A Four-Step Plan to Reach My Reading Goal for 2016

book reading

Hey there reader!

We are almost halfway through the year. I’ve been thinking about writing an update on my reading challenge I started this year and what better time than now? But before I talk about myself let’s talk about you for just a bit.

Why read?

Always be learning.

I know some of you have listened to Colleen talk recently, and I want to highlight one of the most important pieces of advice: READ! I know there are many of you out there who read for pleasure or for business, and I know there are just as many of you who don’t. I was reading through some articles on Medium and I came across one I think is worthy of your attention, “Why Successful People Always Stay A Student” by Darius Foroux. In the article, Darius quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson,

“Do you know the secret of the true scholar? In every man there is something wherein I may learn of him; and in that I am his pupil.” 

What does this have to do with reading you might ask? I look at reading as a way to learn from the authors you read, each of whom have a unique perspective. What better way to learn from someone than by reading their own take in their field of expertise. And it’s not just from non-fiction books that we learn. I can tell you from experience there are many things I learn from some of my favorite fiction works. Whether you learn a new word or the importance of love, each book has something different to offer its readers.

Where am I?

An Updated Look At My Reading Challenge.

Here is where I stand.

  • I pledged to read 50 books through the Goodreads 2016 Reading Challenge.
  • I have currently finished 9 books.
  • That puts me 15 books behind schedule according to the challenge tracker.

I will admit I have not be as successful as I had hoped. And yes, being 15 books behind schedule is probably too many to overcome but that won’t stop me from pushing towards my goal. Right now I would like to look at a few different things and try to discover what I did right and what I could do better.

What I’ve Done?

Observations from the journey.

When I started the challenge I told you one of the best ways for me to read more was to cut out some of the Netflix I watch. At first this was easy and I probably spent more time reading than I did watching Netflix. What I have noticed though is as time went past I started going back to Netflix more and more. Now I have to consciously think about and make a concerted effort to sit down and read. This is something I have recognized and as long as I work to correct this I should be able to read more books during the second half of the year.

Another observation I have is some of the books I read are quite long, 700 or more pages. Two of the books I am reading now are over 7oo pages. So even though I have not finished as many books as I have wanted, I’ve read a considerable number of pages, in total. As of publication, I have read just under 3000 pages this year.

One of my biggest struggles is I have not been reading business books much since March. I am always one for a good story and I have found that some non-fiction books are written poorly. One book took me entirely too long to read because I could not move past errors such as formatting problems, typos, and a true lack of any substantial lessons. I know this is something I need to work on and what I have started to do is read business books at the end of the workday. This way I am still in work mode and I can devote more brain power to what I am reading.

As you can tell, I am not changing my schedule to fit more reading into what I am doing. I believe we all have things we have to do: work, friends, family, sleep, etc. What I need to do is more effectively use my free time to accomplish my goals. For me, that means less time on Netflix, less time watching soccer (thank goodness that Copa America is finished and UEFA Euro 2016 is winding down!), and less time on social media.

Moving Forward

Attack Plan and Updated Reading List

I know there is still half to year left to read 41 books and I am going to write out a small attack plan here to help me reach my goal:

  1. Read for 30 minutes at the end of each business day.
  2. Watch less Netflix; I am going to try to do a 1:1 Netflix to reading ratio.
  3. Spend at least the last 30 minutes before I fall asleep reading.
  4. Go outside and read! It’s summer and the sun is out. I’ll use that to my advantage.

Updated book list: (12 Read)

  • The Mysterious Affairs at Styles – Agatha Christie
  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
  • The Heart Goes Last – Margaret Atwood
  • Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card
  • The Most Productive People in History: 18 Extraordinarily Prolific Inventors, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, From Archimedes to Elon Musk – Michael Rank
  • Awakening – Jeremy Laszlo
  • Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History – Antonio J Mendez & Matt Baglio
  • The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey
  • Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath – Ted Koppel
  • The Girl Who Played With Fire – Stieg Larsson
  • Along Came a Spider – James Patterson
  • Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy –  Martin Lindstrom

Also, I wanted to add my favorite fiction and non-fiction books I’ve read so far this year. There is no real judging categories or scores, just whatever I thought was the best read:

  • Fiction: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
  • Non-Fiction: Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History – Antonio J Mendez, Matt Baglio

I challenge you to go out and start to read more. I’ve taken some steps to push myself towards reading more. What are you going to do to read more?

