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Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Human Nature, Happiness and Adam Smith

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

How Adam Smith Can Change Your LifeIt’s his “other classic”…the one that few in our modern times have ever read. Including most economists!

After all, how could Adam Smith, the “Patron Saint of Capitalism” have written a book dealing not with economics but with…self-help!?

Yet, the author of The Wealth of Nations did indeed write The Theory of Moral Sentiments. That book looked deeply into the connection between understanding human nature and how one can live a happy, peaceful and fulfilling life.

Fortunately, in Russ Roberts newest book, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide To Human Nature And Happiness we are provided with insights into the brilliance of the 18th century Scottish philosopher. However, these have little to do with economics and everything to do with understanding life, ourselves, and others.

Roberts’ writing style is warm and friendly. He helps us understand these principles by combining Smith’s timeless wisdom with compelling, modern-day examples.

As shared previously, human nature is that we all seek happiness as we individually understand it, and within the available choices we perceive. Successful people do not deny human nature but rather respect and work within it. This means we must also take other people’s desires into consideration.

What are some of the many lessons we learn in this book that can help us to live a happier life based on Smith’s insights? Just a few include:

  • While we are inherently self-interested, “we also care about other people’s happiness.”
  • “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be {worthy of being loved}.”
  • Exactly why pursuing money for its own sake is much more likely to bring about sadness than one might even imagine.
  • Why “Self-delusion is the source of half the disorders of human life.” And, how to most effectively guard against this.
  • “Emotional interaction is a duet in which we are constantly fine-tuning our volume to match that of our fellow.” Yes, it turns out Smith was also a master of what today we would call Emotional Intelligence.
  • The VERY counter-intuitive way to make the world a better place.

The author, Russ Roberts, hosts the very popular and award-winning weekly podcast, EconTalk. A Stanford University Hoover Institution Research Fellow, he has also written three economics novels. And, he co-created the amazing Keynes-Hayek rap videos which have been viewed over seven million times on YouTube.

My concern with writing book review posts for books I’ve fallen in love with is that I cannot possibly include everything deserved in this short a space. After all, there’s a reason it’s an entire book. So, if I may, let me just suggest that, if your goal is to learn about happiness, and from two of the brightest men I’ve had the pleasure of learning from, get this book.

I love books and love wisdom — rarely have I been touched this deeply by both!!

Book Review – Reinventing the Entrepreneur

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Reinventing the Entrepreneur MaryEllen TribbyHaving read, studied, and benefited from hundreds of terrific and helpful business, sales, and marketing books, I was very excited to read this latest one from MaryEllen Tribby. Little did I know how much Reinventing The Entrepreneur would exceed even my very high expectations.

MaryEllen is a legend in the business world, most notably in the field of online publishing. With a very successful background in traditional media, she rose to fame after stepping in as president of an online publication and bringing it from $11 million to over $67 million in sales in just 12 months.

After that, she became publisher and CEO of another online publication and, in just 15 months, took it from $8 million to $26 million.

The world (at least those in that genre) took notice, and understandably so.

And then she began her own publication, WorkingMomsOnly.com, starting from zero and — of course — has built that into a powerhouse, as well. Obviously, she knows how it’s done and her readers are fortunate she decided to share her wisdom with us. She has recently introduced a new one, The CEO’s Edge.

On the surface, Reinventing the Entrepreneur is about starting and publishing a successful “Inbox Magazine” or iMag. However, it is so, so much more than just that. It is also a primer on running any online business very effectively and very profitably.

I’d say it’s also a primer on running practically ANY business for great results.

I personally define a “System” as, “The process of predictably achieving a goal based on a logical and specific set of how-to principles.” The key to this is “predictability.” If it’s been proven that by doing “A” you’ll get the desired results of “B” then you know you only have to do “A” and continue to do “A” and you’ll eventually get the results you desire.

MaryEllen has shared her millions and millions of dollars worth of wisdom in the pages of this book. Doing so, she has provided a system that has proven to be predictably successful. More so, she has taught it in such a way that can duplicated by practically anyone.

While I don’t have an inbox magazine, she provided me with many nuggets of wisdom and immediately-actionable ideas  that will help add significantly more value to my customers.

Color me impressed! This book is fantastic!

