Good Stuff: Books Worth Multiple Readings Part 2

What’s your typical response when someone shares a frustration, problem, or issue with you? Or when they state an opinion or desire you disagree with?

Sometimes we get impatient, exasperated, or annoyed with them and simply don’t want to hear it.

Sometimes we get mad. Or defensive. And want to line them out.

Sometimes, however, we want to help.

And wouldn’t you know it, but we sometimes cause as many problems with that last reaction as the first two.

How can this be?

Your teenage daughter comes home and expresses disappointment about something that happened at school, and you want to help. How in the world could that be wrong?

Your spouse shares a frustration about something that happened with a friend, and you don’t want him or her to be sad. This is a bad thing?

Your coworker expresses annoyance with a program management is trying to implement, and you know exactly what will fix the problem and want to share it. This is going to cause problems?

In their fabulous book, I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better: Six Practical Principles that Empower Others to Solve Their Own Problems While Enriching Your Relationships, Gary and Joy Lundberg show two different ways of acting on the desire to help others that have dramatically different results. If we try to help using the first method, we actually create more issues. We will make the person less willing to talk to us, introduce strain into the relationship, and create a lot of stress for ourselves. On the other hand, if we try to help using the second method, we’ll find the person more willing to talk. There will be more friendliness in the relationship. And our own stress will go way down. Furthermore, we’ll end up helping the person far more than we ever could with the first method.

Gary is a licensed marriage and family therapist. His wife Joy is a writer and lyricist, and they have held marriage retreats, firesides, and seminars throughout the country. And the six principles they share in the book for using the second method all revolve around accepting this one statement: “I do not have the power to make anything all better for anyone else. I can offer my help, but I cannot make it all better.”

Accepting this view has a dramatic impact on how we approach helping others.

So when the teenage daughter comes in and expresses disappointment, instead of trying get her to buck up or tell her she just needs to do xyz with her friends, or do 123 in sports practice, we listen, validate her emotions, leave the responsibility for the problem where it belongs—with her!—and then, when it’s all out, offer to help in a way that empowers her, not have us take over.

When the spouse shares frustration, it’s the same. When the coworker expresses annoyance, the same. When someone comes in to complain to us, it’s the same.

What the Lungbergs do in this book is show exactly what this looks like with tons and tons of examples. They even have a whole chapter (a short one) which gives a list of validating phrases and questions. The first six chapters of the book explain the principles. The last eight each apply them to a different group: young children, teenagers, adult children, spouses, parents and parents-in-law, friends, and coworkers.

Folks, this book is a gem. It’s loaded with wisdom and insight. Every time I practice what’s in here, my interactions go better. This stuff produces immediate results. I just wished I’d studied and practiced it more. But it’s never too late. And that’s why I’m rereading it now.

And why I wanted to share it here. If you want to improve your interactions with others and enrich your relationships, do yourself a favor and immediately go get this book.

Good Stuff: Books Worth Multiple Readings Part 1

Would you like to improve your relationship with your spouse or children?

Would you like to improve your experience with teachers, coaches, and administrators this coming year at school as you try to influence them and work with them for the benefit of your children?

Would you like to simply have a better time with the people in your community?

There are some books so full of practical wisdom about relationships that they deserve to be read every year or three. I want to recommend two such books to you. The first is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

This book has been in print for eighty years. And not only that, it has been, year after year, one of the bestselling books out there for almost each of those eighty years. For example, Amazon right now ranks it the #9 most read book. You’ll see other books come and go on that list. But books like this and Stephen R. Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People stay.

There are thousands of how-to books published each year on relationships in business and personal settings. Most are never seen again. But this one has stayed because people find it so useful they recommend it over and over again.

And I wish to heck I’d not waited ten years to pick my copy up again.

As I re-read the book this last month, I saw that if I’d been thinking about the practical guidelines Carnegie shares, I could have avoided a number of public and private arguments I’ve had over the last few years.

I could have avoided subjecting those relationships to attack, coming to my senses, and then trying to clean up the mess, large or small.

But even more important, I could have added a little more sweetness to my life and the life of others I encounter on my way. There are only so many days we have here on earth, and how much better it is to add additional drops of honey to them instead of vinegar.

One of the wonderful things about his book is that Carnegie shares the wisdom in a down-to-earth way with lots of examples and stories. He shares wisdom on building relationships, being liked, winning people to your way of thinking, and how to make your requests for change known without giving offense or rousing resentment. And he does it simply and in a way that you feel like you’re sitting down with a good-humored grandfather. There are no dry, abstract parts. Just look at a sampling of the chapter titles.

