Hidden Human Podcast Episode 7 Thumbnail

Amber Heinbockel, Senior UX Designer at Google, shares her story of finding passion as an artist and development into a career in user experience design. Amber discusses how her connection with horses as a teenager, has served her both personally and professionally. Amber and Kelly explore the importance of taking ownership for your life and Amber reveals 3 truths that she uses to guide her actions in life and business.

Episode Transcription

Kelly: One, two, three, four. Testing, Amber Hindbockel, hi Doug, happy holidays.

Doug: Happy Holidays. Okay, so do I click stop?

Kelly: Welcome to the space where we reveal our personal humanity to reconnect with our shared humanity. It’s my pleasure to welcome Amber Hindbockel, senior UX designer at Google, and great friend and soul sister. I just love you so much. I can’t wait to talk to you, how are you?

Amber: I’m so good, thank you so much for having me. It’s such an honor to be here with you today.

Kelly: It’s an honor to have you. I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time. So, okay. You are a senior UX designer at Google, if I were a six year old child, how would you explain to me in a way I could understand what it is that you do?

Amber: That’s a great question. This is my cocktail party opener, because when you hear the word “designer” people can really connect with that. But there’s so many different use cases of designer, designers are painters, design the furniture that you sit on, they interact with the car that you drive, right?
But what I really do is I design the experiences that you have on any sort of device that you’re working on. So it could be a computer, a phone, a tablet. There are designers like myself who engineer the experience that you have there. I’d really like to boil it down to one thing, though. Which is I’m a problem-solver, and everybody’s a problem-solver.
What makes me successful at my job, I think, is that I’m a pretty empathic person. That leads me to designing experiences that help users complete tasks. And what I mean by that is we get out of the way for people. I could ramble on for a little bit but I like to use concrete examples because I think it puts people at a place where they can really connect with what I do.
To me, good design gets out of the way. It’s seamless but it’s delightful. Kelly have you ever had the experience where you downloaded a new app from the app store, and the first thing they make you do is log in.

Kelly: Yes.

Amber: Where you have to create a username and password? Yeah. A designer made that decision. A team made that decision for you to log in, but that log in page can have different delightful … Engineer certain emotions in people. And so the first emotion I have when I see log in screens on just a regular app, I don’t know what I’m doing, maybe I’m downloading Instagram, and “oh, what’s this experience that I’m going to have here, and why are they asking me for personal information right at the gate?”
Let’s put that in context of a banking app. A banking app, if you were to walk into a bank you’d want to be in and out, get your transaction done, but you’d also want to feel secure in that you’re talking to a respected institution. So a log in screen in that instance is a really, almost important screen. It’s like you’re verifying who you are as a person and letting you into the bank, this virtual bank.
But in games, for example, I might actually not set a log in screen until the user has had a chance to open it and play a couple of levels. And I might engineer some delightful experiences by making the user feel really successful at the game, and then I might game-ify the log in experience. So maybe you’re this character in the game and you’re solving a puzzle, now let’s name yourself, right? Now you’ve created a user name.
And then hey, we want to make sure that you don’t miss a beat when we release new updates, give us your email address and we won’t ever spam you, right? That’s a good way to get users to send their user information without actually needing to feel like you’ve got this wall when you first log into an experience.

Kelly: Sure.

Amber: That’s a long-winded way that takes the problems that I’m solving every day.

Kelly: Well, okay. So here’s … I love listening to you and we talk about art and music, you and I are connected on such a deep soul level. As I was hearing you talk about the experience, because you used that word a lot, it made me think of hearing Neil Young being interviewed on Howard Stern. He was talking about, I think the question Howard asked him was, when the muse shows up what do you do?
Neil Young was like “what do you mean?” He was like “well, if you’re in the middle of a dinner party, if I’m in the middle of a dinner party and the muse shows up I excuse myself from the dinner table and I go into the bathroom and write down what she says”.
So that’s a long-winded way of asking you, as a designer, from an art and experience perspective, where do you draw your inspiration? What’s your muse?