Stay Well and Read,

Peter

The Best of Goodreads, or How to Find Your Favorite Book!

Hello there readers!

Last week I published my first blog in a few weeks and I’m back at it again today! Be sure to keep your eye out for my blogs hitting the site once a week, usually on Tuesdays from here on out but maybe some on Thursdays like today.

So yesterday June began! We are almost halfway through the year already, I can’t believe it! But June is the start of the summer and vacations and, for me at least, that means it’s time to read, read, read. What better way to start off the summer than with a blog for readers.

Goodreads

The Basics

I know in the past I have brought up this site called Goodreads but we haven’t had the proper opportunity to really delve into what Goodreads really offers. There are many functions of Goodreads but I want to talk about some of my favorites.

To start, what is Goodreads? Goodreads is a social network for bibliophiles. It’s a virtual bookshelf for readers to showcase what they are reading to friends, family, and any one else who follows them. Goodreads helps you stay in touch with other readers through your books and their’s.

There are many aspects of Goodreads and many of them can seem somewhat confusing. I wish I had the time to really take apart each of these sections because I think they provide incredible tools to readers and authors alike. However, for today’s purposes the two most basic parts of Goodreads are your bookshelves and your basic update.

Goodreads keeps all of your books, whether in print, on your Kindle (which is what I use the majority of the time), your Kindle App, or any book you read on other platforms, on virtual shelves.  There are a few shelves that everyone is set up with from the beginning, Currently Reading, Read, To-Read, and you can add shelves to organize your books in other fashions. I currently use the three main shelves as well as a shelf dedicated to my 2016 reading challenge, which includes all of the books I have completed this year. Maybe you want all your sales books on one shelf or your top 10 favorite books on another, make your shelves personal! And don’t worry, you can have your books on multiple shelves at once.

The other basic aspect of Goodreads is the update. Once you have a book added to your shelves you can update your reading progress to show others how far you have read. You can do this on your Kindle by sharing the update from your current page and Goodreads will automatically update with your progress. If you read print books, keep track of your progress on Goodreads as well, just add a manual update and Goodreads tracks your place.

If you are new to Goodreads these two parts are where I would spend some time becoming familiar with the site. But if you are a regular visitor or an advanced user there are many other aspects of the site that I love.

Virtual Spelunking

Further exploring Goodreads

For those who want some more Goodreads, come and explore with me! I really want to talk about two things I use regularly.

First off, check out their List section. Reader Beware: You can get lost for a long time here. As the name suggests, here you will find lists upon lists upon lists of book. The topics range from :Best Books of the ’90s” to “Books that Grow You” to “Best Business Books” and thousands of others. Why do I sit at the computer and look at these? Mainly because they are lists generated by users who vote on books to climb up or down the list. This is neat because it shows you what books others are reading and what books you might want to read.

One downside to the way that this works is that people have an inherent bias to vote for books that others have voted for in order to be viewed favorably by others. This might hide a few books that are great reads so don’t feel obligated to read what everyone else already has. Do not let that impede your discovery of books though as nearly all of the books I have found on these lists are top-notch books. The biggest thing is that the lists are a tool for you to discover new books to read and you might find a hidden gem you never knew about before!

The other part of Goodreads I like is the recommendations offered by Goodreads. The site takes the books you have read, shown interest in, or rated and it will give you recommendations based on those books. With someone like myself who constantly wants to find a good book to read these recommendations give me another source to add books to my to-read shelf.

Your turn!

What else is there?

I know that there are many other aspects of Goodreads and I highly suggest digging into them especially if you are a reader. From giveaways to the Choice Awards, to discussions, and more, you can find about anything you need to satisfy your need to read. Look forward to some blogs coming out in the future that will look into these other sections.