If you have a business that in any way utilizes the internet in order to connect, attract, provide value and make money, then pick up Reinventing the Entrepreneur and prepare yourself – with pen, highlighter and yellow sticky notes in-hand.  You’re about to learn a lot!

The Secret of Selling Need Not Be A Secret

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Harry Browne The Secret To Selling AnythingLast post featured a quote from a brilliant book that, while published posthumously just several years ago, was written back in the late 1960′s by Harry Browne.

The quote was, “Profit is a reward for satisfying the desire of someone else.” Though not the actual secret, it’s pretty powerful, in and of itself.

The book quoted from is The Secret of Selling Anything. The subtitle says a lot: A road map to success for the salesman…who is not aggressive, who is not a smooth “Talker” and who is not an extrovert. This is a book I am recommending to EVERYONE, whether directly in sales or not.

Part of the greatness of Harry Browne was his ability to see people and life through a very reality-based lens. He understood people. A very kind and gracious man, his sales philosophy and methodology — simple, fun and easy as he made it — was based on several immutable laws of human nature that he figured out early on:

  1. Everyone seeks happiness. People do what they believe will make them happy. Not every act brings happiness. Individuals make mistakes. But every act is aimed at bringing happiness.
  2. Happiness is relative. In other words, people experience happiness in different ways. People place different values on different things. What brings happiness to one person is meaningless to another.
  3. Resources are limited. Please don’t confuse this with lack thinking. Our universe is indeed abundant. However, there are limitations in certain regards. No matter who we are, we all have a limited amount of time, money and options. Thus, we must make choices. Your buyer will choose whether or not to buy from you based on whether your product or service is likely to bring him or her happiness (according to their personal values) as measured against their resources.

When accepting the above, we can now look at our prospect in an entirely new and productive light. We know that the sale is not about us…it’s about them. It’s about satisfying their needs, wants or desires.

In this masterpiece, not only does Harry bust numerous traditional sales myths, he provides perhaps the best pure advice on how to sell that I’ve ever read.

So, what is the big Secret of success in selling? (Italicized because, as Harry wrote, there’s no reason it should even be a secret):

“Find out what people want and help them get it!”

Harry believed there was no need to try and motivate a buyer because every buyer is already motivated. As the seller, our job is simply to find out what they are already motivated by and then align that with the benefits our product or service provides.  Of course, he was quick to point out that if there isn’t a match and you cannot satisfy that desire, you should make that clear, as well.

Harry explained that in every free-market exchange there are always two profits: the seller profits and the buyer profits. Each exchanges one thing for something they consider to be of greater value than that which they are exchanging. For example, the widget seller wants the $100 more than she wants the widget. The widget buyer wants the widget more than he wants the $100. The same principles holds true regardless of the product/service and amount of money involved. Each person exchanges a current situation for a situation that will bring them more happiness, based on how they value happiness, and based on their limited resources.

With that in mind, Harry’s five steps for the sales interview makes perfect sense and can be easily applied.

  1. Discover the buyer’s motivation. Remember, they’re already motivated. By asking the right questions, you’ll discover what that motivation is.
  2. Summarize the motivation. Be sure the two of you agree that your summarization is correct.
  3. Present Your Product. Show him or her how their motivation can be satisfied through your product or service.
  4. Answer Questions. Answering questions or objections becomes very easy assuming you covered steps one and two correctly.
  5. Close the Sale. Using Harry’s system, this is simply a natural conclusion to the discussion rather than a source of discomfort for either of you. After all, you have demonstrated how you can help him acquire exactly what he or she has told you they want.

I’ve often said that, at it’s very essence, selling was about finding out what people wanted, and simply helping them to get it. When you see selling in that light, it’s so much easier and more fulfilling.

Very rarely do I suggest a book this strongly, especially (irony alert) without knowing it’s what someone wants. ;-). I’ll just suggest that if you are in sales, and would like to make selling more fun, more meaningful, provide more value to a lot more people, and earn a lot more money while you do it, I can’t imagine anything that would be of greater assistance.

The book may be ordered in paperback form online via The System Press or directly by telephone at 1-845-757-5037. Or, you can order the kindle version at Amazon.com.

Tina Fey’s Bossypants – Hysterical… and More!

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Bossypants Tina FeyI’ve never seen her show 30 Rock only because I don’t watch a whole lot of television. Other than assuming it had something to do with being about a TV show on NBC (hence the name 30 Rock…and I get to say “hence”) I knew little about it.