Amber: That is such a thoughtful question. It’s too bold, because being a professional artist, there’s a lot of pressure. So I can really identify with the story that you just told about Neil Young. So there’s two ways that muses enter my life, and that I cultivate them to help me in my creative endeavor.
One is understanding how and what times of day I’m most creative. For me, that’s in the morning, so I have to work out early in the morning and then I have this energy when I enter the office. My most productive creative hours are probably between nine a.m. and one p.m. So I have to make sure that I structure my day in order to be able to receive and be mentally aware enough to be able to listen to the muse that’s out there.
The second way that that happens is like you mentioned, we have this connection through music but we’re also both right on soul-cycle, people who are on a journey of weight-loss and bettering ourselves. What I find is when you are going through a journey like this is that you open yourself up to new experiences. That means traveling to new places or visiting [inaudible 00:06:05] or watching Instagram on my city, places in my city, and trying to find new restaurants or murals that people are posting about that I can go visit and have an experience with.
And why is it important to have a physical experience with those places? To me it’s because you’re not only interacting with a mural, you’re interacting with the community around that mural. And there’s a story that pulls there. A reason why it had the ability to be put up here. There was community meetings and town halls, and so not just seeing the piece of art on Instagram is enough for me. I have to go be in the space because it tells a story about the space.
It’s about being mindful of the places that you go to.

Kelly: Yeah. And one of the things you and I share is that we’re deep empaths. We’ve talked about that at length too and I think the experiential part of the design is something you have to feel on a visceral level, and you can only do that by immersing yourself in it.
The other thing I notice about you, Amber, is … Amber and I follow each other on our different social media channels and she has a beautiful, beautiful son. In fact, why don’t we introduce him to the audience? What’s your son’s name?

Amber: His name’s Zeb, Z-E-B.

Kelly: And he’s how old?
Yeah, so of course Amber’s got him all over her Instagram feed, which she should. And what I notice is that there’s a sense of wonder in him that is reflected in you in almost every photo of you guys playing together, so I just wonder what kind of inspiration do you garner from those stolen moments with your son?

Amber: You know, it’s so … That’s such a good question. So personal, you got right to the heart of it. For me my son is the embodiment of what it feels like to have a deep belly-laugh. The kinds of laugh where you’re sitting at [inaudible 00:08:03] table, maybe you’re a couple of glasses of wine deep, and you’re really enjoying somebody’s company. A situation happens and you laugh and there’s tears streaming down your face, your belly hurts, and you’re like “stop, stop”.
That, to me, is like pure joy. Right? That experience is pure joy to me. Seeing him take delight, he takes delight just giggling, walking down the street holding hands with my husband and I. He’s full of laughter and embodies that. He is a constant reminder to me to constantly seek those belly-laugh moments in everything I do. If only we could always be so lucky to track down those moments of belly-laughter and tears streaming down your face.
It’s the swing of emotions, right?

Kelly: Yeah.

Amber: When he’s having a tough time or he’s struggling or he’s frustrated, being … Visceral emotions come out of somebody with the flip of a coin, especially with a toddler right now. Being able to see him go from exhilarated to frustrated, and then seeing that experience on his body and his face and the way he interacts with me is actually a really good reminder to check in with those emotions in myself. And how I can engineer better emotions for myself to be a better parent.
So it’s kind of this cyclical experience.

Kelly: Well yeah. I mean, what I’m hearing you say, and correct me if I’m wrong, he’s reflecting back on every level what you’re going through yourself. Because honestly, again, we’ve talked about this, we can only recognize in others that which we have in ourselves, right? So he’s struggling, getting frustrated, and then going elation, which is something I’ve actually seen you do as well.
It’s great. I love, I look forward to your Instagram photos with him. We got this beautiful Christmas card of you and your family and I’m looking at it right now. It’s just pure joy all around, so you should be very happy with what you’ve created in that little family space of yours, little Amber.

Amber: Oh, thank you so much. You know, I have to say it wasn’t always this way. I think to your listeners, one of the things that I would really want to say is that your experiences, you’re sort of born and dealt with these different experiences in life. There’s this energy right now, there’s people of privilege and they have privilege and other people don’t have privilege, right?
To me, I believe that our beliefs are not inconsequential. And so … In fact, I believe that they are the only thing that matters. It’s a big statement, your beliefs are not inconsequential. What you say to yourself every day, what you say to the people who are around you, who you love, the people that you surround yourself with. The people you invite to share in your life and this path that we’re all on together.
I had to go through this journey of discovering myself and realizing that the negative experiences that I was struggling with in life, or the physical manifestation of gaining over 50 pounds that are personally not something that I have wanted, are actually outward reflections of my inner being. I have to be, I’m the common denominator, and I’m the only person in control of that time in space.