For those of you who use Goodreads, what are some of your favorite parts? Anything you can’t live without or maybe something that you hate? Let me know!

And if you want to become friends send me a request!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Peter

What I’ve Learned Working At The Literary Prose

glasses-read-learn-book-text-highlighter-pen

Photo via Visualhunt

Since joining The Literary Prose last summer, I have learned much about myself, the business world, and what being an entrepreneur truly means. I wanted to gather my thoughts, information, ideas, etc. I have found most useful for me over these past months and share them.

Each and every day is a challenge

What challenges do you face?

There are many challenges when starting your small business. Some challenges are small and in the end inconsequential like what brand of printer paper you use or what type of desk works best for you. Some challenges have huge impacts; what services or products do we have that customers will buy, what team members you need to hire, what color should your logo be? Some challenges could affect your company but you have no idea what that effect will be until later; Apple or PC, Facebook or Twitter or both? Each and every day you and your company will face these challenges and it is how you face them that truly matters.

While I will not say that we here at The Literary Prose are perfect, each day we strive to better ourselves and the company. What I do to overcome our daily challenges, and what I’ve challenged myself to do is to read more every day. When faced with specific questions on marketing, branding, social media, writing, and any other daily challenges, you can learn all you want, and much more, by reading on those subjects.

Each day you learn something about yourself

Little changes add up to big differences

I don’t know if this is you, but when I first started I thought I either knew everything or Colleen, who had been in business for nearly 20 years, knew everything. That might seem irrational but that very reason was what made me so eager to start. I thought we’d be this huge company, earning six figures, in a matter of months. Was I being naive? Maybe, but being a small business, I learned real quick what I did not know.

Knowing what you know and what you don’t know, and the difference between the two can lead to greater insights into yourself and your company. Each one of us is proficient in many areas of life and business. For example, I went to college and earned a degree in music while playing saxophone. Focusing four years of my life on music provided me a unique insight into what I know and don’t know about music. I feel comfortable with much of the history of music but when it comes to composition, I am about as clueless as the average Joe.

This knowledge of knowing what I know and don’t know developed over time. I remember loving my theory and history classes. I remember my Music History professor saying one of my research papers were written at a graduate level. I remember reading about the composers of the pieces I played. This all culminates into me knowing what I know. If you know what you don’t know, for me composition, you can take what you’ve learned from other areas and apply them to what you don’t know. I know, just by looking at how I learned music history some ways to improve on my composition. I can read about the craft, I can practice composing, I can study other compositions, and I can look at the composer, not in a historical sense but in a more analytical sense.

Each day I learn more about what I know, what I do not know, and how I can apply my learning to other aspects of life.

Information Overload

Do you really know what you’re doing?

This happened to me over the past week. As you might know, we are in the middle of our teleseminar series “The Literary Prose Presents: It’s More Than Just Words.” Last week we wanted to write and publish an ad on Facebook and I took the task upon myself. I went to Facebook, started the process and was almost immediately stumped. What do most of us do when we are hit with a roadblock? We go to Google, and that is what I did, I went to Google and searched Facebook ads. What I found was astonishing. I was immediately overcome with billions; (I’m not exaggerating, when I checked there were about 1.7 billion web pages that matched that query) of possible solutions.

What I learned is there is so much information out there, as I was reading about the process I felt more and more lost. Each article solved one question I had but opened up two, three, or more paths of questioning. So what do you do in this situation? The hardest part of this is discovering what information is helpful and what is not.

Trial and error

Take the plunge

From those 1.7 billion web pages there are bound to be both relevant and irrelevant information on Facebook ads. What makes it more confusing is that some people swear by one method while others scold you for doing those same steps. What I have found is that trial and error is sometimes the best way to forge ahead. If you take into account two different methods you will probably see you are more knowledgeable on some of the steps than others. This is where knowing what you don’t know is important; if you don’t know how to code, don’t use the process that requires you to code.

