Working Identity : Unconventional Strategies for Reinventing Your Career by Herminia Ibarra (2004)

, 6 Dec 2018

I've had an odd experience with this book. I first bought it when I was informed of my near lay-off after years working for the same company; I got irritated with the theoretical business academic approach to the subject and the fact that most examples were of high-profile business or finance people. So I stopped reading it. I retook the book a couple of weeks ago, a few months after I first started reading it and after going through the process of  transition on my own. All of the sudden, bingo!, Ibarra's words clicked with me, because I've found that many of the things that Ibarra mentions are really also part of my process of transition as I am experiencing it.

Working Identity is structured in two parts. The first discusses the process of questioning and testing our work identities, and the second describes the actions that increase the likelihood of making a successful change. Chapter 8 is a summary of the whole book and really the part where I recommend you to start because it goes through the main points discusses throughout the book minus the fillers. The appendix is quite academic, but not too dry, and it was necessary to understand Ibarra's methodology and theoretical approach to the research that produced this book.

Ibarra states that her objective was to generate rather than to test theory; also that her objective wasn't to predict who will or won't change careers, but rather to identify the basic tasks of reinvention. I think she succeeds at doing both things. Ibarra has a great insight into the process of change itself, which she describes with accuracy, and she's able to distil lessons from the many study cases and real life people mentioned throughout the book. Looking at my own experience in  transitioning, I find that many of the things Ibarra says are really true for me, too, even though I am not, by any means, a high profile finance guy.

Working Identity debunks the fallacy that our professional identity is one, and that our personal identity fits just one job identity. Regardless of whether the transition is voluntary or forced, and assuming that you want to change careers (otherwise you are wasting your time on this book), the core of the book is that our professional identity is as much a psychological construction as it is a social construction, and that transition takes us to roads that might be an extension, development or jump off the cliff from those things we are familiar with. The process of career transition is a long road of personal trial and error until we find something that it's just right and fits us perfectly. One thing is imagining ourselves  doing whatever, and another thing doing it; one thing is learning how to do something new and then enjoying it; one thing is imagining our life-long hobby for X being our profession and another seeing that this won't give us the life, money or fulfilment that we crave. However, if  we don't try those paths, we'll never know. Trying means learning on the spot, experiencing the challenges and chaos, and how we feel about the reality of the new 'thing' emerging, whether it suits us or not and whether we want to stay or move on. The process is intertwined with passion, drive, and our natural talents, but it needs of patience and perseverance.  Sometimes the career transition will take us to places that we never considered ours, or thought we would be good at, or thought possible, and yet, if we have the determination, persistence and drive we might end just doing something totally 'unlike us', which is very much us.
Ibarra's reasearch unearths 9 unconventional strategies for reinventing our careers:
1/ Act your way into a new way of thinking and being. You cannot discover yourself by introspection.
2/ Stop trying to find your one true self. Focus on which of your many possible selves you want to test and learn more about.
3/ Allow yourself a transition period in which it's OK to oscillate between holding on and letting go. Better to live the contradictions than to come to a premature resolution.
4/ Resist the temptation to start by making a big decision that will change everything in one fell swoop. Use a strategy of small wins, in which incremental gains lead you to more profound changes.
5/ Identify projects that can help you get a feel for a new line of work or style of working and do these as extracurricular activities.
6/ Find people who are what you want to be and who can provide support for the transition. They won't be in your same old social circles.
7/ Use everyday occurrences to find meaning in the changes you are going through. Practice telling and retelling your story. Over time, it will clarify.
8/ Step back for a little while.
9/ Change happens in bursts and starts.

If you have read a bit about change and transition possibly you won't be wowed by the list overall, and you have already heard/read some of the things in the list in other books. However Ibarra's focus on doing before thinking and her exploration of personal and professional identities, the many selves that we carry inside us, and how those selves morph during the period of chaos that goes from starting a career transition to really transitioning, as well as the importance of our personal 'myth' or story are excellent, enlightening and something that not everybody speaking about career transition will spend much time discussing, even though they are important, or so I feel. This was, as a matter of fact, what resonated with me the most.

The first downside of the book to me is that the case studies, diary records and summarising of personal stories go forever, for pages. Those would have been necessary if this was a thesis presented in academic circles. As this is a book directed to the general public the need to be so exhaustive is not an issue. I understand the need to provide examples and real cases, but those occupy a good part of the written book. Was that necessary to convey Ibarra's point? I don't think so. She could have provide details of cases, without the need to go to the extent she does.

Ibarra says "It is better to start by trying out a possible new role on a small scale—in our spare time, on a time-limited sabbatical, or as a weekend project. And as we will see in the next chapter, an added—and necessary—advantage of experimenting is that while we are trying out new roles, we meet people who will help change our lives." (p. 113).  Most of the study cases are of financially stable people, quite well-off, who had the luxury of expending the time necessary to switch careers, juggle two things at the same time or take a sabbatical to work on their career reinvention. However, most people coming to this book, won't have that luxury. Ibarra itself explains that people who lose their jobs are at a great risk of short-circuiting the process as they can't stagger their time out because basically, for the transition to flourish, it needs of a basic level of security, personal, economical and psychological. However, she provides little evidence of this because his group of study basically has no person who is transitioning in that way, or is in their mid 50s, or unmarried for example. This being the case, many of the people who will get this book looking for help and inspiration will find that there is little for them in those examples.

The group of people focus of the book are college-educated population, professionals and academics, most of them are related to the world of economics, finances and business. I'm a professional and I could barely relate to most of those examples except for one case. If you are one of the Harvard School guys, you will certainly enjoy the examples and find them meaningful to you. Otherwise, you will find those people and their stories are nothing you can relate to. It would have been great if Ibarra had chosen a more balanced mix of people, people from different backgrounds, people in their mid 50s, people who transition after being laid off, and people who are not so businessy. 

If you read the book after your career reinvention, it will make great sense. If you do so at the beginning you might get irritated at the lack of how-to (because her how-to items of advice are too generic to be of any use), and, as Ibarra herself states the how-to varies from person to person and their circumstances. So, that's what I call a how-not-to-do a 'how to do". Overall, a very well-researched book, with great insight of what professional identity is.

At least on Kindle for PC and in my android, there are repeated cases of lack of hyphen in cases where a word seems it was. Perhaps a space is what's is missing. I don't know. See for example:
> twoyear period (p. 100)
> a highprofile legal dispute (p. 106)
> thirtytwo (p. 178)

Intimate Communion: Awakening Your Sexual Essence by David Deida (1996)

, 25 Aug 2018

When we confuse functional roles in the workplace with the naturally different sexual desires of most men and women, everybody suffers. (Locs. 461-462). We will always attract the reciprocal of the energy we put out. (Loc. 2058).
Intimate Communion is an old book, first published in 1996, which, despite the vintage feel of the cover, feels fresh and relevant in many ways 20+ years later.

