Michelle Obama. Becoming. Why to read?

Блог Listen to your broccoli - Мишель Обама. Книга Становление

If a memoir is written by the First Lady, wife of the first Afroamerican President, do you need more reasons for it? This is why someone should read “Becoming” by Michelle Obama in view: 

  • In order to enjoy an extremely open preface to the book written by Michelle

This book by Michelle is the first for many years which I read with interest and pleasure. She describes the ability to finally be at home alone, go to the kitchen and make a sandwich for herself so reverently, so you start to understand how messy and demanding her life was for the period of eight years. (Well, maybe you do not need to move to the White House to start valuing silence, you might just get children, that would be enough:)). 

  • Learn in which situation the most-quoted phrase from the book was said

“I do not think you are Princeton material”. This is what Michelle heard from the orientation consultant in her high school. Later she would prove to be Princeton material, Harvard material, and First Lady material and she would not forget to include this story into her book, probably so that anyone facing such situations will remember where not-Princeton material ends up. 

  • Finally, learn who they got to know each other

I knew that Michelle was a mentor of Barak Obama when he joined a law company where she worked. I had the impression that she was more of a manager to him based on this, but in reality, it was not like that. She was a couple of years younger and mentoring meant just supporting and making him feel at home in the company. 

  • Learn that it is okay to give up a prestigious job in a legal company and accept the decrease in pay if you are looking for who you are 

Great salary, expensive wines on subscription, Armani suits – all of that comes with lawyers position as a package. But she did not like anything like that and she did not need it. Several times she would describe moments where she changed her job to something elsewhere she would get less salary, but she would do more things she likes. 

  • To learn how you can take care of yourself

Michelle shares stories about miscarriages, about not so smooth the path to receiving the proposal of marriage. He did not consider such formalities to be important. Later when they got children they even went through couples therapy. She had an opinion that her husband was not contributing to family life due to his work and traveling.

It was funny to read that she came out of those sessions with the decision to take better care of herself. And her first step was to start getting up at 4.45 in order to go to the gym before her work starts. This is really caring about yourself!:) 

  • Learn how the necessity to be in front of thousands can catch off guard 

During the presidential election campaign, the wife of the new candidate had to speak publicly a lot. The book depicts a moment that she realizes that she was not good at it. Her assistants and consultants showed her the recording of her speech without sound and she got to know that her body language, movements on stage, facial expressions could cause negative reactions. 

  • Learn what are the important things when you are moving to the White House

While describing the period of moving to the White House she explains that she wanted to retain the feeling of normality for her daughters. I thought she will be worried about them getting used to luxury and comfort. But she was more focused on not needing to ask permission to go outside or grab food in the kitchen on their own or go with their classmates for ice-cream without having to plan this a week beforehand.  

  • Learn what does it mean to live in the White House

It was really exciting to envision all household details: how the White House looks from inside, how the President’s family lives on the top floor and underneath the politics happens. I was surprised to learn that while residing in the White House the family pays the bills for many things like food, sleep-overs of friends and family. 

Michelle Obama has exceptional education, not for nothing, the bool is really well written. She managed to balance perfectly between openness and self-respect or personal boundaries.

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Susan Jeffers. Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway. Three steps to deal with fear

Susan Jeffers Feel the fear and do it anyway | Blog Listen to your broccoli

I thought that everything already started and was afraid to enter the gym. I was signed up for an after-school basketball group. When I came for my first session, I was standing in front of the door to the sport hall and listening to the sounds of kicked balls and thought that the lesson had already started and did not dare to open the door/ The next time I came earlier and the next-next time I came even earlier than before, but the noise behind the door was the same and I did not open the door.

So if you are reading a book like ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway!’ by Susan Jeffers and you are thinking why someone will write such obvious things like ‘do not be afraid to do something’, just remember it is written for people like me. The ones who cannot open the door.

When I was reading this book, I recognized my troubles and I felt a bit more relieved because I learned that I am not the only one. In order not to forget the things that I have learned I wrote down three lessons for myself. I want to apply them in my life and then look back and see what is the result. The book was translated to thirty-five languages including Russian, so I think that means that there people who might need it as well. So I am sharing them and please share your fears in the comments. What are you afraid of?

