Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Ponder Post: Complaint Free World

I am usually slow to jump onto the bandwagon for "world-revolutionizing" ideas. I read Made to Stick and Switch by Chip and Dan Heath in 2014 when they were written in 2007 and 2010 respectively. A Complaint Free World by Will Bowen was published in 2007 – yep, a full decade ago – and I have just now discovered it. But if an idea is good or relevant it stays around for a bit. Complaining seemed a very relevant topic this presidential election year and as I age in general so this book appealed.

The mechanism of the movement is a bit of a gimmick. Wear a purple bracelet on your wrist and every time you find yourself complaining, switch it to the other wrist. Since it takes 21 days to form or break a habit, so research suggests, your goal is to go 21 consecutive days without having to move the bracelet. If you slip up and complain you must start again at Day 1. Participants in the program quickly learned it is not as easy as it sounds.

The book is organized into four parts that define the stages of becoming complaint free:
  1. Unconscious Incompetence - you do not even know you are complaining
  2. Conscious Incompetence - you are aware you are complaining but do so anyway
  3. Conscious Competence - you recognize and can stop a complaint before it leaves your lips
  4. Unconscious Competence - you stop complaining without much effort
The book addresses several queries and challenges by definition and anecdotal example. What is a complaint, any way? It involves grief, pain, or discontentment. A complaint is determined by the feeling or motive behind the statement. "It is hot." Is this a statement of fact or a complaint? If it is voiced by a weather man it is probably just a fact. If it is voiced by an impatient individual sitting in an non-air-conditioned car at a red light that seems stuck, it probably is a complaint.

Isn't complaining justified? Where would our nation be if the early colonists had not complained? The key point here is that it was not their complaints that brought about change, but their actions.

The benefits of a complaint free environment are touted. The overall tone becomes one of focusing on the positive rather than the negative and life becomes more enjoyable. Become aware of a typical conversation. One person complains, another joins in the conversation expressing commonality by relating his comparably bad or even worse experience. The conversation escalates, or perhaps I should say degenerates, into a morass of unpleasantness. If complaints were eliminated from that conversation the result would be a happier ambience... or perhaps no ambience at all. Beware of those friends or acquaintances with whom all you have in common is negativity. Is your only topic of conversation complaining?

I checked this small 5"x8"x¾" book out of the library and read it in one sitting. It inspired me enough to try this complaint-free attitude on for size. I am not doing the bracelet thing. I would probably get a rash beneath it. See? Funny or complaining? I think I am only at stage 2 where I recognize where I am complaining but am not skilled enough to stop it. I recommend giving A Complaint-Free World a try. The writing style is simple, the examples are decidedly illustrative, many of the stories are exceedingly touching, and the results are much more than I expected. There were many points that got my attention and merit further consideration. The anecdotal story involving this saying is memorable. Read it for that alone.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ponder Post: After You

The novel After You is a sequel to the book Me Before You, both by Jojo Moyes. This as another August read for me but I been remiss in posting my review. Let's see what I remember.

I'd reviewed the first book Me Before You in my post dated June 28, 2015.  Me Before You was also made into a movie which I saw and liked a few months ago in June 2016. The novel After You was written in response to numerous requests the author received from her readers who wanted to know what had happened to the main character Louisa. It is not absolutely necessary that you read the first book or see the movie before reading After You, but I would advise that you do. In the sequel, Jojo Moyes is attentive to clueing readers in to past occurrences so they won't be totally in the dark plot-wise, but the readers will miss the wealth of character development from the initial novel. I think it is that development of the character of Luisa that had readers begging for more.

The next paragraph reveals some of Me Before You. It is difficult to review a sequel without giving away parts of the prequel. Reading on is safe for After You but will reveal parts of Me Before You.

Luisa in After You is trying to build a life for herself after her experience in supporting Will, the quadriplegic man she had grown to love. She'd stayed by his side at his request during his medically assisted suicide at a facility. He'd left her some money to start a new life over and to travel at his request to some of the places he's told her he'd loved. She does tour for a short time but during that time her struggles and self-doubts are very real. She flagellates herself with the lack of conviction that she had tried hard enough to change his mind. Another aspect of the situation I had not considered before reading this book was the aftermath of her decision to support Will in his end of life choice. While Luisa was attempting to recover from personal loss, those morally opposed to assisted suicide scorned her, or even shunned her, for her actions. It is hard enough to live with the death of one you love, but to endure public humiliation and rejection by some family members as well, will make the road to recovery all that more difficult.

All is not a downer however. Many characters are still supportive of her decision - her sister, Will's nurse, Will's parents to name a few. Farther along in her period of loneliness and grieving, Luisa does have several new people enter her life, two especially in a very positive and uplifting way. The character development of these two is very well done. I was very much engaged with Luisa's interactions and growing relationship with each of them. Luisa forges ahead with her life. I got a real kick out of a couple plot twists I had not seen coming. There are some riveting action scenes. The sequel is not quite as good as the original but very near. I would rate it just below four stars.