This is a book for both women and men, on what I would describe as conscious coupling or conscious intimacy, i.e. an evolved way of relating/relationships in which our intrinsic dominant sexual energies are fully expressed and supported within the relationship.  Deida mixes his expertise as couples counsellor and his knowledge of what makes some relationships thrive and collapse, his knowledge of what is characteristic to masculine and feminine essences and energy, a bit of Eastern Philosophy (pondering on the self, energy work and Tantric Sex). The result is Deida's unique voice in the world of couples counselling, a voice that needs to be taken into account to transcend most people's dissatisfying and unfulfilled relationships, where sexual apathy and/or cheating are too common to ignore.

Deida defines Intimate Communion as the art of opening in love and the art of cultivating sexual polarity by gifting from our unique sexual essence. The aim is to supersede old forms of relating, get above an equal 50-50 relationship to another that can be 50-50 for many things but it is sexually charged, a relationship of free surrender in which both people feel alive and constantly feed their passion and natural non-tabooed flow of energies. Intimate communion has nothing to do with our gender, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. It is based on sexual energy, which varies from person to person disregarding their gender. Intimate Communion is a very honest open way of relating, based on respect, acceptance and surrender; it demands opening our heart moment by moment even when we are hurt and upset instead of retreating, giving the cold shoulder or punishing our partner for the hurt. Intimate Communion works on the three levels that keep a relationship finely tuned through the ages: mind, heart and sexuality.

It sounds very Gwyneth Paltrow! 

>> Deida clearly explains the difference between love, romance and sexual polarity. He calls our attention to the  fact that people often mix gender equality and the neutralisation of our native masculine or feminine sexual energies. He also makes a relevant differentiation between men-women at work and social equality, and couple dynamics.
>> The three stages of intimacy, of which Deida speaks over and over again, give you a clear sense of how intimacy is a process of growth, how different kinds of relationships work for men and women, and how emotional, sexual and gender issues manifest individually and differentially in those three different stages.
>> Deida's insight into the masculine energy is profound, and goes from the daily life to the metaphysical. It really helped me to recognise men I've come across in my life and see in which stage they were at. Deida understands the modern man's quest to regain his masculinity and become a 3rd stage man, that is a man who does not need to dominate, domineer, or abuse his woman to unleash his true masculine energy. The 3rd stage man is an evolved man, psychologically reassured, who does not need to dominate and wants to relate to a woman who is at a similar stage of development. The 3rd stage man, the way is described in the book, is a man around his 40s or older who has learnt life lessons and is ready to love freely but it is also strongly committed, not because commitment is demanded or expected from him but because he is willing to do so. This commitment is not a ring on the finger, it is an attitude to relationships in which sexual polarity is equally important.
>> Deida gets the modern professional woman, not as much as the modern man, but I felt that many of the things he said were very true. 
>> Something new that I had never heard is that a person can have sexual love affairs with the environment. Just like human beings, places can be more or less feminine, masculine or neutral. And the energy of those places sometimes fills in the vacuum we have when our own sexual essence is not expressed in a polarised relationship.
>> I loved the differentiation that Deida makes between a man's vision quest, man's escaping and man's diddling.

>> I found that Deida's analysis would have benefited from Gary Chapman's points in The Five Languages of Love (1995). One of the most important things you can do to re-energise your relationship is learning to recognise the way your partner gives love and wants love to be given to him/her.  The 'languages of love' aren't based on polarity, doing-receiving-giving kinda stuff, but on the way individual personalities, disregarding gender, feel loved and express their love.
>> Having John Gray's Men are from Mars and Women from Venus among my favourite books on relationships, I found that many of the things that Deida says in this book were basically a repetition of what Dr Gray had written in 1992 (Deida's book was written in 1995). 

>> The quiz to figure out your sexual essence is very useful, but also very simplistic.
>> The constant use of consciousness associated to male energy bothered me, not because I thought it wasn't meaningful as an element of a 3rd stage man, but because it seemed to imply that an enlarged consciousness is not as important to the feminine. Personally, I've found more women with high level of consciousness than men, that's my experience! I'm not saying that Deida believes that high consciousness is not proper to a highly evolved feminine woman, but the book reads as if high developed consciousness is a privilege of the masculine.
>> Although Deida's description and view of modern women is accurate in general, I felt that some of his discourse was anchored in the male's preference on how the feminine should be expressed, and how it was expressed in the past because women had no voice or liberties until the beginning of the 20th century. Put it differently, one thing is the feminine essence and another how that essence has been expressed in the past, where there weren't natural ways of expression for women except for those imposed and sanctioned by men. I found that some of Deida's statements felt in this category. A man telling a woman how to be feminine. Which is as ridiculous as woman telling a man how his scrotum feels in his pants. Two statements in his discourse really put me off: 
      1/ Deida says that the essence of the feminine woman is radiance and beauty, and that calling a woman ugly is the worse insult for a female. Well, that it's the case if you are talking to a superficial insecure moronic woman. Deida's statement is a  distorted view of the female essence as some men would like it to be. A woman can be very feminine and spiritual and don't give a dam about beauty. Deida's statement also diminishes the intellect of the woman. I think most women would feel more insulted by a man telling them that their brain/intellect is 'unnecessary' to their femininity than being called ugly. I think that spirituality and intelligence contribute more to women's radiance that their beauty and many men would also tell you that.
      2/ I found the following statement very dangerous:
"Although it is a far cry from being sweetly ravished and overwhelmed by love in the ultimate embrace of perfect Intimate Communion with a partner, it is still a form of surrendering to another in the hope of fulfilment, just as is raising a family, opening sexually with Her lover, or giving Her time and energy to a social cause. In each case, She hopes to he filled with love by surrendering Her sense of self to something else. In the case of a woman in a Dependence Relationship like Charlene, this "something else" is often the control or aggression of her man-receiving his angry attention fills her more than receiving no attention at all". (Locs 2541-2544).
The statement forgets that many women cannot leave an abusive relationship because they don't have economical independence, or a safe place where to escape, or they psyche is so wounded that they cannot counteract. It somewhat blames the female energy for the abuse. I was shocked at reading this statement. I don't think this would be published nowadays or should have been ever published.  
>> Deida's advice on healing and overcoming old patterns of behaviour in relationships might be contradicted by Jungian psychoanalysis, which tells you that this can be  rarely achieved even you have the luxury of doing therapy; you can become conscious of your patterns of behaviours, ghosts and shadow issues, but overcome them, they say, rarely. You learn to live with them. Of course, solution-oriented therapy says that this is possible. So, who knows?! 
>> There is a chapter about embracing the taboo, but Deida never explains what he means by taboo nor digs in on the subject. I would have loved a more open discussion on this.
>> The book is very repetitive at times, with the same sentence repeated sometimes in contiguous paragraphs. That's the editor's fault.

"Two Masculines do not a polarity make." (Loc., 2039).

The conversion of the book into digital format shows a separation of the two parts of an h quite frequently, as well as some of the letters of a word. 

