akif

Akif Saifi is an editorial assistant at the Penguin Press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stalin Volume I: Paradoxes of Power, 1878-1928, by Stephen Kotkin

The first of Stephen Kotkin’s projected three-volume biography of Joseph Stalin is itself a mammoth undertaking. Kotkin here seeks to do away with once and for all our conception of Stalin as an opportunistic monster, and he shows us instead that from a very young age, Stalin proved himself to be exceptionally smart and capable, and was thoroughly driven by Communist ideology. Perhaps one of the most impressive things about this first volume is that very little is really known about Stalin’s early years, and Kotkin takes care to only includes verifiable information—he is not prone to the wild psychoanalysis of Stalin’s earlier biographers who speculated that the purported beatings he received as a child were in some way responsible for his later atrocities. And so Stalin himself is barely a presence in the first part of the book, and instead we are given a tour of the plethora of factors shaping the empire (not to mention the world) that he was born into: Bismarck, Marx et al. As a result, this is more than just a biography of Stalin; in Kotkin’s own words, it’s “a history of the world from Stalin’s office.”  Whatever it is, it’s a thrilling read, and it goes a long way in putting the present situation in Russia, as well as the crisis in Ukraine, into their proper historical context.

when the factsWhen the Facts Change: Essays, 1995-2010, by Tony Judt (on sale 1/22/2015)

In recent years, there have been few public intellectuals as consequential as Tony Judt. He was that rare figure who could seamlessly bridge the gap between history and current events, drawing from overlooked historic episodes to help explain the world we live in now. When the Facts Change is a collection of some of the essays he wrote in the last fifteen years of his life, the majority of which were first published by The New York Review of Books, where he was a longtime contributor. It’s all here, all the subjects that were so central to his work and thought: Europe and its efforts to come to terms with its history; the folly of the war in Iraq and America’s increasing isolation on the world’s stage; and, of course, the Holocaust and Israel’s current moral dilemma. His writings on Israel are collected here for the first time in book form, and even though some time has passed (and numerous lives have been lost) since he wrote them, they still carry with them an air of prescience and insight invaluable for understanding the conflict objectively. When the Facts Change is a fitting capstone to his stellar body of work, as well as a sad reminder of the voice that we’ve lost.

muderMurder in Amsterdam: Liberal Europe, Islam, and the Limits of Tolerance, by Ian Buruma

Ten years ago this month, Mohammed Bouyeri, a 26-year-old Dutchman of Moroccan descent, shot and killed the filmmaker Theo van Gogh as he rode his bike through the streets of Amsterdam. But he did not stop there. He went on to slash van Gogh’s throat as people looked on in horror. The act was meant to be a retaliation for the release of van Gogh’s film, Submission: Part I, where verses of the Quran were painted on the bodies of naked women; indeed, Bouyeri claimed he was acting to defend the name of Allah. It was not the first time we had heard those words; it was surely not the last. In recent months, we’ve witnessed a resurgence of similar barbarism in the name of Islam, from the beheadings and widespread atrocities of the so-called Islamic State and the kidnappings and bombings of Boko Haram and Al Shabab in Africa. In Murder in Amsterdam, Ian Buruma, a noted historian and a Dutchman himself, travels to the Netherlands soon after van Gogh’s murder to investigate the climate that gave rise to such an appalling act, examining the influx of immigrants from North Africa and ex-colonies into the country and the way they are treated, as well as the resurgence of reactionary Dutch nationalists in a society often prized for its tolerance and liberalism. It reads like long form journalism that perfectly blends history with current events to explore a most pressing question, one that remains unanswered ten years on. I can think of no book more fitting for our times.

delugeThe Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931, by Adam Tooze 

Among the spate of recent books examining World War I on the centenary of its outbreak, Adam Tooze’s new book. The Deluge, stands out. Tooze, a professor of history at Yale and the author of The Wages of Destruction, a much-praised study of the Nazi war economy, is one of the finest economic historians writing today. Here, he shifts his focus from the Third Reich and the Second World War to the United States and the First, examining the pivotal role that conflict played in redefining the nation and catapulting it to the top of the global hierarchy. This is not new territory per se, but Tooze writes persuasively and authoritatively. If you only intend to read one World War I book this year, The Deluge will not disappoint.