Kelly: That’s exactly right.

Amber: Useful practice that I do is to think of my beliefs being transparent. Other people can see them, and that makes me a little bit more gentle about myself, but also how I think and judge other people. It’s not perfect practice, I’m not 100% at it all the time, but it’s one thing that I think … If somebody could take something away, it’s like when you’re talking to yourself, believe that other people can see that your ideas are transparent.

Kelly: Yeah, and I …

Amber: They’re not inconsequential.

Kelly: That’s exactly right. And I think to your point, they’re your non-negotiables until they’re not, you know? Because our beliefs evolve, at least that’s what I’ve experienced in my own life, that they evolve as we do. But I love that, I love that you have this game that you play with yourself about transparency, and I kind of take it a step further where I talk to myself the way I would talk to you.
You know what I mean? Because I talk to you with love and I don’t always do that to myself. But you talked about being born with a certain set of beliefs and stuff like that, that’s a great segue. Where were you born?

Amber: It’s ironic now that I work at Google, because I am born and raised in a town called Mountainview, California. Which is now where Google’s headquarters are. So people aren’t always familiar with that. We live on the East Coast, I live in Boston. Mountainview is a city that’s between San Francisco and San Jose, so it’s Northern California.
Mountainview is really … Growing up in the 90’s, my high school years were in the 2000’s, but Mountainview was really a blending of cultures. It was super working-class but it was nested next to some very affluent communities, like Palo Alto and Los Altos, and that’s where Facebook got its start. There’s a bunch … Silicon Valley now has just blown up.
But growing up it wasn’t quite like that, so I was thinking … I was reflecting about the conversation we’re going to have in a little bit about my background, growing up in Mountainview, and I was thinking about what it was like to go to school in a place that changed almost overnight. The dot com boom in the 2000’s … Let’s say 90’s to 2000’s. For me, I was in a single parent household, my mom’s a single parent.
And she taught me what it’s like to work really hard and to focus unrelentlessly on your goals, and to achieve them. But one thing that I never saw her do was celebrate her accomplishments. It was always the next thing, the next thing, the next thing.

Kelly: Right.

Amber: I struggle with that too. I’m always on to the next thing, the next thing, the next thing, I don’t reflect on things very often. So part of seeing that next thing, next thing, next thing was growing up in a school that had overnight wealth. Like a gold rush style boom.
There were students in my class, I was not one of them, that … They got their driver’s license and had a brand new BMW bought for them. They were showered in Abercrombie clothes, which at the time was like the hotness. They always had the newest gadgets.
And then you had this mix of lower income students or students that English wasn’t their first language, and it was sort of this interesting mix. There was not a whole lot of plain old regular middle class kids, it was really, really, really rich and everybody else was floating in this mix of non affluence and these really affluent kids. For me, I just wanted to fit in like all kids do.
I never mentally separated myself from those kids of affluence, even though I did not come from that at all. So what that meant for me was, in middle school, I got a job when I was 13. And they were technically not supposed to hire you until you’re 13 and a half, but I worked as this Deli, cleaning floors and stocking fridges, and that allowed me to save up to be able to buy one thing that made me feel like I could fit in. And I don’t think I ever quite accomplished it.
What that meant to me is that it was constant striving. Constant striving.

Kelly: Amber.

Amber: It was always like, if you’re gonna do something, do it to the 100% best of your ability. So if you’re cleaning floors, you be the best floor-cleaner there is. So if you’re gonna spend 100% of your energy doing something to be the best at it, do something that you love. Right?
And that’s sort of how I fell into design. I found it through this first job at 13. I was like “you know what, working at a deli does not bring me joy. I’m gonna do it 100% to the best” …
More joy, so I love swimming, for example. I was a lifeguard for a while. And then, when it came to design and what I was going to choose for my profession, where I was gonna go, I love to paint. I’m naturally gifted as a painter. I poured all of my energy into that which made me go into this field of design. This magical world of being a very talented design artist, and then being able to mix that with code as it was coming along.
I taught myself how to code HTML, [inaudible 00:17:34] and Java script, basically from the ground up by reverse engineering how websites were built in the 90’s. And then I taught myself how to make those experiences into something that are [inaudible 00:17:49] for users. And that’s basically what got me into the Google world that I’m in now. That was a lot of hops skips and a jump to get there, there was a long time between there but that was pretty much the gist of it.

