Book of the Month: The Happiness Project

What will 2016 hold? If I knew that, I’d be a millionaire. Like everyone, I hope that good things are up ahead. More than hope though, I can prepare, plan, and cultivate a positive outlook for the new year. That’s why we picked The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin as our first Book of the Month for 2016.

Rubin chronicles her year of doing the things that she’s always wanted or meant to do, including reading Aristotle and organizing her closets. She collected her thoughts in order to inspire others to do the same.

Maybe reading Aristotle or cleaning out your closet doesn’t appeal to you, but that’s O.K. The beauty of a Happiness Project is that it can be tailored to individual tastes. Maybe you’d rather try sky-diving or plant a vegetable garden or read more diversely. It’s up to you. So listen to the book, grab a pen, make a list, and start 2016 out right.

The Happiness Project is 40% off all through January!

Book of the Month: The Art of Asking

Each month, the Libro team selects a book that we believe will spark dialogue and discussion for our listeners. Our goal is to create an open space for our audiobook listening community to ponder ideas, pick minds, and talk about what we love most: books. This month we’ve chosen The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer.

I was initially drawn to this novel after hearing about Amanda Palmer’s fascinating life story, one that wanders down many paths but ultimately ends in the single realization that asking is a key component of success in life. Frozen as a living statue, Amanda Palmer posed in a wedding dress asking passersby for their pocket change. As a musician, she asked for the literal support of her audience as she flung herself into their arms crowdsurfing. And when Palmer asked fans to support her independent album, she was met with the world’s most successful music Kickstarter. Amanda Palmer is a singer-songwriter, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker, who is definitely not afraid to ask for help. Her TED Talk, on which this book is based, has more than seven million views.

In her memoir, Palmer delves into a paralyzing fear so many people face, that of admitting to needing and asking for help, and how it affects their lives and relationships (including her marriage to novelist Neil Gaiman). Through her revelations, she discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of asking for help.

The Art of Asking will inspire its readers to rethink their ideas about asking, giving, art, and life. There is a piece of advice for everyone here—something to take away, apply, or learn from. Not only do her ideas have practical applications in real life relationships and day-to-day situations, but also in career and business decisions. I loved her thoughts on building community. In asking for help we allow others to support us. Moments like this are the foundation for relationships, communities, and life. Palmer tells us of the value in taking risks by asking for what we want and need, a skill most people shy from. Palmer flips the idea of asking as “weakness” on its head, calls it strength, and shows her audience that some of the best creations are those that are built together.

I also absolutely loved the music this audiobook features. It’s a special addition not found in most books. Hearing both her songs and writing allowed me to grasp the entirety of all that is Amanda Palmer, to see her from all sides as a musician, performer, speaker, and writer.

This is a book that speaks for itself. Amanda Palmer has a unique perspective full of valuable, applicable, and unparalleled ideas on life. Palmer’s story is just plain interesting, so it’s no wonder that her words spring to life and make for a tremendously entertaining listen.

The Art of Asking is our August Book of the Month. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to join our month-long conversation.

Making the Choice: Mindset Works Director Gives Advice for a Growth-Minded Life

Dr. Carol Dweck didn’t limit sharing her research to Mindset.

With Dr. Lisa Sorich Blackwell, she founded Mindset Works, an organization that helps schools and teachers to implement growth-minded tools. We chatted with Emily Diehl, Director of Professional Learning and Curriculum Design at Mindset Works, about her best tips and tricks in adapting a growth Mindset. Emily is a former teacher and parent herself, who brought her years of experience as well as Dr. Dweck’s research to our conversation.

[Judy T. Oldfield] Can you tell me what Mindset Works is all about and what the goals of the organization are?

[Emily Diehl] We translate educational research into products and services for schools, for students, for teachers, and for districts. Specifically, the research that we apply has to do with motivation and learning, and what drives people to be motivated, and how you can teach people [what] we call “non-cognitive” skills, so how can you teach people and cultivate them to become motivated, deep learners, high achievers, and meet their potential.

[JO] What do you tell people who have read Mindset, seen Dr. Dweck’s TED talk, or attended one of your sessions and say, “I really feel that I want to make a change in my life?”

