Sunday, March 20, 2016

Women 'Beyond Happy'

Review by Bill Doughty

Why do women hold themselves back? Nature or nurture? What does research say about gender differences? How can you stay positive?

These are some of the questions presented in "Beyond Happy: Women, Work and Well-Being" (ATD Press, 2015) by Dr. Beth Cabrera, a deceptively simple easy-to-read guide for women who want to achieve balance on and off the job, with how-to strategies and self-assessment tools.

Cabrera takes the reader on "journey toward a more joyful, meaningful life." Women and men can take the journey.

She examines how "feeling good" and "doing good" overlap to create well-being. Anyone can thrive if they know their work is making a difference, either for their family or for the world.

For women and men serving in the Department of Navy "doing good" and making a difference is easy to see: Sailors and civilians work together every day to defend the nation, Sailors forward deployed to protect freedom on the seas.

But service in the military can take its toll on families. 

We can see how Cabrera's insights apply: 
"The extreme hours and relentless travel [such as deployments] that are often requirements for success in many jobs make it impossible for women to perform their various roles. Men often can't help because they put their jobs at risk if they ask for flexibility. This leaves women feeling pressured to choose between work and family."
Views of traditional roles have changed in society, there is more access to affordable childcare, and the general culture respecting work-life balance has improved. Still it can be difficult for people to achieve happiness on their journey to joy and meaning.

Cabrera analyzes what comprises happiness, moving from coping and striving to hoping and thriving.

To achieve meaning in their lives, people have four needs, according to researchers: purpose or a "life aim" with goals and objectives; values (as in the Navy's Core Values of honor, courage and commitment); "a feeling of self-efficacy" or control over one's life and "can choose to make a difference"; and self-worth, that they are good and deserving of success.

Cabrera shows various ways some women hold themselves back, but then she examines how women and men can rewire, especially by moving from negative to positive thinking.
"This means that intentionally saving what is good, holding positive experiences in your awareness a bit longer, can train your brain to focus on the good so that gratitude becomes part of your everyday thinking pattern. As you push yourself to look for what is positive and ignore small negative annoyances, you will replace your brain's natural tendency to focus on the negative with a preference for noticing the good. Over time, this will create new pathways, rewiring your brain to scan the environment for positives rather than negatives."
And it's not just about being mindful, grateful, hopeful and positive. Building on strengths, including natural talents, helps achieve and perpetuate success at work and at home. Smart leaders build to the strengths of the individuals on their teams, providing opportunities for their workforce to gravitate to what they enjoy doing at work. Smart parents encourage their children to excel in what they enjoy studying. A job is not work when it's something we enjoy.

More workplace advice in this small but packed book: sharing and trusting builds more trust, strengthening relationships creates a supportive network, and accepting mentors and sponsors can smooth a path for the journey upward. Yes, it's deceptively simple, but Dr. Cabrera provides the research to make these revelations more than just common sense.

Reading about the power of encouraging the team to take credit for individual achievements, I was reminded of a mentor and friend, former Command Master Chief Bill Holz, who likes this quote that's credited to President and Commander in Chief Ronald Reagan: “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit.”

As with many self-help books, there are personal and third-party examples here applying the advice. Some names in quotes or anecdotes include Oprah Winfrey, Lennon and McCartney, Viktor Frankl, Rachel Ray, Meryl Streep, Roy Disney, Tina Fey, Winston Churchill and Aristotle. Fey and Adelle share a common trait, "imposter syndrome," or a feeling of unworthiness, discussed in more detail on Cabrera's blog, Cabrera Insights.

Reading "Being Happy" I enjoyed discovering a "found haiku" in a quote from the Dalai Lama that introduces Part 2, Feeling Good:

happiness is not
something ready made; it comes
from your own actions

The whole "power of positive thinking" is made palatable for a new millennial generation, with specific, almost Zen-like, advice on how to stay positive:
"Clear benefits are associated with positive interactions, both for your personal relationships and for your success at work. So it is in your best interest to try to keep your interactions with others positive. Use supportive, affirmative language as often as you can. Give more compliments and limit your criticism. Don't nag. Look for what is good and mention that instead. Respond to people when they initiate a conversation. Ask to hear more and then listen with empathy. It takes a conscious effort to keep the balance of your interactions with others positive, but the effort can greatly enhance the quality of your relationships."
At just 149 pages, this well-written paperback is easy to read, and the advice is easy to apply at home and work. Although she doesn't do so here, we can see how her advice can help women and men in the military. The author, an organizational psychologist and senior scholar at George Mason University's Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, backs up her advice with more than 150 references to research, texts and journals.

This is a good and gentle guidebook for the journey toward a more joyful and meaningful life.

160313-N-HD670-076 VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. (March 13, 2016) Builder 2nd Class Gafayat Moradeyo, assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3, greets her son and daughter on the flight line at Naval Base Ventura County following her return from deployment. The Seabees are returning following a regularly scheduled six-month deployment to the U.S. Pacific Command area of operations. While deployed, NMCB 3 conducted maintenance and infrastructure improvements at U.S. military facilities, provided exercise support, and employed construction civic action details in support of theater security and cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Utilitiesman 3rd Class Stephen Sisler/Released)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

'In Europe's Shadow' – Between the Seas with Kaplan

Review by Bill Doughty

Happiness is a new Robert D. Kaplan book, even if it's filled with grim reflections. But wait – there's more...

Kaplan presents a large sweep of history Central and Eastern Europe as he captures a "perishable moment in time" in "In Europe's Shadow" (Random House, 2016). He looks back so we can look forward. Will Russia continue threatening its neighbors? Will the European Union survive?

Authoritarian Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu
Kaplan's personal but shared journal reflects on his travels through the Balkans and through time. He examines "Two Cold Wars and a Thirty-Year Journey Through Romania and Beyond."

Naturally, the author of "Balkan Ghosts" and "The Revenge of Geography," begins with 14 pages of maps showing how Romania's borders changed over the centuries.

The Byzantine, Ottoman and Habsburg empires used the region as a punching bag, as did Communists and fascists more recently, especially Stalin-like Nicolae Ceausescu, who took "eminent domain" to another level as part of a "drumroll of violent catastrophes."

Cold War shortages and depressed lives loom in Kaplan's earlier visits to the region.
"Soon the bread and fuel lines began ... The silence of the streets was devastating as I alighted from the bus with my backpack on Strada Academiei. The city had been reduced to a vast echo. There were few cars, and everyone was dressed in the same shapeless coats and furry hats that evoked internal exile somewhere on the eastern steppe. People clutched cheap jute bags in expectation of stale bread. I looked at their faces: nervous, shy, clumsy, calculating, heartrending, as if they were struggling to master the next catastrophe. Those clammy complexions seemed as if they had never seen the sunlight."
Kaplan introduces us to another authoritarian nationalist and mass-murderer who preceded Ceausescu by a generation, Marshal Ion Antonescu.

Antonescu's Romania "was Adolph Hitler's second most important Axis ally after Benito Mussolini's Italy." Antonescu contributed more than half a million Romanian troops to the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. "Antonescu's crimes against humanity are beyond adequate description," Kaplan writes.

Romania's Antonescu goes over war plans with Hitler.
He describes the violence and turmoil the people of Central Europe have faced during wars, crusades and empire-building. The Ottomans enforced edicts of fratricide to ensure sovereignty, castration to maintain a palace corps of eunuchs, and slavery and forced conversion to Islam.

Today, Romania is a victim of geography after the "eruption of a new Cold War in 2014," according to Kaplan, who reports that Poland and Turkey ("ironically the former Ottoman enemy") are Romania's most capable regional allies, according to Romania's Prime Minister Victor Ponta. 

Kaplan writes, "Men in high positions of power in Bucharest labored under the knowledge that the average Romanian would never again accept a border with Russia – but if Ukraine were ever overrun, that would be Romania's fate."
"Precisely because Romania was historically a victim of geography, nobody here dismissed geopolitics. And geopolitics, in a variation of Polish statesman Jozef Piludski's 1920s concept of an Intermarium ("between the seas"), demanded the re-creation of a belt of independent states between the Baltic and Black seas, to guard against Russian expansion westward. On this visit to Bucharest, I constantly had maps and pipeline routes thrust at me."
Vlad "the Impaler" Dracula
Kaplan reflects on people who have influenced the region – or influenced his thinking about Cold War Europe: Isaiah Berlin, Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Reagan, George Shultz, Kissinger, and (more than 500 years ago) "Vlad the Impaler," Vlad Tepes Dracula, who was the inspiration for Irish writer Bram Stoker's vampire novel.

Great thinkers and writers are mentioned throughout "Shadow": Voltaire, Lord Byron, Camus, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Herman Melville, Hannah Arendt and Elie Wiesel.

But the famous are sometimes overshadowed by the obscure.

Marinuta (left) is among international leaders the Army honored at Fort Leavenworth in 2011.
In Moldova, the "poorest country in Europe, behind Albania even," Kaplan interviews Vitalie Marinuta, defense minister from 2009 to 2014, who "personified the robust investment of the West and the United States in this part of the world. Marinuta studied at Lackland Air Force Base, Fort Leavenworth and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. before being assigned to Central Command in Tampa, Fla.

Kaplan expresses his apprehension for Moldova, whose army numbers only 5,000 soldiers. Moldova's air force is only a few helicopters. The country faces an autocratic Russia after the annexation of Crimeria. "I feared for Moldova ... I worried that Moldova had a future in the headlines," Kaplan writes.
"Were Moldova to fall into hostile hands, Ukraine would be threatened, for Moldova combined with Transdniestria occupies what I like to term the Pontic Breach, the hinterland of the Black Sea that offers and invasion route to (or from) the Balkans and the Mediterranean. Just as the North European Plain – Poland, Belarus, and the Baltic States – comprises the northern invasion route between Europe and Russia, the Pontic Breach comprises the southern invasion route."
The author is an unabashed supporter of the European Union.
"If the European Union crumbled, there was only unbridled German power, exclusivist ethnic nationalism, and the dementia of ideologies. To wit, Russia was now a threat not because it was Russia essentially, but because Putin's neo-czarist oil and gas empire had reduced geopolitics to the zero-sum factor of ethnicity."
Is Russia a threat to Central and Eastern Europe?
"For years I had passionately countered that the Russians, taking advantage of Europe's fiscal woes, were attempting to buy banks and electricity grids, oil refineries, and natural gas transportation networks, in addition to other infrastructure, even as they extended their energy pipeline network throughout the former Soviet satellite states. Meanwhile, a financially weakened Europe had less political capital to draw countries like Romania, Moldova, Serbia, Bulgaria, and Ukraine closer into its fold, in exchange for social and economic reforms."
But "In Europe's Shadow" is not all geopolitics and depressing post-imperialist, post-Communist history. This journal is filled with bits of analysis, introspection, beauty, philosophy and sage advice about life:

"You don't grow up gradually. You grow up in short bursts at pivotal moments, by suddenly realizing how ignorant and immature you are."

"New surroundings prompt forgetfulness of old ones, and thus speed up the passage of time."

Predicting the future "is impossible, for so much depends not only on impersonal forces like geography and technology, but on the actions of individuals – themselves motivated often by the disfiguring whirlwinds of passion."

"Travel and serious reading, because they demand sustained focus, stand athwart the nonexistent attention spans that deface our current time on Earth."

"Travel is linear – It is about one place or singular perception or book at a time, each one etched deep into memory, so as to change your life forever..."

Reading this book is like finding Kaplan's diary left behind in some train station in the Balkans. You sit and read his personal reflections, insights, anger and love, half-hoping Kaplan will walk in to reclaim his journal so you can ask him more about what he's seen between the seas of time.

Kaplan's travel writing sometimes brings Mark Twain to mind. Both know how to convert monochrome to high-resolution color.
"From Cluj I drove north into Maramures, which had the calm purity and femininity of a New Testament landscape ... Each tree as he would say was a hieroglyph, speaking so much with just a few lines, and with wine and gold on its breath as the autumn advanced. How distinct the colors were! We think of the past in black-and-white because of the state of photography at the time. But the past before the age of smokestack economies was even richer in primary colors than the world of today. And in Maramures, mountainous isolation had meant a degree of safety from the environmental ravages of Communism. In the glistening swards, the hayricks took on a remote, prehistoric quality. Fruit orchards and flower beds abounded. Nothing in this landscape was unnecessary. I thought not of painting but of music: Saint-Saens, Debussy, with their spare and haunting notes, touching you for moments after. There was such abundance yet concision everywhere."
Another pleasure in "Shadow" is reading about Kaplan's love of books. It's how this book opens, and references to great authors and their works are listed throughout. As this insightful book comes to a close, Kaplan finds himself "looking out over the glittering Danube between the neo-Gothic towers" and reaching for a book: Cambridge University professor Brendan Simms's "Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy from 1453 to the Present."

"The printed book was still for me the greatest expression of art," he concludes.

Robert D. Kaplan is a visiting professor at the United States Naval Academy, and a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board. 

Tom Brokaw, author of "The Greatest Generation," calls this book "a masterly work of important history, analysis, and prophecy about the ancient and modern rise of Romania as a roundabout between Russia and Europe ... I learned something new on every page."

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Space for Navy Brothers

by Bill Doughty

U.S. Navy captain and astronaut Mark Kelly wrote this on his Facebook page last week. 

American Astronaut Scott Kelly set records in space in 2015 and 2016. 
"After 5,440 orbits around our planet, after the sun went up and down 10,944 times (the sun rises or sets every 45 minutes in space), after flying over 100 million miles, my brother Scott’s year in space is now over."

Kelly's twin brother Capt. Scott Kelly returned to Earth after 340 days and 400 investigations into how the body and mind adapt to being in space. Back on terra firma Mark served as a control for the experiments.

According to NASA, the studies will "advance NASA’s mission to reach new heights, reveal the unknown, and benefit all of humanity," to include an eventual journey to Mars.

Shortly after returning, Scott was optimistic about how humans could adapt to super-extended deployments in space.

"A year's a long time. I felt like I'd been up there my whole life after six months," Capt. Scott Kelly said. "I'm definitely encouraged on our ability to go even longer. Even though I looked forward to coming home, and there were things I missed, if it's for the right reason I clearly could have stayed for even longer ... however long it took."

Immediately after brother Scott's safe return Capt. Mark Kelly spoke on National Public Radio about the effects of radiation in space and theories of aging. Mark took part in his brother's journey, undergoing a twins study to evaluate and compare how the body changes.

Both brothers share a lifelong commitment to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, adventure and education.

Capt. Mark Kelly is reaching new generations of readers with his children's books, including "Mousetronaut," "Mousetronaut Goes to Mars" and his latest, with Martha Freeman, "Astrotwins: Project Blastoff."

"Astrotwins" (Simon & Schuster, 2016), published this month, is about middle schoolers getting ready to take off and is based on the childhoods of the Kelly brothers.

The Kellys were born on Orange, New Jersey on Feb. 21, 1964. They each officially retired from the Navy in recent years. While on active duty Scott served as a naval aviator with VFA-143 aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and Mark flew for VA-115 in Atsugi, Japan and aboard USS Midway (CV 41).

On his Facebook site Capt. Mark Kelly recently posted a New York Times photo of Marine Corps Col. John Glenn's return to earth after Glenn's historic first orbit of the earth in 1962, just two years before Mark and Scott were born. (The twins were just five years old when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon). Imagine.

Mark Kelly reminds young readers in the afterword for "Mousetronaut" (Simon & Schuster, 2012) that it's been just 113 years ago that the Wright Brothers "launched the first manned airplane, the Flyer, and challenged the birds for a place in the skies."

Scott Kelly's journey is the latest in continuous innovation and collaboration in space.

According to NASA, "The space station’s orbital path over 90 percent of the Earth’s population provides a unique vantage point for studying and taking images of our planet. The one-year crew also saw the arrival of a new instrument to study the signature of dark matter to understand our solar system and beyond. Technology demonstrations conducted during the mission, such as a test of network capabilities for operating swarms of spacecraft, continue to drive innovation."

NASA shows that success is achieved by more than just one man or even one nation, considering the International Space Station and ongoing international cooperation.

Savannah Guthrie interviews the Kellys on the Today Show in May 2015.
Kelly blasted off from and returned to Kazakhstan aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft. He shared his mission with Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, with whom he trained at NASA's Johnson Space Center.

NASA reports:

"The strong U.S.-Russian collaboration during the one-year mission is the latest accomplishment in 15 years of continuous global teamwork that shows how nations with widely divergent languages, cultures and engineering philosophies can advance shared goals in science and space exploration. Strengthening international partnerships will be key in taking humans deeper into the solar system."