Tyler Tichelaar – Blogcritics https://blogcritics.org The critical lens on today's culture & entertainment Sat, 01 Dec 2018 21:49:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Book Review: ‘Reversing Your Child’s Eating Disorder’ by Jessica Goering https://blogcritics.org/book-review-reversing-your-childs-eating-disorder-jessica-goering/ https://blogcritics.org/book-review-reversing-your-childs-eating-disorder-jessica-goering/#respond Wed, 28 Nov 2018 20:12:14 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493909 New book, 'Reversing Your Child’s Eating Disorder' by Jessica Goering, details mom’s fight to save anorexic teenage son’s life and offers some timely advice.

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In Reversing Your Child’s Eating Disorder, Jessica Goering recounts going through one of a parent’s worst nightmares and living to tell the tale. Fortunately, her son also lived, but there were moments during his journey through anorexia that made future possibilities so frightening that as I read about them, they sent shivers down my spine.

Most children who experience anorexia are girls, so to have her thirteen-year-old son suddenly decide he was fat and refuse to eat was the last thing Jessica expected. Almost as bad was that his anorexia began while he was away for the summer visiting his father.

When Jessica learned about his eating disorder, she flew to get him and was overwhelmed by the sight of how severely malnourished he had become in just a couple of months. Although horrified, she knew she could not limit her focus to just the exterior disarray she saw but instead needed to focus on reversing the situation and finding ways to get her son to eat and change his internal way of thinking about his body.

I won’t go into all the details of how Jessica spent a year turning around this situation. If it’s true, though, that it takes a village to raise a child, it’s even more true when it comes to helping a child reverse an eating disorder. Jessica enlisted the help of her younger son, of friends, of teachers and school counsellors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, and doctors.

In some cases, she found that the people she thought were trying to help really did not help, especially when it came to the medical professions. She also had to make difficult choices about whom she told about the condition and whom she kept it from. For example, when her son was invited to another child’s party, which of course would include food he was adverse to eating, should she tell the parents of the other child ahead of time about her son’s anorexia? These difficult judgment calls became a major part of Jessica’s life.

Even more, she was caught up in trying to understand and predict her son’s behavior. Her son continually claimed that he was too fat and disgusting. He had delusional ideas about the size of his body and feared hurting people and animals because of how supposedly large he wwhen he was really an emaciated thirteen-year-old boy.

Most terrifying of all was when he interacted with other children and suddenly his behavior became irrational. While he was only violent toward himself, at one point he began howling and climbed a tree, which frightened other children he was with. His body and brain were not getting the nourishment needed to sustain them so that his growth became stunted and it was almost like he was moving backwards in his intelligence and understanding. Jessica seriously began to fear that he would retard his development long-term.
Reversing Your Child’s Eating Disorder by Jessica Goering
Fortunately, through all her efforts, Jessica was able to help her son return to living a normal life, and today he is a happy and healthy teenage boy. She has written this book not only to document what happened and to share the story, but to give hope to other parents and people who have a loved one suffering from an eating disorder. She offers plenty of advice, a great deal of hope, and some eye-opening explanations for how to cope with these difficult situations as well as for understanding and predicting what will set off such behaviors.

Each chapter in the book ends with a helpful tip. For example, many parents might be obsessed with weighing their child to make sure he or she is gaining weight, but such a practice is detrimental to the child who would be horrified by weight gain, believing he or she is already too fat. Jessica’s tip is: “Blind weigh-ins are important. Avoid the scale and measuring tape unless used by a health professional and keep the information away from the child. Do not allow the child to fixate on a number or other comparative means. Prevent this as much as possible.”

Jessica also makes clear how vital it is for parents to understand that when dealing with an eating disorder, they are not dealing with their usual child whom they know and love, but a child who has had his or her brain taken over by the disorder.

To make this clear, throughout the book, Jessica refers to anorexia as Terrorist Joey. From what she describes, it really did feel like a terrorist had taken over her home and was holding all her family hostage. Rational thinking cannot be expected from the child as a result of this terrorist takeover, whether it be in terms of eating, being weighed, or countless other behaviors.

Fortunately, Jessica was able to save her child. And fortunately for all of us, she has written this book to help others to do the same for their loved ones. Not only will people receive a better understanding of anorexia and eating disorders in these pages, but they will find hope and compassion for a disorder we must all fight together.

For more information about Reversing Your Child’s Eating Disorder and Jessica Goering, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Silent Invasion’ by Chris Shockowitz https://blogcritics.org/book-review-silent-invasion-by-chris-shockowitz/ https://blogcritics.org/book-review-silent-invasion-by-chris-shockowitz/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 22:37:06 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493873 New sci-fi novel, 'Silent Invasion' by Chris Shockowitz, uses a deadly international conspiracy to create a work which is science fiction at its best.

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Something very mysterious is going on when an intricate mixture of nanites is found at an underwater crash site in Chris Shockowitz’ new sci-fi thriller, Silent Invasion. Jeff Smith, a CIA agent, is surprised when he learns of the discovery since he thought nanites were only theoretical.

He’s more surprised when the scientists working with him explain that these nanites, which resemble metal, cannot be cut, and when they are reshaped, they return to their original form without any distortion. In fact, they seem able to think for themselves, and most astonishing, they are formed in spherical shapes impossible to manufacture on earth and can only be created in outer space. In other words, the nanites come from another planet.

Jeff tries to tell his superior about this discovery, but his boss won’t believe him, and irritated by his persistence, he reassigns Jeff to a new case, follow daring reporter Amber van Hosteen who is reporting on a story in Africa. Jeff goes unwillingly, little suspecting he will find answers to his questions about the nanites while pursuing a wily reporter.

