Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Praise of Books

"Except a living man there is nothing more wonderful than a book! A message from the dead - from human souls we never saw, who lived, perhaps, thousands of miles away. And yet these, in those little sheets of paper, speak to us, arouse us, terrify us, comfort us, open their hearts to us as brothers." --Charles Kingsley

 The numbers are down. We just don't read anymore. A 2007 AP poll indicated that 1 in 4 adults read zero books last year. Zero books in 12 months! Is it becoming a lost art--an activity for the dusty and aged? 

As a backdrop, books are a rich part of our history. Our founding great, John Adams, of a meager upbringing, attended Harvard. It was here that he "discovered books and read forever." In echo, Thomas Jefferson said, "I cannot live without books."

This post is written in praise of books. There are many posts out there of similar tribute. The following are a few ways that reading has benefited my life.

1. Discovery
In abstract terms, reading is a pathway to seeing new patterns of thought, new ideas, and new understanding. There have been countless times that thoughts or feelings that I have lacked ability to express have been articulated by someone else. I simply had to read it. This, in turn, creates a certain kinship with the hand who penned the thought.

Discovery comes when we uncover knowledge and thought that was previously unseen on the surface. A well-written book of any kind is more than storyline or a repeated stream of information; rather, it is a display of principle, a view of ethics and values. What we read fiction or otherwise, leaves impressions on us.

As we continue reading we will continue making connections. These connections can happen in different forms:  (1) Text to self when we connect what we read with our own life experiences, (2) Text to text when we connect what we are currently reading with what we've already read and, (3) Text to world when we connect what we read to trends in the world around us. Especially as we seek truth, there is great joy in making connections in what we read with what we know and what we now better understand.

This I believe: Our reading should not only allow us to absorb the thoughts of others but create new thought within ourselves.

2. Mental Fulfillment

I'll be honest, books can be daunting--especially the ones that contain over an inch of thickness. Finishing a book is a victory for me. Mentally traveling through the pages of a book from start to finish is very healthy. Our minds need use, continued lubricant, and maintenance. Reading is an integral part of keeping the cog wheels turning. If we don't read and write we end up letting TV and media fill the gap. This results in a lot of empty calories. 

This I believe: Reading will keep a mind sharp into the realms of old age.
3. Fueled Creativity

I've always had this feeling that no one has a monopoly on ideas and thought. It's definitely an even playing field. What cannot be duplicated, however, is the unique nature of the ideas that stem from each and every mind. I have my creative angle and you have yours. Reading allows us to fuel our own mind with a sharper sense of what we believe in and what we are passionate about. Asking questions about what we read can lead to new thoughts and new answers. We can be inspired by a character in literature; we can be lifted by a principle for effective living; we can be added upon in what we already know and see.

Reading is a catalyst for better observation and clear and productive thinking. As we read, we obtain; as we obtain, we create!

This I believe: Reading fuels creativity
4.  We are What We Read

In the end, we read what we are drawn to as we are drawn to what we read. Choose wisely from the great minds what you want to obtain and what you want to become. We become what we allow into our minds.

This I believe: We become what we read. Choose wisely!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Being Content

"Plan, Simplify, Be Strong" --Danel W. Bachman

The world we live in is a noisy place. If we are not careful it will lead to a noisy life. Amidst the daily impulses and itches the challenge lies in maintaining our own calmness and contentment. I do not wish to deeply delve into definition here; I simply raise up a reminder of the power of simplicity in our lives. Sometimes we get so uncomfortable in silence. Other times we see no color in the mundane. Perhaps we lose all the flavor of one day because we wonder what tomorrow is going to bring. The question should not be "What's in it for me?" Rather, we should ask: "What can I offer tomorrow?"

There is great wonder in simple accomplishments. If we can conquer the daily doings with enjoyment then we have taken another step toward contentment. The more steps we take toward loving our lives the less we will move toward the noise that redundantly tries to take us away from ourselves. The noise directs us to be shiny and up-to-date; calmness directs us toward sincerity and good nature--a real sense of who we are.

The pinnacle of contentment will bring us to be a greater friend of what is really true and good in life; it allows us to be a light to others instead of a judge. Contentment allows us to go to bed at night knowing that we made today a victory and not an empty yesterday.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's About Time...

"Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you." --Carl Sandburg, US Biographer and Poet (1878-1967)

Time is a constant in our lives. The minutes and hours pass before us and can never be returned or regained. Much wisdom has been offered about the asset of time that we often take for granted. Consider the following:

"The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: “I did not have time.” --Franklin Field
"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst." --William Penn

"Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of." --Benjamin Franklin

"One thing you can't recycle is wasted time" --Unknown

We all like to have fun and seek a good time. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Problems occur when we place the pursuit of temporary pleasures before those things that bring lasting fulfillment. Yes, opportunity comes to those who use and invest time rather than race with it. Yes, it requires hard work, service, and sacrifice. Yes, the results are real. If we do things just for fun we will stay everlastingly bored. Rather, we should have fun at what we do and be the pilot of all the time that flies ahead.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Social Media and Your Job

"By the work one knows the workmen."
--Jean De La Fontaine
The following was written for a policy letter assignment for my Persuasion class this semester. Let me know what you think!
It is clearly known that we are in the information age. It is an age that continues to move forward at full-throttle speed! We live in a time when we can perform comprehensive research in seconds at the same time that we can read our friend’s “tweet” about what he had for breakfast. Social media is a mainstay in our interaction and in our presentation of self.

It is my purpose to discuss the relationship between our social media interactions and our jobs and networking. Social media is now a widely used tool in recruiting talent and obtaining viable job candidates.  According to a recent Jobvite Social Recruiting Survey, the following information was collected:
  • 73% of respondents currently use online social networks or social media sites to support their recruiting efforts.
  • 92% of respondents hiring in 2010 currently use or plan to recruit via social networks.
  • 78% of respondents use LinkedIn for recruiting; 55% use Facebook (up 15% since over 2009); and 45% use Twitter (up 32% over 2009).
  • One-third of respondents always check out candidates’ social media profiles when screening them.
  • 58% of respondents have successfully hired candidates through social networking websites. 1
To put this in simpler terms, this means that most of the people that are looking to hire you are also looking at your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. Over half of the companies surveyed have found people to work for them online. These numbers continue to increase.
Let us examine, then, our social network activity. What are we posting and what does it declare about us and those we represent? This examination should cause us to ask a few simple questions about how we are presenting ourselves.

1.     Are there posts or comments on my profile that are derogatory toward my current employer?
2.     Are there pictures or posts on my profile that would look unappealing to a future employer or recruiter?
3.     Am I respectful and honest in the things I post?

Asking these questions of ourselves—and others similar to it—is now a necessity in our online social life. Have you ever typed your name into Google? Try it and see what you can find. Whether we like it or not, what we post on a profile becomes public information. Indeed, it is the World Wide Web.
Consider the Vancouver bus driver who was fired for the blog he was publishing. It began in his training as a new driver when he made daily entries about transit and bus operations. Eventually his readership expanded. The posts continued into comments about his company’s reaction during local snowstorm problems. These comments were deemed critical towards the bus company and this driver was contacted and terminated just hours later. 2

What about the schoolteacher whose job was placed in jeopardy for the display of a photo of her drinking alcohol that was posted on her Facebook page? It turns out this photo was taken during a European vacation. The teacher claimed, “I visited the Guinness Brewery, I went to Italy and had wine. I went to the Temple Bar District of Dublin and drank some alcohol there like any normal adult would.” The school district didn’t agree and the teacher was forced to resign. 3

Disregarding if these examples are fair or not, the fact stands that these examples actually took place. With virtually no employment law and policy in place regarding the use of social media by management it needs to be our prerogative to be watchful of how we present ourselves. If we talk about work on our Facebook page or blog about our personal views of our unruly boss, we are doing so as an agent of that company. This material may or may not be used against us. We are what we post.

Our online social persona can transform into either a friend or a foe. Let us focus on the fact that outside of the pitfalls of social media and employment, our profiles and posts can become an effective asset—an extension of our current resume. Here, we can display our involvement in community ventures, our knowledge and understanding of cutting-edge technology in our field, and a portfolio that exhibits workable skills and abilities. What recruiter would want to miss out on this? Yes, we are what we post. Post wisely.


1.      The Fordyce Letter, “Social Media + Legal Reality & Perspective = Caution for Recruiters”

2.     Vancouver Bus Driver Fired Over Blog”

3.     “Ashley Payne, Former Teacher Fired for Facebook Pictures”

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gratitude: The Lens Cleaner of Life

"That ye contend no more against the Holy Ghost, but that ye receive it, and take upon you the name of Christ; that ye humble yourselves even to the dust, and worship God, in whatsoever place ye may be in, in spirit and in truth; and that ye live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which he doth bestow upon you." --Alma 34:38

As I stated in last year's Thanksgiving day post, gratitude is the lens cleaner of life; it helps us see past the spots. It takes effort to remain always grateful but it is a work worth engaging in. Happy Thankgiving!