[ED] My friend Jen Maichin (she’s one of our educator consultants) and I . . . had this goofy thing that rhymed: “You’ve got to hear the voice and make the choice.” She still says this to her students all the time. We [say] this in talks a lot. It’s very, very normal at first when you meet a challenge to have this little voice in your head that’s wondering, “Can I do this? Do I want to? How hard is this going to be? Will people judge me?” There all these things in your head. You hear that fixed-mindset voice, questioning if you can do it, and then you don’t make a growth-mindset choice. So, we tell them to embrace this challenge. Say, “I’m going to look for strategies. I’m going to be inspired by other successful people, I’m going to say things to myself when I make normal mistakes like ‘look what you learned from that.’” We tell them to look to switch to a growth-mindset choice.

[JO] So then, it is all very cognitive?

You know, it really is. The ironic thing about how they’ve labelled it “non-cognitive” is that is a very cognitive thing and just for a lack of better term, “non-cognitive” is what we’ve landed on. But it’s all in your head. That’s why we sometimes use the word belief. Your beliefs affect your success. But the neuroscience is backing all of this up. It’s not just the psychology of your beliefs; your brain literally does grow. The dendrins grow. You remap your neural connections. You physically get smarter, in a real sense.

[ED] What about adults working with young people? Do you have any good tips for daily interactions? For coaches, teachers, parents, working with young people?

Initially we would say, if you want to do one thing tomorrow, try this idea out, and see if it has an effect on the children in front of you. The first thing you can change is your feedback to kids. You want to use the kind of feedback that helps people to learn from their mistakes. Don’t say “Oh no, try not to make a mistake again.” Say “Well, that’s great. These are really hard challenges. These are opportunities to learn; let’s talk about what you learned from this.” You want to use the kind of feedback that isn’t always concentrating on saying “Wow, good job, you’re so smart, you’re so fast, you’re so brilliant.”

It takes more effort to engage and to pay attention to whatever process the other person is going through and to give feedback that is specific to whatever they are doing. That’s our first foray into all of this: learning how you interact with the kids. Are you accidentally promoting a fixed mindset, that things should be easy, that we don’t do hard things so that way we don’t make any mistakes? Or are you encouraging a growth mindset, where you really push people to try the hard thing?

[JO] Would you give that same advice to someone who manages people at work? Adults working with adults?

[ED] Absolutely. Carol did an interview with Harvard Business Review. I really recommend it. It’s called “The Right Mindset for Success” and she talks about this scenario a lot. The reality of the work place is that you don’t want to make a lot of high-risk mistakes because it’s bad for business, but she talks about how we want employees who are willing to take responsible risks and learn.

[JO] Let’s go back to talking about kids. Do you think we overreward kids for participation by giving them trophies for showing up, giving an A for effort? We’re praising kids for participation but not for hard work.

[ED] Absolutely. I have that problem with my own children. I signed them up for a swim team, and starting out my children were a little older than other kids were when they started, who were far better swimmers than my children. I told my children “You aren’t going to win any races this whole year. You won’t win anything. Those kids have been swimming for five years, and this is your first year. You’re not going to win. But we’re doing this. We’re going to learn how to swim and it’ll be fun.” And everyone thought I was this mean mom, right? Well, we go to the first swim meet, and guess what they do? They give my kids ribbons even though they didn’t win anything! My kids started laughing. They were like, “Ha ha Mom, look! You said we wouldn’t get anything and we did.” I was really disappointed. I would have rather they wouldn’t have gotten the ribbon, because they didn’t earn one. Unless the ribbon had said “participant” or if they had been given a ribbon later for improving their time.

[JO] Or even a certificate of completion for going to every single practice.

[ED] Yeah, because, again, we were extremely diligent and they progressed a lot, but they didn’t deserve a ribbon like all the kids who had actually won a race that day.

[JO] Did your kids keep up swimming?

[ED] Yes. They’re still swimming and they’re doing better. They’re still being outswum by the kids who are five years ahead of them in experience but they really understand that. They know that if they had started swimming sooner, they’d be better and that if they keep swimming, eventually it’s all going to even out if they just work hard and practice.