Amber and Jeff have a past. She formerly tried to report on a story he blocked her from getting information on. She would not be amused if she knew he was following her, but when she finds herself in a dangerous situation and he comes to her rescue, she is admittedly relieved.

At first, Amber remains somewhat hostile to Jeff. However, when she explains to him that the population of an entire village has vanished and that a mysterious factory is operating in the area, he begins to listen to her and soon accompanies her to the factory.

The factory turns out to be more like a laboratory where experiments are being conducted. Jeff and Amber pose as doctors so they can explore the facility until another doctor questions them. This doctor reveals he is working for people whose identity he doesn’t even know.

However, he doesn’t care because he is able to carry on scientific experiments of extreme importance—at the cost of human life. What Amber and Jeff discover in the factory is gruesome and shocking. Ultimately, it’s nothing short of being part of a worldwide plot to kill billions of humans.
Silent Invasion: A Sci-Fi Novel by Chris Shockowitz
Soon Jeff and Amber discover a secret organization, the Hidden Hand, is behind these factories. It has bribed or brainwashed countless high government officials from numerous countries, including the United States, China, France, and Russia, and built several other factories around the globe, to carry out its nefarious schemes.

Jeff and Amber no longer know who to trust, especially when Jeff’s French and African allies, who were investigating the situation with him, are told by their superiors to cease the investigation. When Jeff is also told to return home, he refuses, saying it is a matter of national security. He is then fired, and before long, he learns there is a bounty on his head.

Jeff and Amber are now forced to go into hiding. Through Jeff’s cleverness and skill, they are able to stay alive, despite the hitmen pursuing them, while they try to find someone they can trust to listen to and help them. Meanwhile, Amber anonymously writes several news stories revealing the cover-ups being made about the factories and other questionable actions happening within the US and other governments. She sends these out to various news organizations to expose the international conspiracy that threatens to destroy the human race.

Chris Shockowitz’ story is a true nail-biter on every page. Amber and Jeff are likeable and have a magical chemistry that makes the reader enjoy the added bit of romance to what would otherwise be a terrifying plot. The Hidden Hand’s actions are sickening, and the motivations behind them are stunning. Even more mind-blowing is the ultimate discovery of who is behind the Hidden Hand.

In addition, Shockowitz knows how to work scientific theories like nanites and cloaking devices into a plot so that both the novice and the experienced science fiction reader will understand them and they add to the novel’s suspense and enjoyment. In short, Silent Invasion is science fiction at its finest. It reminded me of the classic sci-fi TV show The Invaders, mixed in with all the suspense of a John Grisham novel and the action of a James Bond film.

Before Jeff and Amber’s adventure is over, a deadly ultimatum will be made that will leave the reader desperately wanting to know how it will all turn out. Fortunately, Silent Invasion is only the first book in the Zalthuras Trilogy. The second book, Earth’s Zero Hour, is coming out soon.

Any lover of science fiction, horror, or spy thrillers will be delighted with Silent Invasion. I can’t wait for the sequels.

For more information about Chris Shockowitz, Silent Invasion, and Shockowitz’ other science fiction novels, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Colonizing Trappist’ by Chris Shockowitz https://blogcritics.org/book-review-colonizing-trappist-by-chris-shockowitz/ https://blogcritics.org/book-review-colonizing-trappist-by-chris-shockowitz/#respond Tue, 27 Nov 2018 12:56:20 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493854 New sci-fi novel, 'Colonizing Trappist' by Chris Shockowitz, depicts the difficulties and triumphs of colonization in another star system.

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Colonizing Trappist is the first volume in an exciting new sci-fi trilogy by Chris Shockowitz. The novel opens with Eugene Hamilton awakening aboard the ship Exo-1 after being asleep for eighty years as his ship traveled at half the speed of light to the Trappist system. There he will become the governor over five thousand humans who plan to establish a colony there.

The events that follow are science fiction at its finest as the reader is quickly addicted to learning all the details that would be required to create a colony on a new planet in a distant star system. Hamilton and his small crew explore the various planets in the Trappist system to determine what would be the most livable place for the colony. They have only four months to make the decision before another ship will arrive with the colonists.

What the crew of Exo-1 finds is both reassuring and alarming. There are several viable locations to live in where the air and water are good, but there are places where dangerous plants might threaten them. They discover an amphibian race in the ocean that isn’t happy about their presence, and worst of all, they learn a former intelligent civilization in the system was destroyed in recent years by an unknown enemy.

Hamilton and his team members explore the ruins of what they discover was the Marzon civilization, even finding video of the Marzon being attacked and annihilated. The Exo-1 crew also discover robotic guards left by whoever exterminated the Marzon. They are able to defeat the guards, but their presence causes them to believe the Marzon’s killers plan to return and possibly claim the Trappist system for themselves.

Despite these concerns, the colonists will soon arrive so a location is chosen. Then Hamilton and his fellow colonists set about creating a new version of human civilization in outer space. This section of the novel was fascinating and recalled for me the Pilgrims and other settlers in the New World in the seventeenth century.

However, Colonizing Trappist is set in the twenty-third century, so there are considerable differences. I was most intrigued by how a government was established, how the community held elections and created a bill of rights, and how human nature revealed itself, resulting in the first crisis in the colony.

All these interesting details aside, I couldn’t wait for the aliens to show up, and Shockowitz did an excellent job of building up the suspense until that happened. For me, the aliens were the most fascinating part of the novel, especially since not one but four different species end up being introduced in the novel, with a variety of surprising, humorous, and terrifying results.