Kelly: Gotcha. First, the money that you made from the deli and that one thing you wanted to buy to fit in, what was that? Do you remember?

Amber: It was probably something silly at 13, it was either a game … Probably not a game, there was probably like a piece of clothing, a sweater or a sweatshirt from Abercrombie or something.

Kelly: Gotcha.

Amber: Which are really overpriced and still are overpriced, but they’re not as fancy as they are. I’m really like [inaudible 00:18:34] myself with when I grew up.

Kelly: No but you’re so funny because I had that disparity growing up in south Florida, too. Where around me were people … I had one guy, his father owned five car dealerships, so every week he would have a different brand new car he was driving. The other one was … I don’t know where his dad made his money, let’s just say it was from questionable means, or at least that’s what it was rumored to be. So he had a different car.
And there I was, you know, in my family’s car. My parents were like “there is no way you’re getting a car, it’s just not happening”.

Amber: Absolutely.

Kelly: And I know this about you because you and I have talked about this, but you’re a natural horseman, right? Or horse-person is a better descriptor.

Amber: Yeah.

Kelly: So when I was trying to get some inspiration for our talk I found this quote by Buck Branniman that says “The horse is a mirror to your soul”. For me, knowing you the way I know you, that is the perfect embodiment of who you are. Do you agree or disagree?

Amber: Oh, that’s so sweet. What a big compliment. Yes, I think the interesting thing if you happen to ride horses, I rode horses because when I was 16 my mom and I were looking for some way to connect. She had the wherewithal, “I have a teenager, what am I gonna do with her, she’s getting sassy as teenagers are wont to do, what’s something we could do together that we both would really enjoy?”
Like we said, we didn’t make much money, we didn’t have money to go buy horses, that type of thing. So what she did was she posted … Let me back up just a little bit. She rode horses as a teenager, herself. And she rode [inaudible 00:20:21] in Germany. This was an experience that she wanted to share with me, but also she’s very talented and a natural horseman, horsewoman herself.
So what she did, and what’s really inspiring to me about this and it’s really been a staple in the way I strive to get things when I want, is she went to the local stable and it had this bulletin board. A classic bulletin board, nothing on the web, literally pushpins. She wrote a note that said “I’m a mother, I have X amount of …
“Hey, we have this horse, he’s lame, which means that he needed medication every single day, we just don’t have time, we have a brand new baby, we can’t get out every single day to go see him. And in return, we have another horse that needs exercise, we’d love to meet you, come visit our horses and we’d love to show you how to medicate them”.
And they just took trust in a stranger and my mom took that trust and really embodied it, and showed them what it means to take care of their animals. Horses in particular are so special and majestical, but why do people feel that? For people who aren’t horse people, why? Why is that a thing?
It’s because this is an animal, like your dog, that you come home and you see and they’re excited to see you every day. Except for, unlike your dog, you trust them with your life because you physically are riding them. Which means … They can kill you with one kick. There’s a lot of this human-animal interaction, and this trust level that puts you on the same level.
And, of course, dogs can kill you too, I don’t mean to downgrade. Horses, in particular, there’s … They’re this creature that is so trusting of you and in return you need to be trusting of it.

Kelly: Yeah.

Amber: This relationship that I’ve had with horses has taken me through my relationship with my mother. And also I wrote a question in college, and it was one way that I kept being invested in schoolwork. I couldn’t ride unless I maintained a certain GPA. Sports in general and horses especially were one of the things that kept me motivated in school.

Kelly: Yeah, and that’s something you and I have in common. I rode horses for 18 years but I had never heard of natural horsemanship until I met you. Can you explain what that is? Because I find that fascinating in itself.

