The Unspoken Code by Marja Norris – book review

Secret handshake. Good Ole Boys Club. Neither has anything over the network of women you will identify with in this book, The Unspoken Code. What I appreciated most about reading Marja Norris’ book was her way of making her points with no hint of poor attitude. Early in the book Norris describes what she calls the unspoken code. “The code is about understanding the behaviors that differentiate power players from the rest of the pack. It’s about exuding confidence from the inside out. It’s about building assertiveness and flexing communication skills and conveying a professional image.” If that sounds on par with jumping hurdles, that’s why this book was written. Marja Norris will be your coach while you learn your way through the process of aiming high and achieving higher. You won’t read a chapter and move on. This author understands the power of commitment and sums up every chapter with a list of Things to Remember and a Plan of Action. As a result of what you learned, what will you stop doing? What will you start doing? And we all know some of what we do is already beneficial so – what will you continue doing?

The Unspoken Code flows. By that I mean the author feeds her readers what they need to know and what they need to practice before moving on to the next thing. For example, she doesn’t bait you with becoming a power player until she directs your thoughts and actions to first laying the foundation.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Let’s start with the ABCs. Attitude, Behavior, Confidence

We could easily succumb to pressures around us and give up on choosing a positive attitude. Granted some folks are more naturally positive while others lean heavily to the negative. Still we choose our attitudes and we choose our reactions. Norris offers an excellent visualization exercise for creating a winning attitude. The truth is, “No matter what your circumstances, your attitude is a choice you make that affects everything you do.” Dovetailing with attitude is behavior which is a full cycle version of action, interaction, reaction. What does success look like? It looks a lot like good behavior: discipline, integrity, kindness, conquering fear. This leads directly in to confidence. “Confidence is being conscious of your power.” The author shares advice for overcoming Imposter Syndrome and an exercise in Creating an Aura of Confidence.  

Her chapter titled The Hole in Your Glass is Leaking intrigued me. You will instantly relate to the analogy when you read the chapter. We hold a glass in our hand with 6 holes, each representing an area of our life. Water fills the glass and no matter how hard we try, we cannot hold the glass in a way that keeps all holes covered. One is always leaking. The meaning threaded through this chapter is about living our life around our values even though we must choose to tend to one area rather than another as we scramble to multi-task. Learn about yourself as you also create a Master List based on techniques that work best for you. Remember the focus of this book is on helping you become who you want to be and have the life you want to have. It is not selfish to take care of you first. To be the best version of you, make self-care a priority.

Becoming an Office Power Player

You will learn in this section of the book, what the author experienced herself and learned from her business coach and from others. Immediately, we discover that men and women are wired differently. This means we think differently and see things from different perspectives. But here’s an absolute truth. “Despite our differences, men and women must work together effectively in the corporate world to get things done.” By the word ‘different’ we know that what starts out as differences can escalate into conflict, hard feelings, maybe a few grudges, a little gossip. Nothing good can come of that, certainly not the productive, power player that will grow your leadership and earn you a C-Suite position. Norris levels with women, “As women, to know this [differences] and understand that it’s about us shifting to fit the environment, in a healthy way is imperative.”

Dress the Part

I’m not a fashionista. Maybe you aren’t either. Whether you’ve got fashion nailed or not, the final chapters of the book are a powerhouse of tips, hints, and rules for how to dress up or dress down for the occasion. There really is a power look and even if there is no dress code, there are proper ways to dress. The author reminds women that they need to be conscious of what they are trying to achieve, what image they are portraying, and what motivates them to choose the outfits they wear. If you think the business suit has to be straight, navy blue, and unadorned, think again. Marja Norris says you can mix your personal style, fashion, and flare into your wardrobe, and this chapter on how to dress the part has strategies to help you attain the power suit look that looks like it was made for you.

“The code has gone unspoken long enough. You now have tools to handle situations you come across with strength and perseverance.”

–Marja Norris

This article first appeared on BizCatalyst360 in BizBooks.

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Quarter-Life Calling: How to find your sweet spot . . . by Paul Sohn – book review

I read this book by Paul Sohn with great expectations because I have been reading his blog for a couple years. As a retired grandmother, I am not a likely candidate to read Quarter-Life Calling – or am I? The truth is, I’m in the 3rd Quarter of my life, not the 1st but the more I read page after page of this book, the more relevant it became. Regardless of age, living the life God desires for us is living in our own sweet spot.quarter life calling book cover

The conflict between contentment and comparison is not age or gender specific. Paul tells of how he aspired to the C-Suite, working to exhaustion, giving his all for the American Dream. Instead God revealed to him that by pursuing his dream of being “the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company, Paul was believing a lie, destined to living without meaning and never find fulfillment.

With his dream of being the youngest CEO within his grasp, Paul realized the world was shouting, “Pursue your passion. Dream big” but God was quietly speaking to him about pursuing a relationship with him. Instead of dreaming big, his Creator wanted Paul to surrender his dreams to the Lord of his life, who is the only one qualified to define and fulfill a dream.