 

capitalCapital The Eruption of Delhi, by Rana Dasgupta

There has been much talk in recent years of the growing division between the top 1% and the remaining 99%, and part of the reason Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century became such a sensation earlier this year was because it provided some quantitative grounding to these arguments. Rana Dasgupta’s similarly titled Capital does not bother itself with the numbers; it is far more concerned with the social and human cost of income inequality. Dasgupta takes as his subject New Delhi, the capital of India, itself an incredibly polarized society where the very rich have recently done very well for themselves and have taken advantage of the influx of capital from globalization, while the rest of the city has carried on, largely unaffected, their lives about the same now as they were some forty years ago. If you’re a fan of Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City, you’ll find much to like in Capital.

 

Find more books on the Current Events & History page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


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I haven’t had many proposals cross my desk in my twenty years as an editor which I felt I was born to edit, but my heart skipped a beat when Andrew Roberts’ agent called to tell me he wanted to write a big, meaty new biography of Napoleon. Now truth be told I have been hunting for a good book on Napoleon for a long time. I’ve bought several (from bookstores), and they’ve generally left me filled with rage – the options seemed to be Freudian psychobabble or ranting indictment: if you take your cue from recent releases you’d think he was a frothing tyrant with blood on his britches. But the truth, as Andrew Roberts reveals in this magnificent biography that draws on a stupendously rich new cash of Napoleon’s letters (33,000 – and those are the ones that have survived, just think what he might have done in the age of email) is altogether more riveting. Napoleon was one of the giants of history. He was an inveterate bookworm who steeped himself in the writings of Caesar and modeled himself on him too, though he also gobbled up Rousseau and Voltaire and the great thinkers of the enlightenment, much like our own founding fathers. I came away from this book thinking that Napoleon was like Washington, Jefferson and Madison rolled into one: he was the visionary general who led France to victory in the series of wars that followed the French revolution (we were lucky not to have angry monarchs on all sides determined to overturn our revolution); he was an erudite intellectual and reformer like Jefferson who drew artists and scientists around him, introduced the metric system and set up the Louvre and France’s still stellar system of grandes ecoles and universities; and he was a state-builder like Madison who drafted a whole new set of laws and established the French national bank.

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Now for full disclosure my great great great grandfather on my father’s side was a colonel who fought for Napoleon and a true believer. Napoleon was a meritocratic, which may seem counter-intuitive for a man who crowned himself emperor. But he believed that if you gave people a sense that they were participating in something larger than themselves, they would live up to the moment and surpass your expectations. He was a great leader of men, and I was struck as I worked on the manuscript that modern business leaders would find much in his practice and philosophy to learn from. He was also an unbelievable romantic and his love letters to Josephine are worthy of a harlequin romance. It is true that in the end, in his campaigns in Spain and Russia, he made mistakes that cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of men. But war is a messy business with many unintended consequences, as we have learned ourselves recently (not for the first time). Andrew Roberts is the biographer Napoleon has been waiting for – he writes like a dream and appreciates his (many) jokes.  And no one is better at telling the story of a battle so that you feel you are right there in the saddle, dodging canon fire and charging into the fray. But you don’t have to be a military history buff to love this book – I’m not particularly, and I can’t wait to go back to the beginning and read it all over again.

 

Read more about Napoleon by Andrew Roberts


Katie Grinch

Katie Grinch is an Assistant Director of Publicity at Putnam.  She’s been with the company for 10 years (11 if you count her college internship).  She has a passion for pop culture, world travel and her cat named Wanda.

