Leaders are Readers | Thoughtful Third Thursday

I remember a speaker at some point at some event I attended (must have been impactful with such vivid details locked in my memory) who said that “Leaders are Readers” as she encouraged us to be sure we were always reading something – books, magazines and newspapers, something to keep our minds challenged and maybe have the slightest clue about the latest and greatest current events. While I think she’s right, I don’t read as much as I would like. So I made a goal at the beginning of the year to read six books over the course of the year. (Yeah, I committed to one of those misguided “resolutions” that has about as much lasting power as a parent’s advice to an all-knowing teenager in high school – completely lost with a light breeze).

For many people, reading six books might not seem like much of a feat. Maybe you’d knock that out on a beach vacation or over the course of a couple of relaxing weeks. But 1) I’m a slow reader, 2) I read lots of other publications like magazines, the Wall Street Journal, blogs galore, and a plethora of articles I discover on Twitter that strike my fancy, and 3) I have two kids, a husband, a job, a blog, a personal life, dinners to make and laundry to do, you get the picture. Like most of us, I have a few other demands on my time.

Unlike most of us, myself included, I think I might actually achieve one of these elusive “resolutions” we so often speak of in January and curse by February or March. (I’ll certainly have to thank maternity leave for making this one possible. But regardless of what life circumstance supported it, I’m heading toward the milestone of potentially reaching a real new year’s resolution. This would undoubtedly be a first for me.)

So far I’ve read:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (I know I’m pulling up the rear on this one as the rest of the world read this book many moons ago, but better late than never.)

Bossypants by Tina Fey (A light and easy read with a few chuckles throughout).

On a side note, I picked up both books from Open Books, a local non-profit that accepts book donations, resells those books, and uses the proceeds to support literacy programs in Chicago. For the sake of my bank account, the environment, and limited space in my apartment, I do not buy new books but instead borrow books from the library or buy used books (and then of course return them to Open Books to be sold again after I enjoy them). But that’s neither here nor there.


Most recently, I finished up The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, a book passed along to me by a colleague who suggested I read it last fall (and yes, I’m just getting to it now – I told you reading six books per year is a big accomplishment for me). A fairly easy read, the authors discussed the need to manage our energy (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) in order to reach full engagement and potential in our lives, both personally and professionally.

To briefly describe my interpretation of their thesis, we must create time for rigorous use of each of these four “muscles” / energies to build them up (much like slightly overextending our physical muscles between periods of rest builds our physical muscles, the same rings true for mental, emotional and spiritual muscles) then follow periods of rigor with rest and relaxation to allow for recovery and rejuvenation. We determine the “exercises” needed to build up these “muscles” by defining purpose in our lives and reflecting on the values we consider most important to ourselves. An honest assessment of our lives highlights where we are and are not living out those values we claim to hold most dear to our hearts. With this assessment, we create rituals (i.e. exercises) to both extend and rejuvenate those muscles to allow them to grow and flourish and make us better reflections of the values and priorities we’ve defined for ourselves. Further, in order to maintain an ideal balance, we must make these rituals second nature. Limited by a finite source of energy for willpower and conscious effort to live out our values, we will only succeed in sustaining our balance of energies by ingraining these rituals in our subconscious because we lack sufficient energy to constantly consciously enforce desired actions.

The authors make some interesting points, and I certainly agree that we must build in periods of rest and recovery to prevent from being burned out by life. Those burned out by life most likely aren’t living an engaged and fulfilling life nor making the most of the relationships available to them. I think to really get the most meaning out of the book, one would have to take a deeper dive than I have thus far to find the important values that have been buried by the doldrums and daily to-do lists of every day life. I haven’t gone there yet, but I did appreciate the quick read and am passively noticing where it might be valuable to build in rituals of rejuvenation in my seemingly busy and exhausting life.

Do I look like a Leader and/or a Reader in this outfit? Maybe I should have thrown on my glasses, which (secret’s out) I wear almost everyday but don’t wear for blog photos because they always have an annoying glare. I’ve worn them in photos once or twice and you can see them in this remix if you’re REALLY curious…

If not a leader or reader, I’m certainly a remixer. I wore the blazer and shoes not long ago with my gray thrifted dress and with all black and the skirt made a recent appearance with my floral blouse. Hopefully, it’s helpful for those of you looking for ways to shop your closet to see how I remix, pretty regularly, a lot of the same pieces but continue sharing new outfits (even if only making slight changes). Getting dressed and looking sharp for the office doesn’t have to be rocket science or even require a PhD in style or onilne shopping. I certainly don’t have the prior credential, though M jokes I have the latter.

On that note, what have you been reading lately? Anything worth sharing? I’d love some suggestions if you’ve read something exciting or inspiring.

Blazer – aryn K. (via Nordstrom Rack); Tank – Ellen Tracy (via Macy’s);
Skirt – LOFT; Shoes – Jimmy Choo (via Nordstrom Rack);
Scarf – thrifted (via The Salvation Army)

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