[JO] My nephew is also a swimmer. I don’t live by my nieces and nephews, but ever since reading Mindset, every time I see their parents posting things about what they’re doing on Facebook, I’ve been really trying hard praise effort in my comments, like “It looks like those practices really paid off.” But I notice that in their comments, other people are praising what they perceive to be natural ability, intelligence, or creativity. Do you think that there is a societal condition where we praise natural ability, natural intelligence?

[ED] I think both messages are very strong in our society. It’s very mixed, and so we bring up children in a very confused way. In certain things people are taking those growth-minded messages—“You can do anything,” “pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” “keep practicing.”

[JW] It seems like we really encourage children, especially in areas like athletics or the arts up through college and then when people become an adult they say, “Now it’s time to put that away.”

[ED] Exactly. Or all of a sudden you are surrounded by other, high-achieving people.

During early stages it’s easier to learn something sometimes. When you’re young you grow a lot. When you get older, it gets harder and you’re going, “Oh, I’m not as good as I thought I was.” Because you never learned to work hard for it.

[JO] Do you find people who are resistant to the idea of this growth and fixed mindset or are resistant to the idea of changing their mindset?

[ED] We do, but it’s rarer. Their argument is usually not that they don’t buy into the growth mindset—most people are excited to hear about it. Sometimes when parents have older children who they desperately want to really succeed feel like “I can’t let my kid fail. They have to get all A’s.” So I can’t talk to them about just trying the hard thing and how we all make mistakes sometimes. They feel like they have to choose the thing they’ll get an A in because they have to go to Harvard. When you have children yourself and you’ve raised them in a fix-minded world then these messages are difficult to hear. But I wouldn’t say that people don’t want to hear it or that they’re against learning about it.

What’s your favorite tip from Mindset? Let us know in the comments. Haven’t read it yet? Get Mindset here.

Our Top 7 Pieces of Advice from Mindset

There are interesting insight, facts, and pieces of advice in every minute of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck. It was tough to narrow them down to my favorites, but the following quotes are some of the pieces of advice that stayed with me long after I finished listening to Mindset.

1. On challenging kids

So what should we say when children complete a task—say, math problems—quickly and perfectly? Should we deny them the praise they have earned? Yes. When this happens, I say, ‘Whoops. I guess that was too easy. I apologize for wasting your time. Let’s do something you can really learn from!’”

2. On our innate desire to learn

What on earth would make someone a nonlearner? Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn. Infants stretch their skills daily. Not just ordinary skills, but the most difficult tasks of a lifetime, like learning to walk and talk. They never decide it’s too hard or not worth the effort. Babies don’t worry about making mistakes or humiliating themselves. They walk, they fall, they get up.”

3. On confidence

Question: Are people with the fixed mindset simply lacking in confidence? No. People with the fixed mindset have just as much confidence as people with the growth mindset—before anything happens, that is. But as you can imagine, their confidence is more fragile since setbacks and even effort can undermine it.”

4. On sending messages to children or subordinates

Every word and action can send a message. It tells children—or students, or athletes—how to think about themselves. It can be a fixed-mindset message that says: You have permanent traits and I’m judging them. Or it can be a growth-mindset message that says: You are a developing person and I am interested in your development.

5. On idolization

We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary. Why not? To me that is so much more amazing.”

6. On praise

After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. How can that be? Don’t children love to be praised? Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow—but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.”

7. On stretching yourself

Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”

 What’s your favorite piece of advice from Mindset? Leave it in the comments below. Haven’t read it yet? Check out our Mindset page.

Get More Done!

I’m lucky. I know that. Most people don’t get to be their own boss, immerse themselves in a field they love and are interested in, or work with their friends. So I know that working as an independent publisher and a cofounder of is unlike most careers.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself stuck, unmotivated, and, on occasion, more likely to go for a run or plan my next vacation than to answer emails or set up business meetings. And in that, I know I’m not alone. Like most people, I ask my friends and colleagues what they do when they get into a rut. The following are some of my and the rest of the team’s favorite books to help us get more done.

We are, after all, going to die someday, as Todd Henry points out in the first few pages of Die Empty. Henry then proceeds to take that stomach-churning, animal anxiety that we have at hearing those words and turn it into a positive, a powerful motivator. To die empty, Henry says, is to die with your best work out there in the world, rather than unrealized.

