End of 2017 – 5 Favorite Books

One of my goals for 2017 was to read 20 books. It was a real struggle, and with three days left, I have read 18 books. I may get another done before the year is over, but I still feel like I missed my goal. My wife disagrees with me, as I released three books this year, she says I read and re-read each of them numerous times – so they count, right?

Regardless, I wanted to take the time to give you my top books read in 2017, listed in the order that I read them:

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein (Joshua Foer) – If you’re like me, you sometimes question whether your mind is going. I wanted to read this book with the intent of learning how to retain more knowledge. Unfortunately, this book didn’t do that. However, it did open my eyes to amazing and effective memorization techniques. I loved this book!
  2. Never Split the Difference (Chris Voss and Tahl Raz) – This book was a phenomenal read about how to properly negotiate. I learned a lot of hints that I’ve used since, and others that I can’t wait to try. It was a fun read!
  3. The Power of Starting Something Stupid (Richie Norton) – This book was an eye-opener! Many cutting edge thinkers do what is stupid, and most of them come away looking like geniuses! Important read!
  4. On the Edge (Alison Levine) – I listened to a lecture by Alison Levine, and was so impressed that I bought and read her book. It’s a book on leadership, told through the adventures of climbing Mt. Everest. In some ways, her tone is a bit silly, but the lessons she provides are important enough to learn or be reminded of.
  5. Abundance Now (Lisa Nichols) – I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching this year, and this book helped me remember how I’ve been successful in the past, and how to get there again.

Books of Note:

A Message of Hope from the Angels (Lorna Byrne) – I am a very optimistic person by nature, and this book helped reignite that optimism. I have also been doing a lot of spiritual learning, and Byrne’s angel stories were exactly what I needed to hear it the time.

Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach) – For some reason, I really struggled through this book. The concepts are great, and the lessons are spectacular. Nonetheless, I found it tough to get through. This book and The Toyota Way were the books that stalled me from achieving my goal!

Think and Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill) – Surprisingly, this book did little for me. It was written in the 1930s, and I couldn’t get past the idea that so much has changed in the time since. Yes, the basic concepts are phenomenal, and can certainly help you think and grow rich. But I felt that a lot of the steps were no longer applicable. I probably did myself a disservice by not opening my mind to these ideas.

The Toyota Way (Jeffrey Liker) – I read this book because I was hoping to get a job at Blue Cross Blue Shield that required the person in the role to be Six Sigma certified within a year. This book was highly recommended in the Udemy class I took on Lean/Six Sigma. And boy, did I struggle with this book! I already understood most of the concepts, and agree with them, but for some reason, this book took me 11 months to read! Ugh!

Alright, that’s the list for now! What is on my reading list for 2018, you ask? well, my reading list has over 100 books, and I keep adding to it faster than I can take books off it! And because I plan to have more of a life in 2018, my reading goal will be a mere five books. I expect to have closer to 10, but five is my minimum.

Happy 2018, y’all!

A Moment Alone on Christmas Night

I stood in the dark,

Snow lightly landing on, and around me.

My face was chilled, my nose ran from the cold air.

It was quiet. Calm. Silent. Holy.

I felt as if I was surrounded by family and friends.

Without intent, memories of Christmas past hit me full force.

Time with those I love and loved.

Time with those who have always been in my heart.

I smiled with the glow of beautiful remembrances.

I looked to the sky to say thanks – and a shooting star raced across the sky.

I wondered for a moment if it was Santa,

But decided that it was a small miracle instead.

I started walking towards town, the lights aglow.

The promise of warmth and love lies ahead.

A Holiday Tradition

In 1992, I was out of work and broke as a joke drinking Coke. At Christmas, I relied on my God-given talents, and wrote a poem, which I included in everyone’s Christmas card. This would be their present from me.

The tradition has continued since. As a special treat to my loyal readers, I thought I’d share the story I wrote for the 2001 Christmas card:

The Christmas Dream

I was riding my bike in Alaska,

And stopped at North Pole.

I spoke to Santa, and Mrs. Claus fed me homemade chocolate chip cookies.

The dream was so real that I could still smell the cookies.

Then I heard it again… the sound of faint whispering coming from elsewhere in the house.

I stepped into my fuzzy bunny slippers and pulled on my robe.

I reached for the baseball bat in the closet and leaped into the hallway.

Down the hall, the warm glow of twinkling Christmas tree lights bounced along the walls…

But didn’t I turn off the lights before I went to bed?

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I remembered that it was Christmas morning –

ANYTHING COULD HAPPEN!

My heart began to race, and adrenaline pumped through my veins as I peeked around the corner into the living room.

There was a quick flash of light, did I see…?!?! Nah! Couldn’t be!

Convinced that I was seeing things, I got back to business.

I cocked the baseball bat on my shoulder, ready to give any intruder a surprise.

My breath came in short bursts, and I listened intently to the silence –

After checking the doors and windows, I slowly caught my breath.

I opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade.

Hey… didn’t Santa offer me Gatorade in my dream?

I plopped down on the couch and rested my fuzzy bunny feet on the coffee table.

Looking at the Christmas tree, I became mesmerized by the blinking lights.

My eyes grew heavy, but snapped open, as I became very aware that something was different.

In the corner, partially hidden by the lighted tree, was a brightly wrapped box with a large red bow on top.

I stood up and glanced briefly into the kitchen…

Hey, is that a plate of cookies?

I walked curiously to the kitchen table.

Sure enough, there was a paper plate of cookies wrapped in plastic wrap.

Sticking out from underneath the plate of cookies was an envelope.

Gingerly, I slid the envelope from under the plate.

In thick letters, that could be mistaken for my mom’s writing, was written my name.

“Dear Matt,” the letter inside began,

“It was most wonderful meeting you last year in North Pole.

We kept tabs on you in Montana this year, and although you had knee problems, we were encouraged that you were able to help others have a terrific experience!”

I was frozen with disbelief, but continued reading:

“Here is a plate of chocolate chip cookies. I remember that you were very fond of them.

“I hope you and you family have a most magical Christmas, and your wonderful friends as well!”

It was signed:

“Mrs. Claus”

“Ho-lee shhhh…” I muttered.

I ripped the plastic wrap from the cookies. Unbelievably, they were still warm!!!

I sank my teeth into the delicious treat and turned my attention back to the box in the living room.

I kneeled down next to the box, which was nearly two-feet tall.

“To Matt”, the label on top said,

“From Santa”.

As I moved the box closer to me, I noticed it was nearly weightless.

I sat down cross-legged, smiling like a kid,

And tore at the big red bow and brightly colored paper.

I pulled open the box and eagerly reached inside.

There was a picture.

In the light of the Christmas tree, I recognized the picture from last Christmas Eve.

I smiled, remembering how amazing Christmas seemed last year.

I set down the photo and reached back into the box.

There was another picture, circa mid 1990’s.

Again, I happily relived warm Christmas thoughts.

I reached into the box again and again.

Each time, there was a single photograph,

And each photograph triggered another beautiful Christmas memory.

Near tears now, having gone through Christmas pictures that spanned my entire life,

I again reached into the box.

This time, I pulled out a card.

It read:

“May the happy memories of Christmases past

Fill your pores with the true spirit of Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Love, Santa”

When my tears finally abated, I awoke my sleeping legs.

To my amazement, the photos had disappeared,

But the card remained in my grip.

The clock struck 6am.

I placed the card on the kitchen table next to the cookies and went back to bed,

Hoping to dream about Santa and Mrs. Claus,

So I could thank them for such an amazing gift.