Monthly Archives: November 2019

What Are Your Greatest Strengths?

a photo of a magnet with a drawing of a cat flexing their bicep and the word "Fire!"
River the cat feeling their strengths

Ever since our operations manager Sid told us about the concept of strengths-based leadership, we’ve been a little obsessed. The basic idea is that instead of trying to identify and improve your (or your workers’) weakest points, you instead identify your strengths and work to make the most of them. Then, for example, if your strength is getting things started and your coworker’s strength is seeing things through to the end… well, that means you find ways to work together instead of trying to change yourselves. It’s kinda utopian that way.

The gold standard test for this is called CliftonStrengths. It’s helpful stuff and they have a bunch of books and resources to help you understand your results. For our unscientific purposes, we took a free knock-off online.

Here are results and thoughts from a couple of our workers and interns, about what their strengths mean to them at work:


Top 5 Strengths:

  1. Believer (An executing type strength)
  2. Empathizer (A relationship building type strength),
  3. Coach (An influencing type strength)
  4. Storyteller (A relationship building type strength)
  5. Peacekeeper (A relationship building type strength)

I first learned about this concept in my freshman year of college (my results haven’t changed too much) and at that time I did exactly what you’re NOT supposed to do which is notice all the categories I had “no strengths” in. I can be a bit of a black and white thinker. However, one thing I’ve come to love about this system as a manager is that there’s no such thing as someone with zero ability in any specific category, only a person who hasn’t been empowered in a way that makes sense to them based on their strengths.

So for instance- I may not be able to lead Microcosm in grand and innovative directions by way of strategic thinking, but when I notice an intern with a lot of strength in that area, I know to empower them by taking the time to communicate a little extra with them about our processes and coach them on how to best take their ideas and put them into action in our workplace. Furthermore, knowing that someone in our organization is super great at something like “consistency” or “activator” means that if I want to take one of those cool ideas and make sure it gets done, I set them up to turn it into a reality with their executing talents. I’m a big ole nerd about this stuff. I recommend it to everyone.


Top 5 strengths:

  1. Deliverer
  2. Time Keeper
  3. Empathizer
  4. Thinker
  5. Analyst

I was pleased that my strengths reflected what I value in myself and what I’ve always believed my strong suits to be: organization, dependability, planning, attention to detail and listening to other people. I would have been curious to see what I scored lowest on.


Top 5 strengths:

  1. Thinker
  2. Empathizer
  3. Coach
  4. Philomath
  5. Deliverer

I’m a sucker for any kind of insight into our personalities and ways of being in the form of a quiz. My top 5 makes perfect sense as to who I am, so no surprises there, but it was interesting to dissect further than the surface and see how these all intertwine in various forms of my life, work and personal. There’s always a sense of renewed energy from discovering things about yourself, because it’s like an easter egg, another key or clue into discovering how you operate as an individual and as a team, and how to navigate yourself through the world.


Top 5 strengths:

  1. Commander
  2. Philomath (learner)
  3. Storyteller
  4. Catalyst
  5. Problem solver

Thinking about the results of this test has been extremely useful to me as a manager and a human. None of these strengths surprised me, but seeing them all together this way was helpful perspective—it helped me see myself as something more than the collection of shortcomings I’m constantly (and zestfully, per strengths two and five) problem-solving around.

I was also unsurprised to learn that none of my top five skills are in the relationship-building type. Not that I don’t have social skills, but I sure don’t turn to them first. Yet, I manage other people and much as my natural bossiness comes in handy, relational skills really have to be a part of that for it to go well. So Sid lent me her book about strengths-based management and assigned me the task of going through all my direct reports’ top strengths and figuring out how to lead to those, instead of my previous one-size-fits-all approach. So many revelations!

Now funding on Kickstarter: Ariel Gore’s F*ck Happiness

a mouth with two middle fingers holding it into a grotesque smile

Back F*ck Happiness on Kickstarter through December 18, 2019

What does it mean to be happy?

