Life Changing Books

The War of Art

I finished The War of Art by Steven Pressfield today.  It’s already entered my pantheon of Life Changing Books.  I will probably sit down and re-read it again this week.  Then I will re-read it again.

And again.

That’s how much I resonated with it.

That’s how much it spoke to me, called me out, named me personally.  Steven Pressfield  spoke to me.  He said, “Kath, I’m talkin’ to YOU here.  You payin’ attention?  Sure?  ‘Cause this is your precise problem. (Resistance.) Good girl. Underline that last paragraph.  Dog ear this page. Memorize this sentence. And if you ever get a tattoo? Tat this on your forearm”

You ever read a book like that?  One that was written just for you?  One that named your biggest problem (for me, resistance) and then told you why, and more importantly how you must go to battle against that demon every single day?

Have you ever had a book tell you that you must now live differently from this day forward? And the way you must live from this day forward is completely different from how you’ve been living up until now?

Up until now I have been living and operating like an amateur.  Tomorrow, I turn Pro.

I will try to explain what that means tomorrow, or you can just order the book anad read for yourself.

Beware though.  You may have to turn Pro, too.


I just got finished reading dooce’s blog account of her nightmare with trying to get her Maytag washer fixed.

Dooce is what Seth Godin would call a “sneezer.”  Sneezers spread idea viruses.  Sneezers let people know when they like things, and when they don’t, and sneezers have A LOT OF INFLUENCE.  When they recommend a restaurant, people go to it.  When they like a pair of shoes, lots of people go out and buy them.  And when they get shitty customer service from Maytag, whoah boy.  Watch out.

dooce, has a wildly popular blog with hundreds of thousands of readers.

dooce, has one million, one hundred fifty-three thousand, three hundred and ninety (1, 153, 390) followers on Twitter (of which I am one).

But do the customer service people at Maytag know this when she calls and tries to get her very expensive, brand new washer fixed?  No they do not.  They treat her just like they would treat you or me.  (Like shit.)

So here is what happened: After going through hell trying to get her washer fixed, dooce Twittered about it. And to be fair, she warned the person on the phone that she was going to Twitter about it, and that person just laughed at her.

(BIG mistake.  Huge.)

So she wrote a series of Twitters saying DON’T BUY MAYTAG. MAYTAG IS A NIGHTMARE. And other Twitters to that effect.

And guess what happened?  Yep.  She got satisfaction, baby! Yes she did. The CEO of Maytag contacted her and made it all better, PRONTO.  (And she Twittered about that, too.)

Here is her account of her adventure.  You’ve got to go read it.  It’s hilarious.  She is such a great writer.  I would give some non-essential body part (my adenoids?) to be able to write half as good as she does.

But here is the lesson.  Businesses of all stripe, large and small, need to pay attention to this because when they jerk us around how do they know we aren’t dooce?  How do they know we aren’t influential sneezers?  The answer is: they don’t.

Social media now has the power to kill a business, or at least give it a very ugly black eye.  Used to be people were only connected in small tribes without much power: families, neighborhoods, church groups and the like.  But now we have hundreds of friends on Facebook, tons of followers on Twitter, and lots of us are bloggers with small and large reader bases–or we could be. And people listen to each other.  And if you post that Maytag gave you shitty customer service, I believe you.  And I’m going to steer away from Maytag.

So if you are a business you need to take this dooce episode as a cautionary tale. You need to treat every single customer as if he or she were dooce.  Because if we sneezers like you, you’re golden.  If you piss us off, you’re done.

The “B” Word

There was a time in my life when I only read “The Great Books.” (Classical literature by philosphers, poets and essayists—i.e. dead white guys.)

There was a time in my life when I read poetry.  Exclusively.  Nothing else would do.  (This jag went on for about 4 years.)

There was a time in my life that the only thing that interested me was fiction. Classical. New. Everything in between.  If it wasn’t a story, I wasn’t interested.

There was a time in my life when only new-age self-development books would do. (I’m kinda still in this stage, but I’ve definitely graduated out of pop-psychey things like: I’m O.K. You’re O.K (blech, wince.)