Overall, Colonizing Trappist is a very impressive debut sci-fi novel. I was completely engaged in the story of Hamilton and his colonists. Space travel has always seemed a little frightening to me, but Shockowitz makes it feel feasible and believable without being overly technical or fantastic.

Shockowitz obviously spent a great deal of time imagining and creating his fictional world; he makes writing science fiction look easy—a clear sign of the intricacy involved in his processes. A second read, and it’s definitely worth one, made me really appreciate the novel’s structure, overall themes, and progress of its plot.

I don’t read a lot of science fiction novels, but this one has made me a fan. Beyond just a good story, it raises questions of human shortcomings and flaws, how adaptable humans are to new environments, the question of human intelligence and advancement, what would happen if we met a superior race to our own, the moral issues of trespassing on other species’ territories, and how to negotiate and compromise with other species. Coexistence seems possible but also complicated in these pages. Such deep thinking about it as Shockowitz presents may help prepare us if we ever do meet intelligent life in outer space.

Whether you love H. G. Wells, E. E. Doc Smith, Octavia E. Butler, or Star Wars, Colonizing Trappist is definitely worth a read. Best of all, Shockowitz is working on the next two novels in the Outward Bound trilogy, and he is simultaneously writing another trilogy, Zalthuras, which is connected to this series but takes place from 2018-2150.

For more information about Chris Shockowitz, Colonizing Trappist, and Shockowitz’s other books, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Your Lifeonomics’ by Thomas John https://blogcritics.org/book-review-your-lifeonomics-by-thomas-john/ Fri, 16 Nov 2018 15:35:43 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493499 'Your Lifeonomics' by Thomas John, offers the tools to help those unsure of how to get what they want from life achieve their goals.

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In Your Lifeonomics, Dr. Thomas John shares the areas in which you can take action to see immediate improvement in your life. Life doesn’t come with a manual for success, but John has gathered together for his readers the many skills he has learned that have helped him have a successful career and a fulfilling personal life.

Before I go further, it’s important to know what John’s successes are. He was born in India, the son of two doctors who were successful but worked constantly. From them he learned work ethic and dedication, but he also learned about the importance of balance in life. Wanting to pursue medicine, and specifically ophthalmology, he decided to study in the United States.

He ended up being accepted into programs at Harvard and MIT and then establishing his own practice in the Chicago Area. Today, John is considered a key opinion leader in the field of ophthalmology. He has been named America’s Top Doctor by Castle Connolly, Ltd. (CCL), America’s Top Ophthalmologist by the Research Council of America, Chicago’s Top Doctor by Chicago Magazine, and is ranked in the top 1 percent in the nation in ophthalmology by US News & World Report.

Impressive, yes, but medicine isn’t John’s only area of success. He is a bit of a Renaissance man with multiple interests. He is passionate about helping others, which has led to his interest in public speaking, including being heavily involved in Toastmasters, presenting at international conferences in his field, and writing books both within his discipline and now this one to help others. And to top it off, he’s a rock ’n’ roll drummer.

But enough about John’s credentials. They’re impressive, but more impressive is his desire to help readers, for which reason he shares the skills he honed that allowed him to achieve success. Your Lifeonomics is filled with time-tested strategies for you to use to improve your life. John states, “Before writing this book, I shared with some of my closest friends some of the principles included here that I formulated for my own life. As a result, their lives changed for the better, and they have thanked me profusely on more than one occasion. Encouraged by these results, I set forth to write Your Lifeonomics.”

There is a ton of useful information in this Your Lifeonomics, and I can only touch on it all briefly. At the forefront is the need to be a leader in your life. John shares the ingredients for leadership and how to acquire them.

A lot of it has to do with self-discipline and also making difficult decisions that ultimately will be to our benefit. For example, we have to look at the return on investment we receive from any activity we engage in. Some activities are just not worth the investment, and John holds back no punches in listing them. They include watching mindless television, engaging in relationships that aren’t right for us just for the short payoff of sex, and eating food that hurts rather than strengthens our bodies.
Your Lifeonomics: Taking Action Now to Immediately Improve Your Life Thomas John
Some of John’s advice may be hard to hear, but I admire how he gently shares it. John has an intimate style that few authors acquire when speaking to the reader. Here is an example from when he asks us to focus on the words we say and think:

Words are more powerful than most of us imagine. Words can make a champion out of you, or a total failure, which can even lead to the end of your life via suicide. Therefore, think before you speak.

“You can say positive words that generate positive energy, or negative words that hurt or kill another person’s initiative, drive, and happiness. You can say a thousand kind or feel-good words to a person, but if you say one harsh, negatively charged word, she will not remember all the good words you said, only the harsh one. That is why God has given us all two ears, two eyes, and only one mouth and one tongue. I say to you, my friend, say less and listen more all your remaining life on earth, and when you do speak, seek to uplift people, not put them down.

Your Lifeonomics is filled with personal stories of how John has taken his own advice, as well as the stories of famous people ranging from Madame Currie and Albert Einstein to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey whose lives have embodied the principles shared in this book. One of my favorite stories is how John learned not to be such an introvert by simply smiling and greeting people and the remarkable connections he felt with others by implementing this change.

Nor is he above laughing at himself. He tells us, “Today, I can speak to anyone around me, smile and connect, and exchange some pleasant, positive words. Maybe now I am overdoing it since my wife often instructs me to stop talking and be seated, especially at social gatherings.” You have to love John’s wife and how she reins him in at times—wait until you read the story about his red shoes.