After feeling the need to create, do, or share, many people are still stuck, feeling exposed, asking, “but can I?” That’s where You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney comes into play. McRaney shares tips to beat your own brain, circumventing your own logical fallacies and building up happiness.

Drive and confidence are only part of the equation. If you really want to maximize time, sloughing off hours of labor, take advice from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. Ferriss offers solid advice for delegating tasks, negotiating with confidence and authority, and minimizing actual work. Ferriss is not a psychologist or an economist. He’s a real person, who has managed to turn his life around, going from, as he says “14-hour days and $40,000 per year to 4-hour weeks and $40,000 per month.” Four hours of work may be too extreme for some people. After all, there is more to work than just money, and some of us, myself included, love what we do. But there’s no denying that Ferriss’s techniques are worth exploring.

Speaking of efficiency, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande demonstrates the power of putting pen to paper and getting more done through simple checklists. The Economist described it as “both a meditation on the growing complexity of the world and a how-to book on coping with that complexity.” Drawing from his background as an endocrine and general surgeon, Gawande shows how something as simple as a checklist can break down any intensive and overwhelming task. In compelling prose, he shares stories of pilots, doctors, chefs and more, using these tricks to deconstruct what would otherwise be tasks too intricate for the human brain to tackle. Checklists are even more important in many of these stories because so often people in these situations are working in vast teams.

I don’t know about you, but I’m actually excited to get back to work already. I’m going to make a list in Simplenote right now.

What books help you fight procrastination? Let us know in the comments or link to your own review. Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about these great authors.

Book of the Month: Mindset

At we believe in the power of online communities.

We’ve all seen people, separated by geography, come together to do amazing things on Twitter, blogs, and forums. With this in mind, we’re selecting a Book of the Month each month.

Every month, we’ll focus on a particular book and generate discussion on our blog and social media around it. Think of it like an online book club that lasts all month long. We’ll pick books from all walks of life and all genres, mixing up fiction with nonfiction, and all of the subcategories therein. 

First up, we’ve selected Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Dr. Carol Dweck, a book that I’m very excited to discuss. I’m also especially excited that we will offer Mindset at 60% off the retail price, throughout April.

Mindset is the sort of book that I’ve been hearing about for years, one that I’ve always meant to pick up. When my friend and colleague Tracy Cutchlow wrote about Mindset for The Huffington Post, the post went viral, racking up more than 212,000 likes on Facebook. As the publisher of John Medina’s Brain Rules for Baby, I received more feedback about Mindset than any other topic. Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock, wrote about it for New York Magazine. It’s the most read article in the history of the magazine. Clearly there is something to this book and Dr. Dweck’s research.

Dweck believes that people possess two types of mindsets: fixed or growth. Those with a fixed mindset believe that talent is innate, that people are either good or something or not, and if they are not, they have failed. People with a growth mindset, however, believe that steady dedication will see results. These people love a challenge because it is just that—challenging. They do not believe in inherent intelligence or skill. Not only are people with a growth mindset happier and more satisfied than those with a fixed mindset, but they are better at achieving their goals too.

And yet, Mindset hasn’t acquired that household name that some other psychology books have.

Going into Mindset, I had it in my head that this was a parenting book. After all, Dweck’s fabulous TED Talk is mostly geared towards parents and teachers. In it, she speaks about disadvantaged kids and whole schools who were able to shoot to the top of their studies when these same kids were encouraged and “praised wisely”—that is to say that they were praised for their work, not their intelligence.

I don’t have kids myself, but thought maybe there were some ideas in Mindset I could extract for my own purposes.

I quickly discovered that while, yes, this is a parenting book (there are several great ideas in here for parents), it is so much more than that. Dweck covers coaches, teachers, athletes, CEOs, musicians, artists, and, in the end, every ordinary person who reads her book. Take the following audio clip, for example. Dweck examines confidence and uses the real-life examples of athletes to demonstrate her points.

Over the course of Mindset Dweck illustrates how to respond to others in order to encourage a growth mindset, as well as how to think about things in one’s own life.

Even if you are already in a growth mindset, you can still learn something from Mindset. But if you are in a growth mindset, I don’t have to tell you that. You know that there is always something to be improved upon; there is always room to grow.


Visit our Mindset page for more great information about this book. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, where we’ll be discussing this book all month long.