Author Archives: SeekOutWisdom

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Everyone Communicates Few Connect

Title: Everyone Communicates Few Connect

Author: John C. Maxwell

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by Thomas Nelson publishers through their BookSneeze program in exchange for a review.  The publisher has had no influence over the content of this review.  The thoughts are solely my own.

Summary: Maxwell is a well-known leadership expert and speaker.  He has prepared numerous books about leading an organization and the principles of personal success.  This book specifically focuses on one important aspect of communication, that being how to develop a connection between speaker and listener.

Maxwell divides the book into two parts.  The first describes the principles behind connection.  Maxwell defines a connection as the quality of communication that increases the impact of the speaker on the listener.  It operates at an emotional level between the persons involved.  These principles are not the practical steps of public speaking, the kind of things one learns from speech class or Toastmasters International.  Maxwell is describing the difference between those who speak, present, and write with little effect on their audience, and those who make a connection with the audience that makes their communication highly effective.  It is the difference between those boring presentations and unnecessary meetings everyone has endured, and those speakers or presenters that have hit you right in the gut.  Maxwell describes this ability to make a connection as a skill that can be learned, not just an inherent quality that some speakers naturally have.

The second part describes what connectors do, the preparations they make, the attitude they assume, and the focus they adopt.  This includes finding common ground with the audience, making the experience enjoyable, and choosing inspirational messages.

Review: Maxwell uses humorous and insightful stories about himself and his career as a pastor, speaker, and teacher.  He describes how he failed to connect early in his career, learned to connect, and is now teaching others to do so.  Just the anecdotes about him are well worth the cost of the book.  I found lots of situations to which I could relate, either as a speaker or a listener.  The lessons gave me a new appreciation for how a leader can use these principles to increase the success of their team.

If you are a leader, you have to communicate.  Whether you embrace this aspect of serving as a leader or cringe at it, this book will help you do it better.  It is personable, funny, brief, and easy to read.  You’ll feel like you sat down with Maxwell as he personally told you how he does what he does.  And that of course is the whole point!  He connects with the reader, providing an example of what he is espousing.


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The Richest Man In Babylon

Title: The Richest Man In Babylon

Author: George S. Clason

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This is from our personal library.  I purchased this book for just 10 cents at a used book store.

Summary: The book is a compilation of separate writings the author prepared for banks and financial institutions in the early 20th Century.  Each chapter is a story all unto itself, but some of the characters appear in more than one or are referred to by other characters.

As the title indicates, the stories are set in ancient Babylon, which is described as a city of great wealth and knowledge.  Many of the chapters revolve around Arkad, who is described as the richest man in the community, as he shares his knowledge of money with others.

The language used is similar to what you might read from the King James Version of the Bible, or from Shakespeare.  Don’t let that worry you.  There isn’t anything here you can’t understand.  Money is often referred to as “coins”, banks as “moneylenders”, and those in debt are sometimes slaves.

The author is using a historical setting to teach simple truths about money and finances that have survived the test of time.  The parallels to modern life are not hard for the reader to draw.

Review: For me, this is a classic, a must read, and on my list of books to read at least once a year.  It is a quick and easy pick up to have in your pocket while you are heading out to a place where you might read for a few minutes here or there.  If you sit down to read it from front to back, it won’t take you long.  And because each chapter is a separate story, don’t worry about losing your place.

The truths contained within are simple and common sense, but you won’t be bored in reading it.  The setting, the phraseology, the characters are rich with colors and flavors that will make learning fun.  And the truths will help you with everything from day-to-day tasks like the importance of budgeting your expenses, to long term goals like purchasing a home or preparing for leaving your estate to your family.

I highly recommend The Richest Man in Babylon to everyone who wants to know how money works and how the decisions they make will affect their financial destiny.


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Mastering the Seven Decisions

Title: Mastering the Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, an Owner’s Manual to the New York Times Bestseller The Traveler’s Gift

Author: Andy Andrews

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Traveler’s Gift (TTG), this book is the logical next step. Even a casual reader of TTG can tell Andrews has more to say than could be squeezed into the book. Mastering the Seven Decisions (Mt7D) provides the context and commentary to flesh out the lessons. This book was purchased and given to me as a gift, and no compensation was provided for this review.

Summary: While TTG is told as a narrative (in fact, some booksellers and reviewers categorized it as fiction!), this book is solidly in the non-fiction, self-help category. Andrews provides a chapter on each of the 7 Decisions, providing examples and insight. Each decision is also described in a letter to Andrews from a famous person, including General Norman Schwarzkopf and Amy Grant. Peppered throughout the book are exercises where Andrews prompts the reader to write down thoughts, feelings, fears, and affirmations. The exercises help the reader find the specific connection between the principles he describes and how work in their life.

