Recent Reads: Drive – the surprising truth about what motivates us

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Daniel Pink



Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

This quick read was lent to me by someone I work with – actually someone I supervise.  (I’m just going to assume that she lent it to me because she knew that I love to read, am a life-long-learner, and that we share a mutual interest in psychology… and not that she thinks I’m a crap boss and need advice on how to motivate my team.)

For some reason, I didn’t quite latch on to Dan Pink’s writing style, but he presents a lot of valid points to reframe how we traditionally think about motivating others, which is basically systems rewards and punishments.  He challenges while such simple conditioning might work to influence routine tasks, it is actually a damaging perspective when it comes to finding motivation to do anything that requires complex thought, difficulty, or creativity.  We’re missing out on a huge component: intrinsic motivation.  Doing something for the inherent satisfaction of doing the activity itself.  Intrinsic motivation is running a marathon to explore the reaches of our physical form.  It’s creating art to express complex perspectives.  It’s volunteering time, because it serves a purpose greater than ourselves.

And yep, I am on board.  Lucky me, Dan wraps up his book with a “toolkit” of how to apply the psychology of intrinsic motivation to the real world – in personal life, at work, with kids.  So if you don’t want to read the whole thing, you can just jump straight to the back and quickly figure out “so how do I make this work for me?”  (Or, “so how do I not be a crap boss and better motivate my team.”)


Recent Reads: Weapons of Math Destruction

Weapons of Math Destruction

Cathy O’Neil

Nonfiction | Social Justice


A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life — and threaten to rip apart our social fabric

We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated.

But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.

Continue reading/purchase on Amazon

Weapons of Math Destruction turned out to be one of those books that will stick with me for a long time… shifting my lens on the world, questioning my Google search decisions, making me even more leery of click-bait articles and ads, forcing awareness of how my online behaviors subtly shape the social opportunities of those that are “like me,” contrasting with those that are not.

I read this book for the “social justice” book club I joined a few months back.  We’ve been reading a blend of genres, all somehow tied to a social justice theme (some more loosely than others).  Weapons of Math Destruction was selected by the lone biostatistician in the group.  Very fitting.  I felt somewhat anxious to start, considering the focus on “big data” was something out of my comfortable wheelhouse of expertise (or even remote knowledge).  I was nervous it’d be over my head, dry, and a chore to page through.

While it was absolutely ripe with new information, it was laid out so eloquently and with such conviction that this 218-page persuasive essay turned into an engrossing page-turner.  I read only a chapter at a time to keep my mind in the game, but it took me a brief week to get through it all.

I found myself gasping outloud, furious with new enlightenment on how algorithms have widened the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”  I felt like I was back in my undergrad sociology classes, just rife with anger and frustration with the powers outside of my control.  I kept on bringing this book up in conversation the moment I saw any sort of connection to the content.  (“Oh, you went to college?  Well let me tell you how big data has completely screwed full populations out of equal education and is forcing them into lives of joblessness, loan defaults, and a cruel cycle of despair!”  ….what, too much?)

Early on in the book, Cathy O’Neil describes her definition of “Weapons of Math Destruction” (or WMDs).  They are mathematical models and algorithms that (as most mathematical models) use proxies to stand in for qualitative information (such as a person’s zip code or language to stand in for their potential to pay back a loan or handle a job.) Now, mathematical models are not inherently evil.  Look at baseball statistics.  Totally legit. The difference is that WMDs are discriminatory, lacks any feedback loop, is opaque to the impacted person, and is scalable… it grows to hit mass populations.

I’ve tried summarizing one of her arguments in a short and digestible format, but it honestly won’t do it justice here. Just pick up the book – pick up one chapter – and read through her insights.  She’ll make you question your assumptions, and force you to look at the injustices woven through our systems.

Go get mad.

Accolades include…

  • The Guardian, Best Books of 2016
  • Boston Globe, Best Books of 2016, Non-Fiction
  • New York Times, 100 Notable Books of 2016 (Non-Fiction)
  • New York Times, Best Seller
  • Long listed for the National Book Award
  • Goodreads reviews available here.

Recent Reads: Me Before You

So… I’m a bit behind posting my “Recent Reads.”  But I did consume a handful of pretty good ones over the past couple months.  In an effort to pass on those good reads, I’ll post a book every other Friday to catch up.  Total transparency: the reviews will be pretty brief, but I hope you find a gem to add to your own library.