 

 

 

 

 

thestolenones

The Stolen Ones, by Owen Laukkanen

Owen Laukkanen is an amazing writer who always grabs me with his nuanced ability to take ordinary, everyday people and make them the center of terrifying actions.  This is the fourth thriller starring Kirk Stevens and his partner in the new joint BCA-FBI violent crime task force Carla Windermere.   Together, they find themselves on the trail of a massive international kidnapping and prostitution operation. Before they are done, they will have travelled over half the country, from Montana and Nevada, to New York and New Jersey, and come face to face not only with the most vicious man either of them have ever encountered––but two of the most courageous women that readers will find themselves truly rooting for.

 

girl on the train

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

Reminiscent of one of my favorite movies, Rear Window, this is a British gem of a psychological thriller that I want everyone to read, so we can talk about and all the twists and turns at the water cooler.   Told from the point of view of three different characters – Rachel really strikes a note as the unreliable narrator battling her demons.  She becomes entangled in the disappearance of a local woman she observes every day from the train window.  Her interest in the case reaches the point where you question why she’s so invested and if she knows more than meets the eye.  The mystery that unravels kept me reading nonstop.

 

 

strangler

The Strangler Vine, by M.J. Carter

A brilliant historical thriller set in Calcutta in 1837 written by established historian and biographer MJ Carter. The British East India Company rules India, or most of it. Its most notorious and celebrated son, Xavier Mountstuart, has gone missing on an expedition to track down the Thugs, the murderous sect of native Kali-worshippers who strangle innocent travelers by the roadside. William Avery, a young soldier joins forces with a secret political agent gone native become and the unlikely duo is drawn deeper into this mystery and the dark heart of colonial India.  Not only a captivating read, but I learned so much about the time, place and the mysterious Thugs.

 

 

forsaken

The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

Atkins demonstrates why his Quinn Colson series has met with such popular and critical success, and why Michael Connelly has called him “one of the best crime writers at work today.”  Since the start, all of Ace Atkins’ novels have had roots in a true story.   The plot has ties to a 1975 cold case in Statesville, North Carolina. Two young girls were abducted, one survived to tell the story and in the wake of the horrific crime, another murder occurred.

 

 

 

lost key

The Lost Key, by Catherine Coulter and JT Ellison

I was so excited when Putnam started doing a second series (A Brit in the FBI) with Catherine Coulter and she has found the perfect partner in crime with JT Ellison.  This is an electrifying an international manhunt that begins when freshly-minted FBI Agent Nicholas Drummond, barely out of his Quantico training, and his partner are investigating a stabbing on Wall Street. Their investigation, however, yields more questions than answers and a plot twist that dates back to WWI.  This series is pure fun and excitement that should draw in fans of Coulter as well as new readers.

 

 

Find more books on the Mystery & Suspense page!

See Staff Picks for all our categories! 


Who doesn’t love a good ghost story? Last week, in celebration of Halloween, Penguin Teen asked the people of twitter to share their own spooky Halloween stories in 140 characters or less, using the hashtag #TwitterGhostStory. The results were spook-tacular and a lot of fun! Check out some of our favorite Twitter Ghost Stories!

Some made us scared to look in the mirror…

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Others made us scared to sleep alone…

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And a few made us not want to go home…

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Some rhymed…

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….and some were just too real.

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Our authors even got into the spirit with a few spooky tales of their own. 

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Some left us wanting more…

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… but then came the scariest of all!

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Happy Halloween!

Share your own Ghost Story below…if you dare.



1weird_thesecretMany people struggle to be creative. We see creative people and their work around us and compare ourselves. We don’t know how to be creative, or worse, we did once, and now we’re feeling blocked, bored or unsure. Tired of this happening to you?

Hi. I’m Adam J. Kurtz, and my new journal, 1 Page at a Time, can help. A daily creative companion, this book will assist in the journey back to your creative self. Through exercises and challenges “proven” to help, you too can harness your mind. You too can feel the guiding light of creativity as it pushes you to accomplish incredible feats of “ART” in the workplace, and in your personal life. You’ll write! You’ll cry!