Amber: Sure. Natural horsemanship means that you don’t use any sort of bridles … Bridles meaning you can use the bridles that go around a horse’s nose, but you wouldn’t use anything physically in their mouth. That’s one way that you can do natural horsemanship. There’s many, many ways of practicing it. But to me, it boils down to creating a relationship with the horse by using your body language to communicate with them, so there’s certain things where you might have a horse in a ring, anybody who’s seen a movie with people with horses, there’s usually a person standing in the middle of a circle and a horse is running around the circle.
Usually when people do this in sort of a more professional sense, they’re not using natural horsemanship. It’s a way to get the horse to … I always say … People say this all the time. Stables[inaudible 00:24:08] where they get their jimmies out. Where they shake it off and you get that top level energy from the horse. But you can also practice their gait, you can work on their walking, you can work on their trotting.
With natural horsemanship, you can also use your body … [inaudible 00:24:23]
… Really a partnership between you and the animal. Making eye contact, shrugging your shoulders, moving your head down. Get them to stop that sort of fear and flight where they’re running away and they have this circle they have to run around. Until finally they’re running around the circle and you drop your head down and the horse drops their head down and looks at you. And then they sort of slowly walk up to you and then you can pet them.
So it’s sort of creating this natural bond through your physical body with a horse that really creates this like … It’s an incredible bond that you create. Really familial, again has that sort of dog-human relationship, but with an animal that you ride.

Kelly: And Amber, how have those skills that you learned through natural horsemanship, you said that it helped you with your mom, do you leverage any of those skills that you learned through your experience with natural horsemanship at Google, and with your husband and with your son?

Amber: I would say that, for me, and this has been a long ride … And that also fits into what I said before. It has been the ability to stand up for myself and speak up when I’m feeling uncomfortable, or any sort of little action that I would feel has … Would make me ordinarily sort of bottle my emotions up, because horses can feel that. They can sense that you’re anxious or upset.
People can sense that about you too, right? Or you’re stressed, right? You come home from work, you gotta put dinner on the table, you have a screaming kid, you just had a really stressful commute, you walk in with a certain energy in your body in that room, right?
What horsemanship has taught me is to recognize that energy that you’re putting into the world, and to express why it’s happening in a calm and casual way. Or, if you’re not in the physically right state to be able to do that, to tell people that you need to pause, take a break, take a walk. And then be able to collect your thoughts. And then share why you were having that kick of energy. So it’s really taking ownership of your own emotions and the energy that you bring into a room, and being able to articulate it in a way that people can relate to.
And then you can have conversations with people about it. So that’s been extraordinarily helpful in personal relationships with coworkers, my marriage, familial relationships, that type of thing.

Kelly: You’re so self-aware and so intuitive and what I was keying in on the most was how you were talking about being responsible for the energy that you bring. For you and I, especially with the kind of wonky childhoods that he had, to be able to take ownership of our lives through the actions that we create is a huge step for us. And I want to make sure I acknowledge you for that, because it’s amazing.

Amber: Thank you. You have to learn if you’re going to be able to survive, and certain people learn in different ways. I have these [inaudible 00:27:36] earlier, which was imagine your beliefs are transparent. But there’s two more that if you’re open to, I’d love to share.

Kelly: Yeah.

Amber: That might actually be very helpful.

Kelly: Absolutely. Go ahead.

Amber: So one thing about this journey that I’ve been on, and other fitness journeys that I’ve experienced in the past, this one in particular is sticking out for me. I wonder if it does the same for you, Kelly.

Kelly: Okay.

Amber: Which is to keep your promises to yourself and, to me that means … For soul cycle, it’s easy. You go into a class, they close the door, it’s like riding a roller coaster, right? What if you don’t have access to soul cycle or only have sneakers in a row, right?
[inaudible 00:28:22] and to keep your promises. If you’re gonna go for a run … watching you …
… That, to me is hard. That’s really hard to stop, you know?

Kelly: Can you just … Amber? Would you mind repeating that one more time, because you broke up?

Doug: I was gonna say, I’m hearing a beeping noise.

Kelly: Yeah, it just popped in. So you were saying if you don’t have access to something like soul cycle, and you just have a pair of sneakers and a road, that’s where you can …

Amber: Yes.

Kelly: Go ahead.

Amber: It was keep your promises to everyone and yourself, and if you only have a pair of sneakers and a road, right? And if you don’t have access to something like soul cycle, and you say to yourself “I’m going to go for a run for 30 minutes”, don’t stop at 28 minutes and 30 seconds, finish it when no one is holding you accountable. And if you’re going to be somewhere, that’s also reflected in how you keep your promises to others. If you’re going to say to somebody “I’m going to be there at nine a.m.”, be there at 8:45.
What your presence means, your physical energy in that space, it means that you’re showing respect and passion for the time that you’re sharing with other people. And time, in particular, is something that we can’t give, get back, or trade.