Up first:


Me Before You

JoJo Moyes


Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

I’d say Me Before You is a perfect beach read, book club, or chic-lit option.  Sucks you in with easy prose – amusing characters – some sexual tension – terrible tragedies.  While I didn’t cry while reading this book, I know many that had.  But believe you me – I was absolutely ugly-crying when I saw the movie in the theater.   (Thanks to the “Mother of Dragons,” Emilia Clarke and the musical stylings of X Ambassadors.  I could just not control myself.  Embarrassing.)

The sequel, After You, got fair reviews, as well – hoping to add that one to my library soon.

2017 – The Year of the Rested

Stay rested, my friends.

Original Post: Richards, Carl. “Let 2017 Be The Year of Working Hard and Resting Hard.” The New York Times, 19 Dec 2016. 

Let 2017 Be the Year of Working Hard and Resting Hard.

I’m tired — really tired — and I’m tired of being tired. In fact, it feels like I’ve been tired ever since I read Andrew Grove’s book “Only the Paranoid Survive” a decade and a half ago.

That book was the beginning of a sea change in my thinking about work, business, hustling and survival itself — so much so that I’ve been working like a fanatic ever since.

Up at 5 in the morning? Tried it! Daily workouts? Yep. Paleo, bulletproof, gluten-free, cold showers? Check. Build a business, start a side hustle, dominate Twitter, Instagram and Facebook? Yeah, all that too! Make my family a priority? Of course. Serve in my community? Definitely.

For 5,478 days, I’ve been hitting repeat, and it’s killing me.

I know I’m not alone. The last 10 years have felt like the #CrushIt decade. Every time you turn around, somebody is crushing something. Gary Vaynerchuk wrote the book on it, and according to him, people “need to work harder. And faster. There’s really nothing else to it. I’m exhausted every day, but I’m making all sorts of things happen in my 18 hours.”

Carl’s Confession

The Sketch Guy, on resolving to rest more in 2017.

He added, “And I’m prioritizing what’s important and what’s not.”

So, there we have it. We can add “exhausted” to words like “cynical” and “busy” that we wear as badges of honor. As crazy as it all sounds, I have to admit to having believed it. A part of me in some dark corner of my mind whispers: “This is all true, Carl. If you don’t keep hustling, you’ll end up falling behind, and no one will listen to you. Ever. Again. Then, you’ll just be another failure, left to crawl under a rock, cold and alone to die!”

But since I’ve appointed myself King of Permission Granting, I hereby grant everyone the permission to declare the #CrushIt decade finished. January 2017 will be the official start of the “Work Hard, Rest Hard” decade. We are going to hustle, sure. But we’re also going to rest. In fact, we’re going to be as good at resting as we are at crushing things.

We’re going to become pros at turning off social media, getting great sleep, working less and living more.

We’re going to make being rested cool. We’re going to write about, share and celebrate people like Jason Fried, who switched his company to a four-day workweek during the summer. Then, when people ask how you’re doing, you can say, “Sit down. Let’s talk about it for a minute, because I have time for you, my friend.” At minimum, you should be able to answer, “Rested, and how are you?”

I know this sounds like crazy talk, but we can do it. Make it a priority to be human again — to work hard and to rest hard without buying into the idea that we’ll fail at life if we rest.

And please send me your stories of how you plan to make the switch to


Adieu, 2016. Salut, 2017.

Inspired by Gala Darling’s au revior to 2016, let’s say our final goodbye’s to 2016, and welcome 2017 with some visual meanderings.

Here’s my lookback on the past year, and intentions for the next.

My biggest inspiration in 2016 started something like this:


But to be honest, 2016 actually looked a lot like this:


So adieu 2016!  And let’s march on to 2017, where my vibe is going to be more like:


And I’ll show more of my authentic self, which is something like:


When I’m feeling unsure, I’ll remember to channel…


…with a little bit of


I’ll spend more time doing:


And I’ll take care of myself by:


So that at the end of 2017, I feel like:


Onward, 2017.  Here we go.

Self-Care: How to Take Care of Yourself When You Have Depression | The Mighty

A woman with depression explains what no one tells you when they tell you to practice “self-care.”

Source: Self-Care: How to Take Care of Yourself When You Have Depression | The Mighty


In social work, “self-care” is one of those terms that is so overused, it has ceased to mean anything. Typically when self-care is referenced, the speaker is referring to activities and experiences that bring you pleasure. “The work in this field is really tough. You have to practice self-care. Go to a yoga class. Take a walk on a sunny day. Protect your leisure time. Get a mani-pedi. Soak in a bubble bath. Treat yo’self.”

