Category: Books



Data Visualizations

Last night, as I do many evenings, I was scrolling through the latest news feeds on Facebook. The thing I love about getting my news this way is that there is usually some nugget of information that I wouldn’t find any other way on the internet. This is the beauty of a having a community such as Facebook, that delivers a of “sort-of” like-minded group of people that can expose you to new ideas and concepts.

Anyway, back to my Tuesday evening scrolling. First I saw this little article about when people break up in relationships, based upon status updates on Facebook. Interesting, but what intrigured me was the graph. How did they figure this out? Turns out it was David McCandless, a brilliant statistician, designer and communicator.

So I followed the link to the actual TED talk .This is brilliant. What I enjoy so much about this approach to data information is how intuitive the final results are. When you see the data expressed in a visual image or picture, all the confusing data processing in the brain settles down and the answer or result is self-explanatory.

My brain has worked in pictures and images for a long time. Pretty much anytime I am working with a business owner about their strategy and vision, when I look at my notes later, a mind-map has emerged. I don’t even mean to do it, it is just how my brain takes in information and transforms it into a plan. Timelines are another favorite device of mine, often just drawing a line, some small hashmarks to represent the intervening months and I have a clear pathway of what needs to happen when and by whom, in what order, and viola, the project plan is underway!

So getting back to this TED Talk, which I highly recommend you view or take a look at David’s website. I believe the benefit of adding more information/data into the picture creates the compelling argument necessary for pursuading a larger audience than perhaps the small business owner in front of you. By crafting a single image or comparison of potential results without much explanation does the important job of moving the vision forward. Provided of course, that your graph/image/visualization is answering the right question for you.

A friend and her out-of-town friend came to pick me up for the movie, Eat, Pray, Love. After we had made it throught the introductions, my new friend started to drive away, paused, looked both ways and said “I know where I am, but I don’t know where I am going.” Wow! Yoga in action!

I can’t tell you how many times have I thought that same thing. I can tell you that many of my clients have expressed these thoughts to me, whether they used those words or other phrases. It is easy to know where we are, we can take inventory of our lives and see what is working and not working. But it is hard to figure out where we are going or should be going.

This ties back into my Think and Grow Rich readings. I have now read the book three times. Each time, the missing links get a little clearer. What I have come to realize is that without the “burning desire”, aka “where I am going,” all the plans and wishes in the world aren’t worth much. What is also coming to the surface is that my burning desire has always been to help others fuel their burning desires. So I now realize that it isn’t that I do not have a burning desire, but that my instinctive habit of providing service to my friends, family and clients to help them achieve their vision has always ended up substituting itself for my “burning desire”. Or perhaps, more likely, I just didn’t recognize that the desire to help others achieve their goals was my “burning desire”.

I know where I am, AND I know where I am going! So satisfying and exciting!

Big Vision, New Energy!

A slow summer is a mixed blessing. While my clients have enjoyed the beach all summer, I’ve been hiding out from the heat with a pile of motivational books that have inspired all kinds of new ideas.  One outcome of all this reading is a decision to refocus my energy on my coaching business – The Essential Path, in addition to my teaching and management activities at EVOLVE Movement.  This is a direct result of re-reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich (the 21st Century Updated Edition).  If you saw or read The Secret, you are already at least vaguely aware of Hill’s premise and direction.    Napolean Hill interviewed all the Titan’s of Industry in the early 20th century and from those conversations, he derived the secrets to successful entrepreneurship.  I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it is clear that there are certain traits or commonalities that generate wildly successful outcomes. The first is clearly to articulate a vision.  For most of my career, I’ve been drawn to people who have big vision. I have built a successful career out of being “the implementor”.  But I think what I am recognizing as I make my way through this updated version of T&GR, is that it is my turn to craft My Own BIG VISION and Implement with New Energy! More to come!

Wanted Alive…

I have been exploring my relationship with food, fuel, nutrition and health for a good part of my life. At some times I have embraced the labels of “foodie” and “wine brat” other times “vegetarian” and “health nut”.  As I am growing older, I’ve discovered that all fuel is not the same, sometimes I feel energized by what I eat, other times sluggish and exhausted.  It is a trial by error kind of process. I gave up caffiene (and ergo coffee) 18 months ago, when I discovered that I could barely walk the 1/2 mile return trip home after a coffee run.    My energy stabalized for awhile after that change, I don’t miss the addiction and frankly, my wallet enjoys not paying $2.50 a day for Starbucks.