Once you pick your process stick with it, learn what you did right and what you did wrong, and improve on it the next time. What I have found is that one method doesn’t work for everyone. I like to take many different thoughts on a subject and pick and choose what I like from each resource. I use Buffer blog to show me what size my Facebook picture should be, but I use Hubspot to choose what color I should use for text on that image. What I am trying to say is don’t be afraid to take the step off the cliff and see where it takes you. You will never know what works best for you until you try it.

Conclusion

What I’ve learned and what you should take away

The point I’m trying to make is that knowledge of yourself, your company, and other companies is important. There is no be all, end-all solution to any one problem. You must take your knowledge and apply it to each problem. If you do this and are conscious of what you are doing, you will evolve to better adapt to the challenges you and your company face every day.

Now on to you, the reader. What are some important lessons you’ve learned in business or life that you want to pass along to others?

Thanks for reading,

Peter

52 Weeks to Better Myself

72H book

Challenge Accepted

Personal development

Hello there Reader!

With January past, we are starting to get into the real meat of the year. The holidays have worn off, the time spent at work grows, and that New Year’s Resolution may or may not still be working. That’s okay, we’ve all been there. What happens is that most of us try to change too much too soon. So I want to give you a little extra push on your goals or even a chance to change up your goal and refocus.

Over the past month I’ve been thinking of ways that I can better myself, psychically, intellectually, in business… I often wonder about how I can become better, as my one professor’s in college used to say, “get better everyday.” Yesterday as I sat down to read I had one of those little ah-ha moments.

A Pledge To You

Time to crack those spines

Here is my pledge to you the reader. I pledge to make myself better everyday this year by reading 50 books this year. Yes this is a lofty goal and I know just two paragraphs above here I said that most of us try to change too much to fast. But in all honesty that’s not that difficult.  Just think about how long you spend watching Netflix (For me it’s The Office and The X-Files right now), or maybe you’re one of those people who are engrossed in a game on your phone (Clash of Clans addict here), or think of all the other tasks you do that are not the most productive use of your time (no one is 100% productive). Now think if you just read a book instead of watching one more episode of The Office (you don’t have to stop rooting for Jim and Pam) that’s 20 minutes of reading time.

That’s how I’m going to pursue my goal, one less episode of The Office (or The X-Files) a day. Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop watching Netflix all at once, leaving me with nothing but reading to do. No that would be a too drastic change, but who knows in a few weeks maybe I’ll be down to watching one less episode a night.

Reading Lists

What I’ll be reading in 2016

Now what will I be reading? A little bit of everything! With the aforementioned new year it seems as though there have been about as many people offering up reading lists, for this year and last year, as there are people who have tweeted or wrote a blog. I’ve also been delving into Goodreads lately and there are so many reading lists on to pick and choose from. I also have gone back to high school Pete and  thought about what I read, what I want to re-read, what I only read the Cliff Note’s for, there are about 40 books right there to think about. There are so many books out there to read, it really is impossible to not find something for you to read.

With my pledge of reading 50 books I want to read at least 20 books focused on business.  Reading business books will push me to learn more about the business, how we can better help you, how to interact better with people both in person and through the ever-growing field of social media and the internet in general.

That means that I have plenty of room for the fun books too! These are the books that I truly love, the books that I have laid in bed reading until 3:00 in the morning when I had to wake up at 7:00. This is what I’ve been reading almost exclusively in the past few months and what I want to continue reading. Fiction novels still provide you with knowledge that helps you in your life, it gives me imagination, access to language that I don’t hear in everyday speak, it provides insights into other people’s thoughts, and many, many more things.

A Challenge For You

Reach for the stars

I would like to challenge you to read a little more this year! Take the time to grow as a professional, as a human being, or better yet, both. If you use Goodreads I challenge you to pledge a number of book to read this year (look me up and lets be friends). Don’t stretch yourself too thin but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. By striving to reach just above your comfort level people are more likely to work for and achieve their goals. If you tend to read 10 books a year, maybe stretch your goal to 15, there is no need to do 50! I’d love to hear your thoughts on reading , or your thoughts on what to read.

