never looked back. Soon the whole family was water skiing and performing at shows. George became a regular performer at Cypress Gardens, and that was just the beginning of his showmanship.

There are too many fascinating and fun moments in George’s career as a barefoot water skier and then a media celebrity to mention in this review, and I don’t want to spoil the fun for readers, but I can’t help but mention that he rode in a racecar with Prince Albert of Monaco and did a water skiing exhibition for King Hussein of Jordan. But that was just the tip of the iceberg for George—he loved to travel and began water skiing all over the world.

One of my favorite stories was how, in 1988, George read an article that said the Russian editor of Pravada was an avid water skier. This was during the Cold War, and yet, George decided he’d like to water ski in Russia. He wrote a letter to the editor and, eventually, was invited to perform in the Friendship Cup Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria (also behind the Iron Curtain).

From there, George and his second wife JoAnne visited Russia, traveling throughout the country. George became known as “Mr. Banana” in Russia because people didn’t understand his nickname. Later, in 1995, George would welcome a delegation of Russian water skiers to the United States, thus spreading goodwill between the countries, and the Russians left with favorable impressions of the United States.

Before long, George had skied on six continents. Then his brother-in-law reminded him there were seven so George went skiing in Antarctica. He also once by happenstance ended up attending the Miss Switzerland beauty contest and gave the crowned winner bananas. Before his long celebrity career was over, George even starred in the movie Captiva Island about—what else?—a young rich kid who barefoot water skis and gets advice from several mature men, including George, Ernest Borgnine, and Arte Johnson from Laugh-In.

Banana George Blair proved to the world that you’re only as old as you think you are and it’s never too late to pursue doing the things you love. This is a man who loved to water ski so much that when he couldn’t stand anymore, he used a special chair made to sit in while he water skied.

We should all have George’s energy, and we should all read this book because maybe a little of George’s joie de vivre will rub off on us. The book includes a foreword by Phil Keoghan (host of The Amazing Race), Banana George’s Lessons for Life, and a list of all the places Banana George waterskied and the businesses and affiliations he was involved with. Altogether, Banana George is a treat that will have you going bananas just wanting to make your own life more adventurous.

For more information about Banana George: Don’t Wait for Life to Happen, Make It Happen, visit the book’s website.

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Book review: ‘Conquering Your Adversities’ by Dr. Kenneth Polke https://blogcritics.org/book-review-conquering-adversities-dr-kenneth-polke/ Mon, 18 Dec 2017 14:42:59 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5480887 New book, 'Conquering Your Adversities' by Dr. Kenneth Polke, tells tale of Cleveland boy who overcame obstacles to play in NFL

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Move over Rudy, Dr. Kenneth Polke is here to tell his own inspiring story of overcoming obstacles to play in the NFL in his new book Conquering Your Adversities: From the Mafia-Controlled Streets to the NFL to Ultimately Becoming a Successful Doctor. In this hybrid of a memoir and a self-help book, Dr. Polke shares his inspiring journey.

From growing up on the Mafia-ridden streets of Cleveland in the 1950s and going to a Catholic boys school to watching the nation erupt in violence during the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War, seeing his neighborhood of Collinwood become known as Bomb City, USA. All the while, managing to stay focused on walking the straight and narrow path that would lead him to his dream of playing in the NFL.

I’m not a football fan, but I always love a good rags-to-riches or dream-come-true story and every page of this book is full of both. One thing I really enjoyed about Conquering Your Adversities is that Dr. Polke contrasted his personal stories with keeping a pulse on what was happening outside his private sphere — in his city and in the nation. As a result, the book was filled with nostalgia about America’s best days in the decades following World War II, as well as some of its most turbulent times.

At the heart of the story is the Polke family. Dr. Polke describes growing up in a small house in Collinwood with his brother and little sister and later a baby sister. His father read to them and educated them on everything from sports to the Mafia. When his mother was not busy caring for the family, she was working her hands raw at the Jergens factory to make sure they had everything they needed. Dr. Polke’s parents were hardworking middle class people who upheld the Ozzie and Harriet values of the 1950s and instilled them in their children, providing them with strength and a moral code to follow when temptation came their way.

And temptation was all around Dr. Polke as a child. His parents sent him to Catholic school to keep him out of the troublesome public schools. However, even when surrounded by nuns, he couldn’t help getting himself into trouble—stealing communion wine from the church. But far worse, the streets of his neighborhood were controlled by the Mafia. While Dr. Polke never had direct dealings with them, he was always conscious of them being in his neighborhood. He often had to take cues from his father about how to react to different situations, whom to be friendly with, and whom to avoid.

Foremost among the Mafia figures in the neighborhood was Danny Greene, who would later be the subject of the film Kill the Irishman. Dr. Polke had one memorable run-in with Greene when he was a child—a positive one, fortunately, that allowed him to understand why Greene was venerated as a type of Robin Hood in his community, although he also knew Greene’s choices were ultimately a mistake.
Conquering Your Adversities: From the Mafia-Controlled Streets to the NFL to Ultimately Becoming a Successful Doctor by Dr. Kenneth Polke
When things got rough, Dr. Polke always managed to persevere, but the temptation was ever there to take the easy way to success. When he did not have a lot of money or when his dreams didn’t seem like they were going to come true, Dr. Polke occasionally would see rich guys drive by in fancy cars with beautiful babes. Then he would realize that he could be enjoying that lifestyle if he wanted to join organized crime. Instead, he chose sports—specifically football—as his way out.

Dr. Polke’s football career is impressive. He may not be a household name today, but he went a lot farther than most who dream of playing professionally. He tells us stories of great moments on the football field in high school. We feel butterflies in our stomachs along with him when he meets with recruiters from different colleges, and ultimately, we feel like falling off our chairs in shock when he finally gets that magical call. I don’t want to ruin all the suspense, but I will say that Polke ended up playing for two different NFL teams.

And then, in the end, he walked away from football for something better….

You’ll have to read the rest of Dr. Polke’s story for yourself, not just to know what happened to him—but to discover what can happen to you. Each chapter of Conquering Your Adversities ends with a series of challenging questions to make readers reflect upon Dr. Polke’s story, think about similar challenges they’ve faced, and figure out how to overcome them. In the end, this book becomes a blueprint for readers to follow their own dreams and achieve success despite any obstacles that stand in their way.

If you want to be inspired, if you love history, if you’re from Cleveland, if you love football—heck, if you’re a human being, you’ll love this book because you’ll relate to it and it will help you to conquer your own adversities. There are plenty of self-help books out there, but few can help as much as exploring how someone else overcame difficulties and taking inspiration from his personal story—and Dr. Polke delivers all the way.

For more information about Dr. Kenneth Polke and Conquering Your Adversities, visit the author’s website.

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