Lesson 1. Stop the Chatterbox in your head

The Chatterbox is the constant inner voices that comment on your actions, environment, choices. Your every move is being commented on by negative thoughts. For example: “if I will take this job I will be regretting it because I might not be able to perform. If I will not take it, I will regret that I did not take. If I take it other people will think I do not deserve it.” My entire life I am leaving with this voice and I honestly thought that this voice is actually me. According to the book, it appeared that this is not a mandatory part of my life and it is possible to get rid of the voice. Or actually, transform it in the voice of a loving friend. There are several exercises in the book that are supposed to help to get over this situation.

  • Affirmations: probably everyone knows what it is. But just in case: you work up in the morning with a thought “Again. Again I have to get up to go to work so early” and instead you should think “It’s cool! I have the whole day in front of me full of new and interesting stuff. I will handle everything it gives me”. It is suggested to write affirmations on the cards and hang them around the house. I am not going to do it as I am not leaving alone, but I will probably put one at my desk and will change it every day. (I even tried to find them on sale online, but did not manage to do it so quick).
  • Pollyanna and the Glad Game: means trying to look at all events and see something good in them. Pollyanna is a character from a book who was always seeing positive things in her life events. The coffee was dropped on the carpet, good thing let’s change the carpet for a nicer one

As a result, you should a loving voice instead of the Chatterbox. The was an interesting point mentioned in the book: once you will handle the chatterbox, you will start enjoying being alone.

Lesson 2: learn to take decisions

When I have to take a decision and I look at possible options, each option looks not good enough, in every option I see disadvantages. We look at possibilities and try to predict where they lead us to, but we can never know it. Each time after taking the decision I start to regret and think that if I would choose another option, it would be better.

The book focuses on adjusting your thoughts to realizing that each chosen decision opens a new set of opportunities. The author offers to use five steps before the decision is taken and three after the decision is taken.

Before: focus on the two options, learn more about them, discuss with other people, look inside you and define your priorities, trust your intuition. And the last point ‘lighten up’, do not take everything too serious. Life is a university, we are studying. Every mistake can be corrected.

Lesson 3: take responsibility for your life

The author tries to encourage to take control of our lives using several steps (Seven Ways to Reclaim Your Power):

  1. Do not transfer the responsibility for your condition outside
  2. Do not blame yourself
  3. Realize when you start to play a victim
  4. Stop the Chatterbox
  5. Realize which bonuses lead you to adhere to victim behavior. What are you getting in the situation?
  6. Define what you want in life and start acting (ha-ha, really?)
  7. Remember that each moment of time you have different possibilities to react and you are making your own choice.

Did she write anything radically new about fear? Not sure. But for those who cannot open the door, the book is definitely useful. Did I join finally the class on basketball? Yes. At some day they were someone else who came there when I was standing in front of the door and I did enter. Everyone in the sports hall was busy with themselves, no one was staring at me when I came in.


Julia Cameron. Artist’s Way. Divine plan for you

Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli


“Don’t you feel strange as someone from Belarus when you sit in a church and eat pumpkin soup with a sandwich for lunch?” I was asked by a training participant from Moscow. I even choked as it was a bit strange that I did not feel strange at all. She did not know yet that evening drinks after Julia Cameron two days training will be taking place here, in Saint Stephan church in Nijmegen, a city in the Netherlands.

There are a lot of churches in the Netherlands and maintaining them is very expensive therefore they are often rent out for different events like discos even or rock concerts.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Approximately hundred of females were sitting in the church and staring at the stage, waiting for the celebrity to arrive, waiting for Julia Cameron the author of “Artist’s Way”. I have read so many times about people whose life was changed completely because of the book and many times during the training I will hear this again from the participants: how they read the book and left their job, started to draw, started a new life, retired in order to start something.

One of the examples is the case of the lady who organised the training in the Netherlands. She read Julia’s book three years ago and she decided to organise a course based on the book. During the year participants of the course gather together once a month for a full Sunday to practice the exercises from book and add some more creative activities around it. Last year she had six participants and this year forty-six. She also travelled to the USA to take part in Julia’s training there and she convinced Julia to come to the Netherlands (as I understood Julia comes to Europe very rarely) and now three years after reading the book she is announcing Julia Cameron to the stage. It was a good book to read, right?


