Guest Reviewer: Adele Symonds
Full Title: Grounders:A Once-in-a-Lifetime Journey of Baseball, History, and Mentoring
Author: Tom Slone
Publisher: Self (2011)
Number of Pages: 150
How long it took me to read: 2 days
Where I got this book: Slone sent me a copy in return for an honest review.
Like a Moth to a Flame
I’m hoping to learn real-life lessons from this book to apply to my own life. I hope it’ll help me be a more effective parent to my three boys through the mentoring lessons, particularly in relation to Joshua, my ten-year-old son who has Asperger’s Syndrome. I’m also hoping to learn something that I can put into practice to help myself be more organized and effective in general.
I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:
5. “Don’t get too upset when Plan A doesn’t work out. Have a Plan B ready, and don’t be afraid to go to it!” (p.25)
4. “It’s far more important to learn from mistakes than to dwell on them.” (p.105)
3. “We are successful when we achieve the objectives we have established in advance. Anything else is chance or serendipity.” (p.1)
2. “Sometimes giving respect can make all the difference. I have been told that, as with love, you have to always give respect before you get it. On our trip, these boys were living proof that this statement is true.” (p.85)
…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…
1. “None of us learns to build a life on our own. It’s because of our mentors—our wisest teachers, coaches, parents, grandparents, bosses, and other role models—that we are able to do what we do. Everyone can benefit from good mentors—and every young person needs them, some older ones do, too.” (pp.16-7)
Conversation with the Reader
While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:
“This book has already gripped me. Slone’s writing style is clear and informal. This is definitely not a dry instruction manual; it’s a book of experiences and insights taken from the author’s own business life as a manager and from the experiences he had taking eleven boys on the trip of a lifetime. He writes in such a way that I find myself relating to his story immediately. Slone seems to be able to give advice without it feeling as though he’s criticizing. He seems to be a very gentle person but also one whom you’d always want to please. He gets the best out of everybody around him by instructing rather than criticizing.
“Too many leaders and managers use criticism instead of correction, direction and instruction.” (p.8)
“This is also true of a lot of parents, myself included. How much one-to-one time do we give our children really? Not one-to-one while we’re washing up or while we’re thinking about something else, but true one-to-one time where we actively listen to our children and give them an opportunity to really speak to us face-to-face and eye-to-eye. How many times a day do we criticize what our children have done rather than help them see for themselves that what they did was wrong? I know from my own experience that all too often, it’s easiest to react to the situation and criticize rather than instruct.”
“Looking people in the eye is important because it’s a basic ingredient of self-esteem, and having high self-esteem is a key ingredient of success.” (p.37)
“Looking people in the eye is one of the hardest things for Joshua to do—this is part of his condition—but if I don’t look him in the eye when I’m speaking to him, he’ll find it even harder to learn this basic and very important component of effective communication. I’ve been observing myself since reading this quote above and I’ve found that a lot of the time, when I’m speaking to my children, not only am I not looking them in the eyes, but quite often I’m not even looking in their general directions. This is definitely one area I aim to improve. I seem to do this more with my children than in any other situation as I’m usually doing something else at the same time as talking to them. When I have adult visitors, I stop what I’m doing, sit down and engage actively with them. I intend to stop what I’m doing when my children speak to me now and give them my full attention, including eye contact. I really hope it’ll make a difference.”
“I like the way Slone intersects the story of the trip with advice and lessons that have worked for him in management situations. I particularly enjoy the sections on writing personal notes, the power of recognition and brag books. Everybody responds to being praised for a job well done whether they’re an adult or a child but it’s something that many of us forget to do as often as we should. A thank-you note, a smile, and a pat on the back all go a long way towards incentivizing better performance and more positive behavior because the person being recognized has a reason to strive for more of this positive reinforcement.
“I’ll be helping my son start a brag book of his own where he can keep all his achievements in one place and where I can comment on things he’s done well. I agree with Slone that this should have a much more profound effect on my son than any amount of criticism or correction for the things he doesn’t do well.”
“I just finished reading about Slone’s perspective on the value of being consistent. As parents, we all know the importance of consistency with respect to always doing what you say you’ll do, but I’ll admit that it’s hard to follow through sometimes. Slone adds a little more to this premise: we also need to be consistent in treating everybody with respect at all times, even when we feel it isn’t deserved, and we need to be consistent as people—‘being the same person on Monday that you were last Friday.’ It’s no good being a tyrannical overlord one day and then an easy going best friend the next. I confess that I’m easily led by my emotions and how I feel on any given day but if I react totally differently from one day to the next, my children will never know where they stand with me; they’ll always be anxious and display more undesirable behavior because they won’t know what to expect. This is especially true for Joshua. I have a lot to learn and a long way to go to becoming the consistent parent I’d like to be to them.”
“The injection of humor and anecdotes throughout the book is fantastic. They fit the style, they make me smile, and they help me feel that I’m a part of the author’s journey. I love hearing about the boys and how they see some of their experiences differently from the adults around them. I feel I’m really getting to know these kids and I sort of wish I had been privileged enough to have had a mentor like Slone when I was growing up.”
“Since beginning this book, I started my son’s very own brag book that he elected to call his Achievement Book because he sees ‘brag’ as a negative word. Continuing on with my reading, I’ve just discovered that the way I’ve approached this exercise wasn’t taking it far enough.
“So far, I’ve been praising Josh in person for his actions and writing one-sentence notes in his book to acknowledge his accomplishments but it seems there’s more to giving compliments than this. They need to be qualified with the reason the actions were good and the resulting positive consequences need to be highlighted (just like when you’re giving criticism and you need to explain why the action was wrong, what could have been done differently and what the consequences turned out to be).
“Here’s one example from Joshua’s book of something I wrote to him:
“helping mum without being asked.”
“I could have written: ‘Thank you Josh, for cleaning the felt-pen off the T.V. stand. You saw something that needed to be done and got on with it. This makes me happy and saves me time, it shows you care, and it sets a good example for your younger brothers.’ This would have been much more specific and personal and would have likely left a much longer-lasting impression on Joshua.”
“Overall, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to have come across this book. Slone gives advice in such a clear and gentle way that it motivates me to try harder in parenting a child who has very special and sometimes difficult needs. No, none of the advice in this book is new or groundbreaking, but the delivery of it makes it so easy to apply. I recommend that everybody read this book at least once. I intend to read it over and over at different stages of my life. I’m sure I’ll get something new out of it every time.”