Friday, November 16, 2018

Suzanne Adam on Life in Chile and Her Memoir from the Bottom of the World

In this interview, Suzanne Adam talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, Notes from the Bottom of the World: A Life in Chile.

“And I would say, to have an open mind, to want to learn or to be curious about the people and that country.” ~Suzanne Adam

Notes from the Bottom of the World is essentially a collection of essays on a variety of topics that Suzanne wrote over the years, some of which are expanded versions of blogs she had posted. These essays range from childhood memories to travel blogs, and she didn’t intend to have these published in a book when she originally wrote these.

Suzanne was an only child who grew up in a town near San Francisco, after which she joined the Peace Corps. She began teaching after her Peace Corps stint, and it was during that time she met the man who would become her husband, and she went with him when he returned to Chile, and has lived there since then. The couple’s original intention was to return to California, but they wound up settling in Chile, and Suzanne found the process of settling in rather challenging, with one of these being a small-town girl who needed to adapt to a big city. Other challenges included standing in line, during the times of social unrest, to buy food, and getting used to the cold weather.

Suzanne remarks that not having the kinds of foods she had been used to, as well as living frugally, is something that has had a lot of impact on her, and she has noted that there is a lot of waste that is generated today. She has also realized just how important her connection to the natural world was to her, due in a large part to her upbringing in northern California, and she used this to help herself sink roots in Chile. She notes that, in general, people who live in cities tend to be less connected with the natural world compared to those who live in towns and smaller settlements, and that Chileans are becoming environmentally aware at present, with plastic bags being banned in several places and the government pushing for dependence on solar power.

Suzanne notes that Chile’s geography leads to its isolation, as it is separated from other nations by the Atacama desert and the Andes mountains, which has led to the inward-facing society that she saw when she first came over. The nation also wasn’t diverse, socially or culturally, but this is changing now, thanks to interconnectivity and a present influx of migrants from other nations. This immigration is viewed with mixed emotions amongst long-term Chileans, but the reception has been generally positive.

California and Chile are similar, with Chile being a “turned upside-down” version of California where the climates are concerned. Suzanne remarks that the mountainous areas immediately around Santiago, the capital of Chile, tend to be bare of trees, but the southern mountains have a lot of forest cover, and the country’s coast is similar to that of the western United States.

Suzanne admits that her heart is in both the United States and in Chile, as she has lived longer in Chile than she had in the country of her birth. She also notes that Spanish is widely spoken in California, and remarks as well that the golden poppy, which is California’s state flower, grows in central Chile. She notes that Americans could learn to live more frugally, even as she bemoans that Chileans are presently moving towards the same kind of consumer society present in the United States.

To those who would relocate to a land different from their own, Suzanne recommends that they study the local language ahead of time, as not knowing the language would hinder acclimation. She also recommends to learn about the people and the culture and to have an open mind while doing so.

Purchase from Amazon: Notes from the Bottom of the World: A Life in Chile by Suzanne Adam

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Jennifer Cohen on How to Cultivate a Life of Sustainable Abundance

In this interview, Jennifer Cohen talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, which she co-authored with Gina LaRoche, The 7 Laws of Enough: Cultivating a Life of Sustainable Abundance.

“We have to get into what is scarce versus finite. There are limitations, but we are manufacturing most of the scarcity on the planet.” ~Jennifer Cohen

According to Jennifer, The 7 Laws of Enough came about because their publisher asked them to create it, but the book is the culmination of fifteen years of research and inquiry which created the aforementioned seven laws.

“Sustainable abundance” is a term defined by Jennifer and Gina as a form of abundance which is just, ethical and reciprocal, pointing out that the present method of living is unsustainable and that living in a manner of sustainable abundance is a return to a sustainable way of life. Abundance is also the capacity to remember and notice the bounty that is equally available and freely given to all.

Jennifer notes that “abundance” is used in everyday life as a way to justify their excessive consumption, and she notes that reciprocity is about being accountable for returning as much as has been taken. She noted that one of the steps to getting to a knowledge of reciprocity is by taking note of the real cost of producing goods, costs which include environmental impact and impact on people. She gives, as an example the case of Ray Anderson, who owned one of the largest carpet manufacturers in the world, as someone who operated on reciprocity, in that he decided that his company would have zero carbon impact and pollution where the environment was concerned. He succeeded in this aim, and Jennifer notes that there are presently several companies which are also working with reciprocity in mind, as the momentum to do so seems to be “building.”

