My sure fire way to seek inspiration? Read a great book or add a new podcast to my playlist — works every time. New concepts spark my curiosity and help connect information in new ways. This month I have selected books by Trevor Noah and Celeste Ng that I want to bring to attention for their ability to broaden cultural awareness and empathy for human struggle. Whereas our books in November build empathy, the podcast series I highlight by Cathy Heller is all about empowerment and action. She and her stellar guests had me nodding my head and muttering ‘yeah! My day job might be on notice!” Working my way through the carpool lane.
As you read these recommendations please PLEASE comment with your recent inspired reads and listens! Or your thoughts on this media spotlight, I would love your feedback! Together we can curate the conversations that help goal getters focus on our most important tasks, consider a new perspective, and get inspired to think bigger.
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Did you miss the October spotlight? Check out the book & podcast recommendations here.
Book: Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood – Trevor Noah
News flash – this is not a business book. It’s not even in the self improvement genre. That said, I dare you to walk away from Born A Crime without a greater view of how diverse our world is (given you weren’t also born in 80s South Africa) and some time spent reflecting on your sense of self and personal values. Not specifically business – but definitely about human interaction. Not directly self improvement – but I felt I had a better understanding of myself after hearing Noah’s story.
Comedian Trevor Noah’s debut book is equal parts funny and thought provoking.
Relatable on a human level, Born A Crime is a window view into a culture that I haven’t been exposed to in my life. He talks honestly and openly about being ‘colored’ in a black and white world and the effects South African apartheid had on the population of the country from an insider’s view. He richly narrates the deep cultural heritage he picked up from his mother, aunties, and community. All this while trying to survive as a child set apart by his color in a race-focused state.
It goes without saying that Trevor Noah crafts his stories while adding his own unique humor and world view – you might recognize that delivery from his Daily Show host monologue. Easy to consume, I cycled between laughs and really thinking deeply about concepts Noah introduces with matter of fact delivery. I walked away feeling like an invited and welcomed guest into a world previously unknown to me.
I listened to Born A Crime on Audible with author narration. I would easily read the book traditionally but found that listening to Noah’s comedic delivery was my personal preference. Pick up your own copy of Born A Crime here on Amazon, or add it to your Audible library. Get to know your favorite news comedy host while expanding your historical knowledge and cultural awareness.
Book Honorable Mention – All The Things I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
I would be amiss to talk about books that increase awareness of cultural diversity without mentioning this recent five-star read of mine by author Celeste Ng. Set in Americana 1970s this work of fiction focuses on a Chinese-American family who both seeks assimilation to the white midwest town that they call home while trying to figure out what their Chinese culture means to them. In just shy of 300 pages, not only did I get an intimate view of what it is like to be a person of color surrounded by the majority but I also felt I could relate just a bit to their struggle on the most basic human level. How do I hold true to my unique self while still wanting to be included socially as part of the group? That’s a question many of us ask as we’re learning to get comfortable with ourselves.
I think back to this book’s core messages in my work with team members from different cultural backgrounds. Everything I Never Told You challenges all of us to layer empathy and cultural sensitivity into our interactions. I read this book a chapter at a time and kept this slim novel with me to read in small windows of down time. If I had had an uninterrupted night this is a fast enough read that I probably could have read the whole book in an evening. I’m glad I didn’t. A slow unfolding gave me time to think about the concepts inside. This would be a strong book club candidate because you’re going to read the last page and want to turn to someone and talk about the story inside.
Podcast: Don’t Keep Your Day Job with host Cathy Heller
This podcast was recommended to me via an interaction I had on Instagram with a creator singing Hellar’s praises. It was also recently featured in the #1 spot of Apple’s ‘Get Motivated’ podcast list of 2019. And to top it all off, the podcaster’s much anticipated book of the same name is set for publication next week! With word-of-mouth that good I couldn’t help but check out this ‘turn your passion into profits’ series myself.
They say that entrepreneurs are more likely to raise future entrepreneurs. Having that example of when to make bold moves, how to trust your own intuition and judgment – those are powerful motivators to try entrepreneurship out for yourself. For the vast majority of us who have not grown up with entrepreneurial role models, podcasts like Heller’s Don’t Keep Your Day Job are critical to create that picture of possibility and describe the steps to getting from point A to point B. This podcaster has an authentic, relatable delivery that I enjoyed and her advice and stories kept my attention undivided.
A few favorite episodes to get you going –
- Episode 4 with Sarah Knight (YOU know her NSFW-yet-insanely-helpful guides), the one in which the high profile publisher chooses to pivot away from traditional success in a big city and move to the Dominican Republic for a slower pace, peace of mind, and success on her own terms.
- Episode 85 with Ahyiana Angel the founder of Mayzie Media – a media company geared toward promotion of women of color – who quit her dream job in PR to become an entrepreneur and create her life around purpose and value. I loved this message so much I bought Angel’s inspiration-meets-action book Quit Playing Small for myself and a client the next day.
It’s Sunday as I’m wrapping up this post and that means I’m blocking and planning my week ahead. If you’re like me and like to plan before then Monday rush – consider picking up a copy of Born A Crime or Everything I Never Told You this week. Or, carve out an hour to listen to an episode of Dont Keep Your Day Job that interests you. Expand your awareness and make new connections. See how a new train of thought can inspire you to think bigger and take back your day.
Have a book or podcast that needs to be shared? I am always looking for the next big idea, let me know a book or podcast that has inspired you in the comments and it could be on the next Spotlight series.
About the author: Hi! My name is Jess Anderson, I am a technologist based in Louisville, Ky. I lead corporate technology product and project teams and am a freelance small business consultant. Two school-aged kids call me mom, of which I am proudest of all. I am in passionate pursuit of a well-balanced life and invite you to come along for the ride. Also find me writing on Medium.
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Previous month’s Book & Podcast Spotlight.