Psychologists have studied this question and come up with many compelling and often helpful answers. But, Ariel Gore noticed when researching this question, the scientists doing the studies and their subjects all had something in common: They’re cis white men.

So begins F*ck Happiness, Gore’s thoughtful, lyrical, thoroughly-researched book about what happiness might mean for women. Women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with depression, and in the studies that do include us, report both greater amounts of joy and greater amounts of struggle. Gore tackles the complexities of emotion and gender in this fascinating book, advocating a shift from positive psychology to what she terms “liberation psychology.”

This book was originally published with minimal fanfare in 2010 as Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness, and promptly went out of print without ever coming out in paperback. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to right this wrong, along with fully updating and expanding the book to encompass new happiness research and contemporary understandings of gender.

And we’re funding it on Kickstarter—you can get $2 off the cover price by pre-ordering the book over there, and there are some reward levels offering nice deals on a bundle of books.

Also, there are seven questions about happiness that Gore posed to her interview subjects for the book, and we’ll be asking them to you in the Kickstarter updates, and asking you to chime in with your own experiences if you feel inspired to.

Back F*ck Happiness on Kickstarter through December 18, 2019

How to Resist Amazon & Why

The zine that took the bookselling world by storm is finally widely available! Danny Caine, owner of Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kansas chronicles his pro-local, pro-independent bookstore, anti-Amazon activism and shows you a path to fighting the power, too.

5 Mentions for Microcosm’s Mini Marvels

When given the task to procure one review per month for Microcosm’s blog of a Microcosm published book, the thought haunted me. Choosing a book each month seemed like such a daunting task because there were too many to choose from. So I went with the classic Sam thing to do, and instead of choosing one thing, I chose many. I decided I wasn’t going to limit myself, at least not in the way of one book a month, but instead in the size of the book. Only the teensy weensy titles would catch my eye. I’m aware this doesn’t make much sense, because I wasn’t deciding to limit myself by the page count (that’s too rational). I decided to limit myself by the overall size of the text. Tiny things are cute, so roll with it.

Moments later I found myself poking and prodding through the metal shelving of the backroom and discovered that there weren’t many titles that fell into this niche search, a handful maybe. So that lead me to decide that I would review ALL the Microcosm mini’s and I would write them mini reviews! Maybe I was too excited to do this. Maybe I wanted to write mini reviews on the mini texts. How much this excited me really awakened me to another level of book nerd status I didn’t know I had. So cool.

Applicant  edited by: Jesse Reklaw

The book compiles application photos and documents the editor found while rummaging through city recycling bins. These applications, with the students’ photos attached, were riddled with quotes and comments left behind from professors about each perspective doctoral student. Oh! And it’s from 1965 – 1975, so the comments are sure to astound, causing laughter and irritation. This book had me laughing, loudly, on the bus, (people stared), in anger and in embarrassment for all these students pictured before me.

Best Quotes: 

“She is a female and an attractive, modest one so is bound to marry”.

“He revealed himself to be a very bright underachiever with sharp elbows, and I wondered whether he was majoring in house-keeping and girls”.

True Trans Bike Rebel (Taking the Lane #15) edited by: Lydia Rogue with Elly Blue

A series of feminist bike zines (since 2010), all compiled with special attention to the fact that bike culture, as vast as it is in Portland and around the world, is a heavily white, cisgender, hetero, male dominated hobby, lifestyle, and culture. This then inherently creates a struggle within anyone who doesn’t identify as such in the community. This collection speaks to that. Loudly. Vitally. Sometimes it’s difficult and heartbreaking, but always empowering. Oh! Perk! There’s trigger content warning subheadings to allow you to pick and choose from stories if something may be too much for you.

Best Quotes:

“This issue is about us, by us, for us”.

“Somewhere on that highway I made peace with the risk of seeming weird to people. There will always be someone to gawk…but the things that make me different are my mountain to climb, and I’m proud of every switchback I’ve hauled myself up. I take pride in my weirdness”.

“I’m not a rider or a walker, not really. I’m the movement in between”.