For a limited time, all this is available for only — say it with me: 1! PAGE! AT A TIME!

The Endless Journey

The Endless Journey

If only it were that easy. A single book that could change everything, a quick fix, a ten-step program that could make the difference. The bad news is that creativity, like most things, is a journey. The good news? You’ve already started. As a living, breathing human being you are already creative. Congratulations! Simply processing the world around you is a creative feat. Getting dressed. Choosing lunch. Everything is creativity, everything is art, and you have everything you need. Your way of looking at things, the way you consume and digest all play a role.

When we think of creative accomplishments, we tend to think of the end result. The completed manuscript, mastered files, or framed piece. We get so caught up in that tangible end goal that we might not even see the creativity itself: the emotions, thinking, sketches and planning that led to that final output.

Creative Switch

Creative Switch

There’s no quick fix because there can’t be. There’s no switch to flip because your creativity is constantly flowing, you just might be letting it slip by. So instead of rushing forward, slow down. Take a deep breath. What are you thinking right now? What is the root of that emotion? Let’s talk about something else. Where have you traveled before? What would you write in a letter to a seven-year-old? Get up and walk away. Staring a problem in the face isn’t going to solve anything. Staring yourself in the face might. Write everything down and look at it. Make a couple of lists. Have some water, swish it around your mouth until it’s lukewarm, then swallow it. Okay, where were we, and where do we stand now?

Harness a small bit of yourself every day. A tiny piece. Something that feels irrelevant or useless. Put it to paper, then come back tomorrow. Our goals can be so daunting that we forget all the good advice we already know. “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” “Slow and steady wins the race!” Take small steps to accomplish your larger tasks. Follow your gut or your heart or whichever parts make your decisions. Remember that nothing really matters, no matter how important it might seem right now. Life moves on. The universe does what it wants. Have a little faith or take the whole leap. Your only job is to keep moving on. That’s creativity. It’s not a painting, it’s continuing to process, progress, and enjoy your life as you make it through.

Build Slowly

Build Slowly

But what do I know? I’m just some guy on the internet.

1 Page at a Time is a lot of things. It’s a diary. It’s a sketchbook. It’s a rulebook, a guidebook, a playbook and a yearbook. It’s whatever you want, with a healthy dose of optimism. And cynicism. It’s human. And it’s going to push you along your creative journey in the same way it helped me on mine.

Photo Credit: Ryan Pfluger

 

Adam J. Kurtz is a graphic designer, artist, and serious person. He is primarily concerned with creating honest, accessible work, including a range of small products and the self-published “unsolicited advice” calendar series. He is the author of no other books.

He currently lives in New York City. Visit AdamJK.com, @AdamJK, & jkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjkjk.com (or don’t!).


NYComiccon2WELCOME TO THE ONE AND ONLY New York Comic Con. Walking into the Javitz Center off 11th Avenue, I was not prepared for the plethora of fans bouncing off each other with pure adoration. The aura of Con was beaming with contagious excitement. From the moment I stepped in, I heard “can I take a picture with you?” This question was asked frequently with great admiration for all the costumes, fandom, and creativity. This question, of course, was never directed at me, as I was dressed in boring work attire. At one point, I bumped into someone and he turned and said “Sorry!” I looked at him to say, “don’t be silly, it was my fault.” When he looked me in the eyes, I jumped back. Those white-eyed contacts were jarring, especially with an endearing smile that revealed bloody fangs. Conclusions: Comic Con is another universe. Comic Con is cool, so cool. And Comic Con is the definition of togetherness. I couldn’t help but flip through my thoughts on what I would have dressed up as, and how I wish I had. Sailor Moon? Zelda? Daenerys? Maybe next year…

The first day, I was able to interview James Dashner, author of The Maze Runner for the Beaks & Geeks podcast. I must admit that I fangirled super hard as we chatted by the press lounge. Our interview went well, as did the others. Between Thursday and Sunday, we were able to speak with James, Daniel José Older, Amber Benson, Romina Russell, Myke Cole, and Patrick Rothfuss. Check it out, the playlist is embedded below!