I’ve read Rumi and Hafiz.  I’ve read the Bhagvad Gita in multiple translations. I’ve read big chunks of the Mahabarata and the Ramayana.  I’ve read the Bible and the Torah and the Koran.  I’ve read Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

Now though, I’m on a whole new jag that rather baffles me: Business books.  Business books??? Yeah.  Go figure.

But not business books like: How to Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.  No, no.  Business books about the NEW business paradigm.  Ethical, socially responsible businesses.  Businesses that come into being as a result of someone asking the question: “How can I help?” Or “Can I help?” And then building a business to answer that question.

It’s what I want to do with my business.  (When I say “my business” my face sorta squinches up though, because I never think of what I’m doing as a “business,” but that’s precisely why I am so interested in reading the stuff I’m now obsessed with.)

These kind of new business models are “squinch-less,” “ick-less” if you will.  I don’t have to hold my nose and apologize, or put an asterisk after the “B” word to explain that I am not THAT kind of “B”, I’m THIS kind of “B.”

Here are the last 3 books I downloaded into my Kindle:

All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin  (I think that completes it.  I now have the whole Godin oeuvre.)

Rules of Thumb by Alan Webber

and, not yet available in Kindle edition, but soon, so I had to buy the dead tree version

Trust Agents by Chris Brogan

Good Stuff.

What’s New

I have decided to give my training regimen a focus, some goal event that I will train toward.  My man “Timbo”(as he likes to be called), trains for marathons and triathalons.  But I have no interest in “running” –either as a sport or a training activity.  I used to run 10Ks back in the day, but now I find running too hard on the old bod.

I do like to walk, though.  And I love to hike, so Tim suggested I do a ‘Trail Run,” but instead of “running” it, hike it.  Power hike it.  Hike it like my hair is on fire and the nearest water is 13 miles away.  No strolling or bird-watching allowed.

So yesterday I sent my registrations in for not 1, but 2 Trail Challenges.  The first one is on September 20th in Mifflinburg, PA.  It’s called the Dam Half.  It’s a half marathon (13 miles). Jackie, Tim’s wife, is going to do it with me. She’s going hold my hand and tell me I’m doing great,– kinda like a doula at a natural birth. And when I cry out in anguish as death’s clammy paw scrapes at my hamstrings, she will be there to assure me that death will all be worthwhile because the tee-shirts in heaven are awesome.

The second event is the Ives Run Trail Challenge on September 26.  This is a shorter run, and much closer to home.  But it comes on the day when I will have ended a 12 hour fast with the drawing of 2 vials of blood.  It’s Community Multiple Blood Analysis Day, an event I look forward to all year as an opportunity to see how my blood is doing.

Should be interesting.

Today Tim sent me my training schedule for the next 3 weeks…  And you want to know what is listed as Priority 1?


I can totally do that.

No problemo.

Gold medal for me.


I love blogs. I read a lot of them too, and am inspired and blown away by them.

On most of the blogs I read, I am what is known as a “lurker.”  I just read and never comment. I don’t know why, I just don’t.  But today I read a post and felt like responding to the writer, so I wrote her a little “fan” comment, telling her how much I enjoy her writing and the things she shares.

But when I hit “send” I got caught up in some registration crap that I didn’t have time to fill out, so I just aborted the comment. Now she’ll never know how much I like her blog.

I also won’t do the deciphering of the trippy letters to prove that I’m not a robot.  If your blogging software doesn’t allow your readers to comment freely (mediated comments are okay) on your blog, you really need to change platforms.

And this aborted comment episode was followed by a notification that someone was following me on Twitter.  But when I went to see this person’s profile in order to determine if I wanted to follow back, it was locked.  I had to send a “special request’ to see this person’s profile and ‘tweet” history.

No.  Not gonna do it.  It’s ridiculous.

Doesn’t this defeat the purpose of Twitter??  If you have to ‘lock” your “Tweets” don’t even bother, will ya?  It’s ridiculous!  It’s social media, people!  If you want to have private conversations with selected people, just email them for goddsakes!  Don’t Twitter, you twit!

Oh, and while I’m on a rant here, here’s something that bugs me about Facebook.  Don’t write a status update that goes like this:  “Feeling really pissed today.”  Or: “I am so disappointed in life.”  Don’t do that, k?  If you express a strong emotion, good or bad, elaborate a little!  Don’t force people to feel like they have to ask, “What’s wrong?”  It’s a shameless bid for attention.  It’s what pouty first graders do. It’s juvenile.  Don’t update at all if you can’t elaborate, k?

(end of rant.)

So where was I?  Yes. Blogs.  I read quite a few, so tonight I finally got around to putting some of my daily reads on my sidebar under (what else?) “Blogroll.”

I wish all my friends would blog!  Some of them do, and I love them and listed them (mouse over the title of the blogs to read my little descriptions of them), as well as some really famous bloggers that you probably already know about.

If you happen to know of a blog you think I ought to check out, let me know, okay?

I am always looking for even more reasons to defer the really important and crucial task I should be doing.

Core Rituals

Today was my 252nd day in a row of Holosync.  No misses.

I think the act of doing something religiously, with discipline, every day changes you.  It’s this kind of persistence that we admire in athletes, and musicians, and writers who complete manuscripts.  We recognize (even if we don’t quite understand or feel it) what it must have taken to persist in something for a long time without giving up.  It is admirable.  It is inspiring

Disciplined people shine a little brighter, somehow.  And I mean this quite literally.  There is an aura about them.  Their eyes emit a little bit more fire than a person without a disciplined habit.   In yoga there is a concept called Tapas.  Tapas literally means “to burn” but in yoga pertains to self discipline and burning through resistances.  Every time you resist the urge give up, and instead persist with your resolve by acting in accordance with your goal or aspiration, you build a little more fire, a little more heat.  You glow a little more brightly.

A lot of people try to do hard things but give up.  And that’s why we can recognize and appreciate a feat that must have taken a lot of work and self-sacrifice and self-discipline.

I become inspired by people who do that.  I am inspired by those who climb Everest or bicycle across the country, or memorize complex musical compositions or write amazing books or do highly skilled athletic maneuvers.  But I also recognize that for the most part I can’t or don’t want to do those things myself.  I don’t have that particular interest, nor do I have the body type or brain configuration that would enable me to do that.

But I can meditate every day. And do my yoga. And write in my journal. These are my core rituals and they ground me and support me.  I don’t know what I’d do without them.

I’d probably just watch Dancing With The Stars and drink beer and eat Fig Newtons.

Theoretical Pie

new best recipe cook book

I love the Cook’s Illustrated Best Recipes Cookbook.  Its’ the Scientific American of  cookbooks.  They don’t just give you recipes; they justify every single ingredient and its amount.

I looked up the recipe for Blueberry Pie yesterday, and before I even got to the recipe, I had to read a protracted discourse on the merits of cornstarch vs. flour as a thickener and why potato starch or tapioca is far and away the preferred thickener for this kind of pie. (Flour makes the fruit gummy and cornstarch dulls the taste of the fruit).

I had cornstarch and flour, but neither potato starch nor tapioca, so I headed to Walmart, but no luck there. (Big surprise.)

So $200 later I was walking out of Wegman’s with a week’s groceries plus the mandatory potato starch and tapioca, ready to make a proper pie, a justified pie, dare I say,  a “smart” pie.

Now if there is one thing I cannot stand it’s that revolting jelly stuff that hangs all over fruit in commercial pies.  Who can eat that shit?  I think it’s pectin, and without a doubt it is gross.  So I was really looking forward to having a juicy blueberry pie that held together without all that goo.  My pie would be thickened with the lab tested and approved, potato starch. It would be bright and clear, not dull and gummy.  It would hang together without the hated pectin.

With my potato starch and my NASA space directions, I spent a happy afternoon assembling the space shuttle of blueberry pies according to specs.

Here it is assembled prior to the crumb topping:

pie before crumb crust

Here it is all beautiful and aromatic out of the oven.

finished pie400

But although I followed the directions to a T, after I cut into it, the fruit began to puddle in the gap of the first slice.  And this morning?  Blueberry soup.

Needless to say, we have a problem, Houston.