  • “If You Want to Gather Honey, Don’t Kick Over the Beehive”
  • “He Who Can Do This Has the Whole World with Him. He Who Cannot Walks a Lonely Way”
  • “An Easy Way to Become a Good Conversationalist”
  • “If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin”
  • “Give a Dog a Good Name”

I can tell you that every time I try to approach things the way he proposes, they almost always seem to go better.

If you have an issue you want to discuss with a school teacher, coach, or administrator this year, let me suggest you first listen to what Carnegie has to say. I can promise you you’ll get much farther. And you will probably end up enjoying the interaction.

If you want to improve your time with your wife and kids, open this book and look for insights.

If you want to have a better time with your co-workers or boss, I suggest reviewing the wisdom you’ll find here.

Carnegie doesn’t possess all the wisdom there is to be had about relationships. There are many people out there with great insights. But, gee whiz, he provides a great start. If you want to add some sweetness to your life, I think you’ll find this book a great help.

Let me illustrate this Carnegie stuff with an experience I had with one of our high school coaches two years ago. I have a vast background in basketball that includes, well, nothing. I basically know how to dribble a ball. Oh, yeah, I also played church ball two or three years in a row back in the 1980s. So, as you can see, my knowledge is vast.

And not to toot my own horn, but this wasn’t just any church ball team. This was a team that improved the sport.

How? You ask.

Well, during one of those church ball years, me and the guys from my ward (“congregation” for those not familiar with the Mormon faith) thought it would be capital to make jeans and concert tee-shirts our uniforms. Back in those days concert tee-shirts looked like this.

This meant we ran up and down the church courts with drugs, sex, and rock and roll on our chests (I’m sure that’s precisely what the brethren had in mind for the program).

As you can see, we were way up there on the basketball ladder.

So back to this coach. My daughter was playing on the high school team, and the team was having a consistently hard time with one type of defense. And I thought, “Self, there’s got to be a way to break that defense.” These are the big thoughts that basketball gurus like myself have.

And so I researched and watched and talked to folks who had actually played basketball competitively (unfortunately, without concert tee shirts) and identified an offensive counter that looked like it might work.

And I sent an email to the coach sharing my idea.

Now, the coach could have reacted in many ways. Especially given the fact that (1) he had already thought of the idea I was proposing, (2) had already tried it in games that, yes, I had attended, and (3) probably knew just a teensy bit more about basketball and his team than I did even though my church ball team had vastly superior uniforms.

But this coach, whether he knew it or not, was following a number of the principles found in Carnegie’s book, including the chapter titled “Let the Other Person Save Face”. This meant that instead of rolling his eyes or ridiculing or saying something like, “Brown, are you blind?”, he explained what he was doing and then expressed his appreciation. He was happy I was so invested. He thanked me.

And here’s the thing: he meant it.

I replied that if he ever wanted someone to suggest an idea he was already trying, to just call. I’d be happy to help.

We laughed, but the important thing is that what could have been a wedge became a good experience for all. And, more than ever, I wanted to work with him to help my daughter in the program.

I will give you one more example. There’s a mother who had four of her children go through my wife’s seventh and eighth grade language arts classes. Now, Nellie is a worker. She expects her students to work. She wants to have a good time, loves having great interactions with the kids, but she also wants them to improve and learn, and knows that’s going to take some work. Sometimes the assignments, despite her best efforts, aren’t clearly understood. Sometimes they’re a bit challenging. And this sometimes creates frustration.

There are a lot of ways that parents deal with this. But this one mother took an approach that, whether she knew it or not, followed many of the principles in the book including those shared in “You Can’t Win an Argument” and “A Formula That Will Work Wonders For You”. This resulted in a fabulous working relationship. It helped the mother have less stress. Helped her kids. And helped Nellie improve her program.

The issues the mother encountered could have become wedges, but instead, because of how she handled them, they became stepping stones. And this didn’t happen with this one individual. There are many mothers and fathers who have taken a similar approach with similar results. The principles work every time.

I could go on with many more examples in other situations, but why listen to mine? Carnegie has a book full of them. If you want to improve your relationships or persuade others to your way of thinking, you’ll want to start by reading this book.

The second book I want to recommend is I Don’t Have to Make Everything All Better by Gary and Joy Lundberg. But this post is full, so stay tuned, and next time I’ll explain what awaits you in its fabulous pages.