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Last sunday was such a lovely fall weekend. My boyfriend and I strolled around Park Slope, enjoying the crisp mid-October weather. After a cozy brunch, complete with French press coffee, we went looking for a place to watch the football games. On the way, we found the farmer’s market. Dog and cat adoption trucks lined 5th Avenue in what had to be the cutest display of large vehicles I’ve ever seen. As obsessive animal lovers, we remained there for an unreasonable amount of time before heading into the market for some fresh pickles. Down the road I stumbled across this beautiful scene: autumn colored balloons caught in one of the trees lining the street. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the moment as much as we did.

Until next time.

Cheers,

Lindsay


9780399160851_MapleI’m a sucker for trees. Our art department laughs about how many of the picture books I publish feature trees (in a good way!). So when I got the submission for Maple, I was a goner. Here was a book that celebrated a nature-loving, free-spirited little girl whose parents plant a tree in her honor. A little girl who can often be rowdy but who finds peace under the rustling, dancing leaves of her maple tree. Lori Nichols’s art in this enchanting picture book debut is crisp and lush and so inviting. Everyone who reads this falls in love with Maple and her little sister, Willow. And the starred reviews keep coming in!

We were thrilled when Lori told us there were more stories about these charming little girls. 9780399162831_Maple_&_Willow_Together(After all, Lori has three little girls of her own, so there will be many stories to tell!) In Maple & Willow Together, which we are publishing in November 2014, Lori perfectly captures the dynamics of siblings. Maple and Willow do everything together, playing outside come rain or shine. But it’s not always sunshine and rainbows, because sometimes a big sister can be bossy and a little sister can be frustrating—and get frustrated—and a blow-up ensues. What I love about this story is that Lori shows us that the girls figure out how to solve things on their own. They are the ones in charge in this leafy kingdom – a kingdom that readers will want to revisit often. And good news on that front – more adventures are coming when Maple heads off to big-girl school and Willow is home alone, so stay tuned for Maple & Willow Apart (coming Fall 2015).


photo 3A woman came to my door the other day and said, “You’re the editor of Superstorm, right?”  My assistant has been out on maternity leave and so I’m getting used to people I don’t recognize waltzing into my office.  “Great book” the woman said and so of course she had my attention.  She said she was from Gerristen Beach, a part of Brooklyn that was about 10 feet underwater after Sandy rolled through.  Her family lost the house her father built.  They are still putting their lives back together.  She is a temp working in Operations for PRH at 375 Hudson Street.  She loves this book.  Me too.

We had just had our Halloween party back in 2012 in this building when New Yorkers started to realize the big bad hurricane was coming to get us.  As she was working on Superstorm Kathryn Miles said the storm was like the shark in Jaws—yes, her story is that scary.  Forecasters and their science were unable to make sense of this unprecedented system as it played out; seamen with all their traditional knowledge couldn’t predict what it would do; and the survivors whose lives it all but destroyed are still trying to pick up the pieces.  This story is all about the unforgiving, fearsome power of nature—just when we thought we had it beat.

We meet Chris Landsea, the Science and Operations Officer at the National Hurricane Center who had been thinking the 2012 hurricane season was a quiet one—and pretty much over—until he and a colleague noticed what looked like the beginnings of an unusual tropical depression.  But the picture the data delivered was not clear.  Kathryn Miles’ gripping narrative soon demonstrates that we have a national infrastructure emergency that we haven’t yet noticed.  It isn’t just that our bridges and schools are in danger of collapsing, our scientific data gathering, especially meteorological data gathering systems, are an appalling, neglected mess.  Forecasters used to rely on a tool called the quick scatterometer which used microwave sensors to gauge winds speeds near the ocean surface.  Then it broke.  In 2009.  Ever since we’ve been using a vastly inferior European data stream and have no plans to replace it.  This of course is merely one example…

SuperstormThe New York Office of Emergency Management advised Mayor Bloomberg that all was fine on Saturday night, but then by Sunday morning had him calling for the mandatory evacuation of 350,000 people including the families of Gerristen Beach.  Given the state of our forecasting infrastructure, this flip flop is perhaps not so surprising.