Scarcity is “the myth of our time,” according to one of Jennifer’s mentors, Lynne Twist, who also adds that this is “the sea and the water that we’re swimming in.” The three elements of this myth are:

  1. There’s not enough to go around.
  2. More is always better.
  3. This is the way things are.

Jennifer points out that clean water being a finite resources is true, but that it has not become a scarce resource until recently, as an example, and notes that, even with present methods used in the international food system, there is enough food to feed seven billion people, although this system might not be useful when feeding nine billion people. She also remarks that, while 30,000 children die every day from hunger, this is not due to an insufficiency of food but because present economic models are based on the mindset of scarcity. Jennifer notes that value is driven up because of this mindset, for everything from diamonds to food. Although Jennifer admits that neither she or Gina are anthropologists, she argues that this mindset began with agriculture, when people began stockpiling and hoarding things that were more of one’s share, and also notes that, biologically speaking, the human brain is designed to survive, and that anyone can steal food from another person when their brain believes that it cannot survive unless it does just that - something which comes from a mindset of scarcity. That said, Jennifer points out that the neocortex enables humans to think beyond limbic system survival programming, and that, while this is the seat of human potential, it is difficult to get to a state of fulfilling human potential when one is bombarded continuously by messages which stimulate fear.

As one of their mentors said, “You treasure what you measure, and you measure what you treasure,” which means that, in a world of scarcity, what is measured - the metrics for success - are stuff owned, achievement and accumulation of capital.

Love is the seventh law, and according to Jennifer, where her co-author Gina is concerned, it is the only law. She also notes that, biologically, human beings cannot exist without love.

The other laws, which enable sustainable abundance and, like love, are the metrics by which a life of sustainable abundance are lived, are:

  • Joy.
  • The depth with which we are resting.
  • Being in alignment with the truths of what it means to be an impermanent human being.
  • Relating to ourselves as all of us human beings belonging here.
  • Declaring and living inside our own “enoughness.”
  • Tell the stories that enable us to live a life of sustainable abundance, rather than of scarcity.

Jennifer noted that leaders tell stories for a different kind of future, then take a stand for those stories and invite people to live into these, giving the examples set by Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.

While the American Dream is essentially for a person to be “self-made,” this is an individualist success point of view, and Jennifer points out that nobody is self-made. Nobody does everything alone, Jennifer points out, as people need others to help them carry out what needed to be done; indeed, she mentioned monks in caves, who need support for them to maintain their meditations, as well as that most people don’t know how to make their own clothes or build their own homes.

To those who are struggling, Jennifer says, “It’s not your fault,” and that this moment just might be enough.

Purchase from Amazon: The 7 Laws of Enough: Cultivating a Life of Sustainable Abundance by Gina LaRoche and Jennifer Cohen 

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Scott Stein and His Clever Leadership Hacks & Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and...

In this interview, Scott Stein talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his book, Leadership Hacks: Clever Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and Results.

“If they [leaders] can delegate, they can actually get a lot more things done in less time.” ~Scott Stein

Scott Stein has collected a great number of hacks from various leaders whom he has dealt with in the past twenty-five years, and after sharing these with several other leaders, it often was the case that the latter would ask him to write those hacks - effective shortcuts which help boost productivity - so they and their people could refer to these. The result was Leadership Hacks, which is portioned into sections in such a way that a reader wouldn’t need to read the book from cover to cover to get anything out of it, and instead just check on the section he or she is interested in so they could improve their effectiveness.

The top challenges facing leaders today, according to Scott, is not having enough time for them to do everything they need to do. This results in leaders taking shortcuts which may be inappropriate in the long run, as they will eventually need to work harder and will need to deal with any negative consequences of such actions on their people. Where leadership throughout time is concerned, one of the biggest challenges has been having one’s people take action in a manner the leader wants, and this has been exacerbated at present by the need for leaders to make decisions and take action quickly. Scott notes that leaders today need to be smarter in the way they work, so they can be more efficient while not skipping steps as they go along, and the book provides practical advice and procedures for doing so.