Audio book is on the way

This last week I listened to the reading of Bad Penny by Mikael Naramore on our trip down and back to Panguitch (and the forest fire from hell) and then later here at the house and was so happy I hooked up with Naramore. He’s done a wonderful job. He nailed the voices of Frank, Sam, Pinto, Carmen, Ed (ye slimy villain), and all the rest and delivered excellent sound. And the process was so easy.

Right now ACX is doing its quality control on the production. When they clear it, it will be posted for sale on Audible, iTunes, and Amazon.

I’m very excited to bring Frank to the audio market. I think he and Naramore are going to please a lot of listeners.

Here’s the final cover for the audio book.


Good Stuff: 8 Awesome Movies

Summer is a great time to catch up on great movies you haven’t seen because sometimes the movies that are released to the theaters during this time are contenders for the dud award.

I shall leave films such as Transformers: The Franchise Could Have Been So Cool or Pirates of the Caribbean: Johnny Depp Is Now Acting Really Weird nameless.

Instead of watching duds, try a couple of these fantastic movies, all of which are based on true stories.

Queen of Katwe. A tremendous film based on the true story of depicts Phiona Mutesi, a girl growing up in the slums of Katwe, a city in Uganda, who gets a chance to break out of that life with chess. You will come away having laughed and cheered and been touched in a poignant way. Highly recommended.

The Eagle Huntress. A fascinating documentary about the first girl in Mongolia to compete as an eagle hunter—these are folks who capture and train golden eagles to hunt game like fox or rabbit. You’ll be introduced into a new and interesting culture that triggers you to think about your own.

The Founder. Ever wonder how McDonald’s got started? No, neither had I. Who cares, as long as the food is good, right? Well, if you’re like me, you’re in for an eye-opener. This tells the story of how Ray Kroc started McDonald’s, except, hint, he didn’t. Kroc is played by Michael Keaton. He’s one of my favorite actors, and I loved his performance. This story will fascinate you, and then make you think, and then make you really appreciate folks like Dave Thomas of Wendy’s.

Concussion. An engrossing, suspenseful film about the true story of Dr. Bennet Omalu and the tie between football and brain degeneration. Omalu was working as a forensic pathologist (one who figures out the cause of death) in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. In 2002, Omalu performed an autopsy on Mike Webster, a former NFL star who played for the Pittsburg Steelers and is considered by some to be one of the best centers in NFL history. And his worked opened up a can of worms the NFL wanted to quash. I loved this film.

Hacksaw Ridge. This one is based on the true story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh-day Adventist who did not believe in killing, but wanted to support his country and all those going to war. So he goes into World War 2 as a medic and is sent to the Pacific theater. His first engagement is the Battle of Okinawa. And, oh my holy heck, what he did during that battle is nothing short of amazing. There’s one part of the film in boot camp that seemed out of place. Really, some dude back in the 1940s was going to do pull ups in the barracks naked (nothing but a bum is shown in the film)? But then I recall that growing up in the 70s and 80s that we guys showered in communal showers. And that wasn’t a big deal. And earlier than that, swimming at the swimming hole often meant shucking your clothes and jumping in. So who knows? We have a similar funny scene in Mulan, but for some reason that one felt more organic. This one felt tacked on. It was a gag for humor and then, thankfully, Mel Gibson, who directed this, got on with the awesome story of Doss.

Deepwater Horizon. This one is based on the true story of the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that encounters a catastrophe. The details of how such rigs work and the issues involved are fascinating. But what will really get you is the heroism of the captain and crew.

In the Heart of the Sea. This is based on the true story of the whaleship Essex that was sunk in the Pacific in 1820 by a sperm whale and what the few that survived did to remain alive. Back in the 1700s and early 1800s, sperm whale oil, which was contained in the whale’s large head, was highly prized for lamps because it burned bright and odorless. It was also a great lubricant. Later the oil was replaced with kerosene and other and petroleum-based lubricants, but in those days there was a whole industry dedicated to harvesting it. I watched this with my teenage daughter, and we both found it a powerful tale.

The Finest Hours. This last one is based the book The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman. It chronicles the 1952 United States Coast Guard rescue, in a dinky boat, of the crew of the SS Pendleton, a big tanker, after the ship split apart during a nor’easter off the New England coast. The movie was thrilling and heroic.

And after you watch all of those, if you want some more great films based on true stories, well, you won’t go wrong with Tom Hanks in Sully or Captain Phillips or Bridge of Spies.

Story updates

A couple of updates.

