Relationships 101

 

As I work to achieve both my professional and personal goals, I realize more and more how much simpatico there is between successful business practices and achieving success in one’s personal life. In particular, to create mutually beneficial and significant relationships in both your professional and personal lives, the rules are more or less the same. These are some of my best practices garnered from both the good and bad experiences that I’ve had. I believe some of the most important things are:

1. Being social is everything — Put yourself out there. Bring your best self to whatever you do. From a professional standpoint, so much is social media and technology based now. Just because we cannot see the person behind the post or the tweet does not mean we can abandon our humanity. Its perhaps even more important to be social. This one is hard for me because I am so introverted. Nonetheless, I realize how crucial it is which is why I put myself out there so much.

2. Practice integrity — I define integrity as the balance between your words and your actions. Do they match up? If you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you make plans with someone, don’t break them unless its absolutely necessary. Be on time. I’ve had problems in the past with procrastination and the like. Its important to not make a pattern out of being late or irresponsible. I recently read this really great article about what to do when you’ve angered someone. The writer states that even though you may have had a good, legitimate reason for being late or missing a date, the person waiting for you only experiences the consequences of your being late, not the events that led up to you being late. The principle of integrity is such an important one and should be the foundation of any relationship.

3. Make an effort — When you try, it shows. I find that when trying to build a professional or personal relationship, going above and beyond in a meaningful, authentic way is often appreciated.

4. Be a giver — Its true that some people are givers and others are takers. But giving (within reason of course) is a good practice to develop. There’s a great deal of conversation and research I see now being published on this very issue.

5. Observation is key — While its true that sometimes you can’t predict when a person is unhappy or angry, a lot of times there are signs. Be clued in to non-verbal cues.

6. Establish boundaries — Be clear on the nature of the relationship and what is expected of each person, party, etc. Repeated boundary crossing is never ok.

7. Little things matter — Things like etiquette, thank you notes, etc. never get old.

8. Remember — Remembering little things like birthdays, names, etc. shows you listen. Always a good thing.

9.  Be self-aware — Know your strengths & weaknesses and act accordingly. Knowing what sets you off, what you’re good at, what your weaknesses are, etc. can better able you to handle the ebbs and flows of any relationship, professional, personal or otherwise.

10. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Then fix it and move on — The only thing worse than making a mistake or having an error in judgement is pretending like it didn’t happen, avoiding it or lying about it. Fess up to it, do the best you can to fix it and then continue.

 

Do you find that there are noticeable parallels between good business and personal relationships? If so, what are your tips?

 

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Spring Reading List

BOOKS

I usually have a reading list a mile high of books that I’d like to read: classics that I’ve never gotten to (see: Ulysses or Oliver Twist), critically acclaimed   novels that every writer and wannabe alike seem to have read (The Corrections or Infinite Jest), books recommended to me by others (Give Me Everything You Have or How to Be a Woman), etc. With most of my time going to professional or personal obligations, one of my favorite past times — reading — is something that I unfortunately have had to put on the back burner. This Spring, however, I will be doing a fair amount of traveling and will have some down time. During that time, there are a few books that I’ve moved up on my list that I hope to get a chance to read. They include:

1. The Great Gatsby — This is the book that I am reading now for two reasons: in anticipation of the movie to be released on May 10th and in preparation of my book club discussion this Sunday. I haven’t read this since high school so I am enjoying re-reading it.

2. Blog, Inc. — I’m perpetually intrigued with how people have managed to turn passion (and side projects) into profits.  I’m hoping to gain some new insights from this book.

3. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil — I heard about this novel after reading a NYTimes interview with Katherine Boo. I’m a fan of her writing and a recommendation from her goes a long way with me.

4. Pushback: How Smart Women Ask — And Stand Up — For What They Want by Selena Rezvani — I heard about this book after reading a post on Jezebel. I’m particularly interested in learning about best practices regarding negotiation.

5. Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior — Kingsolver has been a very successful writer doing something a lot of writers haven’t been able to do —  establish both critical and popular success. A few posts back, I blogged about reading books included on the New York Times top 100 list and this book is one of them.

6. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus — The premise of this book sounds super interesting — an epidemic occurs in which the voices of children have become suddenly lethal to adults. An incredibly original concept, I’m really interested to see how Marcus brings this world to life.

7. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schultz — This was another book recommended by Katherine Boo. Also, I have read some of Schultz’s other work and find her to be a fine writer. The premise is also interesting to me — why do people have a desire to be right all the time?

8. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed — I saw an interview that Strayed did with Oprah and become intrigued. Similarly, the book has gotten so much press that it peaked my interest.

9. The Handmaid’s Tale — I’ve never read this book. Given the current politics surrounding reproductive rights, I feel like this book is a prescient, timely choice.

10. Plutocrats: The Rise of the Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else by Chrystia Freeland — I’m interested topics regarding wealth and the wealthy. I’ve heard a lot about this book and want to give it a try.

What’s on your reading list? Happy Reading!

What Makes Good Writing

In 2012, I made the decision to read all 100 of the books listed on the NY Times Best Books of 2011 list. Each year, The Times lists “the best” books published in that year spanning fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Since I began to expand my brand, which includes writing, I thought it would be a useful experiment to begin reading books that were critically praised in order to establish for myself what exactly makes good writing. Every year, there are tons of lists of this type but I picked the New York Times book list because of its established reputation and visibility. Although last year, I only managed to read 30 out of the 100, my experiment taught me so much that I decided to try it again this year. So far, I’ve read fiction books like Richard Ford’s Canada, Bernice McFadden’s Gathering of Waters, and Sherman Alexie’s Blasphemy and non-fiction ones like The Grey Album by Kevin Young and Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity by Andrew Solomon.

The books that I read last year and this year spanned a number of non-fiction topics from scientology to grief to parenthood to the African roots of Alexandre Dumas. My fiction reads were equally as diverse and encompassed short stories, poetry, novellas, and novels. Most of the books I read were incredibly well written, interesting and in some cases, simply fantastic. Although the writing styles, topics, and themes are wildly different, I found a few basic rules for good writing that were overwhelmingly present in everything I read. These include:

Rule No. 1: Find a good editor. And in some cases, a fact checker too. Having written for quite some time, I can tell you that the final piece is almost never the first draft. For me, the first draft is the outline and the final product is pulled together though copious revisions and editing. If the piece is non-fiction, a fact-checker is especially important. Good writing and good editing go hand in hand.

Rule No. 2: Write good sentences. This seems intuitive but it needs to be stated. I believe that writing a book or story is a bit like architecture, the foundation needs to be strong before you begin adding things to it. The foundation for writing is really good, well-crafted sentences. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers is a book that exemplifies this rule. On a craft level, this book is a primer on how to write. Well-written sentences are the foundation of good writing.

Rule No. 3: If writing on a familiar topic or theme, be creative and talk about something new. Kevin Young’s The Grey Album is a perfect example of this. The book is a collection of essays on different aspects of African American artistic culture: music, acting, literature, etc. but Kevin Young introduces new ideas, new concepts throughout. Even the way the book was written and organized was fresh; its had a very improvisational jazz like feel to it. Add something to the conversation, especially if the topic is widely written about.

Rule No. 4:  Feedback is critical. It’s important to find readers. And not just anyone. But someone who can give honest feedback as to what works and what does not.

Rule No: 5: Read more. I have always loved to read so this one is easy for me to follow. It was important for me to read across subject matter, tone and genre in order to understand the multiplicity of ways that people can tell stories. Fiction is just as valuable to me as non-fiction. Being a voracious reader has never let me down.

Rule No. 6: When one word will do, use one one word. This rule is perhaps the hardest for me to follow. I am the queen of long sentences. But over the years, I’ve learned to never use three words when one will do. Use adverbs sparingly.  The right word will always win over the right phrase.