This book is more than a personal story of redemption, dedication, surrender and stewardship. There is a chapter for every aspect of living a life dedicated to the Creator of life. What is whole life stewardship? How do you transition from the twenty something life that feels like twenty nothing? You are God’s Masterpiece. How do you find your identity in Christ and shed the experiences of the past that no longer serve you? Is it your calling or is it your gift? Why can you live out your spiritual calling in a secular vocation? What does God say about your work and relationship to him? The only way to live in our sweet spot is to live in God’s presence. This is what you will learn in Quarter-Life Calling, How to Find your Sweet Spot.

This is your book. It will be life changing if you read with an open heart and prayerful spirit. Honestly answer the questions aimed at how you apply the principles of each chapter. Reflect, journal, act, and develop your relationship with your Creator whose love for you is so deep, he planned your life before you were born. Use this book to get to know God. Use this book to get to know yourself. Use this book to live in your sweet spot.

Buy the book at Amazon January 18th. Quarter Life Calling

 

What-if?

I was reading a post by a young woman of 17 who I consider wise beyond her years, when she asked a valid question.  Although very young she was through high school and had already taken college classes.  She was contemplating very honestly:  What will I do with my life?  That struck me because as I approach the twilight of my career, I look back to the days many years ago when I first began to question my destiny.  I still sometimes wonder, what will I do with the remaining years of my life.  How can I make a difference?  I’m only one person.  Ah – but this is the key.  What God wants from me is to just show up even if the path isn’t clearly marked, even though I’m dragging my feet and am confused about what’s out there.  God requires only that I seek Him and just show up for the next 60 seconds, 1 hour, 1 day, in a week, a month …. and put my complete trust in Him.

We fret, especially when we’re full of anticipation and throw open the gate to possibility we are overwhelmed by what we should do with our future. Really? We’ve all had these ‘what-if’ fears.  What if I make a mistake, what happens to my future then? We all have to remember that we have this one moment, this one day.  It’s all anyone has. If we seek God on a day by day basis and walk with him just that day – then the next – then the next, that becomes our future and it takes care of itself….  We need to seek God ask His wisdom in every decision and then follow it.  God will lead us and enable us to do and be exactly what He wants us to be. He created each of us and gave us purpose.  He knows our strengths, our ambitions, and what our interests are. Choices will always be difficult and overwhelming.  That’s why it’s so important to invite God into the cafeteria of our lives and let Him point out the best for each of us.  I have made some pretty dumb decisions in my life and when I look back at where I took a wrong turn, I can see that it was when I said, “Look God.  I’ve got this one”.

I pray the blessing of God in your life and that we all realize we all have what we need to thrive and be what we were intended to be.  First we have to just show up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c–GtojoyYQ&feature=g-all-u

What’s in your decision?

I have a decision to make; an expensive decision. Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’re in the middle of one now. Every night, I read myself to sleep. I think it’s a latent childhood routine that’s morphed into dependency. What goes into my mind comes out in action, so the last thing I read at night is not the news! Overnight whatever words I read germinate in my sleep so my first thoughts of the day are positive and compelling. Step into the first light with me this morning.

I have a decision to make; an expensive decision. I thought I had settled on the answer – until yesterday. And now, here I am in a dilemma. Are you curious? I know. I’m curious too, and it’s going to be an interesting adventure through the decision maze. On Monday I alluded to a maze and how advantageous it would be to work backward through it. Now is one of those times. Let’s start at the beginning – the back story of this quandary. In 1990 I was working at an organization where new technology was introduced on a regular basis; a virtual Mecca for an information junkie like me. I took an online course – and from then on I was hooked. Since that time I have centered my career immersed in writing instructions, procedures, how-tos, and technical stuff that nobody wants to read. Years have passed, and I still want to write, but I want to create material for online audiences of all ages from toddlers to adults. To do that I need three things.

1) God’s seal of approval – John 6:27 says “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

2) Software – to create and transform material into courseware – I need wisdom to make the right decision. Haven’t we all read Proverbs 3:7 that says “Be not wise in your own eyes …”? But I got a kick out of reading Romans 12 in the New Living Translation when I got to the end of Romans 12:16 “…And don’t think you know it all!” Oh brother! Come on – I don’t know it all . . . and to make this decision I have asked experts for their recommendations. I have the knowledge – now I need the wisdom. When I woke up this morning, God challenged me with this realization. “Have you really prayed about this, Jane? Have you dedicated this decision to Me and trust me to reveal it – on time – My time?”

3) Clients – who will trust me to transform their written material into online courses. This is definitely a yet-to-come adventure. So far I have zero clients and zero prospects, but that can change in a heartbeat. Do you know how I know? Because Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” I take James 4:3 seriously. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives…” and to guard against wrong motives, I know I have to practice Psalm 115:11 “You who fear him, trust in the Lord— he is their help and shield.” And if none of this works out, I’m Ok with that too. Because my ultimate goal is to live my life to honor and please God. Isaiah 46:11 confirms this “What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.”