To keep myself honest I’ll be posting a list of the book I’ve read right here, I’ll try to update as much as possible.

What I’ve Read

– updated 3/8/2016

So I’m up to 7 books, a bit behind schedule but that’s okay, I hope to finish up a couple books this week!

Fiction and Fun Non-Fiction

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Children of the After: Awakening (book 1) by Jeremy Laszlo

Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled Off the Most Audacious Rescue in History by Antonio Mendez 

Business Non-Fiction

The Most Productive People in History: 18 Extraordinarily Prolific Inventors, Artists, and Entrepreneurs, From Archimedes to Elon Musk by Michael Rank

 

Thanks for the read! Hope to see you on Goodreads or down in the comments!

Peter Wietmarschen

Tips to Enhance Your Writing

I never thought too much about writing or correct grammar usage until I started my business in 1996 and began proofing documents every day.  I can’t believe the amount of mistakes I find when I’m editing (and at the start of my business 95% of these were medical reports – talk about scary!).  I’ll admit in the beginning I wasn’t perfect (and sometimes I might miss something and I’m very hard on myself if I do :)), but if I am not 100% sure something is correct, I look it up so I know it is accurate and then the next time I don’t have to think about it.  My thought is my name/my company is on this work and if something is going out to a client, it better be correct.

I have always loved spelling; I remember the word that ended my competition in the finals of the 8th grade spelling bee – commitment.  I couldn’t remember if there were two ms or two ts.  Needless to say, I have never forgotten how to spell it since that day.  I always head straight to the dictionary whenever I can’t spell a word.  I figure, I may not know it at the time, but if I look it up and see it in my head then I’ll always remember it.

My love for reading started when I was very young. During the summer, I would go to the library and I remember one summer day carrying home as many Beverly Cleary books as I could hold in my arms. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old. That summer I read every Ramona and Beezus story as well as all of the other Beverly Cleary books. For me, reading takes me places and allows me to “leave it all behind.”

Below are some tips that help me with my writing, and I  hope you’ll find them beneficial too, whether you write your blog for fun or you are writing your first book.  Some people say it doesn’t matter; I strongly disagree.  If we want to present a professional image and have high standards then what we present must be better than the other person.  If not, how do we stand apart from the others?

1. Improve Your Reading Skills!

Better writing usually comes from doing — practice makes perfect (or you know the saying, the more you do something, the better you become at doing it).

Reading other writing plays an important part in improving your writing. It helps you develop your vocabulary and improve your spelling (which is discussed below). When you improve your vocabulary and spelling you continue to improve your reading skills and the cycle continues.

As you read other authors’ works, you’ll notice different styles and can decide which you like and don’t! You can improve your writing not only by doing, but also seeing how others do it.

2. Improve Your Spelling!

Learning to spell is essential to writing because correct spelling ultimately helps you convey your message to others. Since language is shared, then your spelling must follow the accepted standard pattern, and, as importantly, for persuasive writing, correct spelling gives writing credibility.

Remember, the spell check on the computer doesn’t catch incorrect usage of words, i.e., two, too, to, here, hear, their, they’re, and there to name a few.

3. Improve Your Vocabulary!

An excellent writer has a high-quality vocabulary; extensive and deep. When you have a large collection of words, you can choose the most exciting, precise word for whatever part of your story, and you won’t have to use the same word over and over.

Ways to improve your vocabulary: read well-written books; look up any word you don’t know the meaning of (I do this all the time); associate with people who have a great spoken and written vocabulary; and try to learn one new word a day. Keep a notebook and write the word and meaning down or keep a document on your computer and call it “New Words” – whatever works for you!

FYI – My writing skills are a work in progress; in high school I could never come up with a written paper.  I was scared to death.  When the teacher said pick a topic and do your research paper I broke out in hives!  Research?  Write? I’m not sure where or when my love for writing finally surfaced, but it has led me to this path of writing and editing and I like it.  My goal is to write a book some day. 

When did your love for writing start? What is your favorite tip for enhancing your writing skills? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Colleen

Your Verbal Positioning System

Co-Owner, The Strategic Connectors