I leave you with some words of the living prophet: 
"We can lift ourselves and others as well when we refuse to remain in the realm of negative thought and cultivate within our hearts an attitude of gratitude. If ingratitude be numbered among the serious sins, then gratitude takes its place among the noblest of virtues. Someone has said that “gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others”  (Oct. 2010, General Conference).

Monday, October 11, 2010

It's Columbus Day...

“That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach”--Aldous Huxley, English Novelist and Critic

Today is the second Monday in October. Annually, this constitutes the observation of Columbus day. We remember him. Christopher Columbus. In grade school we probably learned about his voyage ships: Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. We probably understood in fourth grade that he discovered America. Most likely, we learned of his voyage and have since forgotten. For me, this history has been archived in dusty corners of my mind and can be simply summed up with the familiar rhyme: 

"In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue."

Yet, if we grasp onto the spade of curiosity and hollow out a bit of historical excavation there is more to be had. A little "Google-ing" lead me to a few facts about Columbus previously unknown. We should be aware that Columbus really wasn't the first explorer to navigate to "the Americas." He was preceded by the Vikings, led by Leif Ericson, who built a temporary settlement there 500 years previous. So, why do we remember Mr. Columbus? 

Columbus' voyage and discovery came at a time of economic competition between nations and kingdoms when each were developing viable trade routes. In short, Columbus and his voyages had a spreading effect that created European awareness of the American continents in the west. Second, he stayed in contact. Historian, Martin Dugard, writes, "Columbus' claim to fame isn't that he got there first, it's that he stayed."

Here are a few other facts of interest:

1. The Europeans showed little interest at the time of Columbus' discoveries in the west.
2. Columbus did not believe in the flat earth. The round shape of the earth had already been known.
3. Columbus was highly venerated in America dating back to Colonial times with America often being called Columbia (beginning in 1738), Columbia being the capital city of both Ohio and South Carolina, a river named Columbia, and the federal capital named The District of Columbia in the latter end of the 18th century.

So, it is Columbus day and here is the bottom line: the men and women of history probably didn't know they were making history in their present time. They simply lived their lives and pursued their daily doings. Second, the meaningless moments of today could become the priceless memories of yesterday. The great things of history often go unrecognized by those nearest to them. We never know until we take a look!

Happy Columbus Day! 

Friday, October 08, 2010

"Oh, What an Atmosphere Encircles That Stranger"

We are like chameleons, we take our hue and the color of our moral character, from those who are around us." --John Locke, English Philosopher (1632-1704)

Think of the word atmosphere. It not only describes the layers of vapor and gases that surround the orb on which we live; it also illustrates the places we enter into and perhaps even the attitudes and habits we choose to entertain. This can be coupled with influence. Each day we are both an influence and are influenced. This is an immutable truth. Yes, we are who we are. I have my influence and you have yours but there is a component of interaction that allows our personal atmospheres of thought and being to interrelate, to give and take, to change and develop.

This influence coupled with the gift of the Holy Ghost leads me to a powerful quotation by Elder Parley P. Pratt. It has been on my mind and I wished to share it. Speaking of the Holy Ghost he says:

"It quickens all the intellectual faculties, increases, enlarges, expands and purifies all the natural passion and affections; and adapts them, by the gift of wisdom, to their lawful use. It inspires, develops, cultivates and matures all the fine-toned sympathies, joys, tastes, kindred feelings and affections of our nature. It inspires virtue, kindness, goodness, tenderness, gentleness and charity. It develops beauty of the person, form and features. It tends to health, vigor, animation and social feeling. It invigorates all the faculties of the physical and intellectual man. It strengthens, and gives tone to the nerves. In short, it is, as it were, marrow to the bone, joy to the heart, light to the eyes, music to the ears, and life to the whole being."

"In the presence of such persons, one feels to enjoy the light of their countenances, as the genial rays of the sunbeam. Their very atmosphere diffuses a thrill, a warm glow of pure gladness and sympathy, to the heart and nerves of others who have kindred feelings, or sympathy of spirit. No matter if the parties are strangers, entirely unknown to each other in person or character; no matter if they have never spoken to each other, each will be apt to remark in his own mind, and perhaps exclaim, when referring to the interview– “Oh, what an atmosphere encircles that stranger! How my heart thrilled with pure and holy feelings in his presence! What confidence and sympathy he inspired! His countenance and spirit gave me more assurance than a thousand written recommendations, or introductory letters.” Such is the gift of the Holy Ghost, and such are its operations, when received through the lawful channel—the divine, eternal priesthood."
We each have an influence. We emanate that which we admire the most in regard to attitude, discipline, and outlook on life. So, no matter how the weather looks outside, may we all create an atmosphere of goodness and gladness. If we do, none will be a stranger.