How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For: Bounce Back, Find Calm in Chaos, and Reinvent Yourself by M. J. Ryan

, 18 Aug 2018

I have read a few books on crisis and change in the last couple of years and this is, despite the modest ratings and small number of reviews on Amazon, the most helpful of them all in you are in the middle of a life and/or career crisis.

Above all, this is a book on how to change your mindset, the one that freezes, depresses and angers you and prevents you from seeing things clearly, from being fully rational, and getting into action. The book offers a set of tools, techniques, attitudes and behaviours to avoid or minimise the fight, flight, or freeze response to increase your ability to adapt and move on. There is also a quest for meaning, to see the silver lining in your crisis, to see it as the step before to something better, to accept change with grace and resilience still being true to who you are. The process of change, as discussed in the book is shown in the figure below: 

> I expect a book on how to overcome crisis to be written by people who have been there and succeeded. However, most of the books out there have never truly experienced it; it is all abstract studies on patterns of behaviour seen on business people and so they re elitist and unrelatable for anybody who is not in those privileged circumstances, which is most o us. On the contrary this books' author has personally gone through hell several times and came out victorious, so I can relate to anything she says and any the advice she gives.

> Ryan's talk is helpful because it makes you feel understood and even cared for. She describes quite precisely what is going on in your life and in your mind even though she doesn't know you or your specific circumstances.

> One of the things that unwanted change brings up is a perennial state of anxiety, fear, shame and despair, a state of mind that is really damaging because it is not rational, it brings up all the personal complexes and fears that we have ever experienced and freeze us on the spot. Learning to understand why that happens and how to stop it, is priceless.

> The book is clearly written and very well structured. As the author herself states, it is based, on her own experience and pragmatism, and on a a vast number of books on brain science, organisational and positive psychology, and spirituality.

>  There is a bit of positive wishful thinking but you didn't get this book to get depress, right?

> All the figures in the book are very simple but extremely clear  to understand Ryan's points.
> The list Top Ten Change Sinkholes.
>  The Seven Truths about Change:
# Change is the one thing you can count on.
# It's not personal.
# Your thinking is not always your friend.
# Change isn't the enemy, fear is.
# There is a predictable emotional cycle of change.
# Your are more resilient than you may think.
# Your future is built on a bedrock that is unchanging.
> The actions of a change master: 1/ Accept change. 2/ Expand your options. 3/ and take action.
> The twenty quick tips for surviving the change you didn't ask at the end of the book.

> There are too many examples of real-life cases.

> There are way too many quotes in the book.

> Some times the main point of three pages is just a repetition of what the title of the section has, so what follows is a bit repetitive and redundant.

> I found Ryan's comments on networking the weakest part of the book. Firstly, introverts' ways of relating aren't even considered. Secondly, she ignores the fact that sometimes your network (personal or professional)  might not have any expertise on how the job market is nowadays. They could be vomiting onto you old adages that aren't helpful at all ('when a door closes another opens', 'you'll find something' or my favourite 'take care'). Your network might not be able to give you financial help even if they wanted, or you could have no family or friends in your country of residence, or they might be too old or sick to attend to you and your crisis. The variables are infinite.  Besides,  Ryan herself says at the beginning of the book that one of the characteristics of modern life is the speed of change, and how different the job market is from the past, meaning 10-20 years ago (not last century) so you should not be asking your current network for any advice, perhaps just for hugs and kisses. Ryan says that it is best to cultivate a varied peer network when you aren't in a crisis, but that is a bit unrealistic and manipulative. Most people, when things are going on OK, won't think  "I need to diversify my group of friends just in case I get into trouble in life and I need to use them" do you see what I am saying? That has put me off in the past, and I guess many genuine people would also be put off for that sort of 'build a network' that is useful to me.

> Ryan asks you, “What's the worst thing that could happen?” Much of the time they realise it's not that big of a deal". I'm all for not being too negative, but hey, really, there are so many examples of normal people who end living in poverty or in the streets nowadays that we cannot ignore it. Normal people who, like you and me, had houses, business, great jobs and families, and would have never thought that the street would be their home.  People who lost their jobs and were renting and cannot rent any more so they sleep on a park. There was item of news on this on the news the other day. Normal people.

> One of the exercises is 'Ask you future self for help", really...?  You are confused, I am confused, we are confused and lost, remember? Ring ring to the future. No answer, sorry. 

The links to her coaching website are generic, so the specific tools she recommends are no longer accessible at the front page.

Getting Unstuck: A Guide to Discovering Your Next Career Path by Timothy Butler

, 8 Aug 2018

 In Getting Unstuck, Butler --a social scientist, psychotherapist and career counsellor-- provides a Jungian-derived practical career counselling  book to face personal upheaval, dramatic changes and periods of 'impasse' in which you suffer an existential and professional crisis. 

THE FIRST PART is a reflection of how impasse works, what shows up, and why you are stuck. Crisis shows you that your familiar models of being and working aren't working, and force you to stop, ponder, and learn new ways to move on and move in a better direction. You need to accept the impasse and the darkness it brings as a pre-requisite to positive change; sometimes it's the step needed to lead you to a more fulfilling life and career and to psychological growth. You have to let go of  your hold to the past (distorted self-images, ego's love for familiarity, fear, family pressure, personal demons, selves left behind) and learn to recognise the nasty voices that show up when things don't go well (the inner critic), and give up mental models that do not work for you any more. 

THE SECOND PART is an exploration of your personality traits because personality structure relates to job choices and career satisfaction. The system works on three levels: figuring out what your deepest interests are, learning to be guided by your passions, and figuring out what drives you, power, people or achievement. The 100-job exercise is designed to bring up those natural skills, passions, values and characteristics that are personal to you, to move you into the right direction.

THE THIRD PART is a put-all-together sort of chapter to help you in decision making and get unstuck to find a life path and career that are satisfying, exciting and sustainable. 


>  Butler uses a Jungian approach to crisis (he uses archetypal classification, shadow work, creative imagination, and ancestors/parental projection), mixed with mindfulness, and his own original scientific system created to circumvent your insistence on certain career paths and orientations that don't work for you any longer. The system helps you to unveil hidden dormant talents and passions that are part of who you really are  but you don't normally use or are aware you have.
> Butler asks you to stop and ponder on different questions, to answer them to yourself. Some of  them are really good and will make things clear to you about your conditioning, aims, and whether a job is really good for you or not.  
> The advice and strategies suggested to defeat your inner critic when it appears at your weakest darkest hour is really good. 
> One of the statements that resonated the most with me, and I think one of the most important nuggets to remember from the book, is this:
"Our perceptions—and preconceptions—of talent are too often intertwined with sense of self. “What are you good at?” all too easily slides into “What good are you? Of what value are you?” These are difficult waters to navigate, particularly treacherous at key life transitions when we are most tempted to play judge when assessing our own accomplishments." (locs 1671-1673)
> The archetypal classification in types, which links certain patterns of behaviour, personality traits and interests create excellent psychological-professional profiles, which I personally found very useful and relatable. The archetypes are: the engineer, the number cruncher, the professor, the artist, the coach, the team leader, the boss, the persuader, the action hero, and the organizer.
> Appendix A is a good commented bibliography, something that is rare to find nowadays and, therefore, something I really appreciate.
> Appendix B, contains an important brief reflection about the differences between clinical depression and impasse depressive moods.
> Appendix C has the scoring for the 100-job system, and puts together each profession with one of the archetypal patterns. Table 3-1, "Recognising the Pattern" is also very good and clear to understand how certain thinks link together.


