You are a BADASS

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The #1 New York Times Bestseller YOU ARE A BADASS IS THE SELF-HELP BOOK FOR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY WANT TO IMPROVE THEIR LIVES BUT DON’T WANT TO GET BUSTED DOING IT. 

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it NOW.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

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I picked up this audiobook from my local library because it has an attractive cover and a person had recommended it to me a couple of years ago, but I didn’t get around to reading it at the time.

The audiobook was read by the author herself, and her voice is … pleasant? She doesn’t grate on my nerves, the way some narrators do, but I also found that I tended to drift off a lot. I’m not sure how much of that is due to her narration skills or her writing skills, but I had a very difficult time connecting to her and paying attention.

I found that Sincero had some interesting and inspirational ideas throughout the book, and I liked that her book was full of “real talk”. She seems to be trying to reach out to the self-doubters, my term for people who scoff at the “self-help” genre, and the author fully admits that she used to be one of those people.

However, Sincero mostly came across a someone who “drank the Kool-Aid”, IMHO. In Part II, she talks about certain profound meditation experiences where she has ‘seen the walls melt’ and ‘people levitating’. Uh-huh. Backing away slowly now.

It may be “boring”, but I am trying to put Christ and financial security at the forefront of my life, and when I have a family of my own, I know that they will jump into first place. I’m definitely not talking about earning millions of dollars, but I am working really hard and making sacrifices to be debt free and then eventually buy a house of my own one day (renting sucks. Am I right or am I right?!).

The author of You are a badass talks a lot about trips, expensive things, and taking tons of chances to make yourself happy even, if the consequences could be dire. She is all about finding the thing that makes you happy.

That is one way to look at life I guess, but personally, I think happiness starts from within. We all need certain things to be happy and what I need is different from what you need. My happiness stems largely from a strong sense of security and self-sufficiency, as well as a close romantic relationship and one of the things I desire most in the future is to have a large family, and a family-oriented existence.

So financial security, owning a home, these things that might seem arbitrary are actually feeding into what I need to be happy, those senses of belonging and of safety, of home. But if I can’t find some degree of happiness in my life now, as I am pursing my dream, that is a problem. To borrow an oft-repeated phrase, life isn’t about the destination, its the journey along the way.

Sincero doesn’t take into account that not everyone is operating on an equal playing field, and appears to scoff at others, creating the idea that she is judging others, and by extension, the reader. I particularly detest that she is of the opinion that depression and anxiety are reflective of an undisciplined mind rather than (in many) actual illnesses.

Her official blurb describes the book as 27 hilarious and inspiring stories, but I didn’t find them to be either. I also had difficulties with following the book. Perhaps this was because the book didn’t hold my attention and I drifted off, but I didn’t find that each chapter was building to a conclusion, that “aha” moment that pulled everything together. Instead, it felt more like a random series of self-congratulating moments and “you had to be there” stories.

You are a badass is a polarizing book. A quick glance at Goodreads user reviews showed that reviewers tended to love or hate this book. Many found her to be incredibly inspiration and there is no denying that Sincero has created “buzz”, but too many others had similar opinions to mine.

If you give this book a chance, I recommend you pick it up from the library until you know whether it is for you or not.

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The Power of Habit

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A young woman walks into a laboratory. Over the past two years, she has transformed almost every aspect of her life. She has quit smoking, run a marathon, and been promoted at work. The patterns inside her brain, neurologists discover, have fundamentally changed.

Marketers at Procter & Gamble study videos of people making their beds. They are desperately trying to figure out how to sell a new product called Febreze, on track to be one of the biggest flops in company history. Suddenly, one of them detects a nearly imperceptible pattern—and with a slight shift in advertising, Febreze goes on to earn a billion dollars a year.

An untested CEO takes over one of the largest companies in America. His first order of business is attacking a single pattern among his employees—how they approach worker safety—and soon the firm, Alcoa, becomes the top performer in the Dow Jones.

What do all these people have in common? They achieved success by focusing on the patterns that shape every aspect of our lives.

They succeeded by transforming habits.

In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation.

Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.

At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.

Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.

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The Power of Habit is an interesting split between self-help book and scientific / medical study. It follows multiple cases where people have changed their habits, due to serious developmental changes, professional sports analysis, or psychological intervention. Some have changed their habits on their own, others were guided by medical professionals. But they have all drastically altered their lives.