Scott notes that there are quite a few books on leadership out in the market today are done by academics who have never had any practical experience in leadership and also remarks that there are leadership programs available today which might have been applicable a half-century ago but which are not applicable today.

Scott notes three categories of hacks where leadership is concerned, all of which he has hacks for:

  1. Personal hacks - the things leaders can do to help them work smarter.
  2. One-on-one hacks - when a leader interacts with one of his subordinates.
  3. Team hacks - when a leader interacts with his team or organization.

One of the hacks that Scott mentioned was how to hack one’s inbox, which is particularly vital if the leader is in charge of an organization with literally thousands of people. Moreover, according to a McKinsey Global Institute report, leaders spend around two and a half hours of their time each day reading and answering e-mails, which makes hacking one’s inbox important. Scott mentions a four-step e-mail inbox hack which he picked up from a global HR leader who deals with 15 countries and over 10,000 people under her. The process is as follows:

  1. Scan the e-mail.
  2. Delete anything that is not important, to eliminate visual clutter.
  3. Sort the remaining e-mails according to level of importance.
  4. Respond to any necessary e-mails.

Scott also gave some advice on how to get e-mails responded to, and this is by telling the recipient, in the Subject line or at the very beginning of the e-mail, what the desired outcome is. There are five different types of outcomes, which give context to the reader, viz.:

  • FYI - I just need to give you information.
  • I need some information from you, can you share this with me?
  • A decision needs to be made.
  • I need you to take action on this.
  • We need to have a meeting, because what we need to discuss is too complex to communicate over an e-mail.

Where delegation is concerned, Scott notes that, according to a Harvard Business Review article noted that more than half of the companies surveyed were concerned about the ability of their leaders to delegate. Scott believes that most leaders don’t delegate because of the time concerns, as leaders feel that the job could be done more efficiently, and in the way the leader wants it, if they did the job themselves, rather than giving it to a subordinate and having him mess it up. Leaders also might not trust their subordinates, for whatever reason, or might not have trained their subordinates properly, which makes leaders reluctant to delegate, and Scott notes that there are no organizations that give leaders a process on how to delegate, and then remarks that there are four levels of delegation.

Level 1: “Don’t do it, because I’ll do it myself.”
Level 2: “Let’s work together to map out / write down the activities, and the sequence that the activities need to be taken, along with a time frame for doing these.”
Level 3: “Create your own map on what needs to be done, and I’ll check on it before you carry out the task.”
Level 4: “I’ll give you this task to do, and then check on you later.”

Moving one’s staff up these levels, Scott notes, empowers the staff and gives the leader more time to handle other things.

The three ingredients of leaders who are admired by other leaders have three aspects which enable them to get things done in a way that motivates their people:

Mindset - open to learning and trying new things. This is the Growth Mindset mentioned by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, as opposed to the Fixed Mindset, as the Growth Mindset is the belief that one can cultivate one’s learning as well as learn from one’s mistakes.

Approach - the steps taken and how one’s subordinates are engaged so that they will take those steps.

Impact - on the people around the leader.

A lot of leaders learn into becoming a leader, according to Scott, and these leaders often guess and decide along the way, where risky decisions and possible new ways of doing things are concerned.

There are four different kinds of team meetings, according to Scott, and these should all be done separately, rather than all mashed together into one major meeting, as each meeting has its own process. Scott notes that meetings are a waste of time, according to nearly half of the recipients of a survey given, and the types of meetings are:

  • Check-in meeting, where the leader checks in on the work done so far.
  • Problem-solving meeting, where a problem is discussed and solved. This may require the presence of people who have expertise in the problem concerned and does not require the presence of those who are not involved with the problem.
  • Decision-making meeting, after which action will be taken.
  • Strategy-development meeting, which is a planning meeting that looks into the future.

Where technology is concerned, Scott points out that, according to all the research done on the topic, technology is highly distracting. Even having a smartphone beside one can reduce cognitive thinking and ability, because of the notifications that come in; and the impact extends into family life, when a leader is stuck to a screen when the rest of the family is around and wants to spend time with him.

Purchase from Amazon: Leadership Hacks: Clever Shortcuts to Boost Your Impact and Results by Scott Stein