The model used to figure out things is based on the 100-profession exercise, on which results other exercises build on. A great an original well-thought system, which I think will be great to work on with Butler as a counsellor, but, as it is presented in the book, it is not always clear, especially the part about working with imagery and dynamic tension.You are supposed to find 10 professions that you might want to do if you were able to and there was no obstacle whatsoever; I had difficulty finding even 10 that I liked; this is so because most of the professions are non-artistic, non-Humanities, business and managerial jobs. Just say, I would love to be a hairdresser, or a tailor, or be a ballerina,  well, these professions aren't mentioned. 
> Introversion/extroversion aren't apparently part of the equation, and the system suffers because two people could have the same life interests,  passions  and talents, but their introspective or extrovert intrinsic nature would lead them through very different paths. Perhaps these two element are part of the system but, as an introvert, I found that it wasn't  that obvious.


> You have to wait to the end of the book, literally, for Butler to explain what he means by impasse. And when you get the definition, is not that clear, and not what most people picking this book for  thought it was, because, speaking for myself, this was supposed to be a career, job or life crisis book not about an existential crisis.
> The examples from real cases and people go forever, are uninteresting, and mostly based on business people and professionals to whom I could not relate.
> Butler's writing is not always polished and clear, and some paragraphs would have needed of a better editing or editor.
> One of the many examples Butler uses in the book is that of cyclist Lance Armstrong, obviously written before the cheating scandal broke up; this ages the book and is no longer valid as an example for anything.
> In Deep Dive 'Dimensions of Achievement', Butler asks the following question: "Imagine forward to one year from now. At the end of the next twelve months, what would make you feel that you have done 'real work' and made a genuine contribution?". Isn't that called science fiction? Most people picking up this book won't be able to answer this because they would be without a job or a career in a process of transition with no idea on what is happening to them. They are stuck, remember?
> Butler tells you what do with the dynamic tensions we unearth in the 100-profession exercise. And he says "not try to “solve” the tension. Just experience it. Ultimately, you must live the resolution, not think your way through" (locs 2160-2161). What is that supposed to mean, really?


> You already know your  talents, weaknesses and vocation and are still stuck. 
> You have lost your job at middle age and the job market is not welcoming or favourable to older fellows or just you even though you have great talents.
> Your gender, age or origin are a hurdle that you have jump over.
> You are professional, but managerial or business jobs aren't your thing.
> You are a Humanities person, not a Science of Business fellow.
> You don't know what to do next but have to pay your bills, so need something more practical because you don't have the time to existential munching over a pina colada.


> You have finished your University studies and are a bit lost, and don't know where to go or are unsure about two or more choices.
> You are gravitating around business and managerial professions.
> You need to figure out how to match your inner traits, personality, skills and passions to find a  satisfying career.
> You have the luxury of spare time, energy and money to stop and re-evaluate your career options, satisfaction, long term projection, etc 


A very good edition, with no typos on view and hyper-linked notes, but references to tables aren't. Some of the tables in the book, which are included in the Kindle edition, cannot be seen properly in full on android. Although arrows allow to move back and forward through the table, one cannot see it properly, which is a pity. They work well in Kindle for PC.

Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception by Pamela Meyer (2010)

, 26 Jul 2018

"The greatest reward of liespotting—once you can purge your environment of deception, you can rest easy knowing you live and work in a community based on trust." (p. 200). 
This book should have been titled dealing with deception in the workplace because that's exactly what the book is about. The information provided mixes military, government and intelligence agencies' interrogation techniques, scientific and academic data mixed with body language and  micro-facial recognition to create what Meyer calls the BASIC method, a  guide to lie-proof conversations, negotiations, and interviews. She claims that the techniques provided in the book  can improve detection ability by 25% to 50%. 

The BASIC system is a  way to structuring a conversation to get the truth out; the acronym stands for:
B = Baseline behaviour, examining an individual's current behaviour to what s/he normally does, says or behaves to compare it with what s/he does, says or behaves while being interviewed, interrogated or simply questioned about an issue of concern.  
A = Ask open-ended questions.
S = Study the Clusters of behaviour. 
I = Intuit the gaps, or what is not being said.
C - Confirm. 

The book is structured in two parts, the first being the general basis to detect deception trough verbal and non-verbal clues, which is applicable to any facet of our life. To me, as a non-business person, this is the most useful and entertaining part of the book.

The second part is  about creating healthy behaviour and environments in the workplace by implementing structures and polices that promote honesty and trustworthiness, and effortlessly weed out deception, liars and double-faced people who play everybody to get power or money. This is very much business related. If you are a business person, head of a department, business, or corporation, will certainly find the strategies, advice and polices recommended in the book fantastic, sane and sound, it that can be said. Specially good are the items of advice on business negotiation and job interviews, which are two of the main areas where deception occurs.

Appendix I is a sort of cheat-sheet about the main points presented in the first part of the book. I truly love it because it is useful and straight to the point.  

Appendix II is a test to check if our lie spotting skills are tuned; the solution to the questions are in the author's book website.

General value
The book is very good, well written, and clear to understand. Meyer is a very articulate writer and does a great job at conveying her message in away that is entertaining, informative and seriously usable, with plenty of specific information about how to spot deception, and how to deal with it. 

Liespotting tips are spread throughout the book as short reminders of important points to remember, therefore, very helpful. 

Besides, photos  are included to exemplify facial authentic and fake expressions; nothing like a photo to explain this sort of information.

There are many real-life examples described in the book, but I thought they were useful. 

Questions posed and answered
> Why do we have a deception epidemic in our culture?
> Do we lie more nowadays than in the past? 
> Why videoconferencing isn't the solution to deciding on new business ventures?
> Why old tools and devices do not work?
> Why being punctual is important?
> Which verbal and non verbal clues show deception? and how do you mentally process them? 

Ah? Eh? What? 
> Meyer says that pupil dilation can be an indication of deception and arousal, but an addict to sex would also have pupils dilated, right? A person occasionally using substances would have their pupils dilated, no? Does this automatically turn them into deceptive people at the workplace? Just asking!
> Some of the verbal clues that Meyer mention as signalling deception are actually things that I would say and do, honestly and sincerely, to voice my innocence!