I enjoyed her work immensely both as head writer and Weekend Update news anchor on Saturday Night Live but mainly have had a long-time crush on her because she has two traits I find to be incredibly attractive in women who have beauty and brilliance.

Those traits would be…beauty and brilliance.

Tina Fey has been called, “The Thinking Man’s Sex Symbol.” I thought I made that term up but — like my other original thoughts — I didn’t.

I finally read her bestselling book, Bossypants. My timing is not always good. It’s been out for three years.

Ostensibly (which, like “hence” I write whenever the opportunity presents itself) it’s her biography with a lot of self-effacing, Fey-ish, hysterical comedy from one of the most talented and funny human beings on this planet, along with just a bit of how to succeed in a very sexist world and workplace without succumbing to the many landmines teaching.

Then again, not so fast. Indeed, it is a biography. And, it is really, really, really funny. (LOL-funny. No, make that ROTFL-funny. Wait, let’s go with ROTFLMAO-funny. However, to not upset anyone who believes the worst thing I ever say is “darn to heck” we’ll make believe the “A” doesn’t mean “ass.”)

But it’s definitely a book that is — in my opinion — very instructive. While it effectively makes the case that sexism still runs far more rampant than most of us men would like to think it does, it also provides a lot of wonderful mentorship for women to succeed in spite of it. And, like the author, it comes from a place of empowerment, not victimhood.

Early in the book, the author relates that from the time she became Executive Producer of 30 Rock she’s been asked “intelligent” questions such as, “Is it hard for you, being the boss? And, is it uncomfortable for you to be the person in charge?” In typical Fey-style she continues, “You know, in that same way they say, ‘Gosh, Mr. Trump, is it awkward for you to be the boss of all these people?’” After assuring us that it’s neither hard nor uncomfortable, she then provides a one-paragraph summation of how to be a great leader that would make for a wonderful premise of any really terrific book on leadership.

The language is somewhat coarse so parents should decide when their daughters are mature enough to read it. However, I believe that if enough young women were to learn these lessons they’d be more equipped to conquer their worlds and understand the intrinsic value they possess regardless of whether they look like the women on the cover of — ironically enough — most women’s magazines (that part is my commentary, not Fey’s).

Apparently, I’m one of the relatively few men who has read Bossypants because on page 179 she actually personally thanks me for buying it. Not by name, mind you, but by saying, “if you are a male…thank you for buying this book.” Yes, this is personal in the same way the magazine renewal notice addresses me as “Dear Subscriber” but I’ll take it.

I think all men should read it. First, we need to read about how dense we can be from time-to-time. More than that, we can laugh hysterically while realizing how dense we can be from time-to-time.

However, please don’t misconstrue (refer back to “hence” and “ostensibly”) this as a book that bashes men. Not one bit. She believes that — among other things — a strong father/father figure like her Dad, Don Fey, is a key ingredient to a young girl growing up to become a happy, confident and achievement-oriented woman.

This book is about Tina’s life, her struggles, her failures and successes, and about sexism that is bought into by men and women alike. I mean, she did write the movie, “Mean Girls.” I haven’t seen that one, either. Then again, I still haven’t seen E.T. As I said, my timing isn’t always the best.

Grabbing the book from one of the O’Hare Airport bookstores, I simply expected a fun read. I mean, the title is Bossypants — how profound could it be? Yet, it was extremely profound. And, it was so, SO FUNNY.

I tried not to laugh too much or too loudly. You see, when I laugh uncontrollably there comes with it a really strange wheezing sound which must be somewhat infectious because it causes other people to laugh, as well. Unfortunately, they are laughing at me, not with me. I also begin to panic a bit because I can’t stop and I can’t breathe. This happened before boarding and pretty much throughout the flight. Perhaps the book should come with a warning. It doesn’t. You’ll have to take your chances.

Whether just for some continuous, Fey-induced laughs or to learn some really important lessons on life, leadership and success; whether for you or for the women in your life, this is a book to buy and read.

Especially if you admire women who combine beauty and brilliance.

