Monday, December 18, 2023


This year, as the seasons change and we enjoy fall, I’ve launched my FALL BACK TO READING SERIES. The series will feature two dozen leadership and marketing experts, who will share their inspiration in both fiction and nonfiction, and hopefully, provide the impetus to read more. To quote New York Times Bestselling author Kristin Harmel, “If you give a person a book, you give him the world.” For today’s post, I’d like to introduce Rosye Cloud.

Rosye Cloud is a social impact entrepreneur who leads STRATA9, a management consulting practice specializing in transformative solutions for not-for-profit and mission-driven organizations. She is a first-generation Hispanic American and former military spouse spending decades supporting military well-being by managing critical social services on military installations and oversight of national programs. Her work to reduce Veteran suicide, eliminate homelessness, increase employment, and ease the strain of transitions led to multiple informed executive orders and wide-reaching, impactful government policy. She speaks on the importance of ethical leadership, increasing equity, and the need for bold strategies to increase American social and economic mobility. As a senior leader and advocate for College Promise programs, she has worked to expand access to post-secondary education programs across 48 states and Washington, D.C. As a public official, she held multiple leadership and management positions, including leading community services in support of NATO and key assignments with the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Management and Budget, and the White House National Security and Domestic Policy Councils as the Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded, and Military Families.

QUESTION: Which three business books have made the biggest impact on your career?
ROSYE CLOUD: "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius, "Deep Work" by Cal Newport, and "Antifragile" by Nassim Nicholas Taleb have been foundational in shaping me and my approach to leadership.  

(1) "Meditations" delves deep into leadership philosophies, emphasizing resilience, ethical leadership, and understanding amidst external chaos, virtues essential for any effective leader. In today's society, the inundation of information and segmentation of work removes accountability and ethics from being top of mind. Written in a journal during his military campaigns, Marcus Aurelius ruminates on philosophical questions concerning our place in the world, the nature of good and evil, and the impermanence of all things. He explores the idea that our reactions, rather than external events themselves, determine our peace and happiness. There's an emphasis on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, and duty to oneself and others.

Two of my favorite quotes are:

"The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature."

"It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live."

(2) "Deep Work" accentuates the unmatched value of focused, undisturbed labor in producing quality outcomes. In our age of constant distractions, Newport's emphasis on depth over breadth has immense relevance for leaders aiming to prioritize essential tasks. The notion of mutli-tasking has left far too many, mainly women, exhausted and unable to rally their creative gifts. Leaders are constantly seduced into Shallow Work, believing it vitally necessary. Shallow Work demands minimal cognitive effort and is often performed amidst distractions. While they may seem urgent, they seldom contribute to meaningful and lasting value, gradually diluting our potential for profound achievement. Usually, the satisfaction of crossing off dozens of activities is confused by leaders to be significant, impactful work. In truth, CEOs stuck in this cycle rarely leave.

(3) "Antifragile" is a manual for managing uncertainty and a call to action for leaders to embrace it. Taleb introduces and explores the concept of "antifragility," which he describes as a property of systems that increase in capability, resilience, or robustness as they are exposed to stressors, shocks, volatility, noise, mistakes, faults, attacks, or failures. It's more than just being resilient or robust; antifragile systems improve when exposed to adversity, unlike merely robust systems, which resist breaking. Taleb contrasts this with fragile systems often overoptimized and overprotected, thus succumbing to adverse events and getting worse off rather than better. Throughout the book, he criticizes modern societal and educational systems, seeing them as too focused on order, predictability, and avoiding stressors, thereby becoming more fragile.

QUESTION: Who is your favorite author, and why?
ROSYE CLOUD: Isabel Allende has always resonated deeply with me. Through her vivid and evocative storytelling, she skillfully weaves genuine human experiences, reminding me of the tapestry of our shared histories. Each narrative of hers is a journey brimming with culture, passion, and deep-rooted heritage. Allende's writings are more than just fiction; they serve as a bridge, connecting my present with my ancestral past. For any leader, her works underline the significance of understanding one’s roots to make meaningful connections in an increasingly globalized world.

QUESTION: What book did you read in high school or college that, to this day, you still remember vividly, and why?
ROSYE CLOUD: "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexandre Dumas remains an indelible mark on my memory. Beyond its enthralling narrative, the book is a master class in the human spirit's resilience and capacity for love, understanding, and redemption. Dumas intricately unravels how personal transformation can emerge from deep despair, a lesson in perseverance and hope for any leader. The philosophical questions raised include the moral righteousness of personal vengeance, the effects of prolonged suffering on the human psyche, and the transformative power of knowledge and wealth.

The journey of its central character from darkness to light offers timeless insights into human nature and the fortitude of spirit, reminding leaders of the regenerative power of hope and persistence. I find this book still relevant today, as society struggles with these themes, and we find ourselves more polarized versus united.

QUESTION: Do you intersperse fiction with your business reading? If yes, what was the last work of fiction that you read, and what caught your attention about it?
ROSYE CLOUD: Absolutely, fiction offers nuanced insights into our shared human experiences.

"Circe" by Madeline Miller is a testament to this belief. This retelling of an ancient myth encapsulates the challenges faced by women, especially when thrust into leadership roles. Readers resonate with her transformation, as it mirrors the human experience of growth, self-acceptance, and harnessing inner strength. Her punishment on the island of Aiaia symbolizes the profound human feelings of isolation and loneliness. This theme is deeply relatable, particularly in the digital age, where many feel isolated even in a connected world.

As a mother, I related to her important relationship with her son, Telegonus. The book captures the complexities, challenges, and depths of love associated with motherhood. It touches on the sacrifices made, the fierce protective nature of a mother, and the pain of letting go.

Like Circe, many women leaders tread the fine line between societal expectations and authentic leadership. The tale is a reminder that leadership is an intricate dance between power and vulnerability, with Circe's odyssey echoing the multifaceted challenges faced by women leaders today.

SHARE THIS: Fiction offers nuanced insights into our shared human experiences. ~@RosyeCloud #DebbieLaskeysBlog #Reading

QUESTION: If you created a nonprofit organization to promote reading to children and young adults, what would you name it, and why?
ROSYE CLOUD: If I were to lay the foundation for a nonprofit dedicated to young bibliophiles, it would undoubtedly be christened "EDESEO."

This name, a bilingual blend of 'Education' and 'Deseo' (Spanish for 'desire'), mirrors my grandfather's teachings. He firmly believed in the transformative power of books, instilling in me a fervent desire for continuous learning and growth. He never received a formal education, and into his eighties, he would visit his local library and discount bookstore.

"EDESEO" for me, would be a tribute to his legacy, epitomizing the union of formal education with an intrinsic, burning desire to learn, grow, and evolve.

My gratitude to Rosye for participating in this year’s fall back to reading series and for sharing her inspiring recommendations!

Image Credit: Daniele Levis Pelusi via Unsplash.

Connect with Rosye at these links:
X (formerly Twitter): @rosyecloud

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