I’ve Heard It Said, ‘A Book Is Worth Reading if It Gives You Just One Idea You Can Use’

WorkLife Conversations Over Breakfast 

Learn Through Reading & Doing
Learn Through Reading & Doing

As the founder of a Print Media business, it is important for Lacey to take time to get to know the growing team at her company and to help them get to know each other away from the office. She regularly hosts breakfasts bringing small groups of people who have different responsibilities and functions within the business together.

Lacey always invites people to share something about what they enjoy doing outside of work. She believes WorkLives need to be considered holistically because each has an impact on the other and are so intrinsically linked they cannot be separated. She also believes that what people choose to do in their time outside of work when there are no external influences helps to understand them at a deeper level. This is important to Lacey because she wants to support their personal and professional learning, development and growth.

Each breakfast meeting always brings about interesting WorkLife conversations from both the combined and different interests of the groups, as Lacey invites them to share something about what they enjoy outside of work that has helped them in their work — an idea, a piece of knowledge or wisdom, skill or attribute. This also gives the group an insight into their colleagues ‘softer’ skills or attributes, which are less visible or harder to define at work — for example — creative problem-solving, rational judgement, learning agility, and physical and mental wellbeing, when doing something that requires a different approach than carrying out the responsibilities of their role.

Lacey loves to read and believes that a book is worth reading if it gives you just one idea you can use — she thinks she might have read that somewhere, she doesn’t remember where, but it’s what gave her the idea to ask people to share their ‘something’ from what they enjoy doing, and how it has helped them in their work. While many of her colleagues enjoy reading and enjoy learning through reading, Lacey is aware that many others enjoy different things and enjoy learning in different ways. It is important for her to acknowledge and be respectful of people’s preferred choices of what they enjoy doing and how they enjoy learning.

Based in Shoreditch, there is an eclectic dining scene for Lacey to take people to, and this morning they were meeting at a boutique hotel that is popular for its Breakfast Club.

Here’s a flavour of the ‘something’ each of the group shared over breakfast.

WorkLife Book Club

Lacey: I recently re-read The Listening Book by W.A Mathieu. I first read the book over ten years ago, and I remember being drawn to it because of the description, ‘The Listening Book is about rediscovering the power of listening as an instrument of self-discovery and personal transformation.’ Re-reading it reminded me how that is as true now as it was then.

It’s a book of little essays and exercises about listening. For me, it helped call attention to sounds I hadn’t noticed to become more aware of what I was hearing in conversations beyond the words being spoken to understand the true meaning of the communication. For example, the rhythm of people’s voices to recognise when they are engaged or disengaged, when they are excited or when they are just going through the motions. This helps me to go deeper into conversations by calling what I’m hearing, and it helps those conversations to be more meaningful because people feel they are being heard and understood, which enables more openness.

Words of Wisdom

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.” Aristotle

Chris: I did a 10k run at the weekend. I pushed myself to do it because, having been recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, I didn’t want to put limitations on what I can and can’t do. I built up to it, and I listened to my body, and I felt good. I feel I combined strength of mind and strength of body. I can’t think of a situation when I’ve had to do that before, and it feels good to know I can do it, and it feels good to have learnt something new about myself that perhaps I wouldn’t have learnt without my diagnosis.

Robin: I saw a ballet recently — it was a contemporary adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I love the power of dance to tell a story without words. I love it because it allows me to take my own meaning from it. What I mean is, although I know the story, the production made me go deeper into my imagination as to the meaning of the story in today’s world. I went with a friend, and we’ve been talking about it ever since we saw it. We took similar but also different things from it, and that’s what I love about the power of dance and learning through dance. It opens up my thinking through my experience and also through my friend’s experience. Outside of work, I volunteer at a charity that helps young people turn their life around. I’m exploring how I can connect the world of dance to help the people we work with at the charity.

Mel: I never thought I had green fingers, but I’m discovering that perhaps I do. It started when I moved into my flat which doesn’t have a garden. I think because of that, I became very aware of how many of my neighbours have beautiful flower window boxes, and then there was a fete at our building complex, and I discovered many were also growing their own vegetables, which they sold or entered in a competition at the event.