Review: Andrews lives up to the promise in the books title that this is an owners manual to TTG. The expanded descriptions of the 7 Decisions help the reader understand how they have been at work in their life. And, perhaps most importantly, how the reader can use a greater understanding of them to be more successful in the future. The exercises are tough, but quite valuable. Have a notebook and pen nearby as you read the book. Completing the exercises will take time and lots of lined notebook paper, but the rewards are worth it. The reader will be facing their fears and failures, evaluating their past, dreaming about their future, and finding resources and actions to be more and do more. The reader’s past will become a wonderful education in the principles behind personal success. The reader’s looming challenges will become the ingredients in a successful life.

Unlike a lot of self-help books, reading Mt7D and completing the enclosed exercises will produce something personal and tangible. The reader will finish the book with specific steps they can take to make different choices, and consequently find the destiny of their dreams.


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Related book reviews: The Traveler’s Gift

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The Present

Title: The Present

Author: Spencer Johnson, MD

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book is from our personal library, purchased many years ago.

Summary: The book is a practical parable.  Formatted as a story within a story, the prologue has Liz seeking advice from former co-worker Bill.  She notices that Bill is doing much better now than when they worked together, while Liz is struggling at work and home.  Bill says that his improved performance and greater enjoyment of life began when heard the story of The Present, and began applying its lessons.  He is at first hesitant to tell Liz the story, knowing her skeptical nature, but Liz confirms she will give the story a fair chance, no matter how simplistic is seems.

The story is that of a young man’s journey to maturity, guided by occasional visits to the old man who lives in his neighborhood.  The old man knows The Present and gives it to the young man in small segments at different moments in his life.  Not surprisingly, the segments are The Present, The Past, and The Future.

The epilogue has Liz meeting with Bill again after some time has passed.  She has learned and applied the lessons from the story.  She has shared the story with others, just has Bill shared it with her.  The skeptic is now a believer in the simple truths contained within the parable.

Review: This book contains such profound truth in such simple words, it is striking in value.  It is a quick read.  I can go through the whole book in about two hours.  This is a great book to keep in your library and read every year.  It won’t last through a New York to Los Angeles flight, probably not even between when you get through security and receive clearance to takeoff.

The story is compelling.  It is easy to relate to the young man as he learns about The Present from the old man.  His circumstances are easy to identify with for any reader.  The language is so simple that the lessons are easy to digest, surprisingly so given their great value.  If you are interested in simple truths to be found in a quick, easy read, find a copy of The Present.


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Living Life in the Zone

Title: Living Life in the Zone

Author: Kyle Rote Jr. and Dr. Joe Pettigrew

Rating: Good

Reason for Reading: This book was provided to me free of charge by Thomas Nelson, Inc. through the BookSneeze program in exchange for preparing a book review and posting it to this blog.  The content of this review is solely my own words and not influenced by receiving the book as compensation.

Summary: The book is a 40-day study for men.  The book provides a short chapter for each of the 40 days.  Each chapter includes citations of relevant bible verses, a profile of a sports or business figure and how they have applied that life principle in their life, three self-assessment questions, and an assignment to put the lesson into practice that day.

The subjects discussed include a man’s relationship to God, improving your relationship with your wife, being a more effective father, you role as friend to your fellow man, and being a Christian man in your workplace.

Review: The lives up to its description as a spiritual game plan for men.  While many self-improvement books provide only limited spiritual content, Living Life in the Zone is replete with spiritual discussions and biblical references.  The book describes “the zone” it is teaching men to live in as not just a period of higher productivity, but higher effectiveness.  It encourages self-examination to help men redefine their role as husband, father, friend, employee, manager, and spiritual leader.

The part of the book I found most helpful is the biographical sketch included in each day’s reading.  Under the subtitle Playmaker, this section uses a notable man’s real life experience to illustrate the spiritual principle being at work in real life.  Most of the men profiled are notable in the world of sports, like Tom Landry or Kurt Warner.  Some of them are notable from the world of business, like David Green of Hobby Lobby or Mike Glenn of FedEx.  Not all the examples are those of men who used the spiritual principle to succeed, nor are any of the stories too Pollyanna or unrealistic.  Even though I was familiar with many of the men profiled, I learn something new from each Playmaker section.  The authors have described their lives with details not covered in typical media coverage of athletes and coaches.

If you want to know more about these notable men from sports and business, something that reflects how their spirit and their relationship with God affected their lives, this book is a must read.  You want to explore how you can have a deeper understanding of spiritual issues, if you are looking for a guide familiar with sports, business, and politics in the modern world, this book will deliver.  This book is a fun read while providing a meaningful message.  It is enjoyable and educational.  I highly recommend this book for any man with a wife, a child, a job, and a relationship with God.


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Why read these books?

Reading’s been a part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My parents were both word people, working in journalism, writing, editing, presenting, crafting language to be efficient and effective.  My father had collected over many years a library of reference material on all kinds of subjects.  One of my favorite memories from my school days is getting assigned a topic for a history paper one day, then coming home from school the next finding out that my dad had pulled several relevant books from our family library.  Not only were the books out on the table, but open to important pages, with little marks for pages and photos he wanted me to read.  This is the day after the paper has been assigned, and probably three weeks before it is due, but my dad can not wait to get into these books with me, finding something too obscure for the other students to notice, but important enough to impress the teacher.