Kindle edition
The kindle rendering is well done, with hyper-linked notes. However, one of the links in the book does not work, the one directing to Artanatomy; however, the site is still up, just with another URL.

Flirtology by Jean Smith (2018)

, 20 Jul 2018

A book for both men and women, Flirtology is a mix of flirting for dummies, an SOS guide to human connection  and interaction (not just romantic), and a clear-head common-sense advice on healthy dating, enveloped in Jane Smith's warmth, no-games, no-tricks, no-fake approach to dating.

Written in a very chatty and witty tone, the book is very well structured and clear, with any question you might ask already presented and answered for you. It reads easily and is not only helpful, but also very entertaining. As you could expect, there are many real-life examples, but the stories are short and sweet, to the point, never too many, never too long, never too self-centred.

This book will especially impact people who are very rational and have little tolerance for babble or BS, people who value common sense, honesty, genuine people and relationships, and appreciate warmth. Many of the things that Smith says aren't really that new or wow, and they were said before any anthropological project came into fruition, but Smith wraps things very nicely and links connecting with strangers, connecting for flirting, flirting and dating in a very organic way. Besides, the fact that she has lived and studied human connection in different countries and cultures gives her statements a depth and believability that other books don't have.

Smith's Flirtology System is what she calls the HOT APE system; the acronym stands for the main points of flirting: Humour, open language, touch, attention, proximity and eye contact.

Smith promises, "the book will: debunk the myths that surround flirting; give you sure-fire ways to avoid those awkward tongue-tied moments; make sure you never fear rejection again; make you believe that you too are a fabulous flirt; help you pinpoint what it is you are looking for; unlock the secrets of my H.O.T. A.P.E. system to bring out your inner flirt encourage you to practise, practise and practise (and have fun while doing it); give you the confidence to speak to anyone, anywhere get results, without ever compromising who you are."  (pp. 13-14). I think she delivers.

Smith debunks online dating and online relationships in a very matter of fact, scientific, rational way. If you want to connect you need to go out there, that is the place where most people interact and where most people, still today, find their partners.

Smith's advice promotes healthy relationships based on presenting a real version of ourselves to attract people who resonate with our real selves, making ourselves responsible for our own happiness, minimising physical attraction as main element of attraction and focusing, instead, in those things that we want to be there in, say, five years. Her deal-breakers section is really helpful and, again, debunks many myths. Are our deal-breakers really so?  She does not tell us which ones to chose, just to be serious and sincere with ourselves, so those main five we chose really matter to us long term and help us cut short relationships that aren't good for us.

Her advice on how to beat fear of failure and rejection is amazingly clear, simple, and convincing. Extremely helpful.

> Get into the practice of talking to people asking at least one question to five different strangers, and try to build rapport with at least one stranger.
> As a question, anything, see how the other person responds, if they do positively continue building rapport.
> Ask open questions and be present while talking to the person, so that we take everything of what is happening in, the looks, attitude, body language, reactions and vibe of the other person.
> Walk up to strangers; smile at commuters on public transport; ask people questions which are more than a simple query about the time.
> Give genuine compliments to strangers.

> The "what sort of flirt are you?' quiz was nice and sweet, but also too simplistic to help decide on a real profile.
> This is not a book for introverts as much as extroverts and shy people. Although many of the items of advice are applicable to anybody, introvert or extrovert, there are too many parties, pubs, and bars mentioned in the book to be something that an introvert would be going, wanting to go or enjoy going to. The pub and drinking culture are very strong in the UK; however, where I live, you don't find quality men in a bar, you find flings.
> Many times (I have experience that myself) flirting is interpreted as 'I am looking for a rout' instead of real flirty sassy get-a-date sort of thing. I wonder whether there is a reason for that, if it is cultural, and whether flirting has some lines that should not be crossed not to get into trouble. Nothing of the sort was mentioned or discussed in the book.
> Some of the advice she gives contradicts that given by other dating gurus. So, whom do we believe?

Get the Truth by Philip Houston, Michael Floyd and Susan Carnicero

, 13 Jul 2018

Unlike Spy the Lie, by the same authors, Get the Truth is not as much as how to spot a lie but what and how to do to extract the truth from the person who is lying and might want or not want to confess. Or in any interpersonal exchange where two sides have conflicting agendas. It’s about the process of exerting influence to elicit truthful information from a person who has a reason to want to withhold it.

This book is not a learn-how sort of book as much as see-how-we-do-it sort of book. However, readers will learn many things about interviewing, interrogation and negotiation because of the author's long years of expertise doing what they do and, at this stage, everything they do it appears natural, genuine and easy.

The book per se finishes about half way.

The first appendix by Peter Romary, has 13 short chapters, which elaborate on the principles on which the authors' system relies, which can be applied to everyday life. Those principles of persuasion were revealed long ago by Cialdini's classic book on influence and persuasion, mostly based on how to exploit human biases to get what we want: optimism bias, confirmation bias, the power of liking somebody and wanting to be liked, the consistency bias, the power of sharing experiences and bonding, the principle of reciprocity, among others. If you have read the classic by Ciadini, you will find that what Romary says is basically Cialdini applied to specific contexts. If you have never heard or read Cialdini's classic, this is a great approach to the principles on which persuasion, the effective one, feeds. In any way, they are useful because sometimes those principles can be used against us or we can be blind-sided by them. This appendix also includes a discussion of the five states of successful negotiation, which I found really helpful for daily life, with great advice about being fair, non-confrontational, respectful and sincere. It also advises on how to deal with the cognitive dissonance of criminals and untruthful people by keeping them in short-thinking mode, and using rationalisation, minimalisation and socialisation, and by setting a pace that is slow but steady with non-coercive questions, then the other person will 'cross the bridge' to your side when they are ready; not being judgemental, being kind and friendly, speaking calmly. Understanding what motivates one person, most wants or fears, make the other person feel comfortable and not judged, genuinely consider all viewpoints and don't be a win-at-all-costs person. 

  By taking a noncoercive, ethical approach, we stand a much better chance of getting the truth. And we’re far better equipped to create lasting relationships that can help us attain our personal and professional goals. (p. 213).

The second appendix, also by Romary, is just a reminder of how important is preparation and practice to get good at getting the truth. You need to understand the background (ideological, religious, political) of the person you are interrogating, or negotiating with. Romary mentions where to get information about anybody, both in public and private records and online media. Most of what he says is simplistic and nothing you don't already know, and nothing that deserves an appendix.

The third appendix is a transcript of the actual interview with O.J. Simpson, whose interrogation is mentioned and used throughout the book to exemplify good and bad interrogation techniques.

A good summary of some of the points discussed in the book can be found in the boxed summary 'lessons we have learned', pp. 144-148.

One of the main points that the authors make is that to get a confession you don't need to be coercitive, aggressive, violent or use torture, because that would hardly get you the truth. Most of chapter 13, the elefant in the room, is full of great sound advise and  makes great points on why does not work, and where do you draw the line.