The people I chatted to encouraged me to grow my own flowers and vegetables and helped me learn what I needed to know. I started with flowers and herbs before advancing to growing a wider selection of vegetables. So far, I’ve grown carrots, peppers, tomatoes and strawberries. I’m becoming rather self-sufficient, and we have a system where we can swap our produce. I always have the freshest of vegetables to hand, and I very rarely buy them now. I’ve also learnt to make jams, and my strawberry jam won a prize at this year’s fete. Learning I have an aptitude for growing flowers and vegetables is so fulfilling. It has also been good for my well-being because it relaxes my mind, which also helps my creative thinking because my mind is more free. I’ve gotten to know people that I was only on nodding terms with through a shared interest, and for the first time since I moved to London, I feel I’m part of a community which I like.

Bailey: My passion is cycling. I love going out on the road, alone or with friends. I love walking too, but cycling I can go so much further and so much quicker. In London, I go everywhere on my bike, which saves me hundreds of pounds every year on public transport, which I then spend on cycling short breaks and longer holidays here in the UK and throughout Europe. Cycling allows me to see so much more than other forms of transport. If something catches my attention, such as wildlife or nature, which is more easily visible because of the slower speed of cycling than driving, I stop and explore.

This year I’m taking part in a charity bike ride from John O’ Groats to Lands End — 1,000 miles in just 9 days. I know it’s going to be tough, and it’s really going to push me physically and mentally. I’m training alone and also as part of a group, which means I can go for a ride when I can, and I also have the help of fellow riders. The cycling community is wonderfully supportive and friendly. I love that cycling is an activity that I can keep improving at, and I love that I can push myself both physically and mentally to take on steeper hills that I then breeze down, enjoying all of the ride.

Jody: My thing is cooking, or rather it has become my thing since I discovered Masterclass. I love that I can learn from chefs I admire and respect in my own space and in my own time. I’m learning so much about food and cooking, and I’m also learning so many other skills — how to use knives — there’s an art to cutting and chopping, there’s also an art to table setting and to planning a meal, from preparation through to serving, including drink pairings. I’m also developing my sense of taste and smell.

I’ve learnt so much, and yet I have so much more to learn, and that excites me. The wonderful thing about Masterclass is that there are always new classes being added, and so I know my learning will be continuous.

What perhaps has surprised me is how I’ve developed my ability to talk about food and drink. Every time I complete a class, I prepare the dishes I’ve learnt to make, and I invite friends around to share them with me. In the past, I’ve at times felt awkward socially, and I’ve always hated small talk that’s contrived and banal and would avoid networking situations. Now I’m beginning to enjoy them, and I can contribute that to learning about cooking.


As the group finished breakfast and headed back to work, it was with a collective greater appreciation and deeper understanding as colleagues. They had learnt things about each other that might never be shared in the workplace.

Lacey’s mind was already mulling over how she and the company could help each of them continue to learn, develop and grow personally and professionally in line with what was important to them both in and out of work.


The book featured in the story is: The Listening Book by W.A. Matieu

The Boutique Hotel and Breakfast Club was featured in my book

WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch.

This story is part of a series of stories that share insights into the characters in my book WorkLife Book Club Volume One Shoreditch. Stories that share insights that aren’t shared in the book to the main characters, the support characters and the behind the scenes characters. While the characters in the stories are not based on real people, they are representative of the people who are an integral part of Shoreditch life, the neighbourhood I live in, which is full of people with different WorkLife experiences.

Shoreditch is a special place, and I believe what makes it so is the incredible diversity of life paths that cross here, spanning the whole globe and many walks of life.

You may also like my Learning Through Reading Series: A collection of stories inspired by real WorkLife struggles and successes presented as case studies for group discussion. The case and the recommended book are the required reading for each book club meeting and help frame the subsequent discussion.

Published by Carmel O' Reilly

Carmel O’ Reilly: WorkLife Learning Practitioner & Writer Author of WorkLife Book Club, Your WorkLife Your Way and The School of WorkLife book series. Created to help you manage your WorkLife Learning. Blogger & Podcaster: Telling people’s powerful stories about WorkLife challenges & successes Founder of www.schoolofworklife.com My guiding statement is to help people pursue their WorkLives with greater clarity, passion, purpose and pride by creating continuous WorkLife learning programmes that are accessible to everyone.