Jeremiah 29:11 is the packaging for a victorious outlook on life. Don’t leave home without this truth trailing you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Today, do you have a decision to make? Have you, like me, searched for wise counsel but haven’t really dedicated the decision to the one who holds the results in his hands? Be wise. Give the decision to the God who can make a difference. Proverbs 24:14 “Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.”

What are you working toward?

I still remember this from when I was around the age of 9.  I was on the floor in our living room playing jacks and my dad was talking to some teens from the youth group of our church where he was the pastor. It was graduation time and the topics all turned to ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ The draft was still active back then, which meant many young men exchanged their career choice with compulsory military service. There were also fewer career options, but the decisions were made with no less deliberation.  One of the kids was lamenting “… I want to be a veterinarian but that would take me 8 whole years of my life.”  To a nine year old tossing a ball up and down while swiping jacks into her palm, that sounded sensible, but not to my dad. His impressionable remark, “You’re going to live those years anyway, you might as well be working toward something you really want to do.” I don’t remember the rest of the story, whether that kid grew to be a veterinarian or if they lived a fulfilling life. I know that the advice still makes sense to anyone who has aspirations to do something they are passionate about.

I always get a kick out of hearing someone tell a young person, “You have your whole life ahead of you.”  Well, duh! Don’t we all still have our whole life ahead of us?  Some of us have a smaller part of the whole ahead, but seriously – let me make this clear – You still have your whole life ahead of you.

Taken out of context, but here’s something from John 9:4 that says, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.”  As long as it is day – maybe that means there is something we all can do during the hours we aren’t sleeping. We all have the same amount of time, but we are all unique in how we use it. Even for the retired, there is opportunity. Let’s keep it simple. Live through the day acting out the words in Colossians 4:5-6 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  The answer is ‘Just be kind. Think before speaking. Consider the consequences of that act.’

I’ve heard people say you aren’t supposed to enjoy work; that’s why they call it work.  Um that would be a false statement. Ecclesiastes 3:22 gives us permission to enjoy the work we choose. “So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot..”  And what about the verse in Deuteronomy 2:7 which points out that our work is a blessing?  “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”  Now I realize these 40 years are not the same as a chosen career – but add it up. If you choose a career at age 18 and start working in your field at age 24 or 25 – add 40 years.  I rest my case.  And no, I don’t believe age 65 for retirement was intentionally set based on the 40 years of desert wandering.

Some of us have plans to never retire, but to live out our purpose in some capacity until the air we breathe is celestial.  Here are words to aspire to whether you are age 9 or 9, read from the Message translation of Philippians 2:1-4. “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

Reading, Writing, and that’s about it …

About forty years ago a friend and I were engrossed in conversation and the topic of books came up. Being a voracious reader, I started rattling off all the books I’d been reading and all the ones stacked up that I planned to read and she floored me with one statement. “I only read the Bible.” What?!?! How can you only read the Bible? How will you learn anything?  At the time, I was a stay at home mom, with ambitions to read as many books as I could and learn as much as possible so I could make a difference. I rarely read a novel because they wouldn’t make me smarter.  Of course, I was wrong about that.  I’ve since concluded that well-researched novels, can certainly add knowledge to what I know.

At the time, I remember I was reading books like ‘Lord, Change Me’ – it didn’t change me.  I was reading ‘How to Talk With Practically Anyone About Practically Anything’.  Hmmm…..I still don’t work a crowd like a marketing pro – it didn’t change me.  I read ‘The Power of a Praying Wife’ – I didn’t practice it. I read ‘How to Win Friends and Influence Others’ – I have a lot of friends, but I didn’t win them because I followed the formula in that book.  Through the years I have read hundreds of books – some authentically valuable. Many of them gave me survival tips that helped me through some complicated situations.

To be effective, I can’t just read and forget, I have to put wise words into practice.  Look at a few of the Psalms with me.  Psalm 85:8 I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants and what about Psalm 86:2 that says Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God.

I need to know that God is guarding my life and strengthening my foundation.  Anxiety can so easily sneak in and start causing me to doubt myself and be fearful. Psalm 86:11 is the cure for anxiety.  Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I am still a voracious reader – and 90% of what I read is intended to make me smarter. If I could define my perfect career, I would spend all day reading books, researching articles, and contributing to the success of the authors by giving them feedback and encouraging them by promoting all the good points of what they’ve written.  I know – I hear you.  That’s not a paying job.  OK – but I enjoy the whole process of reading, thinking, and I love writing and journaling.  Most of all I love to be the encourager.

This is what I’ve come to realize though. My friend was right way back in the early 70s. In all the reading I do, my foundation has to be the Word of God. Without it, I would be living in an anxiety factory. Life is uncertain and uncertainty breeds anxiety. Reading the Bible first and running to the words of the Father instead of the words of man, no matter how truthful they are, is the path to being free of anxiety. But reading the Word is only the first step.  Matthew 7:24-28 (NIV) “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

Let’s encourage each other to build our foundation on the truth – so we can discern the other books we should be reading to help us be effective in whatever tasks are before us.  And while we’re at it – let’s practice, peaceful living.  Philippians 4:9  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZvZWUZFevI