Healthy Lifestyle, Personal Growth, Self-help

The Joy of Obstacles – New Book Offers Inspiring New Perspective

Kathryn Johnson, Author

Kathryn Johnson is my neighbour and before I read her new best-selling book The Joy of Obstacles – Celebrating the Silver Lining in Difficult Days I only knew her in passing. Like any of my other condo neighbours, we shared a quick hello in the elevator or out on the street. I could see she walked with a couple of canes but I didn’t know anything about her.

Kathryn’s website explains that she was born with Cerebral Palsy and that living with a disability has given her a unique perspective of the world: She sees this circumstance as a gift and a vehicle for profound understanding of what each experience has to offer.

In her book Kathryn describes the obstacles she’s had to move through and challenges she’s faced along the way. She explains how she’s built a balanced and joyful life and gives us the encouragement and stories to read so that we can do it too. How can we recognize when it’s time to move forward? She reminds us that we all depend on each other and others can provide support to help us move forward. One of the most important lessons she ever learned was to focus on one thing at a time to keep moving forward and you’ll eventually arrive at your destination! I identified with Kathryn’s difficulties finding her path in school and her career challenges. Like her, I also believe that the bumps I endured along the way led me to a successful career that I enjoyed for over twenty years.

I got to meet Kathryn and find out more about her at a recent book signing in our Strata’s Community Room. After I read Kathryn’s book and attended her talk, I wanted to learn more. What had compelled her to write a book and start a speaking tour?  The next week she agreed to sit down with me to explain more about her purpose in writing her first book.

“The underlying message in my book is that as human beings everything we do is connected. The impacts of our actions can be felt by others around the world now more strongly than ever before in history. As such, it is of paramount importance that we act with our global community in mind. We want to strive to do the best we can in all situations.”

During our chat she explained that she believes we are given obstacles for a higher purpose of learning, to evolve into a better version of ourselves. “We come into this world and things that we find tough are tough for us because we don’t have the skills developed yet; other people may find the same things very easy because they’ve developed the skills. Every time there’s a challenge, at some level, we need to connect with someone else to move through it. For example; we may do some research, talk to someone, take a course, read a book, or watch TV. There’s some information that’s external to us that will help with the answer. We need to connect with others to discover it.”

Kathryn achieved her accounting designation while at the same time becoming immersed in studying personal growth.  Once she finished her academic studies her focus shifted to looking within.  Kathryn’s been studying personal growth for over ten years and she has participated in many retreats in California with leaders in the personal growth movement.

“I think I have a powerful message that people can benefit from. Regardless of where you are in life, my message is universal. It’s important that it gets out to the world and is available for people.”

She adds, “I may have been born with a disability.  I don’t let it affect my quality of life. I have an extensive education, a successful career, I’ve travelled the world, and now I’ve written my first book.”

That’s what Kathryn plans to talk about, “Because whatever it is, our task in this world is to be the best version of ourselves we can be. We all have blocks and blocks have to do with perception and the experiences that we have. Simply reach out, connect and move forward. Do the best that you can – every day. Both you and everyone else in the world will be richer for it. People need to stand up and use their voice and just shine, whatever it is that makes them, if they weren’t needed, they wouldn’t be here.”

After my husband read The Joy of Obstacles it helped him complete an art project that he had been stuck on for months. When he read how hard Kathryn worked through her challenges he was inspired. He credits one of her earliest challenges while still in Kindergarten – learning how to tie her shoe-laces – as giving him a fresh perspective on tackling his project. Even though Kathryn was just a little kid, she broke down the complicated task into small steps and kept at it until she was able to put the parts together into the final achievement.  So too, he was able to section out his project to achieve small successes along the way. This was more manageable and it gave him a feeling of accomplishment and the motivation he needed to complete his project.

I was so impressed with his success that I decided to use the complementary workbook that accompanies the Joy of Obstacles to help manage my current challenge: to increase my blog content. I printed out the pdf found on Kathryn’s website and I’m currently on the last of the nine chapters. At first, I was reluctant to do the exercises, but I finally admitted to myself that I’ve been spinning my wheels in the goals I want to accomplish and this workbook has come along at just the right time for me. It’s providing the gentle nudge and structure that I need! The questions at the end of each chapter led me to remember silver linings I experienced along the way in my life. I remembered leaving a job I disliked to take a riskier opportunity. As I walked down the hall after giving my notice, I felt over six feet tall!

Leslie completing her Joy of Obstacles workbook page 16 / 21

I encourage people at whatever stage of life they are in to read Kathryn’s book and check out all the valuable material found on her website. She’s also available to speak to groups on Overcoming Adversity, Seeing the Gift in Any Situation, and Following Your Passion.

The Joy of Obstacles – Celebrating the Silver Lining in Difficult Days is a best-seller available on Amazon in print and e-book format. An audio version is planned for January 2019. To book Kathryn as a speaker you can contact her via her website .

Reading, Restless Retiree, Retirement lifestyle, Self-help, Writing

My Guilty Pleasure is Reading Books

I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend reading, “Is it an escape from goals I want to accomplish? Could all this reading I do be a bad thing?”

After some soul-searching, I’m slowing down my reading consumption and shifting gears to include more writing into my day.

How it All Started

Reading has always been a big part of my life. One of my fondest memories is lounging in our suburban backyard during summer vacation with a good book. I had eclectic tastes and I remember the librarian peering at me over her readers as I checked out the salacious Backstreet by Fanny Hurst (Queen of the Sob Sisters). The librarian asked me if my mother knew what I was reading. She did. I remember her disgusted look and raised eyebrows, “You like this trash?”

I became an expert on our local library’s inventory. As a little girl I would have to go to the library to check out a heavy armful of books for my mother when she wasn’t able to go for herself. I was under a lot of pressure to remember what she’d already read!

My Habit Includes Both Fiction and Non-Fiction

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s I read mainly for self-improvement. Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want and Ernie Zelinski’s The Joy of Not Working and many others helped show me the path to reach my financial and personal goals. After I started working at Kumon I read mostly fiction as ‘reading for pleasure’ was a big part of our programme’s curriculum so I had to lead by example! I used the Kumon Book List to track my efforts by checking off each book as I completed it and then writing a short summary to remember the contents. It was a satisfying part of my job that I enjoyed!

After I retired I ramped up my reading. I devoured many best sellers in business and self-help: Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Dorrie Clark, Jim Rohn, Lisa Nicols, Scott Stratten, Dan Pink, Judith Glaser, Alan Weiss, Robert Cialdini, Mari Kondo, Judith Glaser, Simon Sinek, Liz Wiseman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Byron Katie and many more.

20180401_VPL checked out pile-1000

A Typical Stack of checked-out library books

Starting a Blog

One of my goals in retirement was to publish a blog so I began a daily writing practise after being inspired by the teachings of Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice, Writing Down the Bones, If You Want to Write and The Artist Way. I started a weekly publishing schedule but I never developed a routine strong enough to keep me going and things started to fall apart after a couple of months–I just wasn’t enjoying writing and instead I sat in my recliner reading more books from the library!

I remembered a chapter in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron where she suggested cutting out an activity, like reading, that you enjoy so you can free up your creative space. As I thought about how hard it would be to stop reading for a week I remembered what people used to say about my mother, “She reads too much!” At the time I couldn’t fathom that reading could be a bad thing. But now, I realized how she used reading as an escape from the world.  Now I was continuing the pattern with my own reading addiction. I had dozens of books in my Vancouver Public Library ‘For Later’ folder, several books checked out with a bunch more on hold. Since I retired in January the library had taken over my life. I was spending hours each day reading my checked out books, logging into my library account to reserve more books and several times a day I’d check the status on my holds and remind myself of my upcoming due dates and also made frequent trips each week to my local library branch.

So once again I turned to books for help. Conveniently my hold on Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes became available. It’s is geared towards content marketers but it has useful tools for anyone who wants to writes. Handley suggests setting goals for the number of words written rather than for the amount of time spent writing. This was something I could get my head around. I like setting and achieving goals and thought this approach could work for me. She suggests you churn out 500 words then go back and do your editing and tweaking.

Managing My Habit

I have now decided to treat my blog like a job. I tend to be a morning person. (It helps that I have a construction crew jack-hammering across the street starting at 7:15am Monday to Friday.) With a schedule in place I’m starting to look forward to writing and I’m keeping a lid on my reading habit. Now it’s like a yummy desert I can indulge in and enjoy!

How about you, do you have a guilty pleasure you can share? Does it impact other activities you may be avoiding?