The Book Bindery by Sarah Royal

First beginning as a zine that took the mundanity of a blue collar work place and made the hellish reality a laughable one, this book takes those zines further. With an angle of tone and writing that touches on the stupid reality of being a creative type in a less than creative job to make ends meet, Royal finds a way to the humor in the littlest details, pointing out that if we pay attention, pretty much anything is fucking funny. Bring on the co-workers who are competitive square-dancers, who grow hot peppers and who attend 80’s prom massacre parties. Give me the socialized smoke breaks of analyzing the guy who lives in the van out front or whether or not the pizza joint on the corner is a mafia front. This book had me gawking and giggling all the way through in its mundanity and its outrageous oddities.

Best Quotes: 

“It’s a glorified Kinko’s” (7).

“The shit you uncover with such variety in one stupid place is pretty amazing…because you’re weird, and you love weirdos, and you work with a boatload of ‘em”.

[Discussing Smoke Breaks]: “Initially the breaks were just for the smokers, but that’s obviously unfair, as the people would have to take up smoking just to take a breather. The irony speaks for itself…I found that at the bindery, there are two smoking cliques —the front-door smokers and the side-door smokers.  Both groups offer social and cancerous delights in their own separate ways, and I considered myself a part of both contingents, even if I wasn’t puffing away”.

“After work I took my gift card to Target to buy myself some Bagel Bites and a Walkman to listen to mix tapes”.

Burn Collector Fourteen by Al Burian

A zine collection of comics and rants on superficial and weighty topics surrounding the Chicago area. For anyone who admires Chicago, traveling, punk shows, ranting about the ways things change or never change, this is your pocket book full of mini doses of these and so much more. I turned to page two and realized I was in deep. This wasn’t a book I could breeze through; it was gonna make me think. The comics towards the middle-end were my favorite: there’s a caveman, dinosaur, submarine and the Creator (all you need to know). This book made me think critically about my own perspective when experiencing a new place or person and how I internalize that information and project it. Really read this book and you’ll know what I mean. This is one of those books I have trouble explaining, even in a snapshot. If you were my friend, I’d place it in your hand, no words given and you’d just read it. 

Best Quotes:

“In early adolescence, as the idea that I’d one day have to assume the mantle of adulthood reared its ugly head, I began to dream of working for Marvel comics. The nagging reality of the situation was that I’d more likely end up on the distribution end of the comic’s rack”.

“And in the end, everywhere is as much, or as little, like Chicago as you interpret it to be”.

“As good an indicator as any for gauging a cities’ commitment to its citizens’ well-being is to examine that cities’ public transit situation…A good public transit system equals freedom, democracy and liberty”

Dream Whip No. 14 by Bill Brown

With a pointed look at the cities all over the nation and world, I found myself nodding along in agreement and laughing out loud at absurdities all the way through. Lines that had me reading and re-reading because they were so good, reading them out loud to those around me so I could get the nods of agreement and validation as we all smirk at one another. With human conditions that are relatable, sometimes gut wrenching and other times laughable, this book is sure to be one to carry with you.

Best Quotes:

“’Citizenship?’ the border cop asks. “American’ I say. ‘Unfortunately’ I want to add, but I don’t. I don’t mention that I feel more like a dual citizen: American by birth, but un-American by inclination”.

“We talk about the grid, how it moves across the Earth, first as an idea, and then as tract houses and strip malls set in neat rows. Sometimes I wonder if the old world isn’t still there, underneath the hatch lines of enlightened reason. That old, magic world that haunts us, the way the restless dead haunt model homes built on top of Indian burial grounds”.

“In San Diego, strangers don’t talk to each other in person, but leave notes under each other’s wiper blades… some people read the notes, and some people don’t bother. Instead, they drive onto the freeway and let the wind take care of the rest”.

These Microcosm minis were all very different in content and form, yet somehow they worked together in ways I couldn’t have imagined. If you find yourself curious to read these mini marvels as I have, find them on our website here.

This review was written by fall intern, Sam. Find them on Instagram @lalavandemenace