Recently, my struggle has been wheat and protein.  I would love to give up meat again, but finding a protein that fuels me as well and sustains me for any period of time is difficult.  Wheat is a love/hate thing, I love the taste of a fresh, well baked baguette, but hate the next day’s results: a spare tire of puff around my middle.  I am also concerned that dairy will be next on my hit list of foods that I have to give up, I’ve noticed some sensitivity even while I still enjoy a big cup of skim milk with my homemade granola.

So, with all that in mind, I am exploring Alive vs. Dead foods.  I am hoping this will help me resolve some of these dietary struggles.  Two books I am reading: Fit for Life, Not Fat for Life (Harvey Diamond) – his ideas has been around at least since the “80’s.  You Are What You Eat (Dr. Gillian McKeith) is newer, based on a TV show I haven’t seen (UK based) and both give the same advice: 50% alive foods, no more than 50% dead foods (heated over 118 degrees).  This is expanded with the guidance to eat fruit in the morning hours, alone.  And to avoid eating both a carb and a protein in the same meal.  This allows the stomach to operate at full efficiency and conserve energy used in the digestion process.

I am taking baby steps toward this shift in fueling, yesterday was fruit until noon, but by 11:30 I was downing a dried fruit and nut bar because I was feeling dizzy and craving some protein.  I ordered a grilled shrimp (dead) and fresh salad (alive) but had foccacio bread (dead) and roasted tomatos (dead), shrimp bisque (dead) and wine (alive?) for dinner.  So maybe I made it to 40% alive yesterday? 

Today my intake of alive was not even that high, and illustrates a challenge for me in terms of how pervasive cooked foods are in my day to day.  I will have to plan better and make more changes in my dining and fueling lifestyle.  After all, this is a work in progress!

A month ago I purchased a Guided Mindfulness Meditation recorded by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  His recommendation was to start with the 45 minute Body Scan for two weeks than progress through his additional CD’s, which include two yoga sequences and a sitting meditation.  The first couple of evenings I began the body scan and would find myself asleep on  my mat (the body scan position is laying down) about an hour after I had started listening.

I decided to move my time to an earlier part of the evening and not make myself quite so comfortable.  I was able to stay present throughout the scan and feel relaxed and prepared for a good night’s sleep. I found my resulting sleep each evening to be  incredibly restful and full of dreams. After a week of the body scan ritual and the vibrant dreams each evening, I decided to keep a dream log. Each morning I wake up and immediately write everything I can remember, both events, people and feelings from the dream.

 After a couple of weeks of recording these dreams, I noticed some themes. I would often find myself teaching in massive and theatrical studios, not always Pilates, sometime Yoga (I don’t actually teach yoga) and some variations of Gyrotonic that involved more aerial than earthbound work.  I also discovered I was always “in charge” meaning that I would be involved in establishing task for other people in my dreams and following up on their efforts. My dreams have also been populated with people from my far away past, mostly high school and college pals that have recently re-emerged on Facebook and Linked In.  

I was describing my dreams to a friend and coach, Stefanie Zizzo, who encouraged me to create a dream log collage (collage is my only method for creating anything artistic) and a couple of weekends ago I spent many hours searching for images that represented both the themes and emotions I felt in my dreams.  The final project was a 15 page picture book of my dreams that resonates  more deeply each time I flip through it.  This week, I was back at Michaels craft supply store purchasing new supplies and found an even deeper vein of dreams to mine as I switched to Zinn’s Sitting Meditation CD this past week.

As intriguing as this dream world has been, I have also noticed a shift in my day to day “real world.”  I wake each morning incredibly energized and I feel released from any difficulty of the past day or week. I am more present, optimistic and creative as I approach my work, my clients and my co-workers.  I feel more in control of both my personal experience and my emotions, and  can sense a very positive response in my interactions with others.

My next CD is Mindful Yoga, which I am planning to listen and move to each morning.  This will require a shift in my routine and schedule, both of which I am expecting good things to happen as a result.  I will keep you posted.

I have been looking forward to January 1, 2009 for several weeks now. I planned to use this open day as my reset day.  A free day for me to clean,  dig out my desk, sort out email, pay my bills and cook some dishes for the week.   Looking for some background noise to keep me company, I turned on the TV, to find that WUNC had a Dr. Wayne Dyer program “The Power of Intention”.  I’ve read his book before, but hearing him talk is always inspiring.

So in addition to resetting the household, I am using the day to reset my intentions for 2009.  For me, intention means what is behind what I do? What is the reason? Why would I take that action? 

