Sunday, June 14, 2009


Although all M.J. Ryan's books are great, I thought her last book, This Year I Will was a masterpiece. This book is about how to make changes we want to see happen in our lives—losing weight, changing jobs, getting organized—and it combines optimism and encouragement with some real, for-sure scientific evidence about how the brain works and why we are motivated to do the things we do with some compassionate understanding. Kind of like having an awesome mother with a Ph.D. in neuroscience who mixes a mean margarita while she cheers you on and dispenses spot-on advice—powerful, intoxicating, but also subtle and non-judgmental.

Her latest book, Adaptability: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For, addresses change of a completely different kind—not happy, proactive change like New Year’s resolutions, but change that is forced upon us like getting laid off from our job, losing our retirement money in the stock market, seeing our business implode—in other words, the stuff that many of us are going through right now.

M.J.’s publisher, Broadway Books, pushed this book through the normally snail-paced publishing process quickly because this is a book that we need immediately. To quote Broadway,

“In her book, (M.J.) teaches the fundamentals needed to become a master of change, These essentials will allow you to accept the need to adapt and become aware of your internal resources…and learn how to get your brain on your side.”

The back of the book has my favorite section—20 Quick Tips for Surviving Change You Didn’t Ask For. Here are a few of my favorites:

• Because feeling in control is so crucial to resilience, and unasked-for-change can leave us feeling very out of control, try asking yourself this question during the day: What am I free to choose right now?

• When considering options, before you say something won’t work, consider how it might work. Try it on for a while.

• Get out and help someone else. When we focus on someone else’s problems, we put our own in perspective. If we focus on helping others, panic diminishes.

• What really matters here? That’s a question that will help you keep the change in proportion. A woman who lost her house was told by her minister that what she needed was a home, not a house. It helped her move to a rental with greater peace and perspective.

For the other 16 Tips, you will just have to buy the book. Or better yet, go to M.J.’s talk at Towne Center Books in Pleasanton on Wednesday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m.

See you there!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Have I Got a Book for You?!

Another Writer We Love...

One of my all-time favorite authors (and PERSON—and here’s a good time to fully disclose that we are friends) and one of the smartest people I know is M.J. Ryan.

M.J. is the brains and the inspiration behind the bazillion plus selling “Random Acts of Kindness” books. M.J. specializes in writing books about virtues—kindness, generosity, and patience—although she is the first to admit that living these virtues is a challenging and on-going learning process.

M.J. has the official “dream job” profession of “thinking partner,” in which she travels around the world, giving advice to big companies like Chevron and also individuals struggling with career and life decisions.

Of course, there are oodles of self-help/inspirational books out there, but M.J. combines the latest, cutting-edge brain research, experiences of her clients and friends with her own wisdom and a dash of spirituality to produce books that are not only fun to read, but that can actually help you and have something new to say—not an easy task in the bloated self-help arena.

M.J. mixes the practical and the exotic like the perfect salad of healthy greens tossed with a few cranberries and carmelized walnuts and balsamic vinegar for surprise and tang, but not so much to overwhelm.

Although she writes as an “expert” about virtues, she is really more like an explorer, writing “into” her books rather than writing as a “guru.”

After the big hit of Random Acts of Kindness “it started me wondering what other qualities we can cultivate to make ourselves happier and more connected to others,” says M.J. “I asked myself, “What do I need that will help me be happier? When I looked around me, I saw that happy people are kinder, more grateful, generous, and patient.”

Hailed as an expert in change in the NY Times, her new book is “Adapt-ability: How to Survive Change You Didn’t Ask For.

Has there ever been a better timed subtitle in all of history?

More about the book later…