Pleasure is great, and it is important. During seasons when I am depressed, I force myself to indulge in pleasure as though it were a lifeline, because it is. Most likely, there is actual theory and clinical principles behind this, but I’m no clinician, so I can’t speak to that. Here’s my interpretation: feeling bad all day, every day, is exhausting. It’s not good for your body, or your heart, or your psyche. So when I reach day 3 of feeling sad and terrible, I force-feed myself pleasure, even though depression sucks all desire for fun and pleasure out of you. For me it feels similar to the way you might force yourself to eat a salad because you know it’s good for you, even though you may fucking hate eating salads. (I am doing that right now, by the way – eating a fucking salad. It is picture perfect, with local lettuce and beets, tomatoes, dried cranberries, with a lemon-balsamic vinaigrette. I hate it. I’m eating it anyway.)

I thought I was doing this self-care thing the right way until November when it became obvious I was not. Yes, sometimes self-care looks like pleasurable activities, and in such cases, it is not so hard for me to get myself to do it. But if that were all that self-care entailed, I would not have found myself in the place I am in. I’ve been doing that kind of self-care for years with insufficient gains, so this leads me to believe my self-care regimen was incomplete.

What social workers and other people don’t often tell you is that self-care can be completely terrible.Self-care includes a lot of adult-ing, and activities you want to put off indefinitely. Self-care sometimes means making tough decisions which you fear others will judge. Self-care involves asking for help; it involves vulnerability; it involves being painfully honest with yourself and your loved ones about what you need.

I am reconstructing my ideas about what it means to take radically good care of myself. I am making it a priority, to the detriment of other priorities, because I have to come the realization that my life depends on it. I will tell the truth about my present self-care, even though I have zero assurances I am getting it right. Because a) getting it right is not the point (but God, do I love to get things right), and b) the other thing nobody tells you about self-care is that it’s nearly impossible to know if you’re doing it right, until months later when you either find yourself feeling better or shittier. Check in with me in June for an addendum.


Medical self-care is completely unglamorous. Is there anyone on the planet who enjoys going to the dentist? If I go to the dentist once every three years, I’m doing really well. Self-care is paper-gowned, bare-assed vulnerability, as you do the un-fun work of showing up for your Pap smear, mammogram, or enema. Medical self-care is particularly difficult for me when I am depressed and anxious. The depressive part of my brain doesn’t care if I’m sick because it can’t care about anything. The anxious part of my brain doesn’t want to make the doctor’s appointment because what if something is wrong, and what if the nurse is mean, and what if the doctor commits a microaggression, and what if I have to go to doctor’s appointments by myself for the rest of my life because I never find a partner? I’m almost 30, and I can no longer indulge the myth that I am invincible and I will never have physical health issues. Right now, self-care means getting the medical care I need, even if it is difficult and scary for me to accept I am a person who sometimes needs medical care.


In the past year, I have just been quitting shit left and right. Marathons. Jobs. Pet ownership. I hate quitting so much, I can’t even tell you. For a Type-A perfectionist who has always based my self-worth in my accomplishments and being perceived as a capable, self-reliant person, admitting I’m not well enough to do something, like work a full time job, is one of the most painful realities I can imagine. People talk about setting boundaries and avoiding over commitment as though it’s fun. That shit ain’t fun. It is not fun to sit in the office of your work supervisor and explain why you keep calling out sick. It is even less fun to finally suck it up and leave a job because you’re not well enough to work full time, even if you think you ought to be. Even if I have been before, I am not now, and self-care means being honest with myself and other people about that.

The painful self-care I am doing now is coming to terms with the fact that I have built my life around performing only the best parts of myself for other people, or performing for myself to project an image of who I would like to be. And it’s time to quit that shit. I hate it. I feel weak and lazy and dramatic and irresponsible. But I know deep down I am not any of those things, and regardless, it is the self-care I need to do. I can hate it and do it anyway. And maybe tomorrow, I’ll hate it a little bit less. And next week, I’ll hate it less still.