Other areas John focuses on include the importance of attitude, the importance of hard work, how to strengthen your relationship with your significant other, how to develop problem-solving skills, how to become self-disciplined so you can convert your dreams into reality, how to complete tasks at lightning speed, and how to dress for success.

The final chapter is unique beyond anything I’ve seen in other self-help or personal development books because it focuses on global megatrends that people who want to succeed in life need to keep up with. These range from innovations in energy and technology to population growth and global warming, all of which are reshaping our world. If we want to stay on top of things, we need to be knowledgeable about them and capitalize on them when possible.

Your Lifeonomics is packed with powerful advice that will help anyone at any stage of life experience positive and continual improvement. I would especially recommend this book as the perfect gift for anyone graduating from high school or college who is about to enter the work world, or anyone who is simply struggling in their career or personal life and needs a little boost in self-confidence or direction.

If you’re not sure how to get what you want in life, reading Your Lifeonomics and applying the tools it offers will give you a roadmap for determining your destination.

For more information about Your Lifeonomics and Thomas John, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Getting Unstuck’ by Esther Bleuel https://blogcritics.org/book-review-getting-unstuck-esther-bleuel/ Fri, 16 Nov 2018 10:42:56 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493460 New book, 'Getting Unstuck', by Esther Carson Bleuel, is packed with tools and information to free the reader from what holds us back.

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Esther Bleuel’s new book Getting Unstuck is an amalgamation of memoir and personal development, the one supporting the other. In twelve chapters, Esther describes her life story, from a father who rejected her, a largely absentee mother, and a hurtful stepfather to a failed marriage, and finally, finding happiness, contentment, and a meaningful career as a therapist.

Each chapter of Getting Unstuck is offered as an example of the difficulties we all face in life. Difficulties that tend to make us get stuck in dysfunctional relationships and unhealthy patterns that keep us from reaching our full potential. Each chapter also offers tools to help us get unstuck so we can, as the book’s subtitle proclaims, experience the “joy of finishing strong.”

Early in the book, Esther tells us that we will accomplish three things when we read and apply the tools offered in Getting Unstuck:

1.You’ll become more self-aware . . . .
2.You’ll develop a relationship with yourself . . . .
3.You’ll begin to create a life that’s meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful . . . .

What goals could be better than those? In each of the twelve chapters that follow, Esther provides a tool to focus on. For example, in Chapter One: A Child Trying to Cope, Esther tells us that the chapter’s life lesson is: “We can’t always believe what people say, but we will always believe what they do.” This chapter provides examples of faulty parenting and how it affected Esther’s life. It also asks the reader to reflect upon the adults the reader knew as a child and what behaviors those adults modelled.

Each chapter is sprinkled with thoughts for reflection. For example, in Chapter One, we are offered, “Perhaps you are thinking of the first time in your life when you felt blamed for something that was not your fault. For me, this time could not have come earlier; the moment of my birth set me on the path to being unwelcomed.”

Each chapter also ends with several reflection questions, as well as additional passages to read in the “Learning Specific Skills to Become Unstuck” section in the back of the book. Chapter One refers the reader to the sections on “Manage expectations,” “Exercise self-control,” and “Trust myself or others.”

The successive chapters follow the same pattern, but a further explanation is worthwhile for the “Learning Specific Skills to Become Unstuck” section. Here an alphabetical list of skills is offered on topics such as Anxiety, Boundaries, Depression, Emotions, Mindfulness, Perspective, Self-Control, and Stress. Each skill offers dos and don’ts relative to the topic. For example, one of my favorites is:

Don’t be a Tumbleweed:
Recognize the need to . . .
be intentional and purposeful about my choices.
have something specific in mind for myself.
Don’t . . .
allow the chance of how the wind blows to determine my life.
just wait to “see how things go” with my life.
Do decide . . .
what I do not want.
to create a life that’s about me that’s meaningful.

Getting Unstuck reveals all the dysfunctional behaviors we struggle to overcome. Esther discusses how nice it would have been if we had come with a manual to teach us life’s essential lessons, but unfortunately, that’s not the case, and as she says, “When we failed early in life to learn essential lessons, we, no doubt, learned unproductive coping skills.”
Getting Unstuck: Experience the Joy of Finishing Strong by Esther Bleuel with Martha Abbey Miller
Those coping skills helped us at the time in specific relationships, but they do not carry over to making productive relationships or a happy life as we get older. We need to learn to master the essential twelve lessons Esther now offers in this book if we want to be productive and well-adjusted human beings.

One point of Esther’s story that really resonated with me was how she struggled with overcoming her victim mentality. Because of the hurts of her early childhood, she developed low self-esteem and also an inability to take a compliment or to celebrate or even recognize when she was successful at something. Esther’s journey to realizing her self-worth is inspiring and will help many readers on the path to finding their own.

I also really appreciated her advice about starting with the end in mind. She provides tips for setting a vision or goal so we know what outcome we want before we start worrying about how to achieve it. Other tips involve learning about the importance of delayed gratification, learning how to believe you are worth more than you think in terms of your hourly rate, and how to deal with conflict.

For me, learning to say “No” to things has always been a struggle. I loved Esther’s advice here: “If you mean yes, say yes. If you mean no, say no. Oh, and one more point: If you say yes, you have to be nice. It’s no fair agreeing to something that you don’t mean, and then being grumpy about it later on!”

How often do we do that? I know I have, only to make myself and others miserable. I’m going to make a point now to only say yes to what I really want to do, and if I do say yes to something I’m not excited about, not to take it out on others.

As is probably obvious by now, Getting Unstuck is packed with tools and information. I think you’ll be surprised by just how many ways there are to be stuck and how many of those ways are part of your life.

This is the opportunity to free yourself from all that is holding you back. I invite you to read Getting Unstuck and apply what you learn. A better freer life is available. I know because I’ve used many of the tools in this book myself.

For more information about Getting Unstuck and Esther Bleuel, visit her website

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Book Review: ‘Leading in A Diverse Environment’ by Dr. Teddie Malangwasira https://blogcritics.org/book-review-leading-diverse-environment-dr-teddie-malangwasira/ Wed, 07 Nov 2018 21:39:48 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493319 New book, 'Leading in a Diverse Environment' by Dr Teddie Malangwasira, offers tools for effective leadership in diverse organizations.

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In Leading in a Diverse Environment, Teddie E. Malangwasira, PhD, looks at the steps leaders must take to create effective growth in an organization that also values diversity, makes everyone feel included, and seeks to develop individuals’ unique skills. Dr. Malangwasira draws upon his personal experiences as a leader, and as someone who has worked in diverse environments to make his points and provide examples of effective leadership.

As an immigrant to the United States from Malawi, he has witnessed firsthand what happens when organizations do not celebrate diversity. He has developed beliefs that diversity is more than just hiring people of different racial or cultural backgrounds. No two people are the same, so even if you have an organization composed of people, who all appear to be of the same cultural background, they will still have diverse skills and talents.

Therefore, you must find ways to use those skills to the organization’s benefit, rather than just hiring people to do jobs that may not always match their skills. This broad view of diversity makes the book relevant for any organization no matter who its team members may be.

Leading in a Diverse Environment begins with a Foreword by Dr. Blanche Wallace, Director of Dynamic Strategic Leadership Coaching and author of The Competent Coaching Leader. Wallace points out the many values of Dr. Malangwasira’s book, including that he advocates for developing the skill of self-awareness. Dr. Wallace states, “A leader who is not self-aware is operating from an uninformed position. To effectively connect with one’s environment requires awareness, authenticity, and avidity. These characteristics cannot be feigned.”

Throughout the Leading in a Diverse Environment, Dr. Malangwasira focuses not just on the skills leaders need but also their own blind spots or weaknesses. As he states in the preface, leaders must “explore the differences between what people think is happening when leading others and the reality of how people feel when they are being led. This paradigm shift will help us look at diversity from a different perspective and remove the pretence that everything is all right when reality proves otherwise.”

Dr. Malangwasira goes on to state, “We need to understand how we are different from other people. However, this understanding is not enough; we also need to understand how we can work with other people and leverage our differences to build a strong team.”

I find these statements valuable since when I first became a manager, I often found myself surprised that other people did not see things the way I did or had different motives for working. Leaders need to embrace all these diverse characteristics of their team members if they truly want to lead.

Beyond knowing themselves, leaders also need to be clear what their goals are and align them with a strategy to achieve them. A big part of that strategy is motivating their diverse team members to adopt those goals as their own. As the tagline on the book’s cover states, this is “a journey of working independently together.”
Leading in A Diverse Environment by Teddie Malangwasira
Dr. Malangwasira divides Leading in a Diverse Environment into ten chapters that help the reader work toward this goal of using diversity to accomplish a shared goal rather than letting it hinder the goal from being achieved. In Chapter 5: Inspiring Others, he outlines the important steps leaders can take to inspire others. One of the most important, in my opinion, is being approachable.

In Chapter 6: Attracting and Retaining Talent, he talks about how “you need to make sure when you have talented people that those people and their talents are recognized, developed, refined, and leveraged.”

He also states that you must develop “an inclusive approach to the talent pool.” He gives examples from a company he worked for where people were hired for specific positions but then expected to work wherever the company needed them at the time, leading to high turnover and a lack of continuity in their work and the company’s overall progress.

Dr. Malangwasira concludes, “It seems obvious, but through experience I’ve learned I have to say it. People in leadership roles need to understand that human beings cannot just be put anywhere the boss wishes them to be. Talented employees excel in their chosen fields. Let them do the jobs they interviewed for.”

To ensure diversity, Dr. Malangwasira also advocates for creating an individual development plan (IDP) for each of your followers. Building off the work of Peggy Simonsen in Promoting Development Culture in Your Organization, he argues that leadership cannot have secret plans for developing an organization’s culture, but rather, “individuals must be active participants in their development while leaders should make sure they support the agreed upon IDP.” I think this concept of an IDP is brilliant because it allows employees to feel included in their own development as well as that of the organization.

I’ll conclude by saying that I appreciate how Dr. Malangwasira writes in an easy-to-understand language, breaking down concepts to their simplest points. This book would be an excellent resource for college students in business and leadership courses because it not only offers the basics of what is required to be a leader but will challenge them to think about what kinds of leaders they will be when they face diversity in the workplace.

Each chapter ends with a series of questions for the reader; this makes the book not just a reading experience, but a personal development experience; and that’s what a book that seeks to educate its readers should always accomplish. Once you read Leading in a Diverse Environment, I think your eyes will be opened about what a diverse environment truly is and how you can effectively use diversity to achieve the greater good for your organization and everyone involved.

For more information about Leading in a Diverse Environment and Dr. Teddie Malangwasira, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Liberating Your Leadership Potential’ by Elias Kanaris https://blogcritics.org/book-review-liberating-your-leadership-potential-by-elias-kanaris/ Fri, 02 Nov 2018 14:29:59 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493174 New book, 'Liberating Your Leadership Potential' by Elias Kanaris, uses Nelson Mandela stories to inspire leadership in others.

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Elias Kanaris, longtime entrepreneur, public speaker, author, and a former presidential candidate in New Zealand, did not begin his life easily. He grew up in a household where his father called him an idiot, and he went to a school where his teachers predicted not only failure but life in prison for his future. But Elias turned his life around, and in his new book Liberating Your Leadership Potential, he shows readers how they can also change the self-limiting beliefs that keep them in their own mental prisons.

Each chapter of this dynamic book contains Elias’ personal stories of how he overcame obstacles, dealt with his personal shortcomings, and ultimately learned how to lead others to success. He also includes exercises in each chapter for readers so they can track their progress in overcoming their own obstacles to reach their goals, and he concludes always with a story taken from Nelson Mandela’s life to illustrate the chapter’s theme.

While I was impressed with Elias’ stories of his career, including his public speaking and running to be President of New Zealand, I instantly felt a bond with him when he discussed how he worked for a telecom company and ran a call center, something I did myself for several years. In fact, managing a call center is just about the most stressful job I would never wish on anyone. However, yet Elias saw it as a privilege because it allowed him to get to know the employees who worked for him, to inspire them, and also to learn from them. In short, his attitude impressed me.

Nor was that the only time Elias impressed me; throughout these pages, he shows his integrity, making me believe that he stands by what he says. One such example was in a story where he went on sales calls with a coworker. They stopped at a gas station, where the coworker decided to shoplift some candy—Elias saw what happened, but he was too shocked to say anything until they were outside.

Then he confronted his coworker, who refused to return the stolen goods and felt no remorse. Elias returned inside the gas station and paid for the item himself. He also soon after ended his working relationship with the person.

If I detailed every story in this book, it would spoil it for readers, but what is more important than the stories is that each chapter is focused on one of the keys to leadership. Those twenty-one keys include: Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership, Walking in Your Client’s Shoes, Leading from the Front, Allowing People to Make Mistakes Is Good for Your Business, Giving It Over to God, and Taking Action Is Important.

I make special note of the “Giving It Over to God” key because many authors would avoid this topic, but Elias is not only a Christian—he is a fallen away and returned one, and he does not apologize for his religious beliefs that inform his values and actions.

The recurrence of the Nelson Mandela stories and quotes throughout the book offers additional inspiration and an excellent model of leadership to the reader. Many of the stories focus on Mandela’s time in prison—how he learned to survive, to maintain his sanity and good character, help his fellow prisoners, forgive those who hurt him, and take responsibility or learn from his experiences when he made mistakes. I loved how Elias compared Mandela’s real prison experience to the self-created prisons that many of us live in.

Liberating Your Leadership Potential is filled with stories that can benefit anyone. Whether it’s dealing with family crises, difficult family members, being a business leader, learning from your mistakes, or just trying to figure out what to do next to improve your life, there’s something for everyone in this book. I encourage readers to do the exercises, revisit the chapters that best apply to them, avail themselves of the free resources in the back, and discover the leadership potential that lies within them; now Elias has provided the keys to unlock and liberate it.

For more information about Elias Kanaris and Liberating Your Leadership Potential, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Cultivating Your Character’ by Deanna Becket https://blogcritics.org/book-review-cultivating-character-deanna-becket/ Thu, 01 Nov 2018 12:29:27 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5493110 New book, 'Cultivating Your Character' by Deanna Becket, builds on Benjamin Franklin’s virtues for character cultivation.

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In her new book Cultivating Your Character, Deanna Becket, a leadership coach as well as a mom who homeschools her children, teaches readers how to apply the thirteen virtues that Benjamin Franklin personally cultivated to their own lives to become better, happier, and more successful people.

Becket divides the book into thirteen chapters, one for each virtue, and she asks readers to spend a month on each, thinking about that month’s virtue, writing about it, and trying to make it a daily habit. This introspection and life analysis will ultimately allow people to become well-rounded with more integrity and also a clearer vision about what they want in life.

While Becket puts a modern spin on some of Franklin’s virtues, using terms more familiar to us today, they are still the same virtues we all need if we want to build our characters—virtues like responsibility, honesty, balance, perseverance, and peace.

For Becket, having character means being able to do the right thing even when it is difficult, being tough when the odds are against you, and knowing when to tune out the world and listen to your inner voice and what God would want for you. Becket finds it important to find great examples of character in those who went before us—certainly in figures like Benjamin Franklin and Jesus, but also in everyday people in our own lives who can show us the way. She gives examples of how her parents and grandparents emulated character virtues and have passed down their beliefs and examples to her and her children.

Becket also has a healthy appreciation for the pioneers whose shoulders our modern world is built upon. She continually reminds us to look around and see what the character of our ancestors created that we today benefit from—our roads and bridges, technology, and all the modern comforts we enjoy.

When we think about what our great-grandparents did that has lasted for generations, we can feel great gratitude and appreciation, but we can also be inspired to create our own legacies for future generations. Here is just one passage from the book that illustrates this point:

Even into the 1930s, only 10 percent of the farms had electricity. Imagine if Edison had not finished his discovery or pushed on another day. I may have never finished sewing this quilt. Imagine if these companies had not persevered in their vision or growth. Imagine if they would have stopped expanding electricity westward. It may have eventually gotten to the other coast, but how long would it have taken? How much technology can we have if one more person never gives up on something new that he has his hands on? Is it you? Press on in your area of interest. Keep discovering, keep reading, and keep on even when others make fun of it.

Becket also entertains the reader with many personal stories to illustrate her points, sometimes poking fun at herself for her own faults. As when she talks about how easily we can be distracted and too busy and how it leads us to making mistakes. In her case, she drove off with a gas pump hose still in her gas tank, ripping it from the pump and needing to pay for a new hose.

It’s a funny story, but one that also shows how we tend to cram too much into our days and then it backfires on us. In other stories, she is deeply honest with the reader about mistakes she has made, such as time wasted partying when she was young. Fortunately, she has learned from her mistakes and now feels a responsibility to help others.

Throughout the book, Becket tells it like it is, not being afraid to point out the culprits in our society that hinder many of us from developing true character. She is a firm believer in the phrase “You are what you eat,” but she applies that to other areas, including what we listen to and watch on TV.

She actually turned off her TV after the September 11 terrorist attacks because she couldn’t take any more of the negativity. She also learned not to listen to music with negative lyrics. Instead, she has filled her mind with positive and uplifting books, music, and conversations.
Cultivating Your Character: Creating Leadership Habits to Master Your Life by Deanna Becket
Many of Becket’s stories are about growing up on a farm in the Dakotas and also raising and homeschooling her children on one today. She believes in the old virtues like family time and also taking time for oneself.

She reminds us that we can’t do it all, so we have to pick and choose what is best for us. She states: “When you let go of many of your responsibilities that others are fully capable of doing, you will release your stress and give others the ability to learn how to lead, communicate, grow, and manage themselves and others.”

Each chapter ends with a series of questions relevant to the chapter’s virtue that asks readers to think about their own lives, determine what changes they need to make, and cultivate their character in new and exciting ways. I found the questions both insightful and motivating.

Cultivating Your Character is a book to savor, one to read slowly, ponder, reread, and ultimately use as the jumping off point into the next chapter of your life—a life that can be happier and more in tune with who you are and what you truly want from it. That life all begins with cultivating your character, as Benjamin Franklin would testify.

For more information about Deanna Becket and Cultivating Your Character, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘Muck Off: The Starting Point to Your Happily Ever After’ by Carol L. Lopez https://blogcritics.org/book-review-muck-off-the-starting-point-to-your-happily-ever-after-by-carol-l-lopez/ Tue, 23 Oct 2018 01:12:22 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5492765 New Book, 'Muck Off: The Starting Point to Your Happily Ever After,' Offers Cleaner Path to Recovery

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Muck Off: The Starting Point to Your Happily Ever After Carol L. LopezIn Muck Off, Carol Lopez shares her life story of how she fell into the muck and how she got out of it. “Muck” is a metaphor for all the bad things that happen to us in life, all the dysfunction that enters our lives, and the consequences of the bad decisions we make. Carol explains it as: “Muck! Muck! MUUUUCKK! You know what it is! It’s all the crap that tears you apart, breaks your heart, and spits you out, leaving you feeling empty, exhausted, burnt, and bewildered. You’ve tried to remain intact, but somewhere along the way, you’ve lost—you.”

Right from the start, Carol warns us: “Warning: This book is Rated R—due to the nature of it being Raw, Real, and Rousing.” R is a favorite letter of hers since she divides the book into four sections: Reflect, Recover, Redirect, and Rejoice. Muck Off is one woman’s true story about her recovery from the muck in her life, but it’s also a book filled with powerful advice and solutions for those wanting to find their own happily ever afters.

Trust me, Carol knows how to get there—to a state of peace and calm even when chaos surrounds her, and she has learned it the hard way. She opens the book with a story of how her father threatened to kill her with a gun. Her family was not happy because she was a white girl dating a black boy on the other side of the tracks. But it wasn’t just that her family members were prejudiced; they had a history of dysfunction, of not communicating well with each other, of walking on eggshells around her dad. Carol doesn’t share all these stories just to entertain the reader with her drama but to show how generational dysfunction played out in her family. She wants readers to learn from her experiences so they can overcome the dysfunction in their own lives.

Carol made some bad choices along the way as a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home. She got pregnant. Then she decided to have an abortion, which she always regretted. She got married and experienced domestic violence, but she stayed in the marriage, thinking she was doing what God wanted until a friend told her God did not want her to be a doormat. She also struggled with lust and with alcohol until she was finally able to give both over to God. She tells us:

“I decided to surrender to God and told Him, ‘Lord, I am done. I’m done being the party girl.’ Oddly enough, my next statement was, ‘If I have to go to church drunk, I will.’ In other words, I was going to be in His house no matter what. I was committed to doing things a different way, and that meant changing my behaviors. See, I had to show up and God would work on the rest.”

Through prayer, faith, and determination, Carol quit drinking. And then she found the right man—they’ve been happily married now for fourteen years. You would think at this point it would have been happily ever after for Carol. She’d gone through enough for one lifetime, but she had two sons and so did her new husband, and all four of them were drug-users. Carol had some real battles with her codependency as a result.

The problem many codependent people have is they are so busy taking care of others they don’t have time to take care of themselves. Carol reminds us, “Recovery is not a program. You don’t recover because of how many days you attend a program. You recover because you do the work internally to get to the root cause of your pain. It’s the most liberating, empowering act of self-love you can do.” Carol ultimately came to realize you can’t love others or help them until you learn to love and help yourself.