My intentions for 2009 include working from the space of service, ensuring that my time is being well used to help others.  Secondly, I want to work from a place of experience and expertise. What am I good at? What do I know? How can I share this with others?  And finally I intend to work from a place of cooperation and collaboration. How can I be adding to, not subtracting from or diminishing the value of those things that I am involved in?

So instead of thinking about your New Year’s Resolutions, perhaps you can think about your New Year’s Intention.  What is your deepest Intention?  What is the driver that moves you forward into 2009?

Happy New Year! With Intent, Susan

The Scavenger Hunt

One of my favorite things to do as a child was to visit the library.  I would scan the shelves, pick out a book that looked interesting and become immersed in another world.  I have kept that habit into adulthood and at least once a month, I make a special trip to the public library.  I scan a couple of shelves in particular, usually the new arrivals, and then I head over to the personal growth, spirituality and self-help sections.  I try not to have anything in particular in mind before I go, but instead allow intuition to take over and show me what I need.

This week I picked up a couple of very helpful books, one by Seth Godin called the dip. It was appealing because it was short, only 75 pages long and talks about a theme covered in the song lyrics “should I stay or should I go?”  It has an interesting premise, that every success story is preceded by “a dip” which is to say that if success were easy, everyone would do it, but the dip requires you to slog through discouraging results to find success. I learned the dip in marketing as the transition between the early adopter and the rest of the market being ready to step forward.  But it was helpful to remember that the more challenging and higher the barriers to entry there are in reaching a market, the fewer competitors are past the dip and available to share the winnings and the more profitable your business will be.  Now, I just need to decide if I am in a dip or a cul de sac (otherwise known as a dead end).  I am hoping it is a dip brought upon by our current economy.

Another book I found, Loving What Is by Byron Katie, sounded familiar. I remembered a friend talking about ” The Work” , but until I opened the book, I hadn’t really understood what The Work was about. I found myself moving back and forth between the book, my writing notebook and her website.  Her concept is that by asking yourself four simple questions and then making a turnaround statement, pretty much any thought can be dissected for its deeper meaning and reality. 

A quick example of something I think very often:”I should eat healthy every day or I will gain weight”

1)Is this true?  Actually not, I can eat unhealthy foods, but just eat less than 1600 calories and I probably won’t gain anything.  I can eat unhealthy foods and workout more and I should be ok.  I might not be healthy, but I may not gain weight.

2)Is this really true? (in case I wasn’t sure the first time, it is good to ask this question one more time)

3)How do I react when I think that thought?  I feel guilty, anxious, worried, distressed, overwhelmed and tired.

4)How would I feel to give up that thought?  I would feel free, happy, relaxed and optimistic.

Turnaround: I look forward to not eating healthy and not getting fat. Meaning that by letting go of this thought I can let what happens, happens and worry about what happens, when it happens.

This may have been a rudimentary example, but you can watch videos on her website where she walks people through the questions. It is fascinating to watch and see the humor that emerges when people hear their limiting thoughts and beliefs and let them go.

I still have 7 more books to read from my scavenger hunt, but thus far it seems to have been a fruitful trip to the library.

The Value of Time

I just finished reading “The Paradox of Time” and found myself intrigued by the concept of “where” in time I focus my attention.  In Paradox, you can be in the past – past positive or past negative, in the present – present hedonistic or present holistic and future – future fatalist, future trancedental or just plain old future.  According to the authors, the ideal profile is past positive, present holistic and future oriented.  Tied together with my readings from Tolle – past negative is similar to the pain body, present is now and future is similar to ego.  Heartmath would say that appreciation is similar to past positive and heart focus/heart breathing is present holistic, future would be visualization or heart intelligence.  I found it valuable to tie the different viewpoints together, to keep myself organized and clearer about which tools to use to get where I want to go.  But it explains in terms of “time” why HeartMath works and the challenges that Tolle faces in getting the world to awaken.

My personal goals after reading Paradox:

  • Focus on positive aspects of my past and how they led me to my current now.
  • Nurture the “future” and planning aspects in order to achieve and reach my purpose.
  • Differentiate between Present Holistic and Present Hedonistic in my Now.

What is your relationship with time? How do you view time? Where do you spend your “time”?  To take the survey go to and follow the survey link.

The Four Agreements

I have read Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements several times.  I’ve found myself winding back and forth between following The Four Agreements and totally forgetting they even exist.  It helps me to hold them in mind, keep them in front of me. 

1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

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