I decided to read this book because habits are a topic of interest of mine of late. After all, who doesn’t have a few they would like to get rid of?! Or good ones to they’d like to start. I have also heard that this book is recommended by many health professionals, from mental health experts to general practitioners, as a tool for creating changing in one’s own life.

Also, I listened to the audiobook version … the narrator has a smooth and pleasant voice!

I am not sure how practical and relatable most of the dialogue is, but this book is definitely one to get you thinking!

The author explores habits on an individual level, as well as in larger social contexts. He explains some of the behaviours that can lead large groups of people, particularly protesters, to occasionally turn into mobs. He explores why some professional sports teams always seem to lose (his example was the 1990’s era Indianapolis Colts, but I couldn’t help but think of the Toronto Maple Leafs), and the habits of multinational companies.

Wait. Multinational companies?

Yes. They have habits too, a concept I had never thought too hard about before. But companies – large and small – are made up of collective habits that we all abide by, because they are made up of human workers, from the lowest employee to the CEO.

Think of it this way. If you had a new co-worker start with you at work, what insider tips would you give them to help them fit in and succeed? Would you say, this person is awesome and can be trusted, stay under the radar of so and so, or make sure you keep this person in the chain of command for the most simple of things or they will lose it on you? These are common social habits of a workplace that we all learn quickly upon starting, and we all agree to abide by, even though they aren’t official rules that you would find in any employee handbook. Habits are everywhere.

I personally found most of these examples thought-provoking and was able to apply them to my own workplace, and see certain communal habits in a new light. I did have to skip ahead on some of the more medical-based institutional examples though. I’m pretty queasy when it comes to things like listening to a description of neurosurgery. Not my thing at all.

Overall, The Power of Habit is enlightening and thought-provoking, a book I would definitely recommend to a dedicated reader looking to change their life, or improve their lot in the workplace. I would especially suggest it for a manager struggling to lead in a toxic workplace.

However, I am not sure how helpful it is to the average person who wants to start working out and drinking more water, or stop that habit of picking up fast food on the way home from work. This is because it is difficult to identify keystone habits, and understand why they affect us and you have to be able to do this before you can change an established habit. This isn’t easy to do.

Luckily, the author includes an appendix which lists a step-by-step guide to helping readers go through this process with the least amount of anguish and missteps possible. I was expecting this easy-to-read guide to be a much larger portion of the book, however, and I am unsure how much it will help me to actually change those habits I don’t like, although I am more aware of them now. So at least that is a step in the right direction.

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Saving for School by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a Canadian personal finance guru. She was the host of television shows “Til Debt do us Part” and “Princess”, which is where I first learned some of her lessons. I am actually super passionate about both personal finance and national debt / state budgets, but I took a break from reading non-fiction because I went back to school around the time that I started this blog. I’m looking forward to reading more for learning over the next little bit, now that I don’t have to focus on boring old text books!

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I LOVE this book. It is perfect because it is super easy to read. Let’s face it – books about money can be intimidating to read. The average person worries that they won’t be able to understand it, or that they will be faced with some hard truths … maybe that they’ve messed up so bad they won’t ever be able to sort it out or that they are going to have to make big changes to create the future they want.

It’s easy to put aside for “later” and never really get into it. Don’t do that!

“Saving for School” is short and sweet. The book itself is small, like the size of a Harlequin Romance paperback. And it is only 84 pages. I read it in a couple of hours … in the same room where my parents and sister were talking and my nephew was (loudly!) watching soccer. There were a lot of distractions around. I promise you can get through it too.

Gail has a way of writing as if she is sitting down next to you explaining. Her books don’t come across as academic or “lectury” to me. It could be a friend or a parent trying to explain something, only with Gail, I’m sure it isn’t well-meant but completely inaccurate advice.

So who is “Saving for School” written for?

Anyone with an interest in post-secondary education. That could be a parent of a teenager or a pre-schooler, or someone planning to become pregnant.

It could be a grandparent, uncle, church leader, or the student himself (or herself).

I’ve already graduated from university, but even I found some tips to help me pay back my student loans in a way that reduces the interested that I pay, and how to do the calculations that will tell me how much interest I’ll pay based of different payment options.

Ideally though, the earlier you (parent/student) start planning for post-secondary expenses, the more prepared you will be, both in the knowledge of how to take advantage of the system and how much things cost, and in how much money you will have managed to squirrel away for tuition and other expenses.

“Saving for School” helps explain the ways to get free money from the government.

FREE MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT?!!! Is it possible?! Yes!!!