In my experience, people talk about reaching out for help as though it is cathartic and will always be well received. The truth is it is scary and uncomfortable, and until you’ve done it, you have no assurance about how people will react. You would think it would be easier if you have strong loving relationships with your friends and family, but I am lucky enough to have all of that, and I still find asking for help completely terrifying and painful and shameful, even though it ought not be any of those things. Having loving parents means I worry about causing alarm. And if the people who love you are empathic people who pour intention into your relationship, it can feel really scary to let them into the dark places of your life, and own up to feelings of deep sadness or suicidal thoughts. For me, a person who is driven to please and to perform, and who has immensely loving friends and family, being honest about my depression causes a unique anxiety – fear that I will say, “I don’t want to live,” and people will hear, “your love is insufficient, and so insignificant to me that I’m willing to leave you.” This line of thinking binds me into a false choice between my pain and someone else’s: if I am honest about my pain, I will cause pain for the people I love; therefore asking for help is a bad choice. No. Reaching out has been necessary, and now that I’m on the other side of it, I’m glad I did, but it took a lot to overcome that line of thinking, and it certainly was not the pleasurable type of self-care.

Also, maybe there are some people in this world who have the ability to ask for help in a graceful and appropriate way. However, I do not possess that trait. My efforts at reaching out and asking for help have fallen in the center of an unattractive Venn diagram, the circles of which include a) clumsiness, b) histrionics, and c) mild disregard for other people’s needs and perspective. Asking for help is difficult on a good day, so when you’ve waited until you are the worst version of yourself before you try to do it, it’s not a pretty picture. You’ve gotta do it anyway, because self-care; it’s totally shitty.


I believe there’s usually a lot of ugly shit at the root of our depression. Yes, it is a medical and physiological disorder, and I’m trying to unpack the stigma I didn’t know I had toward depression. But mental disorders and illness are never as simple as, “here, you need more of this chemical between your neurons.” Underneath the physiological processes, there is usually a ton of FOO (Family Of Origin) issues, some maladaptive coping, and some cognitive distortions surrounding your identity and your relationship to other people. Recovering from depression means confronting some of that shit and working through some it. (I say some, because baby steps.) Recovery means hard, honest conversations with your loved ones about what you need, and what you don’t need. It also means doing your best to love and support the people who are loving and supporting you, at the very least on your good days. Unfortunately, experiencing a major depressive episode does not suddenly make you the center of everyone’s universe or give you permission to be an asshole. Taking care of your relationships when you’re depressed or anxious can be hard. Not always, but sometimes. I am finding the only way to do this is through open, honest, direct communication. I am stumbling through it, and I am lucky enough to have people who are willing to stumble inelegantly along with me.


Pay your bills. Plain and simple. It’s necessary if one wants to continue living indoors. I can only speak for myself, so I’ll say that financial responsibility is really hard for me when I’m anxious or depressed. I don’t want to log in to my bank account because I’m afraid of judging myself for seeing how much money I’ve spent on eating out because cooking meals at home is too overwhelming a task. I’m forgetful and have trouble focusing, which means utility bills get paid at the last minute, and vehicle oil changes get done 1000 miles too late. Even though these things are hard to do when I’m depressed, I have to find ways to make them happen, even if it means asking for help or reminders.


If you’re doing these un-fun aspects of self-care, I’m proud of you. If you’re doing them, and you are sick, mentally or physically, or if you in a tough spot in whatever way in your life, I’m really, really proud of you because it’s not easy to do. If you’re not doing all of them, or you’re struggling in asking for help, or you’re struggling in quitting something you need to leave behind, I believe in you. It’s not fun or easy,and you can do it anyway.

Follow this journey on Each Little Spark.

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24 Things Women Over 30 Should Wear

Yes Please! Rock your beautiful self!

Warning:Curves Ahead

This morning, as I was perusing my Facebook timeline, I happened upon an article that a lovely friend shared. It was entitled “24 Things Women Should Stop Wearing After Age 30”, and it triggered Maximum Eye-Rolling from everyone who took the time out to read it.

Written by Kallie Provencher for, this “article” (I use the term loosely) highlighted things such as “leopard print”, “graphic tees”, and “short dresses” (because “By this age, women should know it’s always better to leave something to the imagination”). Kallie, it seems, has a number of opinions on what women over 30 should and shouldn’t be doing, having also penned “30 Things Women Over 30 Shouldn’t Own” and “20 Pictures Women Over 30 Need To Stop Posting Online”. (What is this magical post-30 land where women are suddenly not allowed to do or own so many things?!)

Motivated by Kallie’s “article”, I decided to…

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