First, the narrator for Bad Penny contacted me today, told me how much he enjoyed narrating the book, that it’s in post production and the audio should be done next week. I can’t wait.

Next, I’m progressing on The Drovers. Next scene up is a night time battle with a korrog. It’s going to be a blast.

Finally, I just got out of my ankle boot for a surgery I had a few weeks ago. It’s time to go back to lifting weights. I’ve also read an interesting book called The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. I’ve been testing it out, and the results so far are positive. More on that later.

Good Stuff: Poldark, Monk, and the cure for dragon feet

For all of you longing for just one more season of Downton Abbey, I’ve found a new series from the BBC I think you’ll enjoy (thank you Duane Robinson for the recommendation).

It’s called Poldark and is set in the late 1700s in Cornwall, that little southwestern leg of England that juts out into the Atlantic. The dark-haired and handsome Ross Poldark returns to England after having fought in the American War of Independence and finds that his father has died, and he’s inherited the estate. Except the estate is in ruins.

The house, which is a long way from being anything grand, is a mess and being inhabited by the deceased father’s last two servants. A man and a wife who are equal parts louts and lushes. The land isn’t producing. The mine is closed. And Poldark has very little money.

By the way, when we think of British aristocracy, we most often think of dances and fine clothing and large tracts of lands. We seldom think of mines. But Cornwall has been mining tin for a very long time, and so were its lords. In fact, Cornwall was known outside of the Isles anciently, and some historians suggest that Cornwall was probably selling tin to the seafaring Greeks and Phoenicians many hundreds of years B.C.

So our young and handsome lord has come home to a mess and very little money. But he immediately sets about trying to repair things. And what unfolds is a wonderful story with love, action, humor, injustice, and villains plotting Poldark’s downfall.

We loved Downton in part for the refinement and high society (and Lady Grantham’s hilarious one-liners). However, Poldark isn’t about the top of the aristocracy. It’s about a man almost at the bottom. And many of those of the lower class who are his friends. There’s a refreshing earthiness about it even while you still have scenes of the high society and all that goes with it.

We just finished the first season and are hooked. In fact, I stood up and cheered at the end of the last episode we watched. So if you love English historicals, you’re going to enjoy Polkdark.


The humorous detective series Monk debuted in 2002 and ran for eight seasons. It was a huge hit. But because I’m a cave dweller I didn’t get to it until now. But, boy, I’m happy I did.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a treat. Monk is one of those brilliant detectives like Patrick Jane in The Mentalist or Sherlock Holmes who sees all sorts of details that so many others miss. But unlike those guys, Monk has obsessive-compulsive disorder plus a number of phobias.

And so he can’t just walk in and stun everyone with his brilliance because at any moment he might get sidetracked straightening pictures or moving lamps or trying to avoid germs. In one funny scene he’s being chased on foot by someone intent on killing him, and he can’t help but touch the poles as he runs by. However, he’s not all helpless because he’s hired a female nurse, Sharona Fleming, to help him. And the interaction between the two of them adds another enjoyable dimension.

And so you get to experience all the awe of watching someone like Sherlock solve crimes plus laugh along the way. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud during a number of episodes.

If you like The Mentalist, Elementary, or Psych, I think you’ll really enjoy Monk.


This last review is for all of you who have dragon feet.

That’s what I had until two months ago. Dry dragon feet. So dry and with such sharp and jagged calluses that I regularly wore the area on my sheets around my feet to shreds. Nellie’s side of the sheets were nice and smooth. My side, after a year or two, looked like the dog had attacked it.

The calluses were so bad I periodically sanded them off with 400 grit sandpaper.

I also got stress cracks in the winter, which I tried to heal with band-aides and Neosporin. And that worked a decade ago. But the stress cracks were just getting more frequent and longer-lasting. This last winter I had three that stayed for weeks and weeks.

And so when I went into my dermatologist for my annual skin cancer check, I asked him if there was anything to be done. He said, “Get CeraVe cream with SA, salicylic acid. It has to have SA.”

After the appointment, I promptly drove to Walmart and walked down to the cosmetic aisle and purchased a little tub of CeraVe Renewing SA Cream. And I began to use it that night, putting socks on after I applied it. I applied it every morning and night.

And, miracle of miracles, a few weeks later my feet were normal human feet again. The calluses were gone. The stress cracks gone. The pain gone. My sheets love me. My wife loves me. I’m saving money on sand paper.

Folks, if you have dragon feet and want to be human again, let me suggest CeraVe with SA.