The book also has a glossary and an subject index, which, to my delight, is hyperlinked.

If you have read Spy the Lie, you will find that some of the examples, real-life cases, described there are also repeated here. They are lovely to read, but I would have appreciated them bringing something new to the table. 

Although the authors advise being genuine and sincere, they advise something I consider unethical. For example,

But coming across as sincere is absolutely essential, and accomplishing that sometimes forces you to lie, especially when feeling any sense of genuine sympathy is simply impossible. (p. 46).
Also, in the first appendix, Romary says : 
Conveying a fictitious account of some dimension of your background or experience, in order to demonstrate sincerity and empathy in an elicitation situation, can be an effective means of creating a bond that will encourage a person to reveal the truthful information you’re seeking. (p. 199).

Spy the Lie: How to spot deception the CIA Way, by Philip Houston, Mike Floyd & Susan Carnicero (2012)

, 30 May 2018

"There is no such thing as a human lie detector"  (p. 14).

I cannot believe that a book that is so packed with information is also one of the most entertaining books I've read lately.

Three ex-CIA agents, now working privately with information and methods that were unclassified in 1996 (and so they can be taught and shared) spill the beans on the system they apply to detect lies. This method, called L-Square Mode System, works by observing what 'the suspect' says, does and reacts, and by learning to make the right kind of questions to spot deceiving behaviour. It all comes down to body language, congruency in speech and behaviour within the subject's own idiosyncrasy. It also come down to being aware of our self-defeating beliefs and limitations  to spot a lie: the belief that people will not lie to us, and are innocent until proved  guilty, the reliance on behavioural myths, the complexity of communication, our own biases, the 'global' influence, and how smart we think we are.

The system relies on getting clusters of deceiving information, not just individual clues. However, one of the most surprising statements in their method to me is that if we can identify the first deceiving behaviour (verbal or non-verbal) in the first 5 seconds (yes, seconds!) we can reasonable conclude that that behaviour is directly linked with the stimulus. (p. 31). And, of course, the higher the number of deceiving behaviours exhibited by a person, the most likelihood of deception.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when applying this system is that its virtue relies on its simplicity, that deceiving clues do not always equal deceit or a lie, that the system is not bullet-proof, that the more we practise the better we get at it, and part of the success depends on obtaining information in a non-confrontational non-judgemental non-aggressive way. The authors have successfully applied this system for years, and once we go through the book and see some of their examples (especially the long transcript and examination in appendix 2), you will notice that you can, too, start spotting deceiving behaviour.

The book has a glossary with simple explanations of all the specialised terms the authors use throughout this work. I always appreciate the effort when electronic books have the index properly hyperlinked, which is the case here.

The main downside of the book is that is not particularly didactic if you want a step-by+step sort of book. Some of the things that prevent the book from being more user- friendly are:
> I usually love end of chapters' summaries or key points, as they are really useful bits to go back when one wants to re-read a book. Oddly enough, some of those summaries are placed in the middle of a page, interrupting the narration and some of them not directly related to what's immediately said.
> The amount of information and types of questions they offer can be complicated because they are called in a certain way, and because they all involve different and dynamic approaches that vary depending on how the subject of interest reacts. Why not creating a cheat-sheet scheme to have it at hand?
> I would have loved a section with exercises for us to practise, with hidden solutions at the end of the book. Just a suggestion!
> Some of the statements about body language are familiar to me, but it would have been really useful having some figures or photos with some of those mentioned in the book.

Overall this a fascinating book that left me wanting to know more and dig deeper. I find it very useful to unleash your inner Matahari or inner Bond, get a gist of the approach to interrogation that Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies use, and most importantly, provides readers with tools to use it with family, friends and co-workers to obtain true information or spot deceiving behaviour.

Living an Examined Life by James Hollis (2018)

, 18 May 2018

Although the world is full of people who will tell you who you are, what you are, and what you are to do and not to do, they wander amid their unaddressed confusion, fear, and need for consensual belief to still their own anxious journey (locs. 83-85).
The last book by Hollis is perhaps the most accessible didactic and approachable book he has ever written, and the one I would recommend to anybody who wants a shortcut to his work. In Living an Examined Life, Hollis has somewhat put aside his usual erudition, academic writing, psychologist jargon and complexity of thought, and made a serious effort to address those points of his discourse that I've always found a bit vague or difficult to understand for the lay reader. However, no sacrifice has been made regarding content, and you will still find his usual depth of thought, understanding of human suffering and nature, his compassion for human nature and weakness, his analysis of preconditioned inherited ancestral behaviour and complexes. There is, as usual in his work, a call to live our own live with purpose, taking responsibility for it, to honour our true nature and live authentic and genuine lives, to work vocationally because our vocation is the expression of our soul not just something we do doe fame, money, power and social accolades.

This book is is not a book with solutions to our problems, waw waw waw, but sound advice on how to overgrow them by changing our attitudes, behaviours and way of  seeing them, by going inside ourselves and taking responsibility for our deeds, and changing anything that stops us from being who we truly were born to be. It demands sitting with our discomfort and asking it which message is bringing to us. It demands from us doing what we fear the most, learning to love our unlovable parts and scrutinise our inherited values and decide which ones are meaningful to us. In a way, we are asked to become medieval-alike post-modern warriors, and go in search of the evil dragon inside us to free our true self.

The book is structured in twenty short easy-to-read chapters, which Hollis recommends reading one per day to let the material sink in. I did so, but, if you have read most of his books, I don't think that is necessary. Otherwise, by all means.

There are so many paragraphs and comments that really made the reading very fulfilling and satisfying to me. Herewith a few of them:

>> Chapters 10, What gift have you been withholding from the world? is beautifully profound, yet simple; it speaks to the soul without the need of calling any gods, and it is a call to authenticity and honouring our  true selves.

>> Although Hollis devoted a whole book to the Shadow, nothing comes nearly as clear to a definition as the one he provides in this book:
The shadow is not synonymous with evil, though great evil can surely come from our shadows. Rather, I would define the shadow as those parts of us, or of our groups and organizations, that, when brought to consciousness, are troubling to our concept of ourselves, contradictory to our professed values, or intimidating in what they might ask of our timid souls (locs 1379-1382). 
>> One of the things I have criticised Hollis for in the past is for his vague definition of Second Half of Life. Hollis does a great job at defining what that exactly means in this book:
The second half of life is not a chronological moment but a psychological moment that some people, however old, however accomplished, however self-satisfied in life, never reach. The second half of life occurs when people, for whatever reason — death of partner, end of marriage, illness, retirement, whatever — are obliged to radically consider who they are apart from their history, their roles, and their commitments. Every  (Locs. 402-405).
>> Hollis almost-utopian parenthood model is utterly beautiful, like a step ahead of our times, perhaps; something that, if I had children, I would try to implement so that my unborn children would be whatever they wanted to be, to shine their light or perhaps their inner crap without judgement, if that is even possible. My mother, an almost illiterate very traditional lady, very restrictive in many ways, always told me to do what would make me happy, and that despite her condition of submission to parental, fraternal and marital figures. That is the most empowering thing that my mother did for me.