Kelly: Yeah.

Amber: You can do that with money, you can do that with anything else, but time and your physical presence, and your ability to listen to somebody or share your energy or your laughter, that’s something that can’t be replaced. Being on time is part of keeping your promises, to me.

Kelly: Well … Yeah, and I think … You and I have talked about integrity before, and that’s a tenant in both of our lives and businesses, and for me when I work with clients, it’s do what you say you’re gonna do but only 100% of the time. And that’s even so much more important when it’s a promise to yourself, because if you don’t keep that promise to yourself, how the heck can you have a standard by which to measure keeping promises to others?
And every time you break a promise to yourself, it’s like you’re [inaudible 00:30:36] away at your own integrity, so why would you do that? You know?

Amber: Absolutely.

Kelly: Well, I could sit here and talk to you for hours, you know that. But I always like to end the interviews with a few rapid fire questions. And they’re just fun, wrap-up questions. Are you ready?

Amber: I’m totally ready.

Kelly: Okay. What’s your favorite comfort food?

Amber: Right now, because it’s a very [inaudible 00:31:05] soup.

Kelly: Matzah Ball Soup?

Amber: Matzah Ball Soup, yeah.

Kelly: I love Matzah Ball Soup!

Amber: Yeah.

Kelly: That is such a comfort, especially when it’s made really well, and Boston has so many great places to eat, I’m sure you get … Is there a favorite place that you get it from or do you make it yourself?

Amber: There’s a couple of places. There’s a place right near my work called Mama Leah’s, which is great. It’s a Jewish deli, and then there’s another place called S and S, and that’s in [inaudible 00:31:34] square, another amazing Jewish deli.
I’m the type of person that will order two, one for lunch and one for the next day. It’s so good you want to make sure it’s in your fridge.

Kelly: Yeah man.

Amber: [inaudible 00:31:48] comfort.

Kelly: I’ll tell you one thing soul cycle does, is it lets you eat the way you want to.

Amber: Yeah.

Kelly: Okay, second rapid-fire question, what’s on your playlist?

Amber: Oh. Well, we were just talking about this. I have a couple of playlists, one right now I’m making is 90’s Hip-Hop. You and I should really talk about why we have a playlist connection.

Kelly: I know. We should, why don’t we talk about that? We can talk about that.

Amber: Okay, let’s jump into it real quick. I don’t know if your listeners will relate to this but I always talk about it. If anybody has ever created a playlist for somebody, maybe you were fawning over somebody and you were making this playlist. I remember in the 90’s you had to do it with the radio, so you’d be listening intently to make this tape. And then you’d have to hit stop before the radio announcer starts …

Kelly: Yeah, before the DJ starts talking so he doesn’t get on the mix-tape. Oh my God, I did that so many times. Keep going. This is hilarious.

Amber: Exactly. If you ever listened to one of those tapes or CDs that somebody’s made for you, there’s so much love and thoughtfulness that goes into making something like that. But at the same time, it’s also like a little capsule of the time in their life, whatever they’re feeling and where they’re going. Music has that power with people.[inaudible 00:33:09]
I asked you over a year ago if you would do this playlist mix-tape challenge with me. What it is, is we go on Spotify and we have a theme for the month. And then we share music around the theme. It can be about love or top women in Hip Hop, or it could be about … Right now we’re doing a 90’s Hip-Hop playlist. But every month I look forward to sharing and receiving your playlist, and it’s just such a great little capsule of where we are in time, even though we don’t get to talk to each other every single day.
It’s such a great way to connect with you, and I really value that, that we share that …

Kelly: Oh, me too. And you know …

Amber: I’m not sure that was your original question.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, I think the reason you and I love soul cycle is the great music that we’re exposed to. You know, as this playlist challenge, I find that it’s such an extension of that, but it’s an extension of you. Even though you’re working in Boston and I’m in Philly, and I’m driving to a meeting in Center City, I just pop on the playlist and there you are with me.
My favorite thing is when we either have duplicates or when it’s “I didn’t know she liked that song, I love this song”.