And once she began her recovery journey of getting rid of her muck, she realized it wasn’t as monumental a task as it first appeared. Part of why she chose her book title has to do with a real place, as she explains: “You will not want to get stuck on the Isle of Muck. This Isle actually exists! It is located on the west coast of Scotland. It is very small; two miles long and one mile wide! Imagine your muck being so small, comparatively speaking, to your life’s mission and purpose. It is only our thoughts and ego that make our muck the size of Mount Everest! Get over yourself and become your best self. Forgiving yourself is in line with loving yourself.”

She goes on to explain that once she learned to forgive herself and surrender her pain and shortcomings to God, everything began to fall into place. She tells us, “God was waiting on me the whole time. I had to get to the place of surrender before He could provide me the things I truly desired. I needed to trust in Him. I came to a place in my life where I knew my way wasn’t working.”

Ultimately, Carol has learned to rejoice. She does not regret any of her life because it has led to being who she is today. She knows it could have been easier, but in the end, she got where she needed to be: at peace with God and herself. Toward the end of Muck Off, she tells us:

“Life would have been less painful had I followed the Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. My life has been blessed even through the trials and tribulations. It is by the grace of God that I am alive today. If you do nothing at all with the information in this book, at least follow God’s basic principles. It is when you stray from them that you find yourself in—you guessed it—the muck!”

Anyone who has lived a dysfunctional life—and to some extent we all have, just as we are all codependent to some extent—will want to read and embrace Carol’s stories and apply the principles and advice she offers. Despite her strong faith in God, she is never preachy. She is just simply honest, and she stays true to her R rating of being Real, Raw, and Rousing. Each chapter ends with a series of questions for readers to reflect upon to help them move forward. Sometimes you can’t always see or remove your muck without a little help. Through her poignant questions and rousing stories, Carol offers that needed extra perspective so you can “muck off” too.

For more information about Carol Lopez and Muck Off, visit the author’s website.

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Book Review: ‘A Failed State’ by A. E. Coussens https://blogcritics.org/book-review-failed-state-novel-a-e-coussens/ Wed, 17 Oct 2018 12:56:11 +0000 https://blogcritics.org/?p=5492579 New novel, 'A Failed State' by Andrew E. Coussens, set in Afghanistan, is full of action and internal conflict while bringing the conflict alive in disturbing detail.

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A. E. Coussens’ new novel A Failed State offers an inside look at what the soldiers who fight in Afghanistan, and really around the world, face on a daily basis. First, we are introduced to Damien Collins, a contract worker who serves the United States military in Afghanistan. Damien is returning home from his service overseas and looking forward to seeing his wife and little girl. He and his wife have been having some problems, including his wife drinking too much, but Damien has no idea of the full extent of those problems until he arrives home to a shocking scene.

We are then taken back to Damien’s recent experiences in Afghanistan. Coussens writes with great knowledge and deftness in his depiction of the Americans who serve in Afghanistan and try to maintain order in the country. Between locals who side with the Taliban and some terrorists, these men rarely have an easy day. Coussens takes us right into a gunfire scene in the city streets and the excruciating pain that follows when Damien and his comrades realize that Loki, one of their men, has been arrested by the Afghanis and is being treated like a criminal for his actions during the conflict.

What follows for Damien is some red tape and some seeming disgrace in being told by his boss that he can no longer serve in Afghanistan. Damien and his comrade Cam are sent to Dubai to rest and recover from their experiences before they return to the United States. In Dubai, more conflict arises, though it’s more internal as we see how Damien struggles with all the stresses in his life both from his work and his home life—or his inability to have a home life.

Meanwhile, the scene changes to show the latest plottings by other terrorists.

To say much more would be to give too much of the plot away. What I can say here is that Coussens’ writing is searingly realistic. I felt like I was patrolling down the streets of Kabul with the characters, seeing every building and waiting every moment for the unexpected to happen. Here’s just a couple of paragraphs from the novel to give you a feeling of Coussens’ knack for making a scene come to life:

The Kabul-Jalalabad highway east of the city looked apocalyptic. The team’s late model Land Cruiser began to accelerate on the road as they left Kabul behind them, the long VHF antennae mounted on the back, wagging in the head wind. Cam checked the Blue Force Tracker, the only way for anyone to locate them in distress, and initiated a communications check with the compound. Leo nodded his head, pleased with the routine and his team. They had driven through most of Kabul over the last several months, but never this far out where medieval urban sprawl gave way to industrial compounds, gaping sand, and rock mining pits. Ahead of them, the foothills loomed in the distance, and beyond, the still snow-capped peaks of Laghman Kabul. Somewhere in the defilade was Faisal Rahman, a critical asset who had gone dark on them in the last sixteen days.

Talk about feeling like you’re really there! The endorsements on the book’s back cover, many by those in the military, testify to how accurate Coussens’ descriptions are both to the setting and to the processes the military uses. In fact, it wouldn’t be going too far to say Coussens writes like Tom Clancy, given his attention to detail as well as his ability to create suspense.

Personally, as strong as the scenes in Afghanistan are, what I most appreciated was the internal conflict Damien feels. This is a man who deeply loves his daughter and wants what is best for her, but he feels torn between his love for his family and his work — the need to protect his country and those who cannot protect themselves. Coussens hits a power-punch to the reader’s stomach when it comes to portraying the pain and angst felt by those who serve. Consequently, the novel is hard-hitting on many levels.

Ultimately, I was left wanting more, and fortunately, I won’t be disappointed. A sequel, Relapse, is in the works and readers can get a sneak peek at it in the back pages of Failed State. This excerpt shows that the excitement for readers and the agonies for the characters are not over yet.

For more information about A. E. Coussens and A Failed State, visit the author’s website.

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