“Conscious Capitalism” GREAT Book, Just Mistitled

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Conscious Capitalism book coverFirst things first: The book, CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM: Liberating The Heroic Spirit Of Business is outstanding. As a case study on why companies that honor all of their stakeholders and not just their shareholders actually do much better financially than those who don’t, it’s terrific! As a look at how companies can create an enthusiastic and happy team, ultra-loyal customers, and feel great about the value they provide, it’s amazing!

John Mackey, co-founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, along with Dr. Raj Sisodia, Bently University marketing professor and author of Firms of Endearment, show why the companies they call “Conscious Companies” simply do better.

But, that’s just it. It’s really about conscious companies. Putting the modifier before the word “Capitalism” simply furthers the incorrect premise held by so many that Free-Market Capitalism, in and of itself, isn’t good enough. In other words, the title implies that for Capitalism to be “legitimate” it needs to have a word like “conscious” in front of it. ARRGHHH!

Now, if the author (here, I’m referring to Mr. Mackey, as it’s written in his voice) really believed that, there could be a respectful debate on the topic. However, that isn’t the case. He is a believer and noted defender of true, Free-Market Capitalism. (Chapter One is even entitled, “Capitalism: Marvelous, Misunderstood, Maligned”.) He even makes the distinction a number of times between what’s often called “Crony-Capitalism” and Free-Market Capitalism.

{Note: I often say that I wish the great defenders of Free-Market Capitalism, such as Mackey, as well as one of my heroes, John Allison, would stop using the term, “Crony-Capitalism” as it only serves to confuse people into thinking that it is a legitimate form of Capitalism. It is not. Crony-Capitalism is to Capitalism what Chinese Checkers is to Checkers; Nothing! Instead, it would be much more accurate to simply call it, “Cronyism.”}

Even Bill George, the iconic former Chair and Chief Executive of Medtronic, Inc., who provided a glowing Foreword, wrote: “In these pages, they call their version conscious capitalism. I consider it just capitalism, as it is the only authentic form of capitalism.”

The authors begin by discussing the benefits of pure Capitalism as “the greatest system for innovation and social cooperation that has ever existed.” And, they are correct. Capitalism creates an environment where the citizenry lives longer, healthier, happier and more financially prosperous lives. Even the poor in a mainly free-market based economy are much better off than those in countries not based on such.

But…the term, “Conscious Capitalism.” This is the name of Mr. Mackey’s and Dr. Sisodia’s organization, and this book is one excellent manner in which they are spreading the word.

Their intent is more than noble, but I believe the name is counter-productive. Free-Market Capitalism works for everyone living wherever it exists. Entrepreneurs create value for the marketplace. They and the buyer voluntarily exchange financial value for the product or service. Both parties come away better off after the exchange than they were before.

The profit enjoyed by the company can be invested in expansion which results in more employees. This allows for more value creation. The employees have money to spend with other companies that, as a result can expand, hire more employees and create more value for the marketplace. And on and on and on.

When entrepreneurs are left free to operate with minimal interference from government, abundance and a booming economy results. There are enough jobs for everyone who wants one, and sufficient charity for everyone who truly needs it. No, it’s not Utopia. However, it is so, so much better than any other economic system. (Of course, protecting the citizenry from force and fraud are indeed legitimate functions of government. Creating unnecessary roadblocks, red tape and unfair advantages through cronyism are not.)

Capitalism does not need to become more conscious. Literally, it cannot; it is simply an economic system.  However, those who want to operate successful companies within that economic system do indeed need to be more conscious in the way they do business, if they want the resulting benefits. As the authors magnificently demonstrate, those companies with a higher purpose than simply financial, and who honor all of their stakeholders; employees, customers, suppliers, community, the environment, etc., actually make substantially more money than those who don’t.

Please understand, there is nothing theoretical about this; the evidence is abundant. Throughout the book, the authors cite a number of companies and provide many very specific examples. And, of course, Mackey has run his company exactly as he describes in the book and the proof is in the pudding (though, in his case, it would be a very healthy pudding). :-)

It’s really a tremendous book. I’m so glad I read it and had the opportunity to benefit from it.

And, in my opinion, it would have been so much more accurate to have titled this book, Conscious Companies or something similar.

That aside, whether you are a solo-preneur, have just a few employees, or the leader of a huge organization, or believe that one day you might be at the helm of any of the above, the wisdom in this book will put you nine steps ahead of the game…in a ten-step game.