Friday, March 12, 2010

The Worth of a Book

"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it."
~James Bryce
Ah, literature. Books are my best friends when I'm having issues with people. Books keep me company when I am sad or lonely, books give me adventure when my life is dull, books enlighten dark regions of knowledge and open doors to worlds of information and stories. I love books. (And that's putting it lightly!)

I could go on all day about the value of reading and never tire of the subject or run out of words, but since readers of my blog would probably appreciate not being here for that long, I will restrict my comments. We each read a book in my leadership class about, go figure, leadership. They all had some notable similarities, but stark differences. One was called "Me to We" and it must have been GOOD because both of the students that read it gave it a thumbs up. It was all about developing a team-based attitude and not maintaining a selfish persona. Another of my classmates read two books (because she didn't like the first one very much), both of which I have had the pleasure of reading. The first was called "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff." She referred to it as a "calender book," one of those where you read a small section every day to get a completely different idea individual from all the others. It's a great read, but not a good straight-through read, as she emphasized. The other book she read is one of my personal favorites, "Tuesdays with Morrie."

To quote my classmate, "This book changed my life."

It's true. I read this and cried, it was so poignant. It's a story about a dying man, but it's more than that. This man truly knew how to live. And the author, Mitch Albom, was a lucky individual in that he was able to be with Morrie in the last months of his life, recording thoughts and conversations that he had with the old man. It's a beautiful book about acceptance, about living, about dying. I loved it, and I could tell my classmate did as well.
The book I read, "Leading Without Power" by Max De Pree, came recommended by my wonderful father. It took me a while to get into it; I wasn't able to truly enjoy his writing until I discovered a way to apply it to myself. I found his terminology strange, which also made it difficult to get through. But overall, it was a great book.

The audience is those participating in organizations, either for-profit or non-profit, and De Pree is trying to express the importance of applying the values and attitudes found in a successful non-profit organization to those in for-profit organizations. Until I saw past all of the "organizations" and put my name in its place, I wasn't able to get much out of the book. But then my eyes opened, and phrases began to stick out, and I got a valuable message from its words.

POTENTIAL. That is what this book focused on for me. Discovering and fulfilling potential, and in turn helping others' find and develop their potential.

"Like rainbows, which are really circles--we only see the upper halves, the horizonhides the rest--potential never reveals its entirety."
This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. It was hidden in the beginning, and I missed it when I first read through this part because I was struggling to wade my way through what seemed to me to be useless and confusing words of advice. But it is mentioned in the beginning, and again towards the end, and in the middle I found a true gem. De Pree talks about how to make your organization "a place of realized potential." When I ask myself, "Am I a place of realized potential?" Some interesting introspective observations were able to form, and I was taught more about myself than I could have learned otherwise. This all came from De Pree's comments on what a place of realized potential does.

"A place of realized potential opens itself to change, to contrary opinion, to the mystery of potential, to involvement, to unsettling ideas."

"A place of realized potential offers people the opportunity to learn and grow."

"A place of realized potential offers the gift of challenging work."

"A place of realized potential encourages people to decide what needs to be measure and then helps them do the work."

"A place of realized potential heals people with trust and with caring and with forgetfulness."

"A place of realized potential celebrates."

That last one may not seem to fit, but allow me to elaborate since it is my favorite one. De Pree says that a place that celebrates understands that the best way to reward outstanding performance is to raise the level of challenge. I really like that. We are all striving for completion, or perfection, on this earth. That is an eternal quest, obtaining the highest degree of our potential. It is not something done easily, nor is it something that can be achieved alone. And love, hope, service--these are all necessary to reaching that place of "realized potential."

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