Truly. I’m not taking about OSAP, I’m talking about the Canadian Education Savings Grant money. You don’t have to pay it back. And you can earn interest on it in the mean-time. I did have an RESP from my parents, which covered the academic expenses for about one year of uni. But I didn’t have any idea of the CESG or whether my parents were able to take advantage of it or not. If a little bit of planning and strategic saving can give you $7200 (plus whatever interest you earn on that!) for each child’s education, you want to take advantage of it!

Other ways to save for university: apply for scholarships and bursaries. I’m not that smart (remember, I dropped out of school and it took me a while to go back … seriously, I’m not Harvard Med material over here) or that poor. I still got entrance scholarships that were renewable for each year, and bursaries. Apply even when you don’t think you will get anything. Easy money! You can apply directly to your university and to scholarship websites like… :

http://www.scholarshipscanada.com/

Scholarships, grants and bursaries for Canadian students

You can also make money by working during high-school and university, or borrow from a family member or the bank. Predictable response, I know. Sorry.

I like that Gail reminds the reader to make sure that a young adult goes off to university with lifeskills, like how to shop at the grocery store, or do laundry. Moms and Dads have a tendency to want to do everything for their child, but that isn’t actually helpful. A parent’s role is to raise a competent adult who knows how to do things for themselves so that they are prepared to handle what life throws at them.

I would add a point of my own here – it is awesome to have activities and hobbies as a child and a teenager and this should be continued through adulthood. It is fun and healthy! After all the purpose of life is to be happy, not to work that 9-5. But if you can guide a child into some activities that may be lucrative later in life …. not the worst thing either.

I feel that most of my hobbies are not something that I can market to make money in the “no-collar” economy when I need a little more. I had friends making minimum wage at McDonald’s and friends making twice that working as lifeguards and swim instructors during school. Guess who ended up with more money and fewer hours at a job?!

Yup. Splash splash.

Same with less organized hobbies, like sewing or knitting, playing a musical instrument … these are all things that a poor university student (or newly employed-broke-dying under student debt young adult) can leverage at certain times to make money, by selling a product or teaching others. My nephew loves hockey and soccer, but it would be hard to make extra money as a soccer instructor, especially mid-way through the academic year which would be January. In Canada. His sister could be a great swim teacher through, if she stuck with it. She is “artsy” too, maybe she could sell her skills in that division.

Probably getting a little off track of the book review, but I think the point is really important and as an Auntie, I try to hammer it into those kids’ heads. They think they understand now but they won’t really until they are halfway through university and eating Ramen noodles three times a day. I don’t want them to be without marketable skills when they realize it.

“Saving for School” teaches the reader the most effective ways to leverage your savings – whether it is $20.00 a month or $200.00, to put someone through university. It covers how to engage a financial institution to create an RESP (registered education savings bond) and get the CESP (grant money) and the great tool that TFSAs (tax free savings accounts) can be to keep your money out of the tax man’s hands. It gives some advice for how to prepare a child to become a responsible university student and how to establish a credit history as a young adult.

I HIGHLY recommend it and hope you pick up this book.  If you feel it wasn’t for you, you only wasted about two hours. And I’ve searched about five local library systems and they all had a copy. So you can go borrow it for free.

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P.S. Gail has a website with tools on it. Check it out here.

P.P.S. Still stuck on that comment I made about paying off student loans and interest calculators? I copy and pasted this from Gail’s website for you. Credit to her please!

Let’s say, for example, that you have a $20,000 loan at 8%, and you want to have your student loan paid off in 3 years, which is 36 months.

First, the interest: $20,000 x 8% ÷ 12 (months) = $133,33. That’s the interest part of your monthly payment.

Now the principal repayment: Take your total principal of $20,000 and divide it by the number of months you want to take to pay off the loan, in this case 36.

So, $20,000 ÷ 36 = $555.55.

Add the principal amount of $555.55 to $133.33 in interest and your monthly payment is $688.88.

That’s a good indicator of what your monthly payment will be on the loan. It’ll actually be a little less since interest is calculated on a declining balance (as you pay off your loan, the principal goes down, so the amount of interest goes down).

The government of Canada has a website that offers a loan repayment calculator (http://tools.canlearn.ca/cslgs-scpse/cln-cln/40/crp-lrc/af.nlindex-eng.do) to take the math out of the exercise, if you’re number-challenged. You can enter up to three scenarios at a time to see how much you’ll have to pay monthly along with the interest you’ll pay over the life of your student loan.

Happy saving!