Kathryn Miles’ Superstorm is a gripping read, and it is also a necessary one in a time of increasingly unpredictable, deadly weather.

Happy Halloween.

Read more about Superstorm by Kathryn Miles.


playingbig

Tara Mohr’s new book, Playing Big, is a guide for women to find their calling and make practical steps to dream bigger and achieve their goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. What do you think has been missing from the women & work conversation?

A lot! There’s been an oversimplification in the discussion of “internal” vs. “external” barriers to women’s advancement. The usual conversation treats them as totally independent from one another, and also confuses acknowledging the internal barriers (self-doubt for example) with “blaming women” – as if any internal barriers are women’s fault and therefore women’s responsibility. We miss the context: Women grapple with those internal barriers because of cultural and historical factors. Centuries of women’s marginalization and exclusion from professional, public and political life left a societal legacy, but it also left a legacy in us, impacting how we see ourselves. Looking inward to address the internal barriers to our own empowerment is – in my view – a wise response to that legacy. It’s part of the work women in our time need to do to claim our power, and our new freedoms, fully.

2.What compelled you to write Playing Big?

All around me, I saw brilliant women playing small. I was seeing it in my coaching clients, my colleagues, my friends and in myself. We were turning away from sharing our ideas, from truly going for our career dreams. We weren’t playing as big as our ideas, our talents, and our capacity for leadership merited.

3.You say that all contemporary women “have been hired for the transition team” – what do you mean by that?

The past was a world defined, designed and led largely by men. The future – we hope – will be a world defined, designed and led by women and men. The present is the transition. By dint of our birth into this historical moment, we’ve been “hired for the transition team.”

When women can start to see themselves as a part of a global, revolutionary transition team, we can more compassionately and wisely understand what’s not working in our institutions and culture right now. And can be buoyed by the understanding that whatever we do in our communities, companies and families to bring forward women’s voices – including our own voices – is connected to something much larger and much greater, something we are a part of.

4.What are the major blocks women have get in the way of their playing big?

That delusional inner critic voice, and not having the tools to deal with it. Also, paradoxically, often our good student habit and good girl behaviors get in our way. These habits are very helpful up to a certain point in our careers – they help us be good worker bees, solid contributors –but they then get in the way of our leading and shaking up the status quo. Some faulty beliefs also tend to get in our way – that we aren’t expert enough, that we need one more training or degree or a few more years experience. And of course, there are also many external barriers – unconscious and conscious bias, the double-bind, the dearth of female leader role models and mentors.

5. Part of this book is about callings – how can a woman figure out what her calling is?

Yes, I find most women don’t truly feel they are playing big until they play big not just in their careers, but in whatever pursuits they feel most called to. Those pursuits might happen through their jobs, but they might also happen through volunteer work, activism, family life or a creative passion. There are eight common patterns I see in how callings tend to show up in our lives – and usually we can recognize a calling because it meets at least a few of these criteria –

How do you recognize a calling? Look for one or more of these clues:

  1. You feel an unusually vivid pain or frustration around the status quo of a particular issue or topic. You strongly feel or clearly see what’s lacking.
  2. You see a powerful vision–vague or clear–about what could be. That vision keeps filling your mind or tugging at your heart.
  3. You feel inspired or even compelled to act. You have a mysterious, felt sense of “This work is mine to do.” You feel as if you’ve received an assignment, rather than that you chose the particular task or cause.
  4. You find that actually doing the calling is a magical, strengthening process. While your inner critic might show up now and then, and while it’s hard work, you receive energy and a sense of meaning, and rightness, from doing it. You feel a kind of flow while working on it.
  5. Satisfaction comes not when the end goal is achieved, but much earlier – when you give yourself full permission to work on the calling. And… (these are the most important — and most surprising qualities of a calling)
  6. You feel huge resistance. A part of you wants to run the other direction. You feel like the task is huge, and you just couldn’t possibly be up to it. It feels like this upends your plans, and doesn’t quite fit with what is convenient in your life. Keep this in mind: in the archetypal hero’s journey, step 1 is “hearing the call”. Step 2? “Resisting the call.” It’s normal. It’s part of the process. The key is eventually surrendering that resistance and stepping into the calling.
  7. You don’t — yet—have everything you need to have to complete it. It’s not just irrational fear talking. It’s the truth. You don’t have everything you need. There is work to do, resources you will need to gather, and things you will need to make happen. That is a part of the beautiful stretch of the calling.
  8. You aren’t — yet — the person you need to be to complete the calling. It’s true. It’s not just your inner critic. You aren’t quite up to the task. You don’t have all the qualities and strength you’ll need. And you’ll get them by doing the calling. Callings always grow us in some meaningful way. You will have to evolve, develop new capacities, and show up to life in new ways.

I see no evidence that we each get a single calling. Most women experience many over a lifetime, and even many at once. The question isn’t “what’s my calling?” It is “what callings am I receiving right now?” The goal isn’t to find the one final perfect calling and devote the rest of one’s days to it. Rather, the goal is to become a woman more able to recognize her callings and respect them. Often this is where we get stuck – respecting and taking seriously our callings.

6. You talk a lot about the inner critic and the inner mentor – what are those inner voices and why are they so important?

The quality of our lives and the quality of our leadership depends on whether we listen to the wisest part of ourselves or the most fearful part of ourselves.

All of us – women and men – have a vicious and strong inner critic voice, a voice that talks to us about how and why we don’t measure up. When women listen to the inner critic, or think it’s voice is just “who they are,” they get stuck playing small. And yet, one thing that women often get wrong is that they think they have become “confident” – that they have to get rid of self-doubt. We don’t! Our self-doubt isn’t going away. We do, however, need a new way of relating to it. We need to learn how to recognize the inner critic voice, hear it, acknowledge it, but not take direction from it.

One of the most powerful things a woman can do is discover what I call “the inner mentor.” When I was being trained as a coach, I was taught a simple, guided meditation I could use with my clients to help them envision and older, future version of themselves – themselves twenty to thirty years out into the future. What I found was that when people did this guided meditation and truly accessed that vision, it wasn’t just an “older” version of themselves they encountered, but rather a wiser, calmer, more fully expressed version of themselves. I came to call this the “inner mentor” because it functioned like a mentor women could call upon for guidance when they were facing a challenge or dilemma. Its answers were always surprising, profound, and unfailingly wise. Playing bigger from the inside out, is, in larger part, about becoming more and more like that wiser self – growing into her, so to speak.

There’s so much advice today for women to find mentors.  Mentors can be great for support, tactical information, and help navigating a particular company or field, and yet, there are so many instances in which a woman’s best answers will come from within herself – and when only she can know what the right course for herself is.

7.You are skeptical about all the positive hype about girls’ success is school – why?

Of course, it’s not a bad thing that girls are succeeding in school, but I do think we need to look more critically at what they are succeeding at when they do so. Often, the core skills that school teachers are 1) how to adapt to what an authority figure (the teacher) wants 2) how to learn information from the outside (a book, a lecture, etc.) and then memorize or apply it 3) how to prepare well – how to study for a test, or prepare for the next day’s discussion in class. These skills help us in certain ways in our careers, but to lead, to innovate, to be changemakers, and to do work that we find personally meaning in, we need a different skill set:

  • challenging authority and standing in our own authority – not just adapting to authority
  • trusting what we already know – not just learning information from the outside
  • improvising as well as preparing

I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that girls’ success in school is adequately preparing them to be the leaders and change agents we need them to be!

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