>> Hollis' call to re-evaluate our life authorities is perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of his work, and also one of the things that gives me the most comfort. It makes me realise that we all live in the same existential mess and forces me to be more compassionate with myself and others:  "Tiny in a world of giants, we reason that surely the world is governed by those who know, who understand, who are in control. How disconcerting it is then when we find our own psyches in revolt at these once protective adaptations, and how disillusioning it is to realize that there are very few, if any, adults on the scene who have a clue as to what is going on." (locs. 155-157). Growing up requires that we accept that no one out there knows what is going on, that they are as much at the mercy of their complexes and unconscious mechanisms as the least of us, and so now we must figure it out for ourselves. (locs 1699-1701).

>> Hollis munching about happiness is precious; he debunks happiness (the pop version), I know, I know, nothing we would like to hear when we are reading a book to help us with our problems. However, Hollis' focus on seeking meaning, instead of happiness, because that's more important for the soul. He says that meaning is an organ of the soul. Amen! But perhaps meaning is the new happiness.

>> Given the definition Hollis makes of Second Half of Life, I wonder why he and other psychologists keep using Second Half of Life, repeating something that, for what he says, it is totally imprecise and misleading. Why not turning the tables and using a clearer truer term, like, for example, True Maturity, True Adulthood or anything of the like? Second Adulthood, which he uses at times in the book is also misleading because some people only become adults after a crisis, so that is their first psychological adulthood no?  I know people in their 40s that are still as immature as their teenage selves and resist to grow no matter what happens to them.

>> I found myself munching about the following statement:
Virtually every client with whom I have worked over the last four decades has had to struggle mightily to find a personal path, a journey that is right for him or her. They all find their journeys impeded by parental limitations, pressures, and models.(locs. 1333-1335).
I wonder, if we have a true self that is specific and intrinsically us, call it our inner nature or character, compensate some of those impediments? I mean, obtrude our advance despite not having much baggage, or making us jump hurdles easily?

>> Regarding his ideal model of parenthood, I found myself questioning if different family structures and ways of relating, as those we see in different parts of the world (say, for example, Anglo-Saxon, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, West-African) can do this in different ways that are still healthy for the psyche but coming from different cultural backgrounds?  

>>  Hollis is very keen to remind us of the wonders of therapy and how therapy can change our life, but, as I have said in other reviews of his books, it is not possible for everybody wanting to grow up, evolve or resolve our problems to pay for therapy. I understand that Hollis does not want to spend his time to teach us something impossible, to become therapists by reading a book. However, I still think that he would be able to provide with a bit of more exercises to allow us to go inside and get more juice of his teachings. Just saying.

>> Hollis bluntly states that rites of passage are missing in our contemporary culture. I consider that true if we talk of passage rituals as seen in traditional cultures and the times of our elders. However, I consider some young people's wild behaviour as rites of passage, it is just that it does not come associated with meaning and an integration in society, these rites are mostly of separation from the nest and assertiveness of the self with regards to parental and authority figures.  On the other hand, women had rarely had rites of passage in traditional cultures, as the rites of passage were for men and those traditions considered women like second-class humans, souls and brains. So, in a way, many women have only male rituals of passage to imitate. I wonder whether young women behaving wildly, as wild as men, these days are just taking on passage rites that once were male because they don't have a substitutive that brings power and meaning to their lives. On the other hand, I also wonder whether we have new female passage rites, meaningful and specific to the needs of women, aren't just also a passage rite for many women. I don't mean any fanatic feminism, I mean real meaningful feminism, the one that allowed women to vote, get equal salary, and be able to access jobs that were just only allowed to men, and so on. I would love to hear Hollis thoughts on this. You are welcome :)

Living an Examined Life is a book easy to read, meaningful, thoughtful and very comforting, but also a bit repetitive and impractical at times. Not a book with cookie-cutter solutions or rosy advice. I can only say that I always come back to my highlights of this book when I have a bad day, feel awkward for being myself, and find myself immersed in misery and stuck in ways of being that I know don't work for me. Hollis is ready waiting for me, with a hug to comfort me, a whisper to my ears to wake me up, and slap on the face for me to react to. Are you up to the task? For whatever reason, I think this book is especially suited to introverts, who are naturally seekers of introspection and depth.    

Sidewalk Oracles: Playing with Signs, Symbols, and Synchronicity in Everyday Life by Robert Moss (2015)

, 21 Apr 2018

Sidewalk oracles are simple and fun ways of gathering intuitive information to help you navigate life by posing a question to the Universe to get guidance on any matter or let the Universe get you some items of information about matters that concern you.

Moss is a storyteller, a wonderful speaker, and has the virtue of mixing entertainment with academic and practical knowledge through his personal journey as historian, journalist and shamanistic dream-work master. His style is unique, and mixes chit-chatty sort of writing when he narrates episodes of synchronicity, with an erudite knowledge of folk culture and mythology and more serious writing when deals with those.  Personally, I like the way Moss uses antiquity Greek-derived words to describe intuition and divination; it's something unique to him, and his chosen semantic field gives an elegant varnish of luxury antique to his writing.

Synchronicity is something difficult to explain if you haven't had a direct experience of it. In this book, Moss is able to define and describe synchronicity in a way that is easy to understand by lay readers, so they get to know how synchronicity manifests and how it feels. Moss calls synchronicity kairomancy,  making magic by seizing special synchronistic moments, and includes any form of divination you might want to use.

Moss provides readers with a historically sound and beautiful contextualisation of synchronicity, not as something 'invented' by Jung, but as a concept that is intrinsically linked to very ancient cultural beliefs from around the world. Thus, "A wall around Jung Tower" is a voyage to the China of the Tao and the Book of Changes (I-Ching), to Australia and the Aborigines' dream culture, to the Native Americans cultures, and to the Nordic realms of the Wyrd.

