Book proposals and morning gratitude (weekly recap)

I finished reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande this week. As I was marveling over the ability of a checklist to significantly improve surgical outcomes, I also read this article (BBC), about mindfulness and the roots of this practice in Japanese culture.

The BBC article begins as follows:

“As the sleek shinkansen bullet train glided noiselessly into the station, I watched a strange ritual begin. During the brief stop, the conductor in the last carriage began talking to himself. He proceeded to perform a series of tasks, commenting aloud on each one and vigorously gesticulating at various bits of the train all the while.

So what was he up to? You could say he’s practicing mindfulness. The Japanese call it shisa kanko (literally ‘checking and calling’), an error-prevention drill that railway employees here have been using for more than 100 years. Conductors point at the things they need to check and then name them out loud as they do them, a dialogue with themselves to ensure nothing gets overlooked.”

I could hardly believe what I was reading. The author was describing a checklist as a vehicle for mindfulness. Even while reading Gawande’s book, I hadn’t thought about checklists quite in this way, even though he comments himself that one of the benefits of the surgical checklist is that they provide an opportunity not only for the entire surgical team to introduce one another, but also to review the salient aspects of each case (in a regimented manner).

I’m excited to think more about checklists as a way to be more mindful, and to think more about how a to-do list fanatic like me might utilize one or more checklists in my life (keeping in mind that — as I learned from Gawande — a checklist is not a to-do list, and vice versa).

Three more things I learned and thought about this week:

  1. I attended a webinar hosted by Alexandra Franzen and Lindsey Smith about how to write a (non-fiction) book proposal. It was WONDERFUL! They did a detailed review of a template Lindsey had created, and I learned so much. Lindsey is a literary agent, and both Alexandra and Lindsey are published authors, so I picked up so many pearls of wisdom from them. One of the best hours I’ve spent in recent memory! I’ve been wanting to write an osteoporosis book for a while now, and I feel empowered to start a proposal now. Once I find the time to start said proposal…
  2. I’m halfway through my first episode of the Broken Brain Podcast (#72: Harness Your Brain’s Creative Potential to Pursue Your True Calling with Chase Jarvis, in case you’re interested), and I’m really enjoying it so far. Chase speaks about everyone’s need to design their own path to happiness and creativity, and that there are no maps for these sorts of journeys, only our own personal compass. And wow, does that ever sound corny when I type it out, but listening to this episode has reminded me that it’s okay to not know exactly where you’re going when you start a creative endeavor. It’s also reminded me that to get to good ideas, you need to have bad ideas first. This isn’t exactly breaking news (see: Pixar, Anne Lamott), but it’s a reminder that failure is one step on the road to success.
  3. I also recently listened to an episode of the Hello Monday Podcast with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and picked up a simple tip for practicing gratitude. He mentioned that part of his morning routine is taking a moment to think of one thing he’s grateful for the moment his feet hit the floor when he gets out of bed every morning. While I recognize the importance of gratitude and would love to be more intentional about it, I’ve never been able to keep up the habit of a gratitude journal, or list of three things each night before bed. I’m going to test drive the quick morning practice for a while.

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