Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Raisin box psychotherapy

My raisins are talking to me.

No, don’t break out the butterfly nets quite yet. What I mean by this is that every morning, I open a box of Sun-Maid raisins and pour them into my oatmeal (click here for the culinary details), and it took me a while to realize that the flap of each box contained some amazingly germane advice to guide my day. In time I have come to realize that many of the lessons I have learned in life, and much of what I am currently learning doing graduate work in psychotherapy, is actually waiting for me every morning at the breakfast table.

Some of this advice mirrors what I heard growing up from my parents, including nuggets like “Do your homework first, play later” and “Work hard. Play fair. Sleep well.” Other tips speak to my nobler instincts, like “Help a friend” and “Keep your hands open, both to receive and to give.” And some of it is understandably raisin-centric, such as “A handful of raisins is like a bunch of smiles in your mouth.”

Drilling deeper into the human psyche, much of this advice actually tracks current trends in psychology, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (“Give it a try”), behavioral modeling (“Study those you admire”), family therapy (“Ups and downs are part of all relationships”), and even bibliotherapy (“Support your local library – take a book to lunch”). And occasionally there is a dollop of pure philosophy (“Both our buddies and our enemies can teach us about life”).

My wife, on the other hand, is a chocoholic who prefers the advice printed on the inside of Dove chocolate candies. The Dove sages are a little less Calvinistic than their raisin counterparts, tending toward advice such as “Give yourself a treat,” “You look good in red,” and “You deserve a bubbebath” – not to mention some occasional advice I would rather she didn’t follow, like “Wink at someone driving past today.” But while the Dove folks certainly get high marks in the feel-good department, I still prefer the raisin d’etre that greets me every morning.

So when I graduate and become licensed as a therapist, I think a career path is starting to emerge: I think I want to become a psychologist for the Sun-Maid raisin company. Do you think they could use another advice-giver on their staff?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A great honor

I was delighted to hear today that What to Say to a Porcupine is one of four finalists for 800-CEO-READ's 2008 business book awards, in the business fables category. Here is a link to the announcement:

It is a great honor to be in the running for this award, given the caliber of the other finalists - the 13-category field includes people like Richard Branson, Guy Kawasaki, and Ram Charan, and my own category's finalists include bestselling author Daniel Pink as well as a delightful new fable Squawk! that I happen to be reading as we speak.

It is also an honor to be singled out by 800-CEO-READ, which in addition to being a leading on-line seller of business books, has a delightful blog that shows their love of the genre. (This summer they published a very nice review of Porcupine here.) It's nice to read the thoughts of people who really appreciate good books and their power to change lives, while having a good sense of humor in the process.

The awards will be announced December 15th. Keep your fingers crossed!

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An update: I didn't win. The top honors went this year to New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink for his new book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Need, an imaginative Manga-fable turned business advice book. I think the judges made a good pick - congrats Daniel, and I was delighted to be one of the finalists.