Amber: Yeah.

Kelly: That’s what’s awesome. So what books are on your nightstand?

Amber: So that’s … A few. I actually need to [inaudible 00:34:38] real quick.

Kelly: That’s okay.

Amber: I have it here. I listen to and read a book at the same time. Which means that I probably listen to about six books a month. Three in hand and three on audio. The ones that I’m into right now … Oh, and it’s funny, I have this theory about book reading. So I read one book that’s like good for my brain or soul, and then one … I call it a Snickers bar for my brain.

Kelly: Oh.

Amber: Like a really cheesy romance novel, something stupid but fun and easy to read. Total delight book.

Kelly: Oh, I love those books.

Amber: Yeah, and then usually it’s just one about something that I want to learn about. That I’m not very knowledgeable about, but would like to be more knowledgeable about. So that’s what I try to do every month. Or at least, three books at a time, then sort of juggle those things.
So I interrupted you, I didn’t know what you were gonna say.

Kelly: No, I love that. I love that you have a strategy for what you read, I just kind of read what I’m moved to read, you know? Or if something keeps coming up in my orbit. Like the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, a bunch of people had recommended to me and I was like “alright, fine, I’ll read it”.

Amber: I’ll have to read that one. I have it on my list, too.

Kelly: Yeah, it’s really, really good. In fact, I should go back and read that. That and The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck is my other favorite one.

Amber: That’s a great book.

Kelly: I love that book. Okay, so final question. What do you …

Amber: I didn’t actually answer which books I’m reading.

Kelly: Oh my God, go ahead! What books are you reading?

Amber: So right now I’m reading a suspense book from the author from The Girl On the Train, it’s called Into the Water by [inaudible 00:36:22]

Kelly: Okay.

Amber: That one’s been pretty … That one’s been really good. And them I’m … So I’m raising a son. And I was raised by my mother, I didn’t have a male relationship in my life. So I’m reading by Louis Hughes, I’m not quite sure how to say his name, The Mask of Masculinity.

Kelly: Oh.

Amber: And it’s about how men need to embrace vulnerability and create strong relationships and live their fullest lives.
We could talk about men as like another segment. But I am mystified/terrified, and I want to raise a socially conscious, responsible male. So I’m reading about that. And then, the last one I’m reading right now, which I highly, highly recommend, it’s been world-changing with the political climate that we’ve been going through right now. But it’s called Between the World and Me. It’s by Tanishi Coates, I might butcher his name. I can send you a link to it later.
It’s a black man who’s in [inaudible 00:37:25] I believe, writing short letters to his 15 year old son, and coming to terms with what it means to grow as an African-American male in 2015.

Kelly: Oh wow.

Amber: For those of you who might not be able to hear it, or you’ll see a picture of me … I’m biracial, and I’m not very connected to being African-American. [inaudible 00:37:47]
… As my background. And so I don’t have a lot of insights into what it means to have African-American roots, from the slave trades and stuff, which is not what this book’s about. But it’s been demystifying and a really strong experience about understanding what that perspective feels like for you inside. Which I don’t think we often get to see those perspectives.

Kelly: No, I mean. Yeah, definitely send me the link to that, Amber, because I’d really love to read it. That, to me, is … I think it’s a book everybody should read. Because I try to live my life by that quote by Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird, where you really don’t know a man until you walk around in his skin for a day.
I certainly can’t do that, but I can do everything to educate myself so that I am the best … In the best position to navigate these things, you know? In an empathetic, compassionate and loving way. Oh my gosh, I admire you so much. You’re just an amazing lady.
Okay, so what are you most grateful for in this moment right now?

Amber: I would say my health right now. That is my number one most grateful thing. It’s also the number one thing I take for granted, so I’m going to acknowledge my health right now.

Kelly: Well that’s awesome. Thank you so much, Amber, for having an authentic conversation with me, and of course, to our listeners. It’s our intention that this episode inspires you to get real and have conversations that deepen the connections in your life. Have a wonderful, wonderful day, and do the best you can and make it a great day.

Doug: Awesome.

Kelly: Yeah that was …
Thank you so much, Amber, for having an authentic conversation. And to our listeners, it’s our intention that this episode inspires you to get real and have conversations that deepen the connections in your life. Make it a great day.

Doug: Great job, can you …