Section three contains the twelve 'rules' of kairomancy: 1/ You attract what you believe, feel or think. 2/ Oracles speak best when you have a query or worry in your mind but aren't looking for anything specifically or focusing on it intensely. 3/  The law of spiritual gravitation or attraction. 4/ We live in a conscious universe where everything is alive, connected and spirit. 5/ Pay attention to recurrent themes, symbols, images and events that keep popping up in your life. 6/ Coincidence multiplies when we are travelling. 7/ For every setback there is an opportunity, sometimes the breakdown comes before the breakthrough. 8/ Called or not, the 'gods' are always present. 9/ Our paths constantly interweave with those of numberless possible parallel selves and the spirits of the land. 10/ Marry your field, i.e. your creative force, whatever that might be. 11/ Dance with the trickster, that power that open doors in life when we need to change and recover our sense of humour to counterbalance any over-controlling ego-driven agenda. 12/ The way will show the way. There is also one oath for the kairomancer: being open to new experiences; available to set aside and step out of boxes; being thankful for secret-hand shakes and surprises; and being ready to honour our special moments by taking appropriate action 

Section four is the core of the book, seventeen side-walk oracles, which can be summarised as follows:
1- Play Sidewalk Tarot. Pose a question on which you need  guidance, chose a frame time, the number of cards you want to get or let the Universe decide on how many, and see what pops up. One card is enough, though. Anything that enters our field of perception any of our senses is considered a card in play. It might be a recurrent sound, smell, logo, dream, or event. 
2- Walk a dream. Take the images of any dream significant to you and see what happens in hour awaken life that comments, highlights, or brings meaning to the symbols or stories from your dream.
3-Keep a journal, totally secret, in which you note your synchronicities, odd happenings, symbols unique to you, dreams, serial events, patterned findings or events, items of personal superstition, and so on. You'll be able to use it as your personal oracle deck and as a repository of information to consult with.
4- Listen to the first sound that comes from silence or the shapeless noise in a street, and see what they tell you.
5- Bibliomancy -- open any given book, at random, and blindly put your finger on a line in the page, and see what that line or paragraph says and how it relates to your query or your life.
6- Play with shelf elves, i.e. pick up those books that appear around you, fall on you, you stumble upon, and notice those that disappear, and see whether the title or the book itself help you with your queries. 
7- Notice your chance encounters, see how your energy relates to that of those people, and if something shifts in you when you have them close.
8- Notice your slips of tongue, screw-ups, typos, and memory lapses and see what they are trying to tell you.
9- Notice which song is playing in your head or you are singing over and over, and how it makes you feel, what it says about your mood and life. Change it consciously if it is not helping you. 
10- Notice any déjâ vu moments, already dreamed moments and already lived moments, record them and see what followed each of those moments.
11- Imagine that your feelings, worries and troubles are a real person knocking at your door, open it, and establish communication wit them and decide whether you let them in, out or send it elsewhere, what they are trying to tell you, what you want to tell them, and so on. 
12- Notice a situation you have already been in life before and apply what you learned from the past to avoid making the same mistake.
13- Be aware of which superstitions or omens you believe in personally and don't disregard them. When they reoccur, note them down and see what happens after the event. 
14- Listen to your body (your gut feeling, changes in your energy), notice and record any relevant episode that follows. Develop your own code of positive and negative body signals.
15- Participate in a dreamwork circle to share your dreams and get feedback on them, so other people can help you decode those symbols or dream fragments that aren't clear to you. You can play the game with anything, like some serial events, weird happenings, a synchronicity, and so on.
16- Create a card deck with synchronicities, dream fragments, odd events, funny stories, coincidences, the song line that is in your head. Then shuffle the cards and ask the oracle for guidance. You can play it in group or individually and apply similar rules to those used in dream circles.  
17- Write a message or letter to a person close to you whom you haven't seen in a while and want to talk (it is OK if is not a close person, too) do not send it, and see if the person contacts you, come across you, and gets the message in your letter.  

There is a tendency amongst New Age writers to trivialise synchronicity, so readers get that this is a sort of 'small world' coincidence, nothing remarkable to write about. I believe that many of the examples that Moss gives in this book help readers to see what synchronicity really is. However, at times the examples he uses are also so generic and trivial.

I found sections five and six enjoyable but totally unnecessary, I would rather have a short and sweet book than one with too many examples.  "On Other Planes" is a collection of personal examples of synchronicity while flying. They are really great for a live event, for a blog or newsletter, for a book that already has many examples before getting here, not so much. The same can be said of section six, with endless examples of the fox as archetype of the trickster, sometimes not clearly related to sidewalk-oracling at all, at least to me.

Just a note. Masaru Emoto experiments on water, which Moss mentions in the book, were heavily criticised by the scientific community, so ignoring what the flaws of the experiment were, it is just biased writing.  

Overall, this is a short enjoyable book, well structured and very practical, with a superb introduction on synchronicity and personal stories galore, perhaps too many. 

Descender Vol. 4: Orbital Mechanics by Jeff Lemire & Dustin Nguyen (2017)

, 10 Apr 2018

Descender 4 is what I expected the story to be when I read the first volume, but took a while to get to. It has paid off sticking to the story because, by now, we have enough context and know the characters well-enough to get fast action without us asking, what what what?!  This volume is indeed action-packed, very engaging and entertaining, with several cool twists, and even a sexy scene.

The overall tone of this volume, as the others, is a mix of very elegant whites, light blues, bright red, dark greys and purplish pink. Nguyen's style mesmerises because of his virtuoso use of watercolour and naked pencil to create futuristic images that have a very cinematic feeling. His rendering of close-ups of human faces is also wonderful. One of the things I liked the most in this volume were those pages in which three different vignettes show parallel action related to three different characters happening in the same page, very cool and cinematic.

The lettering is also great and helps bring to life and give a voice to different kind of characters, and creates a very distinctive ambient noise.

The Kindle rendering of the book is very good, with awesome quality details. The digital vignettes are glorious, with the texture of the paper quite noticeable; in a way it is like having the original vignettes in front of us, almost touchable.Double tapping individuates vignettes and allows readers to swipe between them effortlessly. However, the individuation of the vignettes is not enough at times to read the small letter and, so pinching out solves the problem. By the way, there seems to be a faulty vignette, with most of it missing, as it the image of that only vignette had not downloaded, which is very odd; a bug? 

Overall, this is the volume that got me hooked in the series.

Descender Vol. 3: Singularities by Jeff Lemire & Dusting Nguyen (2016)

, 8 Apr 2018

I wasn't sure whether to buy this volume due to the many non-enthusiastic reviews I've seen around, but I'm glad I did. I found some of the events and characters in the previous two volumes a bit unpolished, not well profiled, superficial, a bit silly, but once I read this volume, they all make sense. This is a flashback in time for each of the main characters, in separate chapters, and also a multi-time flashback for each of them, so we get to see and know from where they are coming from. To me that's was the right thing to do to give the story soul and psychological depth. Even the annoying Driller the Killer makes sense once we read the chapter devoted to it in this book.  As a stand-alone volume might not be worth buying, but if you are reading  or intend to read the whole series, this is a must.

 I am always mesmerised by Nguyen masterly drawing and water-colouring. It is a total delight to see each of his vignettes, no matter what he's painting, faces, landscapes, outaspaces, details, anything.  I resented, though, some of the imagery, which was too familiar and associable with characters I've seen in the old Star Wars and Totall Recall movies.

I love the lettering used in this series. Very creative and audible, if that can be said.

The Kindle rendering of the book is excellent, with awesome quality details. Double tapping individuate vignettes and allows us to swipe between them effortlessly; however, some of them do not automatically seize to the preferable reading size when there are vignettes with small lettering, but pitching out each vignette solves the problem.
Overall, very enjoyable, and I loved the story between Effie and Andy.   Also, very short and a bit pricey.