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Julia Cameron climbed to the stage very carefully, she is already 70 years old. She dressed in total black, with blond coloured hair. I really liked the fact that she started without any introduction (I love people getting straight to the point, god knows how much time is waisted in the world for unnecessary introductions). “During this training you will meet two characters: one is a tyrant and he will criticise you for not doing good, another is a rebel who will tell you – what kind of exercises are these? what this Julia wants? So your task is not to pay attention to them.”

Julia spent quite some time talking about Morning Pages. 

Morning Pages are three pages of text that you have to write by hand every morning, first thing after waking up. The idea is that this is kind of mental meditation, listening to yourself, clearing up your mind. Her main idea was that if you do Morning Pages you become led by them and they tell you what to do in your life. 

Also, you can ask a question and Morning Pages will give you the answer after some time. This way Morning Pages sent Julia to London to write music and songs and musicals. As a proof she started to sing her own song and then she told us to sing back and we did. And it was very matching the environment around us in the church. She specifically told us that writing should be done by hand and that people get a block from writing approximately at 1.5 pages and that we have to overcome it and still write.

“What to write?” – this is the most common and the most useless question. You have to write anything and if you do not know what, then just write this: “I do not know what to write”.

Afterwards the same schema followed throughout the two days: we were getting an exercise (finish the sentence for example: In my childhood creativity in my home was considered … or I love …. or I am proud … and complete the sentences ten times).

It is worth mentioning that Julia did not give us any time for thinking, she was reading the questions very quickly and then we had to sit in groups of three and read out load our answers.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Two examples of popcorn which I have got. Looks like some people just carry across such nice paper in there pockets. It is good enough to put on the wall in a frame.

After we finished writing our answers for the exercise we would go and split into groups of three and read our answers, then we will get acquainted a bit and discuss the exercise. Every time you should be in a new group with new people. This way I got to know a big number of coaches, art therapists, five rhythm dance trainer, painters, carrier mentors, filmmakers, theatre directors, one real writer and a KLM stewardess.

During the exercise we were supposed to give each other popcorn – a small written note of appreciation, positive feedback, compliment or something that a person deserves. After two days we gathered a lot of popcorn and got used to this so much, that my hands were grabbing paper to write a compliment each time when someone finished talking.


The whole two days looked the same: Julia Cameron (hello, SEO:)) will say something inspiring and then will say with a strict voice ‘Blank sheet of paper please’ and will start to read the exercise, we will write it down, and then go with a small group to read it aloud and then we will give popcorn to each other.

Examples of exercises from Julia:

  • U turn – remember a situation when you were broke by someone’s comment. For example she told us a story how she wrote a short story that she was very proud of and her friend read it and said: Do not publish it, it will ruin your reputation. 
  • Write a list of things that would cheer you up: in your kitchen, living-room, bedroom, in you from head to neck, from neck to the waist, from waist to knees and so on.
  • Write a letter from eight year old you to yourself now
  • Write a letter from eighty year old you to yourself now
  • Finish the phrases: My father thought that creative people are …., In my childhood creativity was considered…’
  • Write a list of five lives that you would like to live (a life of a traveller, writer, dancer, waitress, actress)
  • Ask your wise you the following questions: What do I have to know? What do I have to do? What do I have to accept? What do I have to grieve? What do I have to celebrate?
  • Write three ways of being kind to yourself
  • “Cinema self you as done by Holywood”: how would Holywood version of you look like: your car, signature clothing, skill, pet, what would people say at your funeral, who would play you in a movie (for me young Nicole Kidman) 
  • Write what you are dreaming of secretly 
  • If my ego would allow, I would …. (five times) 
  • I love …. (ten versions) 
  • I am proud of (ten versions) 

During the lunch time we had to go for a lonely walk for twenty minutes and find our a-ha moments. I was walking around and thinking: all these shops, market, people, seen by me hundreds of time, there is nothing here for me to attract my interest. And after five minutes I face a small park with a half destroyed chapel and I think – this is me! this is for me! And so my a-ha moment was that there is always something for you, just keep walking.

Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli


In the evening of the first day we had to write two letters as homework: a letter to the god of creativity and his reply to us. I hate this type of tasks but if she says we have to do it, we have to do it. 

Dear god of creativity,

There are more stories in the world than listeners. There are more books than readers. I am looking around and I see so many interesting people who probably have much more to say than I am. And who needs my creativity? Whose life will become better? No one is knocking on my door and asking for my creations…

Dear Anna,

Your unique spot will never be taken. It’s yours forever and you have to make sure it’s taken by you. I will be waiting there for you. And you are not the one to judge your work. It’s definitely not where your energy should go. Your task is to create and I will judge by admiring and enjoying it.


During the second day we also had to write a short dictation and then choose a phrase that makes us feel good.

I chose this: There is a divine plan of goodness for us.

And indeed after this training which the organisers decided to finish with a show of falling flowers, I started to believe in this a bit.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

P.S. I did not ask my question to Julia. Apparently she already answered it in her book “Floor Sample: A Creative Memoir”.

What to ask Julia Cameron?

Страница Джулии Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Whatever interesting community I join, be it on psychology, reading, self-development, time management there will be always someone there who is reading, doing the exercise according the book of Julia Cameron “Artist’s Way” or looking for other people to complete the program of the book together.

Book – About?

“Artist’s Way” is a book about how to find your creativity which is for sure sitting inside you. The writer published this book herself as an publishing agency refused to deal with the book. And afterwards the book ended up in all possible hit lists for non-fiction books.

Julia was an author of a course for people with creative professions and she wrote this book based on her experience and stories of people she trained. Morning Pages exercise is probably the most famous from her book, but it also has letters to yourself, working with recollections of your childhood and finding the right environment for yourself.


Julia Cameron, author of the book, will come to the Netherlands with her 2 days training.

When you read a self-help book, you kind of accept wisdom from another person and it probably should be important to know who is this person, what is the life experience of this person. But I rarely check biographies of authors. A book either works for me or not. And that’s it.

По тону и книге автор представлялась мне добродушной тетушкой. Оптимистичной. С правильной жизнью и верой в себя. Перед тем как идти на тренинг, я решила почитать о ней в википедии и оказалось, что она была женой Мартина Скорсезе, американского продюсера и режиссера. Правда, всего год. Вот непонятно, зачем женятся всего на год. В какой-то момент она погрязла в алкоголе и наркотиках, у нее были нервные приступы, паранойя и психоз и в возрасте 30 лет она смогла остановиться. Начала вести курсы по креативности и потом на основе этой работы написала книгу Путь художника. Сейчас Джулии 70 лет. Книге уже 20 лет, а описанный в ней курс до сих пор проходят, проводят марафоны, делают совместные группы.

Based on the book and the tone of the book I imagined the author very optimistic, homey, kind and warm person. With a proper life and self-esteem and confidence that was there from the birth. Before joining the training I decided to read her biography in wikipedia and it appeared that she was a wife of Martin Scorsese for a year. At some point she was overwhelmed by alcohol and drugs, she had nervous breakdowns, paranoia and other disturbances. However at the age of 30 she stopped all this and changed her life. She started the course on creativity and then wrote the book based on her experience. Now she is 70 years old and her book is about 20 years old and it is still very actively used for all types of trainings, group of people completing the course in the book in the entire world.


Джулия Кэмерон | Блог Listen to your broccoli

Julia’s instagram: https://www.instagram.com/juliacameronlive/


When I was signing up for the two days training with Julia, I saw a photo of a long table for about fifteen people and nice paper notebooks on the table and flowers. The picture appeared to be just an attention getter:) as in reality the training is for about 100 people and this will probably be more of lecture than a training and you have to bring your own nice notebook:).

Probably I will not be even able to ask anything, but during all that time that I was waiting for the training and thinking what do I want to know, what do I want to ask, I had only one question in my head – how is it possible to handle yourself and stop yourself from all these alcohol and drugs? What is the trigger and strong motivation? How is it possible to stop it and become so successful and worldwide famous? But, probably, I can’t really ask this, right?