But it wasn’t just books.  Dad was a voracious reader of newspapers, being a journalist at heart.  He’d read the local newspaper of whatever town to which his travels took him.  After I moved away from home, I could regularly expect an envelope stuffed with newspaper clippings from him.  Something he read he just had to share with me.  After a few years of this, right about the time he died, I came to realize he wasn’t just reading the paper, he was digesting it.  He was finding some meaning in it.  With every story, every person interviewed, he discovered something important.  I wouldn’t have paid particular attention to those stories if he hadn’t shared them with me.  In doing so, he taught me how much there is to learn from reading.

My whole life, I can’t remember my father reading fiction, but he always had a book he was reading.  It became an easy Christmas and birthday present to find a new release on a topic that interested him.  Before my father’s death almost 10 years ago, I read fiction almost exclusively.  Since then, I find myself reading almost nothing but non-fiction.

My mother is a reader, too.  Though she’s more of the fiction and literature reader of the family.  So, when it comes to crafting a compelling narrative, she’s got a wealth of insight into how different authors paint a picture with words.  I think my love of poetic language or a dramatic story arc comes from Mom.

But, my focused reading-for-a-purpose really started about two years ago.  As I was exposed to the work of Dave Ramsey, I was moved by how passionately he recommends not just reading, but reading like it is important.  Reading has always been just something I did, like watching TV or listening to the radio.  But when Dave starting talking about reading as a way to shape your destiny, well, that got me thinking about what and how I read.  Dave cites in his presentations a finding by Dr. Thomas Stanley in The Millionaire Next Door that the typical millionaire reads a non-fiction book a month.  Dave often recommends to the callers on his radio show books by other authors he finds of particular value, such as Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend or 48 Days to the Work You Love by Dan Miller.  He even has on his website a listing of books he recommends his listeners read.  You’ll probably notice that many of the books I review will be from this list, but I have other selections as well.

This inspiration from Dave was further reinforced by serendipity.  Dawn had recommended that I read The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews, saying I would really enjoy it.  I stupidly did not heed her advise, though I don’t know why.  She certainly knows me well enough for me to take her suggestion as right on the mark.  A few days later, Dave Ramsey offered a $10 grab bag on his website, where you could purchase sight unseen various things Dave was unloading.  We’d loved everything we’d ever gotten from Dave, so what was the risk?  When the package arrived, included was a hardback copy of The Traveler’s Gift.  I decided this was God’s way of telling me I should have listened to her the first time.  So, I read it and loved it, just like she predicted.

Anyway, the Second Decision of Personal Success in The Traveler’s Gift is, “I will seek wisdom.”  It mentions how what someone reads and listens to affects them.  We are programed by what we are exposed to, whether we like it or not.  I even saw Andy Andrews demonstrate this live by reciting the entire theme song to an Underdog cartoon.  Everyone in the audience knew he was correct, too.  So, part of living the Second Decision is reading books and listening to recordings that improve our relationships with and understanding of other people.  While sometimes this is passive reading or listening, also expected is reading with pen and paper for taking notes, and a highlighter for marking key passages.

The topics on our reading list will be fairly varied, but they should all be something that will attempt to grow the reader to a greater level of understanding, fostering growth in your intellectual, emotional, and spiritual lives.  If you are interested in reading for a purpose, reading as one tool you are using to be more and do more, look at our reviews and consider putting these books on your reading list.

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Why this blog?

One reason for this blog is that there are so many books out there, especially in the self-help, personal growth, leadership genres.  Many of them claim to have some magic paradigm that will break you free from whatever is holding you back, or make you rich, or make you whatever you’ve always dreamed of being.  There are a ton of things out there to read, and only so much time any of us has to read them.  We all have other things to do, myself included.

So, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff?  How can we tell what books are too shallow or too narrow to be valuable?  Which really have the depth to speak to your soul?  Which have enough applicability to affect your thoughts, and consequently your actions, in the days after you set it down?  Which are good for everyone to read, good for just a narrow audience, and which are not worth the effort for most everyone?  Our hope is that this blog is a resource for those looking for something to read that will be meaningful in their life, that we can point them in the direction of a book that might otherwise have gotten lost in a crowded bookshelf at a library, bookstore, or online retailer.

Why else?  Well, as I mentioned, there is a benefit to active reading.  As opposed to passive reading, this is where the reader’s focus is producing something, new thoughts that will change their actions, their performance, and consequently, the quality of their life.  This kind of reading involves taking notes, highlighting passages, perhaps even writing a report on the material to share with a group.  By having to share my thoughts with you, I find I have greater focus on the material, and it means more to me.  If it will help you, please make use of the comments feature on this blog, or the ability to post a review at online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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